By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Taped December 29 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at PPG Paints Arena
Aired January 1 on USA Network
[Hour One] Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton were on commentary. They hyped the return of John Cena, and a five-way to determine who will challenge Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble…
New Day made their entrance for their New Year’s Celebration segment. Big E came out wearing a diaper (my lord, I actually called this in members’ audio last week before the taping). Xavier Woods announced that he, E, and Kofi Kingston would be in the Royal Rumble match.
Big E started throwing out warped odds of their chances of winning until the others shut him down and accused him of using Steiner Math. Funny. They shifted the focus to New Year’s resolutions. Woods said a doctor told them their resolution should be to no longer eat pancakes. E started eating a pancake, which Kingston pulled away from him.
Big E pulled pancakes out of his diaper and ate another, then started tossing some to fans. They worked in a plug for Cena’s Bumblebee movie. Big E announced Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe for a spot in the five-way that will determine Bryan’s challenger at the Royal Rumble. Hardy made his entrance… [C]
Powell’s POV: Silly New Day comedy kicks off the new year. By the way, I’m filling in for Jake Barnett tonight because of the holiday, but he will be back with his live review next week.
1. Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe for a spot in the five-way match. Joe’s entrance was televised. Hardy targeted the knee of Joe and wrapped it around the ring post a few times. Joe rolled to ringside and tore the broadcast table top off heading into a break. [C]
Hardy performed a Swanton Bomb on Joe, who rolled to ringside before Hardy could cover him. Hardy went for a kick between the ropes, but Joe pulled him to ringside and applied the Coquina Clutch. Joe rolled back to ringside and barked at the referee to count out Hardy, but the ref restarted his count and Hardy returned to the ring. Joe reapplied the Coquina Clutch. The ref checked Hardy’s arm and called off the match…
Samoa Joe defeated Jeff Hardy to advance to the five-way match.
Joe will face, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, and Randy Orton in the five-way later in the show… The broadcast team set up a replay of last week’s Vince McMahon and AJ Styles segment…
Powell’s POV: A good match between Joe and Hardy. Meanwhile, the McMahon family doesn’t believe in rematch clauses and say that everyone has to earn title shots and yet they seem to either hand them out arbitrarily or, in this case, chose four of the five entrants arbitrarily. It’s one of those things that I hope they clean up was they move forward with the changes they are hyping.
Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon were talking about the five-way match with the dumb World Cup trophy in the background. AJ Styles entered the room and said may he should apologize for last week, but he won’t because he was provoked. He said if Vince wanted the real Styles then he should watch to see what happens tonight. He asked if Vince wanted to see the real Styles now. Shane and Vince stood up. Vince held Shane back, then Styles left the room. Shane asked Vince if he wants to see the real Styles. Vince said absolutely. Shane told him to be careful what he wishes for…
Graves hyped Rusev appearing after the break… [C] A graphic touted that the show was being held in Pittsburgh…
Powell’s POV: I can’t wait to see if WWE does the city graphics for some of the smaller cities that host television. They absolutely should, but they have a tendency to avoid even mentioning the smaller host cities on television.
The broadcast team recapped Rusev defeating Shinsuke Nakamura to win the U.S. Championship. Rusev and Lana were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes in the ring. Rusev said winning the title made for the greatest Rusev Day of all. He spoke about how he takes pride in the U.S. Championship, then went into talking about how good he looks and smells. He pledged allegiance to his title, then tried to start a “Rusev Day USA” chant.
Shinsuke Nakamura showed up and kicked Rusev. Lana jumped on the back of Nakamura. Rusev kicked Nakamura, who then landed on Lana when he fell backward. Rusev tended to Lana. Nakamura ran over and kicked Rusev, then followed up with a Kinshasa. Nakamura picked up the title belt and dropped it onto Rusev. Graves said it was an unfortunate accident when Nakamura fell on top of Lana, but Nakamura still took advantage of it…
Powell’s POV: The former champion had to do something since he won’t be given an automatic rematch for his championship! Okay, putting that aside, it was a decent angle that continued the feud.
Footage aired of last week’s mistletoe angle involving Jimmy Uso, Naomi, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville… Naomi made her entrance while Graves gushed over Mandy Rose appearing after the break… [C]
2. Naomi vs. Sonya Deville (w/Mandy Rose). Before the match, Rose removed her t-shirt and had an Usos’ shirt underneath, which infuriated Naomi. When Naomi took offensive control, Rose took the mic and said she was thinking of Naomi’s husband while she was getting ready earlier today. She said she sent him “this” and then a photo of her wearing a towel was shown. Deville took advantage of the distraction and scored the pin…
Sonya Deville pinned Naomi in 2:25.
Powell’s POV: Simple and mildly effective with Deville getting a win while Rose scored more heat in her feud with Naomi.
Randy Orton delivered a brief backstage promo about the five-way match. They cut to Rey Mysterio, who did the same. Mysterio said he didn’t come back to WWE for nostalgia, he came back to be WWE Champion. Mustafa Ali said he wants to be known as the heart of Smackdown just as he was known as the heart of the cruiserweight division. He said he beat Daniel Bryan and has hope and heart in the five-way…
The broadcast team hyped the five-way match and said John Cena was up next… A batch of New Year’s resolutions aired. The Iiconics want to be the first WWE Women’s Tag Champions. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson want to eradicate Smackdown of all the nerds (ugh). Shelton Benjamin said resolutions are frauds. He pulled down the backdrop of the set and popped a balloon…
Samoa Joe delivered a backstage promo about winning the five-way and the WWE Championship and noted that it would drive Jeff Hardy further into madness…
John Cena and JBL’s hair made their entrance. Cena held up one of his usual towels and then flipped it over to reveal a “Be Kind To One Another” image with Ellen DeGeneres.
[Hour Two] Cena looked back on 2018. He said he bought a ticket to WrestleMania and it was sweet. He said he shouldn’t have had all those beers before his match, but that was on him. He spoke about his children’s book, living in China for six months, and somehow he thinks this is still a good idea. He said he can float like a butterfly and sting like a bumblebee, then noted that he’d been certified fresh.
Cena asked why he was there. He said somebody would come out and challenge him while saying he should get a haircut and would be dropped faster than Nikki Bella dropped him. Cena wondered who it would be an motioned to the stage.
Becky Lynch made her entrance and was applauded by Cena. Lynch asked Cena how it felt to expect a man to come out and instead get The Man. Lynch said Cena personifies everything the company is, then corrected herself and said was. She said it’s time for someone to step up and that person is her. “And if you have a problem with that, Nikki Bella won’t be the only woman to drop you this year,” Lynch said.
Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega made their entrance. Vega mocked them for being former champions and old news. She said the McMahons promised a fresh start with new faces, yet the year started and all she sees is an older face in Cena and a broken face in Lynch. “That didn’t really heal up, did it?” Vega asked. “You’re still looking a little rough.” Vega introduced herself as the business manager for the future of Smackdown.
Cena said Vega is kicking out of her weight class and Lynch could kick Almas’s teeth down his throat. Cena said he’d like to find out what it’s like to be in the ring with The Man, and challenged Almas and Vega to a mixed tag match. The heels started walking towards the ring heading into a break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A fun verbal segment. Cena didn’t have much new to say, but I like the idea of Lynch being the one to confront him and make the claim that she’s the face of today. It was also nice to hear Vega get some mic time. I really hope 2019 is a big year for Almas with Vega working her magic as his mouthpiece rather than wrestling as often as she did during their main roster run in 2018.
3. Becky Lynch and John Cena vs. Zelina Vega and Andrade Almas. Phillips said the match was made official by the McMahon family during the break and he touted Lynch and Cena teaming as something he never thought he’d see. Almas worked over Cena heading into a break. [C]
Lynch and Vega checked in and Lynch dominated the offense. Lynch performed a missile dropkick and got a two count. Lynch set up for her finishing hold, but Almas pulled Vega away. Cena worked over Almas and performed the Five Knuckle Shuffle and an Attitude Adjustment.
Cena hit his knew move on Almas and knocked him out of the ring, then Lynch threw Cena out of the ring. Vega attacked Lynch from behind, but she quickly ended up in the Disarmer and tapped out. Afterward, Cena offered Lynch a handshake, but she gave him the “you can’t see me” and walked away. Cena and JBL’s now messed up hair returned to the ring and played to the fans.
Becky Lynch and John Cena defeated Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega in 10:15.
Powell’s POV: A fun match and a good bounce back week for Lynch. It went against her character to stand there and take it while Vince McMahon confronted her and Charlotte Flair last week, but what she did here was truer to her character. There was no reason to think this would be a breakout night for Almas and Vega, but hopefully they will be among the faces of change in the company.
Footage aired of The Miz successfully recruiting Shane McMahon to be his tag partner after working in a story related to his own daddy issues…
Backstage, Shane McMahon was talking to two men when The Miz entered the room. Shane dismissed the men. Miz said he’d never opened up like that in front of the fans and he hoped he didn’t embarrass him. Shane said he wasn’t embarrassed because he identified with what Miz said. Shane mentioned how busy he is. Miz feared that he was backing out of teaming with him, but Shane said he still would.
Miz pitched the idea of he and Shane wearing the same ring gear and had some great mockups that showed Shane in his pre-match attire and ring gear. Shane asked if Goldberg’s body was used for his shirtless mockup. Miz told Shane that his body is better than Goldberg’s body…
The broadcast team hyped the five-way for after the break… [C] A video package aired on NXT call-ups Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, and EC3…
Asuka was backstage looking at her Smackdown Women’s Championship when Triple H showed up and congratulated her. He asked her who she feels might deserve a shot at her title. She said she will fight anyone because no one is ready for Asuka.
Charlotte Flair showed up and said she would be champion if it wasn’t for Ronda Rousey. Carmella showed up and boasted about her title reign and how she beat them both. Charlotte told her to take her seven second dance break somewhere else. Becky Lynch showed up and made her pitch. Hunter said they all made good cases and they would take it under advisement and let them know once they made a decision…
Ring entrances for the main event five-way took place… [C]
4. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali vs. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton in a five-way for a WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Ali went right at Joe, who quickly slammed him. Graves played up Styles being more aggressive as he fought with Mysterio and then ran Ali into the ring post. Graves also pointed out that no disqualifications in a five-way may benefit Styles.
Daniel Bryan was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Styles performed a huracanrana that sent Styles to ringside. Mysterio ran the ropes for a follow up move, but Orton caught him with a powerslam. Styles and Joe ended up in the ring together and Styles got a two count off a reverse DDT heading into a break just a few minutes into the match. [C]
Orton dumped Styles onto the ring apron, then Joe performed a uranage on Styles that put him through the broadcast table. Joe and Orton looked down at Styles, then looked at one another. Just as they appeared ready to fight, Ali and Mysterio dove onto them. Mysterio and Ali squared off inside the ring. After some back and forth action, Ali performed a top rope Spanish Fly on Mysterio and covered him, but Joe returned to break it up.
Ali had Joe down and went for an 054. Joe rolled out of the way to avoid the move and then applied the Coquina Clutch. Mysterio performed a 619 on Joe to break it up. Mysterio followed up with a 619 on Ali. Orton pulled Mysterio to the floor. Back in the ring, Orton performed an RKO on Ali, but Mysterio broke up the pin. Rey hit a 619 on Orton, but Joe pulled Mysterio to ringside only to have Mysterio perform a huracanrana. In the ring, Styles performed a 450 splash on Orton and pinned him…
AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, Rey Mysterio, and Samoa Joe in 13:10 to earn a WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
Powell’s POV: A highly entertaining five-way match. Styles going over sets up the rematch with Bryan for the Rumble. Had it not been for the broadcast team, I wouldn’t have noticed the “real AJ Styles” that they are trying to play up. Sure, he went after fellow babyfaces, but without the broadcast team’s call I would have just chalked it up to being every man for himself. Overall, a good edition of Smackdown. Due to the holiday, I will be by on Wednesday with my audio review of this episode for members.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Nick Perkins discussing the McMahon family’s vow to make changes to WWE television shows.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Brian Pillman Jr., who discusses his training, following his father's footsteps, his own career aspirations, being part of the Hart Foundation faction, his big match at the MLW Saturday Night SuperFight pay-per-view, working with Jushin Liger, touring the WWE Performance Center, and much more...