This week's SmackDown emanates from Memphis, TN. Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton, and Memphis' own Jerry Lawler are your commentators. I'm sure this surprises you. There's no opening RAW recap this week so I guess I didn't miss anything huge. Honestly I have no idea how people even still watch RAW at this point.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev
I've barely watched any weekly TV over the past few years but even I'm rolling my eyes at this match happening again. At least there's a story behind it somewhat though as Rusev helped injure Reigns at the Royal Rumble by putting him through a table and Reigns gave him a receipt the next night on RAW. Rusev is accompanied by Alberto Del Rio and King Barrett, the latter in wrestling trunks like he isn't injured. Adorable. Super basic wrestling here with Del Rio and Barrett attacking Reigns before his Superman Punch to cause a disqualification super early. I think you know where this is headed. (3:02)
Final Rating: *
Dean Ambrose runs out to save Reigns from a 3-on-1 attack but ends up accidentally stage diving right into his 'brother' to create some intrigue for the #1 contender's triple threat at Fastlane. Considering they already proved they could fight each other and remain friends at Survivor Series this is wholly unnecessary. Rusev locks Ambrose in The Accolade until Reigns chases the heels off with a steel chair.
After the commercial break it's announced that Reigns and Ambrose will team up against Rusev and Del Rio in the main event. SHOCKING. Renee Young catches up with Ambrose backstage, who says hitting Reigns was an accident, that he sometimes gets his wires crossed when he's in the heat of battle. Ambrose says that he and Reigns have an understanding on when they hit each other and when they hit other people and tonight they will be hitting other people. Solid game plan to win the match tonight.
Kalisto vs. Kevin Owens
Kalisto's United States Championship is not on the line for this one. Dolph Ziggler is also ringside to provide commentary, furthering his feud with Owens. Bell rings and Owens immediately goes on the attack while Lawler immediately starts in with calling Kalisto a mosquito, even referencing the Zika Virus for maximum relevancy. Kalisto fights back with a tope con hilo but Owens dodges the Salina Del Sol and hits a German suplex to regain control as we go to commercial.
Back from break Owens spends his time beating Kalisto down while jawing at Ziggler. A senton and a belly-to-back into a gutbuster only net him two-counts. Kalisto dodges a second senton and hits his always cool corkscrew crossbody and short rana for a two-count of his own. Owens rolls to the floor and dodges a baseball slide, grabbing Kalisto in a fireman's carry and dropping him throat-first on the barricade. Owens clears the announce table and picks Kalisto up for a powerbomb, but instead of throwing him through the wood he throws him at Ziggler instead because he's a boss. Owens gives Ziggler a superkick for good measure and rolls Kalisto back into the ring. Ziggler causes a brief distraction and Kalisto underdogs his way to victory with a roll-up. A really fun match considering the amount of time they were given. Kalisto was a good tackling dummy for Owen's offense and vice versa and Owens throwing him into Ziggler was hilarious. Owens is so good. So so good. I'm a broken record and it's already February. (5:14 shown)
Final Rating: **3/4
Owens immediately attacks Kalisto after the match but Ziggler quickly makes the save and chases him down. No one comes out to Owens' aid so I guess we're only getting one thrown together tag team match tonight.
JoJo is standing by with The Miz. Miz is mad that the Academy Awards snubbed Santa's Helper and that his opponent tonight, AJ Styles, snubbed his offer to mentor him this past Monday on RAW considering all he did for Daniel Bryan. Miz says that tonight he's going to show 'the rookie' Styles that it takes more to succeed in the WWE than a Pele kick. That may be true but it never hurts to also have a Pele kick. Worked for Andre The Giant. I might have made that last thing up.
Ryback vs. Erick Rowan
Remember when Ryback was subjected to endless Goldberg chants during the first few years of his run? Well if you've been waiting to bring that one out of the mothballs now's your chance because Ryback has traded in his RVD singlets for the generic black trunks. This has to be on purpose right? WWE and Ryback aren't so dense that they don't see this correlation right? I'm not putting my faith into people who don't deserve it right? Moving on the match barely is so with Rowan's (accompanied by only Braun Strowman this time around) only big move being the double noogie vice crusher of death, which Lawler tells everyone is reminiscent of Sgt. Slaughter. Finally someone says it. Ryback eventually bounces back with a middle buckle missile dropkick and a running step-up knee and finishes off Rowan with the Meathook after Strowman attempted to distract him. Strowman tries to attack Ryback after but the Big Guy escapes before any real damage is done. A super quick match which is good because they two aren't engineered for Broadways but I'm honestly kind of surprised Ryback got the win here. The Wyatt Family decimated The Big Show on RAW but lose in under three minutes three days later? That's...weird. (2:57)
Final Rating: N/R
Renee Young is standing by backstage with Becky Lynch. They watch the footage from RAW where she and Sasha Banks accidentally teamed up to fight off Naomi and Tamina Snuka. Back live Sasha interrupts before Becky can get much of a word in and makes it a point to say that she doesn't 'do' friends. They bicker and in their arguing end up agreeing to team up against the former members of Team B.A.D. going forward. Honestly I kinda loved this, their bickering turned partnership agreement was wonderfully pulled off and felt natural.
AJ Styles vs. The Miz
Chris Jericho gets a televised entrance to do guest commentary. Since it's WrestleMania season I guess I can't skip Y2J by skipping RAW which is sad. It's still weird as hell seeing Styles in a WWE ring on a WWE show with WWE commentary doing WWE-like things (hashtag WWE). In a former life I was a hardcore TNA fan and in turn a big Styles fan so this is a shock to the system. Maybe when they relegate him to matches against Fandango on Superstars in a year or so I'll finally get over it (not that I want or truly think that'll happen, but you really never know with this company). Styles lights it up early but Miz takes control for the bulk of the match, with his pinfall attempts only netting him one-counts. Jericho is actually okay on commentary here as he puts over Styles but he, Saxton, and Lawler proceed to beat the 'Styles has to prove himself in WWE' point to death because they legitimately have nothing else to go on. Styles gets in a Pele Kick and teases the Styles Clash twice but Miz weasles his way out of it each time so he pulls out the Calf Kill...err Crusher and forces Miz to tap instead, putting over that he has another potential finisher to work with. I bet the folks scared to death to take the Styles Clash are happy about this one. This was a good match, Miz is underrated. (7:47 shown)
Final Rating: **3/4
To the surprise of no one Jericho gets on the house mic after the match and says that Styles has proven that he's good, but asks if he's great and challenges him to a rematch for next week's episode of SmackDown. They shake hands on it and have a stare down that lasts so long that it's almost surprising they didn't start kissing.
JoJo is standing by backstage with Roman Reigns. Reigns says that he knows what happened with Ambrose earlier was accident and that they are never on the same page but he digs that. He goes on to mention that while tonight was an accident the triple threat at Fastlane will be an 18-car pile-up which is still technically an accident so it's mostly the same thing.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day make their way out for the next match. Xavier Woods says they want to talk about their gold and talk about they do in their unique goofy way until their opponents tonight, #SocialOutcasts, interrupt. Is it my birthday? Heath Slater says 'Bo Rida' isn't here tonight because he's cutting a soon to be gold record and Adam Rose throws shade at The New Day by saying that it'll be actual gold as opposed to their championships which are bronze. Despite the jab Rose vows that they're going to snatch the titles from The New Day's waists. The New Day protest by asking them not to touch their wastes, Rose shoots back that they will indeed touch their waists. Seriously is it my birthday? Curtis Axel pipes in and says the horns on The New Day's head make them look like rhinos after having a hard time with the word rhinoceros. Happy Birthday to me. I loved every second of this; The New Day never fail to be entertaining and I'm still on board with #SocialOutcasts so it's cool to see them get a sort-of rub here.
The New Day vs. #SocialOutcasts
This is six-man tag team action so everyone not named Bo Dallas is involved. Slater and Rose have the advantage to start but then Big E tags in and lays waste to Rose with a release overhead belly-to-belly suplex. A Unicorn Stampede follows then Rose drops Woods with a spinebuster counter to Woods' front handspring clothesline. Axel gets the hot-ish tag (both teams are heels here so one is really cheering) and he and Kingston both jockey for position dodging each other's moves until he dents Kingston's face with a running knee. All six men start brawling and bodies fly everywhere. Axel tries to roll up a distracted Kingston but Woods pushes Axel's feet off the ropes so his partner can kick out. Kingston then rolls Axel up and with no Outcasts to stop it he uses his feet for leverage and for the pinfall victory. Short, sweet, and awesome. Pure fun. (3:58 shown)
Final Rating: **1/2
Charlotte vs. Alicia Fox
The WWE Divas Champion lost to Brie Bella on RAW Monday so now she's looking for revenge against Alicia Fox. Brie Bella won a match? Ew. Charlotte dominates for the bulk of it but Fox does still get in her bridging Northern Lights Suplex spot in before she's finished off with the Figure Eight. This was perfectly fine, though it's hard to believe that Fox is easier to beat than Brie Bella. Fox melts down after the match, screaming and ripping at her hair. She's doing that gimmick again, cool. (3:58)
Final Rating: *3/4
We go to footage from earlier today where R-Truth is disputing hotel charges with the concierge. Goldust shows up looking like a bellhop (with a painted face) and asks if he needs help. R-Truth has no interest in this and they fight over Truth's briefcase, resulting in its contents spilling everywhere. Apparently Goldust is goofy again and R-Truth is now fake Booker T. Boo-urns.
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio & Rusev
Before the match starts we get another look at the footage of Ambrose accidentally hitting his friend Reigns during the opening show brawl. Lawler tries to paint it as Ambrose doing it on purpose despite both men saying it wasn't and no one buying this nonsense for a second. I hope WWE realizes this isn't a worthwhile angle and let it go next week. Reigns and Rusev go at it blow for blow to start until Rusev drops Reigns with a roundhouse kick to the skull. Nice. The League of Nations work Reigns over as Lawler once again pretending that Ambrose and Reigns have a problem with one another. Reigns gets a Samoan Drop in and Ambrose gets the hot tag, laying Rusev out with a flying missile dropkick. Rusev charges at Ambrose but ends up on the floor and Ambrose meets him with a tope suicida. Rusev escapes Dirty Deeds and kicks Ambrose in the side of the head, leading Ambrose to get in his rebound lariat spot. Reigns gets the tag and hits the Drive By on Rusev. King Barrett distracts Reigns, but Reigns dodges Rusev's attempt to blindside him and hits the Superman Punch. Del Rio breaks the count with a superkick. Fight goes to the floor and Ambrose accidentally hits Reigns with a tope suicida but Reigns catches him. Reigns is upset about this since it's the second time this happened tonight but saves him anyway from Rusev with a Superman Punch. He finishes things off soon after with a real janky-looking spear. Okay main event, but as I've said repeatedly already I'm not buying this whole friction thing yet no matter how many times Lawler tries to make it a thing. Stop trying to make fetch happen, King. (7:49)
Final Rating: **
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: An honest to god toss-up between The New Day and The Social Outcasts. Their interaction together before their match and the match itself were the highlight of this show without question.
Least Entertaining: Ryback and his acceptance of his Goldberg clone fate.
Match of the Night: The New Day vs. The Social Outcasts (technically AJ vs. Miz was better but I liked the former so much more)
Summary: An entertaining week of SmackDown; either this show has gotten a lot better since its move to USA or I just keep lucking out and getting the good weeks to review. Styles/Miz was solid and I can't say enough good about New Day/#SocialOutcasts, but I also need to throw props to the brief Sasha/Becky segment for being about the most natural fight between begrudging friends that I've seen in pro wrestling in quite awhile. The Reigns and Ambrose story plus that dumb Goldust/R-Truth skit brought it down a little bit but overall I give this a pretty strong thumbs up. At the very least SmackDown is worth watching just in case AJ Styles wants to debut another move.