Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Interrupted Renee Young's Interview with WWE Champion AJ STyles
In a nutshell, Styles said he didn't know why Daniel Bryan did what he did last week and that he'd overcome the odds at the Royal Rumble, anyway. In other words, it was a basic babyface promo. Owens and Zayn were entertaining with their retort, but it's clear that these three won't be able to really showcase their skills on the mic or even in the ring with each other as long as they're overshadowed by the authority figures. That was exactly the case here as Shane McMahon soon surfaced and made a Handicap match for the main event. Are we sure we aren't watching a Raw rerun from this time last year?
Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott
I see a lot of similarities between Lynch and Riott and hope we get a full-fledged feud between them at some point down the road. This was a good match that was thankfully rid of any interference from the women on the outside. On one hand, I'm glad we didn't get yet another non-finish, but on the other hand, that might have been the best choice considering Riott shouldn't have lost clean here. I realize Lynch needed to look strong upon returning from her absence from TV, but it came at the expense of Riott.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. The Ascension
This might have been more of a competitive contest four or so years ago when, you know, The Ascension were more of a threat in NXT, but keeping this as short as possible was what needed to happen. I liked that The Ascension attempted to jump them from the get-go before being promptly squashed. The Bludgeon Brothers continue building momentum and I wouldn't be surprised to see them chasing the SmackDown Tag Team Championship before long.
Mojo Rawley def. Zack Ryder in a United States Championship Tournament First Round Match
With the way the commentators were playing up Ryder and how he desperately needed a killer instinct to beat Rawley, I thought for a second he might win. Obviously, I was way off, and I'm happy about that. This was along the same lines as their Clash of Champions match with Rawley on offense for a majority of the match and ultimately winning, which was the right call. On a side note, Rawley really should switch up his attire now that he's a heel.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin Demanded Justice
In case you were wondering, Gable and Benjamin are officially heels. They haven't been given much time to talk at all since they initially joined forced at the end of last summer, so it was cool that they were given the opportunity to do so here. Gable was much more comfortable on the stick than Benjamin was, but their promo helped them elicit nice heel heat. Bryan then announced it will be a 2-out-of-3 Falls match between them and The Usos at the Royal Rumble, which could be a ton of fun.
Breezango def. Rusev and Aiden English
I honestly don't think Breezango have won a match since their feud with The Usos in May 2017, so the fact Rusev and English lost to them is not a positive sign. That said, I'm hopeful that this is leading somewhere. Lest we forget, Rusev looked upset after English lost to Xavier Woods last week and in the Triple Threat tag team match the week before that. He actually came across like babyface here by encouraging the crowd to get behind him, and that is the role that suits him best at this point.
WWE Champion AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a No Count-out, No Disqualification 3-on-2 Handicap Match
Remember the Payback 2016 main event where the McMahons restarted the match after it had previously ended by count-out and by disqualification? That was this reminded of. It didn't even make sense to have the babyfaces stack the odds against the heels, because nothing seems to make sense on SmackDown anymore. It was a well-wrestled match for the most part, but I was not fond of all the shenanigans whatsoever. It might as well have been Bryan and Shane in the ring because that was who this match was about (I say that half-jokingly).
I couldn't pick anything from this show that stood out to me or that I will remember a week from now. While it appears SmackDown Live is in a holding pattern ahead of the Royal Rumble, this has been the case for quite a while now. The over-reliance on the authority figures hasn't helped matters, and everything else on the card is just kind of there at the moment despite a few things happening. I hope the blue brand can break this funk coming out of the event and return to the heights it was once at, because it tends to be more formulaic these days than Raw.