WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Women shine again as Royal Rumble challengers emerge
Asuka will have a more than worthy opponent in Phoenix at the Royal Rumble
With all due respect to the immense talents of WWE champion Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles, with Royal Rumble just a few weeks away now, the featured title on the SmackDown Live brand is unquestionably the SmackDown women's championship. While the Bryan-Styles storyline furthered just a bit more on Tuesday night, this week's edition of the blue brand served to answer one crucial question: Who will face women's champion Asuka at the Royal Rumble come later this month?
In the main event, three former SmackDown women's champions in Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Carmella battled it out to answer that question for everyone. There was also another No. 1 contender decided on the show, so be sure to keep reading on for full results and grades from SmackDown on Tuesday night.
Asuka's Royal Rumble challenger emerges
In a pre-taped promo earlier in the show, Carmella says she's aware that people visualize her as the third wheel in the triple threat match tonight. But she reminded everyone that she was SmackDown women's champion for 130 days, beating both Flair and Asuka twice during that reign; all she needs is an opportunity. Lynch's pre-taped promo followed Carmella, and "The Man" pointed out how she has to jump through hoops to earn back the title that she never really lost at TLC. She'll do that, though, and she said that at the Royal Rumble, Asuka will have to do more than just climb a ladder. Lynch said that Asuka knows she's on borrowed time. Finally, it was Flairs turn. She called Carmella last year's hottest thing and Lynch this year's hottest thing while she's been the hottest thing on both brands for the past four years. Her focus is on Lynch and Carmella, and at the Royal Rumble, her focus will be on Asuka. She wants her opponents to be ready for the queen tonight.
Becky Lynch def. Carmella (via submission) and Charlotte Flair to become No. 1 contender: Women's main events on Tuesday nights are becoming the norm, and they're generally fantastic. Tonight's main event to crown a No. 1 contender was no different. These three women -- yes, Carmella included -- put on a fantastic showing, with Lynch making Carmella tap to the Dis-Arm-Her after Flair was knocked out of the ring. As Lynch was celebrating her upcoming title shot in Phoenix, the champion Asuka made her way down to the ring. The two women faced off and jawed with each other in the middle of the ring to close the show.
First things first: The reality that women's main events on television are indeed the norm is simply fantastic. As for the finish here, while the momentum of Lynch continues in her earning a title shot on one of the biggest shows of the year, some may overreact in thinking this takes her out of the women's Royal Rumble match entirely -- a match many have wanted to see her win throughout her rise so she can face Raw women's champion Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. Please remember, that is not the case at all, as she can compete in both matches. As for the present, this was an all-around terrific triple threat bout to determine a No. 1 contender and Lynch vs. Asuka in Chase Field should be a treat. Grade: A-
Daniel Bryan-AJ Styles gets more vicious
WWE champion Bryan opened up SmackDown this week, though not in the ring, rather at the concession stands in the arena. He's back there to take Styles and everyone else on an educational journey. First, Bryan took aim at the food stand, saying the fans stuff themselves with candy and popcorn to fill voids in their lives, which is also why they cheer for Styles. Bryan then took a hot dog from a fan and threw it back in his face before taking a soft drink from a fan at the same table and throwing it in his face as well. Next, Bryan took us over to the merchandise stand where he asked for a Yes Movement t-shirt, but there are none because the Yes Movement is dead. He pointed out the Styles merchandise, mainly the gloves, and called them nothing but useless plastic garbage.
Bryan made his way through the fans and down to ringside, berating them along the way by calling them weak, submissive and impotent. The champion told the fans they can boo him all they want, but he's changing the world for the better while they're only making it worse. As Bryan was preaching around the ring, he was attacked from R-Truth and the match was on after the commercial break from there.
Daniel Bryan def. R-Truth via pinfall: After a short back-and-forth bout, Bryan was able to put Truth away with the running knee.
As Bryan was making his way up the ramp following the victory, Styles attacked him from behind. Styles slammed Bryan into the titantron as security tried to pull him away, and Bryan was able to get away as Styles grabbed hold of a chair to inflict more damage. The announcers again pumped up the fact that this is the Styles Vince McMahon wanted to see.
Prior to the main event, Bryan was approached backstage as he was leaving the arena and was asked about the attack by Styles. He said he doesn't care why Styles attacked him, but if you think what he did tonight was vicious, everyone is going to see the vicious side of Bryan they've never seen before. Styles will never take the WWE championship away from him because he's fighting for a cause that's bigger than anything, and he'll be WWE champion forever.
This entire opening segment was nothing overly spectacular, but it ultimately served its purpose. Bryan just continues to market himself as the savior of the planet while, more importantly, Styles channels the message from McMahon dealt to him a few weeks ago about unleashing his bottled-up aggression. If anything from this feud recently, you've at least begun to slightly ponder whether Styles' new aggressive approach will cost him the WWE title at the Royal Rumble, or will we be handed quite a big swerve in Phoenix with the "Phenomenal One" regaining the championship back. The former is more likely, but stranger things have happened before. Grade: C+
What else happened on SmackDown?
- Andrade "Cien" Almas & Samoa Joe def. Rey Mysterio & Mustafa Ali via pinfall: A great match, as expected, came to a close when Almas countered the 619 attempt from Mysterio and turned it into the Hammerlock DDT to get the 1-2-3. Huge, clean victory for Almas on TV.
- Shinsuke Nakamura attacks Rusev again: A somber United States champion Rusev was in the ring, recalling how Lana was injured last week because of Nakamura's actions. With Lana at home recovering, Rusev said he stands before us not as the U.S. champion, nor as the Bulgarian Brute with the "body of 1,000 Hemsworth brothers," but as a husband. Rusev told Nakamura that he crossed a line, then called him out to the ring to be crushed. Nakamura appeared on the screen as he was sitting in the production truck where he said he was going to prove Lana's injury was not his fault. The former champ replayed the footage in slow motion before telling Rusev that he was the one that, in fact, crushed his wife. Rusev took off to the back to find Nakamura, but he was greeted by his foe attacking him with a rolling crate as soon as he past the curtain. As officials were attending to Rusev, Nakamura hit a Kinshasa for good measure.
- The Bar def. The Usos via pinfall: With Jimmy Uso on the apron and Jey Uso in the ring, Mandy Rose appeared at the top of the ramp in nothing but a towel. She asked Jimmy if her tiny gold shorts and tiny gold top were left in his hotel room. The distraction was enough to see Jimmy knocked off the apron while Cesaro followed up with the Gotch Neutralizer on Jey for the victory. With the loss, the Usos will not get a future opportunity at the titles. A fired up Naomi was awaiting backstage to take on both Rose and Sonya Deville, but was eventually overpowered before Jimmy ran in for the save.
- The Miz gets a tag title shot: Miz confronted Shane McMahon backstage early in the night, explaining that he was rather offended that McMahon gave the Usos an opportunity to earn a title shot rather than giving it to themselves. McMahon told Miz that they're far away from the tag team title picture and they need to work their way up to that level first. Miz asked McMahon if he'd given any thought to the proposed outfits, and the SmackDown commissioner brushed him off before walking away. As The Bar were celebrating their victory, Miz made his way down to the ring. He challenged the champs to put the titles on the line against he and McMahon in front of 50,000 people at the Royal Rumble, and after Sheamus laid Miz out with a Brogue Kick, Cesaro accepted. Backstage, McMahon confronted Miz about the challenge, but after Miz assured him they could win, he was on board. We're on for the SmackDown tag team title match at the Royal Rumble.
Lesnar was a star for the Golden Gophers before making a big name for himself in WWE
There was no standout angle on Tuesday's show, but it was solid from start to finish
Apparently, replacing Braun Strowman was not a last-minute decision
The announcement came Monday with little fanfare, thrown into an edition of Raw
Brock Lesnar's new Royal Rumble challenger will make plenty of WWE fans happy
Everything you need to know ahead of this year's Royal Rumble event in Phoenix