By Steven Flora
AJ Styles changed the landscapes of both SmackDown Live and Survivor Series when he defeated Jinder Mahal to capture his second WWE Championship. Elsewhere, Randy Orton and Rusev had a high-stakes contest with a spot for the SmackDown Men’s Survivor Series team on the line for The Bulgarian Brute.
Styles finally dethrones the Modern Day Maharaja
WWE Championship Match: A.J. Styles def. Jinder Mahal (c) to become the NEW WWE Champion
With both the WWE Championship and the opportunity to clash with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series on the line, Mahal and Styles dazzled the rabid WWE Universe in Manchester by slugging it out for the title in one of the biggest main events in SmackDown history.
With a chance to become WWE Champion for the second time, The Phenomenal One was amped up, but Mahal was at the top of his game, occasionally manhandling Styles and viciously throwing AJ into the announcer’s table. Methodical in his approach, The Modern Day Maharaja attempted to wear down Styles, but the challenger phenomenally fired back with a stinging barrage of strikes and high-impact maneuvers. Styles’ offense would often come in spurts though, as Mahal was able to use his size and strength advantages time and again to regain control.
In the contest’s final moments, Styles’ appeared to be closing in on the title when he connected with a breathtaking springboard 450 splash onto the champion, but the sneaky Singh Brothers pulled Mahal out of the ring, and thus out of danger from being defeated. This prompted The Phenomenal One to pummel The Singhs on the outside, taking them out of the equation. However, it seemed the distraction would cost Styles, as it allowed The Modern Day Maharaja to counter a Phenomenal Forearm attempt into a Khallas, yet AJ narrowly got his foot on the bottom rope to break up the count.
Mahal then horrifyingly attempted a Khallas from the top rope, hoping to end the battle once and for all. The ever-resilient Styles countered by stunning The Modern Day Maharaja and dropping him neck-first on the top rope, giving himself the opening to soar into the skies and connect with The Phenomenal Forearm for the incredible championship victory. A furious Mahal took out his post-match aggression by bashing The Singh Brothers while Styles celebrated with the WWE Universe.
Styles’ win meant several things: The Phenomenal One is now a two-time WWE Champion; Mahal’s much-discussed reign is over; the WWE Championship had changed hands outside of North America for the first time ever; and the Champion vs. Champion showdown is now Styles vs. Lesnar at Survivor Series. Wow, wow, wow. Winner: A.J. Styles.
Side Note: An average main event that pretty much showed Mahal to be a below average pro wrestler. As much as I've enjoyed Mahal's title run recently, it was time for a change, and you can tell by his matches that he just really isn't good in the ring. Heck, even Styles could barely get a good performance out of him. Styles is now the champ and hopefully him and Lesnar can have a great match at Survivor Series.
Benjamin & Gable have The Usos' number
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable def. The Usos (c) via count-out (Usos retain their titles)
Benjamin & Gable got their first opportunity at the SmackDown Tag Team Titles on SmackDown in Manchester, and the two championship-hungry Superstars used some savage tactics to help their chances of claiming the gold. Prior to the contest, The Usos attempted to psych-out the challengers, labeling them “American Alpha Part II” and then getting the jump on them before the bell could ring.
Once the match officially started, The Usos continued to push the pace, but Benjamin & Gable were more than game in keeping up with the champions in an incredibly hostile and physical bout. The title bout took an unexpected turn (and came to a surprisingly quick conclusion) when Jey Uso was unable to meet the official’s 10-count after falling prey to a ferocious chop-block from Gable, giving Benjamin & Gable the count-out victory, but not the titles. Winner: Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable.
Side Note: Decent tag match which hopefully doesn't mean Jey Uso is injured. The Usos have been red-hot recently and deserve a marquee spot on Survivor Series. As for Gable & Benjamin, they gel well together but you can just tell the fans aren't interested in them.
Battle of the Sexes
Becky Lynch def. James Ellsworth
Over the weekend, a social media spat between Carmella, Ellsworth and Lynch over who should actually be captaining the SmackDown Women’s Survivor Series Team led to a match being made between Lynch and Ellsworth in a battle of the sexes, with the rest of the SmackDown Women’s Survivor Series Team surrounding ringside.
Ellsworth, who had been talking a tremendous amount of trash throughout the evening and was even let off his leash by Carmella, came into the contest incredibly confident. However, for all his bravado, Ellsworth was thoroughly outclassed, with Lynch’s straight fire out-quicking and out-thinking Ellsworth at every turn. When Carmella’s lackey had the gall to harshly shove Becky twice, including one that caused Maiden Ireland to tumble out of the ring, The Irish Lass Kicker fired back with an offensive onslaught that resulted in Ellsworth attempting to get out of Dodge. However, Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Lana and Tamina denied him the opportunity, forcing him back in the ring and allowing Becky to apply the agonizing Dis-arm-her (or Dis-arm-him, maybe?) for the win. Winner: Becky Lynch.
After the match, Carmella entered the ring and exchanged some seemingly heated words with Lynch. But then, perhaps for his failure in the match, or perhaps for trying to overshadow her earlier, Ms. Money in the Bank superkicked Ellsworth square in the jaw and left with the SmackDown Women’s Survivor Series team.
It was a dog day evening for Ellsworth, for sure.
Side Note: Surprisingly not a bad match, just very slow, and in all honestly, I applaud the WWE for trying to do something different even in 2017. It was decent entertainment and the right superstar won.
Rusev denied a spot on Team Blue
Randy Orton def. Rusev
Aiden English welcomed Rusev with a rousing rendition of the “Rusev Day” song as The Bulgarian Brute prepared to take on Orton where a victory against The Viper would make The Super Athlete the fifth and final member of Team SmackDown at Survivor Series. Rusev did his best to keep his bitter rival grounded and appeared to be on his way to joining Team Blue’s squad, but The Bulgarian Brute was soon met with an RKO out of nowhere that put him down for the count and kept him off Team SmackDown. Winner: Randy Orton.
Side Note: That spot belonged to Rusev. He's been getting over recently with the WWE universe and even with English, he's been almost a fan favorite recently. Rusev deserved it and Orton, well, Orton honestly just looks bored.
Other Notable Moments
Kofi Kingston vs. Sami Zayn: Fresh off their verbal exchange, Kingston and Zayn squared off on SmackDown with The New Day and Kevin Owens in their respective corners. Intensity and athleticism was at a premium as the two went back and forth with razor-sharp intensity. Zayn took control for large spurts, never hesitating to cut any corner possible to gain an edge. However, Kofi battled back by throwing caution to the wind several times, even launching himself head-over-heals over the top rope onto his opponent, and his go-for-broke approach finally paid off when The Dreadlocked Dynamo caught Zayn totally off-guard with a splash from the top rope for the win. Instantly, KO hit the ring to pounce on Kofi and sneak in a few cheap shots before The New Day could break it up. By the time Big E and Xavier Woods got there, Owens and Zayn had fled, but it seemed rather evident a serious conflict was brewing between the two sides. Winner: Kofi Kingston.
Shane McMahon and The New Day kicked off SmackDown Live: SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon kicked off the festivities in the United Kingdom, previewing the night of action and looking ahead to the head-to-head competition against Raw at Survivor Series. Shane introduced The New Day, who played a pivotal role on Raw the night before, ostensibly costing Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose the Raw Tag Team Championship against Cesaro & Sheamus when they falsely teased #UnderSiege Part II was about to occur. Shane-O-Mac and The New Day rejoiced in their actions from the night prior, but before the good vibes could really start to flow, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn hit the scene to interrupt. KO and Zayn could not resist engaging in their favorite pastime of running Shane’s name through the mud, but The New Day interjected, going in on KO and Zayn with no mercy whatsoever, even mocking Zayn’s pre-match dance moves. With the verbal jousting perhaps destined to volley back and forth for eternity, the Commissioner made an executive decision, placing the chirpy Zayn in a match … against Kofi Kingston … next!
Overall SmackDown Live Rating: C-
Things to look forward to next week
DANIEL BRYAN YES! YES! YES!
Build up to Styles vs Lesnar!
Hopefully more Fashion Files?
Queen vs the Queen of Hearts for the SmackDown Women’s Championship!