WWE SmackDown Results: Asuka Finally Back in Title Contention and Top Takeaways
SmackDown Live is in turmoil. With WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs rapidly approaching, many stars do not have a clear direction. AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are set to compete at the event for the WWE Championship, but even their rivalry is evolving with The Beard showing off a new attitude.
Becky Lynch may be the biggest star on the brand, but a concussion sidelined her for Survivor Series and has left her immediate future in question. This episode did promise her return, but it was not clear what she would say.
The Bar set an open challenge to any tag team on the brand other than The New Day, and The Usos accepted. This had the potential to either push SmackDown's division to the next level or just act a temporary reprieve from the endless matches between New Day and Sheamus and Cesaro.
From Randy Orton's heinous assault of Rey Mysterio to the constant question of who will step up to Shinsuke Nakamura, there were many potential extra stories for SmackDown to tell with no certainty of what angles will define the blue brand for the rest of the year.
However, the November 27 edition of SmackDown gave some crucial answers, leading to a series of important takeaways for the future.
It Took Too Long for Asuka to Return to the Title Picture
Becky Lynch opened the show by announcing she was officially back in action and called out Charlotte Flair.
After a few heated words between the two, Paige confirmed The Irish Lass Kicker vs. The Queen in a TLC match for the December 16 pay-per-view with the rest of the women's locker room protesting the decision.
The general manager then announced a Battle Royal to add a third member to the match, which Asuka won by last eliminating Sonya Deville. The Empress of Tomorrow has returned to the title picture, but it is far too late considering how talented she is.
The best possible outcome here would be a stellar Triple Threat followed by The Man vs. The Empress at Royal Rumble, but given her recent booking, Asuka is more likely to fall right back down the ladder after the huge title match.
It's a shame because the women's division always feels more interesting when the Japanese Superstar is in the mix. Obviously, Lynch and Charlotte are the top stars in the division and continue to be excellent, but they need real rivals for when their own feud has run its course.
Asuka is the most talented option and can help elevate others, too. Deville is rising up the ranks, Naomi should eventually get another shot, and Carmella is improving with every appearance and was already champion this year.
The SmackDown women's division is stacked—but only if the talent presented is used to its full potential.
The Usos' Return to Title Contention Signals Return to Form for Tag Division
The Bar put out an open challenge on Twitter for any team to step up Tuesday, and The Usos answered.
After throwing all their frustrations at Big Show, causing him to walk out on the team before SmackDown, Sheamus and Cesaro were alone and fell to Jimmy and Jey Uso in a top-notch tag team match.
No team is more reliably excellent in all of WWE than The Usos, and it is always a shame when they are not in the title picture. Luckily, the brothers have returned just in time to vary SmackDown's tag team division and set up one of the best tag team pairings the company has to offer.
Sheamus and Cesaro have been stuck in a lackluster feud with Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods for months that seemed to be looping. Even though both teams are great, the brand needed a fresh start, and that seems to be coming with The Bar letting go of The World's Largest Athlete as well.
The Usos vs. The Bar is a fresh matchup that has barely happened over the years, but the two teams have incredible chemistry. It was shown this week, and it will be shown again when they fight for the championships.
While the SmackDown tag team division still should be used better with so much talent left waiting, this is a good start to adding more attention to the division.
Rusev Should Be Next United States Champion
Shinsuke Nakamura was set to fight Rusev one-on-one, but The Artist decided to take a short cut instead.
He cheap-shot The Bulgarian Brute from behind and then laid him out with a pair of Kinshasas. Rusev could not even stand while the United States champion walked to the back gloating.
The Super Athlete may have lost his ace when he and Aiden English broke up, but he's still one of the most popular and talented stars on the roster. It is nice to see him getting a story again. He and Nakamura have always been great together.
This rivalry is just starting, so it is hard to say where it will go. However, it would be the right move to have Rusev capture the U.S. title. While The Bulgarian Brute has held the championship before, this would be the most important run of his career with the belt.
He is coming off a big angle that could ruin his momentum. If he falls now, the Rusev Day chants are likely to disappear entirely. Meanwhile, Nakamura has not done much with the championship and might benefit from being truly challenged.
Champion or not, The King of Strong Style barely feels like he's fitting in with WWE. A rivalry with Rusev that leads to him falling short could help to add some drama to his current run.
Jeff Hardy Beats All Odds to Make It 20 Years in the Business
Jeff Hardy celebrated his 20th anniversary in WWE with Michael Cole interviewing him on how important this milestone is.
The Charismatic Enigma thanked the fans and promised many more great moments to come. Samoa Joe interrupted the festivities, though, and raked over Hardy's past problems.
It is true Hardy has taken missteps during his 20 years with WWE. His issues with drugs and alcohol derailed him often, and his style of performing was also far too reckless for his body to hold up.
Despite it all, though, he's still standing, and that should be commended. He beat back his demons and kept healthy despite all the risks he has taken. His perseverance is almost superhuman.
The Daredevil has been a huge part of wrestling over the past 20 years, and he will likely be a first-ballot WWE Hall of Famer once he retires. He is clearly starting to slow down with injuries piling up, but it would not be surprising if that retirement is still several years away.
For now, he looks to be turning to a feud with The Samoan Submission Specialist, which is a great way to keep both men relevant. The two have been good together despite both veterans taking a step back in the last year.
The Miz Has Suffered Most from Daniel Bryan's Heel Turn
New Day made fun of The Miz backstage for his loss to a jobber last week, and The A-Lister did not take it lightly. He promised he could beat any member of the trio.
Miz fought Kofi, with New Day making sure The A-Lister could not cheat, setting him up to walk into Trouble in Paradise for the loss.
No one was in better position to become the next WWE champion a few months back than Miz. His feud with Daniel Bryan set him up perfectly to steal AJ Styles' WWE Championship, but The Beard took the short cut first, halting all of Miz's momentum.
Since The "Yes" Man became WWE champion, The A-Lister has quickly fallen off the map. His relationship with Shane McMahon feels like a comedy act, and now he is working with New Day, who frequently play the most comedic role on the blue brand.
With Bryan becoming the new No. 1 heel on SmackDown, Miz has slunk into the background. Perhaps he is just biding his time for a bigger angle on the Road to WrestleMania, but the immediate future does not look bright.