WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: New era begins with a stunning main event finish
Changes came to Raw on Monday, but they were felt even more so on SmackDown Live
For as disappointing as the opening to Raw was on Monday -- failing to deliver on a true shakeup as promised with the reappearance of Vince McMahon -- SmackDown Live once again came through on Tuesday. Not only did WWE's A-show feel fresh, it went above and beyond in being sure to feature the roster in two hours better than its counterpart over a three-hour stretch on Monday.
Vince and Shane McMahon were both on the show, though neither Stephanie McMahon or Triple H could be found. There was also an apparent change to SmackDown's management structure, but the big swerve came over the final minutes of the program based on what went down in the ring. Keep on reading for everything that happened on Tuesday night.
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Women open as the McMahons lay down the law
Shane McMahon addresses SmackDown Live: The show began with Shane McMahon telling the gathered roster backstage that changes were coming to SmackDown just like they are on Raw. McMahon announced that Paige was no longer the general manager but would remain with the brand in a different, unannounced capacity; she received a standing ovation for the job she had been doing. Becky Lynch was the one notable absence, and after the segment, she made her way to the ring; she said she had no time for that nonsense and was in the ring because "that's where the real business is conducted." Lynch then said the only thing she wanted from the McMahon family was to deliver her Ronda Rousey, who she ruined on Raw. "At TLC, you cost me my title, and you didn't even have the decency to fight me," Lynch said. "... Well, Ronnie, I have worked way too hard for way too long to be all I can be to let some Rowdy Piper cosplayer take it all away from me."
That's when Charlotte Flair's music hit, and she told Lynch to get in line behind her because she has dibs on Rousey. Flair and Lynch began to jaw back and forth, leading new SmackDown women's champion Asuka out to the ring. Asuka claimed her dominance over the two, leading Lynch and Flair to proclaim Asuka never actually beat them. As that argument continued, Vince McMahon's music hit; he congratulated Asuka and told both Lynch and Flair that their conduct was "unbecoming" of them. McMahon told Lynch and Flair to get over their disappointment, and if they have a problem, go take it out on Rousey. He then suggested Asuka defend her title and introduced Naomi as her opponent.
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Asuka (c) def. Naomi via submission to retain the title: it was a physical match between the friends and teammates. Asuka countered Naomi's split-legged moonsault into an Asuka Lock, but Naomi escaped it twice before hitting the Rear View for a 2.7 count. Moments later, another Asuka Lock got the job done as Naomi tapped immediately to the new champion.
This was a far superior opening segment to the one we got on Raw with Shane making much more sense in terms of the direction this "new era" will take. The part about Paige remaining with SmackDown is confusing as it is tough to determine the role she will have if not as a GM, but it's certainly welcome news that she's staying on television. Having Lynch, Flair and Asuka open the show was also the right decision compared to the angle they reran from TLC on Monday night. Could there have been more excitement? Sure. But it is clear WWE is not making too many waves with the holiday next week. Grade: B
A stunning main event finish
Earlier in the show, it was announced that Mustafa Ali was now a full-time member of SmackDown. Before the match, Daniel Bryan announced he was starting a "brave, new world" in WWE, but he did not expect fans to support them because change scares them. He then began to scream "shame" at fans for their role in the corruption of the world. Bryan said all he could do is be an example and show the public how to properly live.
AJ Styles & Mustafa Ali def. Daniel Bryan & Andrade "Cien" Almas via pinfall: The pace was fantastic in this match with all four men not only showing off their athleticism but also their in-ring prowess. Bryan nearly got a tap by locking Ali in a dragon sleeper, and Styles returned the favor with his Calf Crusher a few moments later. Almas broke up that submission attempt, but Ali took him out with a huricanrana outside the ring. A couple heel kicks from Bryan stunned Styles, but he got the momentum back with a beautiful moonsault into a reverse DDT. Styles then made the tag to Ali, who hit the 054 on Bryan for the 1-2-3 while Styles took Almas out with the Phenomenal Forearm. Ali nicked Bryan in the face with his knee upon landing and audibly apologized as the referee counted.
Wow. It's one thing for Ali to be added to the main roster; it's quite another for him to pin the WWE champion on his first official night in the main event. WWE could have gone the easy way out with a disqualification (which was teased), Styles beating Almas or Bryan beating Ali, but instead the booking was a legitimate shocker and put over one of the most the most athletic superstars in the company. Where Ali goes from here definitely remains to be seen, and his formal call-up does bring some questions considering it always looked like he was meant to win the cruiserweight championship. Still, this match was fantastic and the finish was great, too. Grade: A
What else happened on SmackDown Live?
- Vince McMahon goes face-to-face with The Miz: Though he was looking for Shane, Miz pitched Vince a tag team with Shane, repeating that they can be the best team in the world. "Sir, I'm a worthy partner for your son. I'm just asking for your blessing," Miz said. Vince said he does not give blessings, but he would give Miz the chance to prove his worthiness with a partner hand-picked by Vince himself. As Miz kept talking, Vince slammed the office door in his face.
- Rusev states his case | Shinsuke Nakamura counters: Rusev said he hoped the McMahon family is paying attention to his successes, including his recent defeat over United States champion Nakamura. He called himself the definition of a WWE superstar. "I'm handsome. I'm a hunk. I got big biceps. I'm a superstar. I'm a superathlete. And I got a handsome beard," he said. Rusev promised when he got his hands on Nakamura he would take back his U.S. title. Later in the show, Nakamura asked if he was really supposed to be scared of Rusev and aired a compilation of funny clips from "Total Divas" to prove his point. "Rusev is no United States championship contender. He's not a star here. Rusev is a total diva," Nakamura said.
- Jeff Hardy turns around Samoa Joe's intervention: Out first was Hardy, who admitted the stuff Joe has been saying about him recently is true but claimed he's a changed man who has changed his life. Joe hit the ring and claimed he deceived Hardy because he was not set to apologize to him but rather hold an intervention as Hardy needed to get help. Hardy said Joe attacks others' weaknesses in order to cover up his own insecurities, like being in the WWE for two years without winning a single championship. Joe pretended to walk away at that insult, but Hardy caught him when he turned and hit the Twist of Fate.
- The Miz & Mandy Rose def. R-Truth & Carmella via pinfall: Before the match began, R-Truth put over his team winning the Mixed Match Challenge and said he's looking forward to going up against Miz and Maryse tonight. With R-Truth focused on helping Carmella take out Rose, Miz snuck up from behind and hit the Skull-Crushing Finale for the 1-2-3.
- The Usos vs. The Good Brothers ends in a no contest: The Usos said they still had gold on their minds and called out The Bar considering it was New Day who got pinned on Sunday. Instead, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson came out with Anderson noting it is the same three teams week in and week out. "Last week, I saw you have a rap battle, and the Good Brothers haven't been on SmackDown since August." Gallows added that they've been sidelined for those four months, but it's time to "clean the slate and clean house." A match was made in that moment by the "McMahon family." The Bar's music hit late in the match as the Usos were looking to close it out, and SAnitY soon followed out of the crowd. SAnitY took out all four men in the ring and stared The Bar down on their way to the locker rooms. The Bar then picked the leftovers, trashing the already destroyed tag teams in the ring.
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