This Sunday, the superstars of SmackDown Live will wage war in one of the most half-assedly promoted and least interesting events of the year. It’s clear that the WWE can see Royal Rumble on the horizon and kind of forgot they had a December PPV to knock out first. As such, when you look at this card, there’s not a lot to get excited about. This card feels like it was booked without talking to the creative team….or the performers. Can the talented performers on the card (and Natalya) turn this rushed homework assignment in for a passing grade? Or is this event doomed to summer school? Does that metaphor track? No? It’s s----y? Meh, I’m not putting more effort into being clever for this event.
Mojo Rawley Vs. Zack Ryder (Kickoff Match)
Brian: Part of what makes heels so dastardly is the grain of truth in everything they say. Mojo has been completely stalled since Zack Ryder returned and he was forced back into the tag division. Now, reality says that Mojo has been stuck since he won the ARMBAR at WrestleMania over then-jobber to the stars but future WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal. Ryder has his own issues over the years, but, you know what, I’ve spent too much time on this already. Mojo will win and move on to some other cul-de-sac of a feud or maybe Gronk will come back.
Winner: Gronk’s friend
Loser: All those who stay hype.
Jason: If there’s one thing we all know about Zack Ryder it’s that he loses whenever he’s on TV. I really just hope that Mojo’s heel persona works better than his pre-Hype Bros character did. He can’t go back to using a running butt slam as his finish and hope to be worth something. Oh who am I kidding, he’s the Titus O’Neil of SmackDown Live. Unfortunately, that makes Ryder the Darren Young, so the writing is pretty much on the wall.
Winner: Mofungo Rawley.
Loser: That one dude that still uses “Hoeski” as a ringtone.
Nathaniel: I have never really understood what people saw in Zack Ryder. He just doesn’t do it for me. I have always known what I think about Mojo Rawley. He sucks. But someone has to win.
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Loser: Both of them.
Bludgeon Brothers Vs. Breezango
Brian: The ex-Wyatts have been floating around since their inexplicable breakup with the former cult leader. Now, they have arrived as completely different characters named…Harper and Rowan. But now they have giant hammers like some combination of Thor’s lesser cousins and the turtle guys from Mario Brothers. Breezango is the first actual main roster test for the duo since their transformation into themselves. The Double B’s seem to be on a collision course with the rest of the tag division at some point, so I think this one’s a no-brainer.
Winner: HARPER. ROWAN. REPACKAGE BROTHERS.
Loser: Anyone who enjoyed “Fashion Files” since it’s been shuffled off to WWE.com to die a slow death.
Jason: So most of this card is pretty obvious, but this one is an absolute lock. Harper and Rowan need to not get beat by a comedy team. A comedy team that has been relegated to WWE.com…it’s like they literally don’t want me to watch SmackDown anymore. The former Wyatts in a walk.
Winner: The color burgundy.
Loser: The best part of SmackDown.
Nathaniel: Not much to say. There will be a little comedy. There will be a lot of pain. Bludgeon Brothers should win with little trouble.
Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers.
Loser: Whoever came up with that name. It would have been perfect for Memphis during its heyday.
The Usos (c) Vs. The New Day Vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin Vs. Rusev and Aiden English for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Brian: In the monthly “Oh, God, what do we do with some of these guys” match, we’ve got an interesting combination of teams. The Usos and the New Day can bring it any day of the week, no question. American Beta (or The World’s Next Greatest Tag Team) can certainly be game in any match, even if their chemistry is still working itself out. Rusev Day is that rare throw together of two guys creative can’t seem to remember exist that actually works. While I’d love to see a shake-up here in the division, I’m just sure that the winner of the match will be fed to the BLUDGEON BROTHERS sooner rather than later. I think that we’ll get a surprise win due to shenanigans that allow these feuds to simmer while HARPER and ROWAN make their way up the ranks.
Winner: American Outfitters
Loser: No one, for every day is Rusev Day!
Jason: The WWE only cares about The New Day and the Usos (in that order) so smart prognosticators would likely pick the twins to retain – but this is SmackDown Live, and no one ever accused the show of being smart. I kind of agree with Brian, and while I’d like Rusev Day to be that team that jobs to the BB Hoods, it makes more sense for Chad and Benji to hold the gold for a few weeks as they run out the time on their Usos rematches before getting Blugeoned sometime after Royal Rumble.
Winner: Chad and Ben: Super Rad Men
Loser: Charlie Haas. Gable’s clearly a step up as a partner and competitor.
Nathaniel: The Usos have been the best tag team of 2017 and deserve better on the last WWE PPV of the year. This match should be good, but will also be a cluster instead of the showcase it should be. The Usos win and close out a great 2017.
Winners: The Usos
Losers: Anyone who wanted to see The Usos further show why they were the Tag Team of the Year.
Baron Corbin (c) Vs. Bobby Roode Vs. Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship
Brian: Peter, Peter, pinfall eater, had a title, couldn’t keep her. Bumped and sold and flailed about, now he’s bitter and likes to shout. Can we all agree that Ziggler is done? I know it seems cruel to talk about someone’s job like this, but the dude is just done. His heart doesn’t seem in it anymore, if his appearance on Edge & Christian’s Pod of Awesomeness is anything the be believed. So we have Bobby Roode, who really shouldn’t be a face, but whatever, it’s 2017 and the world is literally on fire. If I were building a viable mid-card around the US Title, I would have Roode win here, pinning Ziggles, in an attempt to elevate a rising Mojo Rawley into a feud. Baron Corbin has been a great heel and will continue to be while also vying for status in the US Title hunt along with, I guess, Tye Dillinger or Zack Ryder. All the other faces are wrapped up in tag teams or in the sidebar main event scene.
Winner: The GLORIOUS Bobby…Roooooooooooooooooo
Loser: Dolph Ziggler’s sense of self worth.
Jason: I mean, Dolph’s just there to take the pin, right? We all agree on that? Good. Sweet Barry C’s gonna End of Days Ziggles to retain the belt, then drop it to Roode on the undercard of Royal Rumble…unless Vince decides Roode isn’t over enough and he ends up jobbing clean to a retirement run Big Show. Either way, this is Corbin’s show.
Winner: Baron Combover
Loser: Mid-card title matches of consequence.
Nathaniel: Even on a card of bathroom break matches this one stands out. Barry is worthless, Bobby is nothing but a song, while Dolph has stunk up the WWE for almost fifteen years straight now. The fact that Dolph is so obviously there to get pinned almost makes me want to pick him. Almost. Roode wins leading to a Baron face turn and WWE Championship program.
Winner: Bobby Roode and his catchy song
Loser: Ziggler for not living up on his promise to retire.
Charlotte Flair (c) Vs. Natalya for the SmackDown Women’s Championship (Lumberjack Match)
Brian: Can we be done with Natalya now? Look, she’s fine. If she were a male wrestler we’d call her a “good hand” and she’d never be near an actual title. But, because the Women’s rosters have been so dreadfully thin, we’ve got a title shot carousel. I think very soon, WWE has to have a long come-to-Jesus about the quality of the Women’s divisions on both Raw and SmackDown Live. Let’s focus on SDL for now, though. Except for Becky Lynch, there are no truly viable contenders for the Women’s title. I don’t believe that any of them could legit beat Charlotte right now, and that’s not because The Queen is so dominant, it’s more about the lack of star power in that locker room. While the Riott (that extra T annoys me so much) Squad is an excellent addition to the roster, Ruby Riott (dammit) doesn’t have the oomph that Paige’s return brought to Raw. With Asuka undefeated on Raw and Paige’s return, that leaves SDL pretty thin on just straight-up stars. Charlotte retains decisively, even with the interference of the whole roster (of literally six other women).
Winner: The Queen of SDL, straight off her beatdown of two elderly men, airing on the USA Network!
Loser: Anyone who thinks a Women’s Tag Division is viable without the addition of at least 10 more women.
Jason: Charlotte should literally murder Nattie in the ring, feast on her flesh, don her blood-strewn dominatrix gear as a headdress and then chase off all would-be competitors with a mighty roar like a goddamn tyrannosaur. She should then face Asuka in a Champion Vs. Champion match at WrestleMania with Duel of the Fates pumped into the Superdome.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Loser: If this knocks Nattie out of the title scene and away from the commentary team, there are no losers.
Nathaniel: At the first TakeOver in 2014, Charlotte beat Natalya in one of the best women’s matches in WWE history. Since then Charlotte has seen her stock increase while Nattie has done nothing of note. The two have it in them to top their 2014 classic, but it isn’t happening this Sunday. Charlotte won the 2014 match and will win this one, also.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Loser: Anyone who watches the dueling promos these two will inevitably have on the pre-show.
AJ Styles (c) Vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship
Brian: How good was it to see a champion wearing their belt around their waist? And paying attention to his opponent on social media? AJ Styles is the champion we need. I’m just afraid that Jinder Mahal is the one we deserve. If the wrestling gods are good, Jinder Mahal will slide back down to the US Title level at best after putting in his best effort against the best all-around wrestler in the world today (apologies to Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega fans, but there’s no doubt in my mind on this one). AJ can pull a 4-star match out of a mop and will do wonders for anyone that steps into the ring with him. I honestly don’t know who I would move up into the adversarial position after Jinder, but there are plenty of options in the “holy crap I want to see this match” even if they don’t involve the traditional heel-face model. AJ Styles takes on all comers, including Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens. I’d pay for any of those matches, especially if they lead to Styles v Nakamura at Mania.
Winner: The Phenomenal A…J…Staaaahhhhhhhhhles
Loser: All 1.3 billion people in India. All of them.
Jason: Jinder lost to Triple H in India. Dude is not sniffing that title again after this feud. It’s down to the midcard where his evil foreigner shtick will work better with the U.S. Title. AJ should hold the belt until a clash with a fresh-off-his-Rumble-win Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania. Styles in a walk.
Winner: The guy who goes through a ton of conditioner every month.
Loser: The guy whose feet smell like garlic butter chicken, I guess.
Nathaniel: This one should be easy. AJ should walk out with belt. This past week on SmackDown he even outsmarted the heels and wasn’t made to look like the fool babyface champion. Unfortunately, as with most things in the WWE, things are a little complicated. The WWE made it a point to tell everyone that HHH beat Jinder in India so a Jinder win means Trips beat the WWE Champ. And if there is one thing that is absolute in the WWE it’s do whatever it takes to make HHH look stronger. On top of that, they can have Cena win his record breaking 17th title from Jinder at Mania. That being said, Jinder was supposedly going to help draw in India, and well… And if AJ wins? Great matches up and down the roster leading to an anticipated rematch with Nakamura at WrestleMania. Who wants to see that?
Winner: Jinder Mahal
Loser: Anyone hoping that AJ vs Nakamura will be for the WWE Title at Mania
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Vs. Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura (Special Guest Referees: Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan)
Brian: How is Sami Zayn this good as a heel? I thought he’d never turn on fans and end up stuck in limbo forever. His truly surprising re-team with Kevin Owens has been fantastic, and Owens is in his element. As I said at the beginning, Owens’ complaints have a grain of truth in them, but they aren’t quite the full truth. Shane has been overbearing and involved in too many matches. Keeping him out of the ring in favor of two well-liked and talented stars like Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton allows for this to have potential to be a fantastic match, even without the storyline that seems to be leading to Daniel Bryan turning on his Commissioner. I just love it. This one is going to continue through the Rumble and I think into KO-Mania 3.
Winner: The Bestest Friends in the Whole Wide World!
Loser: Literally no one.
Jason: The real question is whether Owens, Zayn and Bryan become a new faction of heels or the WWE finally admits that Shane and Randy are the real monsters here. Given the stipulation that they would lose their jobs in the event of a loss, I have to go with Sami and Kev in this one. Probably with Shinsuke eating the pin, sadly. My only hope is that Nak sees the heel turn coming and Kinshasas Orton and Shane to allow KO to hit the frog splash on Randy for the win. That won’t happen, but a fella can dream.
Winner: Big Kev and Lil’ Sami
Loser: In the long run? All of us because either we’re not getting any more Daniel Bryan ever or he’s coming back to fight friggin Shane McMahon.
Nathaniel: This angle has been so interesting to watch. I figured this was all leading to D-Bry counting a fair pin for Owens and Zayn, leading to more speculation as to whether he had turned or not, but then they did that on SmackDown. I think it would be awesome if a bunch of former ROH guys started running roughshod on all three shows. Bryan, KO, and Zayn on SmackDown, Cole, O’Reilly, and Fish on NXT, and Cesaro, Seth, and Joe on Raw. Call them the Kings of Wrestling, or the Stable of Honor, or the Undisp–well maybe not that. That probably isn’t happening anytime soon, but count on Owens and Zayn winning. The Daniel Bryan angle probably will play out a little longer though.
Winner: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Loser: Anyone tired of seeing Shane-O-Mac in the ring.