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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 1.08.21

January 8, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
WWE Smackdown Roman Reigns
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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 1.08.21  

Hey everyone, welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of WWE Smackdown. Tonight there will certainly be stuff happening, like Big E defending the Intercontinental title against Apollo Crews. The ongoing issue between Kevin Owens and Universal champion Roman Reigns will no doubt continue to build, and that has produced some genuinely good segments thus far. Also the recently named Dirty Dawgs (Ziggler and Roode) attacked the Street Profits last week, because there isn’t another relevant tag team on the brand to challenge them so we’re getting an endless rehash of those two. But seeing the Profits go more serious might be a welcome change of pace for them. So with that in mind, let’s all see what WWE has in store for us tonight.

Oh, late breaking announcement on that front. We’ll get a gauntlet match to determine Roman’s challenger at the Royal Rumble. While Owens is the presumptive winner, a stupid curve ball is hardly outside the realm of possibility.

Roman’s music hits to start us off. The champ is here, along with Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. Piped in “You Suck” chants are actually cut off in time to hear Roman talk for once. He says there’s been a lot of discussion about them beating down Kevin Owens last week, but despite that he likes Owens. He puts over Owens has actually backing him up, and putting him in a spot where he had to do that. Roman say she wants the best for everyone in the locker room, he cares about everyone and their families, that’s what a leader is and has to do. He says the fact that Owens is on the shelf isn’t his fault, you should be blaming WWE official Adam Pearce. He asks for Pearce to join them in the ring. Heyman talks to the production staff, making sure Pearce knows Roman has demanded his presence and calls it lousy TV since they’ll wait for him. Pearce does make his way to the ring with a mic. Pearce asks what he can do for Roman. Roman asks him to watch the upcoming video package. That sends us to a recap of the last couple of weeks in the Roman and Owens feud.

Roman asks Pearce what he as to say for himself. Pearce doesn’t know what they want him to say. Roman wants him to take responsibility for his actions. He says last week they were moving on from Owens, but Owens went to his friend Pearce. He wonders why Pearce wouldn’t look out for his good friend Owens. Roman says he and his group do their job, while Pearce isn’t doing his job. Pearce threw Owens right back into the shark tank, and what happened? Now Owens is on the shelf and can’t provide for his family. Pearce is to blame for that, but because Roman is a good guy he’s giving him a chance to redeem himself. And this week he’s making a gauntlet match for the number one contender ship, as though Roman can’t pick his own opponent. Like Roman isn’t good at his job. Pearce is just trying to put the best challenger in front of Roman, Roman condescends to him about his job. He wonders if Pearce will put himself in the match, Pearce says he wont. Roman thinks Pearce thinks he’s stupid, or a fool. Pearce denies that, he wants to know what they’re doing here. Roman wants to know who’s the stupid party here after last week. If Pearce isn’t stupid, and Vince McMahon isn’t stupid, then Roman has to be the stupid one, right? Roman hands the belt to Heyman, then says if that’s true then Pearce doesn’t respect him or his family. Roman gets menacing, Pearce begs off, and Heyman respectfully asks that Roman not get violent. That seems to calm Roman’s emotions, he takes the belt back and stares down Pearce. He says maybe no one in the ring right now is stupid, maybe right now Pearce is perfectly safe. Roman and co. head out leaving Pearce a little confused and frightened. Before the video package that wasn’t great, but Roman slowly going from reasonable and affable to menacing with violence boiling just below the surface was fantastic. We head to break after that.

Crews gets the jobber entrance as we come back.

Match #1 – Intercontinental Championship Match: (c) Big E vs. Apollo Crews

Crews with a shotgun drop kick, another one for a near fall. Crews is coming out firing, he’s on the top rope but Big E avoids the move and hits a running back elbow. Onto the apron, Big E with the big splash. Back into the ring, Crews back flips out of a back suplex then lands a kick. Running blows from Crews, then shoulder blows in the corner and a stinger splash. German suplexes from Crews now, going for 3 and gets it for a near fall. Big E rolls to the outside, Crews to the apron and lands a kick then a moonsault. They head back to the ring, Crews puts Big E on the top rope. Both men up top, Crews wants a superplex and gets it. Both men get their legs hook, and we get a 3 count for a truly sad Dusty finish given both men had their shoulders down. Oh, we get a commercial break as confusion reigns. I’m assuming this will restart when we come back.

We come back to a replay of the finish. The ref calls it a double pin, therefore a draw so the champ retains.

Crews slaps Big E, pissed about the ruling. Big E wants the restart, we get it and he lands belly to belly suplexes then a big splash. Big Ending set for Big E, Crews off the shoulders and then lands a knee to a charging Big E. Crews up top, frog splash for a near fall. Crews with an attempted military press, Big E slips out, Crews with a roll up for 2. Super kick from Crews, then a running Kawada kick and spinebuster, then standing moonsault for another 2 count. Big E with a roll up, into the stretch muffler. Crews escapes with kicks, lands an enziguri then Big E escapes a spin out powerbomb. ST-Joe from Big E in the corner, then the Big Ending finishes things.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Big E, eventually, retained the title

Rating: 2 stars

That could have been so much better, the Dusty finish didn’t help much and resulted in the match never getting out of second gear. Odd booking decisions aside, these two could clearly hit other gears if given time to actually just have a match. Mostly this was another instance of not needing to see anything before the commercial break in a match, which is a really annoying trend.

In the back Adam Pearce welcomes back Sojna Deville who’s apparently going to be an official with him. She’s not bitter about her best friend making her leave Smackdown, then hit RAW and start up a brand new tag team while Deville’s career is in shambles. Pearce reiterates he’s not in the gauntlet match tonight when Deville intimates he will.

Back from break, Bianca Belair gets an interview as she’s declared herself for the Rumble. Bayley interrupts and they trade bad barbs about accomplishments at the Rumble last year. Bayley plans on winning, doesn’t care about Belair’s 8 eliminations last year because Belair just squanders opportunities. Belair is sad she can’t challenge Bayley if she wins, since Bayley isn’t champion anymore. So they’re both in the Rumble as well.

Commentary remind us about the tag team title match later tonight, which I had completely forgotten about. We get a recap of last week when Ziggler and Roode assaulted the Profits. Oh, that match is next as the Profits are coming out. Ford showing 0 ill effects from that leg focused attack last week, because selling is a bad thing I guess. They head to the ring as we head to commercial.

Oh we come back to Carmella in the back with Reginald Sommelier. She says her champagne is sweet, almost as sweet as pinning Sasha Banks last week. She appreciates the hustle of Banks, but her hustle isn’t going to help when her talent just lacks behind Carmella’s. OK, now back to the ring for the match. Decent promo from Carmella.

Match #2 – Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: (c) Street Profits (Dawkins and Ford) vs. Dirty Dawgs (Ziggler and Roode)

For those interested, Ziggler has traded in his baseball cap for a beanie. Dawkins and Ziggler start us off. Ziggler gets a side headlock, Dawkins reverses and gets one then shoulder blocks Ziggler down. Dropkick from Dawkins then he tags in Ford, who has remembered to sell his leg a little bit since the bell rang. They double team Ziggler and Ford gets a near fall. Ziggler with a punch then tags in Roode and they start beating Ford down in the corner. Roode working over Ford, Ford fights back with punches of his own. Ford beats down Roode in the corner, but Roode kicks his leg to completely halt the momentum. Roode charges, but gets put on the apron and punched down. Ziggler charges, is tossed as well so Ford can dive over the top rope onto both men. Ford seems to have tweaked his knee again as we head to break.

Back and Dawkins is working over Roode while Ford tries to walk off his injury on the floor. Suplex from Dawkins, then an overhead throw. Running bulldog, sort of, from Dawkins gets a near fall. Ford isn’t even on the apron right now, he gets up there. Blind tag from Ziggler and Dawkins runs into a drop kick. Ziggler takes over, then distracts the ref so Roode can lay in a cheap shot. A front headlock from Ziggler, using that to control Dawkins and stop him from potentially tagging out. Roode tagged in and starts laying blows. Neckbreaker from Roode gets a near fall. Some trash talk from Roode, then Ziggler is tagged back in. They try to double team Dawkins, but Dawkins avoids a bronco buster and then tosses Roode out of the ring. Dawkins crawls to Ford, but Rood on the outside stops him from being there. Ford fights Roode off but Ziggler is grabbing at Dawkins now. Dawkins kicks him off, tags in Ford and Ford stops selling because it’s his turn for offense. Kicks from Ford, then a wild backhand. Roode in, takes a back drop, Ziggler runs into a discus clothesline but that’s just 2 for Ford. Ford wants the frog splash, but that seems ill advised as he’s selling again. Roode up to stall him, Ford kicks him off but Ziggler up and hits a top rope x-factor for a near fall. Ziggler wants the super kick now, but runs into one from Ford and both men are down. Ford into a cover, Roode breaks that up. Dawkins throws Roode out of the ring, then calls for the tag. Ford drags himself over, Roode distracts Dawkins and that let’s Ziggler take him out. Roll up from Ford for a near fall and Ziggler takes out the knee then tags in Roode. Roode with a fisherman suplex for a near fall. Roode is apoplectic at that kick out, he wants the DDT, Ford escapes and hits an enziguri. Ziggler tagged in, spinebuster assisted by a Zig Zag ends things.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Dirty Dawgs (Roode and Ziggler) won the titles

Rating: 3 stars

It might seem like I was hard on Ford’s selling, and to be clear he’s hardly alone in that bad habit, but those gripes aside that was a darn fine tag team match. Letting Dawkins do some heavy lifting was a nice change of pace from how the Profits usually lay out their matches.

The new champs attack the Profits after the bell, because they can.

In the back Pearce and Deville react to the title change. Paul Heyman comes up and introduces himself to Deville, who then heads out. Pearce wont change the gauntlet match. Heyman introduces himself and says he doesn’t want hostility, he was the reasonable one in the ring earlier. Heyman puts over Pearce, and notes that few people actually understand the legend of Scrap Iron Adam Pearce, and says he knows all about Pearce. He says this wasn’t Pearce’s dream, he knows Pearce wanted to be THE man. Heyman says he pulled strings and got Pearce added to the gauntlet match tonight, giving Pearce a chance to pursue his childhood dream. Heyman is happy for Pearce, and proud of him to get this chance. OK, that was amazing stuff from Heyman. The gauntlet match will allegedly start when we come back from break.

Back from break we recap Billie Kay trying to attach herself to the Riott Squad last week. In the back Morgan and Riott aren’t happy to see Kay come up to them. Kay wants to join so they can be the Riott Squad again instead of just a duo. Both Morgan and Riott decline, Kay fake cries, Morgan says it wasn’t that they didn’t want her. Kay jumps on that saying she can be punk, has been listening to Blink 182 and has apparently added “mosh pitting” to her resume. That was the best use of Kay’s silly gimmick they’ve done in weeks.

OK, the gauntlet match is getting started next. I half expect this list of participants to be erroneous, but you never know.

Match #3 – Number 1 Contenders’ Gauntlet Match: Rey Mysterio vs. King Corbin vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn vs. Adam Pearce

Rey and Zayn start us off. Zayn comes down with a mic and wants a moment to speak his piece. He demanded to be included in this match, and they did to his surprise. But of course he’s one of the first two, the people with the lowest statistical probability of winning, and dovetails into QAnon levels of conspiracy theory. He’s brought out a personal camera crew, unbiased documentarians to expose the conspiracy against Sami Zayn. And when it all comes to light people will see he’s the rightful champion. He’s not one to complain or feel sorry for himself though, he’s going to beat Rey and everyone else because Zayn is undeniable. We finally start, Rey hits a drop kick, a 619, a top rope splash and Zayn is done. Best use of Zayn’s character, he’s best as a whiny malcontent not someone who actually wins matches.

Nakamura comes out next, that part of the match will start when we come back from break.

They trade some kicks early, Rey winds up rolling over the top and landing a kick. Nakamura with knees and kicks, Rey with a head scissors. Nakamura catches a baseball slide, lands a knee but misses a dive. Rey with a sunset flip on the floor, Nakamura rolls through and hits a knee but back in the ring Rey kicks out at 2. No one lays in kicks and knees like Nakamura when he wants too. Nakamura with kicks in the corner to drop Rey for another near fall. Both men head up top, Nakamura in control and wants a superplex but Rey fights him off. Punches from Rey, then headbutts to drop Nakamura. Seated senton from Rey, then another one. Modified victory roll from Rey but Nakamura kicks out. Rey charges, is tossed to the apron then Nakamura lands a Kawada kick. Headbutt from Rey, then they botch a slingshot move that winds up with Nakamura eating a 619. Rey eats knees on a frog splash, Nakamura after the armbar and extends it to force the tap.

Corbin is next, he cheap shots Dominick on the outside then attacks Rey. Did he not see the outcome of that fall? Corbin poses over Rey as we head to break.

We come back to heel vs. heel as Corbin is attacking Nakamura. They trade rights, then Corbin lands a clothesline for a near fall. Corbin in control, doing the basic Corbin crowd killing offense. Nakamura avoids a charge and Corbin posts himself then eats a spinning kick. Corbin out of the ring, Nakamura gets caught jumping at him and driven into the post. That gets a 2 count in the ring and Corbin doesn’t like the count. Rights from Corbin, then a back suplex for 2. Nakamura escapes a suplex, then hits a running kick that the camera angle clearly shows missing. More kicks from Nakamura, then kicks in the corner as well. Second rope for Nakamura, hits a jumping thrust kick for a 2 count. Nakamura wants the Kinshasha, Corbin counters it with a deep six for 2. Triangle choke from Nakamura, Corbin powers out with a powerbomb. Corbin runs into a Kinshasha and he’s done.

Daniel Bryan is next, 6 years ago this would have been a genuine dream match. Those two will get going when we come back from break.

Bryan with a quick drop kick and uppercuts. Kicks from Bryan high and low, Nakamura lands a kick of his own but gets sent to the outside. Bryan with a suicide dive, why Bryan? You don’t need to do that man, we know you can. Back in the ring Bryan off the top rope but runs into a kick to the gut. Reverse exploder from Nakamura, he wants Kinshasha again but Bryan counters into a Boston half crab. Bryan switches to an ankle lock, then hits a German with a bridge as Nakamura got up for a 2 count. I love Bryan’s chain wrestling so much. Bryan starts landing the Yes kicks, but misses the buzzsaw kick and then Nakamura with a flying armbar. Bryan is trying to fight it off, he hitchhiker escapes into his own armbar. Nakamura escapes but Bryan transitions to the Yes lock. Bryan is cranking it, Nakamura wont tap though, so Bryan switches to a Rings of Saturn. Nakamura gets to the ropes before he has to tap and forces the break. I’ll say it again, I love Bryan’s chain wrestling. Bryan starts working on the arm of Nakamura, then sets Nakamura on the top rope. Top rope hurricanrana is slightly botched by Bryan, Nakamura then with a flying kick for a 2 count. Nakamura with knees to the body, then a glancing kick, both men with kicks then Nakamura with the armbar again. Bryan stacks Nakamura on the mat, and Nakamura has to break the hold to avoid the pinning predicament. They trade kicks now, both of these men brought their working boots for this match. Bryan gets the better of the striking, he unloads with kicks in the corner and Nakamura is down. Flying drop kicks from Bryan in the corner, but Nakamura counters the third with a Kinshasha to pin Bryan. Hands down the best of the gauntlet matches, and it’s not even close.

Bryan is unhappy, but helps Nakamura up and they shake hands. The music of Roman Reigns hits, he’s here with Heyman and Jey to observe the last part of the gauntlet match. Adam Pearce will be out after the break.

We come back, Roman and entourage are at the top of the ramp. Heyman helps call out Adam Pearce, who does make his way to the ring with much trepidation. Roman and Jey walk behind Pearce, not letting him back up. Jey jumps into the ring and jaw jacks with Nakamura, then cheap shots him. Roman is in the ring, they both beat the crap out of Nakamura. Pearce isn’t in the ring, so this next portion of the match hasn’t actually started. They’re gonna make Pearce win this aren’t they? Super kick from Jey, Roman with a superman punch, then a splash from Jey. Nakamura is down, Roman heads out to talk with Pearce. He says he does what he wants to do, this is his show and Pearce is his employee then tosses Pearce into the ring. Super kick from Jey, Pearce is down, they finally start the portion of the match and then drag Pearce’s carcass onto Nakamura so he wins.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Adam Pearce became the number one contender

Rating: 2 stars

Rating a gauntlet match is hard, Nakamura vs. Bryan was genuinely great for as long as it lasted but Rey vs. Zayn was an angle not a match. Rey vs. Nakamura was a bit too botchy for my tastes, and Corbin vs. Nakamura was every Corbin match ever. And I’m really not a fan of the booking decision here, you’ve still got Owens as a viable guy for one more run at Roman at the PPV. Heck, they just went out of their way to rehab Nakamura. Instead we’re doing something more soap operay with Pearce and Roman’s power grab? Seems oddly timed if nothing else.

Roman poses as commentary tries to sell shock at Pearce challenging Roman at the Rumble.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Maybe I'm just a little cranky from the tooth pain (I've got a root canal scheduled for Monday) but this wasn't quite the homerun for me it was for others. That said there was a LOT of good stuff here. The Dirty Dawgs and the Street Profits had maybe the best match the Profits have had since moving to Smackdown, the opening segment featured some genuinely great promo work from Roman, and there was a narrative through line for the whole show. Big E and Apollo Crews got hurt by the false finish and restart, felt like a good match deliberately hamstrung with the layout. The gauntlet match took up most of the second half of the show, and was very hit and miss. Nakamura and Rey had some botches that made me fear for both men's safety, Nakamura and Corbin was dragged down by Corbin being Corbin, but Nakamura and Bryan was legitimately awesome for as long as it lasted. I wasn't thrilled about taking Pearce and making him an active participant in the match and story like that, especially since the Rumble is one of the big PPV's. On a throwaway event, I could see it working better than sticking a backstage official into the Universal title picture as angle advancement for a marquee event. All in all though, despite botches, spotty selling, and some booking that I don't really agree with, one of the more entertaining episodes Smackdown has put out.

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WWE Smackdown, Robert Winfree