Date: January 22, 2021
Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
We’re just over a week away from the Royal Rumble and that means it is time to start the last push towards the pay per view. Tonight features a title match of its own with Big E. defending the Intercontinental Title against an upgraded Apollo Crews, but Roman Reigns is not going to be happy and that could be great. Let’s get to it.
We open with a recap of last week’s show with Adam Pearce being set for the Royal Rumble title match against Roman Reigns but then having it switched out to Kevin Owens through some trickery.
Here are Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman for an opening chat. Reigns laughs off the idea of Card Subject To Change because Adam Pearce swapped himself out of the title match. You won’t be seeing Kevin Owens here tonight Reigns doesn’t want him here. Reigns comes here and goes to work because that’s what he does. He even put his health in danger, but what if he gets hurt? Man his back and neck have been bothering him lately. His ankles have been messed up since college. What if he just said his back was hurting too badly to wrestle at the Royal Rumble?
Cue Pearce to say this has gotten out of hand. Reigns doesn’t want to hear it and says Pearce needs to make his way back into the title scene. Pearce doesn’t buy that but Reigns says that Pearce can’t handle this. He hasn’t had a match in six years because he doesn’t have the heart. Maybe that’s why he never made it to the WWE.
Reigns and Heyman take this as disrespect, which means Pearce is disrespecting the family. Therefore, Heyman wants to do something about it and challenges Pearce to a fight. Heyman, citing his status as a New Yorker, says he will whip Pearce’s a**. Pearce says it’s on and Reigns promises Pearce is getting whipped too. See, I think we all know where this is going, but it’s still fun to see how it goes down the obvious path.
Here’s Sami Zayn to handcuff himself to the barricade for a protest, while declaring his entrance in the Royal Rumble.
Women’s Tag Team Titles: Charlotte/Asuka vs. Riott Squad
Charlotte/Asuka are defending, Billie Kay is here with the Squad, and Asuka seems fine after being terrified of Alexa Bliss on Raw. Charlotte beats on Ruby Riott to start as Natalya and Tamina are watching backstage. Asuka comes in for a few shots but a Kay distraction lets Riott bring LIv Morgan in. A high crossbody hits Charlotte and we take a break. Back with Morgan snapping off a headscissors on Charlotte and Riott sending her face first into the corner for two.
Charlotte finally kicks Riott away and nails the fall away slam to send Morgan into the corner. The Downward Spiral into the top turnbuckle allows the tag off to Asuka. The sliding knee gets two as everything breaks down. Asuka German suplexes Morgan but Riott comes back in to roll her up. Billie accidentally distracts the ref though meaning no count. Instead it’s a running hip attack to Morgan and Charlotte hits Natural Selection to finish Morgan at 8:32.
Rating: C. The wrestling was fine, but are we really just going to ignore Asuka being scared of Alexa Bliss and losing to her clean? Or everything with Charlotte and Lacey Evans/Ric Flair? Nothing at all? You might think that was worthy of a mention on this show but this was a run of the mill match with the titles being a backdrop to Billie screwing up again.
Post break, Billie tries to make amends by having the Squad in the Royal Rumble. She offers to help them practice by being Bianca Belair and Carmella (with impressions included) but the Squad, being as nice as they can, say Billie is out.
Here is a dressed up Daniel Bryan for a chat. He is VERY happy that the Royal Rumble coming up because it is all about the drama and the questions of what number you will have and when you are coming out. It makes him feel alive because he is ready to win and move on to main event Wrestlemania. Cue Cesaro to say that was a nice explanation, but he could have done it better (and in five languages).
Cesaro talks about being the first ever Andre the Giant battle royal winner so he will know how to win the Royal Rumble. Bryan is ready to fight right now but Cesaro says that since Bryan isn’t dressed to wrestle, he’ll issue an open challenge. Cue Dolph Ziggler, to say he can do anything in the ring and Cesaro is one of the few who can match him (Ziggler: “Sorry DB but it’s not 2014 anymore.”). The challenge is accepted.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro
Daniel Bryan is on commentary as they go to the grappling to start. Ziggler’s sleeper doesn’t work and Cesaro hits him in the face, setting up a rather long Cesaro Swing. They go to the pinfall reversal sequence with Ziggler getting two but having his superkick blocked. The Fameasser gives Ziggler two and we hit the sleeper again. That’s reversed into the Neutralizer and Ziggler is done at 3:43.
Rating: C+. They didn’t have much time here but Cesaro getting momentum is nice to see, even if there is no reason to believe that it is going to go anywhere. I’ve been burned by Cesaro’s pushes being canceled too many times now but at least we’re getting a little something here. It’s better than nothing after all these years.
We recap Sasha Banks challenging Reginald to a match before she is willing to face Carmella again.
Sasha Banks vs. Reginald
Reginald gives Sasha a flower to start so Sasha slaps the taste out of his mouth (even Carmella’s mouth drops open for that). Sasha climbs the ropes for a hurricanrana but Reginald flips forward to land on his feet. A waistlock doesn’t work for Sasha as Reginald backflips out and lands on his feet outside. Banks hits a baseball slide and whips him into the steps….where Reginald front flips off of them and sticks the landing. Back in and Reginald dives over a monkey flip attempt and then counters a sunset flip.
A Rey Mysterio sitout bulldog works better but Banks seems to tweak her knee. Reginald flips away from a basement dropkick but a powerbomb is countered into an armdrag. Banks manages to send him outside for the Meteora off the apron. Back in and Banks grabs his hands while still on the mat, only to pull herself up for another Meteora. Something like La Mistica is completely messed up but Banks pulls him into the Bank Statement for the tap at 4:00. Cole: “Now the sommellier has something to whine about!” Graves: “I can’t even with you.”
Rating: C-. I have no idea what to think here as this was much more of a gymnastics routine that made Reginald look like a star for reasons I don’t quite understand. Banks vs. Carmella is set up, but I’m not sure why they went this way to get here. The match was fun, but how does this make me want to see Carmella get a title shot?
Paul Heyman compliments Roman Reigns for setting up the match with Adam Pearce because he knows Reigns has a plan. Reigns says he just handed Heyman a microphone and now Heyman has to deal with this. Heyman panics.
We recap Apollo Crews cheating to become #1 contender last week.
Intercontinental Title: Big E. vs. Apollo Crews
Crews is challenging and charges into a belly to belly to start. The apron splash connects but Crews is back with a pump kick into the standing moonsault for two. Big E. hits the Rock Bottom out of the corner for the same and Crews heads outside with Big E. saying Crews made a mistake with the slap. Crews gets in a shot on the floor and heads back inside to go up top. Hold on though as Sami, still handcuffed, unlocks the cuffs as Crews hits a missile dropkick. Sami runs in for the Helluva Kick to Crews for the DQ at 2:55.
Post match Sami hits a Helluva Kick for Big E. as well.
Kevin Owens is in his car because he isn’t allowed in the ring tonight and says this is all going to end with Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Owens talks about his tattoos telling a story, including his grandparents’ initials on his knuckles. They always supported him but they passed away before he could make it to WWE. Both of them had horrible illnesses but they kept fighting, just like he’ll do at the Royal Rumble when he becomes champion.
The Street Profits bring Sonya Deville (talking to Dolph Ziggler, who leaves before they get there), a fruit basket to congratulate her on her new job. They don’t get why she is hanging out with Ziggler but they get to the point: they want their rematch. Sonya isn’t sure though because they held the titles for a long time and Ford’s knee is still banged up. Some more teams need a chance and once the Profits are healthy, they can be back in the title scene. That seems to be cool, but the Profits are not happy after she leaves.
We recap the debut of Bayley’s talk show last week where she challenged Bianca Belair to an obstacle course race.
Bayley and Belair come out to go over the obstacles with Bayley going first. She takes her time and walks around some of the walls she is supposed to climb, and then drops the Chad Gable she is supposed to carry. Bayley finishes with a time of 1:12 and then says let’s EST this course for Belair, meaning it’s a lot harder. Belair starts fast but has to fireman’s carry Otis instead of Gable…..which she promptly does, and then dunks a basketball to win with 17 seconds left. Well that was impressive. Bayley pelts the basketball at Belair’s stomach though and the beatdown is on, including Bayley throwing her into the basketball goal.
Dominick tells Rey Mysterio that he has this, despite what Rey thinks.
Dominick Mysterio vs. King Corbin
Corbin starts fast by knocking Dominick to the floor, setting up a heck of a clothesline. Dominick fights back but the 619 is countered. A big right hand knocks Dominick silly and the End of Days finishes at 2:11. Well that was abrupt.
Paul Heyman vs. Adam Pearce
Pearce is in workout gear and Heyman, in his suit, tapes his fist on the way to the ring. Hold on though as Heyman tweaks his ankle on the steps and goes down. The referee checks on him but Heyman says “CARD SUBJECT TO CHANGE.” And yes indeed here’s Roman Reigns to hit the Superman Punch to send Pearce to the floor.
Reigns hits him low and sends him into the fan screens before taking him up to the stands like he did to Kevin Owens. Speaking of Owens, here he is in a hoodie to beat on Reigns. Owens is sent into the barricade and they head inside, where Owens nails a Stunner. Referees come out as Owens takes him outside again and beats on Reigns some more. A Stunner on the floor drops Reigns again and the Pop Up powerbomb puts him through the announcers’ table to end the show.
Overall Rating: C. I know we go over this every week but Smackdown continues to be so much better than Raw for one major reason: the show feels fun. This show didn’t have a ton of great wrestling but some angles were advanced and a hot ending angle made up for some of the weaker points. The pay per view is all but set on the Smackdown side and they did what they needed to do here for one of the last shows. It’s nothing great, but it’s not like Raw left the bar that high.
Charlotte/Asuka b. Riott Squad – Natural Selection to Morgan
Cesaro b. Dolph Ziggler – Neutralizer
Sasha Banks b. Reginald – Bank Statement
Apollo Crews b. Big E. via DQ when Sami Zayn interfered
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