SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 29, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Ring Announcers: Greg Hamilton
-The show opened with Daniel Bryan in the ring and a “Yes” chant from ThunderDome. He said he wants to win the Royal Rumble and headline WrestleMania. He said he doesn’t know how many WrestleMania Moments he has left, but he knows if he wants to accomplish his dream one more time, it involves going to the main event of WrestleMania and winning the Royal Rumble match. (He’s tripping over his word a bit here.) He got worked up and said thanks to Chad Gable, his hips are loose and strong and his cardio can go all day. He said once the countdowns begins and the buzzer sounds, you don’t know what’s next. He said you’ll see best friends betray each other and enemies work together. He was then interrupted (saved?) by A.J. Styles.
Styles walked out with Omos and said you’ll see Styles throw out 29 others and win and go on to main event WrestleMania. Bryan said he knows “both brands” are competing in the Rumble, but Styles is a Raw wrestler on Smackdown. “Seriously, what are you doing here?” he said. Styles said this is the house that A.J. Styles built. Omos said this is a “brand-to-brand invitation.” Styles said every quarter any wrestlers can go to the other show. He said he’s the gatekeeper of Raw. He said since he declared he’s in the Rumble, everyone else is following in his footsteps. He said he crushed their hopes and dreams. He said Bryan doesn’t look ready to him. He noted he’s wearing a sports coat. He asked if he’s a G.M. again. “Is that what’s going on?” he said. “It’s almost like you have one foot out the door, am I wrong here?” Bryan responded: “I don’t have one foot out the door on anything, especially not for something I love as much as being in this ring.” He said he’d prove it to him in a one-on-one match tonight.
Styles looked at Omos and said it seems he just challenged him. Styles said he’d like to get one more warm-up right here tonight on Smackdown before Sunday. He shoved Bryan down. Bryan took a deep breath and was about to stand when Omos stepped toward him. The camera aimed up at Omos who had transparent tape over a bad gash on his forehead. Bryan said if Styles were a real man, he’d come out later without Omos. Styles didn’t answer, but smiled and began leaving the ring. Bryan said that with or without Omos, he’ll still kick ass. Bryan went back to the “Yes!” chant.
-A sponsored clip aired of the Bayley vs. Bianca Belair obstacle course competition on last week’s show.
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Bayley backstage. Bayley denied that Belair beat her. She said the last thing she saw was Bayley on the floor, writhing in pain. She said she did watch Bianca on her WWE Chronicle special and she’s proud of her, but what she learned is she ran away from her problems over half of her life. She said she’s about to face her biggest problem, and then she can crawl back into the “dark-EST hole in her life.”
-Belair made her ring entrance. Cole called this one of the biggest matches in the young career of Belair.
(Keller’s Analysis: They’re using a special effect filter to focus on the wrestler and blue the background. It looks more like they’re messing up a basic focus setting than it does a cool filter or advanced special effect.) [c]
(1) BAYLEY vs. BIANCA BELAIR
Cole told us how to feel about Belair: “There’s just something infectious about Bianca Belair, the way she carries herself, her charisma, her personality.” Belair dominated early and landed a standing moonsault for a two count. Bayley put her leg over the bottom rope. Bayley rolled to ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
Back live, Belair scored another two count right away. Bayley came back with a knee to the head for a two count, then a top rope elbow drop for another two count. Bayley scored more near falls. Belair powered out of a jackknife cover with a bridge into a backslide attempt. Bayley blocked it, but Belair gave her a strike to the face. When she went for the Glam Slam, Belair’s arm gave out, which Bayley worked on earlier. Belair flipped out of Bayley’s grip, then sent a charging Bayley face-first into the top turnbuckle. She followed with a KOD for the win. Cole declared it the biggest win of her Smackdown career.
WINNER: Belair in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match.)
-Kayla met Belair on the stage and congratulated her for a great week – winning the obstacle course contest, having her WWE Network “Chronicle” special air, and now beating Bayley. Belair was elated and said Bayley has been trying to make her apologize for being herself, but she’d never apologize for being her. She said Bayley isn’t her role model, but she’s glad she was able to prove herself against her. They cut to Bayley in the ring who was fuming from her loss.
(Keller’s Analysis: Kayla needs to hold that mic closer to Belair. The post-match interview seemed to last 15 seconds longer than it needed to, but overall the impression is certainly being given that she’s getting a push and is on the rise. My impression when someone says they’re not going to apologize for who they are is that they probably have something about themselves that’s worth being introspective about and adjusting, but they have an immature false pride in being stubborn about not changing. It’s not the most admirable trait to build a babyface character around. Her character is braggadocios, and her whole act seems to be trying to frame it as not being off-putting and arrogant, as people accuse her of, but just her being true to herself. I can think of better ideas for a rising babyface act with her overall talent and charisma than that.)
-Cole plugged that Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns would talk about their match on Sunday later.
-They showed Styles chatting with Omos backstage. Cesaro walked up to them and began chatting.
-“King” Corbin made his ring entrance. Dominik attacked Corbin from behind. They cut to a break about ten seconds into the beatdown as Graves decried the unfair advantage he was trying to get. [c]
(2) “KING” CORBIN vs. DOMINIK MYSTERIO
Rey Mysterio joined the announcers on commentary. Corbin shot Rey a look at ringside a minute in. Rey said, “Whatcha gonna do?” Corbin caught Dominik’s legs on a 619 attempt. They battled back and forth for a minute. There was a botched-looking move where they weren’t on the same page on a backdrop and Dominik ended up crashing into the ropes and going head-first toward the mat. Rey popped up out of his seat with concern. Corbin went for a Deep Six, but Dominik countered and scored a two count. Corbin came back by lifting and dropping Dominik over the top rope, then gave him a End of Days for the win.
WINNER: Corbin in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Corbin’s usually a wrestler who’s in the right place at the right time, and that felt like a match that was on the verge at times of going off the tracks, showing Dominik’s inexperience.)
-After the match, Rey went to check on Dominik, but Corbin grabbed him. Rey shoved Corbin into the ringpost and then leaped off the ring apron onto him. He then moved over to check on Dominik. Graves said they could cross paths again in the Rumble on Sunday.
-Big E asked Sonya Deville to tell him what his Royal Rumble number is. He gave her a dollar. She said it’s just a dollar. He said he also has an Arby’s coupon coming her way. Miz and John Morrison walked up to her and they asked where Adam Pearce is. She said after what happened last week, some people pulled certain strings and he’s off this week. Miz and Morrison said that’s horrible. Big E asked why they brought their Monday Night Raw stench to his show. Miz said tonight things could get interesting. Morrison joked about how he’s short-selling by betting against stocks. “I’m about to make a fortune from Game Stop.” Sonya excused herself. Big E said, “I love the pop culture reference too, but I got Rumble stuff to deal with.” Miz and Morrison acted really obnoxious. Big E said it’s hilarious thinking they have a chance to win the Rumble. Miz and Morrison attacked Big E. Big E fought back. Officials ran in to break them up. [c]
-Cole plugged the return of “WWE Backstage” to FS1 at 8 ET on Saturday night. He said the show will include the announcements of the no. 1 and no. 2 entrants in the men’s Rumble match. Also, Natalya vs. Tamina, winner gets the no. 30 spot in the Rumble match. (Why do they get that opportunity instead of others?)
-Cole and Graves commented on the Sasha Banks vs. Reginald acrobatic match last week.
-Sasha walked up to Reginald backstage. He said he has a gift for her. He said Carmella told him to present her with the finest bottle of wine to celebrate the end of her Smackdown Title reign. Sasha began flirting with Reginald. She asked what the best wine is to drink with a broken jaw. Then she let out her really awkward new guttural fake laugh, then gave him the bottle back, and told him he looks like he could use a drink.
-A highlight packed aired on last week’s Reigns, Paul Heyman, Kevin Owens, and Adam Pearce segments. Then they showed a split-screen of KO and Reigns being mic’d up. [c]
VIP SALE – 99 CENTS – NEW 2021 PODCAST LINE-UP – NOW ON APPLE PODCASTS APP
Check out details on our 99 cent VIP sale. Get our VIP-exclusive Royal Rumble PPV Roundtable Podcast on Sunday night that I’m hosting.
•VIP Podcast feed now compatible with iPhone’s native Apple Podcast app! (New in 2021)
•Express Sign Up form now includes direct Credit Card or Debit Card input in addition to Pay Pal.
•New 2021 VIP podcast series include signature weekend shows “Everything with Rich Fann, hosted by Wade Keller” and the WWE-focused “Nick & Tom’s Intercontinental Adventure” (current events and a review of WWE happenings reported in the 20 years ago Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter back issue from that week).
•New “VIP Podcast Vault” RSS feed beginning with first two Wade Keller Hotlines from May 2003.
-Graves plugged “Bad Bunny” performing Sunday at the Royal Rumble.
-Sami Zayn approached Shinsuke Nakamura backstage. He asked if he’s suspicious of the Raw wrestlers showing up on Smackdown and chatting with Cesaro. He asked if they’re going their separate ways. Sami said he was his liberator and set him free and they had a good thing going. “It’s time for you to help me now,” he said. He said Big E, Apollo Crews, and all WWE management are against him. He said Cesaro is off doing his own thing, “so are you going to go out here on your own?” He said everything he’s ever accomplished in WWE is because of him, so he wants him to watch his back. Nakamura listened and then said he appreciates everything he’s done, “but go to hell.”
-They went to Cole and Graves on camera. Graves said Nakamura is so ungrateful.
-Cole asked Owens, who was on split-screen with Reigns, what it’d mean to him to become Universal Champion again. KO was wearing an “Ever-Rise Rules” t- shirt. He said no family members of Reigns on Sunday will stop him from standing up time and time again to be the last man standing. Heyman, standing behind Reigns, told Owens he will not speak of his Tribal Chief that way. Reigns asked Owens what kind of man his father was. KO said his father is a great man, “so watch where you’re going.” Reigns asked if he’s a smart man. KO said yes, he’s very smart, “and if you are, you’re going to heed my warning.” Reigns said he’s not trying to piss him off, he’s trying to get to know him and understand why he doesn’t seem to know his limitations. He said all he can figure out is that his father didn’t teach him that he’s not supposed to be in WWE. He said he’s not a Castle, a Bishop, or a Queen. “You’re a Pawn, you’re simple,” he said. “I’m the King of this board. Everything revolves around me.” He said he’s ill-equipped and inferior, and he’ll never be Universal Champion. He said it’s not his fault. He said he’s a fool for thinking he has a chance. And if he’s a fool, that means his father and thus his grandfather are fools.
Owens told him to watch what he says next because on Sunday, they’ll be in the same room. Roman rolled his eyes. He told Heyman, in an exasperated tone, Owens still doesn’t understand. He said some day when he meets his grandfathers again, they’ll tell him what a disgrace he was to his family and ask why he didn’t acknowledge him as the Tribal Chief. Owens said the only thing his father and grandfather would want to acknowledge him as would be the jackass who surrounds himself with yes-men. He said he’s putting on this community theater version of a mafia boss to try to convince people he’s a tough guy who has it all together, but he’s just hiding that he’s an insecure bully. KO said he knows who he is. He got worked up to level ten and stood and yelled he’s someone who his family are proud of. He said on Sunday, he will end the night as the Universal Champion. Reigns looked like he was about to explode. He lifted a remote and clicked his screen off.
(Keller’s Analysis: Excellent final hype for that match. The emotions were believable. The match feels really personal. I really like the angle of Reigns disparaging Owens’ family for giving him a false sense of self-worth. Just despicable going that personal, and it makes you want to root for Owens to show him up and shut him down on Sunday.)
-Bryan made his ring entrance. Then Styles and Omos walked out. Styles thought about it, and then told Omos he would go to the ring alone. Omos was cool with it. [c]
(3) A.J. STYLES vs. DANIEL BRYAN
Cesaro joined the announcers on commentary. Cesaro said this is the most important season for them and he’s supremely confident going into Sunday. Cole asked about Sami trying to drive a wedge between him and Nakamura. Cesaro there is a lot of respect between them, but also a healthy sense of competition between them. (My closed-captioning believes Cesaro is “Pizarro,” by the way.) A few minutes in, Sami came out with his documentary crew as his music played. Bryan looked at Sami before climbing to the top rope. Styles recovered and knocked Bryan to the floor. Graves said that’s what Bryan gets for taking his eye off his opponent. Styles threw Bryan shoulder-first into the ringside steps as they cut to a break. [c]
Sami walked around ringside holding up various signs. One said that Big E is not his IC Champion. Big E eventually came out to his music. Cole said he’s got to be considered a favorite in the Rumble. Big E took off his jacket and put the IC belt on the steps, then clotheslined Sami. He threw Sami at Cesaro. Cesaro got out of the way, then shoved Big E and asked what his problem is. Bryan dove through the ropes at Cesaro and Sami. Styles threw Bryan back into the ring. Sami attacked Bryan, prompting the DQ.
WINNER: Bryan via DQ in 11:00.
-As Cesaro, Big E, Sami, Bryan, and Styles battled, Nakamura ran out to his music. He kicked Sami, then Styles, then squared off with Cesaro. Sami jumped them. The chaos continued with Nakamura, Big E, and Bryan clearing the ring of Cesaro, Sami, and Styles. [c]
(4) SAMI ZAYN & A.J. STYLES & CESARO vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & DANIEL BRYAN & BIG E
An impromptu six-man tag match was set up during the break. How convenient this happened, since apparently WWE had nothing else planned for the last 15 minutes of their nationally televised live program on Fox. They cut to an early break. [c]
Cesaro rallied against Big E with a corkscrew uppercut. Big E kicked out. He set up a Neutralizer, but Big E backdropped out of it. Big E then landed a uranage. Big E began clapping when Miz’s music played. Miz and Morrison came out. They beat up Nakamura at ringside and charged into the ring and went at Big E. The ref called for the bell and Cole said the ref is going to throw out the match.
WINNER: No contest in 8:00.
-Otis ran out for the save, attacking Miz and then Morrison. Graves said he thinks the Rumble match might be right up Otis’s alley. Otis splashed Miz and Morrison in the corner. Then he landed his Caterpillar on Miz and Morrison. They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: Why was Otis in his wrestling gear? Maybe he was scheduled to have a match, not announced, that the six-man tag replaced? That must be it, right?) [c]
(5) MIZ & MORRISON & SAMI & CESARO & A.J. STYLES vs. BIG E & OTIS & DANIEL BRYAN & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
Cole said Sonya made this match during the break. C0le said Styles and Bryan have been in the ring 30 minutes now, but to win the Rumble, you’ll have to last a lot longer than that if you enter at no. 1 or no. 2. He said in this situation, though, you can tag in and out, but at the Rumble, once you’re in it, you’re in it until you’re eliminated. Graves said history has shown there are ways around that and you can skirt the rules. Otis’s enthusiastic call for a tag from the ring apron is the best in the biz at this point.
The heels eventually beat down everyone at ringside other than Bryan. Sami tagged in and was about to go after Bryan when Sheamus’s music played. He charged out. (So was Sheamus the one scheduled to face Otis in the standby match in case Styles and Bryan ended early? Why else would a wrestler from Raw go to Smackdown and be dressed for battle in his wrestling gear?) Sheamus joined the match and beat up Sami and applied a Clover Leaf. Morrison gave him a kick to the back of his head. Otis got involved. Cesaro jumped him. Big E gave Cesaro a Big Ending. Cole said this is the type of chaos viewers will experience on Sunday at the Rumble. More chaos with everyone. Sami cleared the ring with Blue Thunder Bombs, then charged at Sheamus with a Helluva kick attempt, but Sheamus countered with a Brogue Kick for the three count.
WINNER: Sheamus in 6:00.
-After the match, as soon as Sheamus began celebrating, Miz ad Morrison jumped him. Braun Strowman then walked out to his music and charged at the heels, knocking them over one after another. He powerslammed Sami, then Cesaro. Graves said this must mean he’s in the Rumble. He said he’s never seen Braun in better physical condition. Braun gave Cesaro a running powerslam. Graves said he wanted to change his Rumble pick. Cole said he might be the odds on favorite. His music played as Miz and Morrison looked on from the stage.
(Keller’s Analysis: So Braun was there for a photo shoot? Or to sign some paperwork? Maybe a surprise interview on Talking Smack? Good final chaotic 20 minutes to give a taste of the excitement people expect at the Rumble, and having Braun appear to create a weekend buzz is better than having him be a surprise in the Rumble.)