By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Becky Lynch and John Cena: This was a nice rub for Becky, who looked like a star in the presence of WWE’s top star for the better part of the last 15 years. The verbal jab Becky took at Cena wasn’t as important as the message that was sent. The hottest female star in the company went nose to nose with a legend and staked her claim as new face of the company, and she did it with the confidence and gravitas necessary to make you believe that she meant it. To his credit, John Cena seemed enthusiastic about his role of being self-deprecating and allowing Becky to get one over on him. Between the verbal segment and the match, this show got Becky back on track after Vince McMahon browbeat her and Charlotte Flair into silence on last week’s show.
Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali vs. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton: A very enjoyable final segment. Multi-man matches really lend themselves well to these time restricted TV main events, because the talent can push a pace that makes the match high energy and entertaining without having to worry about filling 10 or 15 extra minutes like they would on a pay-per-view. Ali continues to impress in his early matches as a new member of the Smackdown roster, and Mysterio continues to build a case for himself being a major player in WWE’s 2019 plans. Rey has delivered consistently since his return, and a feud between himself and Bryan would certainly pique the interest of fans who have watched them work very different styles over the years.
Samoa Joe vs. Jeff Hardy: A minor Hit for Joe getting a win over Hardy, because he desperately needed one. Joe didn’t manage to pick up the win in the main event, but he was protected and looked good throughout the match. Joe needs a bounce back year in 2019 after delivering several standout individual performances in 2018 in tough situations creatively but not getting rewarded with a title run.
Naomi and Sonya Deville: A minor Hit for this one, just because Sonya Deville seems to be using Hirooki Goto’s Shouten as a finish now. Naomi didn’t quite get the dismount right, but it’s a huge improvement.
Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura: Rusev fits nicely in the babyface role as US Champion, and they found a clever way to continue the feud with the inadvertent damage done to Lana. Here’s hoping we get to see the ragged edge of Nakamura’s character as well. He’s overdue for being a bit more serious and mean.
WWE Smackdown Misses
AJ Styles: AJ did a nice job backstage with the McMahons early in the show. He promised that we’d see the “Real AJ Styles” in the Fatal Five Way match, and that’s where I got a bit confused. I didn’t really notice any perceptible difference in his actions or mannerisms, and he didn’t break out and tactics or holds that you could quickly identify as a departure from his current routine. It may have been the format of the five-way that kept the subtleties from being noticed, so hopefully next week is better.
New Day New Year: I like every member of New Day and I hope they succeed. I hope one of the resolutions of WWE Creative for 2019 is to get them some new material. Change out the memes and gimmicks. Something. Anything.