Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/11/29/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-11-27-2018/.)
I was hoping that this week’s SmackDown would be an improvement upon last week’s edition, which mixed largely missable content with the complete ignorance of the
brand’s defeat by Raw at Survivor Series. While the latest edition didn’t acknowledge the brand’s trouncing either (which tells me that whatever storyline they had planned has been dropped), the show overall was an improvement, and certainly better than the entirely forgettable Raw from this past Monday.
Paige-Becky Lynch Promo
Paige opened proceedings by introducing Becky Lynch, who hasn’t appeared on TV since she announced that a broken face and concussion would prohibit her from facing
Ronda Rousey at Survivors. Looking healthy and recuperated here, but presumably being rested from in-ring action for the time being, Becky called out her SS replacement Charlotte Flair, who let’s not forget had been engaged in a heated feud for months before the emotion of Becky’s injuries led the two to sort-of re-connect when Flair was picked as her replacement. So, it was strange for Lynch to suddenly target Charlotte again here, calling her essentially a rip-off of Becky. The two exchanged words, with Paige announcing a TLC match between the two at, erm, TLC. But protests by the heels on SD, followed by a speech from the faces, led the GM to announce a battle royal for later in the evening, with the winner joining Becky and Charlotte for a three-way TLC match on December 16.
The Usos vs. The Bar
You may have read some recent reports that there may be heat on The Usos backstage. Well, that clearly wasn’t true, with Jimmy and Jey getting plenty of time to put on
a typically good performance here against Sheamus and Cesaro, and to pick up the win no less in a fun opener. Presumably, this will lead to The Usos challenging The Bar for the SD tag belts at TLC, in a follow-up to their underrated clash at Survivors 2017. Perhaps the big talking point consisted of a pre-match segment taped backstage earlier in the day, which saw Cesaro blaming Big Show for their loss last week to New Day, and Show’s retaliation being a WMD Punch that removes Show from their side, just six weeks after their alignment was born. In other words, Big Show turned yet again!
AJ Styles Promo
AJ Styles made his first appearance since being cheated out of the WWE Title against Daniel Bryan two weeks ago, and as you might imagine, AJ wasn’t happy. Noting that
he was more unhappy with Bryan’s post-match attack than the ball-boot that led to the title change, AJ also criticised Bryan for not being present in the arena (it’s worth remembering that AJ wasn’t on SD last week), and even suggested he’d learned a lesson from Raw’s part-time titleholder Brock Lesnar, before vowing to defeat him for the gold at TLC. This was short and to the point, and it keeps things ticking along until the big AJ-Bryan confrontation next week (I assume).
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
This rematch from the Crown Jewel Kick-Off Show … never actually happened as Nakamura attacked Rusev before the bell, levelling him with a Kinshasa. Will Rusev get
another crack at Shinsuke’s United States crown? And if it does, will it make the main card of a PPV this time?
Jeff Hardy’s 20th Anniversary Celebration
It seemed like a random night to celebrate 20 years of Brother Nero, though it was presented as a big deal with the entire SmackDown roster on hand to applaud Hardy as
he reflected upon his career (plus Michael Cole did the honours of interviewing him here, despite him being a Raw announcer). A video tribute played to show Jeff’s biggest moments, and pictures showing different phases of his career surrounded Jeff as he thanked the fans and his family. This would only have one of two outcomes: Hardy announcing his retirement, or somebody interrupting him. And the latter would apply with Samoa Joe coming out to chastise people for celebrating Jeff despite his history of substance and drink problems. Joe backed off and walked away before a brawl could break out, but Joe’s words were stinging enough to warrant a future match (and presumed rivalry) with Hardy.
Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz
This was set up by an earlier backstage confrontation between Miz and The New Day, during which it was revealed that Big E may or may not be a closet Mariner! The
match itself was okay if nothing particularly memorable, though it did see Miz taking out Xavier Woods with a baseball slide, knocking over him and his trombone. That provided the opening for Kofi to seal the win with Trouble In Paradise like it was 2012 all over again. Backstage later on, Miz complained to Shane McMahon that his bestie wasn’t looking out for him; a clearly perplexed Shane was bemused as Miz even softly pushed his World Cup trophy at him. Clearly, they’re setting up a Shane vs. Miz feud somewhere down the line, and Miz is becoming so entertaining that a babyface turn could be right around the corner.
Randy Orton Promo
Randy Orton came out to discuss his attack and unmasking of Rey Mysterio last week, noting that he wanted to embarrass and humiliate Rey. As he went to finish off by
emphasising how dangerous the RKO is, though, Rey himself came out wearing both a new mask and a neck brace and charged towards Orton at ringside. The two fought for some
time, and Orton took a 619 from Rey, but it was Randy who came out on top when he drove a chair into Rey’s throat outside the ring, injuring his trachea for the second straight week. I would say that all of this is helping to set up Orton as a monster heel title challenger, but with newly-heel Daniel Bryan now holding the WWE Title, I have no idea where Orton’s crusade against popular babyfaces is leading.
Women’s Battle Royal
There were nine participants in the show-closing battle royal, with TLC opponents Becky Lynch and Charlotte sat at ringside to observe the main event. Zelina Vega, Lana, Carmella, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Naomi and Mandy Rose were all eliminated (I had predicted a win for Naomi here), leaving us with Asuka and Sonya Deville as the final two. Deville held her own throughout the finishing stretch, which is a good sign for her as it suggests she may enter the title picture in early 2019, but on this occasion it was Asuka who eventually knocked Sonya to the floor to win. Asuka hasn’t been rehabilitated, but it does seem like WWE is trying to rebuild her by having her challenge Becky and Charlotte. She may also be the only female on SmackDown who fans will cheer if she captures the blue brand women’s crown at TLC (perhaps after interference by a vengeful Ronda Rousey?).
This was a fun episode of SmackDown to watch. It wasn’t the best of the year by any means, but it was a big improvement on last week’s show, and greatly superior to
the phoned-in Raw episode. Plenty of things happened to move storylines along towards TLC and beyond, and things should remain intriguing next week as Daniel Bryan and
AJ Styles have their first proper face-off since the former’s heel turn.