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SmackDown RunDown Live (12/26/17): The Go-Home Show for 2018


Nobody wants to see your spinning hips! It’s an after-Christmas edition of SmackDown RunDown Live and with you, as always, is the Grinch’s body double, #NitPickRick. Thankfully, we’re done with all the Christmas nonsense and everyone’s back in business. A lot to unpack here so let me just get started before Luke Harper slaps Erick Rowan again.

We’re closing the year off right with a red-hot main event scene

I honestly thought we’d be ending the year with Jinder Mahal still as a world champion. If not for the interesting subplots beneath the WWE Championship storyline, I’d probably have stopped expecting much from the Blue Brand. Thankfully, WWE realized and corrected their mistake by giving its most prestigious prize to someone who actually deserved it. I’ll let you figure out who that guy was. Everything’s right with the world again. I’m just glad we can now watch an episode of SmackDown Live without that lingering thought that something awful’s gonna happen.


Case in point, this week’s main event effectively merged AJ Styles with the superior storyline of Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan, and the Canadian BFFs. Prior to the main event, Shane and Bryan had another passive-aggressive encounter where Shane focused on the “questionable” decisions Bryan made for the show. Bryan had legitimate responses for every criticism, which frustrated the commish as he delivered the most ominous “OK” I’ve ever heard. I certainly don’t want to hear that from my boss.


According to Bryan, he just wanted to see this year’s hottest rivalry unfold one last time, and that’s exactly what we got. Styles and Owens rarely had a bad match and this one is no way near bad. It’s also fun to see these two fight with bigger implications than the U.S. Title. Now that their next match will probably be for the WWE Championship, I can’t imagine how these two will tear the house down for something more prestigious on the line. And to send things full circle, Shane provided the distraction for Owens to score the quick roll-up victory. Welp.


I absolutely adore how this storyline is playing out. Shane’s antics continue to bite him in the ass as he tries to screw Owens and Zayn every chance he gets, while Bryan gets to stay behind the curtain as he runs the show the best way he can. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this dynamic before in the WWE (wrestling history nerds, please correct me), and I’m glad we’re kicking off 2018 with this red-hot angle—this time with AJ Styles placing his title on the line. Does it matter if it won’t end with Bryan wrestling again? Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

U.S. Title Tourney: Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode earn semis spots

The good news is they didn’t reveal a new design for the U.S. Title (yet). The bad news is they’re considering Dolph Ziggler’s interesting promo last week as a title surrender, which now that I think about it, isn’t really that bad of an outcome. It allows Ziggler to rest and refresh his character while giving the rest of the locker room some needed TV exposure. In Ziggler’s absence, Daniel Bryan announced a tournament to crown a new U.S. champion. I sure do enjoy tournaments. Who doesn’t love tournaments? Don’t be friends with people who hate tournaments.


Former champ Baron Corbin and Bobby Roode were up first. Shane eagerly questioned Bryan why he added Corbin to the tourney when he’s entitled to a rematch anyway, but Bryan simply told him that this is the Land of Opportunity. It’s weird, but it’s also consistent with what D-Bry said last week. See how awesome their dynamic is? Anyway, I digress. Roode and Corbin had a physical and hard-hitting encounter, something I didn’t expect from the two. They just look like they won’t have chemistry, or is it just me? Roode then secured his semifinal spot via a quick roll-up.


The next bracket featured a match between the elusive Tye Dillinger and the Maharajah Jinder Mahal. As much as I hate seeing Tye lose again, this was a great way to maintain the push Jinder received. I’ve been suggesting they should’ve give him the U.S. Title first so they can test his star power and I’m glad they’re finally taking my advice. I predict Jinder and Roode will meet at the finals and they’ll have a rivalry stretching up to WrestleMania. When will they release the official bracket graphic though? It just makes the entire tourney more legit that way.

SmackDown Live’s tag team division is alive and kicking

Leave it to SmackDown Live for maximizing their thin tag team roster. You think the Fatal 4-way tag match at Clash of Champions was good? The triple threat match featuring the New Day, American Alpha 2.0, and the incredibly over Team Rusev Day was way better, mainly because it only featured three teams, making it an easier watch. Just look at the crazy spots they did. Chad Gable suplexed Big E and Aiden English, Rusev locked Gable and Xavier Woods with the Accolade at the same time, and all teams dished out sick tag team combos.


I’m still bothered they didn’t give the win to Team Rusev Day. Aside from AJ Styles, Rusev got the loudest reactions so I thought WWE would capitalize. But fine, I suppose I can go for another Usos vs. Gable/Benjamin match. They never got to face each other for the titles on their own anyway. On the other side of the fence, the Bludgeon Brothers continue to decimate Breezango, but they finally got the Ascension involved, so that’s good for them. See how every team was properly utilized this week… except maybe for the Colons. Are they still part of SmackDown Live?

What exactly are they planning for the women of SmackDown Live?

The only dent on this week’s episode was probably Naomi vs. Ruby Riott. Their match wasn’t that bad, but my complaint will mainly focus on Creative’s lack of effort to place these women in a compelling storyline. Let’s start with the Riott Squad. Apparently, they’re still portrayed as a force to be reckoned with. The last time I checked, they got beaten by Naomi and Charlotte Flair in a tag match last week and they get their asses handed to them by the rest of the locker room every week. I really, really hope they break up at the Rumble.


After the Riott Squad took out Naomi and Charlotte Flair, Natalya’s music hit and out came the Welcoming Committee (plus Lana) to confront the trio. So what happened to Natalya’s promo at Clash of Champions, exactly? She turned her back on us, now she’s all smiles and helped take care of the heel faction. What does this mean? Is the Welcoming Committee back? Is Natalya face now? You can’t just go around teasing everyone with your departure, only to come back two weeks later. That’s not how goodor sensibleswerves work.


And I’d like to remind everyone that Carmella is the current MITB briefcase holder. I think some of us have already forgotten. I know I said it’s okay for the briefcase holder to be buried a little, but you have to keep featuring her in matches or promos. You have to maintain her exposure so people won’t completely forget her. Remember when James Ellsworth was still around? He helped Carmella gather nuclear heat, especially during the MITB controversy. His hard work and sacrifice were all wasted. Rest in peace, Ellsworth. Dicks out.


The only good thing about all of this is at least they’re letting Lana do more than just being a valet. I guess this is just a temporary thing until Becky Lynch comes back and balances everyone out, but still. No one in the women’s division has a clear or compelling storyline to work on. Why should we care about any one of them? You can talk about the women’s revolution all you want, but it ain’t a revolution if they keep treating the women’s division matches and segments as pee breaks or cooldown matches. Nuff said.

SMACKDOWN RUNDOWN: I absolutely loved this episode! This week’s show was so good, I didn’t even include a Vibes and Blues segment since every match and storyline (or lack thereof) was worth talking about. I really hope they can keep this momentum going. I want 2018 to be a better year for SmackDown Live—full of complex (or simple but logical) storylines, fantastic matches, and more groundbreaking and revolutionary story arcs for the women. After a string of subpar episodes, I’m proud to award the last show of 2017 an enthusiastic and hopeful A-, awful women’s segments be damned.

Did you enjoy this week’s SmackDown Live? And hey, I almost forgot to mention. Happy New Year, you guys! Let’s all share our expectations for next year’s SmackDown Live at the comments below.

*****

Ricky Jay Publico (@NitPickRick) is a wrestling fan who enjoys watching high flyers and brawlers battle it out in the ring. A known Botchamania binge-watcher, he claims to have memorized the chronological order of Royal Rumble winners, but fails to remember who won in 2004. He writes stories about life and nonsense.

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