Monday, January 15, 2018

The Raw Exposé: Strowman Gone Wild (1-15-2018)


By: Keila Cash

Date: 1/15/2018
Location: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Recurring Theme: Welcome To the Danger Zone (AKA Braun Strowman’s Rallying Cry)
Throwback Machine Monday: The Return of the Curbstomp!



·        Kurt Angle fired Braun Strowman after he tried to kill Brock Lesnar and Kane last week. To say that the fans hated Angle’s announcement would be an understatement.

·        This was a shocking way to start the show. Strowman cut the best promo his career while Angle was showered with the dreaded “What?” chant. On top of that, the “You Suck” chant actually generated heel heat because of his controversial decision to fire Strowman two weeks before his Universal Championship match against Kane and Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Despite what happened, I have a feeling that Angle’s decision will be overturned before the end of the night. Just a hunch…

·        Security tried to escort Strowman out of the building, but one of the dudes made the costly mistake of putting his hands on Strowman which lead to a 1-on-5 ass whopping. It was a glorious sight to behold.

·        For the second week in a row, Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neal defeated Sheamus and Cesaro when Crews rolled up Sheamus for the win thanks to an assist from Jason Jordan.

·        Sheamus and Cesaro had Crews dead to rites when Jordan appeared on the main stage. The distraction gave Crews enough time to pin Sheamus as Dana Brooke celebrated at ringside.

·        Seth Rollins came out to chide Jordan for unnecessarily poking the bear two weeks before the Rumble. Because of his actions, The Bar has extra incentive to kick their asses. Jordan’s slow-burn heel turn continues…

·        Poor Curt Hawkins. Braun Strowman put him through the catering table before eating a piece of chocolate cake to satisfy his hunger for violence and revenge.

·        Cedric Alexander defeated Tony Nese with the Lumbar Check in a good match. The crowd was invested in the action which was refreshing to see for a change. Goldust provided some star power as he taunted Enzo Amore at ringside. I am not a fan of Goldust being a part of the cruiserweight division because it’s a clear admission from WWE that the concept has failed on the main roster. However, Goldie still gets a pop from the crowd which might transfer to Alexander if he develops a personality.

·        Braun Strowman barged into the production truck and scared the shit out of everybody. No one was hurt, but he separated the tractor from the truck and flipped it over thanks to a slick edit from the production team. The irony is not lost on me that the same crew Strowman traumatized minutes ago still made him look good on television.

·        Strowman appeared on the main stage and made a beeline towards the announce table. Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T tried to get the hell out of dodge, but only two made it out alive as Booker sacrificed Cole by giving him a hip bump that left him in the direst of straits.  

·        Strowman grabbed Cole and was about to destroy him when Kurt Angle came out to defuse the situation. Angle told Strowman that Stephanie McMahon overturned his termination which puts him back in the Triple Threat Match at the Rumble.

·        Strowman dropped Cole, but he wasn’t finished with him as he tossed Cole off the stage. The security guards broke his fall, but the spot was still cool.

·        This entire segment was batshit crazy. Strowman was awesome. The tractor flip was hokey as hell, but I still loved it. Cole almost getting got made my night as well. All in all, this was a classic Raw moment that will be part of the WWE Network Collection for years to come.

·        Asuka defeated Nia Jax when Jax was no longer able to compete after suffering a knee injury. Prior to the finish, Asuka and Jax had a good match that had the crowd hooked from start to finish. Jax dominated the action, but Asuka had a few hope spots by putting Jax in various submission holds. Jax powered out each time and took the action to ringside as she slammed Asuka back first into the ring apron.

·        Jax grabbed Asuka and tried to pull her up the steel steps when Asuka kicked her in the thigh. Jax lost her balance and slipped between the steps. She took a bad spill on the floor, but she made back in the ring before the count of ten.

·        Jax tried to stand up, but she fell to the mat. After falling down a third time, the referee called for the bell and awarded Asuka the win. The fans weren’t happy with the finish, but it was a competitive match while it lasted.

·        Jason Jordan continues to push his luck by putting Seth Rollins in unfavorable situations. Jordan asked Kurt Angle to book Rollins in a match against Finn Bàlor. Angle agreed and set the bout for later tonight. I’m sure Rollins is overjoyed at this news.

·        This year’s MLK Day package was great. The WWE production team continues to be first-class.

·        The Revival defeated a random tag team with the Shatter Machine in quick and decisive fashion.

·        Dash and Dawson prided themselves on being PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS who didn’t care about playing video games backstage. They were students of the game and vowed to school the likes of the APA, New Age Outlaws, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin next week as Raw celebrates its 25th anniversary. Something tells me that a Fameasser, Clothesline from Hell, Sweet Chin Music, and Stunner is in their not too distant future.

·        Roman Reigns defeated Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match when Reigns nailed Axel with a Spear for the win. The Miztourage dominated the action early on, but the outcome was never in doubt despite The Miz’s outside interference. The San Antonio crowd was pro-Reigns which is a marked improvement from last week’s so-so response in Memphis.

·        The Brooklyn and Philadelphia fans are going to boo him mercilessly over the next couple of weeks, but that’s par for the course at this point. Perhaps the short-term Shield reunion garnered some goodwill amongst hardcore fans. Nah!

·        Sonya Deville defeated Sasha Banks with a kick to the ribs after catching Banks in midflight. It was a great spot that made Deville look badass. Paige was at ringside cheering on her fellow Absolution member. There was no mention of her probable retirement from in-ring competition.

·        Perhaps WWE is saving the announcement for a later date because there is so much going on between Raw 25 and the Royal Rumble. Here’s hoping the company offers some kind of confirmation because the internet streets are talking.

·        Matt Hardy defeated Heath Slater with the Twist of Fate in a quick match. Slater’s deletion went off without a hitch.

·        Seth Rollins defeated Finn Bàlor with the CURBSTOMP in a very good main event match. The match started off slow, but the action picked up after the commercial break. The counters were on point as Rollins and Bàlor traded slingblades and superkicks down the stretch.

·        Bàlor went up to the top rope to hit the Coup De Grace, but Rollins caught him with a superplex from the top rope followed by the Falcon Arrow for a near fall.

·        Balor countered with an inside cradle for a 2 ¾ count. Instant replay showed that the ref’s hand hit the mat three times, but he was out of position which played into the controversial finish.

·        Sheamus and Cesaro came out to attack Jason Jordan, but Jordan found himself in a tight squeeze when he bumped into Gallows and Anderson at ringside. He ducked out of the way as The Bar inadvertently went after Gallows and Anderson. Bàlor broke things up with a flip dive before heading back to the top rope to hit his finisher.

·        Rollins rolled out of the way and bounced off the ropes to charge after Bàlor. Jordan tripped Bàlor behind Rollins’ back which set up the throwback finish moments later.

·        Jordan and Rollins celebrated on the main stage while Bàlor tried to gather his bearings in the ring. The camera stayed on Bàlor, Gallows, and Anderson for an uncomfortable period of time until the show went off the air.

·        This was a very strange way to end the show, but it left the door open for a rematch between Bàlor and Rollins because the ref botched the pin count. They could have a great feud with the babyface-heel roles being reversed this time around. Their in-ring chemistry is off the charts and I hope both men get more chances to shine because they bring out the best in each other.

·        Rollins being unaware of Jordan’s shady tactics will cause this team to blow up sooner or rather than later. Jordan is trying to act chivalrous, but he’s a snake in the grass who is only using Rollins in order to get ahead. It’s a brilliant storyline that’s playing out perfectly. Jordan still needs to generate legit heel heat, but he’s well on his way based on his actions tonight.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. Braun Strowman’s rampage carried the first hour as he destroyed people and inanimate objects with the greatest of ease. It was campy, but fun to watch nonetheless. The in-ring action ranged from decent to very good as Asuka vs. Nia Jax delivered the goods while the cruiserweights didn’t die on the proverbial vine thanks to the star power of Goldust. That is not a typo.

·        The San Antonio crowd was hot all night which helped the show breeze by for the most part. The show hit a lull during the third hour, but the main event ended the night on a high note.

·        Next week is the biggest episode of Raw since the flagship brand celebrated its 1000th episode five years ago. Raw 25 promises to be a stacked show from top to bottom. It should be a special evening filled with nostalgia while offering a glimpse into the future at the same time. WWE can’t cling to the past by relying on legends and part-timers in order to get over the hump in 2018. The well is running dry and it’s time for the company to bank on the future because they have the talent to pull it off.

·        This year’s Royal Rumble should be a sign of what’s to come. Fresh Faces! Innovation! Deviation from the norm! Here’s hoping the creative team keeps that in mind while paying homage to the past. Fingers crossed!



On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Just Say The Word - Daniel Bryan's One-Step Guide Towards Match Booking (1-9-2018)


By: Keila Cash


Location: Legacy Arena at The BJCC in Birmingham, Alabama
Date: 1-9-2018
Rallying Cry: Roll Tide!
Somber Cry: Poor Dawgs...



·        SD Live kicked off with Renee Young conducting a sit-down interview with AJ Styles. Young asked Styles if he thought his 2-on-1 handicap match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble was unfair. Styles sidestepped the question because he didn’t want to throw Daniel Bryan under the bus. Renee pressed the issue again which caused Styles to admit that he felt that the decision was unfair because Bryan took his sarcasm as gospel.

·        However, Styles vowed to beat Owens and Zayn at the Rumble to prove that SD Live was still his house.

·        Owens and Zayn came out and accused Styles of backtracking because his mouth got him in trouble last week. The dynamic duo planned to do something that hasn’t been done since the days of Laycool: Become co-Champions! Ah, the good old days… *sniff*

·        Shane McMahon appeared on the main stage and announced that KO and Zayn will face Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, and AJ Styles in a 3-on-2 handicap which will take place later tonight. Despite McMahon not agreeing with Bryan’s decision from last week, he still supports him. For now…

·        This was an okay way to start the show. AJ Styles’ promo was fine, but Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were the real MVPs of the segment as Zayn continues to crack me up with his over the top celebrations. His leaping ability is something to behold. Trampoline be damned!

·        Becky Lynch defeated Ruby Riott with the Dis-Arm-Her in a decent match. Nothing more, nothing less.

·        The Bludgeon Brothers made quick work of The Ascension when Harper pinned Viktor with a Powerbomb. Harper and Rowan weren’t finished as they dropped Konner with a double Chokeslam for good measure. Total Domination from the two men with no first name. What can I say? It’s a WWE thing.

·        Mojo Rawley advanced to the semifinals of the United States Championship Tournament when Rawley nailed Zack Ryder with a charging forearm for the win. The match was solid as both men showed nice aggression throughout. Rawley still comes off a bit too hyped for my taste, but I am digging his heel character so far. He’s one of the best talkers on SD Live when he’s allowed to speak in his own voice instead of reading from a script. Here’s hoping Mojo is given more mic time in 2018 because he has potential to get over as a big star if the creative team doesn’t drop the ball on his push.

·        Daniel Bryan continues to get booking inspiration from wrestlers when Chad Gable put his foot in his mouth by claiming that Bryan wanted him and Shelton Benjamin to defeat The Usos twice in the same night. Bryan agreed and booked Gable and Benjamin vs. The Usos in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles at the Royal Rumble.

·        The segment ran a bit long, but Gable saved the day with his quirky sense of humor while Benjamin played the straight man who set up the punchlines like a boss.

·        In an odd booking decision, Breezango defeated Aiden English and Rusev when Fandango pinned Rusev with a roll-up. The match was fine, but I question the decision because Rusev and English are more over than The Fashion Police. WWE continues to miss the boat on Rusev Day. Sigh…

·        AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a No Disqualification/No Count Out 2-on-3 Handicap Match when Orton nailed Zayn with an RKO for the win. Owens and Zayn intentionally got counted out which ended the first match prematurely. Shane McMahon came out and restarted the match with no count outs.

·        Match #2 got underway with the babyfaces firmly in control. Orton was about to nail Zayn with an RKO when Owens attacked him with a steel chair which drew the automatic DQ. Owens went after Styles and Nakamura before he and Zayn scurried up the ramp like a couple of rats.

·        McMahon appeared once again to make Match #3 No DQ which resulted in Styles chasing KO backstage while Orton and Nakamura cornered Zayn at ringside.

·        Orton hit Zayn in the face with the steel steps before dropping him with a Belly-to-Back Suplex on the announcer table.

·        The Viper tossed Zayn back in the ring as he got nailed with the Kinshasa from Nakamura followed by Orton’s finisher for the win.

·        SD Live went off the air with Nakamura and Orton celebrating in the ring while the announcers questioned whether or not Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were on the same page based on their actions tonight.

·        This was a good way to end the show. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were outsmarted this week, but did McMahon abuse his power by making the duo pay for their sins 2X?

·        Daniel Bryan can point to Shane-O-Mac letting his personal feelings get in the way of what’s best for business. However, Bryan has shown power-hungry tendencies over the past couple of weeks which puts his impartiality into question as well.

·        Byron Saxton and Corey Graves are playing the roles of Good Conscience/Bad Conscience as they try to defend Bryan and McMahon’s actions as of late. One of them is right while the other is blowing things out of proportion. WWE is doing this intentionally as they try to throw fans off the scent when it comes to who’s playing who.

·        It’s a great storyline that keeps people guessing every week. The big reveal will probably take place at the Rumble or Fastlane PPV in March. For the company’s sake, here’s hoping McMahon is the one turning heel because Bryan is not getting booed unless he beats up Captain Planet in a street fight. Just saying…

·        Overall, I thought this tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The in-ring action left a lot to be desired until the main event ended things on a high note.

·        With two more live shows until the Royal Rumble, SD Live needs to turn up the volume heading into the first major PPV of the year. The main event and tag team scene is on fire while the women’s division and mid-card scene are treading water at the moment.

·        The women need to branch off into individual feuds after the Rumble while more depth is needed when it comes to viable challengers for the United States Championship. These issues will continue to bog down the show unless the creative team remedies the situation. *Cough* Push Rusev! *Cough*

·        The Rumble is shaping up nicely, but I need WWE to make me care during the home stretch in order to push things over the top. They’ve got two weeks to get the job done. Let’s hope the E takes care of business because I have a feeling that NXT Takeover: Philadelphia might win the weekend if they’re not too careful. It’s happened nine times over the past two years. Can Triple H make it 10-for-10? We shall find out soon enough.



On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls! 


Monday, January 8, 2018

The Raw Exposé: WWE Presents - How To Get Away With Attempted Murder Starring Braun Strowman (1-8-2018)


By: Keila Cash


Location: The FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee
Date: 1/8/2017
Sad Refrain: Welcome to the Heartbreak Hotel (Leave the light on for the Georgia Bulldogs L)
Happier Refrain: The Miz is back, baby!



·        Raw kicked off with Roman Reigns putting his feud with Samoa Joe behind him. Reigns was greeted with a mixed reaction that verged on more boos and cheers until Jason Jordan came out to congratulate him.

·        Jordan tried to make it a “we” moment, but Seth Rollins was having none of it as he made his way down to the ring. Rollins admonished his tag team partner for stealing Reigns’ spotlight, but Jordan still wanted to celebrate the win as a team while being oblivious to the fact that he is the dreaded third wheel.

·        Jordan claimed that their championship pedigree automatically made them the most dominant team in WWE. Rollins and Reigns gave him the side eye for making such a delusional statement.

·        Finn Bàlor, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows came out to assert themselves as the most dominant group in WWE as Bàlor touted his ten-year friendship with Gallows and Anderson while taking a dig at Jordan’s daddy issues. Anderson bragged about his crew’s respective resumes which allowed them to do their own thing before joining forces to take on what’s left of The Shield.

·        Gallows called Jordan a nerd which almost led to a brawl until Kurt Angle booked a six-man tag team match featuring Rollins, Reigns, and Jordan vs. The Bàlor Club which will take place later tonight.

·        This was an okay way to start the show. It was rough in spots because the crowd didn’t care about Reigns or Jordan early on. Jordan is trying to maneuver his way into Dean Ambrose’s spot, but Rollins and Reigns are not here for it. It’s an interesting storyline that should make Jordan a hated heel sooner or later, but he’s generating go away heat at the moment. Here’s hoping he can actively get the crowd to hate him for all the right reasons because he has potential to get over as an oblivious heel that overestimates his worth.

·        Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville when Banks made Rose tap out to the Bank Statement. The match was decent as Rose and Deville worked over Banks until Bayley made the save towards the end. This was the babyfaces’ first win over Absolution which should’ve been hammered home by the commentary team, but they dropped the ball. Storyline continuity, be damned!

·        Woken Matt Hardy defeated Curt Hawkins with the Twist of Fate in a quick match. Hawkins losing streak has carried over into 2018. At least he’s consistent…

·        After the match was over, Bray Wyatt appeared in the ring to have a laugh off with Hardy. To say this was weird would be an understatement.

·        The Miz put Roman Reigns on notice when it comes to regaining the Intercontinental Championship. Miz vowed to become the longest reigning IC Champion of all-time in 2018 while etching his name in the history books alongside the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. It’s a ballsy goal, but Rolling Stone Magazine’s Superstar of the Year is willing to go for broke while proving the naysayers wrong at the same time. Good for Miz!

·        Cedric Alexander defeated Enzo Amore via count out, but Enzo retained the Cruiserweight Championship because the title can’t change hands unless the match is contested under no DQ rules. Enzo got busted open with a sick kick by Alexander before getting laid out with a flip dive moments later. Alexander landed on Enzo’s ankle which led to the count out finish. It appeared to be a legit injury, but we shall see if WWE releases a medical update later this week to legitimize or downplay the situation.

·        I had an issue with Alexander smiling after the ring announcer informed the crowd that Enzo was still the Cruiserweight Champion. He didn’t sell frustration or anger. Alexander posed on the top rope like he didn’t have a care in the world. If he doesn’t care about winning the title, why should we? This division continues to circle the drain. It’s sad but true.

·        Kurt Angle booked two huge matches which will take place over the next few weeks. Sheamus and Cesaro will face Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan in a rematch for the Raw Tag Team Championship at the Royal Rumble while Roman Reigns defends his Intercontinental Title against The Miz during Raw’s 25th Anniversary special on January 22nd.  

·        In the first shocker of 2018, Titus O’ Neil and Apollo Crews defeated Sheamus and Cesaro when O’Neil pinned Sheamus with a roll-up. It was a solid match as Crews laid out Cesaro with a beautiful moonsault which set up the finish. Titus Worldwide has a much-needed win under their belt for the first time since forever while noted statistician Dana Brooke narrowly avoided a wardrobe malfunction because her twins were on the verge of popping out for the world to see.

·        Paul Heyman talked a big game on Brock Lesnar’s behalf, but Braun Strowman single-handily destroyed Kane and Lesnar without breaking a sweat. Strowman slammed Lesnar against some production equipment backstage while throwing a road case on top of Kane with the greatest of ease.

·        Strowman saved the best for last when he grabbed a grappling hook and yanked down the truss on top of both men as Heyman looked on in horror. It was a great spot to wrap up an insane segment.

·        Samoa Joe defeated Rhyno with the Coquina Clutch in a quick match. This was a nice bounce-back win for Joe after coming up short in his Intercontinental Title match against Roman Reigns last week.

·        In other news, Joe announced that he was entering the men’s Royal Rumble match and promised to eliminate John Cena. I’ve been pining for a feud between Joe and Cena since last year. Here’s hoping WWE pulls the trigger because it has the potential to be great due to their history on the California indie circuit during the early 2000s.

·        Asuka’s match against {Insert Opponent Here} never got underway as Nia Jax attacked her from behind. Jax sent a clear message that she was winning the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble.

·        Bàlor Club defeated Seth Rollins, Jason Jordan, and Roman Reigns when Finn Bàlor pinned Rollins with the Coup De Grace in a good main event match. Jordan made two costly mistakes which cost his team the win. Rollins made the hot tag to Reigns, but the referee never saw it because Jordan distracted him. The ref told Reigns to get back in his corner, but the Big Dog didn’t listen as he took out Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows by nailing the former with a Superman Punch and the latter with a Spear.

·        Jordan tried to make up for his mistake by helping Rollins to his feet, but Bàlor was charging towards them which caused Rollins to push Jordan out of the way as he ate a running dropkick into the turnbuckle. This led Balor’s first meaningful win in months as The Bàlor Club celebrated on the main stage.

·        Reigns confronted Jordan, but they didn’t come to blows as Jordan rolled out of the ring to apologize to Rollins. It appeared that Raw was about to go off the air, but The Miz and his Miztourage ambushed Jordan, Rollins, and Reigns from behind.

·        Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel double teamed Reigns before Miz laid him out with the Skull Crushing Finale.

·        They weren’t finished with Reigns as they dropped him with a Triple Powerbomb to add insult to injury as Raw went off the air with Miz and his minions standing tall in the ring.

·        This was a good way to end the show. Jason Jordan continues to be the dreaded third wheel as Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins scoff at the notion that he is on their level. Rollins’ patience continues to wear thin which plays into Jordan’s slow-burn heel turn. He’s owning the role, but he still needs to make the fans hate him for being a spoiled brat instead of hating him because he’s been saddled with a lame storyline. There’s still time to get it right, but it’s been rough sledding so far.

·        Meanwhile, The Miz and Roman Reigns renew their feud which might hint at a title change because Reigns needs to drop the IC Title before WrestleMania if he’s going to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. Miz and Reigns have good in-ring chemistry which should create an electric atmosphere inside the Barclays or Manhattan Center in a couple of weeks as Raw celebrates its 25th anniversary. To quote Good Ol’ JR, “It should be a slobber knocker!”

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. The in-ring action was so-so until the main event. WWE made the broadcast newsworthy when Braun Strowman destroyed Brock Lesnar and Kane during the College Football Playoff National Championship halftime show. That gave viewers enough time to witness the carnage before switching back over to the game.

·        Outside of that, this was a placeholder show as the company continues to hype Raw 25 which takes place in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, The E has done a good job promoting the Royal Rumble PPV which is a sign that their priorities are in order heading into the first major show of the year. Here’s hoping they can build momentum next week because it’s basically a go-home show leading into another one due to the anniversary tie-in. 



On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new edition of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Daniel Bryan Flirts With The Dark Side Of The Force (1-2-2018)


By: Keila Cash

Date: 1/2/2018
Location: The Amway Center in Orlando, Florida (The Post-WrestleMania Reprisal)
Mission: Who’s playing who in the New Year?
Extra Intel: Welcome to the first SmackDown Files of 2018!



·        Power Struggle 2018 is underway as Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon announced that they would be at ringside during AJ Styles’ match against Sami Zayn later tonight. Let the controversy ensue!

·        It took two tries, but The Usos successfully defended the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin when Jimmy Uso pinned Shelton Benjamin with the Diving Splash. Gable and Benjamin won the Tag Team Titles for two minutes when Gable illegally pinned Jimmy despite Jey being the legal man.

·        A second referee came down to the ring to set the main ref straight. Once the instant replay was shown on the big screen confirming that Jey was the legal man, the first ref declared the title change null and void and asked for an immediate restart which took place after the commercial break.

·        Gable and Benjamin were on the brink of hitting their finisher on Jey when he dodged Gable’s Diving Clothesline which allowed Jimmy to nail him with a Superkick in midflight.

·        The Usos nailed Benjamin with a double superkick which led to the finish moments later.

·        Both matches left a lot to be desired because I wanted more from an in-ring standpoint. Both teams shouldn’t be subjected to bullshit booking because they are capable of delivering the goods on any given night. The fans were cheated out of a great match that could’ve set the tone for 2018. WWE will probably announce a rematch at the Royal Rumble which might explain what happened tonight.

·        The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Breezango and The Ascension with the greatest of ease. Hulk! Smash!

·        Xavier Woods advanced to the semifinals of the United States Championship Tournament when he defeated Aiden English with an Elbow Drop from halfway across the ring. The match was solid, but it was a little rough around the edges at times. Once Woods and English build a rapport with each other from a chemistry standpoint, they will have a much better match in the future.

·        The Riott Squad defeated Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina when Sarah Logan nailed Tamina with the Hail Mary (Reverse Handstand into a Kneedrop) in a decent match. The heel vs. heel dynamic tempered the crowd response, but they cheered for Tamina towards the end due to her powerhouse performance.

·        Ruby Riott tried to tell the crowd that magic wasn’t real which resulted in her getting showered with the dreaded “What?” chant. Riott announced that her crew was entering the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match because it’s high time that people start taking them seriously.

·        Charlotte came out to restore humanity as she told everyone to follow their dreams because they can come true due to persistence and hard work. Since the Riott Squad wanted to give everyone a reality check, Charlotte decided to do the same by helping Naomi and Becky Lynch get a measure of revenge on the dastardly heels that attacked them during their main roster debut last November.

·        The babyfaces cleaned house as the Riott Squad scurried up the ramp to fight another. The segment started off iffy but ended strong with the surprise return of Lynch as she dropped Riott and Liv Morgan with a pair of Exploder Suplexes. The women’s Royal Rumble is shaping up to be a good one if everything goes according to plan.

·        Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles with the Helluva Kick thanks to an assist from Kevin Owens. The match was good, but it ended in controversy when Shane McMahon shoved Kevin Owens to the floor after Owens distracted the referee long enough to miss Styles’ pin attempt on Zayn.

·        McMahon ordered the ref to eject KO from the match. The ref agreed, but Daniel Bryan grabbed the mic and suggested that Shane remove himself from the match as well. This set off a chain of events as Owens distracted Styles long enough for Zayn to hit his finisher for the win.

·        A very pissed off Styles cut a promo about KO and Zayn taking the easy way out in order to get ahead. He also admonished the SD Live Commissioner and General Manager for bickering like children. The Phenomenal One had the perfect solution as he sarcastically challenged Owens and Zayn to a 2-on-1 Handicap Match.

·        Bryan signed off on the idea, but he took things one step further by putting Styles’ WWE Championship on the line at the Royal Rumble PPV.

·        Styles looked on in shock while Shane gave Bryan the side-eye as he led the crowd in a tepid “Yes!” chant as the show went off the air.

·        This was a shocking way to end the show. Daniel Bryan took Styles’ sarcasm as gospel by booking him in a match with the odds stacked in the heels’ favor. This was the first time that Bryan showed true heel tendencies which tilts the balance of power heading into WrestleMania season.

·        WWE is trying to convince the viewers at home that Bryan, Owens, and Zayn are in cahoots when it comes to putting the screws to Shane McMahon. As I mentioned last month, the creative team tends to plant red herrings in order to swerve the audience with the big surprise.

·        Despite Shane-O-Mac being a so-called champion of justice, he’s inherently evil by default. He will eventually show his true colors because Bryan is too likable to get booed unless he tosses a kitten from a ten story building. The twists and turns in this storyline have been fun to watch so far. Here’s hoping the Powers That Be doesn’t book themselves into a corner by getting too cute for their own good. Fingers crossed!

·        Overall, I thought the first SmackDown Live of 2018 was middling at best. The in-ring was so-so until the main event segment. It felt like WWE was suffering from a New Year’s Day hangover which carried over into tonight’s show.

·        The Tag Team Title match was marred by questionable booking while the mid-card scene continues to tread water until a new United States Champion is crowned.

·        The absence of Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, and Bobby Roode hurt the broadcast as well. SD Live is rich with main event talent, but they’ve been used sparingly as of late which drags down the overall quality of the show.

·        With such top-level talent jockeying for the main event spot, the mid-card is light on legit threats outside of Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin. There are no viable faces to balance things out which exposes how shallow the roster is. The problem won’t be solved until after WrestleMania, but WWE can give some stars a much-needed push in the interim. *cough* Rusev *cough*

·        The power struggle between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon is keeping SD Live afloat, but the endgame will suck if Bryan isn’t cleared to wrestle if he’s the one turning heel. I don’t’ want to see him choose a proxy to fight on his behalf at WrestleMania. Unless WWE is ready to pull the trigger on Bryan’s comeback, the cock teasing needs to stop. It’s fun for now, but the E shouldn’t get people’s hopes up if they aren’t going to give them or Bryan what they want.



On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!