General Manager Dusty Rhodes made his way to the ring to open SmackDown this week to an enormous pop once again from the Seattle crowd. After telling a few interesting anecdotes about his past dealings in Seattle, Rhodes addressed two huge points.
First he addressed the WWE Championship, the top prize on SmackDown, and said that a Champion would be crowned at the Clash of Champions Pay-per-View. With that in mind, he announced two qualifying Fatal 4-Way matches loaded with talent to main event the following week and the week after, with the winners facing off at Clash of Champions for the title, with the match line-ups as follows;
Match #1 - Kevin Owens vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Aleister Black
Match #2 - Chris Jericho vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. Bobby Lashley
This bought Rhodes to his second point, the escalating feud between Daniel Bryan and Drew McIntyre. As they were due to face-off in next week's main event as part of the Championship qualification Fatal 4-Way, he invited both to air their differences and face off in tonight's main event. With that, Dusty bid farewell to the crowd and the show started.
Match #1 - The Wyatt Family [Luke Harper O & Erick Rowan] def. Breezango [Tyler Breeze & Fandango X]
[WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships Tournament Semi-Final]
Breezango's problems from their first match of the Tag Team Tournament arose again here as The Wyatt Family made short work of the match, advancing to the final at Clash of Champions.
Breezango started strongly, Breeze nullifying the power game of Rowan and Harper with a series of swift kicks and reversals and Fandango thought he had it won with a pinfall over Rowan, only for Harper to break it up.
This momentum didn't last though, Fandango attempted to go to the top to hit the Last Dance onto Harper, even though Breeze was screaming for the tag. Rowan caught Fandango and launched him from the top rope back into the ring, giving Harper the chance to hit the Discus Clothesline for the victory.
The newly crowned United States Champion Roderick Strong came to ring next to a gracious welcome from Seattle. He congratulated his opponent Cedric Alexander from the previous week, before stating that he was raised a fighting man and that he would bring that into his title reign; he wanted to be a fighting Champion. The way to do that in his mind was to announce an Open Challenge, any man from the SmackDown locker room and indeed any of the undrafted superstars could challenge for this title and he would give them the opportunity he wasn't given in his youth.
He called to the back and laid the belt in the middle of the ring, awaiting his first opponent.
Match #2 - Roderick Strong O def. The Big Show X
[WWE United States Championship Open Challenge Match]
This was Roderick Strong's First Successful Title Defence
The unmistakable opening of The Big Show's entrance theme echoed around the arena, announcing the 7 foot giant as the man answering Roderick Strong's Open Challenge.
The response to the opening of this match was one that could be politely called mixed, with a less than mobile challenger battling a non proven Champion, many people assumed that this would be a 'toilet break match,' and with Big Show's early and predictable dominance, it seemed to be going that way.
After already suffering one rib-crushingly solid Spear at the hands of The Big Show, Strong leapfrogged another one before somehow managing to get The Big Show up for an End of Heartache, and though The Big Show did kick out before 3, it got the crowd firmly back onside with this astonishing show of strength.
From there, Strong worked the knee of Big Show, attempting to chop down the base of the Giant, using a series of Chop Blocks and Inverted Dragon Screw Leg Whips to wear the big man down. Eventually, another unbelievable show of strength saw Strong get Big Show up onto his shoulders once again, this time to hit the Gut Check for the win.
The crowd now firmly behind him, Strong stood on the top turnbuckle as the crowd chanted his name, fully proving his belonging as Champion.
Match #3 - Aleister Black O def. Johnny Gargano X
With both men having been announced to battle for the WWE Championship over the next few weeks, the pair faced off in what was essentially seen as a warm-up match for the pair.
For other superstars, following a great showing between Strong and Big Show that had awoken the crowd to almost fever point might be intimidating, but not these two.
A fast-paced, high-impact and brisk encounter followed, which continued to have the crowd on the edge of their seat. Gargano's pace and his use of the ring was incredible and against anyone else on the SmackDown roster, his striking would have been unmatched. Unfortunately, he was in the ring with Aleister Black, whose striking is a thing of legend.
As the match drew to a close, Gargano attempted to hit a Sling Shot Spear, but was caught with a Black Mass, after which Black covered and took the victory. Both men shook hands after the match, Gargano understandably subdued, Black gaining much needed momentum before the Title matches began.
Match #4 - Sasha Banks O def. Ruby Riott X
After putting Bayley on the shelf through the injuries she sustained at the hands of the Riott Squad's attack, Ruby Riott turned her attention to The Huggable One's best friend; The Boss Sasha Banks.
Having sustained a surprise loss at the hands of relative newcomer Bianca Belair, Banks started the match understandably low on confidence, and received a beating at the hands of Riott for her trouble. Swift kicks and constant interference from Morgan and Logan meant that Sasha found momentum extremely hard to come by.
Riott on the other hand looked like nothing could touch her, hitting her Senton from the top rope for a close 2 count, and even hitting The Riott Kick, only for Sasha to wisely roll out of the ring.
It would be this confidence and momentum in the match that would ultimately cost her however. As Riott turned to mock the crowd, Banks slid back into the ring, hitting a Backstabber onto an unwary Riott before locking in a Bank Statement, the torque of which made Riott scream in agony. Just as it looked like she may tap, Morgan and Logan broke it up leading to the disqualification, both of them laying the boots into Banks until she rolled out of the ring, giving Riott enough time to get unsteadily back to her feet!
Banks, clearly riled after losing a certain victory, backed up the ramp yelling at the Riott Squad who stood in the ring, glaring back at the boss.
Match #5 - Daniel Bryan O def. Drew McIntyre X via DQ
Daniel Bryan was first out and paced, focused, around the ring, waiting for Drew McIntyre's theme to hit. Hit it did, and the Scottish Psychopath came down the ramp slowly, eyes fixed on Bryan.
Before the referee could even begin to think about ringing the bell, Bryan threw himself at McIntyre and a brawl ensued. Inside and outside the ring, the pair laid waste to each other with booming chops and stiff Lariats, with Bryan doing everything he could to chop at the base of McIntyre, working his knees with Dropkicks and Kneebars.
A further Dropkick to the knee of McIntyre saw Bryan with an opportunity and he raced to the corner waiting for the Knee Plus. McIntyre, staggered, got gingerly to his feet as Bryan sprinted, full tilt at him...only for him to taken out in mid flight by an RKO from Randy Orton. The crowd were stunned as they watched the Apex Predator stare, remorseless at Bryan as he attempted to get back to a vertical base. At this point, from behind, Edge slid into the ring and delivered a Spear to Bryan leaving him comatose in the ring.
By now, McIntyre was up and laughing, mentioning for Edge and Orton to pick up Daniel Bryan, which they did. The match long since thrown out due to interference, McIntyre grabbed Bryan's face and screamed "Never step up to me boy!" before stepping back and crunching into Bryan with a Claymore Kick. Roundly booed by the Seattle crowd, the three men - Orton, Edge and McIntyre - stood arms aloft, together in the middle of the ring as the lights went down.