On of the biggest stories on Smackdown Live of late has been the US title. After winning the title in a great triple-threat match at Clash of Champions, Dolph Ziggler, who had been more or less doing nothing cut a great promo on Smackdown Live two days later and left the title belt laying in the ring. There are a lot of rumours swirling around the Internet as Ziggler has expressed his displeasure with his role, both on screen and off, and a number of people had him pegged as heading to NJPW as soon as his contract with WWE runs out. Regardless, Daniel Bryan took it upon himself as Smackdown Live commissioner to set up an 8 man tournament to crown a new US Champion at the Royal Rumble. We’re going to take a look at the first round matches and give you our picks for who we think will win it all.
Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin
Interesting here that both the former champions will face off in the first round. These two have been feuding over the title for a while now and it’s time for at least one of them to move on to a new program. Ziggler being added to the match at Clash of Champions kept that from being the blowoff match, but let’s hope that this one will finally put this program to rest.
Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley
The Hype Bros. imploded before our eyes a few weeks back, and let’s be honest it was about time. You kind of have to feel bad for Mojo even though he’s the “heel” in this feud. I liked a lot of the stuff that Ryder did in the past, but his time has come and gone. The WWE has given him a Wrestlemania moment and he’s held every other title except for the World/Universal Championship. As for Mojo, I expected more from him after he won the Andre the Giant battle royal, but despite his connections to “celebrities” outside the WWE, they just haven’t pulled the trigger on giving him a bigger push.
Jinder Mahal vs. Tye Dillinger
What can you say about Jinder Mahal. Less than a year ago he’s jobbing out at Fast Lane and then all of a sudden in April he’s in the World Championship picture eventually winning the title less than a month later. Like him (no one loves him) or hate him, he was the “heel” Champ on Smackdown until just a little less than 2 months ago. As for Tye, his call-up from NXT was a long time in the making, but much like Tyler Breeze, his “Perfect 10” gimmick isn’t getting over with the casual fan and he isn’t being booked to show off what he can really do in the ring. This match is interesting as it’s the only match in the first round where the two don’t have any sort of storyline with each other.
Travis: (Unfortunately) Jinder
Xavier Woods vs. Aiden English
Rusev Day vs. The New Day, well… sort of. Rusev’s personal singer taking on The New Day’s trombone playing, Up,Up,Down,Down hosting, resident video gamer is a nice change of pace for WWE booking. We’ve seen these two face off as parts of their respective tag teams and now they get a chance to shine as singles. In my heart of hearts I hope they give these two a decent amount of time and they put on a great match. Woods has an amazing arsenal when he’s allowed to use it and English’s style could compliment it well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this match sees outside shenanigans as the rivalry between the two teams doesn’t look like it’s going to end soon.
This was something that I’ve seen a couple of different places, and I’ll be honest, I think you could add where’s Nakamura, where’s RKO, where’s Sammy Zayn, where’s Chad Gable, where’s Breeze or Fandango etc. etc. to that argument. 8 guys is a solid field for a US title tournament and the ones that are eventually going to eat the pins aren’t going to see their stock drop because of it. Rusev being involved as opposed to English would have made that half of the bracket a lot more interesting, but that’s not the story they’re trying to tell. Let’s be realistic here. I counted 72 men on the WWE’s roster including 205 Live and people those that are injured. Find 16 that aren’t in another storyline right now or that it wouldn’t kill their whole “push” to have them lose. It’s tough so we take what we can get. To me this really similar to what they did with the title after C.M. Punk “left” but I doubt that’s the case, but if so at least it has the potential to get Ziggler into a fresh program.
Let’s see how the first round plays out and we’ll be back with our recap and predictions for round 2.
Image from wwe.com