Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. It’s the go-home show for the Royal Rumble on Sunday night. They didn’t advertise much other than Roman Reigns having a face to face with Kevin Owens and Bianca Belair facing Bayley. Some weeks they advertise a lot. This was not one of those weeks.
From the WWE ThunderDome at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1119. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Let’s get to it.
The show began with the end of Daniel Bryan’s entrance while the ThunderDome was filled with “YES” chants.
Let’s Hear from Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was wearing a dress shirt and jacket like when he was in his GM days. Bryan welcomed us to Friday Night Smackdown and Royal Rumble weekend. Bryan said as his daughter likes to say, we’re just two sleeps away. Bryan said he’s accomplished a lot in his career and he’s proud, but there’s one thing he hasn’t done – winning the Royal Rumble match. Bryan reminded us that winning means that you can challenge for the WWE or Universal Champion in the main event of WrestleMania. Bryan said nobody knows better than him what it’s like being in the main event of WrestleMania. Bryan said to climb that mountain one more time he has to go through 29 other men and then he has to win the Royal Rumble match. Bryan said that the honest truth is that he doesn’t know how many more WrestleMania moments he has left. Bryan knows if he wants to accomplish his dream one more time, it involves going to the main event of WrestleMania and winning the Royal Rumble match. Bryan said he is ready, he is mentally focused, his cardio can go on for days, his hips are loose and strong and he is ready for anything. Bryan said that the Royal Rumble match is anything goes and you don’t know who is coming out next. Bryan said that you will see best friends trying to throw eachother out, you’ll see enemies working together and surprises as well.
AJ Styles showed up with Omos even though Styles is from Raw. Styles talked about how he was going to earn his place in the main event of WrestleMania. Bryan said he knows both brands are competing in the Royal Rumble match, but what is Styles doing there since he is a Raw superstar? Styles held the microphone to Omos who said it was due to the “quarterly brand to brand invitational.” Styles said he didn’t make the rules. Styles talked about having a lot of success on Raw saying he’s crushed hopes and dreams of guys that wanted to be in the Royal Rumble match. Styles said that Bryan didn’t look ready since he was wearing a sport coat and he wondered if Bryan is a GM again. Styles said it is almost like Bryan has one foot out the door.
Bryan told Styles he does not have one foot out the door especially because of how much Bryan loves doing this. Bryan challenged Styles to a one on one match tonight. Styles accepted the challenged and shoved Bryan onto his ass. Bryan got back up, then Omos stood in front of him and the camera panned up to focus on how tall Omos is. Omos has some tape on his forehead covering up some cut on his head. Bryan told Styles if he had any guts then he’d come out for this fight tonight without Omos. Styles agreed. Bryan said that with or without Omos, Bryan is still going to kick his ass. Bryan led the “YES” chants to end it.
Analysis: That’s a great match to set up for later in the night. The “brand to brand” invitational stuff that WWE uses on a quarterly basis (apparently) is a random way to set it up, but I'm not going to complain about Bryan vs. Styles in a match. Bryan did a nice job of hyping up the Royal Rumble match while also mentioning how much it means to him to win it. One of WWE's biggest problems with the Royal Rumble is they don't give promo time to enough people talking about how much they want to win.
The announce team of Michael Cole and Corey Graves were at ringside to welcome us to the show.
There were highlights shown of last week’s Obstacle Course where Bianca Belair beat Bayley easily and then Bayley did a cheap attack after she lost. They have a match this week.
Bayley was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Bayley said that the last thing she saw last week was Belair writhing in pain after Bayley sent her into the basketball hoop. Bayley said she watched Bianca Belair on WWE Chronicle and she’s proud of her. Bayley said that she is the biggest problem that Bianca will have to deal with in her life and Bayley’s going to make her crawl into the darkest hole of her life.
Bianca Belair made her entrance.
Bayley was in the ring for the match. They are both in the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Cole said that Charlotte was last year’s winner of the Royal Rumble match that got to “main event” WrestleMania. It was not the main event or really close to the main event.
Bianca Belair vs. Bayley
Belair with a body slam followed by a suplex. Bayley with a kick to the leg, punches to the back and a headslam into the mat. Bayley with a running clothesline. Bayley with an armbar takedown into the mat to work on the left arm/shoulder. Bayley grabbed some of Belair’s hair, so Belair came back with punches and kicks. Belair did a backflip out of the corner and more punches leading to Bayley going to the apron. Bayley grabbed the injured arm and kicked Belair in the head. Belair with a dropkick, then a kip-up and a standing moonsault for two with Bayley getting her foot on the bottom rope. Bayley went to the floor as the show went to break.
The match returned with Belair sending Bayley into the turnbuckle and Bayley lifting up Bayley over her head leading to a toss across the ring. Bayley with a kick to the arm and then Bayley with a spinning takedown using the left arm for the two count. Cole mentioned Bayley being jealous, Bayley could hear him and said she’s not jealous. Bayley with a running knee to the head for two. Bayley stomped on the back of Belair to keep her down. Bayley went up top and hit an elbow smash to the back of the neck of Belair for a two count. Bayley with multiple two counts, Belair powered out and Belair hit a punch to the face. Belair lifted Bayley, then Belair sold the left arm and Belair did a cartwheel into the corner. Bayley charged in, Belair sent Bayley face first into the turnbuckle and Belair hit the KOD (Kiss of Death) slam for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bianca Belair
Analysis: *** This was pretty good with Belair doing a nice job of selling the left arm throughout the match before making the comeback for the win. Bayley did a really nice job of being the veteran wrestler controlling the match, continuing to work on the arm and coming close to winning a few times. I like the way Bianca got the momentum back after that big punch to the face, then the move into the turnbuckle and the KOD is a really cool finisher too. This was what it needed to be. Bayley isn't going to be hurt too much from the loss.
Belair was excited about the win and had a big smile on her face. Kayla Braxton interviewed Belair on the stage. Belair said that she will never for being herself. Belair said that Bayley is not her role model, but she was Smackdown Women’s Champion, so who else better to prove herself against. Belair called this the biggest win of her career and she was happy. Belair said that the only thing that can top this is winning the Royal Rumble and then going on to WrestleMania.
Analysis: I liked the emotion showed by Belair in that interview. It makes the win feel like it matters. I think Bianca is definitely a favorite to win the Women’s Royal Rumble on Sunday.
Still to come: Roman Reigns and Kevin have The Final Showdown. Also, Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles is now official.
AJ Styles was shown talking to Omos backstage. Cesaro walked up to Styles as the camera faded away so that we couldn’t hear what they were saying.
King Corbin made his entrance on his own. No more “knights” I guess. That didn't last very long. Dominik Mysterio attacked Corbin from behind with punches and kicks at ringside. They went to break there.
Rey Mysterio was on commentary for this match.
King Corbin vs. Dominik Mysterio
Dominik was aggressive with kicks to the body, he sent Corbin out of the ring and Dominik hit a dive over the top onto a standing Corbin on the floor. Dominik went for a move off the ropes, Corbin caught him and hit a twisting slam. Corbin hit a belly to back suplex followed by punches to the head while staring at Rey. Corbin charged, Dominik got a boot up, but then Corbin came back with a corner splash. Dominik avoided a charge, Corbin hit the ring post and Dominik hit a missile dropkick off the middle ropes. Dominik with a senton over the top onto Corbin for a two count. Dominik with a kick to the gut and then he used his legs to send Corbin into the ropes. Corbin blocked a 619 attempt, but then Dominik countered a Powerbomb attempt with a headscissors into the turnbuckle. Dominik charged and Corbin hit a back body drop that sent Dominik into the ropes. Dominik came back with a tilt a whirl DDT for a two count. Corbin ducked a springboard dropkick attempt. Corbin sent Dominik throat first into the top rope. Corbin hit the End of Days slam for the pinfall win after five minutes.
Winner by pinfall: King Corbin
Analysis: **1/4 A clean win for Corbin against the younger man Dominik. It reminds me of when Dominik lost to guys like Seth Rollins and Murphy a lot when he was on Raw. It's the same sort of storyline. They messed up a spot near the end of the match, but then they got through it okay. This is typical WWE booking where the younger guy loses a bunch against the more proven guy before the younger guy eventually finds a way to win. This should probably lead to Dominik (with help from Rey) eliminating Corbin from the Royal Rumble match on Sunday.
Post match, Corbin left the ring, he picked up Rey and Rey drove Corbin into the ring post. Rey hit a seated senton off the apron onto Corbin on the floor. Rey checked on Dominik at ringside.
There was a backstage scene with Big E wearing the Intercontinental Title and he talked to Sonya Deville in a black/pink suit. Big E tried to bribe Sonya to find out his Royal Rumble spot and gave her $1 as a bribe. The Miz and John Morrison (from Raw) showed up for some of their backstage hijinks. It’s that brand-to-brand invitational that was mentioned earlier in the show. Miz asked about Adam Pearce with Sonya saying he was in a cooling-off period after he put himself in a match with Paul Heyman last week. Miz talked about potentially cashing in Money in the Bank against Roman Reigns. Morrison got in a pop culture reference by commenting on the stock market news of the week and making big money off Game Stop. Sonya excused herself. Big E made it clear to Miz and Morrison that he was going to win the Royal Rumble, so that led to a fight between Miz/Morrison and Big E with referees showing up to break it up.
Analysis: A lot of talking. I think Big E would be a great pick to win the Royal Rumble although I don’t know if WWE is going to pull the trigger on it. Miz and Morrison are entertaining sometimes, but not all the time. This was just okay.
PLUG TIME: The month of January means that it is Royal Rumble time in WWE land, so I’m re-posting my reviews of every Royal Rumble event in WWE history. I also add in 2021 thoughts to the reviews, so there is fresh content in there. Last week in the SD review I left off in 2011, so here’s the 2012 Royal Rumble with Sheamus picking up the win over Chris Jericho although both guys got WWE/World Title matches at WrestleMania. The 2013 Royal Rumble had an obvious winner with John Cena getting the victory while The Rock became WWE Champion when he beat CM Punk. It’s fair to say WWE made the wrong choice at the 2014 Royal Rumble when Batista got the win. I can still hear the boos now because the fans in Philadelphia hated the 2015 Royal Rumble match won by Roman Reigns. The WWE Title was on the line at the 2016 Royal Rumble with Reigns losing the gold while Triple H entered at #30 to become WWE Champion once again. At the 2017 Royal Rumble, Randy Orton won the Rumble for the second time while John Cena became a 16-time WWE Champion by beating AJ Styles in an all-time classic match. I highly recommend that one. The 2018 Royal Rumble featured the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, plus it was the official WWE debut of Ronda Rousey. It was another historic event at the 2019 Royal Rumble because that show ran nearly five hours long. The longest Royal Rumble event ever. Please keep it shorter than that, WWE. I’ll re-post the 2020 Royal Rumble late Saturday or early Sunday and then we’re done heading into this year’s show. Keep visiting TJRWrestling daily to check out all of our content. Thanks for the support!
The WWE Backstage show takes place on Saturday night on FS1. Tamina will wrestle Natalya with the winner of that match getting to be #30 in the Women’s Royal Rumble match on Sunday. So why is it those two women and not others? They don’t tell us. We’ll also find out the #1 and #2 competitors in the Men’s Royal Rumble match. I'd rather not know.
Sasha Banks was shown wearing her Smackdown Women’s Championship. She got a hug from Kalisto. Reginald walked up to her with a bottle of wine while telling Banks it was a gift from Carmella after Carmella wins the Smackdown Women’s Title. Banks was acting all flirty towards Reginald, but it was all a ruse. Banks wondered if Reginald could get Carmella some wine for her to have after Banks gives Carmella a broken jaw. Banks gave the wine bottle back to Reginald.
Analysis: That Banks vs. Carmella match doesn’t interest me that much. The feud should have ended, yet it keeps on going.
A video package aired about the feud between Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens. It has led to some cheap wins for Reigns along with a memorable moment on New Year’s Day Smackdown when Reigns tossed Owens off a staging area through a table leading to a 15-foot bump. Owens and WWE Official Adam Pearce ended up outsmarting Owens during a contract signing to set up the Last Man Standing Match at Royal Rumble on Sunday. Last week on Smackdown, Owens beat up Reigns and put Reigns through the announce table to end the show.
Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens will do a split-screen interview after the break at the top of hour two.
The announcers mentioned that rapper Bad Bunny will be performing at the Royal Rumble. I’m sure Vince McMahon loves all of his songs.
Shinsuke Nakamura was shown walking backstage with Sami Zayn walking up to him with his documentary crew. Zayn didn’t know about all the Raw guys being there. Zayn said he didn’t know what was going on with Nakamura and Cesaro doing their own thing. Zayn said that he helped Nakamura out so much, so he thinks Nakamura should help him now. Zayn wanted Nakamura to help him get the Intercontinental Title. Zayn said that Big E, Apollo Crews and WWE management is out to get him. Zayn said that Nakamura’s best things in WWE is because of Zayn like his electric WWE debut against Sami and Sami helped him when he was Intercontinental Champion. Zayn kept on pleading with him, but Nakamura told Zayn to go to hell.
Analysis: That's just another way to tell the audience that Nakamura is a face now as we have seen over the last month.
Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens Interview
There was a split screen with Roman Reigns (joined by Paul Heyman) and Kevin Owens in separate parts of the arena. Owens was wearing an Ever-Rise Rules for the NXT tag team (they are from Quebec like Owens is). Owens said that he has already beaten Reigns twice if not for Roman’s family members stopping him. Owens said that there’s nothing that can stop him this time. Heyman said that Owens will not address Roman Reigns that way. Heyman said that Owens will speak of Reigns with reverence and respect. Owens said Heyman was just rehashing things that he used to say for other people.
Reigns asked Owens what kind of man is his father? Owens said that his father is a great man. Reigns asked if Owens if his father is a smart man and Owens told Reigns that his father is a very smart man. Reigns said he’s trying to understand why Owens can’t see his own limitations and he thinks maybe it’s because KO’s dad didn’t teach him. Reigns said that Owens is just a pawn in this game. Reigns said that he is the king of this board, everything revolves around him and Owens still doesn’t understand this because he thinks he can have this Universal Championship. Reigns said that Owens can’t become Universal Champion. Reigns said it is not KO’s fault and he said KO should blame his family. Reigns said that Owens thinking he has a chance means he is a fool, then that means KO’s father is a fool and KO’s grandfathers are fools. Owens said he knows Reigns heard what KO said about his grandfathers before KO kicked Roman’s ass last week. Owens said that they mean a lot to him, which is why he had their initials on his knuckles. Owens said on Sunday he and Reigns won’t be apart – they’ll be in the same ring. Reigns said that KO still doesn’t understand. Reigns said one day when Owens sees his grandfathers again, they may make him understand. Reigns wondered why Owens didn’t acknowledge him as the Tribal Chief. Owens called Reigns a delusional jackass that surrounds himself with Yes-men that tell him how great he is. Owens said that Reigns is like a "community theatre mob boss" that is hiding the fact that he is an insecure bully. Owens said that he is the person that his father, his mother, his wife, his kids, his grandfathers, his grandmother and all of his family will be proud of. Reigns got sick of this so he turned off his camera while Owens said that he would be the Last Man Standing.
Analysis: That was great. Owens is such a likable babyface that speaks with confidence and believes in what he stands for. Owens calling Reigns a “community theatre mob boss” was a great line too. Reigns tried to get under KO’s skin by making it personal saying that KO’s family isn’t proud of him and riling up Owens throughout the interview. Then, when Reigns realized he couldn’t control Owens in this situation, he shut it off and that was it. I like how Owens was booked in the last couple of weeks in terms of building him up as a serious threat to Reigns. I don't expect Owens to win the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble, but I think they will have an awesome match.
The announcers mentioned Reigns vs. Owens at Royal Rumble along with the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance to “YES” chants as usual. AJ Styles entered with the big man Omos joining him on the stage. Styles told Omos he’s got this and sent Omos to the back.
Analysis: Styles and Bryan had one of the best matches in WWE last June for the IC Title with Styles getting the win. They got over 40 minutes for that match. It was a classic.
The announcers plugged Drew McIntyre defending the WWE Championship against Bill Goldberg at Royal Rumble on Sunday. A video package aired about the match.
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles
This match started with about 40 minutes left in the show. Cesaro joined commentary for this match. Styles took down Bryan with a side headlock while Cesaro noted he was on a roll. Bryan slapped on an armbar with Styles getting his foot on the bottom rope to break it. Styles with a boot to the face, Bryan with a drop toe hold and a kick to the arm. Styles came back with a shoulder tackle, then he ran the ropes and Bryan came back with a kick to the chest for two. Styles sent Bryan into the ropes leading to a knee to the ribs. Bryan with a double underhook suplex. Sami Zayn showed up with his documentary crew joining him, Bryan was distracted and Styles knocked Bryan off the turnbuckle to the floor. Styles sent Bryan into the steel steps leading to a break.
The match continued with Zayn and his documentary team down at ringside. Styles missed a corner charge, Bryan with a chop and Bryan hit a running clothesline. Bryan with a running corner dropkick followed by a hurricanrana for a two count. Sami informed the announce team that they tried to keep him off the show, so that’s why he was out there. Bryan went for a kick, Styles blocked and hit a dragon screw leg whip to take down Bryan. Styles with a running kick to the left leg of Bryan. Styles slapped on the Calf Crusher submission on Bryan with Bryan crawling to the bottom rope to break the hold. Zayn yelled about how now the referee does his job right. Bryan got back into it with an enziguri kick to the head. Styles with a forearm, then he went for the springboard attack, but Bryan caught Styles and hit a butterfly suplex into a Yes Lock submission. Styles nearly tapped out, but Styles got his right foot on the bottom rope to break the hold. Big E made his entrance with the Intercontinental Title around his waist. Big E made his way to ringside where he dropped Zayn with a clothesline. Big E tossed Zayn towards Cesaro, so that led to Cesaro hitting Big E with a boot to the face. Bryan sent Styles out of the ring and Bryan hit a suicide dive onto Cesaro/Zayn on the floor. Zayn went into the ring to attack Bryan, so there’s the DQ after about ten minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Daniel Bryan
Analysis: ***1/4 It was fun while it lasted, but it was obvious from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be some 30-minute classic match due to the guys outside the ring. It’s always nice to see Bryan and Styles in a match. Nice submission attempts along with counters throughout the match.
Zayn and Styles worked over Bryan while Cesaro battled Big E with forums. Shinsuke Nakamura went down to the ring and hit Zayn with an enziguri kick. Nakamura with a spin kick on Styles. Cesaro and Nakamura faced off, Zayn hit Nakamura from behind and into Cesaro. The babyface trio of Bryan, Big E and Nakamura sent the heel trio of Styles, Zayn and Cesaro out of the ring.
Analysis: That scene looked familiar. Holla holla hollla, you know what that means.
The six-man tag team match began after the break.
Shinsuke Nakamura, Big E and Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro, AJ Styles and Sami Zayn
Nakamura worked over Cesaro against the ropes leading to sliding German Suplex. Big E tagged in, Cesaro hit him with uppercuts and Zayn tagged in with punches while trash-talking Big E. That led to Big E coming back with a high back elbow to the chest. Bryan and Big E hit a double team hip toss on Zayn. Bryan tagged in with a double axehandle to the arm of Zayn, then Zayn hit a forearm and Zayn hit a chop block to the back of the left knee. Styles tagged in and whipped Bryan’s left leg into the ring post.
The match continued with Cesaro doing the Cesaro Swing on Bryan’s left leg and then slapping on a half crab submission. Styles tagged back with a knee drop onto the left knee of Bryan. Zayn sent Bryan into the turnbuckle and wanted a superplex, but Bryan stopped that with a headbutt to knock Zayn down. Bryan hit a missile dropkick and was selling the left knee injury again. Big E got the tag against Cesaro with Big E hitting an overhead suplex on Cesaro, a suplex for Styles and a suplex for Big E. Cesaro came back with a corkscrew uppercut on Big E. Cesaro charged right into a uranage by Big E for a two count. It was ten minutes into the match as The Miz and John Morrison showed up with Miz bringing out the MITB briefcase with him. They went into the ring, so that led to the DQ after ten minutes.
Winners by disqualification: Shinsuke Nakamura, Big E and Daniel Bryan
Analysis: **1/2 More of the same with some good wrestling action ending abruptly with a DQ finish. Bryan did a really nice job of selling the left injury, which should be a factor going into the Royal Rumble match on Sunday.
Miz and Morrison stomped on Big E in the corner of the ring. Morrison hit a springboard kick to the face of Big E while Miz was holding Big E. Otis went out to the ring to go after his former rivals Miz and Morrison. Otis decked them with clotheslines and overhead suplexes. Otis with a spinning clothesline on Morrison and a double splash on both guys. Otis did the Caterpillar into the double elbow drop and that led to a break.
Analysis: Otis is still on this show? I guess so. They barely use him. I still don’t know why his team with Tucker ended. Otis and Miz won the Worst Feud in my Johnny Awards last year. The booking of Money in the Bank was awful.
It was time for yet another tag team match, this time it’s a 4 on 5 match made by Sonya Deville. Cole said ten-man and it’s actually nine-man, which Graves mentioned. It would become a 5 on 5 match during the match, though.
Daniel Bryan, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura and Otis vs. The Miz, John Morrison, Cesaro, AJ Styles and Sami Zayn
Miz worked over Bryan’s left knee in the ring and sent Bryan out of the ring. Miz lifted Bryan and drove the left knee onto the hood of the announce table. Miz with a boot to the face. Miz slapped on the Figure Four Leglock with Bryan fighting his way out of that. Zayn tagged in with a Blue Thunder Bomb slam for a two count. Cesaro was back in with an elbow drop on Bryan followed by a vertical suplex. Morrison was in for his team kicks and Miz tagged in with a kick to the ribs. Styles tagged in with a whip into the turnbuckle. Styles and Bryan ran the ropes leading to a double cross body block collision spot. Three of the heels attacked the faces on the apron to prevent a tag. Zayn tagged in against Bryan, who had nobody to tag and here comes Sheamus from Raw. Sheamus stood on the apron for Bryan’s team and Sheamus got the tag against Zayn. Sheamus with a running knee lift on Zayn and a clothesline on Miz to knock him out of the ring. Sheamus with forearms to Morrison, Zayn tried a rollup on Sheamus, but Sheamus got out of that with a backbreaker. Sheamus slapped on the Cloverleaf submission move on Zayn and then Morrison kicked Sheamus in the head. Otis with a spinning slam on Morrison. Cesaro with a double stomp on Otis, Big E with the Big Ending on Cesaro and Miz with a Skull Crushing Finale on Cesaro. Nakamura with a kick to Miz to send him out of the ring. Zayn with a Blue Thunder Bomb on his former buddy Nakamura. The match was back to Zayn facing off with Sheamus with Zayn charging, but there was Sheamus with a Brogue Kick on Zayn to pin him. This went about six minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura and Otis
Analysis: **1/2 Sheamus gets the win for the babyface team with Zayn getting beat, which isn’t much of a surprise considering how WWE tends to book Zayn. The last few minutes were wild with everybody hitting a move and then taking a move leading to the ring getting cleared. The difference between this and other wrestling companies is that the illegal guys leave the ring instead of staying in there for a minute to get their cool moves in. This is the right way to do it.
The duo of Miz and Morrison attacked Sheamus after the win since they have had issues on Raw. AJ Styles also joined in with punches for Sheamus.
Braun Strowman, who is from Raw, made his entrance after about two months away when he was suspended after Survivor Series. The announcers mentioned how Strowman looked like he was in the best shape of his life. Strowman with a running shoulder tackle on Styles. Strowman with a clothesline on Zayn and a Chokeslam on Cesaro. Strowman with a Powerslam on Zayn and Strowman with a Powerslam on Cesaro. Strowman tossed Cesaro across the ring along with a Running Powerslam. The announcers talked about how Strowman was in the Rumble match and he could be the odds-on favorite. Strowman stared towards the hard camera as they focused on his face and that was the end of the show.
Analysis: Welcome back Braun, who is in amazing shape. I follow him on Instagram and he’s not really shy about showing off how muscular he is now. The main reason that Braun was off TV was that he was dealing with a minor knee injury, but it wasn’t something that was going to keep him out for too long. I assume Braun was ready to come back earlier, but WWE likely wanted to save him for the go-home for the Royal Rumble. Should they have saved him until the Rumble itself? Probably. I assume that’s what they are doing with Seth Rollins, though. Going into this week, my two main choices for the men’s Royal Rumble were Strowman and Bryan just because I think they make logical sense as WrestleMania opponents for the two current champions because they would be fresh matchups. I’ll have an official pick in the Royal Rumble preview article.
Three Stars of the Show
- Daniel Bryan
- AJ Styles
- Bianca Belair/Bayley
6 out of 10
Last week: 6.25
2021 Average: 7.15
This was just an average episode of Smackdown. I expect a better show from the blue brand. The last 30 minutes or so were chaotic with the Bryan vs. Styles disintegrating into a wild scene featuring Smackdown and Raw guys in the Royal Rumble match. Instead of Bryan vs. Styles going for over 30 minutes, they had two matches ending in a DQ leading to a third match that saw Sheamus pinning Sami Zayn. Some Raw guys were on the show due to the “brand to brand invitational” that WWE brings up occasionally. It was a way to pus the Men’s Royal Rumble match a lot. Braun Strowman coming back makes him a clear favorite to win the Royal Rumble match too. Should they have save that as a surprise? I think so, but there he was. Between Edge on Raw and Braun on Smackdown, that’s two surprises that WWE didn’t need to tell us. However, they must have felt they needed to promote some bigger names being in the match.
I liked seeing Bianca Belair beating Bayley clean in a singles match and then getting emotional about the win. It made the win seem like a big deal, which it should be. The Reigns/Owens interview segment was effective in terms of showing how determined KO is and how frustrated Reigns is because he can’t seem to control Owens. That match on Sunday is going to be awesome.
They have done a solid job of getting us excited about the Men’s Royal Rumble match. However, I think the Women’s Royal Rumble match hasn’t gotten as much attention on Raw and Smackdown, so that has hurt the women's match going into the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 31. Here’s what we know so far:
30-Men Royal Rumble Match – Announced entrants are: Edge, Jeff Hardy, Jey Uso, Cesaro, The Miz, Otis, Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sheamus, John Morrison, Mustafa Ali, Braun Strowman, Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio, King Corbin and more.
30-Women Royal Rumble Match – Announced entrants are: Shayna Baszler, Alexa Bliss, Peyton Royce, Bianca Belair, Bayley, WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Tamina, Natalya and more.
WWE Universal Championship Last Man Standing Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bill Goldberg
Smackdown Women's Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Charlotte Flair and Asuka (c) vs. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax
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