COMMENTATORS: Michael Cole & Corey Graves
Roman Reigns continues imposing his will this week on SmackDown, trying to get WWE OFFICIAL Adam Pearce to agree to an added stipulation for their scheduled Royal Rumble match. Also on the show Daniel Bryan wrestles Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura looks for revenge against Jey Uso, and Bayley debuts her new talk show DING DONG, HELLO. Yeah.
- WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION: Roman Reigns
- SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Sasha Banks
- WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION: Big E
- SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode)
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jey Uso (**1/2)
- Liv Morgan vs. Natalya (*1/2)
- Rey Mysterio vs. King Corbin (*)
- Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro (***)
- Apollo Crews vs. Sami Zayn (*1/2)
–Roman Reigns looked over the contract for his Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble, Paul Heyman hovering over him. Heyman called the verbiage the same “boiler plate bs” that all championship contracts have, and offered to bring the contract to Adam Pearce with an added stipulation so Reigns can teach him a lesson.
–Jey Uso opened the show proper, calling Smackdown “The Bloodline Show”. Uso declared for the Royal Rumble, vowing to win and challenge/defeat the WWE Champion on RAW so the family can control both brands. He was eventually interrupted by Shinsuke Nakamura, once again the babyface version of his music, who called him Reigns’ “puppy” and kicked him out of the ring, setting their match up for after the commercial break.
- Jey Uso’s fast descent into Roman’s sycophant has been pretty great. All talk, no results, an obvious tackling dummy for the Head of the Table but thinking he’s valued as more than that.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Jey Uso via pinfall (9:30 shown)
Cesaro joined the commentary team halfway through the match, defending the fact he didn’t help Nakamura during last week’s attack (Tropicana Field is VERY big and he couldn’t get there in time) and also declaring himself for the Royal Rumble/building his scheduled match with Daniel Bryan later in the night. Uso sent Nakamura in the post towards the end and tried to use the ropes for leverage in a roll-up but referee Charles Robinson caught it and refused to call for the bell. Uso argued with Robinson, distracting him long enough for Nakamura to roll him up and into the Kinshasa to get the victory.
- Pretty good way to open the in-ring portion of the show, and it gave Nakamura a chance to get a little revenge from last week without WWE giving him the actual title shot he SHOULD have. Cesaro was pretty fun on commentary as well. (**1/2)
Cesaro celebrated with Nakamura as friends do. Nakamura can totally trust him, it’s fine. Everything is fine.
–Paul Heyman interrupted a discussion between Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville and handed the contract to the former, hyping him up and adding a “No Disqualification” stipulation for the Royal Rumble. Pearce told him to save it and called the whole thing ridiculous but signed it anyway.
–Jey Uso argued with Charles Robinson in the back, telling him to do his job and not so vaguely threatening his job by invoking the name of Roman Reigns.
–Kayla Braxton interviewed The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) who were in pretty good spirits despite losing their Tag Team Championship last week to THE DIRTY DAWWWWGS. Profits vowed to “run it back” in regards to the lost and wanted the smoke. Effortless charisma from both guys, Ford especially. That man is going to GO PLACES if they let him.
–Roman Reigns was in the middle of giving Apollo Crews some advice when a satisfied Paul Heyman walked in. Reigns told Crews to stay so he could learn something, and Heyman proudly stated that Pearce had signed the contract for a No Disqualification Match. Reigns refused to sign the contract, saying he didn’t want a No DQ match; he wanted a LAST MAN STANDING MATCH and told Heyman to make it happen, then went back to giving some words of wisdom to Crews.
Natalya [w/ Tamina] defeated Liv Morgan [w/ Ruby Riott & Billie Kay, sorta] via pinfall (Time Not Recorded)
Kay made herself a member of the Riott Squad tonight, dressing the part and everything (HELLO EVERY GIRL I HAD A CRUSH ON IN HIGH SCHOOL) and absolutely killing it on commentary with Cole & Graves. Natalya worked aggressively here, Morgan’s mere existence apparently an affront to her, even pulling out a Sammartino Backbreaker which I’ll always pop for. Kay left commentary to cheer Morgan on, but got into Tamina’s way. Kay ran in the ring to avoid her wrath, accidentally distracting Morgan and giving Natalya the opening to roll her up and get the pin.
- Liv Morgan was fun to watch here, but let’s face it the match was secondary to the Billie Kay antics and that’s not a bad thing because she rules and was great throughout this whole thing. (*1/2)
King Corbin defeated Rey Mysterio via pinfall (5:00)
Dominik Mysterio accompanied his father to the ring and joined Cole & Graves on commentary for some AWKWARDLY FORCED CONVERSATION. Dominik repeated the talking point of wanting to be there for his Dad and his Dad’s legacy and his Dad is great and blah blah blah. Corbin decided to mess with him throughout, shoving him down at one point and punching him in the mouth. Dominik tried to run in but Rey stopped him; Corbin then shoved Rey into his son and hit the End of Days to get the win and continue this feud, I guess.
- Struggled to care when I heard this was happening, struggled to care through it. This does nothing for me, although Dominik being so stiff on commentary was kinda funny. (*)
–Paul Heyman caught up with Adam Pearce once more, telling him of Reigns’ request for a Last Man Standing match and saying he can address any concerns to Reigns face to face when he signs the contract in the middle of the ring later tonight.
–Dominik Mysterio was still heated about King Corbin; Rey Mysterio told him to be smart and not pick a fight without a plan, then said he knew just the right person to talk to about this.
- Rey Mysterio needs a plan to beat King Corbin? Damn he really is getting older.
–Bayley presented the first episode of her new talk show, DING DONG HELLO, in the ring complete with a prop door and everything. Dressed like Sally Jessy Raphael, Bayley introduced her first-ever guest: Bianca Belair. She made Belair ring the doorbell of the prop door so she could let her in, Belair then took Bayley’s seat. Bayley antagonized Belair immediately, “accidentally” showing her footage of her win last month on SmackDown. Belair wanted to fight, Bayley had a better idea: AN OBSTACLE COURSE. Belair agreed and later in the show this was made official for next week’s episode.
- Oh great an obstacle course, cool. Anyway.
-EARLIER TODAY: Chad Gable trained Daniel Bryan and Otis backstage on how to use their hips. Kayla Braxton came in for an interview, Bryan enthusiastically praising the Alpha Academy for getting him into shape for the Royal Rumble and saying he had no shame in losing to Shinsuke Nakamura last week. In popped Cesaro who made fun of their training methods and calling Nakamura’s show of sportsmanship last week a “pity handshake”. Bryan challenged him for a match and that led into the next contest of the evening.
- Cesaro vs. Nakamura is going to be SO GOOD, YOU GUYS.
Cesaro defeated Daniel Bryan via pinfall (Time Not Recorded)
Bryan was in control, working the arm but ended up missing a Yes! Kick and hurt his leg hitting the LED post. Naturally Cesaro went to work on that injured leg, transitioning from a very brief Cesaro Swing into a Sharpshooter. Bryan fought back, getting the Yes Lock on a couple times but Cesaro broke it both times. Cesaro blocked a hurricanrana attempt on the buckles and proceeded to MUSCLE BRYAN UP AND SPIN INTO A SUPERPLEX. Add that to the long list of awesome Cesaro strength moments. Bryan charged at Cesaro who connected with a pop-up European uppercut followed by the Gotch-Style Neutralizer for the CLEAN win.
- Bryan and Cesaro are always reliable for a good match against others, so it’s no surprise that it happened when they wrestled each other as well. This was solid stuff, and Cesaro getting the clean pin was a nice surprise. Commentary treating this win like it was going to jumpstart Cesaro’s career would have landed better if I hadn’t heard it SO MANY TIMES for the past like 9 years. WWE is never going to pull the trigger for real and I have to let it go. Bryan coming up short again continues his streak of bad luck heading into the Royal Rumble; so in other words his odds of winning are starting to increase. I just hope he finds a new barber by the PPV because that dork haircut is driving me INSANE. (***)
–Kayla Braxton interviewed Carmella and Reginald. Carmella asked where Sasha Banks had been since she pinned her two weeks ago, which promoted the Women’s Champ to sneak attack her. Reginald got in Banks’ way, Banks said Carmella could have a shot at the title…as long as she could wrestle Reginald first.
- I am 100% all in for a Banks/Reginald match, I wanna see Reginald flip around the ring like an acrobat again to avoid getting hit.
Apollo Crews defeated Sami Zayn via pinfall (3:16)
Intercontinental Champion Big E joined commentary at ringside, lounging around on a couch and gyrating his hips to Zayn’s ska theme (how has he NEVER gotten new music?). Before the match we got a clip of last week’s Talking Smack where Paul Heyman gave Apollo Crews a reality check pep talk, which likely led to Crews seeking the advice of Reigns earlier in the show. Zayn jawed at Big E while laying into Crews with jabs, Crews came flying off the announce table with a moonsault. Zayn caught Crews with a roll-up but got caught using the tights so the ref didn’t make the count. Zayn argued with the ref and hit an Exploder suplex into the corner, but Crews got the last laugh with a roll-up of his own, getting the win despite using the tights himself.
- Zayn trying to cheat but then losing via cheating himself fed well into his self-created conspiracy, but the fact we got a similar moment in the opening match kinda took some of the oomph out of it. (*1/2)
Crews confronted Big E at ringside, grabbing the Intercontinental Championship and throwing it at him, telling him to take good care of it. They will be doing battle once more on next week’s show.
–Roman Reigns, Jey Uso, and Paul Heyman came out to close the show with a Contract Signing. Fox apparently let WWE use the same 8K camera they use for NFL games during the entrance; supposedly it looked cool but to me it just made it look like they were in front of a green screen. I only have half the Ks in my TV though. Adam Pearce made his way out after with little fanfare and suffered further humiliation as Uso forced him out of his chair because Reigns wanted it. Pearce angrily signed the contract, Reigns happily signed his portion. Pearce ominously told Reigns he’d been waiting for him to do that all night. Pearce started limping on his way to the back, and mentioned his nagging knee injury and the fact that all WWE contracts include the language “Card Subject to Change” (the mic cutting out mid-sentence and killing the impact a bit). Pearce said he may not be cleared to compete by the Royal Rumble but found a suitable replacement: the returning Kevin Owens, who signed the contract and apparently took Pearce’s place. Show concluded with Reigns looking peeved at being outsmarted.
- A possible Reigns/Pearce match was sneered at by a lot of folks on Wrestling Twitter, but I was actually looking forward to it after the end of last week’s show. I should have seen this swerve coming from a mile away but I let my excitement get the better of me. Kevin Owens is great but he’s already lost to Reigns repeatedly and as good as their matches are (and will probably be again at Royal Rumble) I just can’t drum up the same enthusiasm. Urge to watch Royal Rumble falling.
FINAL THOUGHTS: There were enough pieces this week to enjoy the show overall I guess when looking back, but the Mysterio/Corbin stuff nearly put me in a coma and the show ending by undoing the only interesting match on the Royal Rumble card was a real bummer. The latter I did to myself though, broke the cardinal rule of watching WWE: don’t get excited about something. I really should have seen it coming but I allowed myself a little bit of optimism. My bad.
- MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro
- MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Big E dancing along to Sami Zayn’s theme while lounging on his commentary couch.