WWE Champion AJ Styles kicked off SmackDown LIVE with an in-ring interview conducted by Renee Young. Styles vented about the position Team Blue General Manager Daniel Bryan put him in last week when he placed The Phenomenal One into a 2-on-1 Handicap Match against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn with the WWE Title on the line at Royal Rumble. Styles stressed that he was trying to keep himself removed from the beef between Bryan and Shane McMahon, but he didn’t sound overwhelmingly thrilled with either.
Before he could continue to expand, however, he was interrupted by his Royal Rumble opponents. The “Yep!” Movement, in no uncertain terms, claimed that they would beat Styles down at Royal Rumble and go on their way to becoming co-WWE Champions. However, their dreams quickly came crashing back down to earth by the arriving Shane-O-Mac. The Commissioner revealed that they would be in yet another Handicap Match against Styles … just with Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton as The Phenomenal One’s partners.
Following her straight fire return to SmackDown LIVE last week, Becky Lynch, flanked by SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Naomi, took on Ruby Riott, who had Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan of the Riott Squad by her side.The action was explosive, as The Irish Lass Kicker sought retribution for The Riott Squad’s ruthless attack that sidelined her for several weeks. Near the end of the hard-hitting brouhaha, Lynch locked Riott in the excruciating Dis-arm-her, and with Charlotte and Naomi keeping the rest of The Riott Squad at bay via an intense ringside staredown, Riott was forced to tap out to give Lynch a clutch win in her first match back.
After twice inserting Breezango into matches against The Bludgeon Brothers, The Ascension got a taste of what it’s like to officially go to battle against Harper & Rowan. With their “best friends” Tyler Breeze & Fandango preparing for their match later in the night against Rusev & Aiden English, Konnor & Viktor had to go it alone against The Bludgeon Brothers, and the warriors from The Wasteland were no match for the bludgeoning, as Harper & Rowan picked up another fast victory. After the contest, Konnor went to check on his fallen partner, but he was quickly met by an attack from The Bludgeon Brothers, who punctuated the beatdown with their painful double-team maneuver.
Following Mojo Rawley’s shocking betrayal of his Hype Bros partner Zack Ryder several weeks ago, the two faced off in the final first round matchup of the United States Championship Tournament. Bobby Roode, who was slated to face the winner of this bout after already advancing to the semifinals of the tournament, made his way down to get an up-close view and scout his potential opponents. What The Glorious One saw was a brutally physical contest between two men who used to be as close as brothers. Rawley weathered the veteran’s flurries and overcome his former buddy for the second time since ending their partnership, getting the win with a furious running fist. After the match, Roode entered the ring and faced off with his upcoming opponent. Each stared the other down, trying to get the mental edge as their semi-final match in the United States Championship Tournament before Mojo slowly made his exit.
Infuriated that their SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match last week was restarted after the two illegal men were involved in the pinfall, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable hit the scene on Team Blue this week demanding justice. After watching Benjamin & Gable air their grievances, SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan arrived, and although he sympathized with Gable & Benjamin, he also stated that last week’s decision was final. However, when Gable began to wonder out loud if he and his partner had to beat The Usos twice in one night to prove they were worthy of the titles, The “Yes!” Man got an idea: a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match between the two teams with the titles on the line at Royal Rumble!
Officially declaring for the Royal Rumble (or Rusev Rumble as The Bulgarian Brute would like it to be called), Rusev & Aiden English had to focus on the present and the formidable challenge of Breezango on SmackDown LIVE. The Fashion Police executed their dynamic onslaught on the Rusev Day celebrators, and Fandango caught The Super Athlete by surprise with a lightning-quick rollup for the win. Not a happy Rusev Day. Not at all.
In the complete inverse of what WWE Champion AJ Styles will have to face at the Royal Rumble event, The Phenomenal One teamed up with Shinsuke Nakamaura & Randy Orton to take on the undermanned Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn in the main event of SmackDown LIVE. The “Yep!” Movement did their best to keep it competitive in the early goings, but then finally chose to walk off and take the count-out loss. However, Shane McMahon refused to see the match conclude in such anti-climactic fashion and came out to announce that the bout would now be no count-out. Shane-O-Mac had to pop in again when KO & Sami tried to get themselves disqualified after Owens assaulted his opponents with a steel chair, leading Shane-O-Mac to declare that this was now also a No Disqualification Match. Styles retaliated by pelting KO with a chair in an attack that led both men to the backstage area. From there, Sami was left to tangle with Orton and Nakamura all by his lonesome, and he soon became the recipient of a steel steps attack and was driven into the announcer’s table. That all led to the reeling Zayn eating both a Kinshasa and an RKO for a crushing, albeit controversial, loss.