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SmackDown Live Recap & Review – Episode 960

WWE SmackDown Live
Episode 960

Original Air Date: January 9, 2018
Event Date: January 9, 2018 (aired live)

City: Birmingham, AL
Venue: Legacy Arena

Commentary: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
Ring Announcer: Greg Hamilton


Last Tuesday, Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles after a whole bunch of shenanigans at ringside with Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon, and Daniel Bryan. Afterwards, Daniel Bryan made a handicap match for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble PPV.

Ring Area
In the ring, Renee Young introduces AJ Styles. Styles heads to the ring where he has a sit-down interview with Renee. Renee asks Styles if he thinks Bryan’s decision to make a handicap match for the WWE Title is fair. Styles said he would take back his sarcastic words from last week if he could, but he might still be able to beat Zayn and Owens. Renee notices that Styles didn’t really answer her questions, so she presses him for an answer. Styles does not think Bryan’s decision was fair, but life isn’t fair. Styles would fight both in the same night, but the same match isn’t fair or deserved.

Renee asks Styles if he thinks Bryan or Shane are playing favorites, but Styles refuses to get involved in their problems with each other. He’s just focused on keeping his title. As he seems like he’s finishing, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens come out to the stage.

Owens wonders if Styles is phenomenal, or if he’s remorseful. Owens says it would be a miracle for Styles to escape with his title against both Owens and Zayn. Zayn agrees. After Royal Rumble, Owens and Zayn will be the first ever co-WWE Champs. Zayn agrees. Afterwards, Owens and Zayn will run SmackDown, the Kevin and Sami (or Sami and Kevin) Show. Zayn agrees.

Shane McMahon comes out to the stage and says Bryan’s decision was not fair. He’s also baffled as to why Bryan would give Owens and Zayn a title shot at all. However, he will allow Bryan’s decision to stand. Tonight, there will be another handicap match, a three-on-two match with Owens and Zayn facing Nakamura, Orton, and Styles. Owens and Zayn don’t agree with that decision.

Daniel Bryan thinks Shane made an interesting main event. Shane isn’t sure what Bryan is thinking.


Match 1
Becky Lynch w/ Charlotte (SD Women’s Champ), Naomi vs Ruby Riott w/ Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan
(referee: Jason Ayers)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Becky Lynch wins via submission with Disarm Her
Time: 8:09

Match Thoughts
Good match. Even with four women around the ring, there were no shenanigans here. This was a hard fought match between Lynch and Riott, and it was good. The first half of the match started with Lynch coming on string, then Riott turned things around. The match eventually went to the mat where it stayed for most of the second half. I really enjoyed it, and it looked like both women were working hard for the win. The match also served as a nice payoff for the mini-angle of the Riott Squad injuring Lynch while still playing into the Royal Rumble match. Good all around.


In a Mixed Match Challenge partner reveal video from Facebook, Sami Zayn surprises Becky Lynch while she’s signing autographs before a show.


Match 2
The Ascension vs Bludgeon Brothers
(referee: Mike Chioda)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Luke Harper pins Viktor after an assisted sit-out powerbomb
Time: 0:37

Match Thoughts
The Ascension started well by rushing Harper, but Harper and Rowan quickly turned things around into a squash.


Match 3
US Title Tournament First Round Match
Zack Ryder vs Mojo Rawley
(referee: Charles Robinson; at ringside: Bobby Roode)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Mojo Rawley wins via pinfall after a running forearm strike to the head
Time: 3:31

Match Thoughts
An okay match, but it wasn’t terribly surprising or interesting. It wasn’t bad, it just kind of seemed like the least they could do to get to the next round of the tournament.


Ring Area
After the match, Bobby Roode enters the ring and stares at Mojo. Mojo points at Roode and backs out of the ring.

Jinder Mahal (with the Singh Brothers) says that 2017 was defined by his WWE Title reign. In 2018, Mahal has his eyes set on the US Title.

In another Facebook Mixed Match reveal, Natalya finds out that Shinsuke Nakamure will be her partner.

Ring Area
Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable head to the ring. Gable wonders if anyone in the crowd knows what it takes to be a winner. Benjamin makes some college football references, saying Georgia was robbed by a bad referee call, just like he and Gable were robbed of the SD Tag Titles. Benjamin explains what referee Jason Ayers did last week, but Gable wonders why he was even out there since he wasn’t the referee for their match. Gable says Jason Ayers is a thief, a tattle-tale, and a rat. Benjamin and Gable demand justice. They call out “generic referee number two,” a.k.a. Jason Ayers. Instead, Daniel Bryan heads to the ring.

Bryan understands working hard for something only to have it taken away, but he won’t stand for Gable and Benjamin saying things about referees (who represent WWE management). He says referee decisions are final. Benjamin agrees, saying the referee assigned to their match, Ryan Tran, counted the pinfall and declared Gable and Benjamin the new champs. Bryan says yeah, but he reversed the decision after feeling the decision was wrong. Gable doesn’t care how Ryan Tran felt. Gable then expresses his feelings to Bryan, wondering if he and Benjamin have to beat The Usos twice in one night. Bryan likes the idea, so he makes a two-out-of-three falls title rematch for the Royal Rumble.

Styles wonders if Randy Orton wants to talk strategy. Orton doesn’t, but he does want to tell Styles to trust him tonight, and trust him when he says he’s coming for the WWE Title after winning the Royal Rumble. Shinsuke Nakamura walks up and seems to be thinking the same thing, only in fewer words.

Ring Area
Aiden English sings that he and Rusev are officially entered into the “Rusev Rumble” match. Taking place on Rusev Day.


Match 4
Rusev & Aiden English vs Breezango
(referee: Danilo Anfibio)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Fandango pins Rusev with a schoolboy
Time: 5:17

Match Thoughts
Good match. Rusev Day seemed to have a slightly tenuous control of this match for most of it’s running time, but Breezango felt like they were always just a move or two away from turning things around. It made for a fun match. I liked the finish as well. I think it was good for both teams.


Shane McMahon tells Daniel Bryan that the matches he’s been setting up lately aren’t logical. Shane asks Bryan if he’s doing okay, but Bryan says he could ask Shane the same thing considering his “gene pool.” Shane agrees to disagree and leaves Bryan alone.

** The WWE Title handicap match makes no sense, but the SD Tag Title rematch makes absolutely perfect sense. At least this story is getting to the point where it’s not clear who is right and wrong. Prior to last week, Shane was 100% wrong. Now Bryan is making impulsive decisions that make sense half the time. Is he planning something? Is he trying to show Shane how dumb he’s been lately through example? I think this story is getting interesting, even though I still feel that more emphasis should be placed on the wrestlers rather than management. I sure do hope there’s a good payoff to the Shane/Bryan feud. Otherwise, none of this seems worth it. **


Match 5
AJ Styles (WWE Champ) & Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
(referee: Jason Ayers)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Randy Orton pins Sami Zayn after an RKO
Time: 10:15 (1 break; match restarted)

Match Thoughts
This was sort of fun, but again, it was mostly about Shane McMahon rather than the wrestlers. Shane came out twice during the match to change the stipulations and force Owens and Zayn into getting beat up. It also ended oddly with Owens and Styles heading to the backstage area, never to be seen again. The match played out with just Zayn, Orton, and Nakamura in and around the ring.


Show Impressions
This was a fairly entertaining show. The main story felt like more of the same stuff we’ve seen week after week, but a lot of the other segments were good. The women’s match was good. Gable and Benjamin had a good argument and got a good result. Breezango versus Rusev Day was fun. All good stuff.

Match of the Night
Becky Lynch vs Ruby Riott
This was the best-fought match of the night. Easily. The main event got way too gimmicky, and the only other match that went for any length was the Rusev Day versus Breezango match. The tag match was fun, but the women’s match had a lot more going for it.



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