You know those Happy New Year adverts from WWE where 2021 came in and rescued us from 2020? I’m pretty sure 2021 has already turned heel on us as this week has been an absolutely crazy ride. Between the US Capitol riot and the increased dominance of COVID-19, it’s a really scary time at the moment. I hope everyone’s staying safe wherever you are, and we need wrestling more than ever as a method of escapism and a little something to put some much-needed smiles on peoples faces. So let’s take another trip to the Island of Relevancy where luckily we don’t need to isolate for two weeks on arrival.

Still at the head of the table

Now I’m not one for repetitive things and I quite like it when they change things up a bit on SmackDown but if there’s one thing they can keep doing over and over it’s letting Roman Reigns walk slowly to the ring and then verbally dominate the entire roster. I am absolutely fine with that. Having put Kevin Owens in the hospital last week, the main question this time round was, who’s next for Reigns? No, it’s not Goldberg. You’ll have already seen how that kicked off on social media on Monday night. This week’s target was… Adam Pearce?

That’s right. Former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Mr Pearce has been all over the shows lately and his latest decision last week to put Owens in that match wasn’t one that our Universal Champion was too happy with. Apparently Roman likes Kevin and it’s actually Adam’s fault that he was put in the position to get injured. It’s an interesting train of thought and not one I’d ever argue with if the Big Dog was in front of me. But really we all know he’s developed into a master manipulator alongside Paul Heyman. This was a perfect, slimeball, cocky and infuriating promo from Roman that truly cemented everything that he’s about. His anger at Pearce booking a gauntlet match for the next contender was real, and he even mockingly suggested that Adam should put himself in the match. Well, that’s an intriguing suggestion…

Intercontinental Championship Match – Big E (c) vs Apollo Crews

I don’t know if the Roman segment overran or not – it did feel quite long, but still good – but neither Crews nor Big E got proper entrances and that was quite disappointing for a championship match. Yes, I’m nitpicking but that’s what I’m here for. It just added to the feeling of Apollo not really being a legitimate threat and I’m going to need a lot of winning over when it comes to him. He’s one of those guys who is clearly talented but has never managed to find something to truly connect him to the WWE Universe, and let’s be honest – if you’re up against the charisma machine of Big E then you better up your game.

Both guys got the opportunity to showcase their strengths and had a decent back and forth match until they had a superplex spot where both men had their shoulders down and they ended up in a draw. Thankfully Crews showed some fire, slapped Big E and got him to restart the match. Well, I say, thankfully but not really for Apollo as he just pissed off the champ and ended up losing, but hey at least he got the chance. Where does Apollo Crews go from here? I don’t know but he really needs to find a way to catch on as a character. Big E on the other hand goes from strength to strength and the future is extremely bright for him.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match – Street Profits (c) vs Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode

I love Street Profits. I think they exemplify everything that’s good about tag team wrestling. The balance between Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins is exactly what a top-class tag team should be. Together they’re unstoppable, defeating The New Day and taking that torch forward. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode on the other hand are everything that tag team wrestling should not be. Thrown together without any real reason other than they’re not doing anything better as individuals. Roode is a solid tag team player and I have enjoyed his work before but Ziggler? I’d rather not. And as much as they run injury angles and try to create heat between the two teams, I really just want this to be a steppingstone for the Street Profits and then they can move on to bigger and better things.

So what happened? Ziggler and Roode won the titles obviously. As if 2021 wasn’t bad enough, you just gave me Dolph Ziggler with a title. Why would you do that to me? Yes it was a pretty decent tag match, and I enjoyed the classic feel of it with the basic targeting of an injury – I am all here for logical wrestling – but did the Profits really have to lose? Did WWE just book themselves into a corner again? I was looking forward to a lengthy reign after being bigged up after defeating the New Day, but what does it mean now they’ve lost to the Dirty Dawgs or whatever we’re calling them these days. Good match. Wrong result. Let’s get those titles back on Ford and Dawkins asap and pretend this never happened.

Number One Contender Gauntlet Match – Rey Mysterio vs Sami Zayn

It’s nice to see Mysterio out there with Dominik and not have to worry about Seth Rollins coming out and doing his fake laugh and showing his ankles and wearing a terrible coat and.. yeah, you get the idea. Sorry, I won’t go on too much. Let’s just say I don’t miss him. Rey is still in fantastic condition at this stage of his career and it’s a pleasure to watch him wrestle away from all the storyline nonsense. Well, once Sami was done ranting about the conspiracy of being picked as the first entrance. Poor guy has got so paranoid these days that he even has his own documentary crew following him. I love this guy so much and he puts on some great matches so he and Mysterio should’ve been a classic. Oh, wait, 10 seconds later he had already been hit with a 619 and a frog splash and lost. There clearly is a conspiracy, damnit.

Number One Contender Gauntlet Match – Rey Mysterio vs Shinsuke Nakamura

A few years ago, if I’d seen this combination on paper, I would’ve nearly wet myself with excitement. I know they’ve wrestled a few times but it should still feel like a big deal. Nowadays it’s difficult to get excited about anything Nakamura does because he’s usually the sleepy tag partner of Cesaro. Yet this week Cesaro was nowhere to be seen and Shin had to up his game and go it alone, especially entering the gauntlet so early. Nakamura had his working boots on and really took it to Rey but Mysterio gave it back just as much. A short but hard-fought gauntlet segment resulted in Rey tapping to an armbar and the crowd living in hope that Nakamura had finally remembered who he truly is. It might be a little early to get excited but it’s the best Nakamura has looked in ages.

Number One Contender Gauntlet Match – Shinsuke Nakamura vs King Corbin

Remember Corbin and Roman Reigns and the dog food? Yeah, I wish I didn’t. Adam Pearce should’ve known better than to put the King in this match because no one wants a repeat of that feud. I do not think Roman sits at the head of the table and eats dog food. Corbin tried to make the most of the opportunity, destroying Rey and Dominik in the process just because, and then taking advantage of a weakened Nakamura. It wasn’t a classic but I do enjoy two guys just beating the hell out of each other. Corbin looked like he might sneak out a win a few times but luck was on Nakamura’s side this week and he caught the King with a Kinshasa out of nowhere (sorry, Randy) and gained another victory. At least, 2021 doesn’t hate Shinsuke quite as much as it hates everyone else.

Number One Contender Gauntlet Match – Shinsuke Nakamura vs Daniel Bryan

By this point, I was almost totally Team Nakamura but then Daniel Bryan came out and I just went back to having those same thoughts as I did about Shinsuke and Rey – that it’s a fantastic combination and should be a much bigger deal. It is what it is and I’ll take any amount of Bryan wrestling anyone really. I’d watch him wrestle his way out of a paper bag and love it. Thankfully we got him against the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion instead and it was every bit as exciting as you would hope. Sure, it felt like a mini-preview of something much bigger, but the combination of stiff kicks and smooth submission transitions was a real pleasure to watch. I thought it was Bryan’s for the taking but 2021 Shinsuke Nakamura is a different beast and another Kinshasa later and he made it to the final match of the gauntlet.

Number One Contender Gauntlet Match – Shinsuke Nakamura vs Adam Pearce

Oh yes. You read that right. It’s Scrap Daddy. The NWA legend. The guy who most people won’t even know was a wrestler and a pretty good one at that, but I’ve followed him for a long time and I never thought I’d see this day come. Heyman and Reigns were nice enough to pull some strings and get him into the match. How kind are they? I’ve certainly underestimated them. Nakamura found himself in the right place at the wrong time and ended up getting beaten down by Roman and Jey. And it was that slow realisation that played out so well. They had manipulated the whole show and the company to get Pearce into a position where Roman could get him in a proper match and do to him what he did to Kevin Owens. Jey superkicked Adam and then Reigns ordered him to put Scrap Daddy on top of Nakamura for the 1-2-3. Roman Reigns vs Adam Pearce at the Royal Rumble for the Universal Title. I’ll let those words sink in.

The best of SmackDown

  • Roman Reigns – it’s his world and we’re just living in it
  • Adam Pearce – from making matches to being the number 1 contender
  • Big E – another successful title defence
  • Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode – as much as I hated it they are the new tag champs
  • Shinsuke Nakamura – something’s awoken inside him and I hope it continues
  • Otis – his best performance in weeks

The worst of SmackDown

  • Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode – yes I’m putting them here too just because I can
  • Carmella and Reginald – only a short promo this week and we deserve more from Reginald
  • Apollo Crews – sorry but someone needs to do a character revamp asap

In summary…

What a show that was. I love the episodes that weave stories throughout the show and you get a good payoff at the end. Roman Reigns is the one running the show and that much is clear. Adam Pearce is definitely going to have to think about the decisions he’s making in the future. Will he actually challenge Roman at the Royal Rumble or will he pass that opportunity on to someone like Nakamura? I don’t know but I’m excited to find out. Part of me really wants to see a Roman Reigns and Adam Pearce match just because that’s not something I ever thought I’d see in my lifetime. Not too much focus on the Royal Rumble match itself so I think we need some amped-up build-up soon. But once again SmackDown proves that it’s the better show and that’s not just because I’m the one reviewing it.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE