WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 11
Five days before WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, SmackDown Live rolled into T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for an explosive telecast that put the final touches on the build to the pay-per-view extravaganza.
Headlined by a WrestleMania 34 rematch pitting Asuka against Charlotte Flair, and featuring a Battle Rap between SmackDown tag team champions The Bar and The Usos, the show would display the same quiet consistency the blue brand has become known for over the second half of 2018.
Who would emerge from the high-profile rematch, which team would build momentum ahead of the Triple Threat match for tag titles Sunday and how would Jeff Hardy respond to Samoa Joe's continued mocking of his demons?
Find out with this recap of Tuesday's USA Network presentation.
Daniel Bryan Is Interrupted by Mustafa Ali
Daniel Bryan kicked off this week's show, just five days before defending his WWE Championship against AJ Styles at TLC.
He apologized to sheep for comparing them to the idiotic, mindless WWE Universe who lived vicariously through the old Bryan's success.
The Beard vowed to crush Styles' dream Sunday, and then turned his attention back to the fans. Mustafa Ali interrupted and reminded Bryan that his old self would love a fight, which is exactly what The Heart of 205 Live wanted.
Bryan insulted Ali and added injury to it, slapping him. A brawl broke out heading into the break.
This was not nearly as much about spotlighting Ali as some will have you believe. Instead, it was a spotlight for the Bryan character, which continues to be one of the most engrossing and entertaining in all of WWE.
That should not be any great surprise given the character work that has been a staple of the SmackDown brand all year.
Bryan continues to criticize the WWE Universe for their sins, amplifying them while de-emphasizing his own. It is magnificent heel work from a guy who, it seems, has been waiting to unleash his dark side for years.
Mustafa Ali vs. Daniel Bryan
Back from the commercial break, Bryan systematically picked Ali apart, unloading on him with a series of kicks to the chest and upper body. After another commercial break, The Beard continued his attack, setting his opponent up for a side superplex.
Ali countered out, dodged a corner dropkick and took the fight to Bryan, including a beautiful tornado DDT for the count of two.
Bryan regained control of the match and targeted the knee of his opponent, wrapping it around the ring post and delivering a sickening chop block. The heel hook followed, and Ali had no choice but to tap out.
After the match, Bryan assaulted Ali further, drawing boos from the same fans who used to greet him with cheers in arenas around the world.
Bryan defeated Ali
So much of the match took place during the commercial break that it hurt its ability to realize its potential.
With that said, there were elements of the classic Raw match between Taka Michinoku and Triple H from 2000, when everyone knew Michinoku stood no chance of winning the match but The Game did just enough to sell for him that it appeared the upset could happen.
A few more minutes and less commercial interruption would have helped this one exponentially. As it stands, it was still a fine match that showcased Bryan's more tenacious in-ring style ahead of a date with The Phenomenal One in San Jose, California, Sunday night.
Battle Rap Featuring The Usos and The Bar
Ahead of Sunday's Triple Threat match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, The New Day hosted a Rap Battle between The Usos and The Bar.
Sheamus and Cesaro sported New Day's old, red tracksuits, while Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods said they were hosting for "obvious reasons," drawing laughter from the fans.
The Bar did a riff on Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" that earned applause from the fans. Jimmy and Jey answered with a knock on Sheamus' role as Rocksteady in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film franchise and Cesaro's missing front teeth.
It ended with The Bar laying waste to both New Day and The Usos to close out the segment and send a message ahead of Sunday's title bout.
This was the type of mindless fun SmackDown does that Raw doesn't and, in the process, provides segments for fans to find some entertainment in.
Did this do anything of any real significance to heighten the importance of the match it was hyping? No. What it did was provide one last bit of heat for a match fans have seen time and time again between the three finest teams on the roster.
It did its job, fans responded and it earns a "B" as a result.
The Miz Calls Out Shane McMahon
The Miz, still smarting from Shane McMahon replacing him and winning the WWE World Cup at Crown Jewel, called his boss out.
His arms hugging the Best in the World trophy, Miz comically implored the SmackDown commissioner to join him as a tag team.
McMahon said Miz's insistence is getting weird, to which The Hollywood A-Lister demanded a referee for a match against Chip and Chad, The Vegas Boys.
The enhancement talents attacked McMahon from behind, much to the chagrin of Miz. Shane-O-Mac fought them off and scored the win with a triangle.
After the match, Miz celebrated as if he had done any of the work, still trying to talk the commissioner into becoming a long-term team.
Miz and McMahon defeated Chip and Chad
If there is one story on the SmackDown brand that is falling flat, it is this one.
Miz and McMahon have almost zero chemistry on the mic, and the story makes no sense, even if you take into consideration the possibility (likelihood) that The A-Lister is suckering his boss in.
This will likely lead to a WrestleMania match of some sort between the two, but nothing that has happened to this point has been enough to spark the interest of a fanbase that needs less Shane-O-Mac and more of some of the lesser-utilized competitors on the roster.
Randy Orton Promo
Ahead of Sunday's chairs match with Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton hit the ring to address his opponent and the punishment that faces The Master of the 619.
The Viper threw to a video of his assault on Mysterio from a few weeks back.
Mysterio appeared and took the fight to Orton, delivering a 619 that reminded the third-generation star of just what the masked luchador is capable of.
Mysterio stood tall to close out the brief segment.
Short, sweet and to the point, this did a fine job of giving fans a small taste of the payback Mysterio will look to dish out to The Viper Sunday night.
Beyond that, it accomplished nothing.
Nor did it have to.
Jeff Hardy and Rusev vs. Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura
The increasingly personal rivalry between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe continued Tuesday, as did the United States Championship program between Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura, as the four Superstars collided in a massive tag team match pitting Hardy and Rusev against Joe and Nakamura.
Before the match could start, R-Truth and Carmella interrupted for a short dance break before ordering the festivities to proceed.
Nakamura attacked Hardy from behind, and the heels took turns wearing down The Charismatic Enigma straight through the commercial break.
Hardy fought back just as the show returned from the interval, but Joe ended a comeback attempt with a kick to the face for a count of two.
As the action broke down, Hardy made the tag to Rusev and wiped Joe out at ringside. The Bulgarian Brute fought back and scored the victory, delivering the Machka Kick for the win.
Rusev and Hardy defeated Joe and Nakamura
Time constraints and the dreaded mid-match commercial break hurt the overall flow of this one.
The Hardy-Joe feud was at the forefront of it, but Rusev's victory over Nakamura allowed him to continue rolling into his eventual clash with The Artist for the U.S. title.
This did little to further either story but made sure it received some television time. For that, it earns a grade slightly above average.
Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair
At WrestleMania 34, Charlotte Flair ended the 914-day undefeated streak of Asuka.
Tuesday night, five days before those two women join Becky Lynch for a Triple Threat Tables, Ladders & Chairs match for the SmackDown Women's Championship, they renewed their rivalry in the main event.
Before the match, Lynch made her presence felt by joining the commentary team.
Asuka took the fight to her opponent early, trapping her in a knee bar before grounding her with a German suplex. Flair responded with a big boot to the face that slowed The Empress of Tomorrow's momentum.
The Japanese Superstar responded with an Asuka Lock, attempting to tap her opponent out early in the match. Flair escaped, driving her opponent to the mat. An alert and tenacious Asuka reapplied the hold, catching her opponent off guard.
Back from the break, Asuka had Flair trapped in an octopus submission. With every attempt The Queen had to break free from her opponent's grip and create separation, Asuka cut her off and grounded her.
Flair finally did seize control of the match, targeting the knee and applying the Figure Four. Asuka reversed it, causing pain to her opponent. The former women's champion recovered, though, and continued to attack the knee. She wrapped the knee around the ring post, stopping to stare down Lynch.
Asuka countered a Figure Four attempt with an inside cradle for two.
Asuka fought back and blasted Flair, scoring a count of two. The Queen answered with a near-fall of her own off a spear. The Empress caught her with the Asuka Lock, but the women fell to the floor.
With a sense of desperation setting in, Flair grabbed a kendo stick and blasted her opponent with it, drawing a disqualification.
Lynch rose from the announce table and looked on approvingly. As she tried to walk away, Flair hit her with the stick. She returned her focus to Asuka, but The Irish Lass Kicker took the fight to her.
Asuka finally recovered and beat both of her opponents down, using the kendo stick to pummel her rivals.
The Empress of Tomorrow stood tall as the show faded to black, with both women lying at her feet.
Asuka defeated Flair via disqualification
While it was nowhere near the quality of their WrestleMania bout, the main event of Tuesday's show was the hard-fought, hard-hitting match one would expect from two women of such in-ring quality.
The finish allowed both to save face and set up the intense, violent conclusion in which the kendo stick featured prominently. Expect that to be the case Sunday night, too.
Asuka standing tall was essential in that she needed to be rebuilt into a threat to the title after the manner in which she has been booked over the last six months.
WWE Creative succeeded in building anticipation and excitement for Sunday's match, so much so that it almost certainly has to be the main event of the pay-per-view or risk overshadowing everything else on the card.