SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 15, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Ring Announcers: Greg Hamilton
-A video recap aired of last week’s Roman Reigns-Adam Pearce happenings including Pearce “winning” the Gauntlet match.
-Backstage, Reigns was shown staring at the contract for the Universal Title match at Royal Rumble. Paul Heyman over his shoulders told him this is a standard boilerplate contract. He changed his tone when he sensed Reigns didn’t like what he read, so he said: “I hate it, too. Didn’t like it from the moment I read it. The match needs a stipulation.” He said the match should have a stipulation that allows him to be him and will teach Pearce respect. He offered to take the contract from him and make changes, then bring it to Pearce. “You can consider this handled,” Heyman said. Reigns said nothing verbally, but his body language and facial expressions said so much.
-As Jey Uso made his entrance, Cole said he’s been complicit with all the actions of his cousin, Reigns. Graves said Jey has become an essential figure in Reigns’s rise to power. He called him his “right-hand man.” Jey said, “Welcome to the Bloodline Show,” he said. He said nobody else runs the show but them – not Pearce, not Kevin Owens. He said his family is calling the shots. He said they’re not satisfied with just Smackdown. He said the locker room should be “Thank you, Roman” for making them relevant, for providing them with hot catering, and everything else good in their lives. He declared himself an entrant in the Rumble, and he said he’s going to win the Rumble, and then he’s going to beat Drew McIntyre or Goldberg at WrestleMania to become WWE Champion and “we will be the whole WWE.”
He turned to Nakamura next. He said everyone was talking about how good he did in the Gauntlet match last week. He asked, “If he’s King of Strong style, let’s see how strong you are.” He said he crossed his family, so he’s putting him out on a stretcher or worse. Nakamura’s music played. He came out to piped in cheers. Cole said he didn’t understand what Jey was saying because Nakamura didn’t cross his family at all. Nakamura entered the ring and said, “If Roman Reigns is the big dog, that makes you his little puppy.” He laughed. The audience laughed. Jey charged at him, but Nakamura gave him a boot to the face. Jey went down as Nakamura celebrated. Cole said they battle one-on-one next.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nakamura was presented and framed as a babyface here, so that makes it official.) [c]
(1) JEY USO vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
Nakamura dominated early. A few minutes in, Cesaro’s music played and he walked to the ring. Nakamura slidekicked Jey into the announce desk and then into the ringpost. They cut to a break as Cesaro pointed and smiled at Nakamura from ringside. [c]
Cesaro joined the announcers on commentary. They asked him why he didn’t help Nakamura last week, and he said the venue was so big he couldn’t get there in time. This hinted at him perhaps being the one to eliminate Nakamura at the Rumble by turning on him. He said he had breaking news, which was he was entering the Rumble match. “Wow!” said Graves, overselling the announcement a bit. The announcers asked Cesaro if he decided which title he’d go after if he wins.
(Keller’s Analysis: They’re really pushing more this year that the winner could choose to face the champion from the other brand, which could indicate Drew or Roman entering and choosing to face the other. Jey’s comment about the family not being content with Smackdown dominance also points toward Reigns winning and challenging Drew at WM to unify the belts.)
Nakamura set up a Kinsasha, but Jey kicked him as he charged. Jey then leaped off the top rope, but Nakamura lifted his knees. Jey sidestepped a charging Nakamura and then shoved Nakamura shoulder-first into the ringpost and then rolled him up for a three count. His feet were on ropes for leverage. Ref Charles Robinson discovered it and rescinded the three count. As Jey complained, Nakamura hit him with a Kinshasa for the win.
WINNER: Nakamura in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid match.)
-Graves plugged Bayley’s new talk show “Ding Dong, Hello!”
-Backstage Sonya Deville told Adam Pearce she’s watched his past matches and she thinks he has a shot against Roman. Pearce said he hasn’t been that guy for a long time. Heyman walked in and offered Pearce the revised contract offer from Reigns. Heyman said Pearce has a chance to main event the Royal Rumble against Reigns. He said the stipulation is in his favor, as it’ll be fought under no DQ rules. Pearce said it’s ridiculous, but he’ll sign it. He said Reigns wants to see him get injured, and he probably will. He handed the contract back to Heyman, seemingly resigned to his fate. [c]
-Uso yelled at referee Robinson backstage, telling him to do his job better or he might find himself fired. Robinson asked what he meant and looked worried. “Charles, do you job!” Jey said before turning and leaving.
-Cole and Graves reacted to Jey’s threats. Then he threw to a sponsored recap of Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode winning the Smackdown Tag Team Titles last week.
-Kayla Braxton asked The Street Profits if it was smart of them to put their tag titles on the line so shortly after they were attacked during their New Year’s Celebration and Ford suffered a knee injury. Montez Ford said they can be called many things, but not scared. Angelo Dawkins said the rematch will end in their favor. And, yes, they still want the smoke.
-Backstage Reigns was having a chat with Apollo Crews. The crowd noise drowned out what he was saying, but he asked if Crews understood him, and Crews nodded yes. Heyman presented Reigns with the signed contract. Reigns told Crews to stick around because he can learn something. Reigns said he’s not going to sign it because he doesn’t want a no DQ stip, he wants a Last Man Standing match. Heyman said Pearce will never go for that. Reigns said he will because Heyman will make it happen. Reigns handed it back to Heyman and, without looking at him, said, “Paul, I’ll consider this handled.” Reigns went back to chatting with Crews, seeming to offer advice.
-They went back to Cole and Graves. Cole asked, “Since when are Roman and Apollo friends?” They pivoted to recapping the King Corbin attack on Rey Mysterio last week. Graves hyped Bayley’s “Ding Dong, Hello!” premiere episode with Bianca Belair as her guest.
(Keller’s Analysis: The “ding dong” noise is going to drive a lot of families nuts when their dogs start barking every time they hype the segment on Smackdown.)
(2) LIV MORGAN (w/Ruby Riott) vs. NATALYA (w/Tamina)
Billie Kaye came out with Riott Squad and posed with them at ringside, then joined the announcers at ringside. Cole asked Billie about being in Riott Squad now. With Morgan in control, Billie cheered from ringside. Tamina asked Billie, “What is wrong with you?” Billie ran into the ring scared of Tamina and got in the way of Liv. Liv asked, “What are you doing?” Natalya then rolled up Liv for the win.
WINNER: Natalya in 5:00.
-They replayed Corbin attacking Rey and Dominik last week. Cole said Corbin has a “sick fascination with the Mysterio family.”
-Rey Mysterio made his ring entrance with Dominik. [c]
(3) BARON CORBIN vs. REY MYSTERIO
Corbin’s ring entrance took place. Cole said he was displaying a smug smile. They were joined at ringside by Dominik. Corbin clotheslined Rey a minute in, then shoved Dominik at ringside. Corbin returned to the ring and made the cover, but only scored a two count. Graves told Dominik he needs to stand up for himself. Dominik said he doesn’t want to interfere with his dad’s business. Graves suggested he’s scared of Corbin. Dominik said he’s not scared, he just knows his dad can handle himself. (Dominik’s speaking cadence and tone sounds like Joe Pera!) Corbin battered Rey and fended off any attempts at sustained offense. When he taunted Dominik, Dominik stood and got in Corbin’s face. Corbin knocked him down. When Corbin returned to the ring, Rey took control briefly, but Dominik ran into the ring. Rey turned and told him to get out. Corbin shoved Rey into Dominik, then landed End of Days for the win.
WINNER: Corbin in 5:00.
-Graves hyped Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan.
-Backstage Heyman approached Pearce with a smile. Heyman said Reigns agreed with his concerns about a no DQ match at the Rumble. Heyman revealed Reigns’s idea for a Last Man Standing match. Pearce asked why he’d want to do that. He shook his head and looked over the contract. Heyman told him to take his time because he can bring up any issues he has with it to Reigns’s face in the ring later. He said he’d leave him with his thoughts, “and I’ll also consider this handled.”
-Graves said this is about humiliating Pearce.
-As workers set up the new “Ding Dong, Hello!” set, Cole said this is supposed to be the hottest new talk show sensation. [c]
-Backstage Rey confronted Dominik. Dominik asked Rey why he is choosing to back down. Rey said he’s just being smart about it, “and I suggest you do the same, my son.” He told him he can’t take on Corbin without a plan. He held his face and said he’s a former Golden Gloves Boxer. Dominik said he doesn’t care about all that. Rey told him he knows who they should talk to if he wants to face Corbin.
-Graves said he hopes Rey is going to recommend Dominik talk to a priest or a doctor.
-“Ding Dong, Hello!” with Bayley: Bayley was dressed up like a talk show host and walked through a door that was set up mid-ring. She welcomed everyone to her show. She introduced Belair as her guest as “a woman I’ve had my eye on for quite some time.” When Belair entered the ring, Bayley insisted she ring the doorbell. Bayley said, “I wonder who that could be.” Belair looked around the doorframe and told her she knows who it is. Bayley got up and opened the door for her. Belair sat on Bayley’s comfortable chair. Bayley said that was her chair, but she agreed to stand. She congratulated her on her WWE Chronicle that is premiering Jan. 24 on WWE Network. She said she’s sure she’ll create even more Bianca Belair believers after that. Bayley then threw to a video clip of Bayley pinning Belair last month on Smackdown. Bayley said that wasn’t supposed to air.
Belair asked her why she calls herself the E-S-T of WWE. Belair began explaining it was her nickname for a long time. Bayley asked if it’s a little disrespectful to all the women who built the division. Belair asked if she’s really getting mad about her nickname. She said she doesn’t say it to brag, she does it to be her authentic real self. Bayley said she is the best because she beat her a few weeks ago. Belair suggested they can deconstruct the set and have a rematch. Bayley said she already proved herself. Bayley said she has an idea to have an obstacle course next week. Belair laughed at the prospects, then said, “Thank you, challenge accepted.” She said there’s no way she can whip her, “so now ding dong that.” She then danced.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think Bayley succeeded at being more unlikable than Belair, who seemed to adjust her act to be more endearing and less gratingly cartoonishly cocky than usual.)
-Chad Gable led Daniel Bryan and Otis in warm-ups backstage. Bryan said he’s all in with Gable’s training if it makes him even slightly better in his match tonight. Kayla asked Bryan if he lost confidence after losing to Nakamura. Bryan said there’s no shame in losing to Nakamura because he has infinite respect for him. Cesaro walked in and told Bryan he doesn’t speak for him. He said the only reason Nakamura shook his hand is he felt sorry for him. He said it was done out of pity. He mocked the Gable hip thrust warm-up they were doing. Bryan stared down Cesaro and said he’d show him how well they work in the ring.
-Cole said that was earlier in the day as Bryan made his ring entrance. [c]
(4) DANIEL BRYAN vs. CESARO
After the action spilled to ringside, they cut to a break around 5:00. [c]
After several more minutes of back and forth action including a battle of Cesaro Sharpshooters vs. Bryan crossfaces, Graves said he could watch this all night. Bryan began the “Yes!” chant and charged at Cesaro. Cesaro gave him a lift-and-drop uppercut and then a Neutralizer for the win. Cole called it a “career-defining win” for Cesaro.
WINNER: Cesaro in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match, but the European Uppercut showed some light.)
-Kayla interviewed Carmella with Reginald. She said she hasn’t seen Sasha Banks since she pinned her two weeks ago. She said she proved she is better than her in every way. Sasha showed up and attacked her. She got in Reginald’s face when he stepped in front of Carmella. Sasha said Carmella can have her title match as long she can get Reginald in the ring first. She let out an awkward guteral fake-sounding laugh.
-Cole said it sounds like a good idea to him. Graves said Reginald knows about wine, not hammerlocks.
-Apollo Crews made his ring entrance. [c]
-They showed Heyman giving Crews a pep talk on Talking Smack last week. Cole wondered if that has something to do with Crews hanging out with Reigns this week. Graves said he has no doubt, and Heyman can be one of the best motivators in the game.
(5) SAMI ZAYN vs. APOLLO CREWS
Sami made his entrance with his documentary crew. Big E joined the announcers at ringside. He lounged on a couch while snacking on strawberries and blueberries in a cup. Cole asked Big E about the pep talk Heyman gave him right before he won the IC Title. Big E said Crews needs Heyman’s words more than he does. Sami clotheslined Crews over the top rope. Big E laughed off Cole’s question about Sami’s conspiracy theories. Sami punched Crews at ringside. Crews made a comeback and tossed Sami around the ring and then went for a standing moonsault. Sami lifted his knees, then rolled up Crews with a handful of tights. The ref stopped her count. Sami yelled at her, then gave Crews an Exploder Suplex into the corner. Crews then rolled up Sami with a yank of his pants for the win.
WINNER: Crews in 3:00.
-After the match, Crews picked up Big E’s Intercontinental Title belt and looked it over. Big E stood up and warned Crews, who tossed the belt back to him. They exchanged some heated words. Cole said Crews might have earned himself another opportunity at the IC Title. [c]
-Reigns, Heyman, and Uso made their way to the ring. Graves said there’s no rule that says the Universal Champion has to be a nice guy. Pearce walked out next to near silence. Graves said Pearce must feel like the loneliest man on Earth right now. Pearce sat at the contract signing table. Reigns got up and circled him. Heyman leaned in and talked to Pearce. Uso grabbed at Pearce and startled him and told him to stand up. Pearce the moved to the other side of the table and sat down. Reigns sat at the head of the table, of course. Heyman said they’re not looking for good television, so just sign the contract. Pearce did, then slammed the pen down. Reigns smiled. Pearce slid the contract over to him. Heyman then presented Reigns with a pen.
Reigns signed the contract. Pearce smiled and said, “I’ve been waiting all night for you to do that.” He began walking up the ramp and limping. He said his left knee suddenly hurts. He said it’s one of those injuries that creeps up at the worst possible time. He said as they know, standard WWE contracts all say the same thing. His mic went out at the worst time, but he said he has the power to find a suitable replacement. He said already has that suitable replacement in mind. Out came Kevin Owens. Reigns closed his eyes in disgust. Owens signed the contract. Cole said it’s official.