I’m like a kid at Christmas around this time of year. If I’m honest, I think I actually find the Royal Rumble match more exciting than WrestleMania. It’s the one match where literally anything can happen. Anyone can turn up. Anyone can fight. Anyone can win. Well, I’m hoping not anyone because I can’t deal with Otis in the WrestleMania main event, but you get what I mean. There’s just so much potential that I can’t help but get excited. Every time that buzzer hits, it’s like a hit of adrenaline. But as the title says, we’re not quite there yet as we’ve got a few nights of sleep and a go-home edition of SmackDown to get through first. Let’s see if we get any major changes before the PPV.

Winning the Rumble? YES, YES, YES.

Is there anyone more consistent and entertaining in each and every version than Daniel Bryan? He was one of the main reasons I enjoyed Ring of Honor for so long and while I wasn’t exactly sure about how he’d do in WWE, I’m so glad this many years later to see his success and that everyone loves him. But as he said this week – he’s achieved so many things but not a win in the Royal Rumble match, and how long does he have left to do that in his career?

One man that plans on standing in the way of that dream is AJ Styles who came back to the house he built this week as part of whatever stupid quarterly brand jump thing WWE allow every so often. I gave up trying to keep up on that rubbish months ago. Plus hey, it’s AJ Styles. He can turn up wherever he wants and I’m not going to complain, especially with how fun his partnership with his bodyguard is. Bryan and Styles have a lot of history over the years and any time they work together it’s top quality. A few minutes of back-and-forth arguing ended up in a match being thrown together for later in the night and I’d happily watch them wrestle every week.

Bianca Belair vs Bayley

What a feud these two have had recently. Bayley, the dominant veteran of SmackDown, unwilling to give up her position in the division to the up and coming Bianca who is looking to climb the ladder and gain some momentum towards the Royal Rumble. Bayley has managed to get the upper hand most weeks due to her sneaky cheating ways but DING DONG, it seems like Bianca isn’t going to give up and keeps coming back for more. If you’ve seen her Chronicle on the WWE Network, then you’ll know she’s a fighter.

In-between, Michael Cole telling us about fifty times that this was Bianca’s biggest match ever, the women actually had an incredibly good match. Bayley plays the heel perfectly to Bianca’s fiery athletic babyface. Her frustrations were clear as she believes Belair is underneath her but Bianca simply doesn’t back down. Kicking out of all of Bayley’s best efforts, the EST of WWE finally overcame the former SmackDown champion and delivered the KOD for the 1-2-3. An emotional win for Bianca Belair and exactly what she needed just days before entering the Rumble.

King Corbin vs Dominik Mysterio

While it’s great to see Dominik back in the ring doing what he does best, it’s clear that he’s got a long way to go in terms of learning and managing to make the right decisions. Corbin has beaten him before and that needs to be something he takes on board and not only learn from that but also from his dad. This week, Dominik changed things up a bit by jumping Corbin before the bell, throwing punches on the outside and beating him down. That fire and passion are unquestionable but it’s pulling everything together to be a successful top tier star that feels so far away for the mini Mysterio.

Corbin’s been around long enough to pick himself up after a beatdown and while Dominik may have got an early upper hand, it wasn’t his night in the end. A solid back and forth match allowed Dominik to showcase his talents but the King got some great counters in and it was another End of Days allowing him to win again. I’m sure Dominik’s frustrations must be rising week on week but he’s got a supportive dad and they’ll just have to keep working together to find success. Maybe the Rumble will give a chance for revenge.

Hey Hey Ho Ho

Just when I thought I’d managed to get rid of Miz and Morrison, they turn up backstage at SmackDown. Why are you doing this to me? Now, I’d normally skip past backstage segments as they’re mostly irrelevant but I’ll take this opportunity to rant about how wasted John Morrison is. Seriously, why hire him and then just stick him with The Miz? He’s capable of doing some great work in-ring, despite being quite limited on the mic. I just wish they’d give him a chance to do something better. Anyway, Big E beat them both up so I was happy in the end. It’s unlikely to be Big E’s night in the Royal Rumble this Sunday but I hope he gets a good showing and continues to shine as a singles star. And at least, Miz and Morrison didn’t bump into Otis…

Documenting The Artist

If you’ve never seen the match that Shinsuke Nakamura had with Sami Zayn in his NXT debut, then please, please, please go and seek it out. I know some people are only familiar with Nakamura’s main roster work and don’t quite get what the fuss about him is. Go and watch that and feel the pure energy and excitement and you’ll get it. Both men have had interesting journeys since then and they’re looking to find success again but obviously in very different ways. Catching Nakamura backstage, Zayn wanted to find out why his partnership with Cesaro and Shinsuke fell apart. Well, that would be because Sami’s paranoia and general craziness get in the way. Nakamura told his ex-friend to go to hell and he’s forging his own destiny now. Don’t forget #JusticeForSami though.

Fighting For Family

Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns are two of the most passionate and intense men on the roster. They actually have a lot in common in terms of family and their drive but they definitely deal with things in very different ways. Reigns presented himself as a cool, calm and collected head of his own table who is in charge and always pulling the strings. Owens is the underdog fighter who has always had to claw his way to success. Roman was destined for WWE but Kevin was never expected to be there.

We were treated to a split-screen interview with both men (and Paul Heyman) this week as they built towards the Last Man Standing match at Royal Rumble. Shots were fired at families, lack of success and dead grandfathers and it was all very messy. Yet, you can’t help but feel excited at how much these two men are going to destroy each other on Sunday. We know Owens is a tough and driven guy so Roman is going to need to bring his absolute best to keep him down for the 10-count. I’ve got a feeling Reigns might have to dip into that cheating side to keep that belt around his waist. We know he’ll do whatever it takes.

Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles (sort of)

I was quite excited at the prospect of another Bryan/Styles classic but it just wasn’t to be this week because obviously it’s Royal Rumble PPV weekend and everything has to be absolutely crazy. People turn up wherever they like and it’s just pure chaos. We actually started out with a mat classic, with both men keeping it grounded and working a psychologically sound match. That didn’t last long though as we had Cesaro on commentary at ringside, then Sami Zayn came out to protest with some more signs, and Big E came out to beat him up because why not. All the while poor Bryan and Styles were trying to carry on their match and picked up a valuable win but that wasn’t going to happen. The other guys ended up brawling in-ring, causing an end to the match until Nakamura came out to even the odds.

Bryan, Big E and Nakamura vs Zayn, Styles and Cesaro

Okay, so Sonya decided to let the guys carry on with their fighting but in a more official capacity so there was still an opportunity to gain that all-important win before the Rumble. Nakamura and Cesaro let their cease-fire go all in the name of competition, while everyone was quite happy at the chance to get their hands on Sami Zayn because why not. But just when you thought the six-man match was going to end SmackDown, Miz and Morrison came out to ruin things. And just to make things worse, Otis then came out to destroy his former foes because they just won’t let us forget about that. Seriously, even if they’re on different shows, we still can’t let that go?

Otis, Bryan, Big E & Nakamura vs Miz, Morrison, Zayn, Styles & Cesaro

And just to finalise one of the craziest ends to SmackDown I’ve ever seen, we ended up with a nine-man tag instead, involving loads of people that really shouldn’t be there. Wait a minute…

Sheamus, Otis, Bryan, Big E & Nakamura vs Miz, Morrison, Zayn, Styles & Cesaro

Did I say nine-man tag? Nope, a ten-man tag actually because Sheamus turned up to even the sides and why not? Let’s just throw everyone in there at this point. This is one of those weeks where I wish I didn’t review things because my brain just hurts now. After all the madness and people turning up and just everyone throwing moves and punches, Sheamus managed to get a Brogue Kick in there on Sami Zayn and win one of the strangest matches ever.

What a win for the fella before the Royal Rumble. And yet just when you thought it’s all over and Sheamus is the dominant force, Braun Strowman returned and threw out powerslams and fists all over the place. I just don’t know what’s going on anymore but I can’t wait for the Rumble.

The Best Of SmackDown

  • Bianca Belair – a huge victory and proving herself against Bayley.
  • King Corbin – overcoming the Mysterios yet again.
  • Sheamus – a big win in complete chaos.
  • Braun Strowman – looking in great shape and ready to run through everyone.

The Worst Of SmackDown

  • Miz and Morrison – stay away, please.
  • Cesaro on commentary – well he’s no Jericho.
  • Billie Kay – where was she?!
  • Reginald – he should’ve been in the main event.

In summary…

I’m still quite confused at this point by the last like 30 minutes or so of SmackDown. I genuinely don’t know what the hell that was or what was going on and I’m lucky I even reached the end of this review really. All I know is that all the superstars are clearly hyped for Royal Rumble and so am I. The winners aren’t clear this year which is always nice and I’m hopeful for a few returns and surprises. Although, we’re getting Natalya vs Tamina on Backstage for the #30 spot and that’s all kinds of upsetting. I hope that’s not a sign of things to come…

All images and videos courtesy of WWE