With the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view just a few days away, the February 12, 2019 episode of WWE SmackDown LIVE included two matches to determine placement in the upcoming Elimination Chamber matches, as well as the escalation of the tag title feud between The Usos and Shane McMahon and The Miz.
The show opened with a speech from Charlotte Flair about how Vince McMahon chose her to replace Becky Lynch in the WrestleMania RAW Women’s Championship match against Ronda Rousey. You can read a full recap of the segment here.
This was followed by the first match of the night, a tag team triple threat match between Fabulous Glow (Carmella and Naomi), Fire and Desire (Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose), and The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce). This rematch from last week was to determine which SmackDown team would start the Elimination Chamber match against Sasha Banks and Bayley from RAW and therefore be at a disadvantage to become the inaugural Women’s Tag Team Champions.
The teams fought longer and harder than last week… or at least Rose/Deville and Naomi/Carmella did, while The IIconics strategically stayed out of the ring as much as possible. The match ended with Naomi finally scoring a pinfall victory over her rival Rose after a split-legged moonsault. Naomi and Carmella saved themselves from having to enter the Chamber first but might still be at a disadvantage if they sustained any injuries from a post-match attack from The IIconics. It looks like that opportunistic, ruthless edge to the Australian duo might be enough to earn them these new titles.
Later in the show, Mustafa Ali addressed the fact that he was not medically cleared to compete on Sunday in the Elimination Chamber match that would have been his first shot at the WWE Championship. Ali promised he would not stay down for long.
After this, the first episode of “McMiz TV,” ended like all good episodes of Miz TV did: with violence. The Miz and Shane McMahon’s guests were “one of the most decorated and exciting tag teams in WWE history,” their challengers for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship on Sunday, The Usos. The Usos questioned if The Miz and Shane are really a tag team and tested how much they knew about each other, and The Miz obviously—and entertainingly—cheated to show they knew a lot.
But the standoff soon got tense in a way that made nobody laugh when The Miz brought up Jimmy Uso’s recent marital drama with Naomi and Mandy Rose. This led to shoving and threatening between the teams and “The Best Tag Team in the World” being welcomed to “The Uso Penitentiary.” The champs held their belts high and Shane tried to get the last word in the encounter. But The Usos dropped their soon-to-be-opponents with a pair of superkicks and left the venue with the audience’s support and what looked like solid momentum going into Sunday’s match.
The episode’s main event was an epic, hour-long gauntlet match to determine which wrestler would enter the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship last. Daniel Bryan, the champion, entered the ring first with Rowan to cut a promo. He addressed that a lot of people want him to lose the championship, “but the truth is, you’re lying to yourselves because you are all fickle and you need somebody like ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan to show you how to live your pathetic lives.” Having not at all endeared himself to the crowd, Bryan was interrupted by The New Day.
It had been previously announced that a member of The New Day would replace the injured Ali in the Elimination Chamber, but fans didn’t know which of the trio this would be until this gauntlet match. Big E and Xavier Woods both teased that it might be them, but the competitor ended up being Kofi Kingston. It’s been years since Kingston was primarily a singles competitor, but he brought it to Bryan and quickly earned the support of the crowd. After a commercial break, we returned to see Kingston and Bryan still going hard, Kingston enduring through Bryan’s brutal strikes.
Then after another commercial break, Kingston and Bryan were still fighting, Kingston still managing to kick out of the champion’s pins. Now things were really getting interesting and exciting.
After Kingston countered a move from the top turnbuckle by Bryan with a perfectly-timed dropkick, Rowan decided to get involved. But the giant was met by Big E and Woods right after he attacked Kingston. Still, it looked like Rowan might come out of the situation on top when the referee only saw The New Day fighting and ejected them from ringside. But after Rowan threw Kingston over a barricade, he too was ejected.
With just Bryan and Kingston left in or around the ring, Kingston soon shockingly eliminated the champion from the gauntlet, pinning him after a Trouble in Paradise. The crowd could not have been more excited by this huge upset victory.
Kingston’s streak continued when Jeff Hardy entered the ring. Hardy tried to put his opponent away quickly but was pinned after an S.O.S. This led to Kingston hearing the music of a fresh Samoa Joe after he had been wrestling for over thirty minutes.
Joe, looking confident and like he was enjoying himself, started to brutalize the already exhausted Kingston. But the former tag team champion kept making comebacks and ultimately escaped the Coquina Clutch to eliminate Joe with a roll-up. Joe didn’t take this embarrassment well and just attacked Kingston, locking the Clutch on again on the ground outside of the ring.
Fortunately for Kingston, the next entrant in the gauntlet match was Samoa Joe’s old rival AJ Styles, who ran Joe off. When Styles vs. Kingston was set to start, the former WWE Champion tried to do what he must have thought was another good deed by getting the ref to eliminate Kingston, getting their portion of the match ended with a stoppage. The fired-up Kingston did not appreciate this at all. The 11-year WWE veteran shoved Styles, yelling “I’ve been doing this too long!”
It was then Styles brought the fight to the determined member of The New Day, sending him to the mat in the corner with forearms. But despite all odds, Kingston just refused to let up. For a while, it looked like anyone’s match, but when Styles dodged an attack by Kingston on the apron and sent him flying knee-first into the ring post, the match turned in his favor. Kingston avoided count-out, but Styles targeted his hurt leg with the Calf Crusher and submit him. Kingston’s nearly hour-long performance was applauded by the WWE Universe as The New Day helped their teammate out of the ring.
Meanwhile, Styles readied himself in the ring for Randy Orton, watching the entranceway as his next opponent’s theme song played. All this preparation turned out to be for nothing though, because Orton hit Styles with an RKO out of nowhere, pinning him after one move to end the episode.
This incredible gauntlet match showed at least a little of every WWE Championship contender’s strengths and weaknesses, but especially those of Kofi Kingston. We now go into the Elimination Chamber with the question in the air of if he went too hard and hurt his chances at winning the title, or if he could be able to pull out more surprise wins… including over “The Viper,” who will enter the Chamber last.