Date: January 23, 2018
Location: Capital One Arena in Washington, DC
The Big Takeaway --
AJ Styles agreed to face both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in back-to-back singles matches. Styles easily defeated Owens (who didn’t do much, likely still hurt) but lost to Zayn after paying too much attention to Owens outside the ring.
Shane McMahon was not happy with Daniel Bryan for making this official, but Bryan made it clear this was Styles’ idea. Even though Bryan claimed he never intended on making these matches, Shane was still displeased.
Also, Randy Orton laid out Shinsuke Nakamura with an RKO after Nakamura appeared to have his match won against Baron Corbin. Orton laid out Corbin with an RKO as well.
Show Recap --
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came out to start the show. Owens called them the future of WWE, unlike the parade of retirees we saw on Raw. They announced themselves as future co-WWE champions.
Owens called them the best competitors on Smackdown and even they couldn’t overcome a handicap match two weeks ago, which means AJ Styles stood no chance on Sunday. The crowd chanted for AJ. Zayn said after they won the title, they would hurt Styles. They both chanted Yep until Styles interrupted to a big reaction.
Styles is still calling them “Kami.” He said “nope” to the idea that they would become co-champions and beat him up. Zayn said they would win and Styles would hear “Yep” everywhere--in his dreams, from the fans, even from his own family. Styles said they would never become co-champions as long as he had fight left in his body.
Owens thought it made sense that Styles spoke out of ignorance because ignorance was the official language of Washington, DC. They reminded Styles that the handicap match was his own idea and he has to follow it because a real authority figure, Daniel Bryan, is making him.
They also reminded Styles he offered to fight them both separately on the same night. They challenged him to back-to-back matches tonight.
Daniel Bryan interrupted. He put over Owens and Zayn and started to put over Styles, but Styles cut him off before he could get to whatever his decision would have been. Styles was skeptical of Bryan and accepted the matches for tonight.
Backstage, Shane McMahon questioned Bryan over his decision. Bryan told him that he wasn’t planning on sanctioning the matches for tonight, but also wasn’t worried about Styles. Before Shane could leave, Bryan stopped him and asked if he was questioning Styles’ ability to defend himself. Shane said it wasn’t Styles’ ability he was questioning.
Chad Gable (w/Shelton Benjamin) defeated Jey Uso (w/Jimmy Uso) (7:35)
Gable outwrestled Jey early on until Jey made a comeback after a break. Jey hit a suicide dive and Samoan drop, but Gable responded with a rolling kick and O’Connor Roll German suplex into a pin for the win. Gable dusted off his hands after the pinfall. Impressive little win for Gable.
Renee Young asked Shinsuke Nakamura how he planned on winning the Royal Rumble. Nakamura had a simple plan, “I see someone, I put my knee their face. I see someone else, knee to the face. Next person, knee-face, knee-face…” He was interrupted by Baron Corbin, who claimed he was all hype. Corbin said his resume spoke volumes, unlike Nakamura’s. Nakamura said he would win the Rumble and challenged Corbin to a match tonight.
Tye Dillinger did a selfie promo announcing himself for the Royal Rumble match.
Naomi defeated Liv Morgan (w/Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan) (2:37)
While Morgan had Naomi in a headlock, Natalya, Lana and Carmella walked to ringside for some reason. They were soon followed by Becky Lynch. Naomi then used a sunset flip cover on Morgan for the quick pinfall win.
After the match, the women traded moves on each other and a few got tossed out of the ring. Naomi and Lynch stood side by side when Lynch tried tossing her over. Naomi didn’t fall out and just smiled at Lynch. Charlotte came out and wished them luck. This was really lame.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Baron Corbin via DQ (10:28)
Nakamura was all over Corbin and went for Kinshasa, but Corbin reversed into Deep Six for a nearfall. Corbin followed with a big clothesline for another nearfall. Nakamura then countered an End of Days into an armbar but Corbin managed to slip out.
Nakamura set up for the Kinshasa again when Randy Orton suddenly flew in and nailed him with an RKO for the DQ (or no contest). Corbin tried to attack Orton but got an RKO for his trouble too. Disqualifications are usually crap but this was fun. The crowd popped big for it.
They aired a video package for Raw 25.
US Champion Bobby Roode, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods (w/Big E) defeated Jinder Mahal, Rusev & Aiden English
As New Day made their entrance, Byron Saxton said, “My soul has just been invaded by unimaginable joy.” This guy’s role is to represent the fans.
New Day announced they were entering the Rumble match and they put over Bobby Roode winning the US title last week. As Roode entered, Woods sang along with his theme. Roode thanked New Day for the introduction and was happy to debut as US champion here in Washington. He wanted to be the greatest US champion ever, which he knew wouldn’t be easy.
Roode was about to call his title reign glorious, but he was interrupted by each member of New Day who thought he was about to say stupendous, delicious, or exuberant. Roode then yelled “glorious” as New Day swivelled their hips behind him, which was an amusing sight. (Rusev seemed to get a big pop on his way out but he and English didn’t get any promo time.)
The good guys won a short match after Roode gave English a spinebuster and Woods finished him off with a springboard elbow drop.
The Royal Rumble will start at 7pm ET. The announcers ran down the card.
Non-title match: WWE Champion AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens (1:07)
Sami Zayn initially came out with Owens, but Shane promptly followed and announced that Zayn was not allowed anywhere near ringside. Shane said if Zayn did show up, he would be fired on the spot. The same went for Owens during Zayn’s match later. The heels protested as they went to commercial.
Owens landed awkwardly into the turnbuckle on a cannonball attempt, which appeared to injure his leg. Styles applied the Calf Crusher and Owens immediately tapped. Styles wouldn't release the hold after the bell ring and Zayn ran in to wildly attack him.
The referee tried to stop Zayn but he continued to put a beating on Styles and tossed him into the steel steps. They cut backstage to Shane and Bryan who just stood and watched, instead of, you know, trying to stop this beating. I get that the Owens’ match was over, so Zayn was allowed to be at ringside, but that means he’s also allowed to violently attack someone?
Non-title match: Sami Zayn defeated WWE Champion AJ Styles (15:40)
After a break, the referee checked with Styles who agreed to start the match. Owens was still at ringside, unable to stand as officials checked on him. Zayn worked over Styles who made a comeback, which included a springboard forearm to the outside.
Styles was about to re-enter the ring but decided to attack Owens who was still being tended to. Zayn flew in with a clothesline to stop him. After a break, Owens was still at ringside and still being tended to (by like six people), even though there’s a stretcher right there.
Zayn went for a Helluva kick but Styles countered with a boot of his own, followed by a Pele kick for a nearfall. Zayn then hit a Michinoku driver for two. Styles avoided a superplex attempt and went for a Styles Clash but Zayn slipped outside the ring. Owens is now on the stretcher.
Styles tossed Zayn back in the ring, then flipped over the stretcher. After Styles popped back in the ring, Zayn nailed a Helluva kick and Blue Thunder Bomb for the win. Owens and Zayn posed over Styles as the show ended.
Styles basically screwed himself here. Owens wasn’t supposed to be at ringside, but he didn’t really do anything wrong and Styles kept going after him.