RAW announced a massive triple threat match for the Universal Championship, so SmackDown Live had to one – up their brand rivals. Going into the first episode of SmackDown Live in 2018, there were a few unanswered questions.
Will there be a harmonious relationship between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon? With Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn finding themselves in the eye of the storm, will the two Superstars incur the wrath of the Commissioner? And more importantly, who will face AJ Styles for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble?
We got the answers for a few of those questions this week. Also, a massive tag team match was scheduled between The Usos and the team of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, with the gold up for grabs. In the main event, Sami Zayn was scheduled to face AJ Styles in a non – title match.
AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon butt heads
The WWE Champion made his way out to open 2018 with a bang. After wishing the fans a Happy New Year, Styles went right for the jugular, saying he had the match won last week. Styles wanted Shane to come out, but the General Manager made his way out instead.
But before Bryan could say much, Shane McMahon interrupted the proceedings. Shane immediately apologised to AJ Styles for what happened last week. The Commissioner of SmackDown Live then plead his innocence, saying he did not have an agenda against KO and Zayn.
Shane instead pointed fingers towards Bryan, and said if Owens was to be allowed at ringside this week, McMahon would be there as well. Daniel then said if Shane was to be at ringside, he’d rather let Owens be with his partner to even things out. Bryan led the fans with a ‘Yes’ chant to end the segment.
Gable and Benjamin win tag titles, only to realise they didn’t
The Usos have been getting the better of their opposition off late, and the brothers faced the team of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, with the titles up for grabs. Benjamin and Gable earned the right to face the champions, and both teams put on a solid match.
In the closing sequence, it was Chad and Shelton that had the champions reeling. The challengers connected with their power bomb – clothesline combination, and pinned the tag team champions! The Usos protested, as Gable and Benjamin celebrated in the ring.
However, another referee ran to the ring, and it was revealed that the legal man wasn’t pinned! The match was restarted, and The Usos managed to connect with their stereo – super kick and splash finisher to pick up the victory! Gable and Shelton were left fuming, as they argued with the referee.
Backstage, Owens and Sami assessed their main event situation. Owens talked about beating AJ last week, and said Sami would beat AJ this week. Zayn ended that with an emphatic, albeit a little theatrical ‘Yep’.
The Bludgeon Brothers were set to face Breezango, but attacked the duo even before the bell rang! The Ascension came out to make the save, but Harper and Rowan beat them down mercilessly. The duo ended their misery with a chokeslam.
Woods advances in the United States Championship tournament, set to face Jinder Mahal next
Backstage, Xavier Woods told his New Day brethren that once he becomes the United States Champion, they will all be champions!
Mojo Rawley then cut a promo, and said he would beat his former tag team partner, Zack Ryder next week.
Xavier Woods faced Aiden English in the United States Championship tournament, and after a decent back and forth match, defeated the singing Englishman.
Backstage, Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers were shown watching the bout with interest. Woods will now face Jinder Mahal in the next round of the tournament.
Becky Lynch returns; The Riott Squad throw their names in the hat for Royal Rumble
Natalya, Tamına Snuka and Carmella faced The Riott Squad in a six woman tag team match. The Riott Squad managed to pick up the victory without many problems.
Ruby then took the microphone, and talked about the Riott Squad taking over SmackDown Live. She then said they would compete in the first ever all – women Royal Rumble match, and vowed to walk away with the victory.
However, Charlotte Flair made her way out, and gave props to Ruby. She brought out Becky Lynch and Naomi, as the trio sent the Riott Squad packing to the back.
Baron Corbin then cut a promo backstage, and said he’d be competing in the Royal Rumble match.
Sami Zayn defeats AJ Styles, huge handicap match made for Royal Rumble
In the main event, the WWE Champion AJ Styles faced Sami Zayn, with Shane and Owens at ringside. Bryan also joined the duo, as Sami and AJ put on yet another solid main event. There was animosity brewing between the people at ringside, as AJ gained control.
However, the entire landscape changed when Owens distracted the referee, and Shane shoved KO! Shane argued with the referee, and told him to send Owens to the back. Bryan got involved, and said Shane to be sent to the back as well.
Meanwhile, this distraction worked in Zayn’s favour, as he connected with a Helluva kick to pick up the victory! Post match, AJ had enough, and told Shane and Bryan not to bicker like kids. Styles however was responsible for his own downfall, suggesting a handicap match! Bryan agreed, and booked a handicap match between Styles, and the team of KO and Zayn at the Royal Rumble, with the WWE Championship on the line!
AJ and Shane were left stunned, as KO and Zayn celebrated to bring down the curtains on the show.