Dolph Ziggler walks out
With a light "you deserve it" chant welcoming him to the ring, the new United States champion said he's taken every literal and figurative bump that's been thrown his way the last 12 years and always proved that he's the best. He then showed footage of his first U.S. title win back in 2011, his five intercontinental title victories and his world heavyweight championship cash-in win before screaming about how he's been underappreciated. Ziggler said fans were not worthy of him and did not deserve to be in his presence. He then laid the title down at his feet and left the ring without saying another word.
Rumors of Ziggler's eventual departure from WWE have gone on for years, mostly due to the fact that he's rarely received a legitimate and lengthy push. This is either all of that finally coming to fruition as his contract nears its end, or it is what could be a fantastic storyline playing off of those sentiments. It's too early to say for sure, but since Ziggler was relatively vague in his promo, it's probably the latter. WWE's biggest failure here was not going to the commissioner or general manager for their reaction to one of the brand's top champions either walking off the show and/or relinquishing his title.
Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon square off
After Bryan celebrated the women's Royal Rumble and announced Tuesday night's main event to open the show, McMahon hit the ring and recounted the events of Sunday night. McMahon admitted he let his emotions get the best of him by not counting 1-2-3 for Sami Zayn but said Bryan has given no explanation for his quick count. Bryan responded that he made the move to save McMahon from himself and preserve SmackDown's "land of opportunity" motto. McMahon said he understood Bryan's empathy for Zayn and Kevin Owens but promised they would stab him in the back sooner than later. Bryan asked pointedly if McMahon is trying to tell him to do what's "best for business," a phrase he has fought against his entire career. "If you have a different vision, that's your prerogative. And if you need to fire someone, fire me," he said, "because I don't want to see Shane O'Mac turn into Mr. McMahon." After a long pause, McMahon responded that he respects and trusts Bryan implicitly before wishing him luck the rest of the night.
Owens and Zayn handed Bryan a bottle of champagne backstage to thank him in a later segment, but he said he didn't do what he did at Clash of Champions for them and that he did not drink. Owens and Zayn then assumed Bryan did it because of Randy Orton -- with whom Bryan long feuded -- so he told them to wipe the smiles of their faces and stop gloating or he will fire them himself.
WWE definitely has us hanging by the edge of our seats here as we await some sort of heavy development in this storyline. Right now, it remains a slow build -- and that's OK as long as it goes somewhere. I could see a scenario in which each has a representative square off to determine who controls SmackDown. Of course ... they could also go one-on-one themselves ... if Bryan gets cleared to wrestle.
What else happened on SmackDown?
- Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin def. The Usos via pinfall in a non-title match: This feud was paused for the Fatal 4-Way at Clash of Champions, and watching this match makes one wonder why it transpired that way. Yet another tremendous tag team match on SmackDown featured both teams getting plenty of offense. Gable hit Jimmy Uso with a roll-through German suplex, taking him out of the match, delivering another to Jey Uso beforer climbing the top rope for an elevated clothesline from the top rope for the clean 1-2-3. They may not be American Alpha, but Gable & Benjamin definitely work as a team.
- Charlotte Flair talks women's Royal Rumble: After a video package aired announcing the first-ever women's Royal Rumble, Flair thanked the fans for forcing this into reality by chanting in arenas and demanding that WWE management put the women on equal footing as the men. She then said she will be waiting for the winner at WrestleMania 34, which led Naomi out to the ring to declare herself the first official entrant. The Riott Squad followed, but before they could even speak, Naomi tore them apart and challenged them to a match.
- Charlotte Flair & Naomi def. Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan via pinfall: A scorpion kick and springboard Insiguri from Naomi hobbled Logan, and she followed with the Rear View for an easy victory.
- The New Day def. Rusev & Aiden English via pinfall: All dressed in Christmas costumes, The New Day, Rusev and English encountered each other backstage and showed off their new WWE Shop merchandise before Rusev challenged New Day to a match. After New Day forced English's face into a stack of pancakes and whipped cream on the ringside table, they picked up the easy win back inside the ring.
- AJ Styles, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & Jinder Mahal via pinfall: Just as the faces were getting an upper hand, The Singh Brothers hit Nakamura from behind and got ejected. Orton then hit an RKO on Mahal and a double elevated DDT on the Singhs, who refused to leave ringside immediately. Styles added a Phenomenal Forearm on Owens, and Nakamura finished things off with Kinshasa on Zayn for a dominant win.