Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/12/05/wrestling-review-wwe-smackdown-december-4-2018/.)
With TLC on the horizon, this week’s SD marked the next step towards that show. With most of the blue brand’s bouts for that event confirmed, this edition would be focused more on moving the current stories along, so let’s head to it!
SmackDown Women’s Championship Contract Signing
Paige brought out Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Asuka to sign the contract for their SmackDown Women’s Championship match at TLC. It was given plenty of time, and it featured numerous insults flying in all directions, but it didn’t feel like a home-run to me. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen Becky and Charlotte so many times before, or because of poor scripting, but this segment didn’t do a lot for me. It did lead to all three signing on the dotted line, though, and after Lynch walked off, Asuka and Charlotte dared each other to fight right there, only for Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville to come out and demand an opportunity of their own, which led Paige to make a tag match to kick off after the break.
Charlotte Flair & Asuka vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
Becky marched back to ringside to watch this bout, which had the usual underlying tension between uneasy partners Charlotte and Asuka. In contrast, Mandy and Sonya were a well-oiled machine throughout, which was noteworthy considering that there have been minor communication issues between the former Absolution members in recent weeks, dating back to Evolution. Ultimately, it was miscommunication on the other side that led to the outcome: Charlotte kicked Asuka off the apron, believing it was Rose who had been there moments earlier, and this led to the Empress levelling Flair with a low dropkick in retribution, handing the win to Deville. Good stuff here, and further evidence that both Mandy and Sonya seem poised to have a big role on SmackDown next year.
Jey Uso vs. Cesaro vs. Xavier Woods
In a neat concept, one member of each team involved in the SD Tag Team Title match at TLC battled here in a three-way. This was one of those matches where you get the feeling early on that it’ll be just another bout, only for the combatants to provide some great dramatic moments. Top of the list was Cesaro trapping Jey in the Giant Swing, while having Woods attached by force to his shoulders, which got a huge pop from the Austin, Texas crowd. Jey scored the win with a superkick to Cesaro in the end; we later found out that New Day will be hosting a Bar/Usos Battle Rap next week (which, based on the Usos/New Day Battle Rap segment last year, could be a gem of a segment), as well as an Asuka/Charlotte match based on their earlier problems.
Backstage, Rusev provided some comedy lines as he vowed to regain his United States Championship from Shinsuke Nakamura at a later date (my guess is that he’ll get another shot on the TLC Kick-Off Show).
Miz TV w/ Daniel Bryan
Earlier on, The Miz chastised Shane McMahon for making him interview “The New Daniel Bryan”, though Shane was nonchalant about it, reminding Miz that they aren’t the tag team partners that he believes they are (I should mention on a side note that, given their on-screen working relationship for over 18 months, Shane barely acknowledging the new-attitude Bryan is a bit of a plot-hole). Before Miz could bring Bryan out, though, R-Truth and Carmella randomly came out for a dance-break, and then walked off, which in itself may have been funnier than the actual interruption.
Miz eventually introduced Bryan, who ran down the audience for not matching his lifestyle, with even the drinking of bottled water having a horrendous impact on the environment and the climate, while wearing a shirt that had a tree-shaped heart. Though both are now heels (well, at the moment anyway), Miz still argued with Daniel, wishing for him to admit that Miz was right all along for advising him to not think about the fans and find victory at any cost. Bryan noted that him volleying AJ in the bizalls was his only sin (not mentioning the post-match beatdown was amusing), whereas everybody else was committing sins on a daily basis, including repeated “What?” chants long after it was cool. Eventually, AJ Styles came out to attack Bryan, but Miz, angry at his own segment being interrupted again, dropped Styles with the Skull-Crushing Finale, leading to AJ vs. Miz being announced for the main event.
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
It feels like these two have faced off loads of times since their once-hot feud seemingly ended with a brutal match at and inside Hell In A Cell. Here, there were some nice spots, but it was pretty much more of the same in terms of what these two provide. The big difference came after Hardy hit Orton with a Twist Of Fate, and poised himself to hit a top rope Swanton Bomb through the announcer’s table with Randy on it (I doubt he could even have reached him from there), only for Samoa Joe to interrupt him at a bar while serving drinks. The momentary distraction led Randy to drop Jeff with an RKO for the win, and afterwards we cut to Joe again, who provided a PSA-style speech on the dangers of overdoing it with alcohol consumption, aimed of course at Hardy.
AJ Styles vs. The Miz
Beforehand, Daniel Bryan explained that he doesn’t run away from AJ (despite seemingly doing so earlier), and vowed to commentate on the match instead. As Byron Saxton tried to grill Daniel for his attitude adjustment, AJ and Miz put on a pretty good main event; the sort of bout that won’t live long in the memory, but is very well-executed when you break it down. A distraction by Bryan allowed Miz to shove AJ into the steel stairs and to level him with another Skull-Crushing Finale, but he only scored a two-count. As Bryan looked on, concerned, AJ trapped Miz in the Calf Crusher and won via submission. Post-match, Bryan destroyed AJ, pounding him with kicks, and had ring announcer Greg Hamilton remind us that he is “The WWE Champion, The New Daniel Bryan”. Then, Bryan pounded AJ again as the show went off the air. As much as I disagree with the timing of Bryan’s heel turn, he is starting to really become a highlight of the current WWE product in his new role, and right now, he’s the most intriguing non-female wrestler on the blue brand.
This was a really enjoyable show. At a time when Raw is clearly struggling for a variety of reasons, SmackDown keeps chugging along just fine. Sure, there are some issues (New Day and Usos have been challenging for the SD Tag Titles for aeons now, despite the high quality of the division’s matches), but it’s the sort of programme that you can just sit back and appreciate, which is as good a compliment as you could give to a wrestling show in late 2018.