WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 15
While WWE Raw has slowly been shifting into high gear, SmackDown Live has been full steam ahead since the new year, with the January 15 edition being another chance for the blue brand to bring more excitement to the 2019 Royal Rumble.
Ahead of Tuesday night, the biggest promise was a long-awaited rematch between Andrade "Cien" Almas and Rey Mysterio after El Idolo pinned The Master of the 619 last week. These two are such great competitors with comparable styles that it was certain to be a match to turn heads.
The Miz also made an announcement ahead of time that he would throw "The Best Birthday Bash in the World" for SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon. These two have a long way to go as a team to come off as legitimate, but this was certain to be entertaining at least.
The two biggest feuds on the blue brand were also likely to be featured heavily, with massive heat between Becky Lynch and Asuka as well as Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles. Both rivalries had a chance to explode at any moment.
This episode of SmackDown could have been seen as filler going in, but it still had all the potential in the world to be another great edition for a show that has not missed a beat for a while.
Becky Lynch and Asuka Promise to Be Champion After Royal Rumble
Becky Lynch arrived in her truck to open the show and was asked about how ready she was for Asuka. She decided to answer in the ring and quickly showed how game she is by taking a sip of Heavy Machinery's bizarre mess of a protein shake.
The crowd was electric for The Man, helped by the camera focusing on her as she marched to the ring and explained how important she has been to the women's division. Asuka took exception to those comments and interrupted to talk down her challenger.
Just as The Empress of Tomorrow was getting confident on the microphone, The IIconics interrupted to insult both women and promise to win both the women's Royal Rumble and the Women's Tag Team Championships. Lynch challenged either to step in the ring with her.
This was a great segment for Lynch, as she felt like the true star of SmackDown she has become. Having the camera follow her to the ring made it even easier to root for her and sold her as a woman on a mission, with her words backing that up.
The Empress may not be a great talker, but she has the charisma to make up for it. It's still impactful when she's in the same ring with the biggest star on SmackDown, and the two work well off each other.
The IIconics mainly served to be an antagonistic force here, but it's worth considering if they have a legitimate chance to win the tag team titles at Elimination Chamber on February 17.
Becky Lynch vs. Peyton Royce; Asuka vs. Billie Kay
Peyton Royce took up Becky Lynch's challenge and was quickly overwhelmed. However, after The IIconics member was poorly positioned for a running baseball slide, she got back into the match with an impactful knee to the face.
While this brief dominance made Royce look good, she still ended up getting caught by the Dis-arm-her and tapping out. An angry Asuka demanded a match with Billie Kay to prove she was just as good as Lynch, which the other IIconic refused.
However, The Empress dragged Kay back to the ring and got her match, winning quickly by showing off her own version of the Dis-arm-her before transitioning into the Asuka Lock for a tapout. Afterward, the championship contenders stared down each other.
Lynch def. Royce by submission; Asuka def. Kay by submission
These matches were not all that exciting, but they served their purpose well enough. Lynch and Royce are decent opponents even though it felt like the result was too obvious to even tease The Man losing.
Asuka vs. Kay was smartly kept short and focused just on the SmackDown women's champion looking good. This will likely lead to Lynch and Asuka vs. The IIconics next week, which will hopefully be stronger than both of the individual matches.
AJ Styles Fires Back at Daniel Bryan's Incendiary Comments
AJ Styles interrupted a tense faceoff between Becky Lynch and Asuka to march into the crowd and call out Daniel Bryan.
The Phenomenal One threw out gifts to fans from the merchandise stand before the WWE champion attacked him.
The two had a good brawl before The Beard was launched through a table and security was forced to step in and pull Styles off Bryan.
This wasn't quite as great as last week's Bryan promo, but it continued the excitement surrounding these two men. A simple fight can mean more than any words in selling a rivalry, and most everything has already been said between Styles and Bryan.
Now they just need to keep their momentum by brawling until their clash at the Royal Rumble on January 27. It would be smart to add a stipulation to their final encounter with them already fighting in the crowd multiple weeks. Falls Count Anywhere would be perfect for these two.
Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali
Samoa Joe laid out Mustafa Ali before the bell and refused to stop his brutal assault.
This was a strong moment for The Samoan Submission Specialist to establish himself anew, ending his attack by throwing The Heart and Soul of 205 Live into the steel post and barricade.
Backstage, Joe smugly declared his attack just an opening salvo in his march to success in his first Royal Rumble.
This was a great way to get Joe back on track while potentially creating one of SmackDown's best rivalries of 2019. The Samoan Submission Specialist is an incredible promo worker who makes every word feel important, and he knows how to make a simple attack look brutal.
He and Ali should be great rivals, and both should be major players on SmackDown this year. They are perfect foils, with the resilient underdog rookie battling the wily monster veteran.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade
Dropping his second and third names, Andrade looked as good as ever working with Rey Mysterio, constantly utilizing his impressive strength and athleticism to counter the veteran's best offense. However, the future Hall of Famer showed he's got tons of tricks up his sleeve.
Impressive sequences led to an incredible diving headscissors takedown to the floor off the apron by the luchador to his young rival. You would be hard-pressed to convince anyone Mysterio is 44 based on the wild spots he pulled off in this contest.
A well-deserved "This is awesome" chant filled the arena as Mysterio dodged a diving moonsault but could not avoid the standing moonsault follow-up. Then El Idolo survived a Canadian Destroyer and crucifix bomb.
Mysterio hit the 619, but Zelina Vega distracted one of her greatest heroes long enough for Andrade to trip the veteran and hit a top-rope hammerlock DDT for the win.
Andrade def. Mysterio by pinfall
This wasn't just an excellent TV match, it was an excellent WWE match. It would have stolen the show at most major pay-per-views. The athleticism on display was absurd. There are few wrestlers in this industry who could have done what these two pulled off, let alone in this complete a contest.
It is hard to imagine that anyone saw this match on the card and thought it shouldn't be the main event. Now that it's over, whoever failed to book it as such must be feeling stupid.
The only real disappointment here was the quiet decision to drop Andrade's second and third names. His new name just doesn't have the same effect.
Mandy Rose's Grand Scheme to Ruin Naomi's Marriage Backfires
During a photo shoot for The Usos, Jimmy Uso was given a rose and the key to Mandy Rose's hotel room. Inexplicably, he ended up deciding to go.
After he refused to do anything, The Golden Goddess revealed a hidden photographer, who took pictures of them in compromising detail.
Rose thought she had the former multiple-time tag team champion and would ruin Naomi's life, only for Jimmy to reveal he brought his wife with him. The two women brawled, with Rose walking out on top.
While the logical inconsistencies are obvious and numerous, the real mistake here was thinking anyone would buy into another infidelity angle. It is never an effective storyline, which was proved just a few months back with Rusev, Lana and Aiden English.
To be fair, it has at least given Rose a story to showcase her promo skills more clearly, but everything else has made her look worse, not better.
The Miz Throws Shane McMahon a Birthday Celebration; Miz vs. Sheamus
Miz celebrated Shane McMahon's birthday by giving him new shoes and showcasing a video package he created for their tag team.
Surprisingly touched by the gesture, the SmackDown commissioner bonded with The A-Lister over the opportunity to become tag team champions at the Royal Rumble.
The Bar interrupted to insult the pair before Shane O Mac decided to mark his birthday with Miz getting his hands on Sheamus in an impromptu match. The A-Lister played the babyface here in surprisingly effective fashion.
However, the match was short because of a lack of time remaining on SmackDown, leading to a fine contest that ended after McMahon sent Cesaro through his birthday cake to distract The Celtic Warrior for a roll-up for three.
Afterward, Miz set up his new partner to hit a Coast-to-Coast on Sheamus through a cake.
Miz def. Sheamus by pinfall
SmackDown was excellent once again right until its main event. This was a flat end to the show with a short match that would have worked just fine in the middle of the card. Instead, it just seemed anticlimactic.
While it feels like McMahon and Miz are meshing well as personalities, they should not be embarrassing the supposed dominant tag team champions, who have run through everyone else. Unless this all gets serious next week, it will be the least interesting match at the Royal Rumble.