Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/11/07/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-11-06-2018/.)
With Crown Jewel finally (and mercifully) behind us, Survivor Series is now on the horizon. This week’s SmackDown, held in Manchester, England, primarily focused on preparing the blue brand’s competitors for the inter-brand showdowns against their Raw counterparts on November 18.
Paige/Shane McMahon Promo
Paige opened the show by introducing Shane McMahon, who was booed heavily by the UK crowd. The reason for this concerns Shane’s sudden involvement in the final of the WWE World Cup tournament, and his triumph over Dolph Ziggler within three minutes. Shane didn’t really acknowledge the hostile reaction, instead noting that despite his trophy win, he didn’t consider himself to be the “best in the world”, as per the bragging rights that come with the win. He and Paige then focused on Survivor Series, reeling off PPV matches (including the announcement of AOP vs. The Bar), and announcing Daniel Bryan as the captain for the men’s 5-on-5 squad. As Bryan thanked the head honchos, The Miz came out – hobbled out, given his apparent injury at Crown Jewel – and surprisingly didn’t slate Shane for his actions last Friday, though it came across as sucking up when he suggested he and Shane could share the trophy (“I’m 2/3 best in the world!”), all with the hope of being named as captain instead of Bryan. Shane actually agreed – sort of, naming Miz and Bryan as co-captains. Given their deep animosity, it’s a neat twist to have Miz and Bryan try and co-exist up to and at Survivors. Prediction: this will not end well for either man.
Backstage, both Miz and Bryan agreed that they could not co-exist, but a quick pep talk by Shane changed their mood, so much so that they both agreed that Shane should be the next member of their team, which he soon accepted. Miz even offered to let Bryan make the next pick. Daniel: “Thanks, Miz!” The two then humorously exchanged awkward glares which mixed feigned acceptance of one another with clear dislike.
The New Day vs. The Usos
This match was designed to determine which combo would lead SmackDown’s team of, erm, tag teams for what I assume will be a 10-on-10 clash at Survivors, similar to the 2016 bout. It would be easy for the two teams, who have battled many times over the last few years, to have gone through the motions here, but in a testament to their talent and professionalism, they put on a thrilling battle. Highlights were Kofi draped over the ropes to distract The Usos for a Big E attack, all to Xavier Woods playing the trombone; a huge Trust Fall onto Jimmy and Jey by Kofi; and a Big E spear through the ropes to the floor. The Usos looked very good too, though, and a huge powerbomb off the ropes to Kofi followed by a splash earned the twins the win. Post-match, they showed their respect for New Day by officially adding them to their team for November 18. Fun stuff here, and further evidence that they’re the two best teams in the company right now.
Bryan then told Miz that he had selected Rey Mysterio to be the fourth member of their team, though Miz questioned whether Rey had done enough since returning to WWE. Bryan’s retort was that Mysterio has beaten Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton and, well, Miz! The A-lister (who incidentally had just been on the phone angered that talk shows wanted Becky Lynch rather than him to discuss his next Marine movie, with Miz telling Bryan that he was discussing “Hollywood stuff, you wouldn’t understand it”, which made me laugh) at least accepted that if Rey performed well enough later against Andrade “Cien” Almas, he’d be on the squad. Cue more awkward glares, with even Bryan saying “this is weird”.
Becky Lynch Promo
It was now time for The Man … Becky Lynch! Becky’s popularity has made her red-hot right now, and here she was on hand to respond to Ronda Rousey’s promo on Raw, ahead of their match at Survivor Series. Sticking up for what she had to do to make her way to WWE, and slating Ronda for trying to criticise her, Lynch again asserted that she would break Ronda’s arm at Survivors, and she noted that “You say you’re the baddest bitch on the planet, well at Survivor Series, I’m gonna make you mine!” Becky then went to leave, but instead stepped back and said she was up for a fight against anybody willing to have a scrap. We then heard Sanity’s music, and the faction (who haven’t been on SmackDown in ages) introduced their old NXT team-mate, Nikki Cross! Becky asked Nikki why she wanted to fight, but the deranged Cross simply repeated “Let’s play, Becky!”
Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Cross
In a treat for the UK fans, then, we had Nikki Cross’ main roster debut against Becky Lynch. Lynch initially pounded Cross in the corner, but Nikki came firing back, fighting Becky to ringside and then launching a big crossbody off the ropes. It seemed like an upset may have been on the cards, but Becky caught Nikki off-guard and trapped her in the Dis-Arm-Her for the submission win. Afterwards, Lynch celebrated, with Nikki still having that crazed look in her eyes, almost as if she enjoyed the beating. Interesting stuff here; because Nikki is still prevalent on NXT, this may have been a one-off appearance rather than her official call-up. I guess we’ll find out in the weeks to come.
Miz, being Miz, then tried to take a selfie, with Bryan photobombing him. Earlier, they agreed that the fifth and final pick would be determined by a match later on, with each man picking a representative. Bryan chose Jeff Hardy; Miz introduced his pick, Samoa Joe, who snarled “May the best man win”, with Joe and Miz leaving Bryan behind. It certainly seems like they’re paving the way for a Bryan/Joe feud, which would lead to some pretty good matches to say the least.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Speaking of which, this showdown – the first between Mysterio and Almas – was tremendous, given the time that it was allocated. Mysterio looks faster, leaner and healthier than he has in nearly a decade, and Almas, despite only appearing occasionally on television right now, always grabs one’s attention with his eye-catching repertoire. An early back-elbow to Rey looked and sounded vicious as hell, and both brought the goods as things progressed. A springboard sit-down attack by Rey, a backflip by Almas to reverse an attempted Rey hurricanrana off the top ropes, a backflip into a second moonsault on Rey, and Rey sliding underneath the bottom rope to DDT Almas on the floor were just some of the highlights. A 619 into a top rope splash earned Rey the pinfall win, but I hope we get a rematch and a full-on feud between these two, because this was brilliant stuff. Post-match, Rey received an RKO out of nowhere by Randy Orton; no word on whether Orton will find a way onto the Survivors squad, something that Bryan and Miz debated afterwards (Miz: “I don’t wanna speak to Randy!”), while officially confirming that Rey was indeed on the squad.
Backstage, AJ Styles cut a brief promo acknowledging that he had become WWE Champion a year ago in the very same building – Manchester Arena – before stating that, unlike last year, he will defeat Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Styles also noted that “it’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler!” Earlier, we also had a backstage promo from SHinsuke Nakamura, who said he would have the gift of a “knee to face” for Seth Rollins on November 18.
Women’s Survivor Series Team Announcement
Paige then came back out to introduce the members of the SmackDown women’s team for their 5-on-5 clash at Survivor Series. Paige announced Carmella (who came out with R-Truth, though he headed backstage; they missed a chance here for Truth to believe that he was on the team too, based on previous shenanigans), Naomi, Sonya Deville, Asuka and Charlotte Flair. Well, Charlotte was announced, but she did not appear. Paige had asked her to captain the squad last week, but she was unsure whether she was worthy. It certainly feels like Flair is doubting her abilities right now, which is an interesting twist that will presumably set up a big redemption title win for Charlotte in the future. In the meantime, Mandy Rose came out to ask why Paige had picked her friend Sonya over her, despite Rose eliminating Deville from the Battle Royal at Evolution. Rose then insulted all of the other team members, before going too far with Naomi and taking a beating from The Glow.
Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe
With Miz and Bryan on commentary, Jeff and Joe battled it out for the final spot on the men’s Survivors team. As Miz reeled off how he had helped The Miztourage, Damien Mizdow and Alex Riley (Miz was superb on this show), the action was kept fairly simple, with the usual spots coming out by both men. Jeff managed to catch Joe with a Twist Of Fate, but Joe blocked his Swanton Bomb attempt with two knees to the back, and a Coquina Clutch sealed the convincing submission win for Joe, much to Bryan’s displeasure. Post-match, Joe posed in front of Daniel to antagonise him, and Bryan retaliated by attacking Joe and brawling with him in the ring. When Miz tried to pull Bryan away, Daniel began attacking him, and when Shane McMahon ran down to play peacekeeper, Bryan even arm-dragged him over his head and retreated backstage, leaving Joe, Miz and Shane all laying in the ring. Are we seeing the beginning of an eventual Bryan vs. Shane feud?
This was a very enjoyable episode of SmackDown. New Day vs. Usos was very good and Mysterio vs. Almas was even better; Hardy vs. Joe served its purpose; and Lynch vs. Cross provided Nikki with a memorable moment. Add to that the build for Survivor Series, and the amusing Miz/Bryan interplay, and you had one of the better SmackDown shows all year. I was hoping for a bigger focus on AJ Styles being WWE Champion for a full year (I actually thought this would be the theme of the night, with the tease of him losing the gold back in Manchester), but otherwise this was a lot of fun, and much better than the Raw taping 24 hours earlier.