With less than two weeks left until WWE WrestleMania, the March 26, 2019 episode of SmackDown LIVE featured surprising developments in the pictures for the WWE Championship and SmackDown Women’s Championship.
The episode opened with a follow-up to the depressing ending of last week’s show. The New Day, supported by the audience, publicly confronted Vince McMahon about how Kofi Kingston earned a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania before it was cruelly snatched away from him by management. Though Daniel Bryan, backed by Rowan, protested, MR. McMahon ended up giving Kingston another chance at the title match. He placed Xavier Woods and Big E in a gauntlet match for later in the show, one in which they could win their friend this opportunity. But he didn’t seem to believe “a B+ tag team” could overcome those odds.
The first match of the episode also had unexpected WrestleMania implications, and you can read all about that here.
Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka was scheduled to be followed by Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles, billed as “for the first time ever in WWE”—because these men, like Angle and Samoa Joe, who wrestled on Monday, previously faced off in TNA/Impact Wrestling. However, Angle’s retirement dream match tour was interrupted by an RKO from Randy Orton to Styles.
We also saw another brief escalation of a WrestleMania rivalry when Rey Mysterio, again accompanied by his adult son Dominic, cut a promo on United States Champion Samoa Joe.
The recently-heroic Miz entered the ring to cut a promo about his hatred of Shane McMahon for his betrayal and attack of his father. He said he’s looking forward to facing Shane in a Falls Count Anywhere match so he can beat him up all over MetLife Stadium.
Shane McMahon’s theme song interrupted The Miz and a fleet of anonymous security guards, then more familiar heavies in Shelton Benjamin, Sanity, and The Colóns entered the arena in front of him. Shane brutally insulted The Miz and his dad, even saying that “the greatest Miz-stake in [The Miz’s dad’s] life” was “when he impregnated your mother.”
At this, The Miz struggled to fight his way through security to get at Shane. Shane watched as The Miz—outnumbered—was beaten up, but he left the arena as “The A-Lister” got a second wind and started to get the better of his goons. The Miz showed brawling skills that could really benefit him in a Falls Count Anywhere match as he battled Sanity beyond the barricade amongst the cheering crowd.
After this came the main event of the episode, the gauntlet match between Woods and E and an unknown number of opponents. They began by making short work of the Good Brothers but struggled with the next team, Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev. Nakamura and Rusev delivered damaging strikes to Woods, but E made some progress when he tagged in, including slamming Rusev into the steel ring steps. With the momentum now in their favor, The New Day won the match after an Up Up Down Down to Nakamura.
The audience saw the more upstanding wrestlers of the locker room, including Rey Mysterio, Naomi, Becky Lynch, and, of course, Kofi Kingston, cheering on The New Day, but it looked like their next opponents, The Bar, might put an end to that happiness. The Bar focused on E’s powerful legs with submissions. E managed to tag in the exhausted Woods, but he was quickly dominated by The Bar. Teamwork and quick-thinking won this match for the New Day when E broke up the setup for The Bar’s finisher and Woods was able to roll up a distracted Sheamus.
Sheamus bitterly attacked Woods after the bell rang and he and Cesaro put Big E through a table. It looked like things could go from bad to worse when the SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos—The New Day’s arch-rivals that they’ve struggled to beat and have also been beaten by under the best of circumstances—entered the ring.
However, The Usos looked concerned as they watched E struggle to get up from the wreckage of the table. They got on the mic and said that if one person deserves a shot at the WWE Championship, it’s Kofi Kingston. Out of respect for their rivals, they forfeited their portion of the gauntlet match.
The camera cut to Daniel Bryan and Rowan throwing a tantrum backstage, and after a commercial break the angry pair were announced as Woods and E’s last opponents in the gauntlet. They immediately started beating up The New Day and though E got in some offense, he was trapped in a submission by Bryan. He managed to get what looked like a second wind, but his Big Ending on Bryan was broken up by Rowan. However, he still managed to find yet another burst of even more superhuman strength and buried Rowan under an announce table outside the ring, gaining a count-out victory.
As soon as the match was over, Kingston ran into the ring to celebrate with his teammates. Backstage, Kayla Braxton found Mr. McMahon about to get into a limo and made sure the good news was confirmed: Kofi Kingston is going to WrestleMania. McMahon questioned if “a B+ player can beat Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship,” but it looked like the rest of the locker room already believed. The wrestlers who had been watching backstage and cheering surrounded the ring to celebrate with The New Day, ending this week’s SmackDown as happily as last week’s ended sadly.
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