It’s time to roll in the New Year with SmackDown Live. As we discover what the new year holds plenty of stories have carried into the new year. After all, there’s no offseason in WWE.

Opening Segment

AJ Styles’ music hit and The Phenomenal One made the first entrance on the inaugural SmackDown Live of 2018. It’s only fitting though seeing how SmackDown Live is the house that AJ Styles built.

Styles said he is walking into WrestleMania as the champion and said he will defeat Sami Zayn tonight. Then he sat back and waited for Daniel Bryan to let us know which side he’s on. After all Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn seem to think they have the Bearded GOAT’s favor.

But before Bryan could say anything, Shane McMahon came dancing down the ramp. McMahon paused before talking to let the “Shane-O Mac” chants break out and then even louder “Daniel Bryan” chants started to build to cut McMahon off again.

Shane went over the events of last week and he apologized to Styles for possibly contributing to AJ’s defeat last week and they did a fist bump. Then Shane said he felt Bryan had a kinship with Owens and Zayn while Daniel just looked on with a cold expression on his face.

McMahon asked if Bryan was turning the “Yes Movement” into the “Yep Movement.” Then McMahon said he’ll be at ringside during the Styles vs Zayn match later tonight followed by Daniel Bryan saying Kevin Owens would be out there too as well as himself.

AJ Styles looked quite bewildered because this is not what he wanted out of the situation.

The Usos vs Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

These two teams gave it their all and everyone was flying every different direction. Then Gable and Shelton pulled off a double team on Jimmy all of a sudden and scored a three count.

Then another referee ran down to point out that the wrong people were involved in the tag, therefore, Jey and Shelton were the legal men and Gable pinned Jimmy.

They restarted the match and the crowd was electric, especially after witnessing a moment they thought was a title change. Gotta love a Dusty Finish.

Gable and Benjamin tried to snatch the titles back from the referee but The Usos jumped them and the match was soon restarted. Jimmy soon tagged Jey and they both hit Shelton with superkicks. Then Jimmy hit the splash and got the clean win.

Winners and STILL SmackDown Tag Team Champions: The Usos via pinfall and dusty finish

They’re doing great, let’s just hope the Bludgeon Brothers will sell for them down the line.

Backstage Segment

Renee Young asked Sami and Kevin if everyone at ringside will change the outcome of the match. Then KO started talking about what he had for breakfast and how he likes to have a different kind of eggs and said that’s different. But tonight’s outcome won’t be different. Because last week KO beat AJ and tonight so will SZ.

The Bludgeon Brothers vs Breezango 

Harper and Rowan jumped Breezango before the intro video package even finished. In fact, the match never even started because this assault happened before the bell.

Breeze and Dango were tossed out of the ring and The Ascension ran down to make the save but instead, they just caught a beating too. It was short, sweet, and violent.

But there was technically no match.

Backstage Segment

The New Day were backstage. Kofi and Big E blindfolded Xavier and they told Woods he was getting a surprise and after asking if it was a Golden Girls box set or stuff for his YouTube Channel, he finally guessed that he had a big 2018 made out of pancakes. There was a candle on top like a birthday cake but just as Woods was about to blow it out and make a wish, they had visitors.

Suddenly Rusev and Aiden English were there where Aiden said he was going to be the US Champion. Rusev called them children for playing with fluffy pancakes and then he blew out Xavier’s candle, thus stealing his wish.

Mojo Rawley cut a short, yet intense promo about how he’ll beat Zack Ryder next week in the US Championship tournament.

Aiden English vs Xavier Woods (US Championship Tournament)

Rusev sang a song for English and it was awesome… but seriously it was offkey but hilarious.

“We want pancakes” chants broke out in the early moments of this encounter. Woods pulled a neat move where he took a bump but rolled out of it over the top rope to the outside just to spring up and hit a kick to the gut.

Jinder Mahal watched on as this match continued in the ring. Aiden English held Woods down in a headlock but Woods would soon fight back. Xavier hit Aiden with an innovative backbreaker for a two count followed by English hitting a powerbomb for a two count of his own.

The two ended up on the top rope and Wood ended up hitting a backdrop on English followed by a huge elbow drop from the top rope for the three count.

Winner: Xavier Woods via pinfall

After the match, Kofi flung a pancake at the announce table that nailed Byron Saxton right in the face and Corey Graves lost it on commentary laughing heartedly at the happening.

Backstage Segment

Natalya, Carmella, Tamina, and Lana were backstage being asked about their match with The Riott squad. They said in 2018, the party is over for The Riott Squad. Lana said The Riott Squad showed their hand and Nattie said there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina vs The Riot Squad

Before this match started, Karl Malone was shown at ringside and he did a big DDP taunt which was awesome.

This match was a real test for The Riott Squad but just as Tamnia looked like she was going to clean house, Sarah Logan nailed Snuka in the back of the head with her knee and scored the win.

Winners: The Riott Squad via pinfall

After the match was over, The Riott Squad stayed in the ring and looked very proud of themselves. Then the team who were getting cheered cut a heel promo where Riott called everyone phony. Ruby said people need a dose of reality so take a good look because their destruction and success are real.

Then Ruby Riott said that Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan are in the Women’s Royal Rumble match.

Insert Charlotte Flair here. The Nature Girl emerged without her title. She cut a short promo and then introduced Naomi and Becky Lynch… welcome back Becky Lynch.

The three babyfaces rushed the ring and took The Riott Squad out one by one with Becky Lynch laying Ruby and Liv out with Becksploder Suplexes.

The Riott Squad scampered off while Becky Lynch’s music played on.

AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn

Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens were both on ringside as well as Shane McMahon. With that many people at ringside, there’s no way something insane isn’t going to go down.

There was soon a tiff at ringside with everyone involved early on and AJ returned to the ring in order to take a suplex for a two count.

As Sami and AJ fought on it was a pretty evenly balanced fight. Styles hit his fireman’s carry neckbreaker but it didn’t close the deal. Sami Zayn returned fire by flipping out of a Styles Clash and hitting a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count of his own.

Zayn ran at AJ looking for the Helluva Kick, but AJ rolled it into a Calf Crusher and kept Zayn locked in the painful leg submission hold. But before he tapped out, Zayn reached up five inches and grabbed the bottom rope.

The two traded forearm shots in the middle of the ring until AJ won with a Pele Kick. AJ was lifted onto the apron and geared up for the Phenomonal Forearm but Zayn ducked under it as the referee was knocked to the floor.

KO was checking on the referee making sure he was okay whil AJ had a rollup pin locked in but the referee didn’t make it to the ring in time to count to three.

Shane McMahon shoved KO and then the referee tossed Owens out. Bryan got on the mic and said if Kevin is out then Shane needs to leave too.

In all this confusion, Sami Zayn scored a Helluva Kick on AJ and scored a win.

Winner: Sami Zayn via pinfall

AJ got on the microphone after the match and he was obviously pissed. He said he didn’t know who’s side Daniel Bryan was on and people need to stop bickering like children. Then AJ Styles proposed a handicap match and then Daniel Bryan said AJ Styles will defend his championship against KO and SZ in a handicap match at the Royal Rumble.

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Aaron Varble hasn’t just been writing for more than a decade in various formats including sketch comedy, stand up, television, radio, and other various projects; nor is he just another professional wrestling fan with a master's degree in journalism and Tourette’s syndrome. He's always looking to explore the why not with the why and the how come along with the how. Follow on Twitter @TheVarble