This week’s WWE Smackdown was the last episode of Smackdown prior to Saturday’s Royal Rumble premium live event (or pay-per-view).
In case you missed it earlier on Friday, we posted an in-depth WWE Royal Rumble 2022 Preview on TJRWrestling. Some popular choices in there while others on our team of writers were going for bold predictions.
They started with the “Are you ready?” Smackdown opening video. They don’t usually start with that. The Kansas City crowd was vocal and ready to go as Michael Cole and Pat McAfee welcomed us to the show.
Let’s Hear from Charlotte Flair
Charlotte Flair made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion in some non-wrestling gear. Charlotte is in the Women’s Royal Rumble match on Saturday and she won the Rumble match two years ago in 2020.
Charlotte said that she brought a championship to Kansas City, which Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs won’t do again. That drew boos. Charlotte said they will be disappointed like the other women in the Rumble match that lose to her. Charlotte said that the Rumble has shocking entrants, the returns, the betrayals and then it’s every woman for herself. Charlotte said it’s every woman doing whatever it takes to throw eachother over the top to the floor. Charlotte said she didn’t have to enter the Royal Rumble because she could have waited until WrestleMania for the winner to choose her. Charlotte said that she doesn’t rely on fate or chance. Charlotte said she takes control, which is why she’s the most dominant champion in the history of WWE. Charlotte said when she wins, she’ll get to choose the challenger of her choosing to main event WrestleMania.
Shayna Baszler interrupted the promo. It sounds like a new theme song for her. Baszler said that what Charlotte was saying was music to her ears. Baszler said there’s no denying that Charlotte is an incredible competitor, but if it ends up with those two again then Baszler won’t hesitate to snap her like a twig limb from limb. Baszler said that after she eliminates Flair, she’ll declare Charlotte the opponent at WrestleMania.
Aliyah had a “3:17” shirt since that’s the match time she had when she beat Natalya. Charlotte wondered who she is, Aliyah said her name and she said she had a lot of butterflies in her stomach because maybe she’ll get to compete in her first WrestleMania. Charlotte told Aliyah she had zero chance of winning. Aliyah mentioned beating Nattie in 3.17 seconds.
Natalya was next up for the promo party saying Aliyah was rude, clueless, delusional and lucky. Natalya said that Aliyah can brag about her record, but Natalya is a three-time Guinness World Record holder and tomorrow it’s going to be four.
Shotzi was up next saying it was a preview for the Royal Rumble. Shotzi said that it’s a great opportunity for somebody like her to seize the spotlight. Charlotte Flair said none of them belong in the ring with her.
Sasha Banks was next making her return from a recent leg injury. Banks: “The Boss is back, baby.” There were “Sasha” chants. Charlotte waved at her, so Banks slapped Charlotte in the face. The other women got into a brawl with Natalya hitting a clothesline on Flair. Baszler with a knee that knocked Shotzi out of the ring. Aliyah kicked Natalya out of the ring and a dropkick by Aliyah sent Baszler out of the ring. Flair with a boot to the face of Aliyah. Banks was behind Flair and Flair went for a kick, but Banks blocked it. Banks hit Flair with a knee to the face and Banks tossed Flair over the top to the floor.
Analysis: Welcome back to Sasha Banks, who was questionable for the Royal Rumble, so it’s good to see her back in action. I don’t think any of these women are going to win (I’m picking a surprise return of Ronda Rousey), but I think Flair vs. Banks is still very possible at WrestleMania. The rest of the segment was typical of what we get this time of year with everybody saying they are going to win the Rumble.
They showed four weeks ago at Day 1 when Ricochet broke Ridge Holland’s nose although it wasn’t that bad since Ridge is back.
Sheamus and Ridge Holland were interviewed in the backstage area. Holland said he’s going to squash Ricochet like the parasite that he is. Sheamus said that Ridge talks and fights like him. Sheamus presented Ridge with a protective mask/faceguard that Sheamus used to wear.
Sheamus and Ridge Holland entered for their match.
Cesaro and Ricochet made their entrance. A newer song for Ricochet too. Both men are underutilized. Ricochet did a pre-tape “I’m going to win the Royal Rumble” promo. Ricochet’s girlfriend Samantha Irvin is the new Smackdown ring announcer as of a few weeks ago.
Sheamus & Ridge Holland vs. Cesaro & Ricochet
Happy birthday to Sheamus, who turned 44 years old on Friday. Sheamus locked up with Cesaro, Sheamus didn’t like that and regrouped on the floor. Sheamus ran over Cesaro with a shoulder tackle, Sheamus wanted a hiptoss and Cesaro hit a clothesline. Cesaro with a double stomp on the chest of Sheamus. Ricochet tagged in, Sheamus with a knee and Holland tagged in with an uppercut. Ricochet tossed Holland to the apron followed by a springboard dropkick. Ricochet hit a running somersault dive over the top onto Holland, who was a bit too far, but then stepped up to take the bump. They went to break there.
Ricochet was the face in peril as Sheamus hit a backbreaker. Holland picked up Ricochet with running tackles into the turnbuckle three times. Holland hit an overhead suplex across the ring. Holland with a body slam followed by an elbow drop. Holland lifted Ricochet with backbreaker submission across the shoulder, Ricochet broke free and Ricochet hit a moonsault onto Holland. Cesaro tagged in with uppercuts on Sheamus, then a running uppercut, Sheamus with a back elbow and Cesaro hit a corkscrew uppercut off the ropes. Cesaro dumped Sheamus over the top to the floor. Cesaro hit a running uppercut on Sheamus on the floor. Cesaro sent Sheamus back into the ring with Cesaro hitting a cross body block, but Sheamus rolled out of it. Cesaro with an inside cradle, Holland with the save and Ricochet hit a dropkick off the top. Sheamus with a knee on Ricochet and Cesaro hit a slam off the shoulders for a two count. Holland tagged in, Cesaro didn’t know, Holland with a headbutt using the faceguard and Holland hit the Northern Grit slam for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Sheamus & Ridge Holland
Analysis: *** A pretty good match here with the heels winning thanks to Holland using the faceguard/mask on Cesaro, who wasn’t ready for it and the Holland hit his finish after that. That knee by Sheamus on Ricochet looked brutal towards the end of the match. Ricochet did well as the face in peril. I’d like to see Cesaro and Ricochet picking up wins in matches like that, but they aren’t going to get pushed that much these days. Sheamus/Holland have had success as a team that’s going to keep getting wins.
After the match, Sheamus celebrated with Holland while Cesaro was grabbing his nose to sell Holland’s attack with the mask.
A Progressive Match Flo replay showed Seth Rollins & Kevin Owens beating The Usos by disqualification last week because Roman Reigns hit Rollins with a Superman Punch. Per the stipulation, that means The Usos are barred from ringside for the Reigns/Rollins match.
Seth “Freakin” Rollins was shown walking backstage in a purple suit. Later on Smackdown, Seth is face to face with Universal Champion Roman Reigns.
The commentary team of Cole and McAfee talked about the Rumble with Pat saying he was so pumped to call his first Rumble. Cole said they are calling the Men’s Rumble match.
The Royal Rumble “By The Numbers” video aired. It was posted on WWE’s Youtube channel recently, so they showed it here as well. They mentioned Kane being in 18 Royal Rumble matches, which is a record and Kane has the most eliminations ever with 45. Brock Lesnar has the most eliminations in a Rumble match with 13 in 2020. Rey Mysterio still has the endurance record in a 30-man Rumble match while Bianca Belair holds the women’s endurance record. Only three people have won back-to-back Rumble matches: Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. In addition to that, Austin is the only three-time winner in Rumble history. There were many more numbers mentioned. The video is below.
Naomi made her entrance feeling the glow as usual.
Sonya Deville was shown talking to referee Dan Engler trying to influence him, but Dan said he’s going to call it down the middle. That match is after a break.
Sonya Deville has been a WWE Official for the last year, so it’s rare to see her in a match. She was in ring gear for this match looking ready to go. They mentioned referee Dan Engler by name.
Naomi vs. Sonya Deville
The referee was shown telling the women he explains a fair and clean match that he’s going to call down the middle. Deville ducked under the rope as soon as Naomi went close to her. Deville with punches followed by a tackle and some punches. The referee made Deville move back or he’ll disqualify her. Deville applied a chinlock, Naomi with an armdrag and a headscissors takedown. Deville with a kick to the body leading to a cover where Deville complained about the referee not coming faster. Naomi with a dropkick followed by a kick on the floor. Naomi sent Deville into the edge of the ring apron and back in the ring for a two count. Deville to the floor, Naomi tried a baseball slide dropkick, Sonya caught her and Sonya hit an elbow drop to the chest to put down Naomi on the floor.
The match returned with Naomi going for a match off the turnbuckle, Deville caught her and turned it into a spinebuster for two. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough. Deville did a chinlock leading to a hair pull takedown. Deville grabbed another chinlock, Naomi back up, Deville with another hair pull and Naomi did a kip-up back to her feet with a kick to the head. Naomi jumped off the turnbuckle with a Stunner-like move. Naomi with a corner attack, spin kick, bulldog into the middle turnbuckle and Naomi went up top with a cross body block for a two count. Naomi with a leg drop for two. Naomi wanted a bulldog, but Deville shoved her into a turnbuckle. Deville picked up Naomi for a move like a suplex, but then she turned it into a spinebuster move for a two count. Naomi slipped out of a move leading to a Full Nelson Bomb for a two count. Naomi got a hold of Deville, who grabbed the ring apron and the referee was dealing with that, so Deville did an eye gouge for a rollup (with tights) for two. Naomi avoided an attack from Deville, then Naomi hit the Rear View (the flying ass attack) and a split-legged moonsault off the top rope got a two count. The referee raised Naomi’s hand as the winner and took off to the back. It went about 12 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Naomi
Analysis: *** I liked this. The right result for sure. They did well by the end of the match. Sonya was clearly rusty early on and she probably went to the chinlock too much. However, the last few minutes were a lot better, so at least they ended in a strong way with Naomi winning clean. I assume Deville will wrestle more often after this.
Naomi celebrated the win saying she finally did it. Naomi said after dealing with Sonya Deville for the last 153 days, she beat her and Naomi said she was going to win the Royal Rumble as well. Sonya Deville went to the backstage area, then came back with a microphone and did a promo.
Sonya said that Naomi is so excited about the Royal Rumble. Sonya said that she can’t let Naomi go into the Royal Rumble without a little surprise. Sonya said that there’s a special guest entrant in the Royal Rumble and her name is…Sonya Deville. Pat McAfee: “Of course she puts herself in the Royal Rumble!” Pat complained about it.
Analysis: That’s not much of a surprise. They need current women’s wrestlers to be in the Rumble along with the stars from the past. Naomi should eliminate Deville from the Rumble match.
The Usos – the Smackdown Tag Team Champions – were interviewed by Kayla Braxton in the backstage area. They were asked about Seth’s message, Jey said that they didn’t care and Jimmy said Roman Reigns would still be Universal Champion. The Viking Raiders walked up to them. The Usos talked about how the Viking Raiders are their next challengers. Erik and Ivar had axes in their hands saying they’re not just for throwing because you can trim a beard, sever a finger or cut a championship right in half. The Usos left.
Analysis: The Viking Raiders are the number one contenders for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, so we should get that match soon.
Sami Zayn made his entrance for another “In Zayn” show.
There was a plug for the NFC Championship game on Fox between the heel San Francisco 49ers and my Los Angeles Rams in LA. I’m so excited about that game. Let’s go Rams! I think it will be a Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl.
Sami Zayn Hosts “In Zayn”
Sami Zayn was in the ring with Jinder Mahal and Shanky. They had microphones along with a table and the In Zayn graphic. Sami said that In Zayn is now a live podcast with Jinder and Shanky as the guests. The fans booed them. Zayn said that they are facing Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, who owes Sami a title shot and Rick Boogs. Jinder thanked Sami for being there, then Sami said that this is what his show should have been and Sami said he didn’t want to hear the name Johnny Knoxville ever again. Fans chanted that right on cue.
Sami said that this is the show where intellectuals talk about different topics. Jinder said that he has embarrassed Shinsuke Nakamura and tonight is no different. Sami said he’s going on about Johnny Knoxville saying that Shanky has probably never heard of Johnny Knoxville. Jinder said that Jackass is really popular in India and Shanky said he liked it. Sami ripped on the crowd in Kansas City calling them “yokels,” which led to boos.
Rick Boogs introduced himself while doing the electric guitar introduction for the Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. McAfee was dancing on the commentary table as usual where it looked like he had his foot on Cole’s shoulder while Cole was laughing about it. When Nakamura got in the ring with Zayn, Sami complained about it, so Nakamura kicked Zayn out of the ring. The tag team match was up next.
Analysis: This was weak. Sami Zayn is one of my favorite wrestlers on Smackdown and I like that he gets consistent screen time, but the storyline with Knoxville in the last month hasn’t been good for him. It’s too silly although Zayn always tries to make it work as best he can. Mahal and Shanky didn’t add much to this. Nakamura just got cleared to return from the hand injury he was dealing with.
A video aired about the WWE 2K22 video game coming out in March.
Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs vs. Jinder Mahal & Shanky
It started during the break with Boogs hitting a body slam on Mahal. Zayn was on commentary. Shanky tagged in, Boogs drove Shanky into the turnbuckle and then Shanky came back with a forearm to the back. Boogs tried going for a suplex, Shanky fought out of that and Boogs hit a vertical suplex. Mahal distracted the referee, so Zayn pulled Nakamura off the apron and Mahal tagged in with a forearm to the back of Boogs. Mahal tried repeated forearms, Boogs no-sold them and Shanky tagged in. Boogs with a running hammer to the chest of Mahal, a running hammer to Shanky and Boogs hit a Boogs Cruise (pumphandle powerslam) on the big man Shanky for the pinfall win after about three minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs
Analysis: ** Easy win for the faces with Boogs looking impressive thanks to that finisher that showed off his power.
The New Day duo of Kofi Kingston & Big E were interviewed by Kayla Braxton, who said Big E was officially here on Smackdown. Kofi said that they have always said when one of them wins the Royal Rumble, it means they all win the Royal Rumble. Big E did the “Feel the Power” line leading to New Day making their entrance.
Analysis: I was a bit surprised by the line about big E being officially on Smackdown. I’m not sure why they felt the need to move him back or if he’s going to be on Raw again. I guess we’ll find out in the coming week.
The New Day’s Big E and Kofi Kingston entered for tag team action.
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss entered for the tag team match. They showed a replay of when they attacked Drew McIntyre four weeks ago on Day 1 while Drew has been out of action with a neck injury.
Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss
Big E knocked down Moss with a back elbow and then Kingston tagged in with a leap over Big E that saw him splash Moss. Corbin tagged in, he sent Kofi into the corner and a corner clothesline. Corbin sent Big E off the apron, Kofi with a kick and off the top with a double axhandle. Moss tagged in, Kofi sent both opponents out of the ring, Kofi tried a diving backsplash onto both guys, but Corbin/Moss caught him and slammed Kofi into the ring post. Ouch. They went to break.
The match returned with Kofi as the face in peril, Big E got the tag and hit two belly to belly suplexes on Corbin. Big E with a uranage slam on Moss and Corbin did his slide out to the floor, then back in and a side belly to belly slam by Big E. Running splash by Big E on Corbin. Kofi back in with a leap off the ropes, Corbin caught him and hit a Chokeslam backbreaker. Moss tagged in, shoulder tackle and Corbin hit a Deep Six slam on Kingston for two. Moss lifted Kofi, Corbin ran the ropes, Big E pulled him down and Big E sent Corbin into the steps. Kofi with elbows to Moss, then boots to the face, Big E tagged in and Kofi jumped off the top with the Midnight Hour double team move for the pinfall win after eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Big E & Kofi Kingston
Analysis: **1/4 It felt just like the tag team match before it with the faces getting an easy win after the hot tag. This was a bit longer with Kofi as the face in peril, Big E getting the hot tag and then they got the win soon after that. Corbin and Moss can beat some guys that are lower level, but New Day are bigger names. It wasn’t happening for the heels here.
A quick video aired hyping up Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley at the Royal Rumble on Saturday. It was a way to get the wrestlers to the back so the next guys could enter.
Roman Reigns made his entrance for the main event promo segment and he had the Universal Championship with him as usual.
It was mentioned that Kane will be on Talking Smack airing on Peacock/WWE Network on Saturday morning. Since Kane has the most Royal Rumble experience of anybody in WWE history, they’ll be talking about that.
Face to Face: Roman Reigns and Seth “Freakin” Rollins
Roman Reigns was in the ring with the Universal Title for this promo showdown. Seth “Freakin” Rollins made his entrance wearing the purple suit along with a green jacket. McAfee called Rollins a “joker” due to the outfit color. Well played by Pat.
Reigns: “Kansas City. Acknowledge me!” It led to boos and some cheers. Rollins wondered if Reigns thought he was Patrick Mahomes and Rollins wanted to thank Reigns for getting The Usos disqualified so that their match is what it should be – one on one at the Royal Rumble. Reigns said he figured he would do that punch instead of seeing The Usos lose. Rollins laughed about that.
Reigns told Rollins that the Tribal Chief is in God mode now. Rollins mentioned big moments like the biggest Money in the Bank cash-in of all time when he stole Roman’s WrestleMania moment from him. Rollins mentioned beating Reigns for the WWE Title after coming back from a knee injury and he sent Reigns packing for a 30-day vacation (suspension). Reigns said it was water under the bridge.
Rollins mentioned when he took a steel chair to the back and changed the game forever. Reigns had an angry look on his face. Rollins said that one stings. Rollins said he knew it would catapult Reigns into superstardom, so he has Rollins to thank for the money, the private jets and all the WrestleMania main events. Rollins said that Reigns is the greatest superstar of their generation saying that Reigns has done it all except beat Rollins when it matters most. Rollins said it’s not personal when he takes the title from him. Rollins said: “My brother, I will always love you.”
Reigns spoke about the chair to the back breaking up The Shield with Reigns saying he tried to forgive Rollins, but he will never forgive Rollins for what he did to them. Reigns: “I hate you!” Rollins said he knows Reigns hates him. Rollins told Reigns that he’s the joke, the title reign is a joke, the Bloodline is a joke, your cousins are a joke, your daddy and uncle are a joke. Rollins said tomorrow night, it all goes up in smoke. Rollins laughed at him. Reigns shoved Rollins twice in the chest. Rollins laughed at him. Reigns bumped Rollins in the shoulder, then he went for a Superman Punch and Rollins ducked it. Rollins bailed to the floor for some dancing while Reigns was alone in the ring. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: That was some great promo work from Rollins while Reigns did say much other than acting cocky when needed and then being silenced Rollins said some things to get under his skin. Reigns is still mad about Rollins turning on The Shield in 2014, Reigns claimed not to like him and Rollins just laughed in his face about it because that’s what Rollins does. They did an excellent job of telling the story about how Rollins believes he has Reigns’ number while Reigns will try to prove he’s the better man. I’m also glad that none of their segments got too physical. It was mostly just about the promos in the last few weeks. Even though it’s a match between two heels at the Royal Rumble, I think the fans are going to be really into it and there might even be a title change as well.
Three Stars of the Show
- Seth Rollins
- Sheamus/Ridge Holland
- Big E/Kofi Kingston
6.75 out of 10
Last week: 6
It was a good show overall to get us ready for the Royal Rumble on Saturday. I’m happy Naomi finally got to beat Sonya Deville in a match while the opening tag was pretty good too. Lots of tag team wrestling on the show this week, so that’s nice to see. The opening segment featuring women Rumble entrants wasn’t great or anything, but the crowd loved seeing Sasha Banks looking well and declaring for the Rumble match after her injury scare.
It was good to see Kofi and Big E teaming again, but it was a bit strange hearing them say Big E is back on Smackdown now. There was no explanation given or an attempt to say what Raw got in return. I figured he would be featured prominently on Raw this year.
I thought the Rollins/Reigns promo segment was effective in terms of establishing that maybe Rollins has the mindgames advantage over Reigns going into their Rumble match. I like how it was done.
The next WWE pay-per-view (or Premium Live Event) is the Royal Rumble on Saturday, January 29 from St. Louis. Here’s what we know so far:
30-Man Royal Rumble Match – Big E, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Riddle, Shinsuke Nakamura, Rick Boogs, Omos, Chad Gable, Otis, Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Damian Priest, Johnny Knoxville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Happy Corbin, Madcap Moss, Sheamus, Angelo Dawkins, Montez Ford, Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio, Austin Theory, Ricochet and more. (WWE.com listing here.)
WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth “Freakin” Rollins
30-Woman Royal Rumble Match – Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Sasha Banks, Naomi, Rhea Ripley, Nikki A.S.H., Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Carmella, Queen Zelina, Lita, Michelle McCool, Kelly Kelly, Dana Brooke, Natalya, Mickie James, Tamina, Shayna Baszler, Summer Rae, Aliyah, Shotzi, Sonya Deville and more. (WWE.com listing here.)
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Doudrop
Edge & Beth Phoenix vs. The Miz & Maryse
You can watch WWE Royal Rumble streaming LIVE on Saturday, January 29 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT on WWE Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else.
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