WWE SmackDown Live was broadcast from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on January 2, 2018.
WWE SmackDown Live main event: Sami Zayn def. (pin) AJ Styles
Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, and Shane McMahon were all ringside for this matchup, as dictated by the opening segment of the show. I guess this was an attempt to make things "fair" for the match.
Shockingly, things... weren't really fair. Like last week, the story of the main event quickly became more about what was happening outside the ring than what was happening inside it. This became apparent when referee Mike Chioda took a bump outside of the ring, allowing AJ Styles to get another visual pin without a ref — who was being restrained by Kevin Owens — there to count it.
Shane McMahon went to throw Owens out from ringside again, and Daniel Bryan intervened to say that Shane should join Owens backstage... which was weird because Shane wasn't the one holding the ref back from counting the pin.
Amid the distraction, Sami Zayn was able to hit the Helluva Kick for the win. After the match, an upset Styles said he was tired of the childish bickering, and that he would take on Zayn and Owens in a handicap match. Bryan announced that the handicap match would be for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
This all begs the question once again... whose side is Bryan really on here?
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) def. (pin) Benjamin & Gable to retain the SmackDown tag team championships
Cool spot opened this one immediately, as Benjamin threw Jimmy off the top rope, right into a moonsault from the other top rope from Gable. Dangerously narrow timing on this one, but looked incredible.
The match then went through a commercial break, and came back to Jey Uso finally getting the tag. Jey hit a suicide dive on Benjamin, then got back in the ring and hit a suicide dive on Gable on the other side.
Then things got a little weird: Gable and Benjamin suddenly hit their doomsday device powerbomb deal, and got the pin! It looked like they had won the titles, but replay showed that both of the men involved in the pin weren't actually the legal guys in the match. The match was restarted, and the Usos were quickly able to get the win to retain their titles.
Xavier Woods (w/ The New Day) def. Aiden English (w/ Rusev) in a first-round US title tournament match
Rusev opened the match by doing the signing introduction for Aiden... it was wonderful.
Unlike the main event, everyone at ring side was able to play nice so we could have an actual match. English was in control early, but Xavier was able to turn it around with some big moves, including this huge backstabber.
Xavier was eventually able to hit the big elbow drop off the top rope to get the win. The New Day celebrated, while sad Rusev looked on from ringside.
Woods will face Jinder Mahal in the semifinals of the tournament.
The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan) def. (pin) Tamina, Natalya, and Carmella (w/Lana)
The match went about five minutes total, and that included a commercial break... not much going on there.
Sarah Logan got the win after hitting Tamina with double-knees to the back of the head. Ruby Riott was giving a promo after the match, making fun of Orlando and eventually announcing that the Riott Squad would be entering the women's Royal Rumble match. They got the "What!" treatment... wasn't great.
Charlotte eventually interrupted, saying she wanted to give the Riott Squad a dose of reality. That included introducing Naomi, and...
Becky Lynch returns to SmackDown Live
Lynch — who got a huge reaction from the Orlando crowd — returned after being off TV for several weeks, and she joined Charlotte and Naomi in beating down the Riott Squad. The fired up Lynch hit a couple of exploder suplexes, and the Riott Squad was sent packing.
Best of the rest of WWE SmackDown Live
- The Bludgeon Brothers were mean to the Fashion Police and the Ascension again. This made me very sad.
- The New Day were trying to celebrate the New Year backstage when Rusev and Aiden English interrupted. Rusev blew out the New Year's Day candle, much to the dismay of poor Xavier.
- Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley were supposed to have a US tournament match but they... didn't... even make the show? Yikes.
- Renee Young is great at her job and everyone should know that
WWE SmackDown Live leading up to the Royal Rumble
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