This week’s SmackDown was the first episode to follow Royal Rumble, and coming off an eventful episode of Raw that set the stage for two major title matches at WrestleMania 35, there was plenty of excitement amongst fans going into this offering from the blue brand.
Becky Lynch Promo
For the third week in a row, The Man herself (I know that doesn’t read right) Becky Lynch came out to address the crowd. This time, she was discussing her Royal Rumble triumph and her plans to defeat Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, noting how she rebounds from defeats, regroups and overcomes adversity. She was then interrupted by Charlotte Flair (also for the third week running; the only absent element from recent segments was Asuka, who didn’t appear at all actually), who seemed to be sarcastically congratulating Becky on winning a Rumble match that she wasn’t even entered into officially. Becky’s response was a right-hand to the jaw, and the two began brawling in and around the ring, eventually being separated by officials. Later, Becky hobbled out of the arena, refusing to comment on a possible knee injury (which may pave the way for Charlotte to be inserted into the Rousey match, with the intention of making an eventual Lynch victory at Mania even bigger).
United States Championship Match
Shinsuke Nakamura (C) vs. R-Truth
Because R-Truth was blindsided by Nia Jax at the Rumble, meaning he couldn’t enter at #30 as per the reward for he and Carmella winning the Mixed Match Challenge, he was granted this U.S. Title opportunity against a man who had just reclaimed the crown last Sunday in Nakamura. Few were expecting a title change here, but even if they were, nobody expected it to go down as it did: a roll-up by Truth led to Shinsuke being pinned for three in what appeared an unintentional moment, so much so that they were about to set up their next spot when the bell rang. But before we reflect on this moment, we had Rusev and Lana come out, with Rusev (suddenly sounding heelish again) challenging Truth to an immediate title match, which after a brawl between the also-injured Lana and Carmella, Truth accepted.
United States Championship Match
R-Truth (C) vs. Rusev
Given how abruptly this was set up, it almost felt like WWE had sent Rusev out to get the title off Truth following an accidental title change. But that wasn’t the case, as after a brief bout, Truth managed to pin Rusev as well! Afterwards, he was pummelled by both Nakamura and Rusev who, having been at odds for weeks, now formed an alliance against a new common foe. It was certainly a different way of presenting such a scenario if indeed it was planned (I believe Truth winning the title was planned, but not in that manner), and it’s cool to see Truth get a reward for being so entertaining over the past few months. Plus, since he was never going to win the Rumble anyway, he probably got the best out of the whole Nia Jax situation. Later, a backstage confrontation between Rusev/Nakamura and Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson set up a future tag match.
Next, we had Rey Mysterio being interrupted by Zelina Vega, who blamed Rey for her being barred from ringside last week. The distraction led to Andrade pummelling Rey and mocking Eddie Guerrero in the process, but Rey battled him off and chased him away, all of which means that this feud is continuing (and to quote Diamond Dallas Page, that’s a good thing).
The Miz/Shane McMahon Celebration
We then had the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions, The Miz and Shane McMahon, hold a celebration of sorts. It consisted of Shane presenting a video of how their team came together and their triumph at Royal Rumble, as well as Shane bringing out Miz’ dad George to tell Miz how proud he was of him. Surprisingly, there was no angle or beatdown of “Mr. Miz” from this, though Shane did set up the subsequent #1 contender’s match. Also, Corey Graves tearing apart Miz’ dad on commentary during this segment was priceless.
Backstage, Mandy Rose (after she and Sonya Deville noted that they would be entering the Women’s Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber match) revealed that her issues with Naomi stem back to the 2015 Tough Enough competition, where then-heel Naomi encouraged her then-ally Tamina to punish TE contestant Mandy, which Rose alleged led to her losing her real-life boyfriend because she was described as “weak”. Hence why Mandy vowed to wreck Naomi’s relationship with Jimmy Uso. The plot thickens …
#1 Contender’s Fatal Four Way Elimination Tag Team Match
The New Day vs. The Usos vs. The Bar vs. Heavy Machinery
This was a pretty good match, stretching over multiple segments, though with the exception of Heavy Machinery’s involvement, it was also very familiar. As noted, though, the action was worth watching, as it always is involving SmackDown’s regular combos. New Day bit the dust first, followed by the NXT called-up tag team, and finally The Bar, giving The Usos the win and an opportunity to face Miz and Shane at Elimination Chamber. Miz is still playing it up as a pure face right now, but that is bound to change soon, right?
Daniel Bryan Promo
Daniel Bryan vowed to change the climate of SmackDown, as per his environmentalist gimmick, and he did so in an unexpected manner. After explaining why Erick Rowan is his new bodyguard (namely, Rowan also has an appreciation for ecology), Bryan noted how he is disgusted at carrying around a WWE Championship designed on leather, coming from that of a poor, deceased cow, who Bryan named Daisy (which led to some brilliant “Daisy” chants from the admittedly-smarky Phoenix crowd). His response was to dump the WWE Title in the trash (finally fulfilling what Vince McMahon thought that Bret Hart would do in 1997) and to introduce a new version of the title, one with a different colour scheme but, most notably, one made from entirely organic materials in the form of 100% pure hemp and wood. It’s a neat way to put heat on Daniel, and the new-look title looks pretty cool as well! This angered AJ Styles, who asked Bryan what he’d been smoking, but he was followed by interruptions from Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy, Mustafa Ali and Samoa Joe (though the weird timing of an ad break meant that we didn’t hear what Orton or Jeff had to say). We heard what Joe said, though, and he was superb in quickly ripping apart everybody. After asking AJ how Wendy was doing, Styles socked him, and a huge brawl began, with Bryan saying that none of them would face him for the WWE Title anyway. Except, he would, as Triple H revealed on the big screen that he would face them all in an Elimination Chamber match (how weird is it that Bryan, the heel, is being put in his place by HHH, the face, and we’re cheering it?). The show abruptly ended with the brawl still ongoing, and the picture fading to black just as Rowan was about to clock Orton (similar to how Raw ended right as Lesnar dropped Rollins with an F5).
So, it was a busy show, but a very enjoyable one too. This was more about storyline development and progression, though the in-ring action that we did see was by no means bad. We got a title change, a title change of a different sort with Bryan unveiling his organic championship, and further reason to back Becky Lynch as it appears she will have to overcome a knee injury to live out her WrestleMania dream. All in all, this was a fun episode, and a good way to end a streak of four major nights of WWE action in the Desert State.