SmackDown Results and Recap: Make Way For Prince Ali

Kimberly Schueler
Mustafa Ali (source: WWE)

The WWE SmackDown LIVE episode before Christmas was like an early pro wrestling present. We got a match for the Women’s Championship, a shakeup in the tag team division, and a main event with a surprising result for the newest member of the roster.

The show started much like the previous night’s episode of RAW, with an announcement that the McMahon family would be taking over direct management of the product. Shane McMahon addressed a room full of SmackDown LIVE superstars and told them he was ushering in an era of change, with new faces, new matches, and “of course, a lot more opportunity.” He added that this included Paige stepping down from her General Manager position and moving to an unspecified new role on the blue brand. Everyone applauded Paige except for, noticeably, Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega.

The SmackDown star missing from that meeting—former SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch—entered the Fresno, CA arena to a huge ovation. She said the only thing she wants from the McMahons is the RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. Charlotte Flair interrupted and said no, she should have the first shot. Asuka entered to drive home that she is the new SmackDown Women’s Champion after the events of TLC.

Vince McMahon interrupted the women to tell Lynch and Flair if they have problems with what happened in that title match, “take it out on Ronda Rousey,” and to set up Asuka’s first championship defense. When he asked if there was “anyone ready for Asuka.” Naomi’s music hit, and she confidently challenged her friend and tag team partner.

Naomi’s incredible athleticism and Asuka’s technical expertise were shown off early in this match, while the announce team clarified signaled the end of the automatic rematch clause. The women took their fight out of the ring and then back inside, before Asuka defeated Naomi and held her belt high in front of the women she defeated for it.

Backstage, The Miz took his issues with Shane McMahon to a higher power, Vince. He asked for Mr. McMahon’s blessing on the “Best In The World” tag team.

The Miz ended up in a tag team match later that night, but not one he expected. He looked confused as a mixed tag team match was announced after he entered the ring. and Mandy Rose entered to be his partner. Their opponents were revealed to be Mixed Match Challenge winners Carmella and R-Truth. Despite the newness of their partnership, The Miz and Rose managed to defeat everyone’s favorite flossers by taking advantage of the Seven-Second Dance Break. Mandy Rose distracted Carmella, giving The Miz the freedom to hit his finisher on R-Truth for the win.

Clearer progress was made in the ongoing United States Championship feud between Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev. Rusev described himself as the perfect WWE Superstar backstage, a man of action and a bonafide hunk.

Nakamura delivered a counter-promo of his own later in the show. He had a montage of goofy Rusev clips from Total Divas ready to show why he shouldn’t be scared of the “Bulgarian Brute,” who he declared not a contender or a star, but “a Total Diva.” Their match was announced for next week’s episode on Christmas.

The show’s other big talking segment was between Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe. The audience was told Joe had an apology for Hardy, but when Joe entered the ring he said this was actually “an intervention.” But Hardy said that the more he’s reminded of his past, the more he’s also reminded that he’s never going back there. He called out Joe, saying he insults others in order to cover up his own insecurities… about things like not winning a title in his two years on the main roster. Joe tried to attack Hardy, but Hardy was ready and took him out with a Twist of Fate. With Hardy vs. Joe set for Christmas night, Hardy gained momentum by beating the submission specialist at his own psychological game.

Multiple potential new rivalries were set in motion in SmackDown’s tag team division this week, starting with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows returning after four months off TV, ready to reestablish themselves against Tthe Usos. The Usos welcomed them to the penitentiary, and both teams held their own in the ensuing match.

As Jimmy Uso prepared for a splash on Anderson, The Bar’s music hit, and the champions entered looking ready to deliver a beatdown. Jimmy hit the splash after he regained his focus, but his pin was broken up by the surprise return of Sanity. The Bar, not to be outdone, attacked both The Usos and the Good Brothers and held their titles high, but Sanity didn’t look intimidated at all.

The episode’s main event was another men’s tag team match, this one between WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and Cien Almas and the team of AJ Styles and Mustafa Ali, the newest member of the SmackDown roster. After Bryan yelled at the audience that they should be ashamed of their pollution levels and shouldn’t try to educate themselves because they would fail, the match kicked off with a moment of Bryan vs. Styles. Almas was quickly tagged in, and he and Styles brought the aggression. Ali turned the match around with a rolling facebuster to Bryan followed by some really nice teamwork from Styles and Ali: a dropkick from Styles to Almas in the Tranquilo pose followed by an assisted tope con hilo from Ali to Almas and Bryan outside the ring.

After a commercial break, we returned to see Ali in bad shape, stuck in his opponents’ corner. But he eventually managed to tag in Styles to trade submission holds with Bryan. Bryan escaped the Styles Clash but ate a moonsault into a reverse DDT. After this exciting sequence, Ali picked up in the win, pinning Bryan with his 054 splash. With the crowd fully behind him and a pinfall over the WWE Champion, the “Heart of 205 Live”‘s first official day on the blue brand was a huge success.

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