It was a very interesting edition of Smackdown Live last night in St. Louis, as World Wrestling Entertainment finalized the lineup for Sunday’s Survivor Series pay-per-view event. The longstanding phrase in pro wrestling “card subject to change” certainly holds true for WWE this year.
Going into Survivor Series, the two biggest singles matches on the card were supposed feature Raw’s Universal Champion Brock Lesnar facing Smackdown’s WWE Champion AJ Styles in a rematch from last year and Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey facing off with Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch for the first time. You may recall that last week I wrote about how I thought Rousey and Lynch should be the main event of Survivor Series. A lot of people supported that opinion, so I was excited to see the match. Sorry fans, but it’s not happening for now. I’ll get to the Bryan story later, but first let’s look at Becky Lynch’s interesting couple of days.
Becky Lynch is out of Survivor Series, and Charlotte Flair is in
This past Monday on Raw, the main event saw the women of Smackdown invade the show to destroy the Raw women. Becky Lynch looked like a huge superstar, attacking Ronda Rousey backstage and slapping the DisArmHer armbar submission on her in the backstage area. Lynch went out to the ring where she was joined by the other Smackdown women, who dominated the Raw superstars. Rousey came back out while selling a left arm injury and Lynch destroyed her with multiple chair shots to the ribs, back, and arm. As an angle, it was outstanding. It ended Raw on a very good note after a mostly boring show.
Irish war paint. pic.twitter.com/AmW4ufsbUW
— The Man (@BeckyLynchWWE) November 13, 2018
The bad thing about the Raw invasion is that Lynch was a bloody mess. On Twitter, Lynch called it “Irish war paint” to show how tough she is.
On Tuesday afternoon, the news was revealed that Lynch likely had a broken nose and that she wouldn’t be cleared to wrestle at Survivor Series. On Smackdown, they said that Lynch had a “broken face” while adding that she had a severe concussion as well.
What caused the Lynch injury? A very stiff punch to the from Nia Jax, who probably doesn’t realize how strong she is as a bigger woman. I don’t think Jax intentionally tried to hurt Lynch, but I sure wish Jax opted to go with a much lighter worked punch instead of crushing Lynch’s face the way she did. They showed a clip of the Jax punch during Smackdown this week as well.
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) November 14, 2018
It will be interesting to see if WWE decides to work that real-life accident into a storyline of Lynch getting revenge on Jax at a future date, but Lynch didn’t even mention Jax when she did a promo on Smackdown. Jax has hurt other wrestlers the past as well. I’m sure she’s taking a beating from fans on social media too.
The Lynch promo on Smackdown took place with the other Smackdown women superstars in the ring with her. Lynch, who stood proudly in the ring with her title along with a huge shiner around her left eye, spoke about how she was hoping somebody would let her fight, but they were not going to clear her before Sunday. Lynch spoke about how happy she was making Rousey scream in pain. Lynch spoke confidently and said that even with a broken face and a severe concussion, she could still kick “Ronnie’s” ass (Ronnie is the name Lynch uses for Rousey). Lynch told Rousey that she isn’t the baddest bitch on the planet, she’s the luckiest. I loved seeing how confident Lynch was in this promo, because it makes her look like such a badass and it’s why fans love her so much right now.
Lynch had to pick a replacement to face Rousey, so she stared at all the other women on Smackdown that were in the ring with her. Only Charlotte Flair and Asuka got big reactions from the fans. Lynch picked Flair, who seemed happy about it. Lynch told Flair to beat Rousey like Lynch was going to do. Lynch also hugged Flair, which shows that WWE might think of both women as faces now after their epic feud in the last few months. Lynch also whispered something into her best friend’s ear although we couldn’t hear that part. I know some people didn’t like the hug, but I think it was fine as a sign of respect after the great matches they had, particularly the classic match at Evolution last month.
If there’s good news in this whole situation, it’s that Lynch is still the Smackdown Women’s Champion. She was not stripped of the championship, so hopefully she can recover over the next month or so.
When should WWE do Rousey vs. Lynch? WrestleMania. I think that’s a no brainer and if WWE doesn’t do that, then they are making a big mistake. That’s a money match that fans want to see as much as any other match WWE could think of right now. It’s possible that Rousey vs. Lynch will happen at the Royal Rumble, and while that is a big stage, I think WrestleMania is the best spot for the match. It may be tricky to do at WrestleMania because of the stipulation that the Royal Rumble winner gets a title shot, so one of the women would have to lose their title and then win the Rumble match. Anyway, there’s a lot of time between now and then. I just hope WWE is smart enough to save Rousey vs. Lynch for WrestleMania. That’s the right time for it.
I’ll save my prediction for Rousey vs. Flair for the Survivor Series predictions column on Friday. For now, I’ll just add that I am looking forward to the match, even though it’s taking place much sooner than I would have expected.
Daniel Bryan is the new WWE Champion, and he’s a heel too!
That’s a headline I didn’t expect to write this week. Daniel Bryan is the WWE Champion again, and he’s a heel? Yes, yes, yes! It happened in the main event of Smackdown this week.
Ever since Daniel Bryan was cleared to return to the ring after three years on the shelf with concussion issues, most people thought the story would see him regain the WWE Title at WrestleMania as a good guy. The fans would love it, do the “yes” chants for him and it would be an awesome moment. Sorry WWE Universe, but that’s not going to happen now.
AJ Styles started Smackdown with a promo talking about his match with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series and he was interrupted by Paul Heyman, who is Lesnar’s advocate. Heyman complimented Styles as one of the greatest wrestlers ever, but he also said he was number two on Smackdown behind Daniel Bryan…or at least that was the insinuation. Styles didn’t like that, pointed out he made Bryan tap out in their title match two weeks ago, and that brought out Bryan. When Bryan entered the ring, he felt disrespected and told Styles not to trash him again. Styles said Bryan’s name right to his face, so that led to a Styles/Bryan brawl that was broken up by officials as well as Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon. Shortly after that, Shane made the WWE Title match. As soon as they did that, I knew a title change was coming.
The match between Styles and Bryan was great just like two weeks ago. They were given about 19 minutes, with Bryan working over Styles’ left arm (to set up for the Yes Lock submission) and Styles working on Bryan’s knee to set up for the Calf Crusher. It featured plenty of high-risk moves, technical wrestling, and moments where it looked like either man could win. These are two of the best in-ring performers of the last twenty years and they are so good at working with eachother.
I thought the finish was brilliant. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm off the top rope, Bryan moved and Styles went crashing into the referee Charles Robinson. The classic ref bump led to Bryan kicking Styles in the groin, which nobody saw that coming since Bryan has been a good guy for the past five years and would never do such a thing. The fans reacted to that with boos. As the referee recovered, Bryan set up in the corner and hit a running knee to the face leading to the pinfall win at the 19-minute mark. The fans booed the surprising win by Bryan that ended the 371-day WWE Title reign of Styles, who won the title from Jinder Mahal last year (also on Smackdown).
After the match, Bryan stomped away on Styles and continued to piss off the fans by letting us know that he’s a bad guy now. It was a shocking turn that I didn’t see coming, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.
— WWE (@WWE) November 14, 2018
As the new WWE Champion, Bryan will now face the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar in a first time ever match at Survivor Series. I think that’s why they did the turn – because WWE wanted to do Bryan vs. Lesnar for the first time rather than do Lesnar vs. Styles for the second time. If you have a first time ever “dream match” for a lot of people, that’s more interesting as far as Survivor Series is concerned.
Bryan’s heel turn was apparently his idea, according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. Bryan pitched the idea to Vince McMahon weeks ago, likely because Bryan realized his popularity was declining a bit, even though the crowd still chanted “yes” for him. You could tell by watching the shows that the crowd reactions for Bryan in 2018 were not nearly as loud as the 2014 crowds were. Bryan knew that as well as anybody, so turning heel is the right call. It was Vince McMahon’s call (like most things are) to turn Bryan heel on the same night where he won the WWE Title as well. Obviously, Bryan was not punished for skipping out on WWE’s Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago since he won the WWE Title just 11 days after that show.
The win by Bryan means that he is a heel just like The Miz, so that rivalry is over for now. That’s okay with me, because I think it has lost a lot of steam. Long term, I’d rather see Bryan as the heel dealing with AJ Styles seeking revenge. If WWE is smart about it, they will save the next Bryan vs. Styles televised match until WrestleMania, but I’m not sure if they are patient enough to wait that long. I would assume they do a WWE Title rematch at the TLC PPV next month.
Congrats to Daniel Bryan on being WWE Champion again. He is my favorite wrestler on the active roster and his return to the ring put a huge smile on my face earlier this year. After all he’s been through, especially in the last few years where he lost three years of his career due to concussions, he deserves it…even as a heel. He was a very good heel earlier this decade in 2011 and 2012, so I have a lot of faith in him being able to pull it off.
As for Styles, he is no longer a part of the Survivor Series pay-per-view in terms of a match, but I can see him attacking Bryan during his match or after it’s over. It’s just weird that we are having a PPV on Sunday and there’s no AJ Styles match, yet lowly tag teams like The Colons and The Ascension are on there.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some important moments in Survivor Series history and then on Friday, I’ll return with some predictions for this year’s Survivor Series event.