LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/24: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Royal Rumble go-home show, Bryan and Fiend contract signing, Reigns/Usos vs. Corbin/Ziggler/Roode, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 24, 2019
DALLAS, TX AT AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened cold on a sweeping shot of the floor of the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show as The Usos’ music hit and they headed to the ring for the advertised six man tag match. Cole and Graves threw to clips from last week’s tables match as Roman Reigns headed to the ring.

Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode headed to the ring in front of King Corbin, who sat atop his throne carried by his security detail.

(1) THE USOS (Jimmy & Jey) & ROMAN REIGNS vs. KING CORBIN & DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE

Jey Uso began the match with Dolph Ziggler. They traded headlocks. Ziggler shot Jey off the ropes, but Jey dropped him with a shoulder tackle. He made a quick tag to Jimmy Uso. The Usos hit double chops on Ziggler then followed it up with tandem elbow drops for a quick two count.

Ziggler rolled to his corner and tagged in Robert Roode. Roode and Jimmy chain wrestled briefly before Roode sent Jimmy to the corner, took him down, and began stomping him to the mat. Jimmy recovered quickly, returning to his feet and hitting roode with chops and punches.

Jimmy charged at Robert Roode. Roode lifted Jimmy over the top rope and dropped him to the floor. Jimmy immediately clutched at his knee area and came up hobbled. Ziggler charged and drove him head first into the ring steps. The referee cleared Corbin and Ziggler from the area as Jey and Roman came to check on him. Trainers came to Jimmy’s aid. He was returned to his feet and helped to the back as Cole sent the show to commercial.

Roman Reigns backed Dolph Ziggler into the ropes when the show returned from commercial. Cole reset the match as a 3-on-2 handicap match following Jimmy’s supposed injury. Reigns tagged in Jey, who gave Dolph a snapmare and headbutt for a quick two count. Ziggler fought back with an elbow to the head and tagged in King Corbin.

King Corbin tried to silence the crowd. Jey Uso quickly fired off some punches. He caught Corbin with an elbow then ascended to the top rope. Jey dove, but rolled through Corbin as he attempted to counter. Jey walked into a Deep Six from Corbin for a near fall. Corbin began jawing with Roman Reigns, who briefly stepped into the ring to confront him.

Corbin tossed Jey to the outside, then went back to argue with Reigns. This allowed Dolph Ziggler to attack Jey Uso on the outside. Robert Roode drove Jey into the LED board after being tagged in. He returned to the ring with Uso and hit a neckbreaker for a two count. Roode tagged Ziggler in again.

Ziggler continued isolating Jey Uso from his corner, tagging Corbin. The trio traded tags and continued to beat down Jey. Jey recovered enough to knock Ziggler and Corbin off the apron. He hit a step up enziguri on Robert Roode and crawled to make the tag. King Corbin ran to the other side of the ring and ripped Reigns off the apron to prevent the tag. Corbin tossed Reigns into the crowd. Cole sent the show to commercial.

King Corbin tossed Jey Uso into the ring as the show returned from break. Roman Reigns was still down in the crowd. Jey Uso countered Corbin and sent him shoulder first into the ring post. Roman Reigns slowly returned to the apron. Jey Uso made it the his corner, dragging Corbin with him. Reigns exploded into the ring. Corbin quickly tagged out.

Reigns dropped Ziggler with a pair of clotheslines, then ten corner clotheslines. He followed up with a big boot. Reigns played to the crowd and set up for the Superman Punch. Robert Roode distracted the referee. Corbin grabbed Reigns from behind, allowing Ziggler to recover and connect with a super kick for a near fall.

Ziggler returned to his feet and tossed Reigns to the outside, then began arguing with the referee, allowing Roode to beat down Reigns. Ziggler rolled to the outside to talk trash to Reigns. He scooped him up and tossed him back in the ring, then hit a jumping elbow for a two count.

Ziggler tagged in Corbin. King Corbin continued to beat down Reigns. He eventually tagged in Robert Roode, who set up for the Glorious DDT. Reigns rolled through into a cover for a near fall. He scooped Roode up and into a sit out power bomb. Jey Uso returned to the apron. Reigns pulled himself across the ring, but Ziggler pulled Jey off the apron and threw him into the barricade repeatedly, then tossed him over the announcers desk.

Meanwhile, Roode tagged in King Corbin. Corbin beat Reigns into the corner and fired away at his midsection. Corbin tagged in Ziggler and told him to “finish it.” Ziggler hit Roman with a delayed neckbreaker for a two count. Ziggler set up for the super kick, but Reigns cut him off with a Superman Punch.

The camera cut to the ramp as Jimmy Uso hobbled his way back to the ring. He hopped onto the apron and Reigns tagged him in. Ziggler tagged in Roode. Jimmy took down everyone in sight, then dove over the top rope onto King Corbin. He returned to the ring and hit Roode with a cross body off the top rope. He covered, but King Corbin broke up the pin.

Corbin grabbed Jimmy and tried for an End of Days. Jimmy rolled through. Reigns returned and dropped Corbin with a Superman punch. Reigns chased Corbin to the outside. Corbin tried to retreat, but Reigns caught up to him and tossed him into the crowd. Reigns and Corbin began brawling in the crowd.

In the ring, Jimmy Uso set up for a splash onto Robert Roode. Ziggler grabbed his leg. Jey Uso dove at Ziggler from the outside to take him out. Roode hopped up to the top rope to meet Jimmy. Jimmy punched him back to the mat and connected with the splash for a three count.

WINNERS: Roman Reigns & The Usos in 25:00

The show cut abruptly to commercial almost immediately after the bell rang. Seemed like a definite mistake.

(LeClair’s Analysis: There were pieces of the match that were a lot of fun, but this ran long, with a huge chunk of it being multiple heel beatdowns followed by hot tags back and forth between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso. Jimmy’s injury angle and subsequent return was relatively well executed, and this set all of the angles up nicely going into Sunday’s Royal Rumble.)

-When the show returned from the abrupt commercial break, Cole and Graves were narrating a recap of last week’s segment involving Kane and The Fiend, followed by Daniel Bryan’s attack on The Fiend. The teased the contract signing for their Royal Rumble strap match.

-Backstage, Lacey Evans was partaking in a photo shoot. Graves said she’d be out next to address her Royal Rumble match.

-After the break, Corey Graves threw to a Progressive “Match Flo”, recapping Lacey Evans’ victory over Bayley last week.

-Michael Cole, standing atop the stage, welcomed Lacey Evans. Cole asked Evans why she questioned Sasha Banks’ and Bayley’s leadership. Evans said she did it because they’re bullies, and you need to stand up to bullies. Cole referenced Lacey’s rough upbringing and asked if that’s why she’s motivated to deal with Banks and Bayley.

Evans said she lost her father to addiction and that it taught her to stand up to stacked decks. She said you can set anything you put your mind to. Lacey teared up. “You can make it, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.” Lacey said her career in the Marines eventually led her to WWE.

Cole asked Lacey what kind of leader she’d be if she becomes champion. Lacey said she’d use her platform to set a good example . Cole threw to a clip of Banks antagonizing Lacey’s daughter. He asked Lacey what goes through her mind watching that clip. Lacey said her daughter was brave, but people didn’t see her crying backstage.

Lacey said her daughter is more worried about her than ever because of two bullies. She said he’d put Bayley on the shelf. Bayley emerged from the back and attacked Lacey Evans from behind. Referees spilled from the back to separate the two. Lacey returned to her feet as the camera faded out.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Carmella and Dana Brooke. She asked how they felt about the Royal Rumble match. Carmella said she’s the odds on favorite to win. She listed her prior accolades. Dana said everyone’s seen Carmella’s Wikipedia page. “Everyone has chances to take big swings at anyone,” Dana said. Brooke said she may be perceived as an underdog, but she knows what she needs to do.

The camera turned to show Bayley and Lacey Evans continuing to brawl backstage. Carmella and Dana Brooke joined the referees in trying to separate them. The show faded to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Lacey’s crying, which should have worked for her in this promo, wound up working against her because she was struggling to get her message across. While she’s improved greatly as a babyface in recent weeks, she still seems to have a ways to go before putting it all together. Still, her feud with Bayley has been developing nicely and Sunday will be an interesting test of both of their progress in these new roles.)

-After the break, Alexa Bliss headed to the ring with Nikki Cross. Cole and Graves threw to a recap of last week’s match and Otis’ involvement. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville headed to the ring. They cut to a conversation between Mandy and Sonya earlier in the day. They apologized to each other for the way last week went down.

(2) ALEXA BLISS & NIKKI CROSS vs. MANDY ROSE & SONYA DEVILLE

Alexa Bliss began the match with Sonya Deville. They locked up. Almost immediately, Lacey Evans and Bayley rushed in the ring, continuing their brawl. All six women battled for a few moments as Cole and Graves talked up the Royal Rumble match.

WINNERS: No contest

(LeClair’s Analysis: I very much dislike these contrived brawls that aim to show chaos leading into the Royal Rumble match. It’s hardly even worth the time it takes to set up a match that they’re not going to follow through on.)

-Backstage, Elias was shown strumming his guitar. Braun Strowman approached and said “let’s go to work.” Cole said they’d team up after the break.

-Greg Hamilton introduced Elias after the commercial. He stood in the ring with his guitar and recapped the purpose of the Royal Rumble match. He said he’d put his heart and soul into winning the match. He said he wrote a song called “Texas Dream.” He ran through opponents in the Royal Rumble, then welcomed Braun Strowman. Strowman’s music hit and he headed to the ring, apparently to help Elias sing.

Elias said even though it’s every man for himself at Royal Rumble, he thought it’d be a special treat to do a duet tonight. He asked the crowd if they’d like to see it. They broke into a “yes” chant. Elias handed Braun a microphone. The show abruptly cut to commercial again.

When the show returned, Strowman had apparently already completed his verse. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro were headed to the ring, accompanied by Sami Zayn.

(3) BRAUN STROWMAN & ELIAS vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & CESARO (w/ Sami Zayn)

Elias began the match with Cesaro. He quickly slapped on a headlock, but Cesaro worked through it and delivered a series of kicks and uppercuts. Elias recovered quickly, bouncing Cesaro’s head off the turnbuckle and dropping him with a clothesline. Elias twisted Cesaro’s arm and climbed to the top rope, looking for a variation of Undertaker’s “old school.” Instead, he leaped off the ropes and drove his knees into Cesaro’s chest and shoulders.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn distracted the referee long enough for Cesaro to regain control. Braun Strowman, frustrated by the interference, charged around the ring and dropped Nakamura. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Cesaro isolated Elias in the corner when the show returned from the break. Elias fought his way out and knocked Nakamura off the apron, trying to then reach his corner to make the tag. Cesaro cut him off and applied a grounded headlock. Cesaro dragged Elias back to his corner, tagging in Shinsuke Nakamura.

Nakamura and Cesaro kicked Strowman off the apron. Elias rid the ring of Cesaro, but quickly got caught with a stiff kick from Shinsuke. Nakamura set up for the Kinshasa. He instead ran into a high knee to the face from Elias. Both men struggled to their respective corners.

Elias reached Strowman, who had returned to the apron. Braun knocked Cesaro off the apron and plowed through Nakamura. He hit a body blow out of the corner, then tossed Nakamura clear across the ring. He followed up with a forearm to the chest. Nakamura side stepped another corner body blow and caught Nakamura with a trio of kicks, allowing himself to tag in Cesaro.

Cesaro and Nakamura worked together to drive Strowman shoulder first into the ring post. They took Strowman down with a tandem Russian leg sweep. Cesaro covered for a near fall. Sami Zayn got up on the apron to distract the referee. Nakamura went to retrieve a steel chair. Elias cut him off. In the ring, Strowman caught Cesaro with a running power slam. He tagged in Elias, who hit a flying elbow for the three count.

WINNERS: Braun Strowman & Elias in 8:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match. Nakamura and Cesaro continue to be an entertaining tag team having solid matches on a weekly basis. Eventually, though, they need to win. This match would’ve been the perfect opportunity, given the weak link in Elias. Isolate Strowman, pin Elias, and get a little bit of momentum going forward. Instead, Elias, of all people, got the pin. Zayn’s crew has been too good as of late to not beat the likes of Elias. Hopefully the duo can have a long, impressive showing in the Rumble on Sunday. They’ve both done it in the past.)

-Cole and Graves threw to Daniel Bryan’s promo from last week’s show and teased the contract signing for later in the night.

-Backstage, Big E was shown being oiled up by an assistant of sorts. Kofi approached, confused. Big E said “if your boy is greasy, eliminating him can’t be easy.” E turned his attention to Kofi’s match with John Morrison tonight. Kofi talked about his chance to quell the excitement surrounding Morrison’s return, then talked up he and E’s participating in the Royal Rumble match. They said they’d have a showing for their boy, Xavier Woods. Cole said Kofi’s match would be next.

-Cole and Graves recapped the opening six man tag match out of the break.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton approached King Corbin, asking if he was concerned about his match with Roman Reigns. Corbin asked if he looked concerned. He turned the question on Kayla and admonished her for “asking stupid questions.” Corbin said he’d beat Reigns so badly that handcuffs and dog food would look like child’s play. He said Reigns won’t even make the Royal Rumble match, but he’s going to win it and go on to win the Universal title at WrestleMania.

-At the announcers desk, Cole talked up Reigns’ accomplishments in the Royal Rumble match and then threw to an updated Royal Rumble “by the numbers” video package.

-Big E’s voice filled the arena. He and Kofi Kingston headed to the ring, E gyrating, Kofi tossing pancakes. Cole and Graves talked about their odds of winning the Royal Rumble match on Sunday. Cole said Kofi would face John Morrison after the break.

-The show returned with Sheamus in a blackened room. He discussed going after Shorty G three weeks ago. He called him a “sneaky little rodent.” Sheamus said he won’t make the same mistake he did last week at the Royal Rumble. “I’ll finish what I started,” Sheamus declared.

-In the ring, Big E and Kofi Kingston continued to dance around to their music. John Morrison’s music hit. He walked onto the stage. The show abruptly cut to another commercial.

Miz and John Morrison were on the ramp when the show came back. Miz was telling the crowd that he’s still the same guy. He called himself, and John Morrison, winners. He announced that both he and Morrison were entering the Royal Rumble match.

(4) KOFI KINGSTON (w/ Big E) vs. JOHN MORRISON (w/ The Miz)

Kofi Kingston and John Morrison circled the ring. They locked up, and Morrison backed Kofi into the corner. Kingston quickly pushed out. The traded quick counters of each other’s kicks, then locked up again. Morrison again backed Kofi into the corner, then shot him across the ring.

Kofi battled back and gave Morrison a monkey flip. He charged at Morrison, but John tossed him to the outside and initiated a corkscrew dive over the top rope. Kofi ducked, sending Morrison crashing. Kofi hit a dive of his own onto Morrison. Big E and Miz argued at ringside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Kofi was fighting to his feet out of a half crab when the show returned from break. Both men returned to their feet. Kofi hit a kick out of the corner and tried to roll up Morrison, who countered with a knee to the face. Morrison set up for Starship Pain. Kofi rolled out of the way and headed to the apron. he hit a springboard clothesline, followed by a pair of chops and a clothesline.

Morrison recovered quickly, kicking Kofi in the chest. Kingston countered a whip to the corner and caught him with a leaping hurricanrana, followed by double knees for a near fall. Kofi kicked Morrison while he was down on the mat, then connected with a Boom Drop. Kingston set up for Trouble in Paradise. Morrison ducked underneath it and caught Kofi with a spinning kick to the face.

Morrison lifted Kingston onto the turnbuckle and met Kofi on the ropes. Kofi gave Morrison a headbutt, knocking him off the ropes and into the referee. Morrison poked Kofi in the eye while the referee was turned around, then hit a Spanish Fly from the middle rope for a near fall.

Morrison went for a punch, but Kofi countered into an SOS for a near fall of his own. Morrison caught Kofi in a roll up and used the ropes for leverage. Big E knocked his feet off the ropes. Miz came around to confront Big E. Big E gave chase. Miz hopped up onto the apron. Kofi took him out with Trouble in Paradise. Morrison kicked Kofi from behind, leaped to the top rope and hit Starship Pain for a three count.

WINNER: John Morrison in 10:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. Morrison quickly getting re-acclimated with WWE and is working incredibly well with New Day right out of the gate. This is a great spot for him, a great spot for Miz, and a good feud for New Day. Looking forward to seeing what all four of these guys do in the Royal Rumble match.)

-Backstage, Daniel Bryan was shown walking down a hallway. Corey Graves said he and Bray Wyatt would sign their Royal Rumble contract next.

-After the break, Michael Cole was in the ring with the contract table. He explained the rules of a strap match, then welcomed Daniel Bryan. Bryan headed to the ring, sporting his new eco-friendly shirt. He led the crowd in a “yes” chant. Cole then welcomed Universal Champion, Bray Wyatt.

The Firefly Funhouse title card appeared on screen. It cut to Bray Wyatt with dozens of crumpled contracts. He was trying to fax it, but said he was having trouble trying to get it to work. The fax machine started smoking. Wyatt smacked it. He picked up the phone and said he was calling customer service. Bray wondered why Bryan would want to be tied to “him.”

Bryan cut him off. He said he knows Wyatt is a sick man, but he implored him to come sign the contract. Bray said that wasn’t very nice. He said he’s not sick, in fact, he’s never been better. Wyatt said his attorney, Mercy the Buzzard, advised him to stay in the Funhouse.

Bryan said he sees through him. “The truth is, all you do is run,” Bryan said. He said Bray runs from his past, he runs from his mistakes, but on Sunday, he won’t be able to run. Bray said the word of the day is “mistake,” because Bryan never learned from his. He reminded Bryan that he betrayed him.

“You won’t be competing against me on Sunday, so it’s only fitting that he sign the contract.” The lights cut out and the familiar electrical noises filled the arena. Bryan looked around nervously. The returned an eerie red. The Fiend was standing in the center of the ring, holding the strap.

Bryan immediately attacked. The Fiend quickly gained the upper hand and applied the mandible claw to Bryan, dropping him in the corner. The Fiend pulled Bryan out and hit Sister Abigail. He ripped Bryan’s shirt off his body, then whipped Bryan’s back with the strap repeatedly.

The Fiend sat down in the chair, grabbed the pen and looked at it. He jabbed the palm of his own hand repeatedly, then stamped the contract with blood. He stood up and dropped the contract at Bryan’s head. The camera zoomed in on The Fiend’s face. The lights cut out. When they returned, Bryan was alone in the ring with welts forming on his back. The camera zoomed in on the blood covered contract.

Cole and Graves solemnly remarked on The Fiend’s blood signature. Bryan returned to his knees, feeding off the crowd’s “yes” chant. “Be careful what you wish for,” Graves said. The show went off the air.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Interesting go-home segment for this feud. The crowd was clearly hoping to see The Fiend in person, and they reacted as such when they got their wish. Bryan, through limited mic work, continues to be one of the most effective and believable babyfaces on the roster. The Fiend’s blood signature was a powerful message to close out of the show, and be the lasting image heading into the match on Sunday. While it borders on hokey and a tad bit overdramatic, this character is likely one of the few who could get away with it. Hopefully these two can really put on an excellent match and bring some credibility to this character’s ring work.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Though I thought the show was paced a bit strangely, it served as a solid go-home affair for Smackdown heading into the Rumble on Sunday. I’ve been pleased with the story development given to feuds outside of the Rumble match, and hope that they wind up being referenced within the match itself. Often times, the Royal Rumble matches wind up feeling like disconnected marathons that exist in a vacuum rather than part of on-going storylines. This year, perhaps more so than in the last several, there are a lot of intriguing angles and side stories heading into the match that could, and should be utilized throughout. In general, Smackdown continues to lag behind Raw and NXT, but has been closing the distance ever so slightly in the last few weeks.

NOTE: My feed was abruptly interrupted on three separate occasions tonight by a single commercial. At no point did commentary acknowledge this, so I have to assume this was a local feed snafu. I don’t believe I missed anything significant, but the commercials were interrupting on-going live segments. I’ve made note when they occurred.

 

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