The John Report: WWE Smackdown Live 02/26/19 Review

Live from Charlotte, North Carolina, this is Smackdown Live for episode #1019. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. If you want to support us at TJRWrestling, here’s a Donate Link for our Paypal where anything you send will go towards building the site. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

Contract Signing for WWE Title Match at Fastlane
The show started with Daniel Bryan seated in a chair in the ring for the contract signing along with his buddy Rowan. The contract signing was moderated by Shane and Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie welcomed us to Smackdown Live. Shane did his “what’s up Charlotte?” leading to cheers. Shane said that they have a historic contract signing. Stephanie introduced the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, who was seated in a leather chair. The fans booed as Stephanie noted that Bryan will defend the WWE Title in twelve days at Fastlane.

They showed highlights of Kofi Kingston when Shane McMahon talked about Kingston always with a smile on his face and always amazing audiences as they showed a clip of Kofi’s debut in WWE in 2008. Shane mentioned Kofi’s near eliminations in Royal Rumble matches as clips of those Rumble moments were shown. Shane mentioned that Kofi was also the Intercontinental Champion numerous times as well as the United States Champion. They skipped ahead to talk about Kofi as part of The New Day as clips were shown of Kofi with the New Day. Shane said perhaps they overlooked him, but not anymore.
Stephanie said that it was two weeks ago when Kofi was added to the gauntlet match and then he had a “globally trending” victory where he pinned Daniel Bryan. She mentioned Elimination Chamber where Kofi nearly beat Bryan as highlights were shown of that great match. Stephanie said just last week on Smackdown, Kingston once again defeated Daniel Bryan in a tag team match. Shane introduced Kofi Kingston, who faces Bryan for the WWE Title at Fastlane.
Kofi Kingston made his entrance with a tray of pancakes along with his New Day buddies Big E and Xavier Woods by his side. The fans chanted “Kofi” for him as Kingston entered the ring. Big E hugged Stephanie and Shane. Kingston, Woods and Big E ran around the ring to slap hands with the fans too.

Kingston said it’s been eleven years and all he’s ever wanted in this industry is a chance. Kingston said after 11 years it’s happening, baby! Kingston said none of this would be possible without his boys in the New Day as fans chanted “you deserve it” for Kingston. Kingston talked about how none of this would be possible without the tweets and all the support from the WWE Universe. Kingston said that at Fastlane, he’s going to do what everybody has wanted to see him do for a very long time. Kingston said he’ll be at Daniel Bryan and become WWE Champion.
Daniel Bryan signed the contract first as the fans booed him. Kofi Kingston was about to sign the contract, but “No Chance in Hell” plays and here comes Vince McMahon with an unscheduled appearance.

Vince McMahon did a promo on the ramp. Vince said that before this contract is official, he said he appreciated everything Kofi has accomplished over the last 11 years and said it was truly remarkable. Vince said that however, he needs to give the fans the best competition possible. Vince said that he was replacing Kingston with a man that is more deserving than him. Vince said this guy is more qualified than him and introduced that man…Kevin Owens.
Kevin Owens made his entrance after being out for about four months with knee surgery. Owens had new tattoos on his right arm. The New Day guys whined about it while Owens walked into the ring and signed the contract. Owens stared at Bryan with a serious look on his face.
The New Day trio left angrily saying they were disgusted by it and Woods yelled about how every single time this kind of thing happens. The fans chanted “Kofi” as Kingston left with New Day up the ramp.
Owens and Bryan stared at eachother while they sat in leather chairs in the ring as the show went to break there.
Analysis: That was an eventful opening 15 minutes that I didn’t see coming with Kingston removed from the WWE Title match against Bryan. I figured Owens would come back soon and putting him on Smackdown made sense since they needed another guy in the main event picture. I just didn’t expect it to happen this way. My only guess at this point is that WWE might want to save Kingston vs. Bryan for WrestleMania, so taking Kingston out of Fastlane allows them to build up that bigger match at WrestleMania. Welcome back to Kevin Owens, who is one of my favorite wrestlers in the company.

Kevin Owens was backstage in the office with Shane and Stephanie. Owens said that he’s glad that their father realizes Kevin’s talents. Owens said he wanted to suggest something for later with Owens teaming up with Kofi Kingston against Daniel Bryan and Rowan. Stephanie said they’ll take it under consideration. In other words: “We have nothing else booked, so we might as well do it.”
Analysis: It’s an interesting idea for a match for later.

Still to come on Smackdown: Charlotte Flair will be there and we’ll get a replay of Roman Reigns’ good news from Raw.
Cesaro and Sheamus were in the ring. Jeff Hardy’s music hit. It was supposed to be Johnny Gargano against Cesaro, but suddenly the Hardy Boyz duo of Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy made their entrance. Matt’s in great shape.
Analysis: There’s another surprise. Matt Hardy has been out for several months due to numerous injuries, but he’s back. Matt’s in his regular look instead of the “Broken” look. Good spot to bring Matt back in his home state of North Carolina. The match that WWE advertised was Cesaro vs. Johnny Gargano, but that’s not happening now.

The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff Hardy) vs. The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro)
Sheamus and Cesaro were in control of Matt, who looked to be in good shape. Matt came back with a kick and a back elbow. The Hardys hit a double team leg drop on Cesaro. Jeff hit a running somersault dive off Matt’s back over the top rope onto The Bar on the floor.
The action continued with The Bar isolating Jeff with a double clothesline. Jeff came back with his Whisper in the Wind attack off the top rope to take out both members of The Bar. Matt got the hot tag, he sent Cesaro face first into the turnbuckles multiple times, Matt did the “delete” sign and a clothesline. Matt hit the Side Effect slam followed by an elbow drop off the middle rope for two. Cesaro sent Matt to the middle rope and Sheamus hit a knee lift to knock Matt down for two. Jeff got back in to block a double team attack and hit a Twist of Fate on Cesaro. Matt with a rollup on Sheamus and a Twist of Fate on Sheamus. Jeff with the tag, he went up top and hit a Swanton Bomb on Sheamus for the pinfall win after eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Hardy Boyz
The crowd popped big for the finish and the Hardys celebrated the win with their fellow North Carolinians.
Analysis: **3/4 Good match with the Hardys return as a nice surprise. The last couple of minutes were great. They are veteran teams that know how to put on a fun match and that’s what they did here. I think Matt being back will be good for Jeff since Jeff was fading as a veteran face. When the Hardys are together, they are better off especially at this point in their careers. They can be billed as one of the best teams ever and work with new opponents or other good teams like Cesaro/Sheamus.

Ricochet and Aleister Black were in the locker room watching on the TV with Ricochet saying how cool it was to see the Hardys back. Lana showed up to trash talk Ricochet and Aleister Black saying that they are no match for Rusev and Nakamura. Ricochet said that people that doubt him get proven wrong by what he can do and Black said that Rusev and Nakamura will fade to black.
R-Truth made his entrance with Corey Graves’ favorite wrestler Carmella with R-Truth set to make a US Title open challenge after a break.
A video package aired about the Honky Tonk Man as the next inductee in the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame. It was announced earlier in the day.
Analysis: Congrats to HTM, who is 66 years old and had the longest Intercontinental Title reign in WWE history at 474 days. Honky was one of the best heels from his era. I think most people assumed he was in, but I think he turned it down in the past.

R-Truth had the US Title around his as he did a promo with Carmella. R-Truth said that ever since he was a kid, he wanted to be like his hero John Cena, which is funny because he is older than Cena. Truth and Carmella did a dance break to begin the US Title Open Challenge.
Andrade (with Zelina Vega) went down to the ring to answer the open challenge, but Mysterio knocked down Andrade in the aisle and then Mysterio got in the ring first. Andrade and Mysterio were both in the ring, so Truth said he didn’t know who to face right now. Truth asked what would John Cena do and Carmella said that Cena would face both of them. Truth: “Damn, he brave.” Truth said he was thinking more like “no thank you” to both guys. Truth said he’s going to make John proud and let’s do a triple threat.

United States Championship: R-Truth (w/Carmella) vs. Andrade (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Rey Mysterio
Andrade kicked Mysterio down and Mysterio sent Andrade out of the ring with a headscissors. Truth hit a running forearm on Mysterio. Andrade grabbed Truth off the apron and hit a Powerbomb on the floor. Mysterio kicked Andrade down. Mysterio went for a sliding attack under the bottom rope to the floor, but Andrade kicked him in the ribs to put him down. That led to a break.
They returned with Truth putting Andrade on his shoulders and Mysterio hit a springboard hurricanrana on Andrade for a two count. Great spot. Truth with a forearm to the chest and then a double cross body block collision with Mysterio to put both guys down. Andrade with a double knee attack on Mysterio against the turnbuckle. Andrade tried an attack on Truth, but Truth moved and hit a clothesline. Truth with a jumping side kick on Andrade. Truth with a corner splash on Andrade and a spinning slam like Cena. Truth did the “You Can’t See Me” taunt and hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop like Cena for a two count. Vega went on the apron to save Andrade, so Carmella pulled Vega off the apron. Andrade sent Truth into the ring post. Mysterio with a seated senton on Andrade. Mysterio went for an attack, but Andrade hit a spinning back elbow for a two count. Truth got back into it, Mysterio dropkicked both guys and hit a 619 on Andrade while Truth moved. Truth gave Mysterio the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! and covered for the pinfall win to retain the title after about seven minutes.
Winner by pinfall: R-Truth
Analysis: ***1/4 That was an exciting, fast-paced match that was all action. A title change was certainly possible, but there’s nothing wrong with Truth retaining since he has had a brief reign. I think Almas will probably win the title from Truth before WrestleMania (maybe as soon as Fastlane) leading to Almas vs. Mysterio for the US Title at WrestleMania, which should be a great match.

Post match, Andrade attacked Mysterio from behind and Mysterio fought back going for a 619. Andrade escaped to end that standoff.
The Smackdown announce team of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves were shown on camera letting us know that Bryan/Rowan vs. Kingston/Owens is officially for the main event.
Charlotte Flair was shown walking backstage because she’s up next.
There was a graphic letting us know that WWE’s Youtube channel has 40 million subscribers. They are very successful on there. I like their Youtube channel. Good content.
There was a clip from earlier tonight when we found out that Kevin Owens was replacing Kofi Kingston as Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title challenger at Fastlane.

Let’s Hear from Charlotte Flair
Charlotte Flair made her entrance in her street clothes at the top of hour two. I don’t remember the last time she wrestled on this show. It’s been a while. Clips aired from Raw showing Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch’s latest altercation with Lynch getting arrested. Rousey responded by saying she wanted Lynch added to the WrestleMania match for the Raw Women’s Title match while Rousey responded by leaving the title in the ring. Back to the ring, Flair pointed at the WrestleMania sign.
Flair said it’s not very often that the Queen gets to witness history instead of making history. Flair said that Vince McMahon made the WWE Title match even better by making it Kevin Owens facing Daniel Bryan at Fastlane. Flair said that it’s almost as important as Vince McMahon saving WrestleMania by making the match Flair vs. “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. The fans chanted “Becky” for Lynch, so Flair asked if they are finished. Flair said that Vince said it best because Flair knows her lane and she stays in it. Flair said that’s unlike the criminal Becky Lynch and the quitter Ronda Rousey. Flair said that she does media, charity, live events and she’s the main event. Flair said that she is the gold standard (Shelton Benjamin?). Flair said that Rousey laid down the title while Flair would never lay down the title. Flair said: “They fear me.”

Flair said that fear makes you do irrational things. Flair said that Becky fears that she will expose her for the fraud that she is while Ronda fears Flair will give her another beating like she did at Survivor Series. Flair said she fears nothing and no one.
Flair cued up a Rousey promo from November when Ronda said that a true champion has to be the best in the world on their worst day and if you can’t defend your position, then you step aside.
Flair said that Rousey said it all there. Flair said that the difference between the two of them is she will never quit, she will never lay down that title because she is the true champion. The fans booed that. Flair said that’s why next Monday on Monday Night Raw, Mr. McMahon can crown the new Raw Women’s Champion…somebody who deserves it…your Queen Charlotte Flair. She winked at the camera and pointed at the WrestleMania sign again.
Analysis: Good heel promo from Charlotte as she showed again how well she is at being a cocky heel. Flair saying that she’ll show up at Raw on Monday is a nice way to keep the story going with her, Rousey and Lynch because they still need to set up the triple threat match for WrestleMania. I doubt that they will take the Raw Women’s Title off Rousey just because she laid it in the ring, but I guess it’s possible that they will just give it to Charlotte. It’s not what they should do, though. Let’s see Ronda carry that title into WrestleMania.
Aleister Black made his entrance for a tag team match. Ricochet was up next to a good ovation.

The team of Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura were already in the ring for their tag team match.
Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura (w/Lana) vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet
There was some taunting early on with Nakamura doing the “come on” taunt while Black took a seat in the ring. Ricochet tagged in with a sliding kick to the head. Rusev tagged in and stomped away on Ricochet using his power moves. Rusev called him a “rookie” as he stomped away. Heels lie. Nakamura and Rusev made quick tags with Nakamura getting some kicks to the legs while Rusev hit a suplex for a two count. Ricochet avoided an attack by Rusev, Black tagged in and knocked down Nakamura with a spin kick and a kick to the head. Rusev distracted Black, so Nakamura kicked him out of the ring. Rusev ran over Black with a clothesline on the floor leading to a break.
The match continued with Rusev in control against Black as Rusev applied a bearhug. When Black broke free, Rusev decked him with a clothesline. Rusev lifted up Black, who landed on top of Rusev and Ricochet got the hot tag. Ricochet with a kick to Rusev’s head, then a hurricanrana, a shoulder tackle against the turnbuckle and Rusev hit a kick to the head. Ricochet with a springboard elbow smash followed by a standing Shooting Star Press for two. Ricochet up top, Rusev avoided an attack and Rusev managed to hit a spinning sidewalk slam for a two count. Rusev continued to rant about rookies as he hit Ricochet with a punch. Nakamura tagged back in, Ricochet sent Rusev to the floor and knocked Nakamura down. Ricochet hit a moonsault dive over the top onto Rusev on the floor. Nakamura hit a reverse Exploder Suplex on Black. Nakamura wanted the Kinshasa knee, but Black hit the spinning Black Mass kick to the face for the pinfall win after 10 minutes of action.
Winners by pinfall: Aleister Black and Ricochet
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a quality tag team match. The win streak of Black and Ricochet continued here with another tag match victory. It was fun seeing Black and Nakamura interact because they are both great strikers as the announcers pointed out. I thought they could have done a bit more before the finish in terms of nearfalls, but that’s just a small gripe. It was a decisive win for Black as WWE continues to put Black and Ricochet over tag teams on both shows.

AJ Styles was interviewed by Kayla Braxton backstage. Styles began by saying that he’s happy to hear that Roman Reigns is in remission. Braxton pointed out that Styles has been a cornerstone of Smackdown for years (nearly three years) and she asked how is AJ moving forward? Styles said that nothing has been said that he hasn’t already asked himself. Styles said that anything less than perfection is a disappointment. Styles noted that recently he hasn’t been at his best and he’s partly to blame for the rise of Daniel Bryan and he did not succeed in stopping Daniel Bryan. Styles said that he’s not going to stop trying. Styles mentioned that it took him 15 years to get to WWE and nothing was ever given to him. Styles said he’ll stop listening to the critics, dust himself off, step up to the next challenger and justify his claim that this is the house that AJ Styles built. Randy Orton showed up right beside Styles. Orton: “The house that AJ Styles…what?” Orton left looking unimpressed.
Analysis: Good promo from Styles, who is out of the WWE Title picture for the first time in about 15 months after he held it for a year and was a challenger for the last three months. I’ve been writing for several weeks that the plan is Styles vs. Orton at WrestleMania and the end of the promo certainly teased that. They could do the match at Fastlane first, but I would save it for WrestleMania. If they do it at Fastlane, maybe Orton can win in a cheap manner to set up the WrestleMania match. These two great wrestlers have been on Smackdown since the roster split in July 2016 and have not had a feud, so it’s the right time to do it. I also think Styles getting moved to Raw in the Superstar Shakeup in April seems very likely. Orton might head that way too.

Lacey Evans made her entrance in a red dress as she waved to the fans. Evans walked down the ramp, took off her white gloves and walked back up the ramp.
There was a video package about the Roman Reigns announcement on Raw that the leukemia illness he has been battling is in remission and he’s ready to return to WWE. Wonderful news.

Kofi Kingston made his entrance alone without the same enthusiasm that he had at the start of the show.
Kevin Owens was already in the ring while Daniel Bryan and Rowan were in the ring as well after they finished their entrance.

Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. Kofi Kingston and Kevin Owens
Bryan tagged out because he didn’t want to face Kingston to start the match. Rowan took off his flannel shirt and wrestled in a black tank top. Rowan with a body slam on Kingston. Kingston came back with kicks, then Rowan hit a shoulder tackle and Owens tagged himself in. Owens ran at Rowan and Rowan hit an impressive dropkick. Bryan tagged in, Owens decked him with a running back elbow and tagged in Kingston. Kingston hit a back body drop on Bryan to send him out of the ring. Owens ran the ropes leading to a dive over the top to the floor with Rowan grabbing the top rope to help him get over. That was cool.
The match returned with Rowan working over Kingston with a chinlock. Rowan with a backbreaker. Bryan tagged in with an uppercut followed by a dropkick to the back while Kingston was up against the ropes. Bryan with a running dropkick on Kingston on the apron. Rowan with a body slam on Kingston on the floor. Rowan with a running splash on Kingston for a two count. Rowan picked up Kingston and slammed him into the top turnbuckle. Bryan worked over Kingston with punches. Bryan gave Kingston a huge superplex off the top rope for a two count. They had a nice exchange of moves with Kingston getting a rollup for two, but Bryan came back with a LeBell Lock submission hold leading to Kingston getting his hand on the ropes to break the hold. Bryan with two running dropkicks against the turnbuckle, but Kingston came back with a double foot stomp to take down Bryan. Owens tagged in, he worked over Bryan with chops and a back body drop. Owens with a running clothesline against the turnbuckle and a missile dropkick off the middle ropes. Owens with a senton splash on Bryan and he kicked Rowan off the apron. Owens with a cannonball splash on Bryan against the turnbuckle. Rowan in the ring, Owens sent Rowan out of the ring and a superkick knocked Rowan off the apron. Bryan charged, Owens with a Popup Powerbomb (more of a sitout Powerbomb actually) and it was only good for a two count. Owens tried going to the top rope, but Rowan pulled him down and threw Owens over the announce table. Kingston jumped onto Rowan on the floor, Rowan caught him, Kingston sent Rowan to the ring post and Kingston hit a trust fall dive onto Rowan on the floor. Bryan tossed Owens back in the ring. Bryan charged, his knee missed, Bryan hit the ropes, Owens with a kick to the gut and a Stone Cold Stunner connected for the pinfall win! The match went 16 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Kofi Kingston and Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***1/2 It was another pretty good tag team match on this show and it got the most time, so it was the best match of the night. Kingston did well as the face in peril, Rowan was in there in a supporting role and Bryan was great as usual. Owens looked sharp out there. No ring rust. Bryan was pinned in a tag team match for the second week in a row, which is annoying, but I’m not that surprised by it since they want to give Owens credibility in his first match back since October. Owens has credibility as a former top guy, but it’s smart to give him some positive momentum since he’s going after the WWE Title at Fastlane.

After the match was over, Owens and Kingston stared at eachother in the ring. That’s how Smackdown ended.
Analysis: Regarding the Owens/Bryan match, I assume it’s just a case of Vince McMahon changing plans and going with Kingston/Bryan at WrestleMania instead of Fastlane. That’s fine with me. I think it’s smarter to save Kingston vs. Bryan for WrestleMania and I’d love to see a title change as well. #KofiMania all the way.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Kevin Owens – Welcome back.
  2. Daniel Bryan
  3. Matt Hardy – Welcome back to him also.

The Scoreboard
8.5 out of 10
Last week: 8
2019 Average: 7.17
Last 5 Weeks: 8, 7, 7, 6.5, 7.5, 5
2019 High: 8.5 (February 26)
2019 Low: 5 (January 15)

Final Thoughts
I give this week’s Smackdown an 8.5 out of 10.
Awesome show from top to bottom. Great to see Kevin Owens and Matt Hardy back in action. Four matches around the three-star level or higher is great to see. That’s what Raw needs to have every week and this week they only had one match at that level. That’s why I get frustrated with Raw because they have more time, so they should have better matches. The only complaint about the matches would be that three of the four were tag team matches, so the tag team formula does get repetitive a bit.
Anyway, it was a newsworthy show with the Fastlane WWE Title match switch, the Kevin Owens return and Matt Hardy’s return as well. From a logic standpoint, WWE should tell us why these former Raw guys can just appear on Smackdown, but Vince McMahon doesn’t care about those details. They think the fans don’t think about that stuff. We do and the creative team is lazy to not try to explain it.
The 8.5 out of 10 score makes it the highest score for a Raw or Smackdown so far this year. It was fun to watch.

The next WWE pay-per-view is Fastlane on March 10 in Cleveland. Here’s what we know so far.

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (c) vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) vs. Nia Jax and Tamina
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Mandy Rose

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
John Canton
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