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Smackdown Live crowns a new United States Champion

The United States Championship match is unceremoniously pulled from the Royal Rumble.  Who would rise to claim the vacant title in a hasty tournament finale?

Smackdown Live has been full of surprises lately as Daniel Bryan continues making matches on the fly.  This week would be no different as the Untied States Championship would be decided in an impromptu match.  Could the two competitors survive two matches in the same night?  What do the WWE stand to lose by cutting the tournament from the Royal Rumble?

Smackdown Live comes to us from Laredo, TX this 16th of January.

Red, White And New Day

The show detoured from the Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon angle, opening instead with a United States Championship tournament match.

As usual new day cut an amazing promo, integrating patriotism and pancakes.  Xavier Woods once again hinted that becoming United States Champion also bestows the title upon Big E and Kofi Kingston.

I thoroughly enjoy the prospect of New Day playing rock, paper scissors to determine who defends the title.  Perhaps a giant, rainbow pinwheel could also dictate which members participates in matches.  The WWE can create so many opportunities with this angle.

Woods looks great as of late but had a rough start to his match against Jinder Mahal.  The winner moves on to the finals of a largely successful United States Championship tournament.  The culmination of this tournament should conclude at the Royal Rumble instead of Smackdown Live.


The U.S. title has been irrelevant since the open challenges of John Cena.  How are we supposed to invest in the title if the WWE pulls the match from the Royal Rumble?  Much like Cena’s challenges, the finals of the tournament could showcase new talent such as Rawley or solidify superstars like Mahal.

Once again a match normally discounted becomes hyper important within the confines of a tournament.  Fans were on the edge of their seats for close two counts as the momentum shifted.  For a moment it seemed as if Woods would prevail but ultimately fell to the Khallas of Jinder Mahal.

Roode Or Rawley

Mojo Rawley entered the next United States Championship semifinals match as a an underdog.  Rawley has momentum with his character finally but would it be enough to defeat Bobby Roode?  Rawley is also currently a heel and the winner faces the loathsome Jinder Mahal.

If Mojo wins he can move on to potentially turn face against Mahal and Roode loses credibility.  If Roode wins Rawley returns to obscurity.

Rawley began the match with the upper hand in terms of physical presence.  Craftiness and in ring acumen are perfect to overcome an opponent like Rawley.  Roode created an opportunity after dodging a shoulder tackle in the corner.

One Glorious DDT put Rawley away, ending his short lived momentum.

Jinder Mahal wasted no time in sending his henchmen to attack Roode after his match.  Mahal exclaimed that he would be victorious in the culmination of the United States Championship tournament.  Roode grabbed a mic and challenged Mahal to that same match right then and there.

Bryan Bumps Up The Tournament Finals

It was here that Daniel Bryan made his first appearance of the night and officially sanctioned the match for that evening.

This was a decent consolation to the title match not appearing on the Royal Rumble card itself.  This also allowed Bryan to once again make a trademark, split-second decision.  This week Bryan is once again benefiting a heel with his actions.  Roode puts himself at a disadvantage by competing in a second match.  This logic seems to be lost on both Mahal and Bryan.

With his motivations in question, Bryan’s decision making continues to benefit both heels and faces alike.  Bryan can do no wrong in the eyes of the fans which makes this entire dynamic complicated.  Add to the dilemma Shane McMahon coming off as annoying lately and the WWE needs to make a move here quickly.

Perhaps next week we will have the final setup to a potential development between the commissioner and general manager.  This could be why the focus of this show centers around the United States Championship.

Too Little, Too Late

Ruby Riott and her goons tried their luck against Namoi, Charlotte and Beck Lynch.

The Riott Squad was on the upside of the recent fifty fifty booking this week.  Liv Morgan pinned Naomi aided by a distraction from Sarah Logan.  This was a quick match put together to promote the women’s Royal Rumble match.

Heading into the match I wish the Riott Squad looked like more of a threat.

Imagine if WWE creative had booked Ruby and company as a dominant force all these weeks.  What dirty tactics would the group employ to cheat their way to the climax of the battle royal? Who would they destroy on they way?

They could acquire nuclear heat by ganging up on and eliminating a baby face like Asuka.  Ruby Riott could finally get her comeuppance from the women’s roster when her friends are finally eliminated.  At this point I would be surprised if the Riott Squad play a significant role at all.

And Then there Were Two

With Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan inexplicably sit at ringside to witness Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal.  A match worthy of a Royal Rumble spot is wasted on live TV.


After competing previously in the evening both superstars wrestled visibly fatigued.  Roode looked the worse for ware which created a compelling in ring story.  Mahal would take advantage of his oppenent’s injuries.  It seemed that Roode could barely hang on.

After a well executed match, Roode would emerge victorious.

The new United States Champion was crowned in solidarity by both Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon.  No shenanigans or swerves.

What Just Happened?

While Bobby Roode is a great choice for the belt, this is not a “Glorious” moment for the new champ.

Given the time and stage, this match could have tore the house down.  The coronation of Roode could have been one of those “moments” that WWE so often hypes ahead of its Big Four pay per views.  Instead we are left with a watered down celebration after a starved match.  Roode’s victory is diminished by the haste of it all while Mahal loses an opportunity to shine.  Neither are likely to achieve anything significant in the Royal Rumble itself and would have be better served in a high profile title match.  What could have been two weeks of build, squandered.

I will pay very close attention to all the non-wrestling that occurs during a four hour show come January 28th.

Add to the fact that the WWE totally downplayed the animosity between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon.  How can they possibly not continue to unravel after a heated exchange only a week prior?

Roode is now tasked with bringing legitimacy to the title and this lackluster victory puts him at a disadvantage.

WWE knows how to kill excitement.

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