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As WWE prepares for the Royal Rumble on January 31, everything is at hand, as more and more superstars declare their participation and try to qualify for the titular Rumble matches.
This week, SmackDown continued to raise pay per view, while also running a private business for the blue brand.
After winning the title by defeating Sammy Zayn last week, Apollo Crews challenged Big E in a match for the Intercontinental Championship.
We also saw Bayley and Bianca Belair compete on an obstacle course to see who was the better athlete, and Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens prepared for their showdown at The Royal Rumble.
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SmackDown opened with a video package that summarizes what happened last week with Reigns and Adam Pearce before The Tribal Chief and Paul Heyman head to the ring.
Raines talks about how Owens and Pierce could have put it on him, but he’s the champion because he doesn’t believe in the mentality of “Cards that can change.” He said his back was starting to hurt from wearing this company for years.
Pierce came out and said it had gone too far and things were getting out of hand. Reigns said the only thing out of control is for Owens to be in the title match.
Reigns felt disrespectful and made Hayman enter Pearce. This led to Hayman challenging Pierce to a match that was quickly accepted.
Pierce has become a great authoritative figure on the screen, and seeing him be used in more meaningful ways in recent weeks has been a lot of fun.
It was a solid opening segment that probably lasted a few minutes longer than it should have, but never became unbearable.
Reigns was louder than usual, which helped him express his anger at being deceived. Although he was an electrician, almost everything he said was true, especially when it came to his health.
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This week, the women’s team champions headed to the blue mark to face Liv Morgan and Ruby Riot with Billy Kay in their corner.
Queen and Riott started the match with a basic combination of lock and download. Asuka picked up the label and ran over Riot with his shoulder accessories.
Morgan made a blind tag and punched Charlotte while she was distracted by Kay. She scored twice with a cross from the top rope. After a break, Riot and Morgan still had the upper hand.
Asuka marked and hit a working knee, but Riot was there to break the pin. Riott had pinned Asuka, but Kay accidentally distracted the referee. The Empress recovered and scored in the “Queen” to hit Natural Selection for the victory.
We are only a few weeks in this corner, but Kay is already negatively affecting the outcome of the Riott team’s matches, which means that this alliance is doomed to fail.
The match itself was quite good and gave the four women the opportunity to show their skills. Morgan and Riot looked especially good despite Kay’s involvement.
The women’s team needs a lot of work, but if The Riott Squad is one of the main duos holding it, there is hope that it can improve in 2021.
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Daniel Brian came out to talk about how The Royal Rumble always makes him feel excited. He was eventually interrupted by Caesar, who rubbed in the way he beat Brian last week.
Cesaro made an open challenge and Dolph Ziegler answered the call. We came back from an ad to see how the match started. They fought for control with a series of restraints and reversals.
The Swiss cyborg nailed the uppercut to the corner and turned Ziegler around his legs. They went back and forth with almost falls until The Showoff hit Zig Zag for a double count. Cesare grabbed him and hit the neutralizer for the victory.
This could be a professional struggle. Cesaro and Ziegler are technically ahead of most of the roster and didn’t even need a long game to prove how good they are.
A few more minutes would help, but they gathered a lot of time they had and told a solid story from bell to bell, while Brian gave context to the comment.
Between his victory over Brian last week, Cesare seems to be getting a boost in the Royal Rumble men’s match. Even if you don’t win in PPV, it’s great to see that a talented performer is once used in the right way.
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Reginald tried to win Sasha Banks with a rose at the beginning of the match, but she crushed the taste from his mouth. She tried to take him down, but he got to his feet.
He grabbed Banks by the waist, but she turned him over. He rolled straight out of the ring and pulled away from his apron just to show off. The boss made him pay by playing a baseball slide.
The banks bulldozed him down with a cart, but missed the meteor in the corner. Reginald ate a knee in her face, but caught her cross-legged. She slid him out of the ring with a hand slide and removed the meteor from his apron.
Eventually, she put it on the bank record for the victory of the filing.
Class: C +
As impressive as some of Reginald’s acrobatics were, this match still had some sloppy moments and awkward spots that would benefit from the pre-recording of this match.
Still, it was better than anyone expected, so that’s a plus. The feud between Carmela and Banks didn’t need that, but it was a fun change of pace from what we’ve seen in the past.
WWE has always given up on gender fight, so it will be interesting to see if we get more matches like this on the road.
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As soon as the bell rang, Big E struck a huge belly to the belly suplex, followed by a splash of the apron. The crews fired several kicks, which shook the champion. He received a quick double count with a standing lunar apparatus and was left with the big man with a pair of German suplexes.
Big E prevented a third and hit a big helmet for urinagi for another near fall. The crews fought him in the corner with a few blows to the head. Sami Zayn was handcuffed on the aisle in protest, but freed himself and ran to the ring to hit the two men with Helluva Kicks to cause a race.
Class: ° C
The match just started when Zayn intervened, so in the end he failed to reach his full potential in many ways.
This may continue the plot, but it still took away what could be a great battle for the title, so it’s hard not to be a little angry about it.
The crews, Zayn and Big E are likely to find themselves in a triple threat match at The Royal Rumble to settle this once and for all.
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Bailey gave us a summary of the obstacles before they set off. She decided to take the course first and pushed Bellar out of the way.
She took the time to go through each obstacle and eventually cheated, running around the walls that had been set up instead of climbing them. She finished with a time of 1:12.
Before Belair’s turn, Bailey obstructed some of the obstacles. Bellar was still flying the course, but when she reached the firefighter’s arm, she had to carry Otis instead of Chad Gable. She did it anyway and beat Bailey’s time by 17 seconds.
Bailey attacked her and defeated her before throwing her into the ladder of a basketball hoop that was part of the court.
Class: C +
It was nothing special in terms of entertainment value, but Bellar’s physical strength made it more enjoyable than it would have been.
We all saw this end with an attack, so there was no surprise or deviation. It was played properly, even if it was the most predictable thing on the show.
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Dominic Mysterio wanted some return on Baron Corbyn after the King defeated his father last week. Corbyn’s knights were absent again.
Dom followed immediately and struck a few quick blows before sending Corbyn out of the ring. The king tied it with a string for two pieces.
Corbyn managed to secure the victory at the end of the day.
Class: ° C
That wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. It just … was. We will go on and forget about this in a week or two after one of the Mysteries defeats Corbyn in a rematch.
It was nice to see Dominic again, but it’s hard not to wonder why WWE made him miss NXT at all. He could benefit from having more time to polish his microphone skills.
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As Hayman makes his way to the ring, he pretends to have a leg injury. He did the same thing Pierce did last week and appointed a deputy. That’s when Reigns came into the ring.
As soon as he hit the ring, The Tribal Chief nailed him with a Superman Punch. Pierce tried to return, but a weak blow stopped him.
KO came out of nowhere and saved Pierce from certain destruction by attacking the universal champion. They clashed near the LED screens with fans on them before returning to the ring.
Owens blocked Superman’s shot and struck stunningly. It took several employees to keep them apart, and even then they still managed to get together several times. KO hit a stunning second before scoring Reigns through the Popup Powerbomb announcement table.
We may not have been able to see Pierce retire to beat Hayman, but we still saw Owens destroy Reigns, so the show had a happy ending.
It was clear that Hayman would never have a real game, but there was still hope that Pierce would get a few good shots. Maybe he will have another chance in the future.
The feud between Reigns and KO is borne solely by the skills of the two men involved. The plot is nothing special or original, but how it is performed is fun to watch.