Live (on tape) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this is Smackdown Live for episode #1011. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport.
Smackdown began with a shot of the crowd in Pittsburgh making a lot of noise. The announcers talked about what was coming up including John Cena appearing along with a Fatal 5-Way match to face Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at Royal Rumble.
The New Day’s New Year Celebration
The New Day trio of Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston made their entrance with Woods and Kingston in suits while Big E was dressed as the New Year’s Baby. That was not a flattering look.
Woods welcomed us to the first Smackdown of 2019 and Kingston said that the new year is here. Woods announced that all three of them will be in this year’s Royal Rumble match. Big E tried to say that they had a good chance of winning the Rumble, so they told him to stop doing “Steiner math” because of a famous Scott Steiner promo. Kingston and Woods pointed out that they could challenge for the WWE or Universal Championship with Woods commenting on the Universal Champion not showing up. Hey Brock Lesnar. Kingston mentioned not getting a title shot after 11 years leading to a funny rant by him.
Woods said that they spoke to a doctor that told them that their New Year’s Resolution should be that they no longer eat pancakes. Woods said they might give out lettuce, so Big E ate pancakes and Big E grabbed a pancake from his diaper, so he ate that pancake. Big E tossed some pancakes to the crowd. Big E said nobody follows their New Year’s Resolution anyway. Kingston said that his New Year’s Resolution was to buy a new car that’s a yellow bug, but this friend has more than meets the eye and Big E noted that was the movie Bumblebee starring John Cena. Woods mentioned the plot to the movie Bird Box. Big E noted that there will also be a match to see who the final entrant is for the Fatal 5-Way and the winner will challenge Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble. Big E announced that it is Samoa Joe and his opponent is who…Jeff Hardy made his entrance. The New Day guys danced to the Hardy song as Jeff made his way down to the ring.
Analysis: That was a mildly funny promo that was awkward at times with Big E tossing pancakes form his diaper. They really didn’t have much to say in the promo other than a few comedy bits. A more meaningful opening promo would have helped. It was also obvious WWE was piping in crowd noise and laughter, which shows that the segment wasn’t that funny since the crowd was barely reacting to them. I did enjoy the “Steiner math” bit, which is from an old TNA Wrestling promo that Scott Steiner did.
Samoa Joe made his entrance. Replays aired of their battle last week with Joe standing tall after the Coquina Clutch submission on the floor.
Samoa Joe vs. Jeff Hardy
Joe was in control early with a kneebar submission on the left leg of Hardy leading to Hardy getting to the ropes to break the hold. Hardy got some momentum with a jawbreaker followed by Hardy whipping the leg of Joe into the ring post repeatedly. Joe left the ring and the show went to break there.
The match returned with Joe hitting a running back elbow to keep Jeff grounded. Hardy was sent upside down against the turnbuckle and Joe hit a running dropkick leading to a two count. The crowd sweetening was back for this show just like last week. Hardy with a running punch to the head, atomic drop and low dropkick for a two count. Hardy hit the Twist of Fate and went up top. Hardy jumped off with a Swanton Bomb, but Joe bumped out of the ring to prevent Hardy from pinning him. Hardy went after Joe on the floor, so Joe grabbed him and slapped on the Coquina Clutch submission hold. Joe went back in the ring and the referee stopped the count that had already started for some reason. Graves called him out on it. Hardy got back in the ring and Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch again. Jeff passed out, so Joe wins by submission after 11 minutes.
Winner by submission: Samoa Joe
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match with Joe dominating most of it, Jeff making the big comeback and I thought the last couple of minutes were well done. I like how Joe rolled to the floor to avoid being pinned after the Swanton Bomb. That’s a not a surprise considering they are two veterans with a lot of experience that know how to end a match in an interesting way.
The Fatal 5-Way match was set for later with the winner facing the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble. The wrestlers in that match are AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, Randy Orton and Samoa Joe.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were shown on camera at ringside. They recapped the incident to end last week’s Smackdown when AJ Styles decked Vince McMahon with a punch after Vince slapped him in the face.
Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon were sitting in chairs in the office talking about the Fatal 5-Way for later. AJ Styles showed up in the room. AJ asked if they were sure they wanted to see him. Styles said that he won’t apologize for last week because Vince provoked him. Styles told them that if they want the real AJ Styles, watch what happens tonight unless they want to see the real AJ Styles right now. Shane and Vince stood up, AJ stared at them, so AJ left. Shane asked Vince if he wants to see the real AJ Styles, Vince said “absolutely” and Shane told his dad to be careful what you wish for.
Analysis: It looks like they are doing a storyline where they want Styles to become more of a tougher babyface now that he is no longer the WWE Champion. It’s a similar story to what’s happening on Raw with Triple H motivating Seth Rollins to become more aggressive.
Rusev’s US Title celebration is next.
PLUG TIME: The 10th Annual WWE Johnny Awards were posted a few days ago and I got a lot of great feedback on them, so thanks for that. A lot of NXT stars got some awards this year while some main roster stars did well too. It covered a lot, so please check it out…I also posted my ranking of the 10 best WWE matches of 2018. It was tough to pick just ten and placing them in the right order was difficult too. I had fun putting it together….You should also check out my column on The Comeback where I did a countdown of the 8 biggest WWE stories this year including Roman Reigns, the women’s evolution, Ronda Rousey, the next WWE TV contracts and more…I took a break with the WWF in 2000 reviews, but I plan on getting back into it later this week and check them out in our WWF in 2000 section.
Rusev’s US Title Celebration
Rusev made his entrance with his lovely wife Lana with Kayla Braxton in the ring to do the interview. A replay aired from last week’s Smackdown when Rusev beat Shinsuke Nakamura to win the US Title.
Rusev stood in the ring with a microphone while Kayla mentioned last week was Rusev’s birthday, Christmas and the day he won the US Title. The fans chanted “Rusev Day” and Rusev said it was the greatest Rusev Day of all. Rusev said that he’s going to defend the title with strength, courage, honor and he’ll do it all while smelling like a bacon-flavored cinnamon bun. He said that tonight he pledges allegiance to the United States Championship and he started a “Rusev Day USA” chant.
Shinsuke Nakamura showed up with a kick from behind. Nakamura beat on Rusev with punches. Lana jumped on Nakamura’s back to break it up and Rusev hit a Machka Kick on Nakamura, who landed on his back right on top of Lana. She sold it like she was hurt from it. Nakamura with a kick to the chest of Rusev. With Rusev staggered, Nakamura hit a Kinshasa knee to the face to put Rusev down. Nakamura grabbed the US Title and put it on Rusev. Lana was still down in the ring with Graves calling it an unfortunate accident that Lana was caught underneath Nakamura and Nakamura took advantage of it.
Replays aired of what happened. Rusev checked on his wife Lana, who appeared to be okay.
Analysis: Cheap attack by the former US Champion Nakamura to keep the feud going. I thought some of Rusev’s promo was weird, but that’s probably just WWE trying to show off his personality a bit. The spot with Lana getting hurt isn’t something WWE does that often where a woman takes a bump after a man does something, but in this case, it was done in an accidental way. In the “new” WWE, rematches for champions are not mandatory anymore, so it’s not a guarantee that Rusev will face Nakamura again. Based on this angle, we’ll probably see the match again soon.
A replay aired from last week when Mandy Rose tried to flirt with Jimmy Uso backstage, but Naomi showed up and threw a shoe at Mandy. Jimmy told his wife Naomi not to worry about it, so everything was okay between them.
Naomi made her entrance for a match after the break.
The lovely Mandy Rose made her entrance with her best friend Sonya Deville by her side. Naomi revealed she was wearing an Usos t-shirt above her gear. That pissed off Naomi, so then Sonya went into the ring to take the place of Mandy in this match.
Naomi vs. Sonya Deville (w/Mandy Rose)
Naomi worked over Deville with punches, Rose on the apron to distract, Deville with a rollup and Naomi kicked Deville in the head. Rose distracted again, so Deville hit a sliding knee for a two count. Naomi came back with a jumping kick off the ropes to put Deville down. Rose did a promo with the microphone saying that earlier today when she was getting ready, she couldn’t help but to think of her husband (Jimmy Uso), so she sent him this. An image appeared on the screen showing Mandy in a towel. Naomi was mad about that. Deville hit a knee to the ribs of Naomi. Deville picked up Naomi and slammed her into the mat for the pinfall win after about three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Sonya Deville
Analysis: 1/2* It was more of a storyline advancement match than an actual match where the focus was in the ring. This was all about continuing the rivalry with Mandy and Naomi.
Post match, Rose and Deville celebrated the win while Naomi was looking pissed off in the ring.
Analysis: I like that they are building this up as a personal rivalry. Using Rose’s sex appeal to help the story is certainly fine with me. I’m sure some people will whine about it saying it’s not as cool in this era, but I don’t mind it at all. It’s better than some of the women’s storylines that we usually get to see.
There was a backstage promo from Randy Orton about the main event coming up later where he said the RKO is devastating. Rey Mysterio also did a backstage promo about the main event about wanting to become WWE Champion again. Mustafa Ali said that he used to be the heart of 205 Live, but now he wants to be the heart of Smackdown. He mentioned that he beat Daniel Bryan (in a tag team match) because he had heart.
John Cena’s up next at the top of hour two.
The Iiconics did a New Year’s Resolution saying that they will be the first Women’s Tag Team Champions and it will be iconic…Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson said that they will eradicate Smackdown Live of all the nerds…Shelton Benjamin said that New Year’s Resolutions are a fraud and it’s time to end them once and for all. He pulled down a curtain and popped a balloon.
Samoa Joe did a promo about how he’s going to win the Fatal 5-Way match later.
Analysis: I like that we got to see promos about the main event by the competitors. It helps add to the big time feel to the match.
Let’s hear from John Cena
John Cena made his entrance to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. It is still weird seeing him with a lot of hair on his head. He said “it’s been a long time, let’s go to work” to the camera and ran down to the ring.
Cena said that the fans were all over the place with his reaction, but it feels damn good to feel that energy and he thanked them for it. Cena said that New Year is a great time to look ahead and look back. Cena noted that it’s been a hell of a year where he bought a ticket for WrestleMania, his personal life played out before the whole world, he wrote a children’s book that he was very proud of, he lived in China for six months while filming a movie and he thinks his hair is a good idea. Cena said that through it all, he still feels like a butterfly and sting like a bumblebee (his movie). He said he’s there and there’s energy in the building, but it’s not what or who, so he asked “why?” repeatedly to ask why he is here? Cena said that he has yet to have a reason. He said that in 30 seconds, somebody will come out there to say that he’s a part-timer wannabe that should just leave faster than Nikki Bella left him. He asked who is it going to be…and it’s Becky Lynch.
Becky Lynch walked out to a big ovation while wearing her “The Man” shirt with the announcers talking about her being controversial and how the world was talking about her.
Lynch asked how was it feel, he said it feels great to be back and she said that how does it feel expecting a man to come out there, but he got “The Man.” She said that it’s not that simple anymore. She said that in 2018, she wasn’t aiming to just take over Charlotte on the posters and billboards, she was aiming for him too. Lynch noted that Cena has been on every WWE marquee for the last 16 years and he personifies what this company is…or was. Lynch said that it’s time for somebody new to step up and fill that job. There were some chants for Lynch, but it sounded like some fake crowd noise too. Lynch: “And if you have a problem with that, Nikki Bella won’t be the only woman to drop you this year.”
Analysis: Great line by Lynch at the end there. Loved it. Fun interaction between a current top star like Lynch and Cena, who is the part-timer that he says he is and I liked the way they handled it.
Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega showed up for the predictable interruption. Vega pointed out that both of them are former champions that were old news. She said that the McMahon family promised a fresh start with new faces. Vega said all she sees is an older face in John Cena and in Becky Lynch, she sees a broken face that didn’t really heal up. Vega introduced herself to Cena saying she is Zelina Vega, business manager to the future of Smackdown Live, Andrade “Cien” Almas. She said 2019 will be the year of Tranquilo.
Cena fired back saying they were out of their league and instead of talking, they should come down to the ring for a tag team match right here and right now. The crowd liked that idea. Almas and Vega made their way down to the ring.
Analysis: That was a good promo from Vega. I think she’s an underrated talker that needs to be given more opportunities to show what she can do. In the ring I think she's just average at best, but she can handle herself well on the microphone.
John Cena and Becky Lynch vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega
Lynch started with Vega for a few minutes with not a lot happening. The guys tagged in with Cena facing off with Almas for the first time, which led to the Tranquilo pose by the ropes. Almas took control with a forearm to the face as fans chanted “We Want Becky” for Lynch. Almas worked over Cena with more punches against the ropes, so Vega went into the ring with a kick to the face with Cena selling it like it hurt. Cena came back with a suplex on Almas, but Almas came back with a clothesline.
The match returned with Almas still in control as they showed a double moonsault spot by Almas for a two count. Almas worked over Cena with punches while he was up against the turnbuckle. Almas went for the double knee attack against the turnbuckle, Cena moved and Almas hit the turnbuckle. Lynch got the hot tag meaning Vega had to go in and Lynch hit her with a powerslam. Lynch with a running forearm on Vega. Lynch hit the Bexploder Suplex followed by a missile dropkick off the top for two. Almas back in the ring, so Cena dropped him with shoulder tackles, the Five Knuckle Shuffle, the Attitude Adjustment and the lightning fist punch on Almas. Lynch shoved Cena out of the ring. Vega got a rollup, Lynch got out easily and Lynch did the Dis-Arm-Her arm submission on Vega for the win after 11 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: John Cena and Becky Lynch
Analysis: **3/4 That was a pretty good mixed tag team match. There are limitations on those kinds of matches since the guys can’t hit the girls (I’m fine with that), but they managed to get through it and told an interesting story. I’m not surprised by the face team getting the win since Lynch continues to be pushed hard. Lynch is great and Vega is not very good in the ring, but what they did was fine. The negative to it is that it would be nice if a young guy like Almas could beat an older guy like Cena. That wasn’t going to happen here. Perhaps they can do it again down the road.
After the match was over, Cena wanted a handshake, Lynch didn’t shake his hand and did the “you can’t see me” hand gesture. Lynch left looking proud while Cena smiled about it. Cena posed in the ring as his music played.
Analysis: It was a fun interaction by Lynch and Cena on this show.
The Miz went up to Shane McMahon in the office. Miz thanked Shane for giving them a chance as a tag team. Shane said that he has so much responsibility and so many things going on. Shane says he’s still going to team with Miz, which Miz said it was good. Miz had a graphic on made to show Miz and Shane dressed the same in black attire like The Miz’s look. Shane didn’t like it. Miz suggested something else, so it was the red attire that Miz uses. Shane was not interested in it. Shane told Miz to really think about this, which led to Shane leaving and Miz kept on talking without realizing Shane left.
Analysis: There is a slow build to this story, which is cool. Miz is entertaining in this role.
The Fatal 5-Way match is coming up next in the main event.
The video package aired about new faces coming from NXT to the main roster soon. It’s Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross and EC3. These videos have aired for a few weeks.
Asuka was shown backstage with her Smackdown Women’s Title when Triple H showed up to shake her hand. He congratulated her on being champion. Hunter said that it’s that time of year where he’s wondering who Asuka feels should challenge her at the Royal Rumble. Asuka said she’ll fight anybody because nobody is ready for Asuka. Charlotte Flair showed up (in a see through style shirt) saying if it wasn’t for Ronda Rousey, she would be champion. Carmella arrived in a “money” dress while noting she has beat both of them twice. Charlotte told her to take her dance break somewhere else. Becky Lynch said there is only one option to face Asuka and that is “The Man.” Triple H said that everybody makes a good point, they’ll take it under advisement and let them know when they make a decision. The women had a staredown to end it.
Analysis: I assume the plan is a triple threat with Charlotte, Becky and Carmella on Smackdown at some point this month and the winner of that gets the title shot at the Royal Rumble. Since Charlotte and Becky are Royal Rumble favorites, maybe Carmella will win. I don’t know. I’m just throwing it out there. What wasn’t mentioned there is Carmella is #30 in the Royal Rumble. She could still get the title shot, though. It could be Charlotte or Becky getting the title shot and that woman may be in the Rumble match too.
The entrances for the five men in the main event took place. The order of entrants was Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Randy Orton. The match is after a break.
Fatal 5-Way: AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali
The winner of this match gets to challenge Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble on January 27. The first fall wins the match.
Joe slammed Ali, Styles kicked Joe in the head and Styles hit a backbreaker on Mysterio. When Styles ran the ropes, Ali pulled him out of the ring and Styles whipped Ali into the steel ring post. Nice bump by Ali there. Orton punched Styles off the apron to knock him down. Almas hit an X-Factor facebuster on Orton for a two count as Daniel Bryan was shown watching on a TV backstage. Mysterio hit a senton attack on Joe and Styles whipped Mysterio into the turnbuckle. Phillips noted they have never had a match in a WWE ring. Styles whipped Mysterio hard into the turnbuckle again. Mysterio hit an incredible headscissors to send Styles out of the ring, but Orton got back in the ring with a powerslam on Mysterio. Ali with a dropkick on Orton and Joe hit an overhead belly to belly suplex on Ali. Styles back in with a moonsault off the ropes into a DDT on Joe for a two count. The show went to break there.
The match returned with Orton in control with a forearm to Mysterio. Styles back in with a clothesline that sent Orton out of the ring. Styles sent Mysterio out of the ring leading to Rey’s chest bump out of the ring. Styles with a forearm to Ali. Samoa Joe tripped up Styles on the apron, Orton slammed Orton on the apron and Joe gave Styles a uranage slam onto the announce table, which broke the table. Joe and Orton had a staredown over a fallen Styles, so Ali and Mysterio hit dives to take out the heels on the floor. Ali and Mysterio shook hands, Mysterio with a headscissors takedown, a forearm to the face and Mysterio went up top, but Ali punched him. Ali went up top and hit a Spanish Fly slam on Mysterio for a two count with Joe breaking up the pin. That’s such a cool move. Ali came back with an incredible satellite DDT on Joe. Ali went up top for the 054 splash, he jumped off, but Joe moved and Ali hit the mat hard. Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch on Ali, who got the ropes, but there’s no rope break in this match. Mysterio capitalized with a 619 kick on Joe. Mysterio with another 619 on Ali. Orton pulled Mysterio off the apron and sent him to the floor. Orton back in the ring with a RKO on Ali, but Mysterio hit a leg drop off the top rope onto Orton to break up the pin attempt. Mysterio kicked Orton, a 619 by Rey to Orton and Joe grabbed Mysterio, but Mysterio sent Joe into the barricade with a headscissors. Styles got back into it with a springboard 450 splash off the top rope onto Orton leading to Styles covering Orton for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: **** Great match that was full of action from the moment it began. Styles was the centerpiece of the match and he was put over big at the end, but all five guys really got a chance to shine in the match. Ali has already proven he belongs on the main roster. The other guys in the match are experienced pros with two decades of experience, so when they are out there selling for Ali, it makes him look great. I enjoyed the interaction between Styles and Orton. They haven’t really wrestled much even though they have been two key Smackdown guys for over two years. That’s a rumored WrestleMania match, so it will be nice to see if they build up to that. Styles winning sets up another match against Bryan, which should be awesome.
After the match was over, Styles celebrated the win while highlights aired of what happened. The announcers pushed that the “real” AJ Styles is now back and he’s going to face the “new” Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble. Styles continued the celebration to end the night.
Analysis: I hope the Bryan/Styles match has a stipulation because they’ve done a few regular matches already. Let’s see them in a gimmick match like a Street Fight or something like that. The rivalry also deserves a gimmick match.
Three Stars of the Show
- AJ Styles
- Becky Lynch
- John Cena
7 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
Last 5 Weeks: 6.5, 7, 7, 8, 7
I give this week’s Smackdown a 7 out of 10.
I enjoyed Smackdown quite a bit with the great main event, plus the Lynch/Cena interaction and that match was fun too. That second hour was very entertaining. The first hour was a bit dull, but I wasn’t bored by any of it.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 27 in Phoenix. Here’s what we know so far.
30 Man Royal Rumble for Wrestlemania 35 WWE or Universal Title Match (Confirmed entrants: Drew McIntyre, R-Truth at #30, New Day’s Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston)
30 Woman Royal Rumble for Wrestlemania 35 Raw or SD Women’s Title Match (Confirmed entrants: Carmella as #30, Natalya)
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. fourth competitor TBA
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