January 8 2019
We’re in Jacksonville, Florida. Home of All Elite Wrestling and the Jacksonville Jaguars owner, saviour of WWE, Shahid Khan. Why saviour of WWE? Simple. Competition provokes WWE to deliver and they’ve been coasting for fucking years. Case in point; the show opens with Daniel Bryan slaughtering the general populace for their poor dietary choices and rampant consumerism. It’s superb.
Daniel is so mad at how the earth is being destroyed by people’s inconsiderate behaviour. Also “plastic useless garbage that’s destroying the earth”. I’m mad too Dan. You fucking tell them. Bryan continues mouthing off for until R-Truth attacks him.
Daniel Bryan vs. R-Truth
It didn’t make a lot of sense for Bryan to turn heel but he’s run with it in spectacular fashion. He certainly feels more useful now than beforehand. As a heel you’re less inclined to worry about him being injured. In a way Bryan has freed himself to do whatever he wants. The match is basically an extended squash. Truth having a tiny bit of excitable offence before being drilled with the Busaiku Knee.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post Match: AJ Styles comes after Bryan to continue their heated rivalry. The insinuation being that Vince McMahon provoked Styles into taking care of business like a true badass.
Rey Mysterio & Mustafa Ali vs. Samoa Joe & Andrade “Cien” Almas
Mustafa Ali has brought some much needed energy to Smackdown. Meanwhile Almas has been waiting in the wings on this show ready to kill it for most of a year. Rey looks like a completely different guy with Almas, knowing he can do all his lucha stuff and he’s got someone who knows that style inside out. Ali vs. Almas is really nice too. These are the future stars of this company and this feels like WWE realising that.
The pacing and enthusiasm here are breath-taking at times. These are four guys who want to grab that brass ring. Yeah, even Rey in the twilight of his career. One last run in his grasp. So he kills Almas with a Canadian Destroyer on national television. My word. The whole match is a fucking adrenaline fuelled joyride. It’s like watching a top level indie tag with stars involved. Almas plants Rey with the hammerlock DDT for the win and this felt so fresh and entertaining. It was beautiful.
Final Rating: ****
The Usos welcome the Bar to the Uso Penitentiary. Miz discovers the title opportunity and challenges Shane McMahon to step up to the title situation. Seems Miz just wants a sneaky title shot by teaming with a McMahon.
Promo Time: Rusev
Rusev is upset because Lana got hurt during a clash with Shinsuke Nakamura last week. What a thing to happen on Rusev Day! Nakamura joins us from backstage to point out Rusev and Lana were to blame for their own issues. Then he attacks Rusev and puts the boots to him. What a terrible thing to happen on Rusev Day.
The Bar vs. The Usos
This is not for the Smackdown tag straps but if the Usos win they get a title match.
Smackdown’s tag division has been the same three teams for ages but at least those three teams are all good. The Usos play this mega-face and fire off the speedy offence. The false finishes are lovely as the Usos come close so many times. The Bar have two major control periods, allowing the Usos to do the false finishes twice over. Plus all the heroic kick outs in between.
Mandy Rose ruins the match by showing up and claiming she’d been in the Uso Penitentiary, if you catch my meaning. A distracted Uso eats the Neutraliser for the pin. Very good match but it felt like a match to transition the Usos into a feud I don’t truly understand. Meanwhile the Bar are challenged by The Miz.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Naomi beats up Mandy Rose but her bestie Sonya Deville turns the odds and Jimmy Uso has to save. Elsewhere Daniel Bryan is still mad about our destruction of planet earth. I like Bryan doing mad shouty, red in the face promos, challenging the angriness of wrestling in the 1980s and yet tying it into something modern and relevant and modulating his tone when required. He’s been superb recently. Meanwhile Shane McMahon is confused by Miz challenging for the titles. This wacky mismatched team is an interesting booking route. I’d rather it involved less Shane wrestling but we’ll see how it pans out.
Winner Gets a Title Shot at Royal Rumble
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair
This is a somewhat confusing tactic. I was not expecting either women’s strap to be defended at the Rumble event. Presumably Becky wins, doesn’t capture the title via shenanigans and goes on to enter the Rumble match anyway, wins and goes to Mania to face Rousey. It gives Becky a bigger hill to climb. As for this contest; Carmella is obviously a level below the other two but she tries very hard and her counter into the Code of Silence is pretty nifty. Charlotte continues to be an absolute work horse, in an attempt to not be overwhelmed by Becky. As Becky has exploded over the past six months Charlotte has out-worked just about everyone in an attempt to stay relevant. This is a good main event. It’s well paced and everyone feels important. Becky doesn’t overwhelm her matches like so many other big stars have in the past. She’s content to drag everyone up to her level.
She gets another nifty counter into the Disarmer and Carmella has to tap out. Which leaves Charlotte on the losing side without her taking a pin. The fact Carmella didn’t look out of place here shows that the women’s division is trying hard to incorporate everyone regardless of their background and skill set.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Smackdown felt fresh and engaging this week. The tag match with Rey was incredible for WWE. It had that NXT Takeover level of effort to it. Part of this was due to the likes of Almas and Ali trying to get noticed but Rey and Joe were working their asses off too. Is it a coincidence that TV suddenly got more energised and focused with the birth of All Elite Wrestling? Who’s to say. But Vince McMahon thrives on competition and this was one of the better Smackdown’s in recent memory. To the point where I’m talking about it. It’s not a show I’ve given a toss about in months.