The January 8, 2019 episode of WWE SmackDown LIVE set up matches for the women’s and tag team divisions for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and heightened the feud for the WWE Championship.
Daniel Bryan opened the show from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena concessions stand. He said he would take the audience on an “educational tour” and cut a promo using junk food as a metaphor for AJ Styles. He said that both the junk food and the buying of wrestling merchandise was just “needless consumption” to fill voids in people’s life. He entered the arena and said he was out here to “change the world,” and to create change, he needed the “weak… submissive… impotent” people in the arena to also change.
As Bryan approached the ring, R-Truth ambushed him. The men brawled as SmackDown cut to a commercial break, and we returned from the break to a Daniel Bryan vs. R-Truth match. Truth put up a good fight, but Bryan pinned him after a running knee. After the match, AJ Styles attacked Bryan, showing that new level of aggression that Vince McMahon said showed “the real AJ Styles,” until officials separated the men.
This was directly followed by a tag team match between the team of Rey Mysterio and Mustafa Ali against Samoa Joe and Andrade “Cien” Almas. Ali and Mysterio made a really good high-flying tag team, and Joe showed off his power, but Almas was this match’s true star. After Ali hit Joe with a tope con
A somber Rusev entered the ring and addressed Shinsuke Nakamura’s attack on him and Lana last week. He vowed to have his revenge on Nakamura for hurting Lana with his “selfish actions” last week. Then Nakamura, in a production truck, showed up on the big screen, said he would show the injury was actually Rusev’s fault and showed a clip of last week’s attack. This provoked Rusev to try to jump Nakamura backstage, but the more level-headed “King of Strong Style” got the better of their encounter with a knee to the face of “The Bulgarian Brute.”
Backstage, The Miz encouraged Shane McMahon to use his power as a member of the McMahon family/management of the show to get them a match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. Shane was not okay with this abuse of power and tried to make sure The Miz was on the same page. The Miz disingenuously said he understood Shane and brought up more ideas for their costumes, which Shane, with equal sincerity, said he liked.
This came up again later in the episode after The Usos lost a match against The Bar to get a shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at the Royal Rumble. Both teams fought aggressively, and The Usos had the crowd on their side as they pulled out all the stops in pursuit of another shot at the gold.
When the match was at its hottest point, Jimmy Uso desperately reaching for a tag on the apron, it was unexpectedly interrupted by Mandy Rose in a towel. Jimmy wasn’t really distracted until she started talking and looked baffled when Rose asked him if she left her “tiny, gold” gear in his hotel room. However, this distraction was enough for Sheamus to knock Jimmy off the apron and Cesaro to recover and win the match.
Afterward, The Miz entered the ring and challenged The Bar on behalf of The Besties for a championship match at the Royal Rumble. The Bar
Backstage, Shane McMahon was concerned about what The Miz’s desperate strategy, but ended up thinking they might be able to beat The Bar.
The rest of the backstage fallout from this tag match took place after Mandy Rose removed her towel to reveal she was (smartly) wearing her gear during her distraction. That didn’t stop Naomi from jumping Rose and Sonya Deville, and all three women fought until Jimmy Uso broke them up.
This episode’s best and most impactful match was the main event triple threat between Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Carmella. Lynch dominated early and especially focused in on her rival Flair, but it was Carmella who broke her momentum. She took about Lynch with a flatliner and turned to Flair, and even able to counter a Figure Eight into a Code of Silence. Flair was able to impressively power out and laid Carmella out with a boot. Flair moonsaulted onto both opponents, but first Lynch, then Carmella kicked out of Flair’s pins.
Carmella got back in control of the match when she was able to counter a super powerbomb from Flair into a hurricanrana off the top rope, then dive onto Lynch outside the ring. But after both women dodged a moonsault from Flair, Lynch got the better of Carmella with strikes and rolled her back in the ring.
At this point, it looked like it could be anyone’s game. Flair hit Lynch with a Natural Selection from the top rope, Carmella took the Queen out with a superkick, and Flair broke up the Princess’s pin on Lynch. Carmella was the first to her feet and yelled at slapped Flair’s face, but Flair, with more presence of mind, struck Carmella down and locked on the Figure Eight. But Lynch broke the devastating submission and after a brief struggle between all three women, tapped out Carmella with a Dis-Arm-Her.
Lynch soaked up the cheers of the crowd, having won a chance to regain the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Asuka at the Royal Rumble. After a moment, Asuka entered the arena, then the ring, and the episode ended as they trash talked each other in different languages.