As the Royal Rumble festivities come to a close, SmackDown Live emanated from Phoenix on Tuesday night as WrestleMania 35 is now in our sights. But we don’t have just WrestleMania in our future, as Elimination Chamber on Feb. 17 is the first of two pay-per-view offerings before we get to the biggest show of the year. That being the case, these shows should be loaded with excitement on a weekly basis.
“Loaded” is certainly one way to describe Tuesday’s post-Royal Rumble SmackDown Live, but of everything that went down on the blue brand this week, the most significant was a possible main event for Elimination Chamber officially announced as the WWE championship will be on the line during the show inside the structure — with the kicker that it won’t be the normal WWE title we’re used to that’s up for grabs.
Daniel Bryan set to defend new title
The WWE champion made his way out and told the crowd that they all won on Sunday and their children won on Sunday because he won and he’s the planet’s champion. Bryan said it’s OK that they don’t understand them because he found someone who does, which brought out Rowan to the ring. Bryan said that he’s his intellectual peer, and that’s how he’s able to see through everyone as well — even someone like AJ Styles. Next, Bryan admitted that he’s a hypocrite because he carries around the current WWE championship title, which he verbally degraded for its structure and threw in the trash in the middle of the ring. Bryan said to change the world, he needs a new symbol. He and Rowan then unveiled the new WWE title that’s made of “100 percent sustainable organic hemp.” It’s the title Bryan has always wanted.
Styles made his way out after the unveiling, and he hilariously asked Bryan if he’d smoked the prototype for the new title beforehand. Before Styles could finish, Randy Orton made his presence known. Back from commercial, Mustafa Ali was making his way out to the ring to state his case for a WWE title shot. During the commercial, Jeff Hardy had already entered. Finally, we got an appearance from Samoa Joe who verbally ran down everyone in the ring. A brawl broke out, and as it did, Bryan screamed that none of them will get a shot. Triple H appeared on screen and was pleased to inform Bryan that he will be defending that new hemp title against all of them inside the Elimination Chamber.
The evolution of Bryan’s heel character has been fascinating, to say the least, but the unveiling of the hemp title he’s long wanted to carry around took things to a different level. He’s doing a tremendous job of keeping the character interesting, and even the addition of Rowan has made it better as we wait to see how he works out as the champ’s heavy. As for the announcement of the defense at Elimination Chamber, well … just look who’s in this match and that should tell you all you need to know. Grade: A-
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Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair aren’t finished
The challenger for the Raw women’s championship opened up SmackDown this week to a raucous ovation. “The Man” said the beginning of the Royal Rumble where she unsuccessfully challenged for the SmackDown women’s title didn’t exactly go her way, but she didn’t crumble like Ronda Rousey; she went out there and won the Royal Rumble with just one leg. Lynch said that, despite Rousey’s digs from Monday night, she’s proud that she came from nothing and worked her way into the WrestleMania main event. Lynch said she’s gonna break Rousey’s arm at WrestleMania, and if she doesn’t believe that, she’ll be carried out knowing it.
Charlotte Flair was then out to interrupt. Flair condescendingly congratulated Lynch for making it off the kickoff show, where she was competing last year at WrestleMania. With the way Lynch willed her way into the Rumble match, Flair said that maybe she learned something from her after all, and maybe it was her that got Lynch to the WrestleMania main event. Just as it seemed Lynch was about to verbally fire back, she instead punched Flair right in the face and left the ring. Flair recovered and charged after Lynch on the ramp and attacked from behind. A massive brawl ensued and the two were eventually kept apart by officials. Later in the show, they caught Lynch limping to her SUV, and when asked why she refused medical attention following the brawl, she said she can’t afford anymore time on the shelf before driving away.
With plenty of time left between now and WrestleMania, there’s really no issue with pairing together Lynch and Flair in one-on-one action, especially since a smaller story was built between the two at then end of the Royal Rumble match on Sunday. The logic is certainly there, but let’s just hope that it doesn’t result in Flair earning a spot in the Raw women’s title match if she’s to defeat a banged-up Lynch. All due respect to Flair, but as we saw on Monday night, Lynch-Rousey is all that’s needed. Grade: B+
What else happened on SmackDown?
- United States Championship — R-Truth def. Shinsuke Nakamura (c) via pinfall to win the title: It was explained before the bout that R-Truth was awarded this title shot by the McMahon family due to Nia Jax attacking him for his No. 30 spot in the Royal Rumble. In what came across as a botched count by referee Mike Chioda, whether legitimate or otherwise, Truth won the United States title with a small package. Amid the confusion, Rusev and Lana made their way out and the Bulgarian Brute challenged Truth right then and there for the title, a challenge which was accepted. Rusev also turned heel in the process, telling Truth that he doesn’t deserve to be champion.
- United States Championship — R-Truth (c) def. Rusev via pinfall to retain the title: Truth was able to retain his newly-won U.S. title with a rollup on Rusev. Afterwards, though, Nakamura was back out to attack R-Truth from behind, and he and Rusev beat the champ down in the ring as Rusev’s heel turn was confirmed, as was possibly some sort of alliance with Nakamura. Later in the show, the Good Brothers confronted Rusev backstage before Nakamura joined, setting up a future tag team match.
- Andrade attacks Rey Mysterio: Mysterio was out for what appeared to be a match but was interrupted by Zelina Vega. As she blamed Mysterio for getting her banned from ringside last week, Andrade attacked from behind. He even attempted to hit the Three Amigos suplexes while taunting the late Eddie Guerrero in the process. Mysterio countered the third attempt but Andrade finished off the beating with the Hammerlock DDT.
- Shane McMahon surprises The Miz: The new SmackDown tag champs were out for their celebration. McMahon wanted to show his appreciation for Miz and all he’s done for him, which was a montage of their entire journey as a tag team thus far. That wasn’t the only surprise, though, as McMahon brought out Miz’s father, George Mizanin, next who told his son he loves him and he’s proud of him. McMahon then announced that their No. 1 contenders would be determined in a four-way elimination match up next.
- The Usos def. The Bar (via pinfall), New Day and Heavy Machinery to become No. 1 contenders: This entertaining bout came down to the Usos and The Bar, with Jimmy Usos hitting the splash on Sheamus for the win. They’ll challenge Miz and McMahon at Elimination Chamber.
- Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville “declare” for Elimination Chamber: Apparently, qualifying for the women’s tag title match at Elimination Chamber is not required, as we were led to believe on Raw. During a backstage promo, Rose simply declared they were in the match and the official graphic was shown. OK then.
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