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SmackDown Live Recap & Review – Episode 961

WWE SmackDown Live
Episode 961

Original Air Date: January 16, 2018
Event Date: January 16, 2018 (aired live)

City: Laredo, TX
Venue: Laredo Energy Arena

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


Ring Area
The show begins with Big E announcing the arrival of New Day in Laredo. New Day heads to the ring for the first match. Before the match, New Day describes how America is like a pancake. Woods says that a vote for him for US Champ is a vote for three. Good things come in threes, except for maybe Home Alone 3. Jinder Mahal hates Home Alone, and he hates freedom.


Match 1
US Title Tournament Semi-Final Match
Xavier Woods w/ Big E, Kofi Kingston vs Jinder Mahal w/ The Singh Brothers
(referee: Jason Ayers)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Jinder Mahal wins via pinfall after The Khallas
Time: 14:19 (1 break)

Match Thoughts
Pretty good match. Mahal dominated most of this match, and it felt fairly methodical. Woods has a small comeback towards the end, but it didn’t feel as exciting or as fast-paced as Woods usually is in those situations. I liked that they gave the match some decent time though. I think it was important to start making these US Title Tournament matches feel more important and competitive.


Baron Corbin talks about being a loner in the Royal Rumble.

Renee Young welcomes AJ Styles. Styles decides to refer to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn as Kami. Styles says he will put an end to Kami at the Royal Rumble.

Carmella, Natalya, Tamina, Lana, Naomi, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, and Becky Lynch talk about winning the Royal Rumble.


Match 2
US Title Tournament Semi-Final Match
Bobby Roode vs Mojo Rawley
(referee: Mike Chioda)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Bobby Roode wins via pinfall after a Glorious DDT
Time: 9:28 (1 break)

Match Thoughts
Good match. Rawley seemed to have a bit of an edge in this one, but it was much more evenly fought than the Mahal versus Woods match. Rawley kept going for big, impactful moves that showed his strength and meanness. Roode was more calculating and hit important moves at opportune times. I liked how they worked together.


Ring Area
After the match, The Singh Brothers attack Bobby Roode. They kick at him, then run away up to the stage where Jinder Mahal waits. Mahal smiles and says he will defeat Roode next week in the finals of the US Title Tournament.

Roode gets on the mic and says they don’t have to wait. Why not have the final tournament match tonight? Mahal says “no,” they’ll do it when Mahal wants to. Plus, he wants Roode to have a week to think about how badly he’s going to be embarrassed.

Daniel Bryan comes out and takes the mic from Jinder Mahal. He says the US Title match will happen tonight. The crowd likes that, and so does Bobby Roode. Mahal is less pleased.

Randy Orton talk about winning his third Royal Rumble.


Match 3
Charlotte (SD Women’s Champ) & Becky Lynch & Naomi vs Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott
(referee: Danilo Anfibio)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Liv Morgan pins Naomi after a Jersey Codebreaker
Time: 8:10

Match Thoughts
Good match. Everyone had about an even amount of time in the ring, and both teams had a good amount of time with control of the match. This was a nice match even if it didn’t really do anything for any story lines.


Dasha Fuentes welcomes The Usos. The Usos talk about Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, then get jumped from behind. Benjamin and Gable seem confident in their chances at the Royal Rumble.

Chronicling the buildup to the WWE Title handicap match.

Shinsuke Nakamura talks about winning the Royal Rumble.

In a clip from the online version of The Fashion Files, Rusev Day demands a match from Breezango. Breezango agrees to a match next week, but they agree to have The Ascension face Rusev Day.


Match 4
US Title Tournament Final Match
Jinder Mahal vs Bobby Roode
(referee: Ryan Tran; at ringside: Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan)

Show/Hide Results

Result: Bobby Roode wins via pinfall after a Glorious DDT and becomes the new US Champ
Time: 11:42 (1 break)

Match Thoughts
Good match. Roode was made to be the underdog because he had less of a break between his match and the final match than Mahal did, and Roode got beaten up and attacked more throughout the night. Roode’s pain played into the match, and I think it worked well. I feel like these two men could have a better match, but the impromptu nature of the night made this match feel special.


Show Impressions
I liked this show. By focusing on the US Title, it made the show feel like one unified story rather than a bunch of separate segments. I like that. Of course they can’t do that every week, but it will make this show memorable. All the tournament matches this week were also given enough time to feel important which helped the main event feel even more important.

The only thing I would like to have seen done differently is to have had a different main event announced and promoted right from the start of the show. The commentators kept saying the US Title match would be next week, but it never felt like the “impromptu” decision to make the title match happen tonight was changing anyone’s plans.

If they had announced some sort of main event match involving Styles and Owens or something, and even had a segment where they built it up, it would have felt like the US Title match actually bumped something off the show. As it stood, with both semi-final matches happening in the first hour and nothing else being announced as the main event, it felt like the title match was always going to happen tonight. Having Owens and Zayn be bumped from the show would have given even more fuel to their story line of favoritism. They could have progressed their story without even being on the show, or at least not being on it much! I think that was a huge missed opportunity.

Match of the Night
Bobby Roode vs Jinder Mahal
This was a good final match in the tournament. It felt like a good finale, but it also felt like the start of something. That’s exactly what it needed to be.



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