Roman Reigns was thoroughly outsmarted by Adam Pearce in a respectable episode of SmackDown.
These WWE SmackDown results for January 15, 2021, contain major spoilers.
As I’ve said before, I really like “Roman Reigns sits intimidatingly in leather chairs and sends Paul Heyman on errands” as a character trait, and his constant tormenting of Adam Pearce has been a great on-going way to lean into that character development. With a contract signing for Reigns’ match with Pearce at the upcoming Royal Rumble being the plot thread hanging over this week’s episode of SmackDown, it was only right to shift things up at the last minute and give Pearce the chance to outsmart the Tribal Chief. It capped off a decent episode of the Blue Brand, so let’s unpack it.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jey Uso
With Reigns hogging so much of the limelight, it’s easy to forget that Jey Uso has a whole thing going on as his lackey, so he opened the show tonight with a promo calling out Shinsuke Nakamura for… having the temerity to do well in last week’s gauntlet match, I guess. It was a decent promo from Uso, who’s putting some energy into being the third wheel, and Nakamura coming out, insulting him for being Reigns’ “little puppy”, and kicking him in the face was good for a laugh.
The match itself was fine – I love that sliding German suplex spot – but hampered a bit by an ill-timed commercial break and Cesaro weirdly coming out mid-match to join the commentary team. It’s a nice inversion of the usual formula, with Uso the one being outnumbered, but it’s clearly teeing up a split and feud between Cesaro and Nak that detracted from this match a bit. Also, I’d have preferred Nak to go over clean rather than on the back of Uso arguing with the ref about getting caught in a dirty pin, but that’s a minor quibble.
Liv Morgan vs. Natalya
Ugh. I could have done without this, in all honesty. Basically a showcase for Billie Kay, who has adopted the Riott Squad punk gimmick and spent almost the entire match playing comic relief on commentary, it was a waste of what might have been a decent match between Natalya and Morgan. The distraction that led to Natalya securing the rollup, with Kay stumbling through the ring after being chased off by a ringside Tamina, was pure slapstick nonsense. Kay is great at what she’s doing, but the question we should be asking is why on earth is she being asked to do it?
Rey Mysterio vs. King Corbin
It sucks to be a member of the Mysterio family. I mean, Rey is wrestling royalty, obviously, but whatever we’re supposed to think about Dominik it probably isn’t that he’s a pouty loser, which is all he seems to be coming across as at the moment. Rey made Corbin look great in this match, highlight the size difference and selling the hell out of his power moves, but he also punked Dominik to such an extent that he looked kind of ridiculous, and Rey didn’t come off much better either. We’re obviously building to the young Mysterio having enough of being in his father’s shadow and becoming his own man, but too much of this and that moment won’t take when we get there.
Ding Dong, Hello! with Bianca Belair
So, Bayley, dressed like a fully-fledged Karen, has her own talk show now, that works in basically the exact same way as Miz TV in that the heel brings out whoever they’re currently feuding with – or, one supposes, virtually anyone else – and annoys them for the entirety of the segment. Bayley’s good on the mic and Belair did a solid befuddled turn in her own right, but it only really existed to set up an obstacle course for next week.
Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro
It should come as no surprise to anyone anywhere that this was a great match since Daniel Bryan and Cesaro are two of the best technical workers in the company. I’d happily watch them wrestle every week, but since Bryan seems pretty determined to put people over consistently, we probably won’t need to. Cesaro went over clean with a giant uppercut followed by a Neutralizer, and Bryan still has enough name value for that to be a meaningful win. We all want more Cesaro. Just give us more Cesaro.
Apollo Crews vs. Sami Zayn
I’m pretty mixed on Zayn’s conspiracist gimmick. On the one hand, it’s a great gimmick, and it’s funny, and there’s a lot more that can be done with it, but on the other hand, it requires him to lose a lot, and I miss the days when Zayn was just allowed to deliver great matches no questions asked. There were glimmers of one here, but it was mostly just an angle, with Crews going over and Big E being present at ringside. Heel Crews against Big E for the IC title – next week – is a solid match, though.
Royal Rumble Contract Signing
No contract signing in the history of the WWE has ever gone to plan, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this one didn’t either. But I really like the angle they took. Heyman had spent the entire episode badgering Pearce into signing off on various stipulations that supposedly benefitted him but obviously didn’t, and Reigns was indescribably smug about it all, right up until he wasn’t. Pearce, after declaring that he’d been waiting all night for Reigns to sign the contract, feigned a lingering knee injury on his way out of the ring. Obviously, as a WWE official, he’s liable to change matches with suitable replacements if necessary, and since he’s obviously gravely injured, a suitable replacement is required. That suitable replacement? Kevin Owens, of course, who will officially take on Reigns in a Last Man Standing match at the Royal Rumble.
These were our WWE SmackDown results for January 15, 2021.