PAIGE OUT, MCMAHONS IN…
Recap: The show opened with Shane McMahon addressing the SmackDown locker room backstage. He began by mentioning the announcements on last night’s Raw. The locker room (not credibly) booed vociferously at the mention of Raw.
Shane told everyone he needed their help to put on the best possible product for the fans. He then brought out Paige, referencing that she would no longer be GM as a result of last night’s announcement that the McMahons would be back in charge. Shane thanked her for her contributions, and said she wasn’t leaving, only that her role would change.
Later, Miz knocked on the door of the McMahon locker room. Vince answered, mocking Miz’s knock as child-like. Miz asked for Shane, but Vince said he wasn’t available. Miz referenced the rough patch he was going through with Shane. Vince asked what Miz wanted him to do about it. Miz then told Vince that he was a “worthy partner” for Shane, and asked for Vince’s “blessing.” Vince said that he didn’t believe in blessings, but did offer Miz an opportunity. He said he’d pick a tag partner for Miz and arrange a match for Miz to prove himself.
The match turned out to be Miz and Mandy Rose against R-Truth and Carmella. R-Truth referred to Mandy as Maryse before the match. After a dance break, Mandy missed a flying knee. R-Truth was distracted by the attempt, and Miz took advantage to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the pin.
Evaluation: It appears the fresh start doesn’t involve changing up the strange Miz-Shane storyline.
Forecast: It looks like the Miz-Shane story will continue on as a comedy angle, as evidenced by playing the “worthy partner” line as a joke.
While Shane mentioned Paige’s stepping down as a role change, I wouldn’t expect to see her on camera anymore. Without the GM role and unable to wrestle, and considering WWE hostility toward managers, she would seem out of on-screen options.
Recap: After the opening segment, Becky Lynch came to the ring for a promo. She said she didn’t care who was running the show, since she is in charge. She said all she wants from the McMahons is for them to deliver Ronda Rousey. She contrasted her confronting Ronda directly with Ronda’s interference in her match at TLC.
Charlotte then came to the ring. She said Ronda took her title, and that Becky would look up to her, “then, now, and forever.”
Asuka then came out and said to forget Ronda, since she is now champion. The three then began to argue.
They were stopped by Vince McMahon approaching the ring. He told them to get over their excuses, and asked Asuka to defend her title tonight. This excited Becky and Charlotte, however Naomi came to the ring and said she deserved the opportunity. Vince agreed and the match began, which Asuka won.
Evaluation: It was important for Asuka to get a win here over a credible opponent as damage control for the way she won at TLC. The segment accomplished that. However, it was a toughs port for Naomi, as she was a face put into a match where her inclusion was by its nature a letdown (since the fans clearly wanted Becky to have the shot). The crowd wasn’t very interested in the match as a result.
Forecast: Hopefully Asuka racks up some more victorious defenses to overcome her tainted victory at TLC.
BRYAN STILL NEW…
Recap: Before the main event, Daniel Bryan came out for a promo. He repeated many of the radical environmentalist tropes from the past few weeks. He insulted the crowd by stating that Fresno was the most polluted city in California. He said the fans wouldn’t know wisdom if it was pumped full of GMOs and handed to them through a drive-thru window.
In the main event, Mustafa Ali and AJ Styles faced Daniel Bryan and Andrade “Cien” Almas. After a Phenomenal Forearm, Ali hit an 054 for the pin.
Evaluation: Everything here was good, but nothing new. It was nice to see Ali get a pin; maybe that will build some buzz for 205 Live.
Forecast: It seems clear the Bryan-AJ rivalry is going to continue, either with a match at Royal Rumble or a conflict in the Rumble match itself.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 12/11: Bryan vs Mustafa, Miz & Shane, WrestleMania Rematch