WWE SmackDown Recap: January 1, 2019
S19 episode 1 Aired on January 1, 2019

On a monumental New Year’s Day SmackDown LIVE, AJ Styles unleashed the newfound aggression he showed Mr. McMahon last week on four other Superstars en route to earning a WWE Championship Match against “The New” Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble. Plus, John Cena came face to face with The Man in his return to Team Blue.

The New Day kicked off 2019 the right way on SmackDown LIVE – with pancakes!

Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E, the last of whom was dressed as the most muscular New Year’s Baby ever, also dropped a huge announcement – they’ll all be entering the 2019 Royal Rumble Match! After doing a little Steiner Math (it’s complicated), The New Day surmised that they’ll have the best odds of winning and heading to WrestleMania.

The trio then revealed their new year’s resolution – to stop eating pancakes. Before the horrors of The New Day tossing out heads of lettuce soaked in balsamic vinaigrette to the WWE Universe could become reality, however, they ditched that plan because nobody really keeps their resolutions, right?

But after all the celebrating, there was business to get to. Namely, determining the final participant in tonight’s Fatal 5-Way to determine who will challenge WWE Champion Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble. Who (Who? Who?) would it be? Jeff Hardy or Samoa Joe? We wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.

The McMahon Family signed off on this mixed tag team bout during the commercial break, setting up a huge first-time-ever battle.

The Man was ready to take on Andrade after she sent Vega retreating to her corner to tag “Cien,” but the rules of the match dictate Cena’s entrance into the bout, which Lynch made official with a hard tag to the 16-time World Champion’s chest.

Vega distracted Cena, allowing Almas to go on offense against The Cenation Leader. “Cien” unleashed a flurry of high-flying attacks on Cena, with Vega doing her part behind the referee’s back. But Cena evaded Almas’ trademark double knees and put The Man back into battle.

Lynch hurled Vega around the ring with ease, nearly picking up the victory. And when Almas jumped back into the ring to save Vega from the Dis-arm-her, Cena was waiting to cut him off with the Attitude Adjustment and the devastating Lightning Fist. But before Cena could get the pin, The Man shoved him out of the ring and locked the Dis-arm-her on Vega to get the tapout victory.

After the bell, John Cena offered a handshake to Lynch, but The Man was defiant in victory, offering four words to the 16-time World Champion: “You can’t see me!”

All five Superstars threw caution to the wind right from the opening bell, with Team Blue newcomer Mustafa Ali going right after Samoa Joe, only to get slammed into the canvas. AJ Styles continued to show the aggression that Mr. McMahon witnessed last week, pummeling Randy Orton and Ali.

With Daniel Bryan watching from the backstage area, all five men threw everything they had at each other, taking flight and unleashing vicious strikes. As the bout reached its apex, it seemed Styles would not be a factor in the outcome, as Orton and Joe double-teamed him before Joe slammed him through the announcers table. Ali and Rey Mysterio then dazzled the WWE Universe with their breathtaking aerial offense. Ali nearly had the WWE Title Match secured, but Samoa Joe evaded The 054 and locked on the Coquina Clutch. Mysterio then took out The Samoan Submission Machine and Ali with a pair of 619s before being dumped by Orton. The Viper was seemingly seconds away from clinching a title bout after he planted Ali with an RKO, but Mysterio broke up the pin. A 619 to Orton looked to be Mysterio’s ticket to Phoenix, but Samoa Joe pulled him off the ring apron, giving Styles the opening to connect with a springboard 450 Splash to pin The Viper and earn the WWE Championship Match.

The match is set for Phoenix. Who will leave Royal Rumble with the WWE Championship: “The New” Daniel Bryan or “The Real” AJ Styles?

In other action … Samoa Joe def. Jeff Hardy to earn the final slot in the Fatal 5-Way Match … Shinsuke Nakamura attacked United States Champion Rusev … Sonya Deville def. Naomi … and John Cena & Becky Lynch def. Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega.