Scrap Daddy Adam Pearce is in the Royal Rumble main event title match against Roman Reigns. I did have to double-check that was actually real before I watched this week’s SmackDown again as it feels like one of those things that would happen in my dreams. Or my worst nightmares, but those are mostly Otis winning the Universal Title and having a ten-year reign. Apparently, last week really did happen, as well as Shinsuke Nakamura finally getting another singles’ push which is great news all round. SmackDown is the gift that keeps on giving way beyond Christmas, but I do wonder if Pearce will actually be in the match or if they’ll shift it to an active wrestler. Time to find out…

Jey Uso vs Shinsuke Nakamura

While the Head of the Table Roman Reigns sat backstage and pondered the contract for his Royal Rumble main event, cousin Jey Uso made his way to the ring with his newfound main event attitude, renaming SmackDown to the Bloodline Show. Hard to argue against that as in recent times Reigns has dominated and Uso has put in some career-best performances. Apparently, his plan is to win the Royal Rumble match and defeat Drew McIntyre for the title and then the family will reign all of WWE. I can’t fault his ambition. But he’s not the only one looking to push his career to new heights, as Nakamura came out WITH HIS OLD MUSIC and called Jey a little puppy before kicking him in the head.

Did I mention that Shinsuke came out TO HIS OLD MUSIC? Anyone who looks at my Spotify history will see that I’ve listened to it on loop for years. What a tune. I hope he gets to keep it until we get actual crowds and we can get them singing along to it. Chris Jericho and Judas certainly wasn’t the first crowd participation entrance after all. Sami Zayn’s theme is also a great singalong tune by the way, but he’s too busy being a paranoid arse for anyone to do that. Anyway, after all the excitement around the music, both guys actually had a match and a very good one at that. Jey looks so comfortable solo these days it’ll be quite weird to see him go back to being a tag man, while Nakamura is looking to regain that confidence on his own. Cesaro appeared ringside to support Shinsuke, although you have to wonder how long that will last. After a back-and-forth fight, Jey resorted to cheating again with feet on the ropes but Charles Robinson luckily noticed him and a few seconds later a Kinshasa resulted in Nakamura picking up an impressive and important win all on his own.

Revising the contract

The backstage area was very very busy on SmackDown this week. Paul Heyman ran around a lot doing whatever the hell Roman Reigns wanted him to do, and it started with wanting to change the Royal Rumble title match to a no disqualification match. There was some suggestion that these changes were for Adam Pearce’s benefit but he’s not quite stupid enough to believe that. He signed it anyway, but that wasn’t the last of it. Roman decided that wasn’t good enough and wanted a Last Man Standing match instead. Not only that, but we caught him discussing something with Apollo Crews too. Heyman’s been motivating him on Talking Smack as of late and maybe he’s finally ready to listen to those who talk the talk and walk the walk too. Roman certainly knows a lot about success after all.

Liv Morgan (with the Riott Squad) vs Natalya (with Tamina)

If you must use Tamina then the best use of her is to stick her outside not doing much. I’m okay with that. Billie Kay on the other hand? Well, let’s just say she doesn’t exactly have the best track record at being useful at ringside. Kay adopted a punk look this week, fully integrating herself into the Riott Squad and they tolerated her at best. Natalya is still referring to herself as the B.O.A.T which upsets me every time someone says it so maybe we can drop that A.S.A.P, please. Especially when it couldn’t be further from the truth but I guess that’s the point.

I’m glad Liv Morgan is getting used a lot lately. I think she has a lot of potentials and just seems like a generally nice person who really wants her dream to come true. She’s like a more talented version of Lana in many ways, although I think people are too critical of her too. Both have a valid place on the roster I think and they’ll only improve more by being used consistently. Unfortunately, Liv has one big problem and that’s Billie Kay. We all love to laugh at Billie but this week she cost Liv the match by running into the ring and it feels like this new Riott Squad might not last long. I don’t think Sarah Logan has much reason to feel threatened.

Rey Mysterio (with Dominik) vs King Corbin

Another Rey Mysterio match without the Seth Rollins drama. What a treat this is. It’s still a marvel to see how well Rey moves around considering how far he is into his career. I do wonder why they haven’t given Dominik too much to do lately though. I really felt like they were building something special with him and then they got caught up in all the family drama and never really went anywhere with his career. It’s a strange one. Corbin on the other hand is pretty much where he should be. He puts on enjoyable matches with smaller guys and plays the unlikeable King character to perfection really. If they use him where he is at the moment, then it’s the right place for him.

I was glad to hear that Dominik wants to win the tag titles with his dad this year, as that’s something I thought would be a really solid addition to the tag division on SmackDown rather than having to watch Street Profits vs Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode all the time. Rey mostly had it handled against Corbin this week but Dominik’s immaturity allowed him to get distracted by Corbin and cost his dad the match. Not the best start if they’re wanting to team together and they’ve got a long way to go before they’re ready for those titles. That family dynamic isn’t always one for success after all. 2021 is going to be a big year of experience for Dominik and he needs it.

Ding Dong, Hello!

It’s 2021 and Bayley has her own chat show. Imagine that. Remember that This Is Your Life segment years ago. Now, I think we can all agree that it wasn’t exactly Bayley’s fault but I don’t think anyone was clamouring for a Bayley chat show anytime soon or ever. Yet here we are with one of the most enjoyable and charismatic heels on the roster and it’s the perfect way to use her character. As with any decent chat show you also need props so there was a nice door in the middle of the ring for the guests to come through. Honestly, it’s everything it should be.

The inaugural guest this week was Bianca Belair. The E-S-T of WWE is looking to make an impact and claim that top spot that many have been waiting for. Her breakout performance in the Royal Rumble match last year didn’t really pay dividends in 2020 the way many thought it would, so it’ll be interesting to see how Belair performs this year and if she can continue the dominant streak she’s been on lately. Bayley’s already had her hot streak with the title but isn’t quite willing to relinquish her spot at the top of the division to new talent. You know how it is – both women ran their mouths for a bit and then we ended up with an obstacle course being scheduled for next week. Of course, we did. It’ll be good but it’ll never be as good as what they used to do on the old NXT shows.

Daniel Bryan vs Cesaro

I’ve often asked for more Cesaro matches, and more Daniel Bryan matches. I’m sure I’ve even specifically asked for Cesaro vs Daniel Bryan matches so thank you to Vince McMahon and Triple H and whoever else reads my reviews. It’s nice to think I’m doing the booking for you guys. This match was really important for both guys as Bryan is looking to gain momentum into the Royal Rumble match while Cesaro is trying to find his place as a singles star again much like his partner Nakamura. There’s certainly no reason why he can’t as we all know he’s the Swiss Cyborg and capable of things in the ring that others can only dream of doing. His strength, stamina and agility are all unparalleled as a package and it’s really only his personality that has held him back in WWE but that shouldn’t be everything.

These guys put on a real show this week in the ThunderDome and reminded me of why SmackDown has often been considered THE show for in-ring action. From technical precision to feats of strength we really got it all from Bryan and Cesaro this week. Give me that Iron Man match already. Bryan is in a position where he can look tough in defeat while putting over his opponent and that’s exactly what he did with Cesaro this week. I’ll never get bored of watching his European uppercuts and after a stiff one he followed up with the Neutralizer to defeat the former WWE champion. At this rate, Daniel Bryan will be going into the Rumble as a real underdog but that’s exactly where he thrives the most, while Cesaro will be heading into the match on some success and renewed confidence. His strength will be key to picking up those eliminations.

Apollo Crews vs Sami Zayn

As I’ve said many times before, I’m still waiting for something to grab me about Apollo Crews and random matches aren’t going to do it for me, even if they’re against Sami Zayn. However, the added intrigue surrounding Crews’ relationship with Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman might be exactly what we need to push him to that next level. Clearly, someone backstage sees something in him. Zayn turned up with his documentary crew again to keep track of all these conspiracies against him and this week didn’t improve for him. With Big E sitting on a sofa at ringside, both men were pretty distracted by him, but in a short match, Apollo managed to outwit Sami and cheat to win with a handful of tights. This was after Sami tried the same thing and got caught. It’s just not fair. So while Sami sulks, Apollo gets another title shot next week.

Contract Signing – WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Adam Pearce

You know something’s going down when the contract dealings move into the ring. With Roman pulling the strings all night long and trying to manipulate himself into a position to humiliate Adam Pearce as much as possible at the Royal Rumble, it was finally time to sort the contract once and for all. After all the changes, arguing over who’s sitting where and all of those stalling techniques by Roman, the pen was put to paper and Reigns felt like he’d set up the contract to get exactly what he wanted – a Last Man Standing match with Pearce.

Yet with a suspicious grin on his face, Scrap Daddy left the ring with the contract in hand and started limping. Gutted by his sudden injury, he reminded the Big Dog that cards are subject to change but he’s found a suitable replacement – Kevin Owens. KO came out, signed the contract and it’s now Owens in the title match at Royal Rumble. Let’s just say Roman didn’t look too happy as SmackDown came to an end.

The best of SmackDown

  • Adam Pearce – took on the master of manipulation and won.
  • Kevin Owens – straight back into a title match again.
  • Nakamura and Cesaro – both men winning huge matches as they find themselves solo again.
  • Nakamura’s theme – it deserves its own section here and I’m listening to it right now.
  • Apollo Crews – finding that edge and willing to do anything to win.

The worst of SmackDown

  • Adam Pearce – I’m slightly upset at him for not actually doing the match if I’m honest.
  • The Mysterios – not a bad match but the wrong result if they’re going for the tag titles.
  • Sami Zayn – as much as he makes me smile, he does need to focus a bit more and win.
  • Otis – even being on my screen for a few seconds is too much.
  • Billie Kay – causing her new buddies to lose isn’t cool.
  • Reginald – he didn’t get enough to do this week

In summary…

Was it the best episode of SmackDown? Absolutely not, but it feels like they’re taking their time to build up some new names as well as trying to revitalise some talent that has been overlooked for a while, and that makes me happy. There’s no question as to the depth of talent they have on their roster. It’s just a case of focusing on the right people and building them up. I’m still a little sad that I won’t get to see Adam Pearce in a WWE PPV main event but I suppose that was always a bit of a stretch. SmackDown continues to be the star of the WWE schedule each and every week and the Royal Rumble PPV is shaping up to be another solid show. Just don’t let Otis win the Rumble, please.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE