The New Day declare for the Royal Rumble
What Happened: The New Year is here, which means that the Royal Rumble is rapidly approaching. And the Men’s field just got a little more positive, and crowded. To kick off 2019, all three members of the New Day declared that they will be entering the Men’s Royal Rumble, giving them the mathematical advantage in the Rumble. Should one of Ya Boys take the cake, who would they be facing at Wrestlemania? The first match of the night got us one step closer to getting that answer.
Analysis: To this point in the Men’s Royal Rumble, we have the odds-on favorite to win and essentially four jobbers. Not really looking like a fascinating field to this point.
Samoa Joe def. Jeff Hardy to advance to Fatal 5-Way
What Happened: After last week, it was clear that matters between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe are far from settled. After tonight, it’s clear that Joe has the advantage. The Charismatic Enigma was as aggressive as ever, laying into his longtime foe, hitting him with the Swanton Bomb in relatively quick fashion. But the Samoan Submission Machine rolled to the outside, where he gained an advantage that he would not lose. He nearly took the match by countout when he trapped Hardy in the Coquina Clutch at ringside. And when Hardy escaped the hold and beat the count, Joe simply reapplied the hold and put Hardy to sleep.
Analysis: Joe was the only one to earn his slot outright. Everyone else was given their spot based off of “merit,” and the only one I feel that can apply to is Mustafa Ali based on his performance since arriving on the blue brand.
Shinsuke Nakamura crashed Rusev’s championship celebration
What Happened: Last week, Rusev became a 3-time United States Champion when he defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event. Tonight he celebrated, promising to return the Star-Spangled title to its former glory. But his speech and chants of “Rusev Day USA” were cut short by a blindside attack by the former champion. In an attempt to protect her husband, Lana jumped on Nakamura’s back, giving Rusev the chance to strike back with a Machka Kick. But when the Artist fell, the Ravishing Russian did too, and hard. As the new United States Champion tended to his wife, Nakamura took advantage with a Kinshasa.
Analysis: As I stated in the RAW review for this week, the Fresh Start initiative is already a total bust for the McMahon family. They abolished automatic rematches, but both Shinsuke Nakamura and Seth Rollins will be getting rematches for their lost titles at Royal Rumble.
Sonya Deville def. Naomi
What Happened: After engaging in a Twitter battle with Naomi, Mandy Rose took things to a whole new level last week when she tried to get Jimmy Uso under the mistletoe. Her plan was foiled by the Glow, and tonight the former two-time Smackdown Women’s Champion was ready to throw hands with the Golden Goddess. She wouldn’t get her wish though, as just before the bell rang, Rose swapped places with Sonya Deville, catching Naomi off-guard. Naomi used her pent-up frustration to lay into the Jersey Devil, but Rose had a few tricks up her sleeve, including a provocative photo she claimed to have sent to Jimmy Uso. Fed up, Naomi made a beeline for Mandy, but caught a brutal kick to the gut from Deville followed by a modified Jackhammer. Advantage Rose.
Analysis: While I am glad to see Deville get a win, I don’t like how she is being used to build up Rose. Rose is more than just a pretty face, she does have in-ring ability. But clearly, WWE only wants to use her as a sex symbol, at the expense of Deville.
John Cena returns to Smackdown Live, Becky Lynch lays down the law
What Happened: For the first time since February of last year, John Cena returned to Smackdown Live. The last time Cena was on the blue brand, he was on a quest to get a match at Wrestlemania 34. So why was he here tonight? Not he know knew. What he did know however, was that in a matter of moments “any man” could be marching down the ramp to give him a piece of their mind. Well, Cena was half right. He didn’t get just any man but The Man. Becky Lynch made it clear that Smackdown Live was her turf now, and if Cena had a problem with that, “Nikki Bella won’t be the only woman to drop him.” Taken aback and slightly amused, the Cenation leader took a minute to composed himself, during which time Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega decided to kick off their 2019. It took a bit longer than he was expecting, but Cena got exactly what he was looking for as Vega ran down both him and Lynch, declaring that the new year is the year of Tranquilo. Seizing his opportunity, the 16-time champion issued a challenge to El Idolo and his business partner. A mixed tag team match: John Cena & Becky Lynch vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega.
Analysis: Can’t say I saw that one coming. Perhaps WWE really does want Becky Lynch to be the new face of Smackdown Live. I’m also surprised Cena didn’t declare for the Royal Rumble, something he will likely do on Monday night.
John Cena & Becky Lynch def. Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega
What Happened: Throughout his WWE career, John Cena has lived by one rule: if you wanna talk tough, you better be tough. And as of recently, when The Man comes around, you beter be ready to pay your dues. That’s a lesson that Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega had to learn the hard way. But the latter part was something that even Cena himself found out firsthand. In an impromptu mixed tag team match, Cena and Lynch put their quarreling aside long enough to thwart Almas and Vega’s well-practiced antics, but once the match was all but decided, Lynch made it clear that is was all about her, shoving Cena out of the ring before submitting Zelina with the Dis-Arm-Her. Despite Lynch’s slight, Cena offered a handshake to her, to which the former Smackdown Women’s Champion boldly used Cena’s signature phrase against him.
Analysis: This would be a nice match to see in the next season of Mixed Match Challenge. Cena remains a free agent, though he will likely primarily show up on RAW until after Wrestlemania.
AJ Styles def. Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, and Samoa Joe (Fatal 5-Way Match for WWE Championship Match at Royal Rumble)
What Happened: Last week, Mr. McMahon said that he wanted to see the animalistic side of AJ Styles. At the Royal Rumble event, he just may get his wish. With WWE Champion Daniel Bryan watching backstage, Styles, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, and Samoa Joe went to war for the right to face Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship. The Phenomenal One was taken out early by Orton and Joe, the latter of whom started off the match by dispatching Ali, who charged right at Joe as soon as the bell rang. That wasn’t the only punishment Ali endured though, suffering the suffocating force of the Coquina Clutch, the mastery of the 619, and the bite of the RKO. It was the latter of these that kicked off a series of wild events where Mysterio broke up Orton’s pin on Ali, then Joe took out Mysterio at ringside, giving Styles the time he needed to hit the Apex Predator with a 450 splash to secure another shot at Daniel Bryan and the WWE Championship.
Analysis: I fail to understand why WWE continues to keep AJ Styles at the top of the pecking order. It’s the same story with every oppoenent and it’s been old. Styles is great and all but I for one am tired of seeing hi on my TV screen near the title every Tuesday night.
Not a very strong Smackdown to kick off 2019, but not at all weak either. Things should start picking up next week. 7/10.