Date: January 1, 2019
Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
It’s the first show of the year and we’re taped again, though for the last time here. The big story this week is the return of John Cena, who is making one of his regular stops here in between movies. It’s not clear what he’s going to be doing but there could be some interesting interactions with some of the people on the roster. Let’s get to it.
Here’s New Day, with Big E. as the New Year’s Baby, to open things up. They’re happy to be on the first Smackdown of the new year and we’ll start things off with an important announcement: all three of them will be in the Royal Rumble. Big E. goes into the Scott Steiner math promo, with Woods asking why he’s doing Steiner Math. If they win, they might be able to challenge for the Universal Title but Brock Lesnar won’t show up anyway. Kofi snaps about not being able to get a title shot so Big E. gives him some of the bottle.
On a sadder note, their doctors have told them to stop eating pancakes but Big E. pulls some out of the diaper. After Kofi freaks out, he and Woods have new year’s resolutions….which are the plots to Bumblebee and Bird Box. Big E. gets us back on track by talking about the fatal five way for the WWE Title shot at the Royal Rumble, but first we need to have a regular match to fill in the fifth spot. Let’s do that now.
Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe
Before the match, we get clips of their match last where Jeff snapped. See, why couldn’t they just combine the two matches? Either have last week’s match be for the spot in the five way or do something else and only have them do this match. That’s a big reason why these feuds feel like they go on forever. Anyway Joe pulls him down into a kneebar to start and punches away in the corner. Jeff slips down to the floor and wraps Joe’s knee around the post to keep things even. Joe gets mad and unloads the announcers’ table to send us to a break.
Back with Joe hammering away in the corner, which is rather different than the expected chinlock. Joe ties him in the Tree of Woe to break up the Whisper in the Wind, setting up a sliding dropkick. Jeff makes his comeback with all of the usual, including the Twisting Stunner to set up the Swanton but Joe bails to the floor. Hardy goes with him but gets caught in the Koquina Clutch. That gives Joe a nine, so he slaps it on again back inside to knock Hardy out at 10:26 for a spot in the five way.
Rating: C. The match was the usual stuff they’re capable of doing, but that doesn’t make it that much more interesting. Joe’s promos were great before the matches started but they’ve already done this match enough that it’s hard to care about it again. Joe just won clean, so why would I want to see them fight again? I’m sure they will, and that’s a problem.
We look back at Vince McMahon bringing out the animal in AJ Styles, who beat Vince down due to a slap.
Vince and Shane McMahon are in their office and explain the fatal five way in a fashion that they would never use. AJ comes in and asks if Vince is sure he wanted to see him. He’s not apologizing for what happened last week so watch the real AJ tonight. AJ teases showing the real version to Vince right now and Vince has to hold Shane back. With AJ gone, Shane tells Vince to be careful what he wishes for. Better advice: make sure that HHH isn’t doing the same storyline with Seth Rollins on Raw.
Here are Rusev and Lana for their celebration of winning the US Title last week. Rusev talks about how great he is, including his animal magnetism (Lana seems to approve) and smelling like a bacon flavored Cinnabon. We get a RUSEV DAY USA chant but here’s Nakamura to jump him from behind. Lana tried to jump on Nakamura’s back and Rusev uses the distraction to superkick him down. That crushes Lana, who can handle wrestling matches but not having a 220lb man fall on her. Nakamura uses the distraction to kick Rusev in the face and then hit Kinshasa.
We look back at Mandy Rose trying to get Jimmy Uso under the mistletoe last week, which didn’t sit well with Naomi.
Mandy Rose vs. Naomi
Mandy takes off the Mandy Rose shirt to reveal an Usos shirt….and apparently we have a change.
Sonya Deville vs. Naomi
Sonya uses the early distraction to hit a sliding knee for two and it’s off to the chinlock. Naomi comes right back with a Disaster kick but Mandy grabs the mic. She was getting ready earlier today and sent Jimmy a picture of herself in a towel (which is covering her more than her gear). That’s enough of a distraction for Sonya to hit a Hellevator (suplex into a Rock Bottom) for the pin at 2:23.
Randy Orton promises to make victims out of everyone else in the five way.
Rey Mysterio has shown that he can’t be pushed around and he’ll prove that he’s not just here for nostalgia.
Mustafa Ali used to be known as the heart of the cruiserweights but now he wants to be known as the heart of Smackdown. He may be the underdog but he has hope and heart.
We get some new year’s resolutions.
The IIconics want to be the first ever Women’s Tag Team Champions.
The Good Brothers want to eradicate Smackdown of all the nerds.
Shelton Benjamin doesn’t care because no one is going to live up to their promises, and pulls down the New Year’s resolution curtains.
Samoa Joe promises to win the five way and then win the WWE Title because he wants to prove himself to people like Jeff Hardy.
Here’s John Cena, bad hair and all, for a chat. Cena thanks the fans for the energy and talks about the year in review. He bought a ticket to Wrestlemania and probably shouldn’t have had those beers before the match. His personal life was all over national television, he wrote a best selling children’s book that he’s very proud of and lived in China for six months. With all that though, he still thinks this hair is a good idea. On top of that though, he can still float like a butterfly and sting like a bumblebee, which is still certified fresh.
The question now is why is he here. Well he knows that someone is going to come out here right now and say Cena should leave WWE faster than Nikki Bella left him. That brings out Becky Lynch to some applause from Cena. Becky asks how it feels to expect a man to come out here but to get The Man instead. Things have gotten a bit more complicated since Cena left, because now Becky wants to take his place instead of Charlotte’s. He’s been THE star of WWE and now she wants to be on those posters and filling his shoes. If Cena has a problem with that, Nikki won’t be the only woman to drop him this year.
This brings out Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega, with the latter saying a fresh start was promised not too long ago. What she sees though is an old face in Cena and a still broken face in Becky. Vega introduces the two of them and promises that this will be the year of tranquilo. Cena: “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Cena and you may know me from being John Cena.” The challenge is thrown out and the mixed tag starts after the break.
John Cena/Becky Lynch vs. Zelina Vega/Andrade Cien Almas
The women start with a chop sending Vega bailing for a tag to Almas. That means Cena comes in as well and Andrade is rather pleased. The early tranquilo pose doesn’t have Cena very impressed and Almas’ headlock doesn’t make things much better. The fans want Becky but have to settle for more headlocking instead. Almas kicks him down but gets his suplex reversed. A running clothesline takes Cena down though and we take a break.
Back with Vega holding Cena on the ropes and Almas still in control. Cena fights up and avoids a charge, allowing the hot tag to Becky as the fans stay interested. Some kicks have Vega in trouble and the Bexploder makes things even worse. A top rope dropkick with almost no elevation (Becky might have slipped) gets two but Almas breaks up the Disarm-Her. Cena takes care of him with the usual, including the Lightning Fist. Becky shoves Cena out of the ring though and grabs the Disarm-Her for the win at 10:11.
Rating: C-. That ending was a great example of something that Becky would do and fitting her character. She didn’t ask permission from Cena to do what she wanted and just took the spot herself. That fits her very well and was the right call. It’s not going to mean anything, but it fit for the moment.
Post match Cena offers a handshake but Becky does You Can’t See Me instead.
We look back at Shane finally agreeing to be Miz’s tag partner.
Miz comes in to see Shane and has ideas for matching gear. That means Shane in Miz’s coat, but Shane isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t seem that much happier with the red version with sunglasses either. Miz’s last idea is Shane in Miz trunks, with Shane looking rather ripped. Shane suggests coming up with something brighter and leaves.
The same video on the coming NXT stars. Good grief WE GET IT ALREADY.
HHH comes up to see Asuka in the back and asks her who should get a title shot at the Royal Rumble. Asuka is up for anyone because no one is ready for her. Charlotte pops in to say Ronda Rousey is the only reason she’s not champion. Carmella comes in to say she was champion for a long time, followed by Becky saying she’s the only option. Advisement has been undertaken.
Rey Mysterio vs Mustafa Ali vs. Samoa Joe vs. Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles
One fall to a finish and the winner gets Bryan at the Rumble. Everyone is in the ring at once so Ali goes right at Joe, who throws him down without much effort. AJ hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Rey before hammering away at Orton in the corner. Everyone but Orton heads outside with the aggressive AJ sending Ali face first into the post. Ali is fine enough to hit the rolling X Factor for two on Orton as Joe makes the save.
Rey dives in to take Joe down but AJ sends him hard into the corner. Mysterio is fine enough to hurricanrana AJ out to the floor, only to walk right into a powerslam. Joe suplexes Ali but charges into AJ’s elbow in the corner, setting up the moonsault into the reverse DDT for two. Back from a break with AJ taking over again but not being able to launch the Phenomenal Forearm. Joe drops him through the announcers’ table, only to have Ali take him down.
Rey does the same to Orton and we get an Ali vs Mysterio showdown. Ali flips out of a headscissors and catches Rey on top with a super Spanish Fly. That’s good for a delayed two with Joe making a save this time and firing off knees to Ali. The Satellite DDT plans Joe but the 054 misses. Joe grabs the Koquina Clutch with Rey making a save off a 619. Another 619 hits Ali and there’s the RKO to make it worse, with Rey coming off the top with a legdrop for the save. A hurricanrana on the floor takes care of Joe and AJ hits the springboard 450 to pin Orton for the title shot at 13:09.
Rating: B-. Not too bad here with the right call. You don’t want to have AJ get that big moment last year and then lose his first match back. I don’t think they’ll put the title back on him but there’s a good chance he’ll get screwed out of the title, which is a fine enough way to set up a Rumble match. Ali got some nice offense in here as well and that’s a good sign for his future.
Overall Rating: C. The show wasn’t exactly great, but it set up things for the Rumble and advanced some stories without feeling long, which is a lot better than what you would see on the Monday counterpart. Things will pick way back up next week so this was little more than a filler, but at least we got a watchable show this time around. Hopefully we get more of the Rumble card next week, but what we’ve gotten so far isn’t too bad.
Samoa Joe b. Jeff Hardy – Koquina Clutch
Sonya Deville b. Naomi – Hellevator
John Cena/Becky Lynch b. Andrade Cien Almas/Zelina Vega – Disarm-Her to Vega
AJ Styles b. Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, Rey Mysterio and Mustafa Ali – Springboard 450 to Orton
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