By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Fresno, California at Save Mart Center
Backstage, Shane McMahon addressed the Smackdown Roster. He mentioned last night’s Raw, which got boos from the roster. He said it ushered in a fresh start on Smackdown Live, and it would bring a lot of new opportunity. He said they owe it to themselves, and to the fans to create the best possible product for themselves and the fans. He told them to rip down the brass ring, and that all of them would be held accountable going into the future. He brought up Paige to thank her as the former General Manager, and thanked for her enormous contributions. He said she wasn’t going anywhere, her role had just changed. There was a large thank you Paige chant from the crew.
In the arena, Becky Lynch opened the show and made her entrance. Photos were shown of the TLC Match from Sunday. A big Becky chant broke out while she grabbed the microphone. She said she doesn’t really care who runs the show, because the man is in charge. She then said that she wasn’t about to listed to some corporate speech, because the real business happens in the ring. All she wanted from the McMahon Family was to deliver her the Raw Women’s Champion on a platter. She said she was inches away from her Smackdown Women’s Championship when Ronda pushed the ladder over, and she didn’t even have the decency to fight her. She said when she had beef with Ronda, she went to Raw and tapped her out in her own locker room, and laid her out in her own ring. She said she wasn’t going to let some Roddy Piper cosplayer take her Championship away.
Charlotte interrupted and told Becky to take number 2 and stand behind the queen. Becky called Charlotte a cosplayer as well, and said her days of standing behind her are over. Charlotte said she would always be looking up to her then, now and forever. Asuka then interrupted both of them. There was a brief Asuka chant, and she said forget Ronda, she was the champion now. Charlotte and Becky called her a paper champ, and said she hadn’t beaten either of them. Vince McMahon’s music then played.
He walked out to the bottom of the stage near the ring. He said Happy Holidays to the crowd, and congratulated Asuka. McMahon said Becky and Charlotte’s conduct was unbecoming, because they were making excuses for themselves. He told them to get over it, and if they had a problem, they should take it out on Ronda Rousey. He then asked Asuka if she would like to defend her championship tonight, and Naomi then interrupted. She said Charlotte and Becky had their chance, and she wanted the title. Vince made the match for next…[c]
My Take: That was….something? Becky and Charlotte’s performances weren’t particularly memorable, and then Vince essentially punked out both of them for whining afterward. I am interested to see what Vince meant by taking out their frustrations on Rousey, however. Was he encouraging them to switch shows? Also, what is Paige’s role going to be going forward? She was the best authority figure in the company by default.
1. Naomi vs. Asuka: David Otunga joined Corey Graves and Tom Phillips on commentary. They traded holds early on, but no one grabbed a clear advantage. Asuka missed a kick, and they both went for dropkicks a few seconds later. Asuka took control with some kicks. Naomi took to the top rope, but Asuka followed and applied an abdominal stretch. She then took the opportunity to jaw at Charlotte and Becky, but Naomi fought out of it and hit a russian leg sweep…[c]
Asuka hit a dropkick from the top rope that sent Naomi to the floor. On the outside, Naomi jumped up on the barricade and hit a flying kick. Both women had to scramble to meet the ten count. They both got to their feet and traded blows. Naomi hit a kick to the side of the face. She then went up top for a split legged moonsault, but Asuka got the knees up and transitioned to an Asuka Lock. Naomi managed to fight to her feet and escape, but Naomi quickly pulled her back into the hold. After some sloppy transitions and escapes, Naomi hit a Rear View for a near fall.
She then went to the outside and went for a springboard flying nothing, which landed into an Asuka Codebreaker for a near fall. Asuka then quickly applied the Asuka lock for real this time and Naomi was forced to tap out.
Asuka defeated Naomi at 9:32
After the match, The Miz approached an office labeled “McMahon Family”. He knocked, and Vince answered pissed off because knocked obnoxiously. Miz asked if Shane was around, and Vince said he couldn’t play right now. Miz tried to sell Miz on the idea that he and Shane could be the best tag team in the world. He asked him to bless their tag team, and Vince was offended and said he didn’t do that. What he would do would is make him a tag team match to see how good he really is. It wasn’t clear whether Vince would find him a partner, or if Miz would find one himself. Vince seemed a bit lost at the end. Samoa Joe is up next…[c]
My Take: That match didn’t thrill me, but Asuka needed a victory and the list of people that mean a whole lot after Charlotte and Becky is basically non-existant. Miz seemed a bit thrown off by Vince having to improv his way out of that promo segment, but they got the point across anyways.
Rusev was interviewed backstage. He said he hoped the McMahon family was listening, because he wanted an opportunity at the US Championship. He called himself a super athlete and a man of action, and said his beard could be sold for thousands of dollars in the internet to make sweaters for babies. He then called Shinsuke Nakamura Sonic the Hedgehog, and said he would never be able to run away from Rusev. In the arena, Jeff Hardy made his entrance for Samoa Joe’s apology.
Jeff said he heard that Samoa Joe wants to apologize to him. He acknowledged that some of the things Joe said about him were unfortunately true. He said he has had his demons and he’s made his mistakes, but that was then and he’s healthy and well in the here and now. Jeff then demanded Joe come make his apology face to face.
Joe walked down to the ring and said he was sorry. He was sorry because this was no apology. He said he was sorry he was forced to deceive him, because this was an intervention. He said the entire WWE Universe was worried because the Holidays can be especially rough to someone in his fragile condition. Hardy interrupted and said the more Joe reminds him of his past, the more he is resolved to never go back there. He said he attacks people’s weaknesses to cover up for his own insecurities. He asked Joe if it bothered him that he’d been here for two years and not won one championship? Joe stewed a bit, and then tried to attack Hardy, but he got put down with a twist of fate. Joe steamed in the ring.
The announce team hyped Daniel Bryan and Andrade Almas vs. AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali for later…[c]
My Take: Rusev was a bit rambly backstage. Seemed like he may have tried to rush through his promo a bit. I like the change in the Joe vs. Hardy program. Joe could use a win, and Hardy getting under his skin would be a good way to get some fire and anger back into his character.
Miz walked out for his Tag Match, and was told it was a Mixed Tag Team Match. Mandy Rose made her entrance as his partner. They will be facing R-Truth and Carmella. Truth announced they were going to WWE HQ in Stamford, and Carmella tried to look happy about it.
2. The Miz and Mandy vs. Carmella and R-Truth: Carmella hit a flying headscissors on Mandy out of the gate. Miz tagged himself in, and Truth quickly send him to the floor. He and Carmella then had a dance break. Mandy ran in and went for a flying knee on Carmella, but she avoided it and kicked her. Truth was then distracted, and Miz snuck in and hit a Skull Crushing Finale for the victory.
Mandy Rose and The Miz defeated Carmella and R-Truth at 2:11
Footage was shown from last week between Daniel Bryan and Mustafa Ali. It was then announced that Ali had joined the Smackdown Roster…[c]
My Take: I guess the Miz proved that he’s worthy of teaming with Shane? At this point, this feud could be lost when the great revolution comes, because it feels like it’s been treading water for weeks.
The announce team threw to some video packages for incoming superstars from NXT. It was the same videos from Monday’s Raw.
The Usos made their entrance and said they run Smackdown Live. He said they might not have won the Championships at TLC, but they weren’t the team that got pinned. They asked for The Bar to come out, but got the Good Brothers instead. Karl Anderson said he was tired of watching the same teams having the same matches for months. Gallows said they haven’t been on Smackdown in four months, and they were one of the greatest Tag Teams of the last decade. The Usos told them they weren’t responsible for them falling through the cracks. You either step up or you get stepped on. Gallows and Anderson entered the ring, and a ref ran down and confirmed the match is right now…[c]
My Take: Happy to see Gallows and Anderson get some TV Time….we’ll see if it lasts.
3. Gallows and Anderson vs. The Usos: Gallows and Jimmy Uso started the match, with Gallows immediately taking control. Jimmy broke a headlock and got to his feet, and Gallows charged him in the corner and took a spill over the ropes. Jey and Karl Anderson tagged in. Karl hit a nice running neckbreaker and tagged Gallows. They tried to set up for a double team move, but Jimmy pulled Anderson out of the ring. Gallows then hit a sit out chokeslam for a near fall.
Gallows crashed awkwardly in the corner and got kicked by both Usos. Anderson made a blind tag while Gallows got sent over the top rope by Jimmy Uso. Jey set up for a dive out to the floor, but Anderson intercepted him with a kick, and Jey’s leg got wrapped up in the top and middle ropes…[c]
Jimmy Uso superkicked both Gallows and Anderson. Gallows was kicked out of the ring. Jimmy set up for a splash from the top and hit it on Anderson. The Bar made their entrance while Jimmy made a pinning attempt, but it was broken up by Sanity, who laid waste to both Gallows and Anderson and The Usos.
The match ended in an apparent no contest
After Sanity put a beating on both teams, The Bar walked down to ringside and got a few licks in themselves. They then held up their titles and celebrated. Jey Uso never rejoined the match after his knee was caught up awkwardly in the ropes. Backstage, Nakamura asked if he should be afraid of this? He then showed footage of Rusev from Total Divas, in various states of undress and embarrassment. Elsewhere, Mustafa Ali and AJ Styles prepared for their match next…[c]
My Take: I’m not sure if attempting to make everyone in the tag division relevant at the same time is going to work, but they are giving it a shot. We’ll see if they can stick with it for more than a couple of weeks. The Nakamura promo just served to make Rusev more likable, which was perhaps the point. Shinsuke seems completely directionless right now. He could really use a change of pace and a much more sinister heel character. He’s too comedic right now, even if it’s unintentional.
Backstage, New Day plugged their Holiday Best of 2018 show for tomorrow night. Daniel Bryan made his entrance in the arena. He grabbed a microphone and said he destroyed the house AJ Styles built on Sunday. He said unlike the people, he does not favor destruction, he believes in creation. He said he’s creating something beautiful on Smackdown. He accused the crowd of being afraid of change, and chastised them for their lifestyles of endless consumerism and consumption. He then said the City of Fresno ranks #1 in pollution in the State of California. The crowd broke out in Yes Chants for this. Bryan then chanted shame at them.
He then quoted Isaac Asimov and said that self-education is the only education that works. He said that may work for men like Isaac and himself, but the crowd wouldn’t know what education was if it was pumped with GMO’s and handed to them through a drive thru window. Bryan said the crowd was lucky though, because they had a wise teacher in the WWE Champion the New Daniel Bryan. Andrade Almas then made his entrance, followed by AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali…[c]
My Take: Another very good promo from Daniel Bryan, even if he didn’t really break any new ground. I wouldn’t want to see him repeat himself for another six weeks heading into the Royal Rumble, but he is very well connected to this character, and once he has someone new to talk about, he’ll be ready to light them up.
4. AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali vs. Daniel Bryan and Andrade Almas: AJ got popped early with a back elbow from Almas that popped the crowd. Almas covered and got a one count. Styles recovered and hit a dropkick, and tagged in Mustafa Ali. Almas tried to use power to break free of Ali, but it was reversed into an arm drag. They traded blows and holds, but Almas eventually cut off the ring with somes knees and chops. Bryan and Almas made multiple tags. Bryan got caught by a facebuster by Ali and rolled to the floor. Almas and Vega blocked Ali from making a dive, but AJ assisted and vaulted Ali out to the floor onto Bryan and Almas…[c]
Bryan applied a Boston Crab on Mustafa Ali. Almas tagged in and hit a splash from the top rope for a two count. He then applied a half crab of his own. Bryan then tagged back in and continued to dominate Ali, applying a surfboard, and then transitioning into a dragon sleeper. Ali barely reached the ropes, and Almas tagged back in to do further damage. He attempted his double jump moonsault, but Ali shifted and got the knees up. This allowed Styles to make a hot tag, and get his hands on Daniel Bryan.
Styles hit a running forearm on a seated Bryan for a near fall. He then set up for a phenomenal forearm, but Bryan got out of the way. AJ then applied the calf crusher, but Almas broke the hold. Almas then attempted a hammerlock DDT, but AJ sent him out to the floor. Ali then took out Almas with flying head scissors. Styles went for a the Styles Clash on Bryan, but he avoided it and hit several kicks. Styles then hit a Stylin DDT out of the corner. Mustafa Ali then tagged in and went for the 054, but Almas delayed him a bit. Styles took out Almas with a Phenomenal Forearm, and Ali hit the 054 on Bryan for the win.
Mustafa Ali and AJ Styles defeated Daniel Bryan and Andrade Almas at 16:39
After the match, Styles and AJ celebrated as the announce team touted the new matchups to come.
My Take: I’m surprised to see Bryan take a pin here, but ultimately he doesn’t lose anything. He’s been on such a roll lately that one loss in a highly contested tag match will not derail him one iota. It does, however, mean the world to launching Mustafa Ali as a major player, and that was more important in solving the lack of babyfaces on Smackdown. There’s another show left to tape tonight, so I don’t know if we’ll see Bryan get a measure of revenge next week, but Ali had another very solid showing in a big spot and that bodes well for his future.