HEYDORN’S WWE SMACKDOWN LIVE REPORT 1/1: Coverage of the live show including John Cena’s return, New Day’s New Year celebration, and more

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


WWE Smackdown Live logo - new July 2016 (c) WWE.com

HEYDORN’S WWE SMACKDOWN LIVE REPORT
JANUARY 1, 2019
PITTSBURGH, PA
AIRED ON USA NETWORK

Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton

[HOUR ONE]

-The show began with Todd Phillips welcoming the audience to the program and hyping John Cena’s appearance as well as the fatal five-way main event to determine the number one contender for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.

-After the intro, the New Day hit the ring for their New Year Celebration. They received a huge pop from the audience as the announce team bickered about missing 2018 and appreciating 2019. From there, Xavier Woods picked up a microphone and paused as the audience cheered. He welcomed the crowd to the first SmackDown Live of the New Year and said they had a big announcement. From there, Woods said that himself and the rest of the New Day would enter the Royal Rumble. Next, Big E attempted to work his math to determine their odds at winning. Woods told him to stop doing “Steiner Math,” and that they have a better chance at winning since they are all in it.

Heydorn’s Analysis: They? This is where the team trio gets old to me. In reality, “they” have no chance of winning anything. Each of them need to wrestle to try and win the Royal Rumble on their own. In turn, one of them will have a shot at a top championship at WrestleMania. A better story to tell is each of them looking each other in the eye and saying that even within their friendship, a shot at the championship is most important. The three could then shake hands and go after that goal. This waters down the concept a bit and makes the entire event a little less important. 

The New Day then proceeded to run down their options should they win. In doing so, they took some shots at Brock Lesnar. From there, they said that their new years resolution was to not eat pancakes because of their doctor’s orders. As Woods and Kingston said those words, Big E ate pancakes behind their back as the audience roared with cheers. Woods and Kingston then ran down additional new years resolutions in a very joking way and alluded to Bumblebee and Bird Box. When they wrapped on that, all three members cued up the first match of the evening between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe with the winner entering the main event fatal five-way later in the show. As they did, Jeff’s music hit and he made his entrance as the show went to commercial break. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: If you’re tired of New Day promos, you won’t like this. I’m in that boat and therefore, this fell flat overall. It would behoove WWE to take advantage of this opportunity with New Day and give them some depth as friends and as a team as they head into the Royal Rumble.

(1) SAMOA JOE vs. JEFF HARDY – Winner advances to the main event to crown a number one contender for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble

Out of the break, Joe made his way to the ring. As he did, the announce team recapped recent current events between both men. When the video ended, the bell rang, and the match started. Out of the gate, Joe took control with a flurry of strong strikes to Hardy in the corner. Those punches turned into kicks until Joe locked in knee bar submission. Hardy quickly made his way to the ropes, but once he got there, Joe continued his assault by chopping Jeff’s chest in the corner. Eventually, Hardy stopped the Joe momentum by connecting with a chin breaker in the middle of the ring. From there, Hardy rolled to the outside and targeted Joe’s knee by slamming it against the steel ring post. This caused Joe to tumble out of the ring as the show went to break. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: I like the intensity by Joe out of the gate. He established himself as the dominant force that Hardy can now work to overcome. Good stuff.

After the break, Joe had regained control of the match and was decimating Hardy in the corner again with punches and other strikes. He yelled “Jeff you started this” and in response Hardy worked to battle back with punches of his own. That momentum was short-lived as Joe flattened Hardy with a back elbow to the face. From there, Joe hung Jeff up on the turnbuckle and connected with a running dropkick.

Heydorn’s Analysis: In classic WWE fashion, they are piping the crowd into this taped show. I supposed I could live with it, but it was blatantly obvious that the audience was not cheering. In that instance, it hurts the product instead of enhancing it.

Eventually, Hardy battled back and fully gained momentum. That momentum allowed Hardy to climb to the top rope and connect with the Swanton Bomb. As Hardy attempted a pin, Joe rolled out of the ring to avoid losing the match. Seeing this, Hardy rolled out to get him, but Joe surprised Jeff and locked in the Kokina Clutch on him. As the referee counted both men out, Joe rolled back into the ring at 8. From there, the count restarted, and Jeff made it back in at 9. Once Hardy got back into the ring, Joe locked in the move again which prompted the referee to end the match because Hardy was unconscious.

WINNER: Joe via TKO submission

Heydorn’s Analysis: A short, but serviceable match. Joe looked like a monster and got what he could out of Jeff. Jeff looks slow and broken down. It’s unfortunate, but makes you wonder how much more he has left in the tank.

-After the match, the announce team played a video that recapped the events between AJ Styles and Vince McMahon from last week on the show. After the video, Vince and Shane were shown chatting backstage when they were interuppted by AJ Styles. Styles asked Vince and Shane if they were sure they wanted to see him. Styles said he should apologize, but he wouldn’t. He said that he would show the world the real AJ Styles later in the show before threatening Vince and Shane. As he did, Shane stood up and went face to face with AJ before AJ left the room. From there, Shane asked Vince if he really wanted to see the real AJ Styles. Vince said yes and Shane told him to be careful what he wished for. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: Fine. This was all fine. Just unnecessary at this point. What interest does Vince have in trying to see the “real” AJ? The premise has not been setup for these segments so they are just kind of happening. With that scope, AJ looks good, but with a backstory, this could be very impactful for his character. 

Out of the commercial break, Rusev was introduced as the new United States Championship and walked out to the ring with Lana. Both slapped the hands of fans as the announce team recapped Rusev’s win with a highlight video package. When the video ended, Rusev was interviewed in the ring. After the first question, the audience chanted “Rusev Day” before Rusev himself said last week was the greatest Rusev Day ever. From there, Rusev said his reign as champion would be long and luscious like his beard. He said he would defend the championship against all comers and would do so with honor and respect. Rusev then made a few jokes before leading the audience in a “Rusev Day, USA” chant. From there, Shinsuke Nakamura attacked Rusev from behind. Lana attempted to stop him and jumped on Nakamura’s back to do so. Rusev then connected with a Machka Kick on Nakamura but Nakamura fell on top of Lana and injured her. Seeing this, Rusev ran to Lana to comfort her, but as he did, Nakamura kicked him directly in the face. With Rusev down, Nakamura hit his finishing kick again before rolling out of the ring.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Aside from the annoying piped in crowd noise, that worked quite well. Lana’s injury adds a personal level to this feud and should make everything more intense between both men. Rusev needs a more serious layer to him and this will be effective in that regard.

After Lana was shown to be ok, the segment ended and a recap video aired that highlighted last week’s events between Mandy Rose and Naomi. After the recap video aired, Naomi hit the ring. After her full entrance, the show went to break. (c)

-When the commercials ended, Mandy Rose made her entrance with Sonya Deville.

(2) MANDY ROSE vs. NAOMI

Once Mandy got to the ring, she revealed to be wearing an Usos shirt. This infuriated Naomi, who proceeded to chase Rose out of the ring. As she did, Deville attacked her from behind and revealed that she would facing Naomi instead of Mandy Rose.

(2b) SONYA DEVILLE vs. NAOMI

Deville kept her attack up once the match began. Eventually, Naomi got momentum back, but that momentum was interuppted by Rose on the mic. Rose said that she thought of Naomi’s husband while she was getting ready and sent him a picture. Rose then revealed that picture on the screen which caused Naomi to get distracted. Because of that, Deville rolled Naomi up for the 1,2,3 win.

WINNER: Deville via pinfall

Heydorn’s Analysis: 50/50 on that finish. It works for the Rose character, but dopey babyfaces that get distracted during matches are tough to stomach. Outside of that finish, this story works and is very effective at showing the audience what the character of Mandy Rose is.

-After the match, a pre-taped promo from Randy Orton aired. He said that Rey Mysterio was a victim of his and that after the fatal five-way, the WWE Champion would know the most lethal letters in WWE. R, K, O. Mysterio cut a promo next and was followed by Mustafa Ali. Like Orton, they explained why they would win the fatal five-way and become number one contender to Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: Good stuff there. Always important for guys to explain why winning is important. These were short, but effective. 

-Out of the break, Samoa Joe cut a promo about winning the WWE Championship. From there, John Cena’s music hit and he hit the ring to a massive pop from the crowd. Cena did his typical entrance and posed for a picture with a fan as the audience talked up his movie, Bumblebee.

Heydorn’s Analysis: That hair though! Big reaction for Cena. Mostly positive too.

-Once Cena got to the ring, he grabbed a microphone and paused as the audience cheered. Cena said the audience was all over the place but then said that it had been a heck of a year. Cena then rolled through 2018 including his WrestleMania match with Undertaker, his breakup with Nikki Bella, and his haircut. He then said that through all of that though, he still feels like he can float like a butterfly and sting like a BUMBLEbee. Cena then plugged his movie like only Cena can.

Heydorn’s Analysis: That worked for him. Sure, it was cheesy, but a lot of John Cena is cheesy.

From there, Cena said he had to ask himself why he was back and that he didn’t have a reason yet. He said that the good thing about SmackDown Live is that there would always be a man backstage to confront him. He than asked for someone to reveal himself as the audience cheered. A man appeared, but it was The Man, Becky Lynch. Lynch got a massive pop and smirked at Cena as she walked to the ring. Once she got there, she picked up a microphone and asked Cena “how does it feel?” Lynch said that he was expecting a man to come out, but he wasn’t expecting “the man.” Lynch said that in 2018 she wasn’t just aiming to top just Charlotte atop the posters and billboards – she wanted to top him as well. From there, she said that it was time for someone to step in his shoes and that person was her. After she said that, the audience cheered loudly and chanted “Becky.” After the cheers, Becky said that if he had a problem with that, “Nikki Bella won’t be the only woman to drop him this year.”

Heydorn’s Analysis: Great promo from Lynch. She stood toe to toe and belonged with Cena and accuratley articulated to him how high she wanted to climb the WWE ranks. That position is where the audience wants to see her. Alluding to that and making that the goal is a smart mission statement even if it was baked into this promo as a side note. 

After that remark which got a big reaction, Zelina Vega and Andrade Cien Almas interuppted. Vega called Lynch and Cena old news and said that the McMahon’s promised new faces. She said that all she sees is an older face in John Cena and a broken face in Becky Lynch.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Tough psychology there. Vega is the heel, but she’s right about the comments Vince and Company made a few weeks ago. This type of inconsistency is what truly needs repairing.

Zelina then officially introduced herself to John Cena as the audience booed. Cena then addressed Vega and told her and Almas to prove  themselves. He then challenged them to a tag team match – Vega and Almas against Cena and Lynch. The show then went to commercial break. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: Good segment overall. A to B in a lot of ways, but certainly entertaining.

(3) BECKY LYNCH & JOHN CENA vs. ZELINA VEGA & ANDRADE CIEN ALMAS

Right after the break, the bell rang, and the match began. Lynch and Vega started things off with Lynch getting a quick upperhand with her offense. Lynch then slapped Cena in the chest to tag him into the match. Cena grinned and entered the ring to face Almas. Quickly, Almas did his Tranqillo pose before both men tied up in the middle of the ring. Almas got the upperhand out of the tie up and locked in a headlock. As this happened, the audience loudly chanted “We Want Becky.” From there, Almas continued his assault and whipped Cena into his corner. With the ref’s back turned, Vega hit a running knee into Cena as the audience booed. After the knee, Almas went back to work until Cena reversed his offense into a vertical suplex. As he worked to make the tag, Almas stalled Cena with a stiff clothesline as the show went to break. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: That’s a good chunk of offense from Almas to start things off. WWE presents Cena as one of the best of all times, but he gives a lot to his opponents in matches. A lot of times, too much. If Cena is back as a semi regular, WWE needs to be careful with that and not allow Cena to become a diluted star. 

Out of the break, Almas still maintained full control of the match. He jabbed Cena in the face with punches on the ropes as the audience booed. The punches caused Cena to fall to the mat and Almas responded by standing on and pushing his shoulders. From there, Almas attempted his running knee attack, but Cena moved out of the way. This allowed him the opportunity for Cena to make the hot tag to Becky.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Big time pop for the hot tag to Becky. Pretty incredible given that Cena is her partner. 9.5 times out of 10, the hot tag goes to him. Significant stuff. 

Lynch hit the ring and furiously took it to Vega. She connected with her Bec-Sploder Suplex and then climbed to the top rope for a dropkick. She hit Vega with it and then covered for a two count. Out of the pin, Lynch went for the Dis-Arm-Her, but the move was stopped by Almas. Cena then interjected himself to stop Almas and took some spotlight from Lynch. After Cena hit all of his signature moves, he posed and Lynch tossed him out of the ring. Vega then rolled Lynch up from behind, but she countered it into the Dis-Arm-Her. Vega quickly tapped out.

WINNER: Cena and Lynch via submission

-After the match, Lynch went face to face with Cena and did Cena’s “you can’t see me” gesture before walking off. Cena laughed it off and then posed again as his music played.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Fun match. The idea there was for Cena to help get Becky more over. I’m not sure it accomplished that goal, but it didn’t hurt it. She was presented as on par with Cena which is obviously not a bad thing. To truly put her over more, Cena needed to not laugh Becky off. That would have taken their interaction to a different level.

-While Cena’s music played, a recap video aired that detailed Shane and Miz becoming partners last week on the show. After the video, Miz confronted Shane in his office and thanked him for giving them a chance. Shane said he had a lot of responsibilities but that he was still in on their partnership. In response, Miz said that all good teams dress as a team and proceeded to show Shane prototypes of his outfit ideas. Shane didn’t like the first which prompted Miz to take his jacket off. Miz then showed Shane other options, but Shane shot those down and told Miz to design something else. Shane then walked off as Miz mulled ideas over. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: Yikes. This is rough to watch. Not only does it drop Miz down a peg, it’s defining Shane into comedy territory as well. Very thin ice here, folks. Very thin. 

-Out of the commercial break, promos aired for the new NXT call-ups, Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, and EC3.

-After the videos, Asuka was shown backstage. She was then confronted by Triple H who congratulated her on becoming champion. Triple H then asked Asuka who she thought should face her next for the title. Asuka said she would fight anyone. From there, Charlotte interuppted and said that she deserved to be champion and would be if it wasn’t for Ronda Rousey. Carmella then made her claim and was followed by Becky Lynch. Triple H then said that everyone had a point and that he’d take it under advisement. Triple H then walked off. After he did, Asuka stared down her potential opponents as the show cut back to the ring.

Heydorn’s Analysis: I smell a triple threat match between Carmella, Charlotte, and Becky next week. Lynch will be the biggest star in that match and nobody will want her to win. Based on her crowd reaction tonight, it’s WrestleMania or bust for her. 

Once it did, Rey Mysterio made his entrance and was followed by Mustafa Ali.

(4) REY MYSTERIO vs. MUSTAFA ALI vs. SAMOA JOE vs. RANDY ORTON vs. AJ STYLES – WWE Championship Number One Contender Fatal Five-Way

After Ali, Joe entered the ring and was followed by AJ Styles and Randy Orton. As Orton walked to the ring, the show broke and went to commercial. (c)

When the show returned from commercial break, the match began. Ali kicked things off and attacked Joe right away. Elsewhere, AJ and Mysterio went at is with AJ getting the quick upperhand with a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. After dealing with Rey, AJ turned to Orton and Ali. Eventually, AJ got bounced from the ring by Orton who set his sights on Ali too. In response, Ali countered Orton and connected with his rolling facebuster. After that, AJ tossed Ali out of the ring and toiled with Mysterio who stood toe to toe with him in the middle of the ring. AJ whipped Rey into the corner, but Rey then tossed AJ out of the ring with a hurricanrana. From there, Rey hit the ropes for a dive, but Orton countered it into a powerslam. (c)

Heydorn’s Analysis: Just a standard spot fest at this point. Guys are rolling in and out of the ring at will and without fluidity or reason. This is a big match and the psychology is non-existent. The pace is fast, but it feels meaningless.

Out of the break, the action continued with Styles, Orton, and Mysterio in the ring. AJ tossed each man out of the ring and as he did, the announce team discussed how impressed they were with AJ’s tenacity. Back in the ring, Ali and Styles battled until Joe got involved and slammed Styles through the announce table. From here, Orton and Joe stared each other down. Joe was then hit by a diving Ali and Mysterio took out Orton with a seated Senton. Then, Ali and Mysterio rolled back into the ring, shook hands, and wrestled it out to a nice reaction from the crowd. Both men hit quick moves on the other. Rey then climbed to the top rope and Ali followed. Mysterio knocked Ali off, but Ali responded by running up again and nailing Mysterio with a Spanish Fly off the top rope. After the move, Ali went for the cover, but Joe stopped it at the count of two. In the end, Rey Mysterio connected with the 619 on Randy Orton. As he was going for his springboard senton, Joe grabbed him off the ropes and pulled him to the outside of the ring. Mysterio then hit Joe with a hurricanrana to create separation. With Orton down in the ring, Styles hit the springboard 450 splash and then made the cover for the 1,2,3 win.

WINNER: Styles via pinfall

-After the match, Styles celebrated in the ring as the show faded to black.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Not a huge fan of the match itself as it was spotty and lacked cohesion. That said, Styles going over is the right move as his story with Bryan didn’t truly feel over. This victory gives AJ his legit claim to a rematch after losing to Bryan and can shore up their story together once and for all. Plus, if their match at TLC is any indication, we could be in for a classic at the Royal Rumble.


NOW CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S RAW REPORT: 12/31 WWE Raw Results: Keller’s report on New Year’s Eve edition including Lashley, Seth, Rousey, Crews, Drew, Dolph, Sasha all in action

5 Comments on HEYDORN’S WWE SMACKDOWN LIVE REPORT 1/1: Coverage of the live show including John Cena’s return, New Day’s New Year celebration, and more

  1. Another holiday card so not bad based on that. Two things I’d change, I would NOT have E pulling pancakes out of his diaper [obviously] and Becky has to get away from the disarmer or she’ll get lumped in with the useless women’s champ on RAW. Becky can wrestle, she should work up a new finisher. Oh yeah 3 things, definitely as said above lost the canned audience, it is just stupid to see folks sitting on their hands while a roar ensues.

    • I can see where you’re coming from, to an extent, but Becky had that finisher well before Ronda debuted. Plus, while Ronda may garner the company more Sportscenter mentions, Becky’s the bigger star inside of the wrestling world. If anybody should have to change their finish, it should be Rousey. Of course that’ll never happen, because Brock- oops, I mean Ronda- **has** to be positioned as the top everything.

      I don’t want Becky to cede anything to Ronda, though. I hope she calls her out on the fact that in this world, it’s Ronda copying her.

  2. Zack was complaining about the New Day talking about how “they” will win the Rumble, but this is actually a long-standing part of their gimmick that really hasn’t been explored: When Kofi was last in the Money in the Bank match a couple of years back, they were openly floating the idea that if he won, all three of them could hold and defend the world title Freebird style, just like they did the tag straps.

    It’s obviously not something I would want to see with the WWE title, but if they try this with the US title, it could be a much-needed new direction for the three, regardless of whether or not they’re booked to get away with it.

  3. I have really enjoyed these last 4 editions of RAW and Smackdown and you know why? Because it was about the WRESTLING!! I wanna watch WRESTLING, I don`t wanna hear talking if i do i`ll hit on CNN, Nice to see Ali and ALMAS being brought to the front, i`ll tell ya i wouldn`t mind a Rey vs Ali match or Cena vs Almas match at Mania. It was great to see AJ go over and their match at the RUMBLE ought to be a classic, Also wouldn`t mind seeing a Rusev and English reunion with Lana “hurt” Hopefully this “New Era” brings us new fun matchups. And people bitch and moan about New Day, I`d miss those guys and the kids would too, my god think about when you were little these guys are not for 30 and 40 yrs olds they`re pandering for the kids, get over yourselves my nieces and nephews get a kick out of them and LOVE UPUPDWNDWN So cut it with all the New Day hate, You all would love to cash their checks.

    • You complain about people voicing their hatred of the New Day, and yet you led off voicing your dislike for talking segments.

      I enjoy talking segments.

      If you’re going to basically tell people to “deal with it” when it comes to parts of the show they don’t enjoy, that street should run both ways.

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