WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 8
The January 8 episode of WWE SmackDown Live brought with it the latest developments in the rivalry between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan over the WWE Championship, further teases of an extramarital affair between Jimmy Uso and Mandy Rose, and a new No. 1 contender to Asuka's SmackDown Women's Championship at Royal Rumble.
The newsworthy broadcast introduced new rivalries and added to the ones that have dominated the airwaves for weeks while positioning the Superstars who have carried the brand over the last six months for their next big programs.
What else went down, what effect will it have on the brand and how did each match and segment grade out?
Find out with this recap of the show.
R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan
WWE champion Daniel Bryan kicked off Tuesday's episode of SmackDown from the concession stand, where he wasted little time criticizing fans for putting such disgusting food into their bodies. He continued, calling AJ Styles a Superstar fans use to fill the voids in their pathetic lives.
The rant went on and on, throughout the arena, until R-Truth attacked from out of nowhere, and the first match of the night was underway.
A back-and-forth match appeared to turn in Truth's favor when he dodged a corner dropkick, and he landed a jawbreaker that scored him a near-fall. Unfortunately, he tried a blind splash in the corner, and Bryan moved.
The champion followed up with the running knee and scored the pinfall victory.
After the match, Styles launched a surprise attack, but Bryan scurried off to the sanctuary of the backstage area.
Bryan defeated Truth
Another strong promo from Bryan kicked off the show, even if it was essentially the same thing we have heard out of him the last month or so. He's so convincing and compelling that it makes even the repetitive refreshing.
The match itself was a nice follow-up to the brutal assault Bryan unleashed on Truth a few weeks back and further established heel heat for a competitor once beloved by fans.
The post-match attack by Styles builds anticipation for the moment The Phenomenal One gets his hands on Bryan at Royal Rumble while simultaneously introducing the fans to a more intense and aggressive AJ.
Rey Mysterio and Mustafa Ali vs. Samoa Joe and Andrade 'Cien' Almas
Four of the most talented competitors on the SmackDown roster battled in tag team action Tuesday night, when Mustafa Ali and Rey Mysterio squared off with Andrade "Cien" Almas and Samoa Joe.
At one point, modern underdog Ali found himself on the receiving end of Joe's fury, enduring a punishing beatdown at the hands of The Destroyer.
Ali fought out and made the hot tag to Mysterio, who exploded into the ring and reminded fans why he will one day join the elite in the WWE Hall of Fame.
With Joe neutralized at ringside, Mysterio called for the 619 on Almas. An overzealous Ali dove over Mysterio and onto Joe on the floor. The brief distraction allowed El Idolo to recover and drop the masked luchador with a hammerlock DDT for the win.
Joe and Almas defeated Mysterio and Ali
What started slow here really picked up by the end and gave Almas a bit of momentum after some puzzling booking late in 2018. El Idolo's victory over Mysterio seemingly sets up a feud between the luchadores, something that should benefit the former NXT champion, even if it concludes in defeat.
A longer match without the annoying commercial break in the middle of it could have resulted in an outstanding bout to kick off 2019. As it is, the match was above-average and did a solid job of setting up two potential rivalries to carry on in the new year.
Rusev Lashes Out at Shinsuke Nakamura
A week after Shinsuke Nakamura attacked him in a despicable act that resulted in his wife Lana's injury, Rusev stood in the center of the ring a distraught man.
Not the United States champion.
Laying the belt on the mat and addressing the WWE Universe as a husband, he blamed Nakamura for the injury Lana suffered and called him out. The Artist did not oblige him, instead appearing on the video screen. He took no responsibility for his actions, blaming Rusev for not protecting his wife.
Infuriated, Rusev took off after Nakamura.
When he made it backstage, the U.S. champion was attacked by The Artist, who used a production case to his advantage. Trash talk was exchanged as producers separated the two.
One of the biggest issues with the United States Championship picture throughout 2018 was the lack of captivating stories involving it. That changed with this one, in which Nakamura looks like the ultimate heartless bastard for injuring Lana and showing no remorse whatsoever.
Rusev looks like the sympathetic babyface, with his days as the indestructible brute behind him. It is character development, something that benefits everyone when done this well.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos vs. The Bar
The SmackDown Tag Team Championships were up for grabs between common foes, as The Bar's Sheamus and Cesaro defended against The Usos on Tuesday night.
Sheamus and Cesaro isolated Jey Uso for the heart of the match, keeping him from Jimmy as they cut off the ring. Every time Jey fought out of the grasp of his opponents and attempted the hot tag that would spark a comeback, Sheamus or Cesaro cut it off, showing great situational awareness.
Jimmy finally did receive the tag and exploded into the match, taking the fight to both champions and wiping out Cesaro at ringside with a suicide dive.
The hotly contested bout came to a screeching halt when Mandy Rose's music played and she appeared on the stage in nothing but a towel. The distraction of The Golden Goddess asking Jimmy if she left her clothes at his hotel room provided enough of a distraction for Cesaro to deliver the Neutralizer for the win.
After the match, The Miz appeared and formally challenged The Bar for a title match at Royal Rumble on behalf of himself and Shane McMahon. He ate a Brogue Kick from Sheamus for his troubles before Sheamus accepted.
The Bar defeated The Usos
Not only was the match awesome, but there were also a few storylines intertwined here that helped elevate the overall quality of the segment.
There will be those who complain about the soap-opera-like element of the Uso-Rose storyline, but it is a refreshing change from the complete lack of storytelling that has plagued the WWE product for the last year or so. It gets Rose screen time and makes use of the Usos without their only narrative being the chase for tag team gold.
Rose is a star in the making, and programming her with a tag team as hot and respected as The Usos is hardly a bad thing.
This writer remains unimpressed with the Shane McMahon-Miz story, but the star power involved will elevate the tag titles and give Sheamus and Cesaro fresh opposition at a time when they desperately need it.
No. 1 Contender's Match: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella
The three SmackDown women's champions predating Asuka battled Tuesday night in a Triple Threat match to determine the No. 1 contender to The Empress of Tomorrow at Royal Rumble, as Becky Lynch, Carmella and Charlotte Flair squared off.
Desperation for a championship opportunity fueled the competitors, each seeking to regain the title that defined them.
Late in the match, a frustrated Carmella slapped Flair but ate a big boot for her troubles. She also found herself trapped in the Figure Eight, in desperate need of Lynch dropping a leg to break the hold. The Man trapped Flair in the Dis-arm-her, but The Princess of Staten Island broke that up.
Chants of "this is awesome" filled the arena just in time for Lynch to apply the Dis-arm-her to Carmella and pick up the win.
Lynch defeated Carmella and Flair
The chemistry between Lynch and Flair is such that they can compete in any match, with any gimmick and any number of opponents and deliver a phenomenal, main event-quality bout. This was no different, but to chalk it up to the two of them would be unfair to Carmella, who turned in what might be her best performance to date here.
The three Superstars kept fans on the edge of their seats while continuing to build momentum for women's wrestling in WWE.
Lynch winning was the obvious choice given how hot she is with audiences right now, but one has to wonder if she peaks too early at Royal Rumble, will she miss out on what should be a WrestleMania 35 main event match with Ronda Rousey?
Hopefully not, though Flair laying low as the Road to WrestleMania begins creates cause for concern that The Queen will get that spot.
The post-match staredown, while simple, did a great deal to sell the spectacle of a match between two of the best women's wrestlers in the world on January 27.