WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Vince McMahon again stands in Kofi Kingston's way

Tuesday night's episode of SmackDown Live in Indianapolis, Indiana, as the Road to WrestleMania 35 was centered around one superstar and one superstar only: Kofi Kingston. An incredible journey for the 11-year main roster veteran toward a one-on-one shot for the WWE championship at WrestleMania would culminate in either celebration or heartbreak as he was forced to run the gauntlet against five other competitors in an attempt to earn that opportunity.

The stage was set for one of the most memorable moments in SmackDown history, only for Vince McMahon to pull the rug out from everyone -- Kingston especially -- once again. Let's take a look at everything that went down on yet another entertaining showing from the SmackDown brand on Tuesday night. 

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#KofiMania celebration will remain on hold

Prior to the main event gauntlet match, WWE champion Daniel Bryan made his way out with Rowan in tow. Bryan said that Kingston being in this gauntlet match is an injustice ... because he does not deserve this opportunity in the first place. He reminded everyone that by replacing Mustafa Ali in the gauntlet match before Elimination Chamber, he was actually "chosen." Bryan said that Kingston, unlike him, is nothing more than a B+ player, and that's OK for all the fans because B+ is good enough. He suggested that New Day should use that for some new merchandise. 

New Day interrupted Bryan's rant, and Kingston was out to run his gauntlet. First up: Sheamus. 

Kofi Kingston def. Sheamus via pinfall: Kingston made it through his first obstacle with Trouble in Paradise followed by the 1-2-3. Immediately afterwards, the other half of The Bar, Cesaro, attacked from behind to keep the gauntlet moving. 

Kofi Kingston def. Cesaro via pinfall: It was a clean sweep of the former tag team champions for Kingston after putting Cesaro away with the SOS. Out next was Rowan, who's now using the Bludgeon Brothers entrance theme. 

Kofi Kingston def. Rowan via disqualification: Essentially acting like a hitman, Bryan's lackey was disqualified after nailing Kingston with a chair on the outside. After the bell rang, Rowan slammed Kingston into the post before tossing him over the barricade. Rowan then cleared off the announce table and slammed Kingston through it with the Iron Claw. Amid the carnage, it was now Samoa Joe's turn. 

As the gauntlet match continued, more and more babyfaces gathered around the monitor in the backstage area to cheer Kingston on in his quest. 

Kofi Kingston def. Samoa Joe via pinfall: The United States champion was unable to capitalize on the aforementioned carnage and Kingston survived on. As Joe was going for the Muscle Buster, Kingston was able to reverse it into a pinfall. There was yet another attack after the bell, as Joe slapped the Coquina Clutch on before officials were able to get him away. One hurdle to go, and it's rather poetic: Randy Orton. 

Kofi Kingston def. Randy Orton via pinfall: After 55 minutes of action, Kingston rolled up Orton to earn his title opportunity at WrestleMania! Big E and Xavier Woods came out to celebrate with their partner and the feel-good moment was here. Or so we thought ... 

Vince McMahon emerged at the top of the stage and congratulated Kingston. However, he had one more wrench to throw into the plans. McMahon said that if he wants to go to WrestleMania, he'd have to defeat one more person -- that person being the WWE champion Bryan. 

Daniel Bryan def. Kofi Kingston via pinfall: Kingston fought valiantly with his opportunity on the line, but the dream (for now) came to an end after a vicious running knee from Bryan, who will now have more heel heat on him than ever before. 

Well ... not many saw that outcome headed our way, huh? Sometimes pro wrestling angles are the most successful even if you're fully aware of the endgame headed in, and the assumption on Tuesday night was that we were getting the obvious climax we've been calling for lately. When Orton was out last and they were calling back to the 2009 feud again, they really hooked you into believing we were getting a finish for the ages. But McMahon, who has really seemed enthused to play his traditional heel character opposite Kingston in this storyline, was there to take the candy away likely one last time. Now Kingston's path to MetLife Stadium and the WWE championship has become less predictable, making next Tuesday night must-watch programming. Grade: A

The Miz fires back at Shane McMahon

Miz opened up SmackDown on Tuesday night, and upon entering the ring, he immediately ran back Shane McMahon's heel turn on the Titantron. The A-lister said that besides his wife and daughter, he's sacrificed every single relationship he's ever had in this business to make it. Miz revealed that when he decided to ask McMahon to be his tag team partner, people warned him that something evil could be on the horizon, that the commissioner was a different person behind the scenes. 

Enraged, Miz called back to the heel turn and Fastlane again, saying the image of McMahon putting his hands on his father will forever be in his brain, and that he's nothing but rotten to the core ... just like his father. "You may own this company, but you don't own me," Miz said," and you don't own Kofi [Kingston]." He reminded everyone that he became the most must-see WWE superstar of all time, and he did it all on his own. He said it took him a long time to earn respect, but he thinks he finally did, which drew a loud "You deserve it!" chant from the crowd. Miz closed by letting McMahon know that all he deserves is the one thing that he's actually earned by himself: an ass-whooping at WrestleMania. 

It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone at this point, but what an incredibly passionate, well-delivered promo from Miz here in this opening segment to serve as his first words since being on the wrong end of a heel turn. It's tough to sell many fans on the thought of yet another Shane McMahon match at WrestleMania, but putting the mic in Miz's hands should sway some doubters in an optimistic direction. Between the last two weeks, we're learning that fired up babyface Miz vs. power-hungry authority heel Shane McMahon is the feud we never knew we needed. Grade: A-

What else happened on SmackDown?

  • The IIconics def. Sasha Banks (via pinfall) & Bayley: With Billie Kay taking out Bayley on the outside with a kick to the face, Banks was distracted inside the ring. Peyton Royce rolled up Banks and Kay held her arm from the outside to give the IIconics the non-title victory over the champs -- and likely a shot at the titles in some form come WrestleMania. During the match, Lacey Evans made one of her brief appearances after taking a night off last night on Raw. 
  • Rey Mysterio's WrestleMania announcement: Backstage, Mysterio had some news in regards to his WrestleMania plans. After reintroducing his son Dominic (who's recently begun training for a career in pro wrestling) back onto WWE television, Mysterio announced that he'll be facing Samoa Joe for the United States championship at WrestleMania with his son sitting ringside. 
  • Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair brawl on the "KO Show": The challengers for the Raw women's title at WrestleMania joined Owens for the "KO Show." Owens ran back all the verbal sparring that's been taking place in the feud, but he said when it comes down to it, it's all about "Fight Becky Fight" and "Fight Charlotte Fight." He exited the ring after playing the role of instigator, and the two women began brawling until security was finally able to break them apart. 
  • AJ Styles backstage promo: Styles, the proud owner of a new WWE contract, ran down all the attributes that make Orton great, calling him a first-round draft pick while he's just a walk-on. But look at him now. He's said he's going to tear the house down at 'Mania before offering up good luck to Kingston later in the night in the gauntlet match. 

Jack joined CBS Sports in 2018 as an editor and writer covering college football, combat sports and golf. He was raised to love the New York Yankees unconditionally since birth and firmly believes a four-team... Full Bio

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