Written By: Mark Armstrong
Are we really so close to Royal Rumble already? It only feels like yesterday when the dust settled from TLC, yet we’re almost at the destination point for the supershow that officially begins the Road To WrestleMania. We’re not quite there yet, though, and this episode of SmackDown seemed destined to simply move stories along, though we did have the promise of a Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade match which was definitely a fun prospect.
Becky Lynch Promo
After arriving at the arena and intervening with a New Day/Heavy Machinery food and drink session, Becky Lynch marched to the ring, trying to understand why Asuka would ask whether Becky was ready for her considering the Empress’ steep decline after her first defeat at WrestleMania 34. Asuka did come out to offer a retort, but both were interrupted by The IIconics, who announced plans to win the women’s Rumble match and the Women’s Tag Team Title match at Elimination Chamber (announced on Raw). Fed up with their comments, Becky dared one of them to step into the ring with her that moment.
Becky Lynch vs. Peyton Royce
It was Peyton Royce who answered the challenge of the Lass Kicker, and despite an early Dis-Arm-Her attempt by Becky, Peyton actually held up pretty well in the ring with The Man, even if she was assisted by her IIconic in crime, Billie Kay. But, with Asuka looking on, Becky (wrestling in street clothes, since she’d literally just arrived at the building) picked up the win when she managed to fully lock in the Dis-Arm-Her. Unimpressed, Asuka responded by daring the other IIconic, Billie Kay, to wrestle her. And by “dared”, I mean that Asuka literally ran after her and tossed her into the ring, with the referee serving as the Authority (hey, HHH and co. did say that the authority was shared these days) to ring the bell.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay
Not surprisingly, Asuka won very quickly with the Asuka Lock, but not before an attempt to annoy Becky by trying to lock in a Dis-Arm-Her almost backfired in a neat twist. The two Rumble opponents stood face-to-face afterwards, only to be interrupted by AJ Styles.
AJ came to the ring, but then after circulating ringside, he began walking up through the audience until he reached the concession stand. Handing out T-shirts and hot dogs, AJ vowed to defeat Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble, but was then cheap-shotted by a “fan” who was, of course, D-Bryan himself. The two brawled until AJ drove Bryan through a table covered in hot dogs (Bryan’s current gimmick being that he detests anyone who eats meat and anyone who generally damages the world in some way), and the two were separated.
Backstage, Jimmy Uso (with Jey at his side) was given a present, which he thought was an anniversary gift from Naomi. It was a red rose with a heartfelt note from … Mandy Rose, who also included her hotel key. Why Jimmy didn’t just dismiss it was anyone’s guess, but the implication was that he was interested. This pleased Mandy, who later told a concerned Sonya Deville that she wished to ruin Jimmy and Naomi’s marriage. The swine!
Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali
This match never got started, as Joe attacked Ali during his entrance, bouncing him all over ringside and leaving him in a wreck. Mustafa has had an eventful first month on SmackDown, and this should be a fun feud for him, even if I’m a bit disappointed that we never got a proper conclusion to the Joe-Jeff Hardy rivalry.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade
Before I begin, wrestling Twitter was up in arms because Andrade “Cien” Almas is now, simply, Andrade. Regardless of the reasons behind this and similar name changes/shortenings (Antonio Cesaro becoming Cesaro, Big E Langston becoming Big E etc), I have to ask: is it really worth getting that wound up over someone’s name being altered? I realise that the default mindset for many wrestling fans in 2019 is one of negativity and a desire to find fault, but if we’re going to get wound up over something like this, then there’s no real hope for them going forward. It adds weight to the theory that many wrestling fans are and never will be satisfied. Mick Foley once described his Cactus Jack character as being dangerous partly because he would go wild at the leaves changing colour, and that perfectly describes those fans who are legitimately upset at this extremely minor development. It makes me wonder what the breaking point will be, because we’ve gone from debating WrestleMania main eventers to quarrelling over the visual look of titles to being enraged at someone’s name being shortened.
With that out of the way, I was hoping that this would be a great match based on their previous interactions, and fortunately it was. Without question, it was the best bout on SmackDown in a long time, with so many great spots, reversals and generally high-quality action. Rey’s hurricanrana off the top rope to Andrade (who was on the apron at the time), Andrade’s signature double moonsault and Rey pulling out the Canadian Destroyer again were just some of the highlights of an incredible TV bout. In the end, a distraction by Zelina Vega allowed Andrade to pick up the win with the Hammerlock DDT, giving him a pin over Rey for the second straight week. I’m not expecting Andrade to crack the main event scene before WrestleMania, but I would definitely like to see this feud continue; if ever there was a pairing that could pull off a Best-Of-Seven, it would be these two.
At a mysterious hotel room, Jimmy Uso popped by to see Mandy Rose, who removed a robe to reveal some sexy black lingerie. Standing close to Jimmy, a cameraman came from out of nowhere to capture the moment, with Mandy (who put her robe back on) telling Uce that she didn’t like him and simply wanted to destroy his marriage to Naomi, who she detested. Cue Jimmy leaving to bring in – yes! – Naomi, who brawled with Mandy around the room. This bore a resemblance to the Rusev/Lana/Enzo storyline from 2016, except that this time the interfering party is (logically) a heel. Between this and the implication of Alexa Bliss being topless momentarily during Raw, WWE is adding a bit of edge and sexuality back to its programming, and while it may not be to everyone’s tastes, it’s a sign that they are definitely trying to push the boundaries of what is acceptable on a TV-PG show, presumably to cater to those who are crying out for a more adult-orientated product again.
Shane McMahon’s Birthday Bash
The Miz introduced a special birthday party of sorts for Shane McMahon, complete with balloons, several cakes (including one that had a picture of Miz and Shane on it), as well as some gifts, including brand new trainers, and a video tribute to Shane, which evolved into the formation of their alliance. After Shane noted how his one dream was to be Tag Team Champions (I’m sure it was for the son of a promoter), The Bar interrupted the festivities, wondering why they weren’t invited, and suggested that Vince himself wasn’t here because he didn’t give a damn about Shane. The fighting talk led to Shane making a Miz-Sheamus match on the spot, and so the party was abruptly ended.
Sheamus vs. The Miz
Miz was the second performer to compete in street clothes (well, suit trousers in his case), as he and Sheamus tussled with both Shane and Cesaro stationed at ringside. Also still at ringside were the aforementioned cakes spread across tables, so you knew what was coming. Yes, Shane dragged Cesaro off the apron through one cake-covered table, allowing Miz to roll up Sheamus for the pin, and after Shane halted a post-match Celtic Warrior attack, Miz held another cake in Sheamus’ face as Shane drilled him with a Coast To Coast (on his birthday, no less!). Shane looked like he hurt his back on the move, though it didn’t stop him and Miz celebrating, with the World Cup trophy in hand, to close the evening. Miz is almost a full babyface at this point, but I am still convinced that we’re getting a full-on betrayal and beatdown by him towards Shane in the coming weeks to set up a Mania match.
It’s been a good week on WWE TV then, because after a highly eventful Raw, we had an edition of SmackDown here that had something for everyone. The Rey-Andrade match was the clear highlight, but there was a good mix of storytelling, comedy, plot advancement and more. The one negative against the blue brand at this present time is the lack of belief that any of its roster are going to win the Royal Rumble match (its best hope is free agent John Cena, who didn’t appear here), but otherwise this was a fun episode, and it continues its streak of good-to-great television in recent times.