WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Stunning heel turn as new WWE champion crowned

Survivor Series is just five days away, and the go-home SmackDown Live on Tuesday night in St. Louis was set to serve as a smooth transition into one of the biggest events of the year coming up on Sunday. Well, the fallout from what took place to end the go-home Raw on Monday night made the transition anything but smooth, with the news that the hottest star -- male or female -- in the company, Becky Lynch, had to be pulled from her scheduled bout with Raw women's champion Ronda Rousey after suffering a reported concussion as she led the blue brand's female invasion. 

Many thought the most notable aspect of Tuesday's SmackDown would be the fate of the match with Rousey on Sunday and Lynch's status, but the main event with the WWE title at the forefront provided us with one of the more shocking developments we've seen in WWE all year. 

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The unfathomable heel WWE champion

The WWE champion hit the ring at the beginning of SmackDown to address his opponent at Survivor Series, universal champion Brock Lesnar. Styles touted that he has defended the title against the best the business has to offer for the past year, then said he's been the workhorse of WWE since he got there. He noted that he's defeated all opponents that have come his way -- except Brock Lesnar. He gets a second chance on Sunday, however. Just as Styles was about to elaborate some more on his Survivor Series opponent, the advocate himself Paul Heyman appeared from the crowd. 

Heyman said that he came to SmackDown tonight to remind Styles that there's no one Lesnar wants to face more right now than the WWE champion because he is one of the best in-ring performers ever. Heyman then took quite the dig at Styles, though, by saying he's No. 2 right now to ... Daniel Bryan. Heyman said we'll likely never see Lesnar vs. Bryan, but it will undoubtedly be an honor for him to have a front row seat on Sunday to see the universal champion take on the "second greatest performer in WWE" Styles fired back by saying that he has nothing but respect for Bryan, but reminded that not only did he defeat Bryan when he challenged for the title before Crown Jewel, but he tapped him out. The WWE champ said that Sunday will not be about Lesnar or Bryan, it will be all about him. 

Bryan headed towards the ring and conceded that he did lose to Styles a few weeks ago in their title match, and he did, in fact, tap out. He said he told Styles that he's been looking for a reason to punch him in the face, and if Styles says his name one more time, he's going to do just that. Well, Styles eventually did just that -- and Bryan pounced as promised. Commissioner Shane McMahon then led the officials down to the ring to break up the melee. Backstage after commercial, Styles and Bryan tried to go at one another again, and from there, McMahon told the champ that he will defend the title right here tonight against Bryan. We have a WWE championship match five days before Survivor Series. 

WWE Championship -- Daniel Bryan def. AJ Styles (c) via pinfall to win the title: These two battled one another in yet another incredible match, though this time there was a twist no one saw coming in the finish. Styles was aiming for the Phenomenal Forearm, and as he came off the rope, Bryan shoved him from mid-air into referee Charles Robinson. With Robinson incapacitated, the unthinkable happened as Bryan clearly turned heel, kicking the champ right in the groin. With the ref coming back alive, Bryan hit the running knee to get the 1-2-3 and become WWE champion for the first time since his emotional return in a manner in which no one saw coming. Afterwards, Bryan left no doubt that he has now taken a turn to the dark side as he continued to pummel the former champion after the match was over. Bryan then gave an evil smile at the championship he now holds to end the show. 

Just when you begin to think WWE can't pique your interest that much any longer, we get what took place to close SmackDown just five days before Survivor Series. Not only do we get a new WWE champion that will square off with Lesnar in Los Angeles on Sunday, but the heel turn that was executed to get there was performed by maybe the last person on the male roster you'd expect to be right in the middle of such a move. Heel Bryan -- as the top champion, no less -- will be one of the more interesting characters to pay attention to as we enter 2019. On such short notice, we may not get the full heel Bryan experience on Sunday against Lesnar, but once we return to business as usual come next Tuesday, we might be in for one hell of a ride. Grade: B+

Becky Lynch tabs her replacement 

The go-home SmackDown opened up by getting straight to the point, reliving the invasion that took place to close Raw on Monday night. Back at the announce table, Tom Phillips officially announced that Lynch is out of her bout with Rousey due to the injuries she sustained. The announce team admitted that Lynch is in the building before questioning who will take her place on Sunday against Rousey. 

Mid-show, Paige was in the ring following a commercial break and she called out the entire SmackDown women's roster to the ring. Paige told the women that Lynch will be out to hand-pick her own replacement to take on Rousey at Survivor Series. Lynch said that she's angry as hell right now, and she took a beating last night, but that's never stopped her before. She went to everyone she possibly could, but unfortunately, no one would clear her. The SmackDown women's champ told Rousey she's not the baddest bitch on the planet, rather she's the luckiest. Even with a severe concussion and broken face, she knows she can still kick Rousey's ass. 

She is now forced to pick her opponent, and after personally sizing up every woman on the roster, Lynch circled back to former rival Charlotte Flair. Lynch told Flair to make Rousey tap out on Sunday the way she planned to tap her out, hugged her old friend and left the ring. Survivor Series now gives us the Flair vs. Rousey match everyone has anticipated since the latter made her debut back in January. 

Flair vs. Rousey has long been the rumored match for WrestleMania 35 next year in MetLife Stadium, but we're getting it much earlier than anticipated due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Lynch's injury from Monday. Some are vehemently against the idea of slotting Flair into this spot, with many calling for Asuka to take the match, but there is some logic involved with this choice. It doesn't seem as if WWE has any plans of Rousey cleanly losing a match anytime soon, so Flair continuing her losing streak by dropping the bout to Rousey on Sunday could continue the story of the former multi-time women's champ continuing to doubt herself. If there was one part of this segment that mildly irked me, it was the hug given out by Lynch, as I'd rather not see our beloved new anti-hero dolling out love. Other than that, WWE did what it had to do here to replace a big-time matchup. Grade: C+

What else happened on SmackDown?

  • Jeff Hardy defeated Andrade "Cien" Almas via pinfall: In what could best be described as a head-scratching move, to say the least, Hardy pinned Almas after hitting the Swanton Bomb. 
  • Survivor Series shakeup at the top: After Hardy's victory, Miz was informed backstage that he is now the sole captain of the men's SmackDown team with Bryan being removed (for some reason). Miz was so impressed with Hardy's performance that he named him to the team, then he said Rey Mysterio was removed because he was a pick of his former co-captain Bryan. Paige took exception to that, but told Miz that he can face Mysterio, and if he's victorious, then he can replace the recently-returned legend. 
  • Shinsuke Nakamura addresses Seth Rollins: Backstage, the United States champion said that he's heartbroken that Rollins admitted he's not worrying about him leading into Survivor Series. Because Rollins broke his heart, Nakamura will break his face on Sunday. 
  • Rey Mysterio def. The Miz via pinfall: Mysterio kept his spot on the Survivor Series team after pinning Miz with a crucifix. Afterwards, Randy Orton hit the ring to continue terrorizing Mysterio, but he was unable to get his hands on him, hitting Miz with an RKO instead for getting in his way. 
  • The Bar & The Big Show def. New Day via pinfall: Big Show picked up the win for his trio after connecting with the KO punch to Kofi Kingston. 
  • Usos reveal their Survivor Series partners: In a smoky room backstage, The Usos revealed that joining them and New Day at Survivor Series will be: The Colons, The Good Brothers & SAnitY. They then welcomed their Raw opponents on Sunday to the "SmackDown penitentiary."

Jack joined CBS Sports in 2018 as an editor and writer covering college football, combat sports and golf. He was raised to love the New York Yankees unconditionally since birth and firmly believes a four-team... Full Bio

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