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SmackDown RunDown Live (1/2/18): New Year, New Daniel


Magic isn’t real! It’s the new year episode of SmackDown Live, which means you’ll suffer through another edition of SmackDown RunDown Live with your thicc boy Ricky. Hey, it ain’t that bad. So how will the Blue Brand kick things off for 2018? Let’s go find out.

Daniel Bryan takes the first step towards turning heel

After weeks of speculation and complex character development, the New Year edition of SmackDown Live brought us a glimpse of Daniel Bryan on the brink of turning heel. What a way to start the year.



But first, let’s talk about Shane McMahon’s continuing stupidity in stipulating matches. In the opening segment, Shane apologized to AJ Styles for causing a distraction last week. But instead of promising a distraction-free main event, he declared that he will be at ringside since Kevin Owens wasn’t banned either. It was a stupid move indeed, but it’s still part of his character as a hot-head, act-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy. And you know me, I love consistencies. So I’ll excuse this poorly acted, heavily scripted, and unnatural opening promo since they still got the message across.



Main event time as AJ Styles and Sami Zayn square off in a rather lukewarm match, mainly because the people at ringside were so distracting and because we could already predict the outcome from a mile away. Just like last week, Shane caused another distraction by attempting to throw out Owens. What we didn’t expect was D-Bry throwing out Shane as well, and while this was happening, Zayn hit Styles with a Helluva Kick for the win. While I understand why Shane reacted to Owens, I don’t understand why D-Bry had to send Shane away. Shane obviously didn’t do anything, and on a kayfabe and realistic standpoint, Bryan had no excuse to throw out Shane other than to help out Zayn and embarrass the commish in the process. Yeah, I think D-Bry’s heading to the dark side.



And as if that wasn’t enough of a hint, Bryan booked Styles to defend the WWE Championship against both Owens and Zayn in handicap match. Welp, there goes Bryan’s fairness. If you’re not convinced that he’s turning, how do you think can a babyface Bryan excuse this move? If he really was a fair GM without favoring both sides, the logical thing to do is book a triple threat match for the world title. That way, he can argue that since both men pinned the champion, they both get an equal chance to become the WWE Champion. And Shane would probably agree with it too, since he’ll expect the friendship of the Canadian BFFs to falter once a world title is placed between them.



Can a babyface Bryan explain why he suddenly stacked the odds against him by booking his two opponents as a cohesive unit? Bryan doesn’t even have a beef with Styles. Maybe he’s jealous of Styles’ success? I guess they’ll play that out in the future. But right now, there’s no other explanation for Bryan’s questionable actions. The beloved Yes Man is turning heel and I, for one, don’t necessarily agree. Unless this will lead to an in-ring return, why would they risk turning one of the most beloved superstar in the past decade? So in order for this to work, they better let Bryan beat the crap out of Shane at the next WrestleMania. If he’ll stay as a manager for a badass indy darling stable, why even bother?

U.S. Title Tourney: Xavier Woods (and New Day) advances

I know I predicted last week that Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode will meet at the U.S. Title Tournament finals, but now that the official bracket has been released, I kinda want to see Mojo Rawley win it, or have three people become United States Champion. These choices are a lot more desirable to me than Jinder or Roode. Mojo can win it all and trek the path John Cena took in becoming a huge star. I’m still sticking with my prediction years ago. Maybe 2018 is Mojo’s breakout year.



And this week, the New Day got closer to the title after Xavier Woods scored a victory against Rusev Day’s official songbird, Aiden English. There’s another great pick right there. Imagine if Aiden English shocked the world by winning the U.S. Title? Anyway, Woods and English had a good match, and it’s always a delight to see Woods in action. I’m still curious how three men winning a singles title will work. Can either Kofi Kingston or Big E defend the title? Or are they purposely creating a rift between the three unicorns?

That SmackDown Tag Team title change tease, though

The rivalry between the Usos and American Alpha 2.0 took an interesting turn this week as the challengers almost became the new champions thanks to a bad call by the referee. But before Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin run off with the titles, a second referee came down and corrected the mistake of the first referee, effectively restarting the match. The Usos retained their titles in the end as the entire WWE Universe sighed in relief. I definitely don’t want to see the reign of the Usos end just yet. So am I the only one weirded out by this?



It’s a good twist, for sure. Instead of giving us a straight-up tag match, they gave us a controversial one to stretch this rivalry until Royal Rumble. If anything, this match will also give Gable and Benjamin a chance to connect with the crowd. They can either whine about what happened or declare themselves the unofficial tag champions, anything to elicit reaction would work basically. But is it safe to assume that bad calls are now a thing of the past? If referees can review and revise a decision after every match, is it safe to assume that every screwy finish will result to a restart from now on?

Or is this one of those rare moments where WWE act like a legitimate sport and be strict and proper about rules for the benefit of prolonging a storyline? I hate it when they do this.

Some Blue Brand Vibes and Blues—Live!

Blue: I’m just glad Becky Lynch is back. That’s my key takeaway from this week’s women's segment. So apparently, the Welcoming Committee, consisting of four women now, were no match for the Riott Squad. Okay? And apparently, the only ones who can defeat them are the trio of Charlotte Flair, Naomi, and Becky Lynch. Didn’t they beat the Squad already two weeks ago without the help of Becky? I don’t even know, man. And don’t get me started on that terrible debate on magic and dreams. Does anyone have a paper bag I can puke on?

Blue: It’s a good thing the Bludgeon Brothers, Breezango, and the Ascension had something to do this week, right? I mean, we still don’t know the backstory and motivation of the Bludgeons, and their segment this week was just a rehash of last week’s. But hey, good for them, right? Although I have to say, I do wish they flip the script for this one and let the Ascension score a win against the Bludgeon Brothers. I don’t know, I’m just indulging myself.

SMACKDOWN RUNDOWN: We’re starting 2018 with quite possibly the birth of the biggest heel turn in recent history, and as much as I dread seeing it, it’s definitely an intriguing direction for Daniel Bryan’s character. Overall, this week’s episode had enough storyline progression and in-ring action to keep it going. They’re definitely stirring up something big this year, for better or worse. In the meantime, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and award this week’s show a strong B.

Did you enjoy this week’s SmackDown Live? Who’s your pick to win the United States Championship? Let’s all start bickering 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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