Following a night of controversy on Monday Night Raw, SmackDown LIVE took place in Toledo, Ohio with a lot of buzz around it and one of their top stars, the new face of the main event of WrestleMania, Charlotte Flair. And while many may have seen Raw as a slow, boring show last night until the final hour, it felt as though everything clicked on Tuesday night. Here are the highlights for the best television network show the company has produced all year.
The Queen embraces her Kingdom
Monday Night on RAW led to complete and utter despair for fans as Becky Lynch was removed from the main event by Vince McMahon himself in favor of Charlotte Flair. So as one could expect, it was time for Charlotte to come out and say her piece after being introduced as Vince’s hand-picked choice to main event the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania. Charlotte came out to a wave of boos against her with the biggest smile on her face. Charlotte grabbed the mic to make the point that she simply told everyone that this was her destiny. “The Queen” even brought the point up how Becky selected her at Survivor Series the first time the man dropped the ball, she was the one choosing Charlotte, not Vince. Charlotte relished in the fact that people could not accept that she has been the “backbone of the division” if the fans liked it or not. She brought up how fans look at her being chosen because she was simply Vince’s favorite, but it was really because it was a smart business decision. “The Queen” would continue to add how she is a future hall of famer while Becky was just experiencing a few good months. Charlotte continued her genius remarks against the fans, bring up how despite the fans not accepting it right now, just like every other time she has main evented a PPV, they will chant “this is awesome.” This was simply Charlotte in her habitat, playing off the crowd and simply stating facts in the end. She would play with the crowd, giving them the Stone Cold “WHAT” treatment as the crowd chanted “you suck”. Charlotte would then finish up her greatness by dedicating her WrestleMania main event match against Ronda Rousey to her “best friend”, Becky Lynch. Somehow, this was the second-best part of this whole show, but Charlotte is simply embracing this and killing it in the process.
The Gauntlet w/ SmackDown LIVE MVP: Kofi Kingston
Before last night, Kofi Kingston was not even in the Elimination Chamber match, but instead Mustafa Ali was destined for an opportunity at the WWE Championship. But with Ali on the sidelines with an injured eye and sore tailbone, it was announced at the top of the night that a member of The New Day would be a part of the Elimination Chamber and the gauntlet match to determine the last entry into the Elimination Chamber match. If you have followed the New Day for some time now, you would know that their one goal left is to have Kofi Kingston win the big one. So, with the entry of Kofi into the Chamber match, this becomes his opportunity to accomplish a 10+ year goal, winning the WWE Championship out. The first participant in the gauntlet match was none other than the Planet’s Champion, Daniel Bryan. As the New Day would try and fake everyone out to ultimately get to Kofi, it was known early on that this could be Kofi’s time. Kingston and Bryan would put on a show for the Toledo faithful, going 20+ minutes in a back and forth battle that included nasty diving knee to the head of Kofi from Bryan, a blind dive over the ropes by Kingston to take out Bryan, the New Day getting thrown out from ringside, and Bryan securing the LeBell Lock on Kingston, and ultimately a reversal of the running knee by Bryan into a Trouble in Paradise by Kingston, resulting in the 1, 2, 3.
Kingston would then have to face former WWE Champion, Jeff Hardy. These two would put on a show for the fans as well, while much quicker than the first bout of the gauntlet, still entertaining. Hardy would hit Kofi with a Poetry in Motion on the outside, then rolling him into the ring to go for the Swanton Bomb. Despite being exhausted, Kofi managed to get out of the way, leaving Jeff to crash into the mat. The end of the match sequence would see Kingston hitting a top-rope crossbody of Jeff, being reversed into a close pinfall as the crowd was into it and did not want to see Kofi’s night end just yet. The formerly known “Jamaican Sensation” would get Jeff up and miss the Trouble in Paradise, yet reversing a punch thrown by Hardy into the SOS to secure yet another victory over another World Champion on the night.
However, once Jeff Hardy and Kofi’s part of the match was over, Kofi was going to have to face the “Samoan Destroyer”, Samoa Joe. This was what many fans expected to be where Kofi would see his swan song in the gauntlet match, as Joe would dominate most of the match. He would throw around Kofi, making him take the biggest beating so far in this match. As it got to the closing, Kingston got caught by Joe in the Coquina Clutch, and it all seemed over, as Kofi’s efforts was going to end with him falling asleep. Yet, Kingston continued his underdog story, as Kofi got to the corner and was able to run up it, turning Joe onto his back and getting the three count to win yet again. Of course, Samoa Joe would attack Kingston after the fact in an angry rage, laying him out with a Uranage onto his neck and putting him back into the Coquina, but this time putting him to sleep until AJ Styles would make the save.
After making the save, Styles would tell Kofi he has nothing more to prove, he can sit this one out and he wouldn’t have to prove anything else. Yet, Kofi got into Styles face said he is not giving up. He hasn’t got these chances much before and he is not going anywhere. He told Styles that he has to go through him, he is not giving up. And somehow, this would continue to be another competitive match with the heart of Kingston continuing to show in this career-altering performance. AJ would control a lot of this, but Kingston continued to put his body on the line in hopes of somehow winning this gauntlet match. There was a sequence in this match where they were on the apron and Kingston would go full force towards AJ at the ring post, and Kingston would crash and burn knees first into the metal of the turnbuckle and the LED ring post. Ouch. Kofi continued to go in this match, competing over an HOUR on this show in this gauntlet match, hitting a top rope splash onto a kneeled over Styles, getting an incredibly close two count. As Kofi would go for the SOS once again, Styles would roll it into the Calf Crusher, ultimately making Kingston finally tap out in this career defining performance. An hour-long performance by one of the most underappreciated stars in the history of the company and professional wrestling, everyone who didn’t believe beforehand did following this performance.
The match would end when Styles was watching Kofi get walked out by his New Day brothers and Orton’s music would hit, but he would come from behind, laying Styles out with the RKO and getting the quick 1, 2, 3 for the victory and the chance to enter the Chamber last. Randy Orton is your gauntlet match winner.
SmackDown LIVE became the Kofi Kingston show as he took over for Mustafa Ali and gave the performance of a lifetime. Can fans finally say that this is Kofi’s time to become WWE Champion? We will certainly see on Sunday. Kofi was emotional after the match in an interview with his brothers around him, saying he hasn’t been given these opportunities very much all these years, and it is now his time to win the big one.
The Elimination Chamber PPV takes place this Sunday at 7 pm EST live on the WWE Network and Pay-Per-View. Will it be Kofi Kingston’s time?