Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: WWE had a Fathead Tables, a Couple of Ladders, and Tons of Chairs pay-per-view that saw Asuka become the new Smackdown Women’s Champion thanks to Ronda Rousey, Daniel Bryan retain the WWE Championship thanks to mother Earth, and The Bar retain the tag titles thanks to their opponents already holding the titles too many times and for way too long.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week.
Here’s this week’s Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live number 1,009 for December 18, 2018.
Worst: Paige Gets Outsourced
Raw introduced the dreaded Council of McMahons as the new posse of cross-brand authority figures, and if you missed it, the “master plan” to save Raw was to have the people we already knew were in charge open the show by telling us they’re in charge. Also, “we, the fans,” are now “the authority,” which is either a huge fucking lie or the first step in a year of Taboo Tuesdays.
The worst part of the announcement (relatively speaking, at least) is that the one authority figure on the WWE main roster who was doing a good job, Paige, got removed from her position. Smackdown opens with Shane thanking her for being a good “formal genera manager” — he was trying to say “former general” — and saying that she’s “sticking around,” and that her “role is changing.” So is she gonna wrestle again, or what? Otherwise you’re just demoting her to Brand Secretary. Hopefully they have something good for her to do, and shit, if you want a reason for the brands to actually hate each other, Smackdown’s suddenly gotta do everything different because Raw sucks so bad. That’s not even kind of fair.
Anyway, the best part of this was Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega-Black being disinterested a-holes.
Worst, Then Best: Asuka Vs. Naomi
Smackdown proper started with a pretty loosey-goosey shout-argument between Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Asuka that turned into Papa Vince showing up and literally McMahonsplaining things to them, but it quickly righted itself with the announcement of Asuka vs. Naomi for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. I really don’t think we need the 73-year old man to show up and tell Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair how to compose themselves and how they should handle Ronda Rousey.
Not only is that a good match, it addresses a fairly logical point that Asuka might be down to give her best on-screen friend and former tag team partner the first shot at the championship. Also, three cheers for the death of the rematch clause! You made sense, but they used you as a crutch until you broke!
Asuka wins, of course, but Naomi gets nearly 13 minutes of back-and-forth to prove she can hang with the best. One of the reasons I like Naomi so much is because she proves that even some of the less celebrated performers from the “Divas” era had and have something to contribute in the new era of Actual Women’s Wrestling, and can evolve and grow over time if you put time and effort behind them. Sometimes you get Natalya, but hey, sometimes you get Naomi.
Best-ish: Jeff Hardy
So, this is a hard feeling to articulate. If it gets too wordy or doubles back on itself, I’m sorry in advance.
I really appreciate the fact that instead of just having a heel be an asshole and the face be like, “I’m gonna beat you at PAY-PER-VIEW,” they have Jeff Hardy acknowledging Samoa Joe’s taunts by saying yeah, they’re valid, but also he’s been mindful of them for years, and has worked really hard for a really long time to get better. So now he’s too internally strong to let that kind of bullshit taunting get to him, and he’s going to eschew the mind games and face Samoa Joe head-on. That’s great babyface writing. A guy can be a decent hand-clapper who loves The WWE Universe® and still not be an illogical idiot who pretends he is and has always been a saint.
At the same time, I wish Joe wasn’t in this bully heel role again. The Wendy Styles Saga was fun at first, but dragged on and on until you were like, “just slaughter AJ’s entire family for real or stop talking about it.” The problem is that Joe’s been kind of a super loser the past six months, failing at all his chances to win the WWE Championship (of which there were many), losing like a chump at Survivor Series, and now jumping into a feud with Jeff Hardy that Randy Orton just did better. This is more of a Jinder Mahal role than a Samoa Joe, you know? I want to see Joe kick people’s asses and choke them out. Why don’t any of Joe’s pushes last?
Eh: The Smackdown Tag Team Division Expands (By Just Doing What Raw Did)
I seriously forgot the Good Brothers were a thing. So hey, a Best to Smackdown remembering they have a bigger roster than the six singles stars, two women, and three tag teams who always get to be on TV.
That said, I wasn’t exactly plussed by how the segment was executed, even if I see its purpose. The Usos show up to call out The Bar, since they weren’t pinned in the triple threat at TLC. Instead of The Bar, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows show up to mention that they haven’t been on TV since August, and are “grillegit” (Luke’s word) one of the best tag teams of the past decade. They’re a good enough team, yeah, but having a Bullet Club without a leader or a team name or a club of any kind is still as dumb today as it was when they signed them, and their promos always kinda wear me out. It’s a very Impact Wrestling style of promo, I’m not sure how to explain it. They’re just like “HEY, here are some STATEMENTS that we’ve REHEARSED, right here TONIGHT!” Which is weird, because if they were just Tex Ferguson and Chad 2 Badd I’d be losing my mind and GIF’ing everything they did.
That gives us the Good Brothers vs. The Usos, which is fine, but highlighted by Anderson intercepting an Uso dive and accidentally getting Uce’s entire leg tangled up in the ropes. It should’ve come with its own on-screen WASTED graphic. When The Usos are about to win, The Bar shows up to “cause a distraction” because they’d gotten name-dropped, but before they can actually do anything, Sanity runs in and attacks everyone. Then The Bar wanders in and picks the bones.
On a positive note, we expanded the Smackdown tag team division to more than the three important teams and remembered that two possibly important teams still exist. On the other hand, you had a call-out with the wrong team answering to set up a 7 minute match with a no-contest ending, because the team that showed up to cause the no contest got out no-contested by a team nobody’d even mentioned. It was just Raw’s fatal-fourway with no finish and too many moving pieces.
Good idea: Having Rusev cut another promo that could’ve come out of Hulk Hogan’s mouth in 1986 where he highlights all his strengths, hilariously says that you could shave his beard and use it to make sweaters for babies, and even more hilariously compares Shinsuke Nakamura to Sonic the Hedgehog.
Bad idea: Shinsuke Nakamura thinks Rusev is a woman! Get it!
Brother, showing us clips of Rusev being a great and funny dude in real life isn’t going to get us to boo him. Which I guess is the point, but don’t you have a bunch of rings to collect and too much sexy fan-fiction to star in? They should bring in Tommaso Ciampa as Dr. Robotnik.
Best: Awesome > Truth
Miz still wants to take local sweathog Shane McMahon to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance or whatever, so he ends up in a tag team match with a partner and opponents of Vince McMahon’s choosing. I see you ad-libbing Vince McMahon into saying the correct thing about who’s picking the partners, Miz. You’re a cut above.
So he ends up teaming up with Mandy Rose, definitely the first Smackdown women’s wrestler Vince is going to notice until Lacey Evans shows up, against Mixed Match Challenge tournament winners Carmella and R-Truth. Truth thinks Mandy Rose is Maryse, which is great, and Miz uses his intense knowledge of how R-Truth works to sneak up behind him when he’s celebrating his own stupidity and puts him down with a Skull-crushing Finale. The lesson here: at least two of the people in this match have now proven that they’re better tag team partners to Miz than Shane McMahon.
Secondary lesson: if this angle doesn’t end with Miz and Shane making out on the trophy like Jaime and Cersei on Joffrey’s corpse, what are we even doing?
Tertiary lesson: Yes, I’m still trying to reboot WWE as Game of Thrones.
Worst: Daniel Bryan Is A Liar
Bryan promised a new championship belt in this promo, and it’s what I wanted most from Smackdown:
“After I beat you….I am going to take this leather strap that was made from a skinned cow that I like to name Daisy and I am going to replace it with something sustainable, something better and the new Daniel Bryan is going to create a new world that these people don’t have any part of…You know what? Most of you probably don’t deserve to have a part of it either.”
What are you, Bryan, some kind of liar? Is Tom Phillips right??
Just Kidding, Best: Los Ingobernables de Whole Foods
Smackdown’s main event plays off last week’s awesome WWE Championship match — because again, it was already a good show, Raw’s the one that needed a “new era” — by teaming up Bryan with Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas against AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali. We joked about it in the Slack chat during the show, but what’s the weirder combination, AJ Styles and a Muslim, or Daniel Bryan and a fancy boy who loves stuff?
The match is a lot of fun while it lasts, and hey, get this: Mustafa Ali is now an actual member of the Smackdown roster, is getting spots in the main event, and pins the WWE Champion clean with his finisher. That’s not a thing you could even imagine typing like 9 days ago. Hell, you wouldn’t imagine typing it two days ago, given WWE’s history with these things. There aren’t many more underrated performers in the world than Ali, and adding a scrappy-ass high-flying babyface who is undersized (in a good way) and has a great story and awesome (goofy) entrance gear is an A+ move. Having him pin the B+ player only adds to it.
I’m excited to see where this goes, which is hopefully “more normal Smackdowns with fewer McMahons going forward.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
*McMahon Family lockeroom*
HHH: “Alright how can we build to Ronda/Becky for Mania?”
Shane: “Is there a trophy involved? Can I win it?” *Sweats*
HHH: “No there isn’t a trophy. What? You can’t win…”
Steph: “Right. Because I’M going to win the trophy”
HHH: “There’s no trophy! You’re not even in the matc…”
Vince: *Interrupting* “FILL THE TROPHY WITH PUDDING!”
HHH: “Forget it. Let the ratings tank” *Leaves*
“Don’t try you will fail” is Daniel Bryan my dad and/or my high school guidance counselor?
Bryan: SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!
*Here Comes The Money plays*
Bryan: … oh goddamnit.
“I’ve never given anyone a blessing in my life”
Boy, he really leans into that sneezing phobia
Bryan should be happy at all the resources they’re saving recording two episodes in a row.
It makes sense that Andrade would get along well with an angry short person.
It’s like Einstein said: Sanity is debuting the same team over and over and expecting a different result.
Shane: “Hey, do you know what sucks about being a McMahon?”
HAHAHAHAHA. YEEEEAHHHHHH (McMahon estate bombed by Canadians)
Baron Von Raschke
Oh, Miz….Vince doesn’t care about tag teams.
Is Charlotte gonna fight Becky or ride off into the sky with Danny Zucco?
That’s it for this week’s show. If you wanna read about next week’s (admittedly pretty good sounding) show, you can read the pre-tape spoilers here.
As always, thanks for reading, and for supporting us. Share the column if you’re a pal, as those social media shares really work wonders for our employability, and drop down into the comments to let us know what you thought of the show. Keep the spoilers in the spoilers post, though, and we’ll see you sometime that isn’t Christmas!