Happy New Year to all our SteelChair readers. Appreciate you coming back to us this year for a whole new ride. Well, I say it’s a whole new ride but we know what’s coming. Royal Rumble will be upon us soon and I can already hear Michael Cole talking about the Road to WrestleMania. Remember when Edge came back to one of the best pops you could ever experience? Who would’ve ever thought that the next Royal Rumble PPV would be one without any live fans? The thought never would have entered anyone’s minds but here we are. Thankfully we have the ThunderDome these days so it’s not quite as eerie and silent. But hey let’s hope 2021 eventually gives us some opportunities to attend live events because damn I miss that atmosphere. I’d event take front row for Otis vs Tamina in an Iron Man match at this rate. Well, okay maybe I’m not that desperate. Hopefully, the first SmackDown of this year offers something better than that…

The face of WWE

Roman Reigns, Jey Uso and Paul Heyman. What a dominant force they’ve been together, and it’s pretty clear that they have no intentions of letting that slow down in 2021. Again, if you’d told me this time last year that we’d be getting this Roman I probably would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are and he’s doing big business all over the place. I really hope they manage to keep him on this run until there are fans back in arenas because he’s going to get booed out of every single one and I will love every second of it. Jey also walks with more confidence now. His singles run has been really special for him. I love how Heyman looks like a proud father out there but also knows when things are getting serious and scary.

Just because it’s a new year it doesn’t mean we get new feuds necessarily. Kevin Owens isn’t ready to let go yet and after listening to the family talk about their dominance, he had clearly had enough of sitting backstage. Roman called him a social media sweetheart which he clearly is, but Owens has delivered far more than that recently, and people are getting behind him for his never say die attitude. Coming out and calling Roman a little bitch was a brave move and he wanted to get his hands on Jey. After going backstage again and talking to Adam Pearce, he managed to get that scheduled for the main event of the evening. See, Kevin does have friends of sorts.

Non-Title – Intercontinental Champion Big E vs King Corbin (w/ Knights of the Lone Wolf)

I don’t mind Corbin in small doses if I’m honest, so him popping up here was okay. He’s a decent enough big guy to watch wrestle, even back to his quick matches in NXT. I just don’t need any feuds involving dog food or anything like that. This was a great showcase for Big E, allowing him to show his speed, agility and strength against a bigger man in the King. Well, it could have been a great showcase but guest commentator Sami Zayn had other ideas. He holds grudges you see and there’s a certain man that he believes screwed him out of the Intercontinental title so he broke up Big E’s winning pin and ended the match. Funnily enough, that wasn’t the end of the story…

Tag Team Match: Big E & Apollo Crews vs King Corbin & Sami Zayn

Corbin and his Knights and Zayn all thought they had the numbers game over Big E but out came Crews for the save and then we were treated to a tag team match playa! Holla holla holla. I’m still on the fence about Apollo Crews. I always heard great things about him on the indies but he didn’t impress me too much in NXT and then I was really surprised he got called up to the main roster where he struggled for quite a while. I know they’re making an effort with him now but it’ll take time to convince me that he’s worth much more. Especially when you put him alongside Big E who is the complete package and has more charisma in his little finger than Apollo has in his entire body.

This was a good tag match, again letting Big E get in some impressive moves against the bigger Corbin, as well as Crews picking up the win to give him a great start to 2021. The main story of the match was really how Zayn and Corbin just couldn’t get on, which doesn’t surprise me considering the size of their egos. Poor Sami had a terrible end to 2020 and that hasn’t changed now we’re in the new year. After the match, Kayla Braxton got to catch up with Big E for a victory promo (with some great Brodie Lee references) and he is going to be a fighting champion and issue an open challenge on the next episode. Well, that was the plan until Apollo accepted it right there on the spot, so we’ve got that to look forward to next week.

The Riott Squad vs Natalya and Tamina (w/ Billie Kay)

Well, this was a bit.. odd. The commentators were under the impression that Billie Kay would be finding another partner this week but no, instead she got pushed aside for Tamina to team with Natalya and Billie found herself stuck on the outside as a manager by default. The poor girl deserves better but I guess at least it’s something else to put on the resume. Obviously, my heart sank as soon as Tamina came out because I thought maybe 2021 could do better but apparently not. Short match that served two purposes – Riott Squad picked up yet another win and move closer to title contention, and Billie seemed to manage both teams in the same match and I have no idea what she’s up to but I love her.

SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair vs Bayley and Carmella (w/ Reginald)

Reginald for world champ. Yeah, I’m throwing that out there. What a guy. 2021 is the year of Reginald. Seriously thought, the third tag team match in a row? SmackDown writers starting off the year pretty lazily if you ask me. They might still be hungover from their stay at home new years celebrations so I guess I’ll have to forgive them this time. Especially with the talent on show. I actually really like Banks and Belair as a team, although obviously, it won’t last because Bianca really needs to get that title shot asap. I’m not sure when – maybe WrestleMania – but 2021 definitely needs to be her year. She does have Bayley and Carmella standing in her way though, and neither of them seems willing to give up their spots quite yet.

Things worked better for BayMella this week compared to their losing effort against Banks, Belair and Charlotte Flair and Asuka. I have to admit that Reginald may have had a little hand in helping the girls this week, but that is what he gets paid for. I assume he gets paid. All the ladies put in a great effort for a TV match and the women’s division is still on a roll. Belair looks fantastic every time she’s in the ring, while Banks just oozes the confidence that a champion should. Bayley continues to be one of the best heels in WWE and the Carmella/Reginald partnership finally paid dividends this week as ‘Mella pinned Banks and put herself back in title contention. Those flips from Reginald though. Seriously 2021 = Reginald.

Side note: after the match, there was a short clip of Sonya Deville walking through backstage and I AM SO EXCITED THAT SHE’S BACK. I don’t know how or why but she was so good before she left. I am all for this.

Heartache for the Street Profits

I love the Street Profits but I do feel sorry for whoever needs to clean up after their entrance. All that mess. Seriously is it worth it? It does get me in a good mood though, which is more than I can say for Dolph Ziggler. This was one of those cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ segments that Vince McMahon loves to have on his shows. I’ve definitely seen better from the Street Profits and I’m sorry but I can’t get too excited about Ziggler and Robert Roode still hanging around sniffing at the tag titles. Naturally, the Profits talked trash about their foes again and ended up on the end of a beating. I guess that rematch is coming whether I want it or not.

Daniel Bryan and Otis (w/ Chad Gable) vs Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura

Oh hey, it’s a tag team match. Apparently, they’re like buses. You wait around for one for ages and then like 4 come at once. I know I said it was lazy booking but at least the match quality has been mostly decent. This might be as close to a Bryan/Gable dream team as I’ll get so I guess I should get on board, although seeing Otis do the YES chant did make me throw up in my mouth a little. He could only dream of being that over with a crowd. Of course, I absolutely love any chance to see Bryan and Cesaro wrestle so maybe you could give me a PPV match this year and I’ll be happy. Knowing Vince he’d find a way of getting Otis in there somehow and ruining it.

This was actually a good match, all things considered, although I wish they didn’t mention Nakamura winning the Royal Rumble because that just makes me sad about where he is now. They’re right though – Cesaro and Shinsuke have been teaming for ages now so maybe it’s time they found something better to do. I’m still not sure where this Otis/Gable stuff is going, although it’s leaning towards more comedy than anything. They were lucky enough to be teaming with Bryan this week who made Nakamura tap out and they pick up yet another victory. I’m sure Otis will get the Brock Lesnar treatment in the Royal Rumble this year and be a dominant force. That or he’ll get thrown out in a second like Santino. It’ll all depend on Vince’s mood when he wakes up that day.

Jey Uso vs Kevin Owens

With Owens managing to convince Pearce to give him a match with Jey, revenge was on the cards. Well, it would be if you thought for a second that it could stay a 1-on-1 match and Owens would actually be able to execute his plan. We all know better though. This was a short but intense match involving KO taking out all his frustrations on Jey, hitting a stunner and winning the match but that wasn’t what Kevin was looking for. This was about hurting Uso and trying to get Roman out, so he handcuffed Jey and started to beat him down more and more, but Roman was nowhere to be seen.

As we know by now, the Tribal Chief does things on his own schedule, and as the guys were fighting all over the set he finally turned up to help his cousin. Once again the numbers game got the better of Owens and Reigns threw him through a table from up high, establishing his dominance yet again and showing that just because it’s a new year it doesn’t mean there will be a new champion. An impressive showing for KO and I’m loving how badass he has seemed lately but without backup, he’s really going to struggle. Will anyone step up to be by his side in 2021? Only time will tell but this feud continues to deliver week on week.

The best of SmackDown

  • Roman Reigns – he’s not giving up his place at the head of the table.
  • Carmella – picking up a huge win over the SmackDown Women’s Champion.
  • Reginald – 2021 is his year.
  • Daniel Bryan – gathering important momentum towards the Royal Rumble PPV.
  • Sonya Deville – just turning up got me excited for more.

The worst of SmackDown

  • Otis – NO NO NO.
  • Sasha Banks – a loss to Carmella is not how she wants to start a new year.
  • Sami Zayn and King Corbin – egos caused the team to fail.
  • Dolph Ziggler – he certainly gives the heartache or indigestion or something bad.

In summary…

While I could definitely do with fewer tag matches in one show, it’s nice to see the depth of talent that SmackDown has at the moment, and WWE are probably trying to highlight as many people as possible going into the Royal Rumble PPV. It’ll be interesting to see over the next few weeks who they start pushing as potential winners of both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches. I’d be quite happy with Bianca Belair on the women’s side but I’m undecided on the men’s so let’s see how that plays out. For now, I’m just sitting around and waiting for Kevin Owens to make some friends. I’m going to have to get in that ring myself at this rate.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE