Welcome to the WWE Smackdown Live Review on TJRWrestling for the last live Smackdown of the year. The next two weeks of Smackdown will be taped since they are airing on December 25 (Christmas Day) and January 1 (New Year’s Day), so it's nice of WWE to give the talent those days off. The next live episode will be on January 8. Following this live episode of Smackdown, they are taping next week’s show in front of the same Fresno crowd. The January 1 Smackdown will be taped December 29 in Pittsburgh.
Here’s my WWE TLC review in case you missed it. I thought it was a pretty good show with the TLC match featuring Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Asuka as the best match of the night even with the cheap ending. They crushed it. Most of the Smackdown talent did. I also wrote about WWE TLC in an exclusive column for The Comeback with more thoughts on the show and diving a bit more into the booking decisions. Here’s my WWE Raw Deal Review for the week featuring McMahonamania running wild again.
Live from Fresno, California, this is Smackdown Live for episode #1009. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. If you want to support us at TJRWrestling, here’s a Donate Link for our Paypal where anything you send will go towards building the site. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with Smackdown’s Commissioner Shane McMahon talking to members of the locker room. When he mentioned Raw, the wrestlers yelled about it. Shane talked about the frest start for WWE and Smackdown Live. Shane said they need to create something fun for the greatest fanbase in the world, the WWE Universe. Shane said they didn't need to just grab the brass ring, they need to bring it down. Shane brought up the now former General Manager Paige. Shane thanked her for her contributions. He said she’s not going anywhere, but her role has changed. The face wrestlers cheered for Paige while some of the heels did not. The funniest moment was Big E eating some meat (Xavier Woods was eating some too) while standing beside Daniel Bryan. I laughed.
Analysis: They got rid of the GM position after the “new” changes they announced on Raw, so that means no role for Paige. Shane saying she’s not going anywhere could mean she will have some new responsibilities. Paige did a good job in the role, so it sucks to see her removed from that spot. They removed her as GM because Raw was a shitty show that people didn't want to watch while Smackdown has been good. It's a weird time in WWE.
Let’s Hear from Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch made her entrance as the former Smackdown Women’s Champion. She’s in street clothes including her “The Man” shirt. Lynch said she didn’t care who was in charge because “The Man” is in charge. Lynch said that this is where the real business is conducted. Lynch said the only thing she wants from the McMahon Family is to deliver her Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. Lynch said she made Ronnie tap out in her dressing room, she left her laying in her ring and at TLC, she cost Becky her title and didn’t have the decency to fight her. Lynch said that she’s worked too hard to get where she is to have some Roddy Piper cosplayer take it away from her.
Charlotte Flair made her entrance also in black street clothes. Flair told Lynch to take number two and stand behind The Queen because she stole Charlotte’s opportunity at TLC. Lynch said speaking of cosplayers, her days of standing behind Charlotte are long gone. Flair said that the days of Lynch looking up to her are then, now and forever. Flair said that had not Ronda been there, she would have been the 8-time Women’s Champion. Here comes Asuka.
Asuka, the new Smackdown Women’s Champion, made her entrance wearing the title around her waist. Asuka was in her wrestling gear. Asuka told them to forget Ronda because Asuka is the champion now. Lynch told her to prove it. Flair said that Asuka should thank Rousey. Lynch said that Asuka is a paper champion.
Vince McMahon’s music hit as WWE’s Chairman Vinny Mac made his entrance to a big pop. Vince walked down toward the ring, but not in the ring.
Vince wished everybody Happy Holidays and congratulated Asuka on becoming the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Vince asked why Becky is angry and said Charlotte is making excuses. Vince said that in a TLC match, anything goes and Ronda Rousey said she was going to write the next chapter in both of their careers. Vince told them to get over it and take it out on Ronda Rousey. Vince asked Asuka if she wants to defend her championship tonight. Flair and Lynch seemed happy about that while the fans chanted “yes” at them. Vince asked if anybody is ready for Asuka. Vince said let’s find out who it will be to take on Asuka and Naomi made her entrance.
Naomi stood beside Vince on the ramp. Naomi said that Charlotte has had her opportunities and Becky was the man, but she doesn’t have the title anymore. Naomi said she wants it. Vince said let’s have the match right now…and by that he means after a commercial break.
Analysis: Good promo work by Lynch to start it, Flair made her points well and Asuka barely said anything, which is usual for her. Vince McMahon appearing was a nice surprise as the crowd gave him a big ovation, but it shows that any of the McMahons (and Triple H) could appear on any of the shows at any time, so it does give a bit of a different feel to change things up a bit. Asuka vs. Naomi is a fresh matchup between two women that have been allies this year too.
The announcers are Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and David Otunga, filling in for Byron Saxton, who is sick.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka vs. Naomi
Asuka took down Naomi with an armbar. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch were seated on leather chairs at ringside. They did a spot where they each went for a dropkick and they hit eachother at the same time, so it was a stalemate as they got back to their feet. Naomi with a snapmare followed by a kick to the back. Asuka went for an ankle lock, Naomi got out of it and Naomi hit a full nelson into a slam for two. They each got nearfall attempts. Asuka with a kick to the ribs of Naomi. When Naomi went to the turnbuckle, Asuka went after her and hooked the arms of Naomi. Asuka did some yelling in Japanese and Naomi did a side Russian legsweep off the ropes leading to a commercial.
The match continued with Asuka in control as she hit a missile dropkick off the top to the back of Naomi. They battled on the floor with Naomi jumping to the top of the barricade and hitting a kick to the face. The women went back into the ring as they exchanged forearms. Asuka hit a knee lift to the face. Naomi with a jumping kick to the side of the face. Naomi went for a split legged moonsault off the top, but Asuka got the knees up. Asuka slapped on the Asuka Lock, Naomi kicked off the turnbuckle to get out of it briefly and Asuka went back to the Asuka Lock again. Naomi got out of it and countered a German Suplex with a rollup for two. Naomi hit the Rear View (aka the Jumping Ass Attack) for a two count. Naomi jumped off the top rope and Asuka countered with a Codebreaker - two knees to the face. Asuka with the Asuka Lock for the submission win because Naomi tapped out. It went 12 minutes.
Winner by submission: Asuka
Analysis: *** That was pretty good with a predictable outcome because I don’t think anybody believed Asuka was going to lose the title in her first defense. Naomi put up a good fight, got a couple of nice nearfalls there and Asuka put her away. They set up their spots well. I don’t know how many times they have wrestled, but it’s probably not a lot since they are both faces. Good chemistry between them. I’m glad that Naomi was featured in a meaningful match because she has been forgotten for most of the year.
After the match was over, Asuka held up the Smackdown Women’s Title in the ring while Flair and Lynch looked on from ringside.
There was a room with a door with “McMahon Family” on it, so Miz walked up to the door and knocked. Vince McMahon opened the door. Vince mocked Miz for the type of knock and Miz said it was manly. Miz asked for Shane and Vince said Shane can’t come out to play now. Miz said that Vince knows Miz is the most loyal guy on the roster because he’s always there. Miz thinks he and Shane can be the best tag team in the world. Miz said he’s a worthy partner for Vince’s son and he asked him for his blessing. Vince was shocked by that. He said he doesn’t give people his blessing. Vince said that Miz can prove himself. Vince said he’ll find Miz a partner for some tag team match. Miz said he’ll do the best he can as Vince shut the door.
Analysis: The bit about the blessing was funny with Miz asking for Vince’s blessing to team with Shane. That’s what a guy does when they ask a dad if they can marry their daughter. It made me chuckle a bit, so good line by Miz.
Still to come: AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali vs. Daniel Bryan and Andrade “Cien” Almas. Samoa Joe’s apology is up next.
The announce team was shown on camera with Phillips saying that Otunga is replacing Saxton for this week due to Saxton begin sick and Saxton is back next week. Saxton missed TLC on Sunday as well.
Rusev and Lana were interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Rusev said he’s a true superstar, he’s handsome, he’s a hunk, he’s got big biceps and you could shave his beard and sell it to make clothes. Lana held a Shinsuke Nakamura photo with Rusev saying that he looks like Sonic the Hedgehog. Rusev said he wants to get the US Title on the greatest day of them all, Rusev Day.
Analysis: Solid promo from Rusev. Lana didn’t say a word, which was a bit of a surprise, but Rusev is good enough at promos to handle it.
Let’s Hear from Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe
Jeff Hardy made his entrance. He got a nice pop as he greeted fans at ringside. Hardy said that he made mistakes, but that was then and this is now. Hardy said he looks in the mirror and worships the fact that he’s doing well now. Hardy said he wanted Samoa Joe to come out there, so that Hardy could witness this apology face to face.
Samoa Joe walked out in his ring gear complete with a towel around the neck. Joe walked down to the ring saying he was sorry. Joe said he’s sorry saying this is no apology. Joe got into the ring saying that this is an intervention. Joe said that he’s known Jeff a long time and they are worried about Jeff in his fragile condition. Joe said that his demons are going to control Jeff. Hardy said that the more Joe reminds him of his past, Jeff said he reminds himself that he’s never going back there. Jeff said that he and his demons see right through Joe. Jeff said that Joe attacks people’s weaknesses to cover up for his own insecurities while pointing out that Joe’s been there for two years, yet he hasn’t won one championship. Joe tried for an attack, but Jeff kicked him in the ribs and hit a Twist of Fate. Jeff’s music hit to end the segment.
Analysis: They kept it simple and got straight to the point. Jeff made some good points, Joe fired back and Jeff stopped the attack to stand tall. If this was Raw, it would have dragged on too long because they have time to kill. On Smackdown, they keep out the boring parts.
Still to come: Styles and Ali vs. Bryan and Almas.
PLUG TIME: The month of December means the 10th Annual WWE Johnny Awards are coming later this month, so please check out our polls for the awards with categories like Best Tag Team, Best NXT Takeover, and Best Heel among others. Best and Worst PPVs polls of 2018 just went up too. The winners of the polls don’t win the awards. The winners are my picks and will be announced in a column on December 27...The WWF in 2000 reviews are back. The next Raw and Smackdown should go up this week, so check out our WWF in 2000 section to stay updated every week.
The Miz made his entrance for some tag team match with the announcer Greg Hamilton saying that it was a mixed tag team match. It’s Mandy Rose as the partner of The Miz. It’s always nice seeing her. Graves: “Mr. McMahon is like Santa Claus, but better.” Great line.
R-Truth and Carmella made their entrance. Truth mentioned that they won Mixed Match Challenge and they are number 30 in their respective Royal Rumble matches. Truth pointed out that the yare going to WWE’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Truth said he’s looking forward to this match with Miz and Maryse…because he gets things wrong.
The Miz and Mandy Rose vs. R-Truth and Carmella
Carmella with a headscissors on Rose followed by a dropkick. Miz tagged in against Truth with Truth getting a rollup for two. Truth hit a clothesline that sent Miz over the top to the floor. Carmella into the ring for a Dance Break with R-Truth while Graves complained about it. Rose back in, Carmella moved and Carmella with a superkick. The Miz went back in the ring and hit a Skull Crushing Finale for the pinfall win after two minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Miz and Mandy Rose
Analysis: * Good win for the heel duo with Miz getting the win since he’s the biggest star in the match. I think losing right after a Dance Break was a fitting way to end it. Some of the Rose and Carmella action was a bit sloppy, but they got through it.
It was announced that Mustafa Ali has officially been added to the Smackdown roster. He teams with AJ Styles against Daniel Bryan and Andrade Almas later.
Analysis: I’m happy for Ali. He’s a very skilled in the ring and can put on great matches with anybody. Smackdown has a lot of good workers all over their roster. That goes for men, women and tag teams.
A video aired about new superstars coming to the main WWE roster soon: Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery (Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic), Nikki Cross and EC3. It’s the same video that aired on Raw.
The Usos made their entrance. They entered the ring for a promo saying that they run Smackdown Live. Jimmy said that even though at TLC they didn’t win the championships, that’s because they didn’t get pinned. Jey said they still got gold on the mind and asked for The Bar to come out.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson showed up for the interruption. Anderson said that week after week it’s The Usos, The New Day and The Bar week after week. Anderson said they are great teams having great matches, but last week they had a rap battle. Anderson pointed out that they haven’t been on Smackdown since August. Gallows said one of the greatest teams of the decade have been on the sidelines for too long. Jimmy said that they aren’t the reason why they fell through the cracks and added that you either step up or get stepped on. The Usos welcomed them to the Uso penitentiary. The ring announcer Greg Hamilton announced that the McMahon Family has said that match will start right now…after a break.
Analysis: It’s good to see Gallows and Anderson back on Smackdown. They are a quality tag team. I didn’t realize it had been four months since their last appearance (that means a match because they were on last month in a backstage segment prior to Survivor Series). Hopefully, they can find a regular role going forward. The last time we saw them they were faces, but they can work well as heels too.
Happy birthday to Stone Cold Steve Austin! He's 54 years young today. It is also Trish Stratus and Rob Van Dam's birthday. I don't do birthday shoutouts regularly, but this Austin tweet showed up, so I might as well drink a Steveweiser for one of my favorite wrestlers ever.
MANY THANKS FOR ALL OF THE HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES FROM EVERYONE!! MUCH APPRECIATED AND I AM GOING TO MAKE 54 AND 2019 A BAD ASS YEAR.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE CAUSE STONE COLD SAID SO! pic.twitter.com/vQFCDe9EGG
— Steve Austin (@steveaustinBSR) December 19, 2018
The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
The Good Brothers were in control of Jimmy with Anderson working him over and Gallows tagged in with a roundhouse kick to the head. Gallows with a knee to the ribs, he charged for a kick, Jimmy moved and Jey got the hot tag against Anderson. Jey with a kick to the gut, uppercut punch and a Samoan Drop put down Anderson. Jey tried a corner attack, Anderson moved, Anderson with a kick to the face and a neckbreaker got a two count. Gallows back in, Jimmy tripped up Anderson, Jey tried a rollup on Gallows and Gallows hit a sitout Chokeslam for a two count. Jimmy tagged in, then Jey tagged back in and the Usos hit a clothesline on Gallows to send him out of the ring. Anderson tagged in, Jey ran the ropes and Anderson kicked Jey in the head while Jey tried a dive out of the ring. Jey’s leg was trapped between the ropes.
The match returned with Jimmy hitting a cross body block off the top on Gallows for a two count. The crowd reacted big to that nearfall. Anderson back in as Jey was grabbing his right knee. Jimmy jumped off the top, superkick to Gallows on the apron and a superkick on Anderson in the ring. Jimmy went up top and The Bar’s music hit as Sheamus and Cesaro showed up with their titles. Jimmy connected on the top rope splash on Anderson, but Sanity showed up for an attack. That led to a disqualification after about nine minutes.
Winners by disqualification: The Usos
Analysis: **1/2 The action was okay for the time given and the crowd was into it, so when Sanity showed up, that pissed off the fans. That’s the desired reaction while also reminding the fans that Sanity are a good team. Jey was selling his leg a lot, so hopefully there wasn’t an injury when it was stuck in the ropes.
The Sanity trio of Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe beat up The Usos in the ring as well as Killian Dain going after Jey on the floor. Sanity left as they smiled at The Bar at ringside.
Sheamus and Cesaro went into the ring to stomp away on Jimmy Uso and whipped Anderson into the ring post. The Bar tossed Gallows into the barricade at ringside and they whipped Jey into the barricade as well. The Bar raised their titles.
Analysis: The tag team division on Smackdown is strong. That’s another example of it because they didn’t even need to involve New Day, yet here are four good tag teams setting up a new rivalry.
Shinsuke Nakamura was backstage and he wondered if he should be afraid of this guy. It featured clips of Rusev acting like an idiot on Total Divas while talking about his legs. Nakamura said that Rusev is not a US Championship title contender. He called Rusev a total diva.
AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali were talking strategy in the locker room because their match is next.
Next week on Christmas Smackdown: Miz TV with Shane McMahon as the guest, Shinsuke Nakamura defends the US Title against Rusev and Jeff Hardy faces Samoa Joe.
Analysis: The Nakamura vs. Rusev and Hardy vs. Joe matches could have been a part of TLC, but it was a full card. Those matches tape after Smackdown.
The New Day did a backstage promo about how they are hosting a show looking back on WWE moments from 2018. It’s on USA Network on Wednesday.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance with the WWE Championship around his waist. He made eye contact with a funny sign that was in the aisle about wasting paper.
Bryan was in the ring for a promo. Bryan talked about how he killed the Yes movement and that he retained his WWE Title. Bryan did a promo saying that he is about the creation of something better. Bryan said that on Smackdown Live, he’s creating a brave new world. Bryan added that you people won’t like it because we fear change. Bryan said that’s how we lead these lives of consumption despite info that tells us that we are destroying this planet that gives us life. Bryan added that the people of Fresno, California are the guiltiest of all. Bryan said that the city of Fresno ranks #1 in pollution in the state of California, which led to some cheers and “yes” chants. Bryan said “shame” at them repeatedly. Bryan ripped on the fans saying that we wouldn’t know GMOs if it was handed to them through a drive-through window. Bryan suggested they do not try self-education because they will fail. Bryan said that we are lucky to have somebody to teach us how to live and here he is, your WWE Champion Daniel Bryan.
Analysis: I love these promos. Bryan is as good of a promo guy as there is in the company right now because of the way he delivers these speeches. It’s not about what you say all the time, it’s about HOW you say it too. Bryan is so entertaining in this heel role. The crowd cheering for their city as having a lot of pollution is so awkward, yet it’s not a surprise at a wrestling show.
Andrade “Cien” Almas entered with manager Zelina Vega, who is the new wife of Aleister Black. The announcers aren’t going to mention that, of course.
Mustafa Ali was up next for the face team. As mentioned earlier, he is officially a part of the Smackdown roster. AJ Styles was up next as Ali’s partner. That match is the main event.
A commercial aired for WWE’s Tribute to the Troops show on USA Network on Thursday night. I might review it even though it’s not on TV here in Canada. I’ll find it.
Daniel Bryan and Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega) vs. AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali
The match started with about 18 minutes left in the show. Almas started with Styles after Bryan refused to start with Styles and Almas hit a back elbow to the head of Styles. They had a nice exchange that ended with Styles hitting a dropkick. Ali tagged in wit ha double foot stomp on the arm of Almas. Ali with an armbar, Almas drove him to the turnbuckle and Bryan tagged in with kicks. Almas tagged back in with a leg drop to the arm. Almas with two hard chops to the chest of Ali. Bryan tagged back in, Ali with a kick to the head and Ali with an X-Factor. Almas blocked an Ali attack, so Styles dropkicked Almas out of the ring and Styles gave Ali a back body drop over the top to take out the heels on the floor. That was cool.
A commercial aired for Christmas Eve Raw.
The match continued with Bryan holding Ali down and Almas tagged in with a splash off the top rope. Almas slapped on a single leg crab followed by an elbow to the back and a running kick. Bryan tagged back in kicks to the chest, Ali with a kick of his own and Bryan hit a running clothesline leading to Ali doing a flip bump. Bryan set up Ali in a surfboard submission. Bryan pulled back on Ali’s head in a dragon sleeper. Graves was reading facts about the Earth because he wanted to educate himself. Almas back in with a chop followed by a launch in the air with Ali landing onto his chest. Ali with a hurricanrana, Almas with a clothesline and Ali with another flip bump to sell it. Almas off the top for a moonsault, but Ali got his knees up to block it.
Styles got the hot tag against Bryan with a stiff clothesline followed by a running forearm to the face. Styles with a corner clothesline, Bryan fought out of a suplex, so Styles hit a neckbreaker for two. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, Bryan avoided it and Styles slapped on a Calf Crusher submission. Almas broke up the submission attempt to save his partner. Almas wanted a Hammerlock DDT, Styles fought out of that, he dumped Almas out of the ring and Ali hit a hurricanrana on Almas on the floor. Ali slipped on the steps, but he managed to complete the move. Styles wanted a Styles Clash on Bryan, but Bryan got out of that attempt and hit two kicks to the head. Bryan charged in, Styles got a boot up leading to a moonsault off the ropes into a reverse DDT. Ali was back up, so Ali tagged in with a Tornado DDT on Bryan. Ali up top and Almas went after him on the top rope. Almas was sent off the top, so Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Almas. Ali went up top and hit the 054 splash for the pinfall win on Bryan after 17 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a great tag team match, which is not a surprise considering the guys involved. Bryan and Styles are as good as it gets in today’s WWE while Almas and Ali are two young guys that get better all the time. I liked the story of the match with the heels dominating Ali, Styles was on fire with the hot tag, Bryan looked like he might be able to beat Styles again and then Ali beat Bryan for the biggest win of his career. When a champ loses non-title I hate it, but having a champ lose a tag team match is a fine way of building a contender. Going into the match, I figured the face team would win while hoping that it would be Ali, but I thought maybe Styles would get the win to get him some momentum after the TLC loss. Nope. I’m glad it was Ali that won because it elevates him quickly because he can say he pinned the WWE Champion.
Analysis x2: It looked like Ali's knee hit Bryan in the throat on the landing, so Ali said "I'm sorry" to him. Bryan was helped to the back, but he was likely okay because he worked the tapings after the match.
Post match, Ali was shocked by the win while Styles was happy for his partner. The announcers put it over as the biggest win of Ali’s career while noting that he made a huge impression. Styles raised Ali’s hand to end the show while the fans cheered them.
Analysis: That win for Ali should set up another Bryan vs. Ali match down the road, which is fine because I liked their match a lot last week. I don’t expect Bryan vs. Ali at the Royal Rumble, but maybe that’s a match they can do for the WWE Title on Smackdown perhaps on the next live Smackdown on January 8. I’m just saying it’s a possibility. I think the Royal Rumble opponent will be a bigger name like a Rey Mysterio or Jeff Hardy. I don't know, though. I think Bryan is carrying that title until at least WrestleMania and I would be surprised if he lost it before then.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Daniel Bryan – I know he lost in the main event, but he’s here for the quality performance, plus the promo.
2. Mustafa Ali
3. (tie) AJ Styles
3. (tie) Andrade Almas
7 out of 10
Last week: 7
2018 Average: 6.62
Last 5 Weeks: 7, 8, 7, 4.5, 7.5
2018 High: 8.5 (July 31)
2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2, January 9, November 20)
I give this week’s Smackdown a 7 out of 10.
It was a pretty good episode of Smackdown, which is usual for WWE’s best main roster show. The main event was great, I liked the opening match and the promo that set it up. It was cool seeing Vince McMahon on the show and having him interact with some different people. Everything else was fine.
I’m not sure what my plan is for next week. I want to take it easy a bit, but I still want to do reviews. I may do a condensed Raw Deal and Smackdown Review, so they would be about 1/3 of the length of the usual review.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 27 in Phoenix. Here’s what we know so far.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match (R-Truth is #30)
Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Carmella is #30)
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
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