Stakes were high on the March 19, 2019 episode of WWE SmackDown LIVE, which featured Kofi Kingston’s gauntlet match for a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, an appearance from the Women’s Tag Team Champions, a brawl between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, and more.
The show opened with a speech from The Miz, a clear hero of the people for the first time in years after Shane McMahon’s vicious attack at Fastlane. After a replay of Shane’s promo from last week, in which he ordered The Miz to wrestle him in a singles match at WrestleMania, The Miz questioned the selfish decisions he’s made in his ruthless quest to the top of WWE. He also called out Shane’s entitlement and the evils of the McMahon family. The fans supported The Miz after his fiery promo, and he responded to their chants of “You deserve it!” with a “Damn right, I do!”
The first match of the night was also the first appearance on SmackDown of WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks and Bayley. They had to deal with the team of Beth Phoenix and Natalya, as well as Nia Jax and Tamina the previous night on RAW, and now they gained clear possible challengers to their titles at WrestleMania in The IIconics. The IIconics defeated the champs through blatant cheating, with Billie Kay holding one of Banks’ legs outside the ring while Peyton Royce pinned her, but a win is a win.
Backstage, Rey Mysterio informed everyone of a WrestleMania match we can be sure is happening: Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe for the United States Championship. He also reintroduced his now-adult son, Dominic—of custody ladder match fame—to the WWE Universe.
This episode also saw the return of “The Kevin Owens Show,” when Owens used his talk show platform to recap Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch’s feud and to try to convince them to fight for the audience’s entertainment. When Charlotte declared that she would “beat the holy hell out of Becky,” Becky responded with a punch to her face… and the brawl was on.
As the women were separated by officials, commentary reminded the audience that because the RAW Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania will be a triple threat and therefore have a No Disqualification element, there will be no limit to how much these women can hurt each other.
The show’s main event was the gauntlet match in which Kofi Kingston could earn a match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Before the match started, WWE Champion Daniel Bryan entered the ring to claim it was an injustice that Kingston was even getting this opportunity. He said the underdog status he held in the past does not apply to Kingston, using an argument the crowd obviously did not agree with. When Bryan called Kingston “nothing more than a B+ player” and said that wasn’t good enough, The New Day entered the arena.
Kingston was announced as the first entrant for the gauntlet match, and his first opponent was revealed to be Sheamus, who started the match with Cesaro ominously outside the ring. Kingston showed some of his flying ability, but Sheamus was able to shut him down with strikes and submissions. As The New Day and others from the locker room watched backstage, Kingston managed to counter a Brogue Kick into a rollup, then pin Sheamus after Trouble in Paradise.
The next competitor in the gauntlet was quickly revealed to be Cesaro, who—since he was already at ringside—was able to run in and uppercut Kingston, taking him by surprise. Cesaro worked on Kingston’s legs that had already been targeted by Sheamus with a Texas Cloverleaf, and Kingston looked desperate. By the time he was able to defeat Cesaro with an S.O.S., it was in question if he would be able to outlast three more wrestlers.
Kingston’s next opponent, Rowan, who entered to the Bludgeon Brothers’ theme song this time, had the advantages of being huge and not having just wrestled two men but opted to lose intentionally rather than try to run the gauntlet himself. He attacked Kingston with a chair outside the ring and continued to brutalize him after he was disqualified.
Kingston was clearly hurt very badly by the time he had to deal with United States Champion Samoa Joe. Joe not only beat up Kingston but taunted him. Though Kingston refused to quit, Joe continued to dominate their match. When Kingston managed to reverse a Muscle Buster into a roll-up for the win, Joe couldn’t believe it. He locked Kingston in the Coquina Clutch for so long before the referees pulled him off that it looked like Kingston might be unconscious as Randy Orton’s music hit.
“The Viper” stalked into the arena and took his time wearing down the already-exhausted Kingston, who had been in the match for over 41 minutes at this point. It looked like Orton might put him away with a roll-up counter to a diving crossbody, but Kingston was able to win the match and the gauntlet with one of his own.
The New Day ran into the ring to celebrate with Kingston but were interrupted by Mr. McMahon. He congratulated Kingston and told him he was going to WrestleMania… “as long as you can defeat this one last opponent.” The protesting New Day were told they had to leave the premises and the opponent was revealed to be Daniel Bryan, who smiled smugly as he walked to the ring.
Never had an audience been so unhappy to see a Bryan match as they were in this impromptu main event. The crowd went from booing to silent as Bryan beat up Kingston and were extremely invested in every kick-out. Despite a few hopeful moments, Bryan defeated Kingston with a running knee, dashing his hopes of challenging him at WrestleMania and ending the show on a very sad note.