This week’s WWE Smackdown featured a Roman Reigns/Kevin Owens contract signing, plus Sheamus & Drew McIntyre facing The Viking Raiders and more.
The Royal Rumble is just eight days away on January 28th from San Antonio, so it’s time to start getting excited about it. Since I get asked about it all the time, here are my picks for the two Royal Rumble matches. I’m probably going with Cody Rhodes for the men and Rhea Ripley for the women. Cody might seem like an obvious choice, but I think it’s the best choice too. They have kept Bianca Belair and Ripley apart for a reason. I think that’s the reason – to save it for WrestleMania. My picks could change in a week when we do our Royal Rumble preview. For now, I’ll stick with those picks.
The show started with a replay of last week’s show when Sami Zayn faced Kevin Owens in the main event. It ended with Zayn getting help from fellow Bloodline members Jimmy & Jey Uso along with Solo Sikoa. It was a DQ finish. Zayn acted like he had no idea it was coming. The Bloodline put KO through the commentary table while Zayn continued to be surprised by it.
The Bloodline was shown arriving at the arena in SUV cars. Sami Zayn did some fun handshakes with both Usos, but Reigns did not react to Sami wanting a fist bump, nor did Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman.
It was tag team action to start the show with Sheamus & Drew McIntyre up first as the best friend duo sometimes known as The Banger Bros. They have six World Championship reigns between them. The Viking Raiders were up next with Valhalla (former Sarah Logan) joining them. The commentary team was Michael Cole and Wade Barrett. I don’t know if or when Pat McAfee is coming back. All first round matches take place tonight.
Cole sent condolences to the late, great Jay Briscoe. That’s nice of WWE to do that since a lot of guys on this roster worked with the Briscoe Brothers.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Drew McIntyre & Sheamus vs. Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) (w/Valhalla)
Viking Raiders and Valhalla had “Dem Boys” black armbands for Jay Briscoe and The Briscoes. It started as a brawl on the floor right away with Drew getting sent into a ring post. Sheamus whipped Erik into the barricade. Sheamus hit Ivar with a knee to the body followed by some forearms to the chest, but Erik was back up to hit Sheamus in the back. Sheamus sent Erik to the apron leading to forearms to the chest. Erik managed to send Sheamus out of the ring leading to Ivar getting the tag and hitting a cross body block on Sheamus against the barricade.
Erik worked over Sheamus as the face in peril while Drew was waiting for the tag. Sheamus got back up leading to an exchange of forearms with Erik, who overpowered Sheamus and Ivar tagged in with a double axehandle to the back. Ivar with a crossface to Sheamus’ face. Erik was back in, Sheamus with a kick and a backbreaker. Drew was fired up on the apron as he got the tag with clotheslines on Ivar along with a shoulder tackle. Drew with a belly-to-belly suplex on Erik followed by Drew hitting neckbreakers on both guys. Ivar got a knee lift to the body, but Drew came back with a Michinoku Driver for two. Ivar stopped a running Drew by getting his legs up to sit across the chest. Erik was back in as he sent Drew into a clothesline by Ivar for a two count. Drew headbutted Erik, Ivar was legal, Drew chopped him up there and Drew wanted a superplex, but Erik stopped that. Sheamus took care of Erik with a White Noise slam while Drew did a pull up leading to a suplex off the top, which is a spot Drew loves to do because it looks so impressive. All four guys were down leading to a break.
It was Drew’s turn to be the face in peril as Ivar worked him over with repeated elbows to the head. Drew bounced off the turnbuckle with a clothesline along with a Future Shock DDT. Drew charged at Ivar, who hit a spin kick to the head. Sheamus tagged in against Erik as they exchanged punches, Erik charged right into a powerslam and Valhalla jumped on the apron to distract him. Erik hit Sheamus with an overhead suplex. Ivar went up top and jumped off with a Superfly Splash for a two count on Sheamus. Ivar hit that perfectly with his knees hitting the mat without really touching Sheamus, so it looks great, but it doesn’t hurt at all. Sheamus avoided a double team move with a knee to the face and Drew hit a Claymore Kick on Erik. Sheamus hit Ivar with a Brogue Kick for the pinfall win after 17 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Drew McIntyre & Sheamus
Analysis: ***3/4 A great match with the popular team of Drew & Sheamus picking up the win. It was a very physical match with the Raiders controlling most of the action as they worked over Sheamus first followed by Drew’s turn as the face in peril. All of that built to an exciting finish with Drew hitting the Claymore Kick followed by Sheamus getting the Brogue Kick for the win. The Viking Raiders are the more permanent team, but I like Sheamus & Drew together. They are always going to have great matches.
Love you Jay, Love you Briscoes
— Ivar (@Ivar_WWE) January 21, 2023
They showed Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman in the locker room while Sami Zayn walked up to Reigns asking to talk. Sami asked Reigns about the greeting in the parking lot because it was a bit frosty. Reigns said he saw how Sami reacted last night. Sami said he was disappointed last week, he took a lot of pride in facing Kevin Owens and he was just about to put him away, but then he didn’t know The Usos would be out there. Zayn said he didn’t know the plan. Zayn mentioned how Kevin Owens thinks that Zayn is being used…but Zayn said it’s fine. Heyman had facial reactions like he was covering his face because he didn’t like what Sami was saying. Reigns told Zayn to get out saying he didn’t want to hear it. Reigns wondered why he had to run his game plan by Zayn and when did Zayn think that Sami had to do that. Reigns told Zayn to get out there, maybe go find Kevin or his own Bloodline. Reigns was angry as Heyman told Zayn to leave. Sami left.
Analysis: Poor Sami Zayn. He made valid points about not knowing Roman’s plan last week, but Reigns was a jerk to him saying that Sami didn’t need to know what the plan was. It’s easy to feel sympathetic toward Zayn in this story because he continues to do the right thing.
LA Knight was shown walking in his ring gear while we saw the Bray Wyatt logo on the screen a bit too.
A commercial aired for the 30th anniversary of Raw special on Monday night.
Raquel Rodriguez did a promo about being in the Women’s Royal Rumble match. She should get a lot of eliminations in the match.
They only have four women on the graphic for the Women’s Royal Rumble at this point: Rhea Ripley, Raquel Rodriguez, Liv Morgan and Candice LeRae.
LA Knight did a pre-match promo asking somebody to help Bray Wyatt figure out what is going on. Knight said that one week he wasn’t Uncle Howdy, then he said the next week that he is him. Knight shouted out his name saying he’s the guy that is going to make Wyatt think that he should have stayed away. Knight said whether it’s Pitch Black or daylight, he’ll turn his switch off just like that.
LA Knight vs. Greg Jones
There was some Wyatt graphic on the screen after the bell rang. Knight hit a clothesline followed by the BFT (Blunt Force Trauma) neckbreaker for the pinfall in about 30 seconds.
Winner by pinfall: LA Knight
Analysis: 1/4* A simple squash match to put over Knight.
There was a Firefly Funhouse video that aired featuring some of Bray’s puppet friends. Bray Wyatt was there in a red sweater to welcome us back to the Firefly Funhouse. The rabbit dude was talking positively about LA Knight, Abbey told him to shut up and Huskus was eating some chocolate. Wyatt ripped on LA Knight for being named Los Angeles Knight. Wyatt talked about people being scared of the dark and looked at the camera telling Knight he should be scared of the dark. Uncle Howdy appeared on a TV screen saying: “Told you so. All you needed was a little push.” Wyatt said he hopes you are satisfied, he hopes you understand because you opened the door and whatever comes through is your problem. Bray: “See you at the Royal Rumble.” Then he waved “bye” and wished us a nice day.
Analysis: Welcome back to the Firefly Funhouse. It was a unique way to have Bray issue a threat to tell Knight that he is the reason this side of Bray is back and now Knight has to deal with it. Maybe that means we’ll see Wyatt morph into The Fiend again to beat Knight in their Pitch Black match at the Royal Rumble. I think Wyatt beating Knight is very obvious for their Royal Rumble match, but I’m certainly intrigued to see how it happens.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante “Thee” Adonis) (w/B-Fab) vs. Los Lotharios (Angel & Humberto)
Hit Row are heels now after their recent turn. Double team slam by the Lotharios leading to a double kick. Adonis hit a standing dropkick on Angel. Dolla tossed Angel down leading to Angel leaving the ring. Dolla chopped Angel while threatening Cole for running his mouth. Humberto tagged in against Adonis with Humberto going for a sunset flip, which led to a spin kick. Humberto dropkicked Dolla out of the ring. Lotharios hit suicide dives onto Hit Row on the floor. B-Fab grabbed Humberto’s foot while the referee wasn’t looking and Adonis did a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! while grabbing the tights for the pinfall on Humberto. It went about three minutes. Dolla was grabbing Angel to prevent the save.
Winners by pinfall: Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante “Thee” Adonis)
Analysis: *1/2 A cheap win for Hit Row to put over their new heel ways by cheating a bit to get the victory. Neither team is pushed that much, but Hit Row gets more TV time in terms of these teams.
Sheamus & Drew McIntyre face Hit Row next week.
Cody Rhodes Video Package
A video package aired about Cody Rhodes for the third straight week. It aired on Raw this past Monday as well. Each video also aired on Smackdown. It was about Cody getting his surgery for the torn pectoral muscle back in June. Now he’s back and Cody confirmed he’s in the Royal Rumble match. Cody: “At the Royal Rumble, I’m back.”
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, was up next.
Braun Strowman did a backstage promo saying he’s going to be in the Royal Rumble match and anybody that gets in his way is going to “get these hands.” Good use of the catchphrase.
Let’s Hear From Charlotte Flair
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, made her entrance. She was wearing a robe along with her wrestling gear as Cole mentioned she’s a 14-time champion. I miss her old theme song, but I guess it was time for the remix. They showed Charlotte fighting with Sonya Deville last week.
Charlotte started with a “WOO” to get some crowd support. Charlotte said that Sonya Deville seems to have a problem with her because Charlotte beat her two weeks ago. Charlotte said if you have a problem with her, come say it to Charlotte’s face woman to woman.
Sonya Deville trashed the fans while adding that she claims she deserves a title opportunity, but we don’t think she’s worthy. Fans chanted “you suck” at Deville, who was in the ring. Deville said if Flair gets off her high horse, you’d realize that Deville is a star while the fans shut their mouths when she speaks. Deville said that last week it took six people to rip Sonya off of Flair. The fans chanted “you suck” at Deville again.
Flair said that Deville is a star, but is Sonya saying that the other women in the back aren’t stars? Flair wondered why Deville thinks she’s more special than everybody else. Flair said that maybe she’s not the entitled, arrogant one in this ring. Flair pointed out that Deville tapped out. Flair told Deville maybe she should focus on the Rumble instead of jumping the line. Flair said if you want to fight, Flair will fight her right now. The fans cheered, Deville said “no” even though she was in her wrestling gear and said Deville isn’t going to do it if there was nothing in it for her. Deville said she’ll do it if Flair puts her title on the line.
Adam Pearce, the WWE Official, appeared to wonder what they were doing. Since Flair was looking at Pearce, Deville hit Flair in the back with a forearm. Deville walked towards the backstage area while Flair was down a bit and then she got back up.
Analysis: This was okay. I wouldn’t call it that good or great or anything like that. Deville is a good talker that is solid in the ring, but I don’t think the fans are ever going to believe in her enough to beat Flair as the champion. The crowd reacted well to it with Sonya saying a lot of things to get heat while Flair used the crowd support in a smart way. As I said, though, it just doesn’t seem like a big rivalry nor does Sonya come across as somebody that should get a title shot again considering she rarely wins matches.
Roman Reigns was shown in the dressing room again with Paul Heyman. Reigns: “Can you believe this guy?” Heyman claimed he didn’t like Sami Zayn since day one, but he supported Reigns’ vision from day one. Heyman said that when it comes to Sami Zayn, maybe it’s better to have him “in the castle pissing out” rather than “out of the castle pissing in” and they showed Roman’s face as the scene ended.
Analysis: Interesting point there from Heyman basically it’s better to have Sami with them than against them because Reigns must deal with Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble. It was Heyman’s way of telling Reigns not to worry about it because Reigns has a lot going on now.
A video aired featuring Lacey Evans as we saw her beating up some women and applying the Cobra Clutch submission, which is probably her new finisher whenever she wrestles again.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Brawling Brutes (Butch & Ridge Holland) vs. Imperium (Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci)
Holland and Vinci did a double shoulder tackle followed by Holland doing a hiptoss. Butch tagged in with a double foot stomp on the arm. Kaiser tagged in with a tilt-a-whirl slam. Butch came back with a stomp on the left arm, Vinci tagged in with a cross body black, Kaiser with a running kick and Vinci knocked Holland off the apron to the floor. They went to break two minutes into it.
Butch broke free from Kaiser to bring in Holland, who hit two clotheslines. Holland sent Kaiser into the turnbuckle, then two running splashes and Ridge hit a running powerslam on Kaiser. Holland hit a double back body drop on both opponents. Butch tagged in with a moonsault on Vinci on the floor, then a kick on Kaiser and Vinci shoved Holland into the steel steps. Butch got out of a pin attempt followed by Butch applying an Ankle Lock briefly. Butch got an armbar takedown, Kaiser rolled through and Vinci tagged in with a moonsault off the top on Butch for two. Holland pushed Kaiser off the apron leading to Butch countering a move into a pin attempt for two. Butch with a forearm to the face followed by a Tornado DDT out of the corner. Holland tagged in against Kaiser, Butch with a headbutt and an overhead suplex across the ring. Butch went up top, Vinci tried to stop that, Butch kicked Kaiser and kicked Vinci. Kaiser kicked Butch onto Vinci, who hit Butch with a brainbuster on the floor. Imperium hit the Imperial Bomb (Powerbomb by Vinci, forearm by Kaiser) for the pinfall win on Holland. It went around ten minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Imperium (Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci)
Analysis: *** This was pretty good. The crowd wasn’t into it that much, but they cared more as they got closer to the finish. Imperium worked well together towards the finish. I thought it was the right move to give them the win since they are an established team that should be picking up victories like that. Butch and Holland are a solid team as well.
Sami Zayn was shown sitting alone on some equipment cases. Paul Heyman walked up to Zayn to say: “Your Tribal Chief would like to see you.” That led to a break.
There was a promo from Shayna Baszler saying in the Royal Rumble match, she’s not going to eliminate you, she’ll tear you apart limb from limb.
A video aired promoting the 30 Year Anniversary of Raw on Monday night along with some highlights of Raw history.
Analysis: That was an excellent WWE Raw 30 Year-anniversary video package. Hit on a lot of highlights for sure. “Welcome to Raw is Jericho” made it too, so that’s cool to see. Daniel Bryan leading “YES” chants too. Plenty of Stone Cold/Vince stuff as well.
So many iconic moments!
We're celebrating ✨30 years✨ of #WWERaw!
— WWE (@WWE) January 21, 2023
They showed some graphics for what’s coming on Monday Night Raw’s 30-Year Anniversary.
Karrion Kross with Scarlett did a promo about his match against Rey Mysterio next week as well as Kross being in the Royal Rumble. It was pretty quick with Kross looking menacing as usual.
Legado del Fantasma made their entrance joined by Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Legado Del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Cruz Del Toro) (w/Zelina Vega & Santos Escobar) vs. Maximum Male Models (Mansoor & Mace) (w/Maxxine Dupri)
Zelina Vega was on commentary looking very distracting, which means great in this case. Vega said she’s in the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Models were in control briefly, but then Legado knocked them out of the ring. Cruz and Wilde each hit dives onto the opponents on the floor. Cruz and Wilde each hit double suplexes leading to Wilde hitting a splash for two. Mace with a jumping sidekick, then he knocked Cruz off the apron. Wilde avoided a double team move, then he hit a DDT and Cruz hit a springboard missile dropkick. Legado hit their running kick/legsweep finisher for the pinfall win after about four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Legado Del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Cruz Del Toro)
Analysis: **1/4 It was fine for a quicker match. I think the Models team actually looked decent for a team that is rarely on the show. Legado are very underrated in-ring performers probably because they don’t get that much TV time, but when they do, they show us how talented they are. It was another match where the right team won.
Roman Reigns was shown in his dressing room with Sami Zayn showing up to say that Reigns wanted to talk to him. Reigns said he had some anger issues sometimes and that’s why he has a Wise Man like Heyman to counsel him. Reigns said that he knows Zayn is a perfectionist and he wants to know things. Zayn thanked him. Reigns said sometimes he wants the same love and loyalty that he gives out. Zayn sucked up Reigns saying they all love him. Zayn said he’ll always put what’s best for The Bloodline first. Zayn said that whatever Reigns wants him do, Sami will do it. Reigns told Zayn to find The Usos to make sure the SUVs are ready, make sure the jet is ready and Reigns, Solo & Heyman will go sign the contract, so then they can get out of there. Zayn said he’ll do it. Zayn extended his hand for a fist bump, Reigns touched his fist and the fans cheered because they saw Reigns not do it earlier. Zayn left while Heyman was proud of Reigns.
Analysis: A simple fist bump drew a pop from the crowd because the story is very basic with Sami as an everyman that is trying to be accepted by the cool guy. It’s a story that works due to how simple it is. Reigns and Zayn are always good in their interactions together while Heyman always has great reactions too.
The ring crew was shown putting a black carpet in the ring for the contract signing main event.
Next Friday on WWE Smackdown:
* Rey Mysterio vs. Karrion Kross
* Tag Team Title Tournament Semifinals: Sheamus & Drew McIntyre vs. Hit Row
* Tag Team Title Tournament Semifinals: Imperium vs. Legado Del Fantasma
Royal Rumble Undisputed WWE Universal Championship Contract Signing
The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns made his slow-walking entrance with Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa by his side. The WWE Official Adam Pearce was in the ring along with the leather chairs and table for the contract signing.
Kevin Owens made his entrance without his music playing. Owens threw Solo out of the ring and hit Reigns with a Stunner! The Usos showed up to go after Owens, but Owens fought them off with two superkicks and he sent The Usos into the barricade and steel steps respectively. Owens sent Reigns into the ropes leading to a Popup Powerbomb through the table. Owens looked at Heyman, who had the WWE and Universal Titles in his hands along with the contract. Owens signed the contract. Owens had “JAY” on a black armband to support the late, great Jay Briscoe, who was KO’s friend.
Sami Zayn finally showed up and Owens threw the contract at Zayn. Owens ran into the crowd and went up the steps to get away before The Bloodline could get him.
The Usos and Solo checked on Reigns, who was down on the table while Zayn stood there holding the contract. KO’s music played to end the show.
Analysis: It was a fast-paced segment without any talking like we are used to seeing in a contract signing segment. Since there were only about five minutes left for it, I figured something had to happen to make it look quick. Owens has taken several beatings from The Bloodline including last week on Smackdown, so having Owens jump them before they were ready was the right way to book this. Owens putting Reigns through the table drew a big pop. The key thing also is that Zayn was too slow to help The Bloodline, which Reigns could mention because the other guys were out there, but Zayn was not. It’s also because Zayn was told by Reigns to make sure the SUVs and private jet were ready, so that’s why Zayn wasn’t there. Anyway, I fully expect Reigns to beat Owens at Royal Rumble, but I thought this was effective in terms of giving Owens the advantage in this segment.
Here’s a tweet from Kevin Owens showing his tribute to his late friend Jay Briscoe.
— Kevinn (@FightOwensFight) January 21, 2023
Three Stars of the Show
- Sheamus & Drew McIntyre
- Viking Raiders
- Kevin Owens/Roman Reigns/Sami Zayn
7 out of 10
Last week: 7
2023 Average: 7
It’s the third straight week where I rated Smackdown 7/10 meaning it was mostly a good show. There were four tag team matches on the show with Sheamus/Drew McIntyre beating Viking Raiders as the best match by far. The Imperium/Brutes match was pretty good too. I also really liked the Roman Reigns/Sami Zayn backstage segments a lot. They play off eachother so well. Kevin Owens beating up the entire Bloodline (except Zayn) was nice to see since Owens should have got the advantage this week after Owens was put through a table last week.
No women’s matches on the show, which is rare for WWE, but Charlotte Flair and Sonya Deville had a promo exchange to continue that story. I doubt anybody thinks Deville is going to beat Charlotte, but the crowd was interested in the segment at least.
Lastly, the 30-year Raw anniversary video that aired during Smackdown was absolutely outstanding. Find it and watch it if you missed it (I posted the video in this review). That was awesome. I’m sure we’ll see it again on Raw too.
The next WWE Premium Live Event is the Royal Rumble on January 28th in San Antonio. Here’s the lineup so far.
* 30-Man Royal Rumble Match
* 30-Woman Royal Rumble Match
* Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
* Raw Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
* Pitch Black Match: Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight
You can watch the Royal Rumble on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 8pm ET/5pm PT, streaming live exclusively on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else!
Thanks for reading. Please check out my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.