WWE SmackDown Results: Biggest Winners, Losers and Moments from January 2
Daniel Bryan continued to stir the pot on Tuesday nights, this week capping off a strong episode of WWE SmackDown by inadvertently helping Sami Zayn win a match against AJ Styles, then booking The Phenomenal One in a handicap match against Zayn and Kevin Owens for his WWE Championship at Royal Rumble.
Bryan's continued excellence as the controversial general manager not only continued the excellence of his ongoing story, it earned him "winner status."
Joining him was Xavier Woods, who was allowed the opportunity to showcase his abilities as a singles competitor, while Natalya's Welcoming Committee did not fare nearly as well, losing a match to The Riott Squad and becoming an afterthought of sorts right out of the gate.
Delve deeper into the significant stars from the January 2 episode of SmackDown and find out why they stood out from the pack with this recap of Tuesday's USA Network broadcast.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
The general manager of SmackDown Live has been outstanding in teasing potential collusion with Owens and Zayn, and Tuesday was no different.
By ordering Shane McMahon to the back during the main event, he provided just enough a distraction that Owens was able to intervene in the match between buddy Zayn and WWE champion AJ Styles and alter the outcome.
The post-match announcement that Styles will defend the title against both Zayn and Owens only added to speculation that Bryan has somehow set aside his morals to assist his fellow Ring of Honor alumni.
The storytelling has been superb, watching Bryan rediscover his edge rather than being a one-dimensional authority figure who plays to the babyfaces. He is taking a stand, and it has been rewarding for the audience to watch, especially given the dynamics.
A rebel against the oppressive rule of the McMahons, he has ruled against his superior in the name of preventing even Owens and Zayn from experiencing the injustice he did at their hands.
It has made for an engaging storyline and helped SmackDown become a bigger, better and more significant show than it was before.
Losers: The Welcoming Committee
Natalya, Lana, Tamina and Carmella have formed The Welcoming Committee in recent weeks, and Tuesday night, they had their biggest test to date as they battled The Riott Squad in a war of factions.
While they were presented well enough during the match itself, they lost and were tossed aside in favor of a hot post-match angle that featured the return of Becky Lynch.
How can fans expect to take the thrown-together faction seriously when they are treated like afterthoughts? Why would they not have been a part of the beatdown of The Riott Squad, joining Charlotte, Naomi and Becky Lynch in standing tall against the oppressive trio?
It was a booking misstep that can be righted by booking them in a massive beatdown of both babyfaces and heels. Otherwise, they will constantly be perceived as a group of losers with no realistic shot of beating the more prominently featured performers.
Winner: Xavier Woods
Throughout the second half of 2017, Xavier Woods delivered some of his finest performances while partnering with Big E and Kofi Kingston against The Usos, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, and Rusev and Aiden English.
Often underutilized as an in-ring performer, relegated to ringside, his abilities between the ropes are overshadowed.
Tuesday, he defeated Aiden English to advance in the United States Championship tournament. While the match itself was nothing special, Woods now has the opportunity to move on and showcase what he is capable of against the former WWE champion, Jinder Mahal.
That is a major opportunity for a Superstar whose one role over the last year or so has been playing the theme from Final Fantasy 7 on his trombone.