Monday, February 19, 2018

The Raw Exposé: The Seth Rollins Is The 65 Minute Man Edition (2-19-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-19-2018
Location: Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona (Night 1 of 2)
Iron Man of the Year: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
Back to Basics: The All-Night Wrestling Revue

·        In a shocker, Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns with a roll-up to survive phase one of the Gauntlet Match. This was a good match as Rollins and Reigns traded rest holds early on before picking up the tempo after the commercial break. The highlight of the match was Rollins hitting Reigns with the Buckle Bomb only for Reigns to counter with the Superman Punch. They’ve done this spot in the past, but it never gets old because it’s executed so well. Tonight was no exception as the crowd popped something fierce.

·        The finishing sequence was strong as Rollins countered Reigns’ Spear with a knee to the face. He went for the Blackout, but Reigns countered with a roll-up. This resulted in Rollins following through with a roll-up of his own for the win. Next up: John Cena.

·        In another incredible performance, Seth Rollins defeated John Cena with The Blackout in a great match. Rollins vs. Cena is one of the best television matches of the year in terms of storytelling and work rate. Rollins was running on empty as Cena tried to tell him to stay down. Rollins wouldn’t listen as he took the fight to Cena. Both men traded near falls as Rollins kicked out of the AA. He mustered enough strength to deliver a Suplex from the middle rope followed by the Falcon Arrow for a near fall. The highlight of the match was Rollins rolling through on Cena to hit his own version of the AA for a near fall. It was a shocking spot that the announcers sold to perfection.

·        Cena managed to counter with an AA and tried to roll through with another only for Rollins to counter with a knee to the face which set up the finish moments later. This was an awesome performance by both men, but Rollins was the true star as he showed up and showed out.

·        Elias defeated Seth Rollins with The Drift Away in an okay match. Rollins was favoring his left knee which ultimately played into his downfall. Rollins lasted 65 minutes and had two great matches against Reigns and Cena. He should be proud of his performance. Fans should be even prouder because this was the best first hour of Raw from a wrestling standpoint in years.

·        Finn Bàlor defeated Elias with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. This was a comedown bout after Rollins tore the down the house for an hour. Elias worked over Bàlor’s shoulder which kept him grounded for the most part. The ending was good as Bàlor hit his Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace trifecta for the win. Next up: The Miz.

·        The Miz defeated Finn Bàlor with the Skull Crushing Finale thanks to an assist from the Miztourage. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel distracted Bàlor long enough for Miz to attack him from behind before the match started. Miz picked up where Elias left off by going after Bàlor’s left shoulder. Bàlor got back on offense, but the Miztourage kept getting involved until he laid them out with a flip dive. Bàlor tried to finish Miz off with the Coup De Grace, but Dallas and Axel got involved which set up the finish moments later. Next up: Braun Strowman.

·        Braun Strowman defeated The Miz with a running Powerslam to win the Gauntlet Match. The bout was fine, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Miztourage tried to help their boss out, but it was to no avail as Strowman dominated the action from start to finish.

·        After the match was over, Strowman laid out Miz and the Miztourage with a series of Running Powerslams as the Phoenix crowd egged him on.

·        Overall, this was a great way to kick off the first two hours of the show. The Gauntlet Match never dragged as Seth Rollins set the tone by having one of the best matches of the year when he defeated John Cena in a great match. Renee Young interviewing the men who didn’t survive the Gauntlet was a nice touch as they didn’t believe in moral victories heading into the Elimination Chamber. This was old school wrestling at its best and it was nice to see WWE keep it simple while magnifying the importance of Sunday’s PPV at the same time. All in all, this was a nice piece of business that made me care about who punches their ticket to WrestleMania even though the outcome is damn near academic.

·        Asuka struggled through her promo as she forgot some of her lines during her interview with Renee Young. The crowd was on the verge of turning on the segment, but the boo birds were kept at bay as Asuka tried her best to power through the segment. Nia Jax tried to attack Asuka from behind, but Asuka saw the sneak attack coming and got the jump on Jax first.

·        Jax overpowered Asuka when she laid her out with a Samoan Drop followed by the Leg Drop. This appears to telegraph the finish on Sunday in terms of Asuka keeping her winning streak intact, but stranger things can happen.

·        WWE put together a nice video package of Ronda Rousey training ahead of her contract signing at the Elimination Chamber PPV on Sunday. After a ho-hum announcement last week, the company put their production prowess to good use by hyping Rousey’s official debut to the hilt. It’s about damn time!

·        Titus O’Neil and Apollo (Don’t Call Him Crews) defeated Sheamus and Cesaro when Apollo pinned Cesaro with a roll-up. This was a nice way to set up a probable match for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Elimination Chamber because it’s currently a three-match card at the moment.

·        Make that four matches as Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt has been added to the festivities as well.

·        Mickie James, Bayley, and Sasha Banks defeated Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Alexa Bliss when Banks made Bliss tap out to the Bank Statement in a solid main event match. Bayley and James played the babyfaces in peril early on until Banks got the hot tag down the stretch.

·        Sasha came in hot as she hit everything that moved including a sick double knees to Deville on the outside. Bliss suffered the same fate 2X, but it wasn’t enough to keep her down as she slammed Sasha’s head into the middle turnbuckle.

·        Things got chaotic towards the end when Mickie and Bayley laid out Absolution which set up the finish moments later. Sasha didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Deville and Rose attacked her from behind. Bayley tried to make the save, but it was to no avail as Absolution laid her out as well. The beat down was a bit sloppy which undercut the effectiveness of the closing angle.

·        Bliss admired their handiwork but quickly realized that she was next on the chopping block when James made the save. They nailed Deville with a Double DDT as Raw went off the air with the frenemies standing tall.

·        Despite Bliss teaming with Absolution, she maintained her alliance with James by refusing to tag in the match whenever her former mentor was in the ring. One can assume that their truce will come to an end on Sunday, but it should be interesting to see who will turn on the other first.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was very good. The Gauntlet Match set the tone as the in-ring action was stellar due to the Herculean effort of Seth Rollins during the first 65 minutes of the show. Roman Reigns and John Cena deserve props for holding up their end of the bargain, but this was a clear indicator that Rollins can be a top babyface based on his wrestling ability alone. He has been mishandled over the past couple of years due to a shitty face turn by default, but things got better once he reunited with Dean Ambrose last summer.

·        Tonight proved that he has what it takes to still be The Man in WWE if the creative team doesn’t script him like a pompous jackass. Here’s hoping Rollins has a top tier match at WrestleMania because he hasn’t had the chance to deliver a true Mania moment despite his Money in the Bank cash-in a few years and his win over Triple H last year.

·        WWE did a great job hyping the Elimination Chamber PPV by showcasing every match on the card to maximum effect. The company shook things up by removing the obligatory promo that starts every episode of Raw. Most importantly, there was no General Manager to exert his authority while tripping over his lines at the same time (No shade to Kurt Angle, but I am simply stating the facts).

·        This was a show that had a purpose and included one of the best matches of 2018. That’s how the E should get it done heading into WM season. Despite the destination being inevitable, the creative team should make Raw and SmackDown Live must-see television every week instead of coasting their way through the biggest time of the year. Tonight was a prime example of what they can do on a consistent basis. Let’s hope the company maintains that momentum heading into the Chamber PPV on Sunday. 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, February 13, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Five The Hard Way - How Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler Punched Their Ticket To Fastlane (2-13-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-13-2018
Location: Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, California
When Throwing Shade Goes Wrong: Jinder Mahal’s SmackDown Live Top Ten List Faux Pas.
Who’s The Boss?: Is it Bryan or Is It Shane? At this point, who really gives a damn?

·        SmackDown Live was supposed to kick off with Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin with the winner being added to the WWE Championship match featuring AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn at Fastlane. Owens and Zayn had other plans when they attacked Corbin backstage before focusing their attention on Ziggler.

·        Ziggler took the fight to Zayn, but the numbers game caught up to him when Zayn nailed The Showoff with the Helluva Kick at ringside.

·        Corbin attacked Owens on the main stage, but he also got his ass kicked as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. I wasn’t a fan of Ziggler and Corbin being added to the WWE Title match because they weren’t on the “prestigious” SD Live Top Ten List. Fortunately, WWE righted the ship by having KO and Zayn eliminate the competition beforehand. Both men deserve a fruit basket for a job well done.

·        Charlotte defeated Sarah Logan with Natural Selection in a solid match. Logan showed grit as she had Charlotte on the ropes for the most part. Logan still needs to clean up areas of her in-ring game, but she has a bright future based on her performance tonight. Two down. One to go. Ruby Riott, You’re Next! (Pun totally intended).

·        Shane McMahon laid down the law as he booked Baron Corbin vs. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn. If Ziggler or Corbin win their respective matches, the WWE Championship will become a Fatal 4 or 5-Way at Fastlane. If Owens and Zayn get involved in the other’s match, they will be removed from the title bout. My fruit basket is on the brink of being rescinded. Damn it! L

·        Baron Corbin defeated Kevin Owens with End of Days and will be added to the WWE Title match at Fastlane. The match was solid, but the fans checked out emotionally due to the heel vs. heel dynamic. The crowd popped for the finish which ended things on a high note. The booking of the match was good as Corbin went for his running Clothesline only to get kicked in the face by Owens. Corbin hit pay dirt on the second attempt which prevented the bout from feeling formulaic.

·        Bobby Roode reinstated the United States Open Challenge and hoped that Randy Orton would be the first man to step up to the plate. Before the match got underway, Jinder Mahal came out to make fun of Orton for being number nine on the SD Live Top Ten List.

·        Mahal talked about Orton being a 13-time World Champion, but not being good enough amongst his peers to rank higher on the list. He tried to create tension between Orton and Roode, but his plan backfired when Roode checked Mahal for not making the list himself. Mahal shut his trap as Roode complimented Orton on his decorated career in WWE.

·        Roode claimed that Orton didn’t rank higher on the list was due to the fact that Orton RKO’s people out of nowhere. The Viper responded with an RKO to Sunil Singh. Mahal tried to attack Roode, but Orton broke things up.

·        However, the distraction gave Mahal enough time to hit Roode and Orton with the Khallas as the segment came to an end with the modern-day Maharaja standing tall in the ring.

·        The segment was fine, but Mahal trying to throw shade is laughable outside of his awesome jab on Twitter when he called out Rob Gronkowski for hindering him at WrestleMania last year.

·        The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable when Kingston pinned Gable with the Midnight Hour in a decent match. Both teams fighting over pancakes is dumb, but it’s the newest New Day gimmick that has overstayed its welcome. New Day Pops? Gone! Booty-O’s? So passé! Booty Cakes? So meh…

·        The graphics are back…WHY?!?

·        And so it begins. The Usos vs. The Bludgeon Brothers have a future date for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. Let the awesomeness commence!

·        Dolph Ziggler defeated Sami Zayn with the Superkick as the WWE Championship match is now a Fatal 5-Way featuring Ziggler, Zayn, Owens, Corbin, and Styles. Zayn and Ziggler had a very good match that featured fast-paced and hard-hitting action throughout. This was Ziggler’s best match in at least a year as Zayn continues to bring out the best in his opponents. The heel vs. heel dynamic didn’t turn off the Bakersfield crowd as they popped for the dramatic near falls down the stretch. The highlight of the match was Zayn dropping Ziggler with a beautiful Exploder Suplex, but Zayn didn’t have enough energy to make the cover.

·        Ziggler nailed Zayn with the Zig Zag after Zayn failed to hit the Helluva Kick for another dramatic near fall. Zayn rammed Ziggler shoulder first into the ring post which put him in prime position for the Helluva Kick. However, Ziggler caught Zayn with the Superkick for the win.

·        Ziggler’s character might be a total buzzkill, but he’s a talented wrestler who needs to figure out who he is from a personality standpoint. Is he a Shawn/Bret Michaels Hybrid or is there something deeper underneath the faux Heartbreak Kid exterior that will elevate him to the next level? Careers can be revitalized on a whim. It’s up to Ziggler to find the missing ingredient that has held him back from being a top star in WWE. His talent has never been the question. The start and stop pushes have derailed things, but it’s ultimately up to him to sell his authentic self to the audience. He failed to do that on numerous occasions last year. Will the real Dolph Ziggler show up in 2018? We shall find out soon enough.

·        The Fatal 5-Way should be very good, but Styles is at a serious disadvantage because he’s the only babyface in the match. However, it appears that Owens and Zayn still have issues after they failed to take care of business in their respective matches tonight. Their rift should provide some much-needed drama at Fastlane despite the outcome being damn near academic. Unless an Act of God prevents the match from happening, Styles vs. Nakamura is a go for WrestleMania. Book it! I think…

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was middling at best. The first hour was solid, but the second hour almost fell off a cliff until the main event. SD Live has been missing a spark for quite some time now. The blue brand used to be the go-to show in terms of quality in-ring action and compelling storylines. That hasn’t been the case with the exception of Kevin Owens’ stellar heel work last fall along with Sami Zayn embracing the dark side of the force.

·        The Daniel Bryan-Shane McMahon saga was downplayed this week as McMahon flexed his managerial muscle while Bryan ceded control to his boss. The constant cock teasing has to stop. Every time WWE tries to pull back, they go all-in the following week with both men bickering about the same old shit. Unless they are wrestling at WrestleMania, the company needs to hit the pause button on this feud if they can’t deliver the payoff.

·        The Fastlane card should come into focus over the next couple of weeks as The Usos will presumably defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against The Bludgeon Brothers while Bobby Roode faces Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton in a Triple Threat Match for the United States Title. Anything can happen between now and then, but this appears to be the current direction as the final PPV before Mania starts to take shape. Here’s hoping the next few weeks of television is good because SD Live has been a chore to watch as of late. Fingers crossed!

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Raw Exposé: Concerto No. 5 - The Ballad of Braun Strowman (2-12-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-12-2018
Location: SAP Center in San Jose, California
All About That Bass: Braun Strowman singing bars on bars on bars.
Welcome to the Elimination Chamber Second Chance Sweepstakes: There must be a winner. Or two…

·        Raw kicked off with John Cena waxing poetically about main eventing WrestleMania. However, that dream could be shattered if Cena doesn’t win the Elimination Chamber match in two weeks. He wanted to prove the naysayers wrong by making the impossible possible by surviving the Chamber and beating Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Mania.

·        The Miz came out to remind Cena that it wasn’t 2013. Miz scoffed at the notion that Cena could beat Lesnar because he is the founder of Suplex City after The Beast destroyed him at SummerSlam three years ago.

·        Miz claimed he had a better shot at being a dual Champion because he wasn’t afraid to cross the line in order to get ahead. Cena admired Miz for speaking his mind, but he didn’t give him a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Lesnar at the biggest show of the year.

·        Cena challenged Miz to match with the loser entering the Chamber first. Miz turned him down, but it was a ruse as Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel blindsided Cena.

·        Miz accepted Cena’s challenge and called for a referee. Kurt Angle came out to make the match official as the opening segment came to an end.

·        John Cena defeated The Miz with a Super AA in a very good match. The action was hard-hitting and physical throughout as both men kicked out of the other’s finisher. Michael Cole noted that Cena has a 3-3 record inside the Chamber with one of those wins coinciding with him entering the match first. Cena’s Road to WrestleMania would be hard, but manageable based on his .500 Chamber record.

·        Cena went up to the top rope, but Miz knocked him on the turnbuckle to set him up for the Skull Crushing Finale. Cena blocked Miz which led to the finish moments later.

·        This was a strong way to kick off the show. Over the past few weeks, Cena has been treated like another guy on the roster. This week, he got a chance to verbalize his feelings heading into the Elimination Chamber PPV. Cena wants to main event WrestleMania because it’s the one night of the year where dreams are born and legends are made. If he doesn’t win the Chamber match, he doesn’t have a guaranteed spot at the biggest show of the year. The notion of Father Time catching up to Cena could be a great storyline heading into Mania if he fails to punch his ticket to New Orleans in two weeks.

·        The Miz played his part well as he openly admitted that he was willing to cheat in order to get ahead. Honesty is the best policy…

·        The Revival defeated Gallows and Anderson when Scott Dawson pinned Karl Anderson with the Shatter Machine. Dash and Dawson attacked Gallows and Anderson from behind which gave them the unfair advantage before the referee rang the bell. The match was fine, but the constant 50/50 booking is doing both teams a disservice at the moment.

·        Kurt Angle made a couple of announcements that have Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania ramifications. Angle announced that Jason Jordan underwent minimally invasive surgery that will prevent him from competing at Mania. A few fans cheered at Jordan’s injury which was beyond tasteless. Angle called them out on it, but he was met with a mixed reaction.

·        Things got better once Seth Rollins came out and explained that he was in Jordan’s shoes a couple of years ago when he missed WrestleMania 32 due to injury. Rollins was tired of being a part of Monday Night Raw. He wanted to be the centerpiece of the show. 

·        Rollins wanted a spot inside the Elimination Chamber. Angle noted that he couldn’t change the Fatal 4-Way Match on a whim. Rollins agreed and wanted to make the bout a Fatal 5-Way. Angle polled the audience and made the match official for later tonight as the segment came to end.

·        The second under the radar announcement from Angle was Ronda Rousey appearing at the Elimination Chamber PPV to sign her Raw contract. The crowd reaction was mixed, but I expect the Las Vegas fans to be a bit more receptive towards Rousey because UFC’s business roots are firmly planted in Sin City which should create an interesting atmosphere, to say the least.

·        Bayley reversed the Hometown Curse when she defeated Sasha Banks with the Bayley-to-Belly from the middle rope in a very good match. Bayley and Sasha have squared off against each other on the main roster over the past couple of years, but they always wrestled tentatively because both ladies were babyfaces. That dynamic went out the window tonight as The Boss heeled it up while Bayley was the Hometown Girl through and through. For the third week in a row, the women’s division delivered the goods which nice to see heading into the first-ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match.

·        Bayley tried to hug it out with Sasha after the match was over, but Nia Jax ruined the Hallmark Moment when she laid them out with a pair of Samoan Drops.

·        Charly Caruso asked Jax why she interjected herself into a situation that didn’t concern her. Jax clapped back by stating that she laid out the two women who almost beat Asuka in seconds while she vowed to end Asuka’s winning streak in similar fashion at the Chamber PPV in a couple of weeks. Her explanation totally made sense while putting Caruso in her place at the same time. Good for her.

·        Meanwhile, I liked how WWE delayed Sasha and Bayley hugging it out in the ring. There should be a hint dissension between both ladies heading into the Chamber match. By doing this, it leaves the door open for Banks’ heel turn which should lead to a full-on feud with Bayley heading into WrestleMania. It’s happening a year too late, but I digress…

·        Asuka is so next level that she has a By-The-Numbers video package detailing her badassery.

·        Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville defeated Mickie James and Alexa Bliss when Rose pinned James with the Facebuster in a decent match. Paige got involved down the stretch when she distracted Bliss long enough for Deville to pull her off the ring apron which set up the finish moments later.

·        She ordered her Absolution sisters to attack James after the match was over, but Bliss made the save which falls in line with the goal of keeping her frenemies close heading into the Chamber match in a couple of weeks.

·        Elias’ concert was interrupted by Braun Strowman. Strowman grabbed a big ass bass and immediately broke the strings. He was on the verge of breaking character, but he managed to sing his ditty before kicking Elias’ ass. As Elias was crawling up the ramp, Strowman smashed the bass over The Drifter’s back as the crowd popped something fierce.

·        Outside of the Mixed Match Challenge and the Elf Spoof during the holidays, Strowman has rarely shown his comedic side on broadcast television. He is becoming a well-rounded performer which speaks well for his future. Strowman can bring the funny while scaring the shit out of people at the same time. It’s a win-win situation!

·        Roman Reigns defeated Sheamus with a Spear from midair in a good match. This bout was in danger of being hijacked by the fans when they started up a Rusev Day chant after the commercial break. However, both men maintained their composure and delivered the goods down the stretch as the last five or six minutes featured hard-hitting action and crazy near falls that popped the crowd.

·        Cesaro tried to get involved, but Reigns knocked him over the barricade with a Superman Punch. This set up the finishing sequence as the match avoided the dreaded 10:30 Lull Period of Death. For now…

·        The Fatal 5-Way Match featuring Bray Wyatt, Matt Hardy, Apollo Crews, Seth Rollins, and Finn Bàlor ended in controversy when Rollins and Bàlor pinned Wyatt at the same time. The referee counted to three like an idiot and had the nerve to admonish both men for not claiming the win based on his bullshit decision. Raw went off the air with Michael Cole wondering who won the match as Rollins, Bàlor, and the dumbass ref argued in the ring.

·        This was a good match, but it lacked crowd heat during the last few minutes. Some fans tried to start a “CM Punk” chant early on, but they were quickly hissed down. Everyone got a chance to shine, but the flat finish left a lot to be desired.

·        In some ways, WWE telegraphed the outcome as the announcers kept talking about this being the last chance for someone to possibly punch their ticket to WrestleMania. Based on what happened tonight, Kurt Angle will probably book Rollins vs. Bàlor with the winner getting the last spot in the Chamber. Short of both men sharing a pod, this is the best way out a ludicrous situation. The match should be great, but this was such a shitty way to get from Point A to Point B.

·        To maintain the integrity of my original thoughts, I am breaking some news that happened after Raw went off the air. Kurt Angle announced that Rollins AND Bàlor earned a spot in the Elimination Chamber. For the first time ever, there will be a seven-man Chamber match. This blockbuster news should’ve been announced on television, but the match should be great considering the talent involved. The end of the main event was still a bullshit soufflé, though.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. This show was trending towards being pretty good until the main event. The dreaded 10:30 Lull Period of Death reared its ugly head as the Fatal 5-Way left a bitter taste in my mouth. The booking of that match damn near ruined the show. Fortunately, the first 2 ½ hours was strong as the in-ring action ranged from solid to very good. The Braun Strowman-Elias Dual Concert was the best thing on the show from an entertainment standpoint while Sasha Banks vs. Bayley win Match of the Night honors.

·        Also, WWE did nice job hyping the Elimination Chamber PPV by running down the key matches on the card. These points were hammered home to maximum effect until the company dropped the ball during the main event. Now that the situation has been rectified via social media, here’s hoping next week’s go-home show in Phoenix, Arizona is a nice make-good after tonight’s ho-hum ending. 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, February 6, 2018

The SmackDown Files: And The Idiot Of The Week Goes To...AJ Styles (2-6-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-6-2018
Location: Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri
Graphics Be Gone: A little complaining takes the WordArt away. For the most part...

·        SmackDown Live kicked off with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan having a tense conversation regarding their business relationship as of late. McMahon questioned Bryan for giving Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn undeserved opportunities at the WWE Championship in recent weeks. Shane-O-Mac got emotional as he accused Bryan of living vicariously through Owens and Zayn because he can no longer compete in the ring. Before Bryan could respond, AJ Styles made his way to ring.

·        Styles called out both men for their piss poor managerial skills as of late. Styles had no problem taking on all comers, but he was tired of his bosses having a proverbial pissing contest to see who had the real power on SD Live. He told Bryan and McMahon to stay backstage during the Owens-Zayn match because he controlled his own destiny heading into Fastlane and WrestleMania as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. Power Struggle 2018 is back in full swing as Bryan and McMahon continue to butt heads over Owens and Zayn. McMahon’s words cut deep which could lead to a possible match between him and Bryan at WrestleMania. This is pure speculation at the moment, but WWE has been dropping breadcrumbs over the past few months. If Bryan is medically cleared, all bets are off. If not, the company is playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette that could bite them in the ass if they’re not careful.

·        Charlotte defeated Liv Morgan with the Figure Eight in a decent match. The Riott Squad tried to interfere down the stretch, but the referee caught them red-handed. The ref ejected Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan from ringside which set up the finish moments later. One down. Two to go.

·        The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed another random tag team when Rowan pinned Random Wrestler #1 with a double chokeslam. It was short, sweet, and effective.

·        The Usos cut another awesome promo about how they reinvented themselves last year. 2018 would be no different as Jimmy and Jey intend to keep the tag team division on lockdown. Most importantly, there was no jail ceil graphic on the television screen during their promo. Perhaps the WWE Graphics Team learned their lesson from last week.

·        The first ever SD Live 10 Ten List has been revealed:

10) Tye Dillinger
9) Randy Orton
8) Becky Lynch
7) The Usos
6) The New Day
5) Bobby Roode
4) Naomi
3) Shinsuke Nakamura
2) Charlotte Flair
1) AJ Styles.

·        Rusev failing to make the cut saddens me. The shade of it all…

·        Bobby Roode retained the United States Championship when he defeated Rusev with the Glorious DDT in a good match. The bout was perfectly early on, but it didn’t suck me in emotionally until Rusev nailed Roode with the Machka Kick for a near fall. From there, the action was on point as the crowd cheered for both men.

·        Rusev tried to put Roode in the Accolade, but Roode countered with his finisher for the win. The Glorious One didn’t get a chance to celebrate because Randy Orton nailed him with an RKO out of nowhere.

·        Aiden English and Rusev suffered the same fate as the Kansas City crowd popped something fierce. Orton might not be in a front-burner storyline right now, but he is maximizing his minutes by doing very little while getting paid at the same time. The Viper is living the dream.

·        Those damn graphics…Ugh…

·        Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable defeated The Ascension when Benjamin pinned Viktor with the Powerbomb/Diving Clothesline combination in a decent match. Viktor looked impressive as his offense was smooth and crisp throughout. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get a chance to showcase his talent on a regular basis because he’s really good in the ring.

·        Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens ended in a double disqualification after AJ Styles attacked both men at ringside. Before the screwy finish, Owens and Zayn had a very good match that was on the verge of becoming the best television match of 2018 thus far. Both men know each other very well as they delivered the goods with great wrestling and dramatic near falls.

·        Zayn had Owens on the ropes when he confronted Styles at the announce table. Styles told Zayn to take care of Owens, but Zayn continued to run his mouth. Styles turned away from Zayn, but he swung Styles around which led to the Double DQ finish.

·        Styles laid out both men and wanted a winner despite how the match ended. Daniel Bryan appeared on the main stage and announced that Owens and Zayn will face Styles in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship at Fastlane next month. SD Live went off the air with The Phenomenal One fuming in the ring while the announcers bickered about Bryan having an ulterior motive.

·        This was a strong way to end the show. Styles being on guest commentary during the main event was a clear sign that Owens vs. Zayn was going to have a controversial finish. Styles took the bait and KO and Zayn laid the trap like a couple of weasels. Styles’ words came back to haunt him as he claimed he had everything under control during the opening segment. He was in charge of his own destiny and didn’t need Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon meddling in his business. Bryan did just that which will cause further tension between him and McMahon next week.

·        Styles he has to walk through the fire in order to face Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. The Triple Threat Match should be a Match of the Year contender if it’s not overbooked to death. I have feeling that Shane-O-Mac and Bryan will get involved, but that’s par for the course as of late. Here’s hoping this is leading up to something big at Mania because WWE continues to throw out red meat when it comes to Bryan’s in-ring status. Is this another mind fuck or something more? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The main event saved the show from drowning in a sea of mediocrity. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have wrestled against each other hundreds of times, but they always bring something different to the table. It’s a rivalry that will never get old despite both men burying the hatchet for the time being. Despite getting another shot at the WWE Championship, I don’t think KO and Zayn will cede the spotlight heading into WrestleMania unless one forces the other to do so. We shall see how it all plays out over the next few weeks.

·        The rest of the show was fine, but it didn’t feel must-see until the main event segment. The in-ring action has been subpar as of late which shouldn’t be the case. There are a couple of feuds bubbling beneath the surface, but the blue brand lacks a spark right now. There is no Miz or John Cena to carry the broadcast from a promo standpoint this year. With one more major PPV before Mania, the creative team needs to lay the foundation for something huge that will propel SD Live to the Promised Land. Here’s hoping they get the job done. Fingers crossed!

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!