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SmarkDown RunDown Live (1/23/18): Ready to Rumble...I Guess


I feel like WWE focused their efforts promoting the RAW 25 nostalgia show more than the Royal Rumble itself. This year’s over-the-top-rope spectacle should be the most exciting one to date for its historical significance alone, right? Why do I feel like it’s just another PPV on the calendar? Every entrant declared their participation and that’s about it. No underlying mini-feuds, no budding storylines, no nothing (except maybe for Elias and John Cena, but c’mon, that’s just one). We’re just getting it over with so Roman Reigns can main event WrestleMania for the nth time?

Royal Rumble Hype: Sami Zayn pins the champ, RKOs for everyone

The management drama had to step back a little bit to highlight the guys who are actually scheduled to compete at the Royal Rumble and you know what, they should’ve done this two weeks ago. I’d like to take back the praise I gave Creative for giving the Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan saga a slow burn. Maybe burn it faster? Because all they’re doing right now is tease a D-Bry heel turn that will probably lead to nowhere. It’s the same damn promos every week, easily summarized in three sentences.

Shane: “Why did you do this thing?”
D-Bry: “Don’t you trust me?”
Shane: “Maybe.” *scowl*




So yeah, I’m glad this week’s show was all about AJ Styles’ beef with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. These two buffoons have annoyed the hell out of Styles, and on Monday (Manila time), he’s actually facing both men in a handicap match for his WWE title. Who wouldn’t get mad? It felt like they're forcing Styles to eventually choose a side when the Shane-Bryan feud blows up, but I would prefer if Styles had an equally independent and personal reason to destroy KaMi other than being Shane McMahon's pawn. But fine, this is the storyline they’re going with. Let’s just enjoy booing the amazing heel work of Owens and Sami.



The thing I loved about the main event was Styles’ intensity and desperation. He came to the ring fuming; he didn’t even do his usual entrance poses. He was all business and that’s exactly what he did by taking out Owens’ knee. That same intensity cost him his match with Sami because he was too distracted with the ailing Owens at ringside. He couldn’t contain his emotions and kept attacking a defenseless Owens every chance he got. That’s some nice character work right there. See how Creative could’ve milked this one up rather than cramming this all on the go-home show? If you ask me, I feel like the writers are slacking off. 



In other Royal Rumble developments, Shinsuke Nakamura actually delivered a good promo about putting his knee on everyone’s faces. He followed it up with a great match with Baron Corbin, something I thought was surprising since I can’t remember them having a match this good. Just when things were heating up, Nakamura was suddenly hit by an RKO framwawaasfawnnawer. I think that was Orton’s way of saying, “You can shove your RAW 25 snub where the sun don’t shine.” Seriously, that was weird, right? Peak Orton helped define the Ruthless Aggression era on RAW. It’s weird not seeing him on the show’s 25th anniversary. Anyway, great send-off for the male Royal Rumble match. Please let a first-timer win this time. Thanks.

And finally, the women’s division got to do the bit where they eliminate each other over the top rope. They even gave us a itty-bitty taste of what a Becky Lynch heel turn would look like when she attempted to send Naomi outside the ring. This is exactly what I was talking about earlier. They should’ve developed these mini-storylines to make the first-ever female Royal Rumble more gripping. It’s insulting how they dropped the ball on the women’s division. Remember when SmackDown Live had the better female storylines? 



Instead of these nonsense Riott Squad matches, maybe create a rift between Naomi and Becky? Have Carmella taunt Charlotte Flair since, you know, she’s Ms. MITB, and if she wins the Rumble, she can challenge the champion twice. Make the Riott Squad a formidable presence by attacking everyone backstage, possibly re-igniting a more relevant mini-feud with Nattie, Lana, and Tamina. Any storyline they can link to the Rumble would be so much better than just have them cut three second promos about how they’re going to win it all.

So did the episode hyped you up for the Royal Rumble? The thing about the Royal Rumble is that the concept itself is already exciting. That's probably why Creative didn't bother crafting interconnected storylines for both Rumble matches, which is a damn shame. As a basic fan, of course I'm hyped for Royal Rumble. But as the resident SmackDown Live reviewer, I'm really disappointed on the entire build-up. 
Good thing the Blue Brand still cared enough to produce a good go-home show. There wasn’t a dull match (even the women’s match was great!), and they even capped it off with a great main event. I’mma rate this week’s go-home show a strong B+.

Some Blue Brand Vibes and Blues—Live!

Vibe: Chad Gable scored one over Jey Uso. It was a fun punishment match for Jey, but these are the type of matches that make me want to see Gable more as a solo act. Seriously, how long does he need to be in a tag team? Let him chase at least the United States Championship or something. And let’s just be glad Jey wasn’t suspended.

Vibe: I know I said there wasn’t a dull match, so please don’t take the next statements the wrong way. We’re in Week 1 of Bobby Roode’s boring reign. What better way to kick things off by being part of a paint-by-numbers six-man tag match? Granted, the match was okay. It’s as standard as you can get. But overall, not a great start for Roode, especially after he cut that pre-match promo that sounded like it came from a Babyface for Dummies book. Thank heavens for the New Day.

Vibe: Also, I wasn’t able to mention this earlier, but Naomi and Liv Morgan packed a fast-paced and physical match in a short and sweet package. That sequence where Naomi kept firing roundhouse kicks to Morgan until she hit one was equally entertaining and tiring to watch. Naomi won for some reason, but it was against a member of the Riott Squad so no one cares.

Thoughts That Didn’t Make It

  • Where’s the WrestleMania sign? It should be up by now, right? All Rumble participants should be pointing at it by now. They should really post the sign earlier. 

  • Is there a heel on any show more annoying than Sami Zayn? His mannerisms and that stupid little dance he does are so over-the-top. I love hating it.

*****

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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