Jeff Hardy filled in for AJ Styles in one of two matchups featuring undefeated teams on an episode of Mixed Match Challenge from St. Louis. The late replacement and some other changes gave the show a different dynamic in some ways.
In the aftermath of losing the WWE Championship on SmackDown, Styles was pulled from his scheduled match later that night teaming Charlotte Flair in the tournament. Hardy instead teamed with Flair to give Asuka & The Miz their first loss in Mixed Match Challenge.
Losing on this episode snapped a winning streak that began when Asuka & Miz won the inaugural season of Mixed Match Challenge earlier this year.
Hardy was only a one-time replacement, so Flair & Styles now remain the only undefeated team in the SmackDown block. Over on the Raw block, Ember Moon & Braun Strowman defeated Mickie James & Bobby Lashley in another clash of undefeated teams.
Adding a new prize in the tournament, the Mixed Match Challenge winners will enter as number 30 in their respective Royal Rumble matches. They will also receive an all-expenses paid vacation. This is getting more grand than Wheel of Fortune.
A notable change in the presentation of the show was no references to the wacky team names previously used throughout the tournament. No remarks were made relating to the team names they spent eight weeks trying to get over. Graphics for the standings even listed the names of team members instead of the amalgamated names used in prior weeks.
Kayla Braxton and Vic Joseph hosted a pre-show that ran approximately 10 minutes -- which was mostly pre-taped promos and wrap-around segments. The interviews on the pre-show for some reason reminded me of Randy Hales interviewing wrestlers on Memphis TV to plug cards for the Evansville loop.
Much of the pre-show was lame duck anyway. The live stream opened with the aftermath of Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship on SmackDown. AJ Styles was still down selling in the ring. Production personnel were also changing the ring skirting to represent the change in programming. Bryan smirked and sneered at the crowd as he walked up the ramp with the WWE title belt draped over his shoulder.
Michael Cole returned for commentary alongside Renee Young and Vic Joseph.
Ember Moon & Braun Strowman defeated Mickie James & Bobby Lashley (w/ Lio Rush)
Moon pinned James after The Eclipse. Moon & Strowman improve their undefeated streak to four wins. James & Lashley drop to the second spot in the Raw block standings with three wins and one loss. During the match, a cutaway showed Paige informing Charlotte Flair that an unnamed person would replace AJ Styles later in the show.
Strowman and Lashley looked horns in the match for what Gorilla Monsoon might have called “the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.” Strowman was positioned as a monster. Neither would go down until Strowman finally knocked Lashley off his feet with a kick. Lio Rush caused a distraction that allowed for Lashley to spear Strowman. Easily reversing a suplex, Strowman gave Lashley a gourdbuster.
Moon chased Rush around the ring and James cut her off by leaping off the apron with a flying knee. Back in the ring, Moon superkicked James as she leapt off the top rope. Moon then climbed the turnbuckles to deliver The Eclipse for a pinfall.
Charlotte Flair & Jeff Hardy defeated Asuka & The Miz
Flair submitted Asuka with the Figure Eight. The men started the match with some basic spots. The women tagged in to trade holds and chain wrestle. Flair went up-and-over the turnbuckles where she proceeded to boot Miz off the apron. Asuka hit Flair with a hip attack that in turn knocked her off the apron.
Charlotte made a comeback leading to a hot tag. Hardy ran wild on Miz even as Miz tried to counter. Hardy used Whisper in the Wind for a two count. Miz cut him off as they traded near falls. Miz gave Hardy a DDT, but Flair jumped in to break up the count on a lateral press. Asuka hit Flair with a series of kicks that sent her out of the ring. Asuka hit Hardy with a backfist of fury that allowed Miz to schoolboy for a two count.
Asuka and Miz throw stereo Yes Kicks. Miz told Asuka to “watch and learn.” Hardy then proceeded to duck a kick and execute a Twist of Fate on Miz. Flair then speared Asuka and applied the Figure-Eight for a submission.
Next week on Mixed Match Challenge, the four teams with the worst records face off in their respective blocks. Natalya & Bobby Roode meet Alicia Fox & Jinder Mahal in a battle of winless teams within the Raw block. Likewise, Lana & Rusev face Carmella & R-Truth in the SmackDown block.
Whichever teams lose next week, those teams are apparently eliminated from the tournament. That is an unexplained new development in the rules. There is still supposedly a playoff of sort. Maybe that will also be explained in due time -- at least until plans change again.
Here are the updated standings after week nine:
- Ember Moon & Braun Strowman -- 4-0
- Mickie James & Bobby Lashley -- 3-1
- Bayley & Finn Balor -- 2-2
- Alicia Fox & Jinder Mahal -- 0-3
- Natalya & Bobby Roode -- 0-3
- Charlotte Flair & AJ Styles -- 4-0
- Asuka & The Miz -- 3-1
- Naomi & Jimmy Uso -- 2-2
- Carmella & R-Truth -- 0-3
- Lana & Rusev -- 0-3