Struggling with low ratings during the holidays, the WWE tried to bring us some action for their New Year’s episodes. But at times, it just felt like we were watching a lot of talking and matches without much heart and soul behind them. Maybe things will get better as we approach the Royal Rumble? Here’s our recap and the results of WWE Raw, SmackDown, and NXT for the week of December 31st through January 2nd.
Monday Night Raw – December 31st – New Year’s Eve Edition
Drew McIntyre defeated Dolph Ziggler in a steel cage match. Just like they agreed last week, these two former partners went at it in a steel cage, a rarity for televised weekday match. McIntyre began the expected beatdown but Ziggler escaped using his speed and smaller size, nearly escaping and slamming the Scotsman into the cage. Their chemistry was evident as the crowd cheered on Ziggler, but McIntyre was able to finish things with two Claymores. Ziggler yelled at McIntyre, provoking him until he received yet another Claymore – this time combined with a steel chair – and he took a fourth Claymore before it was all over with.
Seth Rollins cut a promo. Triple H and Shane McMahon interrupted. Rollins entered the ring to talk about “fresh starts,” but this really ended up being all about his feud with Ambrose (shocker). Rollins demanded a rematch with Ambrose and called him out right then and there, but Triple H showed up instead. The Game gave a brief rundown of their history together and said he wants the old Rollins back, aka “that ruthless bastard who would do whatever it takes to get what he wants.” He reiterated that there would be no more automatic rematches in the WWE going forward, including this one, but Rollins could take on Bobby Lashley tonight. An angry Rollins said he’s going to take everything from Dean Ambrose, including his title, and then he’ll take down anybody else who gets in his way, including Brock Lesnar, the Universal Title, and the whole McMahon family. Shane McMahon interrupted to announce a “Fresh Start Battle Royal” to determine the number-one contender for the Intercontinental Championship.
Bobbly Lashley defeated Seth Rollins via DQ. We saw that same fire in Rollins from last week, but he let his emotions get the best of him, causing a disqualification when he slammed Lashley with a chair… repeatedly. He even smacked Lio Rush and hit him with a Stomp to finish them off.
Apollo Crews won the 15-man Battle Royal between Finn Balor, Baron Corbin, No Way Jose, Zack Ryder, The B-Team, Viktor, Lucha House Party, Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, and Curt Hawkins. We all thought Balor would win this one, but after eliminating Lucha House Party, he was taken out by Corbin. Crews knocked out No Way Jose, Viktor, the B-Team, and finally Corbin to win a shot at Dean Ambrose and the Intercontinental Title later that night.
Elias shut down Baron Corbin. Corbin came to the ring to complain about the difficulties and stresses of being Raw General Manager, saying that no one deserved a fresh start more than him. Elias interrupted and played a little tune about how terrible Corbin was before a brawl broke out between them on the ramp and Corbin ran away.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon defeated the Riott Squad. The heels tried to isolate Moon and keep her from tagging in her partners. When Banks finally got the hot tag, they did the same to her using a double-teaming strategy. Eventually, the babyfaces triumphed with a backstabber by Banks followed by a flying elbow from up top by Bayley to get the pin on Sarah Logan while Moon took care of the others outside the ring.
Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers defeated Rhyno and Heath Slater. These guys continued the feud they started last week as the Singh Brothers distracted the ref and Mahal pinned Rhyno following a Khallas.
Dean Ambrose defeated Apollo Crews to retain the Intercontinental Championship. The match was a bit slow and the crowd wasn’t too overly excited about it. Ambrose dominated at the start but Crews stayed alive and managed two near-falls with a shooting star press and belly-to-belly suplex. Ambrose raked Crews in the eyes to turn the tables but still took a powerbomb. Crews leapt to take out Ambrose outside the ring several times and the champ attempted to retreat. After getting Ambrose back in the ring, Crews missed a frog splash and Ambrose hit a Dirty Deeds for the win.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya defeated Nia Jax and Tamina Snuka. Rousey and Natalya showed that they’re still great friends after last week’s title match. Natalya announced that she’ll be joining the Royal Rumble for another shot at the championship before Jax and Snuka attacked her backstage. An angry Rousey headed to the ring with her BFF and they took it to their foes together. Jax escaped an armbar attempt and Rousey wiped out everybody with a dive from up top before Natalya was cornered by the heels (this always seems to happen to her, doesn’t it?). She finally managed the tag to Rousey who locked Snuka in the armbar. Jax broke the hold with a leg drop but Natalya took care of her on the outside while Rousey finally got the tap-out with another armbar.
A few New Year’s announcements. Throughout the night, we learned that Braun Strowman, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar will be returning in 2019. Alexa Bliss will also get an in-ring segment titled “Moment of Bliss.” She’ll interview her first guest, Ronda Rousey, next week.
SmackDown – January 1st – New Year’s Day
The New Day open the show with Big E dressed as Baby New Year and Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods all suited up to celebrate the new year. They announced that they’re all entering the Royal Rumble and giving up pancakes for their new year’s resolution. Then they announced a Fatal 4-Way that night to determine the number-one contender for the WWE Championship between AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, and Rey Mysterio… and whoever won the next match: Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe.
Samoa Joe defeated Jeff Hardy. Last week, Hardy won via count-out and that almost happened again, but Joe got the victory with a Coquina Clutch that caused Hardy to pass out.
Shinsuke Nakamura ruined Rusev Day. New US Champion Rusev came to the ring with Lana to celebrate his new belt, but Nakamura spoiled the fun with a superkick. Lana tried to pull Nakamura off her husband, but just ended up on the floor. Rusev tried to help her out but ate a Kinshasa instead. Nakamura held up the belt and left them both lying in the ring.
Sonya Deville defeated Naomi. This was supposed to be a match between Mandy Rose and Naomi, but Rose showed up in an Usos t-shirt, provoking Naomi and instead letting Sonya Deville fight in her place. Rose got on the mic and distracted Naomi with a scandalous pic of herself in a towel that said she sent to Naomi’s husband Jimmy Uso earlier that day. Deville used the moment to her advantage, hitting Naomi with a spinebuster for the pin.
John Cena cut a promo announcing his return. Becky Lynch answered. Cena returned to the ring to tell everybody he’s back, where he’s been, and that Nikki Bella left him, the whole time ready for somebody’s music to hit and a challenger to come down the ramp. Becky Lynch answered the call, saying that her goal was to take down the champ, not just the women, and fill Cena’s shoes. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega came out and called them both old news, reminding them of the “fresh start” promised by the McMahons. Vega was great on the mic and the jorts-wearing John Cena may have been even better, talking big and challenging them to a tag team match, right here, right now.
Cena and Lynch defeated Vega and Almas. As Cena was about the win the match following an Attitude Adjustment and a Lightning Fist, Lynch knocked him out of the ring. Vega attempted the surprise roll-up, but Lynch got the victory with a Dis-Arm-Her. After the bell, Cena tried to shake Lynch’s hand, but she just taunted him with his own “can’t see me” motion, smiled, and walked off.
AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, Rey Mysterio, and Samoa Joe in the Fatal 4-Way for the Number-One Contender Spot. Despite being put through a table by Samoa Joe, AJ Styles was able to pull this one out. The finale came after Rey Mysterio hit Mustafa Ali and Randy Orton with a 619. Joe pulled Mysterio out of the ring and Styles hit Orton with a springboard 450 for the pin. Guess we’re gonna get more AJ Styles vs. Danial Bryan action?
NXT – January 2nd
Nominees for the NXT Year-End Awards. This was a year-end episode filled video packages, flashbacks, and recaps of the greatest matches and moments of 2018, many featuring NXT stars that have graduated to SmackDown or Raw. We also learned the nominees for the NXT Year-End Awards – you can check out that list here.
Matt Riddle defeated Kassius Ohno. Riddle continued his win streak in this rematch, the only true match of the night. The two men were pretty much tit for tat at the start until Ohno landed a shot to Riddle’s throat and then tangled him up in the ropes before stomping him in the head. Ohno snagged a near fall with a senton but Riddle got one of his own with a German suplex. Ohno hit a couple more sentons but Riddle eventually locked on the Bro-Mission to get the tap-out victory.