By Steven Flora
WWE Champion AJ Styles took on Kevin Owens in a non-title main event that took several controversial turns. Elsewhere, SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan changed the landscape of Team Blue when he announced a US Title Tournament.
Sami Zayn's meddling ruins great main event
Non-Title Match: Kevin Owens def. WWE Champion A.J. Styles
It’s probably fitting for the last SmackDown match of 2017 to end in absolute chaos. Styles and Owens (with Zayn in his corner) threw down in this chaotic main event.
During the match, Styles went to dive onto Owens on the outside the ring, though KO got out of the way, and AJ instead connected with Zayn. With Styles gearing up for the Phenomenal Forearm moments later, Zayn got on the apron to try and prevent AJ’s attack. Styles swung and missed at Zayn, who hopped off the apron, which prompted SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon to hit the scene to get the official to eject Zayn from ringside.
As Shane-O-Mac, Sami and the official had words, Styles caught Owens in a small package that very well could have scored him the victory. However, since the referee was preoccupied with Zayn and Shane, AJ relinquished the small package to try and regain the official’s attention. The distraction left Styles vulnerable, and KO turned the tide by rolling Styles up for the win. After the contest, Owens and Zayn celebrated as The Phenomenal One shot a look to the Commissioner as he exited up the ramp, though Shane appeared to offer an apology to the WWE Champion.
The war is clearly ongoing, but the final battle of 2017 was awarded to Owens & Zayn. Winner: Kevin Owens.
Side Note: It was only fitting the end of SmackDown in 2017 was similar to how it started 2017 … in CHAOS. Owens needed that victory to be considered as a threat to Styles and the WWE Championship. Styles losing isn't as bad due to the interference. It still shows Styles can't be beaten one-on-one. Styles vs. Owens wasn't as good as a feud as most people thought it'd be, however, with the WWE title at stake, it may raise their performance level.
It's Gable & Benjamin DAAAY!
No. 1 Contenders Match: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin def. The New Day & Rusev & Aiden English
With all three teams believing they had earned the right to challenge The Usos straight up for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship, The New Day, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable and Rusev & Aiden English threw everything they had at each other in a thrilling whirlwind of a Triple Threat Match. Each team also may have had a bit of added incentive to show off their stuff, as the titleholders were at ringside sizing up their opponents while providing guest commentary.
An electricity permeated the Allstate Arena as the three teams brought the WWE Universe to their feet. After (somehow) surviving a vicious spear from Big E through the ropes, Benjamin caught Big E off guard with a nuclear knee that left the flapjack fan reeling. Benjamin & Gable capitalized, nearly sending Big E through the canvas with their wicked tandem bulldog for the 1-2-3 to earn an opportunity to challenge for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles next Tuesday.
Every day is Rusev Day and a New Day, but tonight was surely Benjamin and Gable’s night. Winner: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin.
Side Note: Wow, Rusev & English are OVER AS HELL! Chicago from the off were chanting Rusev's name and as soon as he arrived, INSTANT POP! Didn't expect Rusev & English to win at all but with this reception, creative and the higher-ups in WWE have to give Rusev & English a chance, or at least a moment at a major PPV. Gable & Benjamin have slowly been making their way up the rankings so it was only fair they got first dibs on the tag champs.
The women of SmackDown Live gear up ahead of Women's Royal Rumble match in next month
Ruby Riott def. Naomi
With the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match preoccupying every female Superstar on both Raw and SmackDown, Ruby Riott and Naomi threw down on Team Blue looking to catch a wave of momentum ahead of the groundbreaking match.
With her Riott Squad sisters Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan at her side, Ruby looked for every tactical advantage she could find as the action intensified. Naomi had to withstand the interference from Morgan and Logan (sending the latter plummeting off the ring apron to the floor), but the distraction allowed Riott to blindside Naomi with a kick to the back of the leg, weakening The Glow and then connecting with the devastating Riott Kick for the win. Winner: Ruby Riott
After the match, The Riott Squad continued to savagely attack Naomi until SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair bolted to the ring. The Queen made an immediate impact, but The Riott Squad used the numbers game to take The Queen down.
It looked like another ultra-successful night for The Riott Squad, but Carmella, Natalya, Lana & Tamina made their way out to confront Riott, Morgan and Logan. With tensions flaring high in the squared circle, The Riott Squad opted to hop out of the ring, but Natalya and company would have none of it, as the quartet pounced on The Riott Squad at ringside, delivering several stinging haymakers and prompting them to flee.
Side Note: So, we're deep into the Women's revolution right? Well this match lasted just 58 seconds. Also this portion of SmackDown Live was the only portion that involved women at all. Yeah, this revolution needs a reboot and fast because 58 seconds for a women's match is just wrong.
The Fashion Police have backup
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango ends in a no contest
Here’s a new mystery for The Fashion Police: How the heck do you stop The Bludgeon Brothers?
After being gifted an opportunity at redemption by their “best friends” The Ascension, Tyler Breeze & Fandango had the not-so-pleasant task of attempting to topple Harper & Rowan on Team Blue. Breezango gave it a valiant effort, but they appeared grossly overmatched when Harper & Rowan, who clearly had the match locked up, picked their opponents off the mat before the three-count.
Harper & Rowan continued to bludgeon The Fashion Police, and with no end in sight, The Ascension hit the scene to save their Fashion Files compadres from certain doom, carrying them to the locker room area.
However, Breezango were in for another surprise during a post-match interview when their “best friends” The Ascension volunteered them for yet another rematch against The Bludgeon Brothers next week.
Side Note: I liked this … a lot. Breezango get involved in a storyline, Bludgeon Brothers continue their dominance and The Ascension get to wrestle! WOO!
Other Notable Moments
Daniel Bryan opens the show: In the wake of Dolph Ziggler oddly laying his United States Title down and walking out on SmackDown last week, Team Blue General Manager Daniel Bryan kicked off the show to say that he could only assume that Ziggler, who has not returned Bryan’s calls and texts, was relinquishing the title. With that, The “Yes!” Man announced a tournament to crown a new U.S. Champion and revealed that one of tonight’s first-round matches would be Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin. However, before the WWE Universe could bask in the excitement of that revelation, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Rusev & Aiden English and The New Day all made their way out to the ring to petition to be next in line for a SmackDown Tag Team Title opportunity against The Usos. With all three teams making compelling arguments, The “Yes!” Man made another major declaration: The units would square off in a Triple Threat Match, with the winning team getting the next crack inside The Uso Penitentiary … oh, and that match? Yup, you guessed it, it would be next.
Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin in a United States Championship Tournament First-Round Match: It just hasn’t been Baron Corbin’s month. The former titleholder tried to get back on track in a first-round bout of the United States Championship Tournament against Bobby Roode, but it was to no avail, as The Glorious One prevailed in the hard-hitting contest by defeating Corbin with an amazing, and sudden, rollup. A furious Corbin seethed in the ring after the bell, and Roode celebrated his glorious advancement in the tournament.Winner: Bobby Roode.
Jinder Mahal vs. Tye Dillinger in a United States Championship Tournament First-Round Match: Jinder Mahal was looking to carve out a new path on Team Blue, while Tye Dillinger was attempting to make a major name for himself on SmackDown in one night, making this United States Championship Tournament First-Round Match mighty interesting. Flanked by The Singh Brothers at ringside, The Modern Day Maharaja attempted to use his size and strength advantages over Dillinger to wear him down. However, The Perfect 10 refused to quit, firing back every chance he could on the former WWE Champion. Despite Dillinger’s most diligent efforts, the ring-rattling power of the Khallas was too much for him, and Mahal earned the victory to advance in the tournament. Winner: Jinder Mahal.
Overall SmackDown Live Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
How will A.J. Styles react to Shane McMahon costing him his match with KO?
How will The Usos react to the new #1 contenders?
Who will enter the Royal Rumble 2018 next month?
What's next for SmackDown Live in 2018?