SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)…
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 22, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Ring Announcers: Greg Hamilton
-They opened with a video package on last week’s main storyline with Adam Pearce tricking Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman into a Last Man Standing match against Kevin Owens.
-Cole introduced the show as the Smackdown theme played. Then Reigns and Heyman walked out. They piped in “You suck!” chants. Reigns looked irked. Reigns said if Owens said he was going to have a message for him tonight, that’s not true “because I said so.” He talked about the “Card Subject to Change” stipulation. “Real clever, boys,” he said. He said people think they outsmarted them, but thinking that way is beneath him.
He said people who are scared to come to work think that way. He said he doesn’t miss appearances, he puts in the work. “Legitimately, it took my health being at risk and a pandemic to keep me out of this ring, so I don’t want to hear from anybody I miss an appearance. But what if I was a puss like Adam Pearce and said my shoulder hurts or my elbow hurts,” he said. He said with all the work he puts in, he could say his knees hurt and his neck hurts. He winced and asked Heyman what he said. Heyman said he was saying the weight of it all is a burden. Reigns said his back hurts. Heyman said, “Yeah, yeah, your back.” (Funny.) Reigns asked, “What if I can’t make it to the Royal Rumble because my back hurts?”
Pearce walked to the ring quickly and said, “It’s too much.” He said this thing is spiraling out of control. Reigns said what is out of control is he went against him and tried to put Owens back in the Universal Title picture. He said he is favoring Owens, “and that is out of control.” He said he’s Kevin Owens’s bitch. “And if you are, you most certainly are my bitch,” Reigns added. He said Pearce has the audacity to come out there and complain about how his body feels, yet he hasn’t wrestled in six years. He said is standing next to the thoroughbred of WWE who gets it done week after week. He said he never complained and it never bothered him. He said he is who he is because he never stopped and busted his ass for that place. “No wonder you never made it to the WWE,” Reigns said. Pearce gave him a death stare as Heyman chuckled. Pearce asked Heyman if that’s funny to him. Pearce said he can take it from Reigns, but he sure as hell isn’t going to take it from Heyman. Reigns told Heyman that Pearce is disrespecting Heyman, and if he disrespects Heyman, he’s disrespecting him. He handed Heyman the mic.
Heyman told Pearce he just disrespected the Tribal Chief. Heyman said he’s known Roman’s family since he was 15 years old. He said Pearce buys into the persona he puts on TV and doesn’t think he can handle himself. He said he is from New York and he can handle himself. “I’ll whoop your ass if you disrespect my Tribal Chief,” Heyman said. He said he’s not a lawyer, but he comes from a synagogue full of them. Heyman challenged Pearce to a match, one-on-one. Reigns smiled. Heyman held out his hand. Pearce shook it and said, “Your verbal agreement is official.” Reigns stepped up to Pearce’s face and had a few words off-mic. He said by the end of the night he’s going to get his ass kicked.
(Keller’s Analysis: For a second there, I thought they were going to steer things back to Pearce vs. Reigns or adding Pearce to the match in a two-on-one or triple threat. I didn’t see the Heyman vs. Pearce match coming. I expect some twists. One option is Reigns points out that Pearce wrestling Heyman proves he’s not injured, so he’ll have to wrestle him at the Rumble after all. Or perhaps Heyman before the match feigns an injury and Reigns replaces him, although Heyman and Pearce didn’t sign a traditional contract with that “suitable replacement” clause in writing. The performances here were great all around.)
-They went to Cole and Graves at ringside. Cole asked if it’s really going to happen. Graves said he just watched it happen with his own eyes and he doesn’t believe it. Graves said Heyman is known for his mind, “not his competitive skills inside the ring.” (He can’t use the words “fighting skills” or “wrestling skills” or anything like it.) They hyped Big E vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Title.
-Sami Zayn walked down the aisle with his documentary crew and handcuffed himself to the ringside barricade. He held up a sign that said “#JusticeForSami.” [c]
-Back live, Sami was ranting about how he’s treated unequally compared to Crews. Cole said he’s protesting his loss last week. Sami said he was entering himself in the Royal Rumble.
(1) ASUKA & CHARLOTTE vs. THE RIOTT SQUAD (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan w/Billie Kay)
They showed Natalya & Tamina watching the match on a monitor backstage. Charlotte battered Ruby early. Kay jumped onto the ring apron. That distracted Charlotte briefly. She fended off Ruby attacking her from behind, then threw her to ringside. She leaned over the ropes and grabbed Kay by her hair. Morgan kicked Charlotte. Graves said Kay proved herself invaluable to Riott Squad. Liv took control in the ring, scoring a two count after a top rope bodypress. They cut to a break. [c]
Billie yelled at the ref from the ring apron, but Riott had Asuka covered so it backfired. Asuka then gave Riott a kneelift to her nose. Charlotte tagged in and hit the Natural Selection. (Riott took that really well, making it look like it actually hurt.) That was good for the pin. Cole said Kaye cost Riott Squad the match. Kay and Liv checked on Riott at ringside.
WINNERS: Charlotte & Asuka in 9:00.
-Cole hyped the Reginald vs. Carmella match and the Bayley Obstacle Course Challenge. They showed Bianca Belair jumping rope with her long pony tail. [c]
-Backstage, Kay apologized to Riott and Morgan. She said she didn’t mean it. Riott said she cost them their opportunity at the Women’s Tag Team Championships. Liv said if she didn’t mean it, she sure is good at it, and she should maybe add it to her resume. Kay said they can work it out. She said she spoke to Sonya and has entered them all in the Women’s Rumble match. She said they could start practicing and she could pretend to be Belair or Carmella. She imitated both. Riott said there is no “us.” She said maybe the Squad was much better when it was just her and Liv. Kay looked very sad. Cole said she just can’t catch a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: Billie Kay has made the most of her spotlight. She’s entertaining. I have no idea where this ultimately ends up.)
-Daniel Bryan walked out in street clothes, doing the “Yes!” chant. He talked about the Royal Rumble match. He talked about the random chance and the excitement and exhilaration, and he said despite all the uncertainty, all of it makes him feel alive because the winner gets to choose the champion of their choosing to face in the main event of WrestleMania. He said he’s very proud of his career, and he’s accomplished a lot, but he’s never won the Rumble. He was interrupted by Cesaro’s music.
Cesaro said he thought he beat some sense into him last week. He said he appreciates Bryan explaining the rules of the Rumble, but he could have done it better “in five different languages.” He told Bryan that he is going to win the Rumble, not Bryan. He touted his Andre the Giant Battle Royal win. Bryan said he’s thought all week about their match last week, and he offered to fight him again. Cesaro: “How about nooooo.” He got in Bryan’s face and said he’s sick of proving himself over and over. He said he already beat Bryan, so he’d rather issue an Open Challenge to anyone who has already declared themselves for the Rumble match. Dolph Ziggler walked out, chomping on gum.
Ziggler said he was informed right before his music hit that he has been in the second-most Rumbles of any WWE Superstar. He said his stamina is unmatched and he can go at it all night long. He told “DB” that “it ain’t 2014 anymore,” and the only person who can keep up with him now is Cesaro. He said he wants to win the Rumble to get paid at WM. Cole said it’s going to be a hard-hitting affair next. [c]
(2) CESARO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Bryan joined the announcers on commentary. Cesaro executed a Cesaro Swing early. Cole asked Bryan if he’s been in the Swing. He and Graves pointed out he wrestled him last week and was in the swing. Graves made some weird comment about Bryan being into green energy so he must like the Cesaro Swing. Sami was still handcuffed at ringside talking to the documentary makers. Cesaro finished Ziggler with a Neutralizer. Cole said Cesaro in the last two weeks has knocked off two former World Champions. Cesaro had some words for Bryan at ringside.
WINNER: Cesaro in under 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s a quick clean win for Cesaro, which either means they’re pushing him pretty hard for real or they didn’t think he could hold the viewership for any longer against Ziggler. Maybe both.)
-They aired a clip of last week’s angle with Sasha Banks, Carmella, and Reginald.
-Sasha Banks made her ring entrance. [c]
(3) SASHA BANKS vs. REGINALD (w/Carmella)
Graves said they don’t know “what kind of background [Reginald] has in terms of in-ring competition.” Reginald was in street clothes. After the bell rang, he presented Sasha with a rose form his jacket. He took off his jacket and then asked Sasha to kiss him on the cheek. She slapped him. Then she took him over with an armbar, but he landed on his feet with grace. He went for a waistlock, but Sasha blocked it and reversed it. Reginald rolled to the floor. Cole called him “smooth as silk.” He backflipped off the ring apron and landed on his feet. Cole said Sasha is “completely frustrated.”
Sasha threw him toward the steps, but he flipped and landed on his feet in front of Carmella. Back in the ring, Sasha leapfrogged Reginald. He flipped again. Sasha went for a sunset flip, but Reginald blocked it. Sasha then slammed him head to the mat. Sasha sold a knee injury. Reginald tried to take advantage of it and set up a powerbomb, but Sasha slipped free and into an amdrag. Sasha kneed him in the face, then leaped off the top rope. Reginald caught her mid-air. Sasha again countered and armdragged him to the floor. She leaped at him with a Meteora. Sasha slapped the bottle of champaign out of Carmella’s hands. Back in the ring, Sasha gave Reginald a back stabber, but Reginald flipped onto his feet. Sasha countered Reginald again with a Meteora. She shouted down to Carmella, then swung her body around Reginald and locked him into a Bank Statement for the tapout win.
WINNER: Reginald in 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: They managed to keep that exciting without any bumps or punches or anything resembling violence.)
-Backstage, Heyman told Reigns how brilliant he was. Reigns asked him what he’s talking about. Heyman said it was so clear what he wanted him to do. Reigns said when he gave him the mic, he intended him to shred him with the mic, not challenge him to a match. He told Heyman that he represents him, and he didn’t hire a punk to be his special counsel, he hired a man. He asked how people will feel about him if he doesn’t act like a man and handle his business. He told Heyman to be a man and handle business. Heyman looked shocked and dismayed. Cole said Heyman’s mouth got him in trouble again. [c]
-Highlights aired of last week’s Sami vs. Crews match.
(4) BIG E vs. APOLLO CREWS – Intercontinental Title match
Big E walked up to Sami and held his belt in front of his crotch and swung it back and forth to taunt Sami. Crews charged at Big E at the bell. Big E gave him an overhead suplex toss. Then he splashed him on the ring apron. Sami held up a sign that said, “How do you sleep at night?” A couple minutes in, Crews headbutted Big E off the top rope and then leaped off the second rope with a dropkick. Meanwhile, Sami undid his handcuffs and charged to the ring and kicked Crews in the face. The ref called for the bell. Cole said Sami just ruined a great title match. Sami gave Big E a Helluva Kick and then left the ring.
WINNER: No contest in 3:00 so Big E retained the IC Title.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Cole plugged Heyman vs. Pearce.
-Kevin Owens was sitting in his car. He said he showed up to work and was told Reigns pulled some strings to prevent KO from either entering the building. KO said at the Rumble, there will be no more strings for him to pull. He said Reigns didn’t beat him twice, his family beat him. He talked about his tattoos including his wife’s name and the initials of his grandfathers. He said these men have his back all the way. He said they were his biggest fans and they loved seeing him in the ring. He said the biggest regret he’ll have is them never seeing him on the WWE stage because they died a couple of years before he made it. He said they battled illnesses that should have ended their lives sooner, but because they fought like hell, he was lucky to have extra great years with them. He said that’s why he won’t stay away and he’ll keep fighting. He said that’s why at the Rumble, he’ll be the last man standing. [c]
-Backstage, after Ziggler finished chatting with Deville, the Street Profits approached her. Montez Ford sang and Angelo Dawkins said “Heyyyyyy.” They congratulated her on her new gig, but they had even more important matters to discuss. Ford said it’s been two weeks since they lost the tag titles. Dawkins said that’s known as “E.D.” He said that stands for “Entertainment Dysfunction.” He said if they make those shirts, they’ll really sell. Ford told Sonya they want their rematch. Sonya said they deserve a rematch. She said if Ford got hurt again, he’d be out of action for a while and that would hurt Smackdown. She asked them to hear her out. She told them to hang out backstage, keep doing their funny segments, and hype Smackdown. She said in the mean time, she’d give opportunities to other teams and when they’re 100 percent, they can get their opportunity. Dawkins handed her a gift basket.
-Cole said something about a saying, “When the mouse is away, what happens?” Graves said the saying is when the cat is away, the mice play. They replayed clips of last week’s “Ding Ding, Hello!” segment on Smackdown. [c]
(5) BAYLEY vs. BIANCA BELAIR – Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Course match
Cole stood on the stage and introduced Belair. She came out dancing in sunglasses and waving around her pony tail. Next he introduced Bayley. Bayley explained the course, then she did it first. She tipped over a tire, ran over some obstacles, leaped over some walls, and then met Chad Gable at ringside. She put him on her shoulders and walked past red tape. Then she dribbled and made a layup in a basketball hoop (on the second try). It took 1:12.
Bayley then asked the course to be fixed for Belair. Workers added hurdles. “This is for you,” she said. Belair wasn’t phased. She ran the hurdles, climbed the walls, and then met with Gable. Gable revealed Otis, her next challenge. She had to carry Otis, who popped up from behind the steps. She did it with ease. She then dribbled a basketball past a defending Bayley and dunked the basketball, and did so with lots of time left on the clock.
-Afterward, Bayley attacked Belair and rammed her shoulder into the basketball net post.
-Backstage, Rey Mysterio gave Dominic some fighting tips. Dominic told his dad he’s prepared and he’s okay. Rey said if something goes wrong this time, he has to listen more to him next time and do things his way. Dominik said to trust him. [c]
-Graves hyped that Bayley, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn would be guests on Talking Smack, hosted by Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman.
(6) DOMINIC MYSTERIO vs. KING CORBIN
After an early flurry by Dominic, Corbin took over. Corbin went for End of Days, but Dominic blocked it. Then Dominic dropkicked his knee. Corbin blocked a Dominic 619 attempt, then hit the End of Days for a clean quick win.
WINNER: Corbin in under 3:00.
-They replayed the contract signing and KO reveal last week.
-Pearce was standing in the ring, ready to wrestle. Heyman then walked out. He slipped on the steps entering the ring and hurt his knee. Heyman couldn’t stand. He then looked up and said, “You know what they say, card subject to change.” Reigns’s music then played. Cole said Reigns has turned the tables on Pearce.
(7) ADAM PEARCE vs. ROMAN REIGNS
Reigns entered the ring and took Pearce down instantly with a Superman Punch. Pearce rolled to the floor. Reigns went after him as Cole said Pearce is in big trouble and is about to be maimed. Pearce shoved the steps into Reigns, but Reigns kicked him between the legs, then tossed him over the barricade. Cole said Pearce isn’t in shape to fight someone the caliber of Reigns. He said it’ll be a massacre. Reigns beat up Pearce near the stage until Owens made the save, covered in a hoodie. Graves said he somehow pierced security. They brawled. Reigns got the better of Owens and threw him into the ring. Owens blocked a Superman Punch and took Reigns down with a stunner.
Owens stood over him and yelled down at him. Owens beat up Reigns at ringside including a powerbomb through the announce desk. Cole said, “Kevin Owens indeed the last man standing tonight; will that be the case a week from Sunday at the Rumble.” Owens picked up the ringside steps, but four referees and a producer stopped him. KO looked down at the fallen Reigns as the show ended