WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 18
Change is coming. At least that's what the McMahons promised after a clear statement on WWE Raw that they would be retaking both shows. While a fresh look for the red brand is welcome, it is less clear whether SmackDown will benefit from this move.
The December 18 edition of the blue brand was the first chance to see that change in action while dealing with major fallout from WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2018, a night that included two incredible matches from SmackDown's best.
With the timely assist of an angry Ronda Rousey, Asuka managed to overcome both Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair to capture the SmackDown Women's Championship. This left The Empress of Tomorrow on top of the mountain with two angry elite stars after her title.
Another elite wrestler who managed to anger his biggest rival was Daniel Bryan. The WWE champion managed to escape AJ Styles after an intense battle thanks to a surprise small package, which was a result The Phenomenal One was sure to dispute.
With Sheamus and Cesaro also emerging victorious on Sunday and the promise of massive matches in the final weeks of the year, this week's SmackDown had the potential to be a spectacular turning point for WWE.
Shane McMahon Announces Paige Is Stepping Down as GM
SmackDown Live commissioner Shane McMahon opened the show by addressing the entire roster.
He stated that the changes promised on Raw would also affect the blue brand, starting on Tuesday's show.
McMahon then announced Paige was moving out of her role as general manager into a new undefined position.
This was an anticlimactic way to follow up on Monday, with McMahon continuing to talk about all the changes that could eventually come, but nothing more was announced beyond the general manager being transitioned into a new role.
Hopefully, Paige won't disappear from TV for a while, as she was good in her authority role. She was exactly the type of GM a wrestling show needs—she kept the focus on the competitors.
SmackDown Women's Champion Asuka vs. Naomi
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair both complained about Ronda Rousey costing them gold on Sunday before Asuka showed up, ready to fight both.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon also arrived, though, to announce there would be a unique title match Tuesday night, with Naomi granted a shot at Asuka.
Naomi pushed her friend to the limit as The Empress of Tomorrow's TLC opponents looked on. She escaped the Asuka Lock twice but couldn't take the win with the Rear View.
Naomi jumped right into a double-knee facebuster and tapped out quickly to the Asuka Lock.
Asuka def. Naomi by submission to retain the SmackDown Women's Championship
WWE is clearly trying to push Lynch and Charlotte out of the title picture to focus on Rousey, which will lead to some interesting matches in the coming months for SmackDown's women's division.
The first beneficiary was Naomi. While she didn't have clear chemistry with The Empress of Tomorrow, the two pushed the pace throughout with a lot of great moments.
This was far above typical TV-match quality and the strongest singles match Naomi has had all year.
Samoa Joe Attempts an Intervention for Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy called out Samoa Joe for a supposed apology, with The Samoan Submission Specialist announcing he was actually appearing for an intervention.
The Charismatic Enigma questioned if all the mind games were just Joe's way of ignoring the fact he had never won a championship in WWE.
This caused the veteran to snap. He attacked The Daredevil but got laid out.
This was short and sweet. Joe got to continue to show off his mastery of the mic, and Hardy didn't have to talk long enough that his weaknesses shone through.
This feud has been interesting, but it needs to develop into something more soon.
The Miz and Mandy Rose vs. R-Truth and Carmella
The Miz tried to speak to Shane McMahon backstage, but Vince would not let him.
Instead, The Chairman decided to let The A-Lister prove himself in a tag team match with a partner of the WWE supremo's choosing.
Miz ended up teaming with Mandy Rose against R-Truth and Carmella.
While the Mixed Match Challenge winners kept Miz on his toes, The Golden Goddess distracted The Princess of Staten Island long enough for him to sneak in and hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Truth for the win.
Miz and Rose def. Fabulous Truth by pinfall
This was perfectly fine, but it's odd that even with so much change promised, Miz is still acting like a goof. He is stuck in a storyline that, at best, will lead to an interesting face turn; at worst, it will just ruin his legitimacy.
It was a mistake to devalue the Mixed Match Challenge this quickly by having Truth and Carmella lose two nights after winning the tournament.
The Usos vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Jimmy and Jey Uso called out Sheamus and Cesaro for a rematch they were sure they could win, but Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson answered instead. They felt they had been neglected for months.
With the approval of the McMahon family, the match started right away.
While The Good Brothers pushed The Usos to their limit, it looked like Jimmy and Jey would take this late. The Bar hit the ring, though, and just as the champions were approaching, Sanity attacked both teams, causing a no-contest.
The Bar then picked up the scraps to stand tall.
The Usos vs. The Good Brothers goes to a no-contest
It is so refreshing to see SmackDown's tag team division opening up again. This was the best showcase of WWE's changes on either brand this week.
Gallows and Anderson (and Sanity) got to stand out again, as both are far too talented to be so clearly ignored.
Even if The Bar vs. The Usos is still a money feud, SmackDown will benefit most from using everyone rather than letting them sit on the sidelines for months. This match was proof that it made no sense for The Good Brothers to be off TV for months.
Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura Refuse to Take Each Other Seriously
Rusev was interviewed backstage and made clear he is what a true champion looks like, not Shinsuke Nakamura, who he compared to Sonic the Hedgehog.
Later in the night, the United States champion called The Bulgarian Brute a diva, not a championship contender, and showed Total Divas clips.
It is good to see Rusev and Nakamura adding more depth to their rivalry, even if it is through silly jabs.
By using Rusev's Total Divas footage, the show is also giving fans a clearer view of The Super Athlete's personality.
The Bulgarian Brute is just getting into his babyface role in WWE, and it would be a great move to let him continue to expand upon his new character in the coming weeks and months.
Daniel Bryan and Andrade 'Cien' Almas vs. AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali
Daniel Bryan shamed the Fresno, California, crowd and promised to be an example for them to be better.
The heels managed to isolate Mustafa Ali, but Andrade "Cien" Almas continued to make the mistake of taking the newest member of the SmackDown roster lightly.
Ali got his knees up to set up the hot tag to Styles, with the former champion running all over the current titleholder.
The Phenomenal One then gave The Heart of 205 Live the opening to hit the 054 on Bryan to take the victory.
Styles and Ali def. Bryan and Almas by pinfall
This was a fun tag team match that was a huge moment for Ali.
He got the chance to push Bryan last week, but here he was the star of the show and got the victory. One of the most consistently excellent performers in 2018, it looks like Ali could be launching to the top of the card in 2019.
If this was any indication, we may soon be getting more Ali vs. Bryan, as well as the potential for Ali vs. Almas, which is just the tip of the iceberg for what can be done with SmackDown's newest star.