The New Day Kicked Off 2019 with a New Year Celebration
New Day starting off the show with some comedy was harmless fun and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I briefly got my hopes up when they said they would ditch their obsession with pancakes at long last, but then they said that no one actually keeps their new year resolutions, which is 100 percent accurate. They did a decent job of hyping up the night's high-stakes main event, so at least the segment served something of a purpose.
Samoa Joe def. Jeff Hardy to Advance to the WWE Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 5-Way Match
Similar to last week, Joe and Hardy proved that they work well together and that their in-ring chemistry is excellent. I believe they were given a bit more time for their rematch and they made the most of it, telling the story of Hardy attempting to overcome Joe's ruthlessness only to fall short. The finish was well done with Hardy nearly getting counted out before Joe put him to sleep to score the much-needed victory.
Shinsuke Nakamura Attacked United States Champion Rusev
Rusev and Nakamura exceeded my expectations with their exceptional encounter last week, and although automatic rematch clauses are now a thing of the past, I can't say I'm surprised their feud is continuing. It was a fairly simple segment with Rusev talking about his United States Championship victory and Nakamura then ambushing him from behind. I don't know how Nakamura is going to earn another shot at the strap, but when he does, Rusev holding onto the gold is the best bet.
Sonya Deville def. Naomi
A few weeks back, Naomi and Mandy Rose were advertised for a one-on-one match on SmackDown Live, but it was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints (they blamed it on The Miz in storyline). They have been going back and forth on social media ever since. Granted, it wasn't a feud I particularly cared to see, but if nothing else, it's something for these ladies to do outside of the SmackDown Women's Championship picture. The matchup was nothing worth writing home about, and the only thing that stood out to me was how neat Deville's finisher looked. Beyond that, this was filler at its finest.
John Cena and Becky Lynch def. Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega
I'm not going to lie, this was kind of cool. You never know what you're going to get with Cena, if he'll phone in his performance or if he'll knock it out of the park. This was far from the best promo I've ever seen from him, but I loved his interaction with Lynch and thought he put her over effectively. The subsequent mixed tag team match was fun, too, and while I hate that Almas and Vega are essentially stepping stones for everyone else on the roster, they played their roles well (Vega was especially awesome on the mic beforehand).
AJ Styles def. Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, Rey Mysterio and Samoa Joe in a WWE Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 5-Way Match
Quite honestly, any one of these men could have realistically emerged victorious and punched their ticket to the Royal Rumble, but Styles made the most sense from a storyline standpoint after what happened at the end of last week's episode with him and Mr. McMahon. Ali recently pinned Daniel Bryan in a tag team bout, so who knows where that's going (if anywhere), but I have no complaints about getting Bryan vs. Styles again at the Rumble considering how stellar their match was at TLC. Also, this 5-Way was fantastic. Everyone got their time to shine, there was never a dull moment, and that final stretch was wonderful.
This edition of SmackDown was without a doubt the greatest wrestling show I've seen so far this year. Okay, I kid, I kid (sorry, I couldn't help myself). In all seriousness, this was an entertaining episode with a must-see main event, Cena returning to the blue brand for the first time in about a year, Lynch shining once again, New Day doing their usual shtick, and a few feuds being furthered. All in all, this was a pretty nice way to kick off 2019 for WWE. Here's hoping they can keep it up going forward.