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SMACKDOWN HITS AND MISSES
New Day Opening Segment – MISS: New Day’s act is starting to wear thin. Or I should say, it has been wearing thin for awhile now. Once upon a time, New Day talked about Booty-O cereal. They then moved on to pancakes. And they’ve been on pancakes a long time. Maybe it is time to move on to something else. Or maybe try to get a little more serious to freshen up their act. I liked some aspects of their show opening promo, but it wasn’t good overall. The end with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods talking about New Year’s resolutions that were actually movie summaries was lame, and that was followed by the odd way that Big E just announced the opening match that had nothing to do with New Day. It was strange.
Joe vs. Hardy – HIT: This was a good match, but far from great. It didn’t seem to really follow up well from Jeff Hardy getting himself disqualified in their match last week when he snapped on Samoa Joe. Early on, he was aggressive and the announcers talked about how he needs to avoid getting DQd again considering the winner of this match got a chance to earn a WWE Title match in the main event. But otherwise, it didn’t really play into that much. But, it was still a good match with the right outcome.
Styles – McMahon – MISS: This is in part a retroactive Miss from last week’s show closing angle with Vince McMahon slapping A.J. Styles to get him to become more aggressive and show the real A.J. Styles. This seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make much sense last week. This week, the follow up wasn’t good with a poor scene between Vince, Shane, and Styles. Then, after promising to see the real A.J. Styles tonight, Styles didn’t do anything different. He won the main event. But how was that an example of something new? If the point is that the “real A.J. Styles” is the same successful (other than a few recent matches against Daniel Bryan) wrestler that he was in 2018 without making changes, then okay I guess. But, I don’t think that’s what WWE was going for.
Rusev – Nakamura – HIT: Rusev needs something more to him than just the fun happy go lucky guy that he’s been playing the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong. I like aspects of that character with more of his real life self coming through. He is a funny guy. He can have more of that personality as a babyface. He can be entertaining. He was here. But, he needs to be more than that if he is going to continue to get a push as the United States Champion. The attack by Shinsuke Nakamura which resulted in Lana accidentally getting hurt will hopefully be the catalyst to a more serious Rusev, the type who can go from being goofy and happy to serious and intense at a snap of a finger when it becomes time for Rusev to Crush!
Cena and The Man – HIT: John Cena was ok in his return to Smackdown after being away from WWE for several months. I don’t really care about him at all at this point. But, he still has a lot of value and hopefully this run to WrestleMania will be far better than last year’s terrible story with The Undertaker. The real Hit here is for Becky Lynch being the one to come out and answer his call. She gave a great promo. I loved how she said she wasn’t just chasing Charlotte, but was chasing Cena too as the new top star in the company period. Having them share the ring was a good idea and it was well executed. The interruption by Salina Vega and Andrade Cien Almas worked well. More mic time from Vega would be a true fresh new start for Smackdown as they were such a great act in NXT who have been miss and underutilized on the main roster. The match that followed was fine. It wasn’t great, but good enough and got the job done to help give the Cena rub to Lynch, while giving a fun moment for the returning Cena too. The moment when Lynch threw Cena out of the ring and got the win over Vega was awesome! I liked that Cena seemed to respect what she did and then the way she blew off the hand shake was great too with the “you can’t see me bit” to Cena.
Co-Besties – MISS: The storyline between The Miz and Shane McMahon coming out of their co-win of the World Cup at Crown Jewel has been one of the worst parts of Smackdown over the past month or so. It hasn’t been well written. It hasn’t been well performed. It hasn’t made anyone involved look good. After finally convincing Shane to team with him last week, the follow up wasn’t good. It didn’t seem to build on them finally being on the same page last week with Miz making a fool of himself with his team outfit ideas which Shane clearly didn’t want anything to do with. There was a time not that long ago that Miz was looked upon as getting back to where he once was with a WWE Title reign in his future. He doesn’t look anywhere close to a WWE Champion now.
Main Event – HIT: The fatal five way to determine Daniel Bryan’s challenger at The Royal Rumble for the WWE Title was a good main event. It was more of a spot fest than a match that told a strong story, but it was a good version of that type of match. It had a lot of energy and was fun to watch from start to finish. I could see Styles, Mustafa Ali or Rey Mysterio win, so I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Styles made sense to continue his feud with Bryan. Ali would have made sense given his quick rise and a way to capitalize on his momentum. I like the idea of having a new wrestler who isn’t yet a big star facing the WWE Champion at the Rumble, because you don’t need that star power in the WWE Title match at that PPV since the Rumble concept sells itself. Mysterio would have made sense too just to give something different for a short program before moving back to Styles or someone else. I’m fine with Styles winning in the end. And as I said, it was a good main event.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.