Who is in control of Smackdown Live? Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon continue their power struggle at the expense of the WWE Champion once again.
Smackdown Live comes to us from Orlando, FL this week.
AJ Styles along with both Bryan and McMahon converged after another managerial dispute cost the WWE champion a victory the previous week. Meanwhile the Smackdown Live tag team championships would be defended in an extremely controversial match.
With Bryan and McMahon battling for control would Styles get his revenge?
The Struggle Is Real
In the opening segment Bryan and McMahon hashed out stipulations for the evening’s main event featuring Styles against Sami Zayn.
Ultimately Bryan would once again have the final say. If McMahon felt it necessary to be at ringside for the main event, then Bryan would also be at ringside to monitor the action. Bryan is once again balancing the scale as McMahon continues to be open about his hatred for Kevin Owens who would also be in attendance.
It seems weird that McMahon continues to go along with all of Bryan’s decision making despite his protests. There is a case building against Bryan one judgement call after another that will come to a head in the future.
This can be the only explanation for why a boss would allow his employee to walk all over him. Historically it is unwise to be on the receiving end of a McMahon’s wrath and Bryan is certainly going to find himself there at some point.
Twin Magic Strikes
The Usos defended their Smackdown Live tag team championships against Chad gable and Shelton Benjamin.
The two teams delivered a dramatic performance filled with clever exchanges.
Gable and Benjamin emerged victorious after a hard-fought battle. The only issue is that they pinned the wrong Uso which nullified the result. This was uncovered as referee emerged from backstage and advised the residing official.
This was the right kind of controversy to build towards a future show down which will have greater implications as a result. The optic of Gable and Benjamin winning the titles only to have them ripped away stands to put them in a face position. While the Usos are still protected with the use of twin magic Benjamin and Gable look strong and have a claim to the tag team titles. For a few minutes they were the tag team champions.
It is important to note Benjamin was not the legal man when he was pinned in the second decision.
There is unfinished business here and this could be an opportunity for management to quarrel over a solution. If Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon have more to fight about we could see a quicker escalation of their feud as well.
Rusev Makes Singing Debut
Rusev displayed some of his vocal prowess before Aiden English fought Xavier Woods to advance to round two of the United States Championship tournament.
The tournament continues to display exciting matches. The two competitors still have heat from their recent tag team feud however the stakes in this match took precedent. With the championship belt at ringside serving as motivation the two gave everything they had I the ring.
Aiden English looked good in this match. His pairing with Rusev and subsequent matches have gotten him over whereas he may have floundered otherwise. Even in defeat he is continues to be a credible opponent to the likes of the New Day.
Ultimately Woods would prevail. I enjoy the prospect of the New Day sharing the United States Championship like the tag titles should Woods win the tournament. For the first time the WWE could see three simultaneous U.S. champions.
Riott Squad Win But Still Lose
The Riott Squad took on Natalya and company in a six-women tag match ahead of the first WWE Women’s Royal Rumble.
Ruby Riott and company were on the positive side of their recent 50/50 booking this week. Sarah Logan was able to make the deciding pinfall which gave her credibility a boost. Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott also showcased some offense during the match as the opposing team fell short despite a hot tag by Tamina Snuka.
After the match Ruby Riott flanked by her team cut a great heel promo. The squad had a moment here to convey to us their intentions and attitude. More rhetoric and dominance can still make this faction a credible threat to the WWE women’s division. We can hopefully expect to see their strategy unfold as they announced their participation in the Rumble match later this month.
The moment was short lived as Charlotte, Naomi and a returning Becky Lynch arrived and cut the promo short. The Riott Squad was dispatched in short order, once again being made to look weak in the process.
Ruby and company should have at least escaped but not suffered their comeuppance just yet. This should occur at the Royal Rumble. With the announcement of the Women’s Rumble featuring 30 competitors I am hoping Ruby and company do not get lost in the shuffle.
Their performance in the battle royal will be a key moment for the group for better or worse.
The Bludgeoning Continues
Breezango struggled to put up any offense as they were quickly dispatched. Before the brothers put the final nail in the most fashionable coffin in wrestling the Ascension ran in to save their friends. The Bludgeon Brothers immediately cleared the ring and stared into the hard camera.
While I do appreciate Harper and Rowan being booked as monsters I am waiting for some character development. An intriguing storyline could involve multiple tag teams banding together to overthrow the brothers. If there is nothing beyond destroying opponents, then we can expect a long run featuring squash matches.
When at some point they are defeated it will be a big deal. Until then hopefully the Bludgeon Brothers do not get old.
Styles vs Zayn
AJ Styles and Sami Zayn told a great story inside and outside of the squared circle. Clearly Styles is a top performer and Zayn was allowed exercise his inner heel in this match.
With Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan at ringside there was just as much going on outside of the match. McMahon and Bryan observed as supervisors would monitor employees while Owens provided distractions and even subdued the referee at one point. This prompted McMahon to get physical with Owens and ultimately have him ejected.
This is when Bryan made a gutsy and seemingly rebellious call.
Before removing Owens from ringside Bryan got on a microphone and exclaimed that McMahon should also go if this were to be fair. A perplexed and frustrated McMahon stood in awe of Bryan’s actions. It was at this point Zayn took advantage of the fiasco at ringside to hit the Helluva kick and pin Styles.
An angry AJ Styles chastised Bryan and McMahon blaming the two for his recent string of losses. Styles stated without distractions he could beat both Owens and Zayn two on one. In another tit for tat move Bryan then made an official handicap match pitting the Canadians vs the Phenomenal One.
Slowly But Surely
Bryan and McMahon are slowly losing control of Smackdown Live due their struggle for control. Hasty and seemingly one-sided decision by Bryan will undoubtedly lead to McMahon snapping. There is going to be a decision that send McMahon over the edge.
There are other developments within Smackdown Live that stand to add to the drama such as the tag team title controversy from earlier. Additionally, if their top star becomes discontent with the working conditions this would also cause management stress.
This will continue to be a slow burn but when we finally see a full-on McMahon heel turn it will be warranted. This will most likely be an interesting Wrestlemania feud.
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