SmackDown Women's Champion Asuka, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair Engaged in an Intense Standoff
Lynch continues to deliver on the mic and I still have my mind set on Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey (vs. Charlotte Flair?) headlining WrestleMania 35. I loved how Asuka stayed silent here and instead let her facial expressions and mannerisms do the talking for her. Flair didn't hit a home run with her promo, but at least she was fully in heel mode for a change and planted the seed of her potentially winning the women's Royal Rumble. The brawl that followed with Lynch and Asuka was great and made me more excited for their upcoming encounter than I already was.
Mandy Rose def. Naomi
Personally, I haven't been the biggest fan of this feud over the last month, if only because it has felt predictable and nothing about it has piqued my interest. It doesn't help that this match was mediocre, but I applaud their effort, nonetheless. I especially liked Rose winning because it prolongs the rivalry a little longer and gives Rose a notable victory over a former SmackDown Women's Champion.
SmackDown Tag Team Champion Cesaro def. The Miz
From an in-ring standpoint, this wasn't anything special, but it was decent while it lasted. Then again, it was less about the match and more about giving The Bar a momentum boost. In addition to Cesaro scoring the victory, he and Sheamus brutally attacked Miz and Shane McMahon afterward. It was a good angle and I was surprised by how much the crowd was behind Miz here. Perhaps it's because of his partnership with Shane, but I firmly believe he can be a fun babyface if booked properly.
Mr. McMahon Moderated a Face-to-Face Between WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles
This feud has been stretched out over the span of three months, yet these two are still delivering compelling promos and segments each week. I figured Mr. McMahon would overshadow them both, so I was glad he had more of a supporting role instead. The actual back-and-forth between Styles and Bryan was enjoyable and their brief brawl offered fans a small taste of what to expect in their WWE Championship clash on Sunday.
Samoa Joe def. Mustafa Ali
The video package that aired earlier in the evening promoting this match was terrific and gave it more meaning in the process. As I've said before, Ali is such a perfect babyface, so Joe is a fantastic foil for him. Ali scored plenty of offense over Joe, but despite a strong showing, he fell short of victory. Here's hoping the feud isn't over yet and they can continue to do battle following the Rumble.
Rey Mysterio def. Andrade in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match by Disqualification
As seen last week, the chemistry Mysterio and Andrade have is off the charts and it warms my heart that they're being given the opportunity to go all out in their matches. This was another extremely exciting affair from them that (of course) belonged in the main event spot. It's always bothered me how WWE tends to rush the first two falls of a 2-out-of-3 Falls match, but at least those two falls were tremendous. They maintained that chaotic pace during the third fall as well and the innovation from both men (especially Mysterio considering he's in the twilight of his career) never ceases to blow me away. Sure, the non-finish was slightly disappointing, but it also leaves the door open for this rivalry to be revisited down the road (WrestleMania, anyone?). Furthermore, the post-match appearances from Joe and Randy Orton (where the hell has he been lately?) helped hype the men's Rumble match and how it's every man for themselves.
Unlike Monday's Raw, this go-home edition of SmackDown Live did a hell of a job of getting me looking forward to everything that the blue brand will have to offer at the Royal Rumble (except for maybe the United States Championship match, which has since been moved to the Kickoff show). The last two matches were excellent, the two talking segments succeeded in what they set out to do, and most importantly, everything served a purpose, so I'd certainly chalk this up to being an above-average episode that is well worth going out of your way to check out.
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