Smackdown Live saw Sami Zayn and Randy Orton face off in a fantastic match for the right to join the Smackdown Survivor Series team. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin warmed up for their Smackdown Live Tag Team Title match with a match against the New Day, and the women of the blue Brand battled to be the captain of their team. In a fascinating move Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan teased tension between each other all night.
Shane McMahon returns to Smackdown Live & is confronted by Sami Zayn. Grade: B+ Shane O’Mac opened the show explaining his brands actions the night before saying when in a fight its best to strike first. Sami Zayn interrupted and shined as a heel with the spotlight purely on him in Kevin Owen’s absence (at the moment at least). Zayn said he and Owens would be willing to be part of Smackdowns team but Shane said he neither wanted them or needed them. Shane McMahon provided the explanation needed and Zayn was as quirky and frustrating as ever and it was brilliant.
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin defeated The New Day. Grade: C+ This is a big win for the relatively new team beating a team as strong as the New Day and this is needed heading into their feud with the Usos. Gable & Benjamin blatantly cheating to win is interesting, a heel turn seems too soon but perhaps it’s just a sign of desperation by the babyfaces.
Fashion Files. Grade: B+ This week was Reservoir Dogs and while it was very funny as always, these really are in need of some proper progression to some proper action. Their interaction with James Ellsworth & Carmella was great and while I’ve been critical of the Ascensions use in these segments they are really starting to come into their own here.
Sin Cara defeated Baron Corbin by Disqualification. Grade: C. Matches between these two are frankly never going to be very good, but the story was solid enough here. Neither man is really very exciting in the ring, but Sin Cara gets technically another win over the champion while Corbin battered the Luchador looking dangerous in the process. It ticked all the boxes, but really nothing of any interest to see.
Jinder Mahal Promo before AJ Styles defeated Sunil Singh. Grade: B. Mahal was significantly better on the microphone here and responded as best he could to Paul Heyman’s verbal attack the night before. I still have very little interest in that match however. Perhaps not just trying to hammer the whole foreign Indian thing really helped as well. Styles squashing Sunil was good giving Styles a dominant win after taking a loss at TLC & being battered by Kane on Raw.
Becky Lynch defeated Carmella, Charlotte, Tamina & Naomi to become the Women’s Smackdown Team Captain. Grade: B+ A really fun action-packed match. Backstage Daniel Bryan brutally cutting down Lana was hilarious saying that she wouldn’t be in the match. Becky Lynch as the captain is a great move giving her something to do given she has done very little as of late, and Carmella can afford to take the fall given she is still Miss Money in the Bank.
Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode backstage interview. Grade: C- Ziggler mocked the standard WWE backstage interview protocol and mocked people with iconic catchphrases including The Rock. Booby Roode crashed his interview and the two went back and forth before the challenge of a two-out-of-three falls match was issued and accepted for next week. While this interaction and the entire feud has been very underwhelming and has cooled Roode significantly since his debut, hopefully this will signal the end of it all.
Randy Orton defeated Sami Zayn to join the Smackdown Live Survivor Series Team. Grade: B+ I love the fact that the Smackdown Male Superstars are being made to earn their spot in the team, it is such a terrific way to make that team and match feel important while giving meaning to television matches. Orton & Zayn put on a really good match here that really sparked the desire for a proper program between the two in the near future. Orton winning with a low blow before an RKO was interesting in that he had to cheat to win but perhaps this protects Zayn while keeping him off the team.
The Bludgeon Brothers had another backstage vignette hyping their debut. The tension teased between Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon was fascinating as they disagreed on the idea of attacking Raw the night before. With the two paranoid all night about the potential of a Raw invasion, the tension between these two has incredible potential for storytelling magic. While Kevin Owens vs Shinsuke Nakamura was announced for next week, Smackdown really couldn’t fit the King of Strong Style on the show at all this week? That’s disappointing.