WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: New Elimination Chamber entrant shines, Charlotte Flair trolls
Mustafa Ali is out of the WWE title match but his replacement stole the show on Tuesday
With WWE Elimination Chamber set to take place this Sunday night, the Road to WrestleMania 35 is moving along rather swiftly. The talk of the pro wrestling world over the course of the past 24 hours, without question, was WrestleMania and the inclusion of Charlotte Flair into the Raw women's championship match on April 7 following the "suspension" of Becky Lynch. Still officially a member of the SmackDown Live roster, the multi-time women's champion made her present felt on Tuesday night to follow up on the decision made by Vince McMahon.
But the main focus of Tuesday's go-home edition of SmackDown was the Elimination Chamber event -- more specifically, figuring out who would earn the advantage of being able to enter the WWE championship Elimination Chamber bout last this weekend. This was sorted out Tuesday night with a lengthy, entertaining gauntlet match featuring all six men with one of the participants standing out above all the others.
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Kofi Kingston shines, Randy Orton capitalizes
At the beginning of Tuesday's SmackDown, the rumors of Mustafa Ali being pulled from Sunday's WWE championship Elimination Chamber match were confirmed. In his place, one member of the New Day would get the chance to compete for the WWE title in Houston this weekend, though it wasn't immediately revealed which member of the group would receive the honor. Ali cut a pre-taped promo during the show proclaiming that he won't stay down for long.
The WWE champion Daniel Bryan was out prior to the gauntlet match and said there's a lot of people who want to see him lose on Sunday, but they're all just fickle and lying to themselves. He said he doesn't want to enter the Chamber on Sunday but his sacrifice is necessary to win the match and stay WWE champion. Bryan was interrupted by New Day, and after a few teases, Kofi Kingston was revealed as the member of the group getting a shot at the WWE title. He'd also be starting the gauntlet match against the WWE champ himself.
Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall: In what was an incredible showdown to kick off the main event, Kingston earned the clean pin on the WWE champion. After Rowan was ejected from ringside by the referee, Bryan attempted to capitalize on the distraction by going for the running know but Kingston surprised the champ with Trouble in Paradise followed by the clean pinfall. Jeff Hardy was out next to face Kingston.
Kofi Kingston def. Jeff Hardy via pinfall: Kingston kept his momentum rolling, earning the 1-2-3 after connecting with the SOS. A fresh and frightening Samoa Joe was next up to try his hand at Kingston.
Kofi Kingston def. Samoa Joe via pinfall: Kingston, who had surpassed the 45-minute mark in the match as he continued to impress, survived an intense battle with Joe by countering the Coquina Clutch, using his feet to push off the top turnbuckle and pin Joe's shoulders to the mat for the shocking win. Afterwards, though, Joe snapped and wrapped the Coquina Clutch back on outside the ring. AJ Styles was out next to enter the match and also make the save for Kingston by fighting Joe off.
AJ Styles def. Kofi Kingston via submission: Styles gave Kingston the opportunity to back out following the attack by Joe, but Kingston fired himself back up. Having broke the 60-minute mark now during the battle with Styles, Kingston unfortunately succumbed to the Calf Crusher and left to a standing ovation from the crowd as he was helped to the back by Big E and Xavier Woods. With just one minute left in the show, however, it was blatantly obvious what was coming next ...
Randy Orton def. AJ Styles via pinfall: Orton's music hit, and as Styles was staring at the entrance ramp waiting for his opponent, "The Viper" slithered into the ring from behind, put Styles down with the RKO outta nowhere and earned the right to enter the Elimination Chamber match last on Sunday night. With the TV time constraints, the show quickly left the air after the 1-2-3 was counted.
More than determining who enters the Chamber last, this match set out to showcase Kingston as a legitimate challenger to the WWE title on Sunday, and boy was that mission accomplished. Every once in a while, we're reminded just how talented the veteran is inside that ring, and Tuesday night, we were given an hour's worth of Kingston showcasing his skills against a variety of opponents. It still seems likely that Bryan will be walking out of the Elimination Chamber with the WWE title one way or another (especially given his early exit from this gauntlet match), but it was nice of creative to go out of its way to give some deserving shine to Kingston five days before the PPV event. Grade: A
Troll, Charlotte, troll
SmackDown kicked off on Tuesday night by reliving the events that closed Raw on Monday as McMahon suspended Lynch for 60 days and subsequently inserted Flair into the Raw women's title match against Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. Flair made her way out to the ring and told Lynch and Rousey that they both know she's the backbone of the entire women's division. She said that McMahon chose her not because she's his favorite, rather the chairman simply made a smart business decision by choosing a future Hall of Famer over someone who's just had a few good months. Flair told us that we may not be happy with Mr. McMahon's decision, but just like every other pay-per-view match she's ever competed in, everyone is going to be chanting "this is awesome!" come WrestleMania.
The "queen" dedicated the upcoming WrestleMania main event performance to her "best friend" Lynch, and just as she was seemingly about to exit the ring, the former Raw and SmackDown women's champ returned and soaked in the "you suck!" chants and loud boos from the crowd. To close the show-opening promo, Flair revealed that she has a front-row ticket to Rousey's Elimination Chamber title defense against Ruby Riott on Sunday, and who knows, maybe she'll even have a new 'Mania opponent.
I may be in the minority here (the internet the past 24 hours has informed me that I am), but I have no issue whatsoever with the entire Flair angle and the crowd trolling that goes along with it. With a lot of time between now and WrestleMania to kill, there's much room to fill, and WWE tapping into the crowd's anger over the insertion of Flair into the biggest match in WWE women's history is a good way to pass that time. Flair has always reached her highest potential when given the chance to shine as the arrogant heel, and with the biggest platform she's been given in her career to draw the ultimate heat, she's off to a fantastic start -- both on television and Twitter. Grade: B+
What else happened on SmackDown?
- Naomi & Carmella def. Mandy Rose (via pinfall) & Sonya Deville and The IIconics: Naomi got the pinfall victory over her rival Rose after hitting a split-legged moonsault. With the loss, Rose & Deville will now be forced to enter Sunday's Elimination Chamber match to determine new women's tag team champions first against Sasha Banks & Bayley. Following the bout, the IIconics reentered the ring from the outside and beat down Naomi & Carmella to stand tall.
- The Usos send a message to the champs: Ahead of the SmackDown tag team championship match this Sunday, Jimmy and Jey Uso were the guests on "McMiz TV" this week. The segment began with some playful banter with the Usos proclaiming Miz and Shane McMahon aren't as familiar with one another as a team like they are. Things took a serious turn, though, when Jimmy mentioned Maryse and Miz countered by asking if they should be talking about Mandy Rose. The two teams faced off in the middle of the ring jawing with each other, and the Usos nailed the champs with stereo superkicks to bring it all to an end.
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