As we all know, the Road to WrestleMania has never been a smooth one. With ups and downs and twists and turns, it’s rarely the case that you get a Royal Rumble winner and then you’re set for your WrestleMania main event. Oh no, there’s plenty of other roadblocks along the way. These days, it’s usually Elimination Chamber and it’s looking like this year will be no different. You really have to earn your spot at the biggest PPV of the year. So while Edge sits back and contemplates his options, Universal Champion Roman Reigns will have his own worries over the next few weeks. Let’s see what Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville have up their sleeves.

Who doesn’t need to qualify?

Another week led by the champ Roman who gets another in-ring segment. He just loves talking, doesn’t he? Although if he keeps slowing down his ring entry, by the time we get to WrestleMania it might actually take him both nights to get to the damn ring. I know we do everything on Reigns and Paul Heyman time but they’re starting to take the biscuit a little. Adam Pearce was bravely waiting in the ring this week because he had business to take care of, but unsurprisingly his plans didn’t exactly align with what the walrus and his client had in mind.

While Drew McIntyre is defending his RAW title in the Elimination Chamber itself, Heyman noted that Roman’s contract simply said he needed to defend it AT Elimination Chamber rather than in the Chamber itself. Sneaky bastards. But hey, anything they can do Adam Pearce can do better, so he not only put Jey Uso straight in the Elimination Chamber match but also Roman’s current number 1 foe in Kevin Owens. It doesn’t look like him and Pearce are going to be friends anytime soon, and there are another four spots up for grabs throughout the night. Roman may have slightly won over WWE authority this week but he’ll still have to defend his title at the PPV, even if his opponent is going to be very tired.

Elimination Chamber Qualifier – Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs King Corbin & Sami Zayn

Yes, you read that right. A tag team qualifier meaning that both men on the winning side would win spots in the Chamber. It’s a shame that Sami was stuck with King Corbin as I’d quite happily have him in the match but I don’t really need the King in there. The Mysterios, on the other hand, could be fun to have for high-risk reasons and I’m sure seeing Dominik thrown through some Chamber parts would be pretty entertaining, to say the least. Both teams have their own issues, be it family ones or simply just not getting along, so the opportunity could’ve gone either way.

While Zayn was more interested in ranting about conspiracies to start with, thankfully they all settled down into a competitive match with Rey and his son managing to get the upper hand on Corbin and they looked set for the win with a 619 combination. Unfortunately for them, Sami was the legal man and, one Helluva Kick later, he claimed those Chamber spots for himself and the King. It’s nice that he’s finally got something positive to put in his documentary although he’s going to have his work cut out for him against five other men.

The Open Challenge returns

Big E looks like he won’t be involved in the Universal Championship shenanigans at Elimination Chamber but, at least, he’s got his coveted Intercontinental title to put on the map. He’s working hard and showing the world that he’s a fighting champion who will take on anyone – well, anyone apart from Apollo Crews again because, despite Apollo wanting another shot, Big E is looking for new competition. And who can blame him? Crews came out to the ring frustrated but he’ll have to step aside as a new contender emerges.

Intercontinental Championship – Big E (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura

Both men with a lot to prove in 2021 – Big E on the rise as a singles star and Nakamura looking to reclaim some past glories. I’m all for both men having good showings week on week as I think they have a lot to offer in very different ways. One thing they do have in common is that they hit damn hard and this week’s match showed that in spades. Sadly, it did feel more like a preview of what they’re both capable of as the main story still managed to be about Apollo Crews.

Sticking around ringside like a bad smell, Crews got bored watching the competitive match in the ring and decided to jump in and dropkick Big E in the face. Seriously will he ever get the message? How many title matches does he need? He lost and he should go away now. Apparently not, as the ref is happy to let him just stand there for no reason throughout the whole match. If Apollo is aiming to annoy everyone into getting another title match then he’s probably heading in the right direction. I just wish I had an interest in seeing it. I would’ve been happier with a longer Nakamura match really.

Burning it down again

Oh yes, he’s back, and he has his old music and I’m already happier. New Daddy Seth Rollins is back and has the entire SmackDown locker room surrounding the ring to listen to his welcome back promo. I’m not quite sure why they wanted to be out there but I guess it’s nice to show some solidarity these days, plus I’m sure Seth’s a far nicer person now he’s got a kid. Although the sleepless nights aren’t always good for the attitude. His beautiful baby girl must have influenced him in ways he never thought possible and changed him for the better right?

Well… no. He’s not quite the Messiah he was but he has a new vision to lead SmackDown and to teach everyone his ways. So really he’s a mixture of old Seth and new Seth and just still a bit of a dick apparently. I’m a big Seth fan, and I think he can be an insanely captivating fiery babyface but I hate him as the slimy heel going back to the Authority days. Everyone at ringside seemed to agree as they all left apart from Cesaro, who Seth thought maybe supported him, but clearly not as he left too. This resulted in Rollins taking Cesaro out with a chop block and punching him repeatedly. Not good news for the Swiss Cyborg hoping to qualify for Elimination Chamber.

Bayley vs Liv Morgan (with Ruby Riott)

Is it wrong that the most entertaining part of Bayley’s act these days is her constant abuse of Michael Cole? It’s difficult to hate her when she’s just so right. I’m not sure if we’ll get another Michael Cole match at WrestleMania this year but I’d actually be okay with watching Bayley beat him up for a few minutes. Who do I need to contact to get this to happen? It’s not like she’s getting back in the title picture anytime soon so destroying Michael Cole seems like the next best option, although that might turn her face again.

Bayley is still the confident, cocky heel who believes that SmackDown is her show and she is all about the winning. This week she got another victory which is hardly surprising considering how much the Riott Squad have been struggling. Yes, you guessed it – Billie Kay managed to cause yet another loss by inadvertently distracting Liv Morgan. I don’t know how many weeks this needs to happen but I’d much rather just have Billie on commentary than all this drama. Please?

Street Profits vs Alpha Academy

Now, this is what I like. As much as I enjoy the Street Profits talking the talk, I’d much rather see them in the ring doing what they do best and working their way up the ladder again towards Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler. Those titles need to come back to the Profits as soon as possible, and definitely not to Otis. This stuff with Chad Gable isn’t exactly what dreams are made of but I guess at least it’s giving Chad something to do that isn’t being Shorty G, so things could be a lot worse. I was just hoping Chad might get a decent singles push at some point but, apparently, that’s not happening anytime soon.

This match was a story of teamwork – something that the Street Profits have but Alpha Academy really don’t. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins rarely put a foot wrong when they’re in the ring together while Gable and Otis have moments of miscommunication far too often and that was no different this week. Chad thought he knew best again, tried to take charge and ended up on the wrong end of a massive frog splash from Dawkins and losing again. I don’t think Alpha Academy subscriptions will be going up this week.

Boss talk

A short but sweet appearance by the SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks this week who came out to the ring to try and entice Bianca Belair into making her WrestleMania decision. She’s taking her sweet time just like Edge, and while both women are top fan favourites right now you can feel the tension building between them. There’s respect but I think things will boil over eventually.

Talking of respect – two women that don’t have it are Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler who came out to interrupt, only for everyone to start talking about Nia Jax’s hole after what happened to her on RAW. It’s a classic moment, for sure, and probably the best thing Jax has ever done. Belair and Banks took out the tag champs to end the segment on SmackDown and I wonder if there’s a match brewing there to kill some time before WrestleMania.

Elimination Chamber Qualifier – Ziggler & Roode vs Cesaro & Daniel Bryan

I’ve never been a huge fan of trying to put the tag champs in a match like this when really they should be defending their titles instead right? WWE logic, I guess. You would think that Cesaro and Bryan would be sure-fire winners for those final two spots but they’ve not exactly been on the same page as of late, plus Rollins attacked Cesaro earlier in the night so maybe the champs could sneak in there with a victory. I’m assuming Cesaro is sort of face now after that show of respect towards Bryan after their match but I’m not entirely sure. I just know I love both guys and their performances so they’re a pretty awesome tag team.

Surprisingly, it was mostly a competitive and straight match with both teams working hard and successfully together. Sure, Zayn and Corbin made their way to the ring during the match but generally stayed back just to survey their potential opponents. After a real back and forth fight Cesaro managed to get on a roll with the swing and then the sharpshooter on Dolph making him tap out to qualify for the Chamber alongside Bryan. Obviously, Corbin and Zayn then attacked, along with Jey Uso, but Kevin Owens then came out to end the show this week with Stunners for everyone. Looking into the camera, he made sure Roman knows that he’s not going anywhere and I damn well believe him.

The Best of SmackDown

  • Cesaro – a significant main event win to take a spot in the Elimination Chamber
  • Sami Zayn – finally getting a happy moment in his never-ending gloom
  • Street Profits – a much-needed victory on their road to redemption
  • Paul Heyman – he managed to get Roman past the Chamber itself

The Worst of SmackDown

  • Reginald – sorry but why didn’t he get to try and qualify for the Chamber?
  • Alpha Academy – Otis needs to ask for his money back
  • The Mysterios – a valuable opportunity lost
  • Seth Rollins – burning it down but the same old messiah

In summary…

After last week’s SmackDown was a bit of a letdown, this felt like they were back on the right track and full steam ahead to Elimination Chamber. Yes, I could do with less Apollo Crews, but on the whole, we were treated to some solid matches and everything had a purpose. It will be interesting to see who comes out victorious at the PPV because it’ll be damn tough for them to face a fresh Roman Reigns but title opportunities are rare, so the winner will have to give it their best regardless. WrestleMania is still a hugely open card and we’ve got weeks of speculation ahead of us. It’ll be fun to see some bodies slammed around the Elimination Chamber along the way.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE

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