With the Royal Rumble PPV in the rearview mirror, and Edge and Bianca Belair still riding that high of success, we’re back with another SmackDown full of questions. The road to WrestleMania isn’t clear cut for either superstar yet, with Edge making his way round RAW and also NXT this week to survey the landscape. Who knows what our main events will be at the biggest show of the year but it’s an exciting time of the year and there’s likely to be a few bumps in the road along the way.
The Main Event
If you saw the Royal Rumble PPV then you’ll know just how close Roman Reigns came to losing his championship to Kevin Owens. As expected, Owens showed a lot of guts and was willing to fight through a hell of a lot of pain to try and overcome the Tribal Chief, but Reigns, unfortunately, cheated his way to keeping that title. Where KO goes from here I just don’t know. He’s had a great showing the last few months and I hope he can continue that momentum and not get lost in the shuffle again.
The focus shifted this week to Edge potentially choosing Roman as his opponent at WrestleMania. At least that was the plan, but Roman opened SmackDown in the ring waiting for the Hall of Famer, and he just didn’t turn up. The anger and rage from Reigns were clear, feeling like Edge was disrespecting him by not showing up first and surely the one thing you don’t want is a pissed off Roman after you. Spear vs spear could be a potentially great match but the Rated R Superstar needs to be careful playing games with a man at the top of his game.
King Corbin vs Dominik Mysterio (w/ Rey)
I’ve been looking forward to this match since.. well, since the last time they had it. And the time before that. I get that I wanted Dominik to get back into wrestling but I’m not sure I need to see him wrestle Corbin every week. The story continues that Dominik isn’t quite ready and should really take his dad’s advice, but he’s a stubborn young kid who is looking to do things his own way. Corbin is more than happy throwing these guys around so he’s not complaining too much, and it’s a fair use of his talents.
Corbin’s great at verbally slapping down his opponents, shouting at Dominik that he thought his Dad had been training him. Dominik’s passion and intensity are clear but that doesn’t always deliver the goods in the end. A solid back and forth match this week made both men look like they could win but the difference maker ended up being Rey Mysterio. He hid under the ring, grabbed Corbin’s leg and allowed Dominik to hit a 619 and a frog splash for a huge win. I’m sure he’ll be happy with the victory but will he really appreciate his dad’s input?
Daniel Bryan vs Cesaro
Yes, I’m going to be a hypocrite here. I complained about repeat matches between Corbin and Dominik, and yet, I could happily watch Bryan and Cesaro wrestle every week. Sue me. Seriously though, both men didn’t get the result they wanted in the Royal Rumble and neither look to be in the title picture anytime soon, so where do they go from here? Neither man is a stranger to scratching and clawing their way through WWE and 2021 looks to be no different. The only difference now is that Daniel Bryan seems to be winding down his career and doesn’t have many opportunities left to capture the big one again. I assume he’s on a collision course with Seth Rollins after his Rumble elimination.
While Bryan may have had a smile on his face walking down to the ring, it certainly disappeared as soon as the bell rang. He can turn on the fight like no other, and those kicks are absolutely devastating as Cesaro has found out many times. In return, he delivered some super stiff uppercuts to the leader of the Yes Movement and both men looked to be enjoying the competition. Despite both men having a great striking game, the match came down to their submission expertise and while Bryan was hoping to win with the Yes Lock, it was Cesaro who grounded Daniel and made him tap out. Another huge victory for the Swiss Cyborg and one more disappointment for Bryan. One fist bump later and I think we’ve reached a point of respect between both men.
Bayley vs Ruby Riott (w/ Liv Morgan)
Another person who had a hugely disappointing Royal Rumble was Bayley. Her dreams of getting the title back and continuing her reign at the top simply didn’t come true and she’s having to get used to being out of the spotlight for a while. Riott and Morgan didn’t have a good night either, but I will say that Billie Kay on commentary was one of the highlights of the Royal Rumble match. They should have her do that for every match ever. I’m sure that’d work well.
This match didn’t really do much for anyone involved, other than to show that Billie really needs to stick to commentary and stop trying to help the Riott Squad. She managed to cause Ruby to lose yet again with another accidental distraction and surely there’s only so many times the girls are going to forgive her. Bayley won’t be complaining as a win is a win but I’m sure she’d rather not be in the middle of whatever drama is going on with the other three women. She needs to find a way to get back into title contention as soon as possible.
Putting the EST in WrestleMania
There was only one right choice for the winner of the women’s Royal Rumble this year and that was Bianca Belair and thankfully that’s what happened. Rhea Ripley from NXT had a great showing but she’s still got time to make an impact on the main roster, while Bianca’s been on a roll lately and this was her time to shine. She appeared in the ring this week to address the question on everyone’s lips – who will she be facing at WrestleMania? It could be Asuka or Sasha Banks or maybe even Io Shirai but you know who came out to address Bianca? Reginald. Maybe that’s the dream match we never knew we needed.
Reginald is giving Edge a run for his money in terms of manipulation, especially with Carmella by his side. Their partnership isn’t willing to give up on Sasha Banks and taking her title, but Banks herself came out to address Bianca and try to ignore her latest foes. Sasha’s confidence is on a par with Bianca as both believe they are the best and that’s surely the money match. Reginald was more than happy to get in the middle of both women though, trying to stir things up, but it only resulted in him getting whipped by Bianca’s hair. Poor guy. And we still don’t have an answer from Bianca.
Otis and Chad Gable vs Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
Well, I guess at least Chad’s in it and I enjoy his work so 1 out of 4 isn’t bad. My main concern this week was realizing that Ziggler and Roode actually have new music which means we’re probably not getting rid of them anytime soon. That’s a shame. I’m all for tag teams being proper tag teams rather than just two guys thrown together, but I’d be more interested if it wasn’t for those two. Anyway, I guess I’ll have to suck it up for a while. Otis seems to be improving slightly under Gable’s influence, even though he thankfully didn’t win the Royal Rumble. Imagine that. Although I’d happily watch him get destroyed by Roman Reigns.
The highlight of this match was having the Street Profits do picture in picture commentary on the match. I love those guys. The charisma is off the charts and I can’t wait for them to get the titles back round their waists where they belong. Despite solid teamwork, Alpha Academy couldn’t overcome the tag champs this week with Roode taking out Gable for the win. Both teams actually looked pretty good this week but Otis and Gable definitely need some more work if they’re going to come anywhere close to winning the titles. Maybe Chad could actually get a decent tag partner. That would probably help.
Intercontinental Championship Match – Big E (c) vs Apollo Crews vs Sami Zayn
Is it me or is it starting to feel like Groundhog Day around here? I get that feuds need to continue over time but you probably don’t need to be running the same matches all the time either. As much as I love Sami, I’d be happy to see him do something else at the moment, and I’m still really struggling to get into Apollo despite him getting some decent opportunities lately. Admittedly these guys work really well together so of course, they had a good match together. It just feels like neither Crews nor Zayn are legitimate threats to Big E at this point, and it’s more enjoyable when you have a feud that could go either way.
Crews showed his impressive strength and athleticism again this week, while Zayn was happy to go for the opportunistic win at any point he could. Big E is quite happy to just beat up whoever they put in front of him and I’m always surprised at just how fast and agile he is. Despite the numbers game being against him, Big E managed to keep cool and hit a Big Ending on Apollo at just the right time to retain his title. The right result for all of us at the moment as Big E continues to build the legacy of the title and his own career keeps heading up and up. I hope one day he gets an inevitable clash with Roman Reigns as they’ll definitely tear the house down.
Say My Name
To close off the show this week we got Edge finally making his way to the ring to address the big question about WrestleMania. He could pick Drew McIntyre or he could pick Finn Balor or he could go for the Big Dog himself. Edge got quite emotional talking about everything he’s been through and how this is a dream come true and one that no one ever thought was possible. Not only has he come back but he managed to outlast 29 other guys and win the Royal Rumble. That’s not something anyone ever saw coming a few years ago and now he’s got the opportunity of a lifetime. Personally, I’d love to see him choose Reigns but any matches with Edge feel like dream matches right now.
Reigns, Paul Heyman and Jey Uso made their way to the ring to get Edge’s answer but it wasn’t forthcoming. Edge is still weighing up his options but that wasn’t what Roman wanted to hear. He sees himself as the main event and the only option. With a scowl on his face, Reigns asked Edge why he’s disrespecting him and his family and he should just say his name. Side note on Roman’s family – watch the Yokozuna documentary on the WWE Network as it’s fantastic. Anyway, if you were expecting an answer right there, it didn’t happen and instead, we got a sneak attack and a stunner from Kevin Owens with Edge looking on. Still no WrestleMania answers but I fear for Edge if Roman keeps getting angrier. We’ve seen the brutality he’s capable of.
The Best Of SmackDown
- Big E – yet another impressive title defence
- Edge – I’m just happy every time his music hits
- Cesaro – beating Daniel Bryan and then showing respect after
The Worst Of SmackDown
- Otis – he lost again
- Apollo Crews – he lost again
- Billie Kay – she needs to stick to commentary
If I’m being honest, this SmackDown felt a little lazy, like they’d run out of ideas and just threw a few things together that we’ve seen before. I get that the road to WrestleMania is quite long and they can’t have gripping episodes each and every week, so I’m sure once they hit that higher gear it’ll all come together nicely, but this just felt like it was mostly skippable. And I have high expectations of SmackDown to deliver the best show every week. Hopefully once Edge and Bianca have made their decisions then we can build the feuds properly. I’ll try to be patient until then.
All images and videos courtesy of WWE