SmackDown Recap: January 30, 2018
S2018 episode 963 Aired on January 30, 2018

With their WWE Title Match at WrestleMania now official, WWE Champion AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura teamed up against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn on SmackDown LIVE. The one rub? Owens & Zayn were informed beforehand that they would be squaring off against one another next week, with the opportunity to be the next challenger for Styles’ WWE Championship at WWE Fastlane on the line.

Following his monumental victory in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match, Shinsuke Nakamura opened the show to let everyone know that he planned on putting AJ Styles down in their title bout at WrestleMania. However, The King of Strong Style was interrupted by the disgruntled duo of Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, who believed they were robbed of becoming co-WWE Champions at Royal Rumble.

The King of Strong Style didn’t take kindly to the interruption, and AJ Styles then hit the scene to come to the aid of his WrestleMania opponent when it looked like Owens & Zayn were poised to attack. Styles expressed excitement for his dream match against Nakamura at WrestleMania, but he proposed that they form a dream team and take on Owens & Zayn tonight. However, KO & Sami didn’t seem too keen on the idea and declined, which promptly resulted in The Phenomenal One and The King of Strong Style literally knocking them down a peg and off the ring apron.

However, after The “Yep!” Movement returned to the backstage area, they were met by SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan, who informed them that they would indeed be facing Styles & Nakamura tonight. However, that wasn’t at all. Due to the controversial end to their title bout at Royal Rumble, Zayn & Owens would get another opportunity to capture the WWE Championship… by facing off against one another next week on SmackDown LIVE with the winner going on to face Styles for the title at WWE Fastlane!

With Bobby Roode’s United States Title reign now in full swing, a quartet of Team Blue’s finest squared off in a Fatal-4 Way Match to determine who would get the next opportunity at The Glorious One for the prestigious championship. Roode sat in on commentary as Rusev, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder and Jinder Mahal pushed one another to their limits as they all tried to earn the coveted title opportunity.

A chaotic opening saw Ryder and Kofi whipping out high-risk maneuvers on top of the remaining New Day members, while Aiden English and Sunil Singh caused a ruckus at ringside. Xavier Woods, Big E, English and Singh were soon ejected from the ringside area, paving the way for an even playing field.

Rusev showed off tremendous agility at the end of the match, evading his opponents’ best shots and seamlessly locking Kofi in The Accolade for the tapout victory.

After his win (on Rusev Day, no less), The Super Athlete made his way to the commentary desk to stare down Roode one week before their title showdown on SmackDown LIVE!

This dream tag team match proved to be as unpredictable as it was exciting, as AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura joined forces to face off against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn in Team Blue’s thrilling main event. However, a major wrench was thrown into the situation earlier in the evening when SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan announced that Kevin Owens would square off against Sami Zayn next week, and the winner would challenge Styles for the WWE Championship at the next SmackDown LIVE pay-per-view, WWE Fastlane.

It appeared Owens & Zayn had put their looming showdown next week in the back of their minds when the opening bell rang for their monumental clash with Styles & Nakamura. However, the looming contest couldn’t be forgotten for long, as Owens angered Zayn, prompting Zayn to briefly leave Owens by his lonesome. Zayn returned, but the dissension between the two “Yep!” Movement members remained apparent, causing Zayn to leave for a second time!

With Sami gone, Owens could not overcome the numbers game and fell to Nakamura’s pinpoint Kinshasa. Renee Young caught up with Zayn backstage to ask him if we had just seen the end of The “Yep!” Movement. Sami answered with an emphatic no, but he also made it clear that he planned on exiting KO’s shadow next week on SmackDown LIVE when he defeated him to become the next challenger for AJ Styles’ WWE Title at WWE Fastlane.

In other action … The Usos put SmackDown LIVE’s Tag Team division on blast … The Bludgeon Brothers def. local competitors … Carmella attempted to cash-in on The Queen … Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger … and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable def. Breezango.