COMMENTATORS: Michael Cole & Corey Graves
The first SmackDown of 2021 features a man hell bent on revenge as Kevin Owens looks to dismantle Jey Uso in the main event. Also on the show new Intercontinental Champion Big E sees action, Daniel Bryan teams with Otis to take on Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura, and Billie Kay tries to endear herself to not one but two different tag teams.
- WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION: Roman Reigns
- SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: “The Boss” Sasha Banks
- WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION: Big E
- SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford)
- WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Charlotte Flair & Asuka
- Big E vs. King Corbin (NR)
- Big E & Apollo Crews vs. King Corbin & Sami Zayn (**)
- The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina (*3/4)
- Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair vs. Bayley & Carmella (**1/4)
- Daniel Bryan & Otis vs. Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura (**1/2)
- Kevin Owens vs. Jey Uso (**1/2)
–Roman Reigns opened the show, flanked by Jey Uso and Paul Heyman. Reigns said he wears the golden glove because everything he touches turns to gold and praised both Heyman and Uso until Kevin Owens interrupted. Reigns tried to put a stop to it all, saying that no one cared about him and that their business was done, but Owens reminded them that the fact that he’s still standing proves that they couldn’t get the job done, and called the Big Dog a “Big Bitch”, a top-tier insult in WWE. Owens told Reigns he wanted nothing to do with Reigns tonight, instead he wanted to fight Jey Uso as revenge for costing him the Universal Championship twice and when he was done Reigns and his family would have nothing to celebrate.
- Good opening segment that set the stage for tonight’s main event. I liked Reigns being OVER Owens after beating him twice and how annoyed he got that he wouldn’t just go away. Reigns and Owens have had a couple of excellent matches so far in their feud so I’m not against a final one for the Royal Rumble.
Big E defeated King Corbin [w/ The Knights of the Lone Wolf] via DQ when Sami Zayn interfered (2:51)
Big E paid tribute to his fallen friend Brodie Lee, shouting him out during his entrance, wearing a “Brodie” armband, and even throwing in a Gator Roll. Zayn spent the entire time on commentary complaining about a conspiracy and admitting that he has a massive grudge against Big E after losing last week. Big E had the match won with the Big Ending but Zayn lept from commentary and attacked him, causing a DQ.
- Match didn’t last long enough to really get going but Zayn was absolutely stellar on commentary just being REAL friggin’ unlikeable. Also I’ve been away from SmackDown for a bit so I had no idea who these Knights of the Lone Wolf were until Cole said their names. I guess it beats being in the Forgotten Sons. (NR)
Zayn and the Knights continued their attack after the bell until Apollo Crews, who helped bring Zayn back into the match last week when he tried to escape, made the save and tossed Zayn into the arms of Blake and Cutler.
Big E & Apollo Crews defeated King Corbin & Sami Zayn when Crews pinned Zayn following a spinning sitout powerbomb (5:20 shown)
Match was joined in progress, having begun during the commercial break. Zayn quickly earned the ire of his teammate, repeatedly tagging himself in and trying to order the Knights around, and eventually Corbin & company had enough after Zayn almost hit him with a Helluva Kick, leaving Zayn to fend for himself. It did not go well for him.
- I’m not a huge fan of this trope but the match was entertaining, again because of Zayn and his constant bickering and attempts to alienate everyone in the company. (**)
–Kevin Owens caught up with WWE Official Adam Pearce backstage, asking him to make the match between he and Jey Uso for tonight. Pearce initially backed off saying he couldn’t so Owens went for the jugular and brought up their decade+ history together, including the time when Pearce was his boss in another company, and Pearce ended up relenting and giving Owens what he wanted.
–Kayla Braxton interviewed Big E & Apollo Crews backstage. Big E vowed to be a fighting champion and announced he would do an open challenge next week, which Crews IMMEDIATELY accepted a few moments later. Crews “jokingly” gave himself credit for Big E even winning the Intercontinental Championship and joined in on the VERY REAL LAUGHTER about it at the end of the interview.
- This might have been the best I’ve heard Apollo Crews on a mic since he joined WWE. Granted they never let him talk much but you get my point. Big E was tremendous here as well, throwing in a few more Brodie nods and finding a great balance between fun-loving and serious. I would very much not be against Big E winning the Rumble and getting a WrestleMania title shot against Roman Reigns.
–Billie Kay came out and appeared to have found a tag team partner in Tamina…until her real partner Natalya made her entrance.
The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan) defeated Natalya & Tamina when Morgan pinned Tamina with a roll-up (2:24)
Not letting a moment go to waste, Kay stuck around at ringside and VERY LOUDLY tried to manage both teams at one point, yelling instructions that only annoyed the competitors instead of instill any sense of confidence in her. Eventually this cost Tamina the match, Kay distracting her long enough for Morgan to stack her up and get the pin. Kay tried to celebrate with the Squad on the ramp but they had NO time for that nonsense.
- Billie Kay was ON POINT here, and might have the best comedic timing of anyone in the company except for maybe R-Truth. She’s simultaneously annoying AND I’m rooting for her to finally find a partner/friend. Weird line to straddle but she’s doing it. Nice to see the Riott Squad pick up a win, last time I watched these shows regularly that was not something they did often. (*3/4)
-LAST FRIDAY: Charlotte Flair & Asuka successfully defended the Women’s Tag Team Championship against both Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair and Bayley & Carmella.
Bayley & Carmella [w/ Reginald] defeated “The Boss” Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair when Carmella pinned Banks following a casadora into an X-Factor aka the Mella Buster (7:10 shown)
Banks and Belair were in control early, the latter launching the former off the apron and into Bayley. After a commercial break though it was Bayley & Carmella in control as they worked the left arm of Belair. Banks got the hot tag and did a little trash talking with Carmella before laying into her. Banks eventually locked in the Banks Statement on Carmella but Reginald pulled Carmella out of the ring, then showed off some surprising hops, flipping around to avoid getting struck. Banks finally slapped Reginald but it distracted her long enough for Carmella to get the win.
- I liked the match, Banks & Belair make a natural fit as a tag team even though it isn’t really a long-term thing. Reginald was the real surprise here, showing hops I did NOT expect and it was kinda great. Nothing worse than an annoying fly that’s hard to swat. Carmella getting a pinfall on Banks puts her in line for a title shot, WWE reaching into their tired trope bag for the second time tonight. (**1/4)
–Roman Reigns was shown backstage, fuming that the Owens/Uso match was made official. He directed Paul Heyman to find out who disrespected him like this, apparently not immediately suspecting the one guy who’s been making matches for SmackDown over the past few months.
–Sonya Deville made her surprise return, having been “reinstated” onto the brand. Folks backstage looked on her with nods of approval and shock as she walked by. Welcome back!
–The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) came out for their New Year’s Smoke-Tacular, complete with graphic. Dawkins revealed a drum set and busted out a beat as Ford predicted that their custom “I WAS the Intercontinental Champion” shirt they made for Sami Zayn last week will be the #1 selling shirt in 2021. Ford then turned his attention to shading Dolph Ziggler for being a weak imitation of Shawn Michaels, nicknaming him “The Heartache Kid”. Ziggler and Robert Roode attacked the Street Profits, sending Dawkins over the barricade and wrecking Ford’s leg with the ring post and a chair.
-After a commercial break Kayla Braxton caught up with Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode who vowed to keep the attacks going until they got a rematch for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
- Ziggler & Roode are apparently known as Dirty Dawgs now and already have t-shirts. That is an all-time awful name for a tag team and I hope it gets dropped sooner rather than later.
Daniel Bryan & Otis [w/ Chad Gable] defeated Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura when Bryan made Nakamura tap to the Yes! Lock (6:13 shown)
This match was made due to an altercation earlier in the day when Cesaro & Nakamura interrupted a training session to mock Bryan and Otis. Bryan is training with Otis and Gable’s “Alpha Academy” to try and win the Royal Rumble for the first time. Bryan was in control early but his tope suicida attempt on Cesaro was countered with a pop-up European uppercut and the former Tag Team Champions took control heading into the commercial. Cesaro paid tribute to the late Brodie Lee by hitting a Black Hole Slam and slapping his Brodie armband in a wonderful moment. Otis got the hot tag and put his training to good use, throwing Cesaro halfway across the ring followed by a lariat. Nakamura broke up a pinfall attempt and tagged in, Bryan tagged in and connected with a flying sunset flip (part of Gable’s training is watching old Johnny B. Badd matches) for a two-count. Cesaro & Nakamura sent Otis to the floor, Bryan sent Cesaro to the floor with a Busaiku Knee, Nakamura tried to roll Bryan up, but Bryan kicked out and countered into the Yes! Lock to get the victory.
- If you think I’m going to hate on a match with this level of talent you’re INSANE. Even Otis stepped up his game here. Gable getting the coach role makes sense I guess given his Olympic past but it feels a little like what Drew Gulak had been doing with Bryan until getting unceremoniously ripped away and stuck in 24/7 Championship purgatory. The Brodie nods were the highlight of course, as was anything Daniel Bryan did because GODDAMN he’s still one of the best today. (**1/2)
–Paul Heyman told Roman Reigns that Adam Pearce was the one who authorized the next match, Reigns told Jey Uso to go out there and show everyone why he’s the Main Event Uso while fuming. Again should not have been much of a shock.
Kevin Owens defeated Jey Uso via pinfall with the Stunner (4:26 shown)
Owens and Uso started brawling right at the bell, Owens showing no mercy going after Uso’s leg while also admitting that it really isn’t Uso’s fault he’s just stuck in a bad position. Owens tossed Uso into the announce table heading into commercial then won VERY QUICKLY after the break, ending the match far quicker than I was expecting.
- Total mauling by Owens here, who was getting all his anger out over being constantly screwed. Getting the pin so fast after the commercial break was a little jarring but kinda cool and now I’m holding out hope WWE one day does a finish DURING a commercial break. Companies have always teased it but I’ve never seen it happen. (**1/2)
Owens continued attacking Uso after the match, handcuffing him to the top rope and calling Reigns out to defend his family. Owens uncuffed Uso and said he would bring him to Reigns, Uso tried to run and got his ass kicked more for his troubles. Owens laid Uso out with a superkick on a pair of tables and climbed the balcony of The Thunderdome to do something vicious but was stopped by Roman Reigns who attacked him from behind. Reigns and Uso laid into Owens with steel chairs, and Reigns sent Owens flying off the balcony and through the two tables from earlier, show ending with Reigns and Uso surveying the damage.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Not a bad way to start 2021 though it kinda feels like maybe last week’s episode should have been the kickoff to the end of the year. They got the ratings bump though so I can’t blame them for how they went about it. Everyone has said it but goddamn do I love heel Roman Reigns, and his story with Kevin Owens continues to be engaging even as it continues longer than expected. I can’t wait for them to hopefully battle again at Royal Rumble, potentially with Reigns winning without Jey’s help to prove he is the Head of the Table/Tribal Chief/Whatever Else. Rest of the show flowed really well without any hiccups or forgettable things save for Ziggler/Roode giving their team an AWFUL name. SmackDown is the best main roster show every week and I can’t see them dropping that crown anytime soon.
- MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Daniel Bryan & Otis vs. Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura
- MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Billie Kay’s EVERYTHING during that tag team match