WWE SmackDown: Becky Lynch Earns First Time Match with Asuka and Top Takeaways
Look forward and never back. This had been the focus of SmackDown Live since the new year with a big New Year's edition of the blue brand followed by the January 8 show that had huge contests set up for the night.
With Asuka waiting for an opponent to emerge for her SmackDown Women's Championship, the main event was set with Becky Lynch fighting Charlotte Flair and Carmella to crown a new No. 1 contender. The Irish Lass Kicker earned his rematch for her title and set up an incredible first-time-ever clash.
The Usos also were given a second shot at The Bar with a future SmackDown Tag Team Championships match on the line. Even though they did not succeed, the brothers continued to show why they should be considered WWE's best tag team.
Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles also can lay claim to a similar title in WWE as they raise their game every week despite already working at the highest level possible. The WWE champion ran down everyone and made more enemies while only seemingly frustrating his No. 1 contender more.
These were the biggest moments of SmackDown, defining major takeaways for WWE going forward in 2019 especially toward Royal Rumble 2019.
Asuka vs. Becky Lynch Was the Only Choice for Royal Rumble
After individual interviews hyping the main event, Lynch, Charlotte and Carmella went all out in this triple threat rematch from SummerSlam 2018. While all three got close to the victory, it was The Man that emerged with the victory by making The Princess of Staten Island tap to the Dis-arm-her.
Asuka vs. Lynch was announced weeks ago as the women's title match before being quickly redacted. The new regime in WWE required The Irish Lass Kicker to earn the only match that made sense for Royal Rumble.
While the triple threat was a quality main event, it set up a much bigger match in the near future. The Empress of Tomorrow has never wrestled The Irish Lass Kicker one on one despite it being an obvious pairing. The two are submission focused and among the best wrestlers in the world.
This was already a standout potential clash before Lynch became the biggest star in the business. Now, it could easily be match of the night and the early frontrunner for match of the year. Alongside the women's Rumble and Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks, the women look set to easily steal the show.
This is arguably the biggest money match the brand has to offer. While it would not be surprising for The Man to walk out of the Rumble as the champion or as the Rumble winner, she will certainly make an impact no matter the results.
Daniel Bryan Is Better Than He Has Ever Been
Bryan opened the show running down the fans backstage, questioning how they could make so many bad decisions. R-Truth attacked Bryan once he got to the ring, but Bryan defeated him in their match with a running knee. Afterward, The Beard was attacked by his aggressive rival Styles.
This was a fun way to open SmackDown as the WWE champion showcased his ability to run down everyone and continue to build heat. He's been on fire since becoming champion with his heel persona giving him new life.
In fact, he may be on the hottest streak of his career. His matches are on the level of the work he was doing before coming to WWE at which time he was labelled the best in-ring performer in the world. His mic skills are on a new level, making him a complete standout Superstar.
The way he continues to twist fans against him is impressive especially in the modern WWE where villains are often celebrated. He will still get cheers, but he has more or less turned the casual audience at this point.
It's great to see one of the greatest to ever compete in prime form while The Phenomenal One is similarly working at a top tier. They have the potential to take WWE to new heights in this final month of their feud.
The Build Has Begun for a True Money Feud in Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade Cien Almas
Mustafa Ali and Rey Mysterio showcased their athleticism and never-say-die attitude as a team, but they were not able to take the win over the devious team of Samoa Joe and Andrade Cien Almas. After Joe and Ali were out of the picture, Cien planted Mysterio with a hammerlock DDT to win.
This was not the first time that these two successful luchadors have faced off, but this was the moment that it felt like El Idolo became a threat to The Master of the 619. He didn't just win. He got the clean victory to set himself up as a favorite in the Rumble match.
There are few matches that are bigger for established Almas than fighting Mysterio. It's a similar passing-of-the-torch rivalry to Alberto Del Rio's first feud in WWE. However, it would not be surprising if the former WWE Hall of Famer and Cien did better work together one on one.
While it is unlikely this rivalry would be big enough for a single spot at WrestleMania, their rivalry could certainly be a part of the Road to WrestleMania and set up El Idolo as a major threat throughout 2019.
The Usos Deserve Every Tag Team Accolade
The Usos fought Sheamus and Cesaro just for an opportunity at the champions' gold and put everything into getting the win. However, as Jey crawled to make the hot tag, Mandy Rose distracted Jimmy to allow The Bar to take out the faces as The Swiss Cyborg captured the win with the Neutralizer.
While The Miz has labeled his team-up with Shane McMahon as the best tag team in the world, the true best tag team at least in the WWE, arguably in the world, is The Usos. The brothers have defined tag team wrestling in this company for years.
Their match with The Bar was once again top notch, the first standout contest of 2019. This could have easily been at the Rumble, and it might have stolen the show. Unfortunately, The Usos are still not getting the title feud they deserve.
Jimmy and Jey have had success as a team for years, but they deserve more. They should be breaking records for their tag title reigns and making history in a way that will allow them the recognition they deserve when their careers are over.
They should be heralded as the defining symbols of modern tag team wrestling.