2019 ended in a sour fashion for Smackdown, where the focus was on a very terrible Roman Reigns/Baron Corbin storyline that encapsulated the bad booking spirit that has been going on that brand for months now. After I took a hiatus last week from this column during which Smackdown’s biggest development was Daniel Bryan becoming a #1 contender again for the Universal title and Roman Reigns continuing his “feud” with King Corbin heading into 2020, I wasn’t really full of hope for the first episode of the new year. However, I have to do this regardless.
Let’s get to business…
A cold open featuring the Miz and Daniel Bryan being all buddies after a recap of both his story with the Fiend and Roman Reigns with King Corbin.
Sasha Banks/Bayley vs Dana Brooke/Lacey Evans vs Alexa Bliss/Nikki Cross
First of all, what in the blue hell (as The Rock would say) is wrong with Lacey Evans as a babyface?. Well, everything to be fair. Sasha Banks (or Bonks as Gary Lineker would call her on twitter) strutted alongside Bayley to the ring and started cutting a heel promo before being interrupted by Lacey Evans who said things and then Alexa Bliss came out and said things, and we had our match.
The structure of the match was obvious, as there were two babyface teams and a heel team meant Bayley and Sasha needed to be cheeky and conniving to get the win by blind tagging themselves and denying opportunities for the babyfaces to make a comeback. What was weird though, is that the match was announced as “Triple threat rules” but for the first five minutes or so there was only two women in the ring every time. Only post-commercial when we saw standard triple threat rules, with Dana Brooke having time to shine and getting worked by the Smackdown women’s champion and her partner. After what felt like an eternity, Lacey Evans received the hot tag and started running wild on Bayley, but Sasha Banks’ presence allowed Bayley to nearly steal the win. The finish was pretty innovative as Dana Brooke took care of Bayley on the outside, giving her partner room to hit a “Women’s right” followed by a Senton from Dana Brooke to pin Sasha Banks for the win. Where this goes, nobody knows.
Corbin/Ziggler vs Reigns/Bryan is set for the main event.
Backstage: Mandy Rose tries to apologize to Otis.
Backstage: Miz is with the New Day which ends with a tense interaction between him and Kofi Kingston to set a match later.
Elias sings in the ring, dissing the Revival, Baron Corbin, and Dolph Ziggler. After that, Michael Cole and Corey Graves talked about The Revival’s problems not “Being the Elite” in tag-team wrestling (make of that what you will) followed by a backstage segment setting up CHAD GABLE vs Dash Wilder.
CHAD GABLE vs Dash Wilder
That has the potential to be a very good match between two very good athletes. Scott Dawson was on commentary, bantering with Corey Graves. However, it didn’t go long before CHAD GABLE scored a submission win propping Scott to get up and start a double beatdown on CHAD. During that, Sheamus (I was genuinely surprised) returned seemingly to even the odds, but he kicked CHAD GABLE in the face instead.
The match could have gone a bit longer so that the return can make a bigger impact. In addition, he returned as a heel just like he was the last time he was on Smackdown before the injury. Anyway, we will see where this can go from here.
The Miz vs Kofi Kingston
The story and the dynamic of this match were very interesting, as The Miz entered this match as an emotional wreck after his altercations with the Fiend. This created a dynamic where The Miz was a pseudo-heel against Kofi Kingston, working him over and trying to defeat him with any means necessary.
The Miz’s frustration kept creeping into him as the match wore on, which allowed Kofi to steal the win via a roll-up before being beaten by The Miz afterwards. The Miz might be the next person to turn heel after facing the Fiend, which can be really interesting.
Backstage: Cathy Kelley (is she on Smackdown now??) interviews Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan who have a tense interaction talking about their title aspirations ahead of their tag-team main event.
Backstage: Cathy Kelley tries to interview the Miz but only finds John Morrison (what a lame return) who says that Miz isn’t ready to talk.
Drew Gulak vs Otis
This has squash written all over it. However, it wasn’t all that to be fair. Drew Gulak tried to make a powerpoint presentation about why Mandy wouldn’t date Otis, only to be beaten in minutes by the Heavy Machinery adorable creep.
Where this goes concerning that romance angle is still unknown but very interesting to follow-up on.
Braun Strowman vs Cesaro
This was a very entertaining match indeed. It started as a show of strength from both, with Cesaro trying to outmuscle the Monster among men. Then, after Cesaro failed to gain an advantage he relied on Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura to help him on the outside. From that point, it was classic Braun Strowman stuff with his charge around the ring. Braun Strowman picked up the win in the end, expectedly.
For certain, this is leading to a Royal Rumble match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Braun Strowman which is a smart booking decision that can hopefully put the Monster among men on the right path.
Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns vs King Corbin/Dolph Ziggler
We almost got a dog food catastrophe again, but we didn’t, thankfully. The match itself was a very decent TV main event that started off hot with Reigns running wild and Daniel Bryan diving, then it became the standard WWE tag match. This is not to say that the match was bad or anything, it actually served a purpose. Roman Reigns wanted to get revenge on Corbin and Ziggler, while Daniel Bryan was seemingly scouting a potential WrestleMania opponent.
After getting worked on by the heels for a long time, Roman finally made the hot tag to Bryan who was on fire as usual. As he went for the pin on Dolph Ziggler, the lights cut out and the Fiend emerged to attack the YES! man. However, things didn’t end there, as Corbin and Ziggler tried to pour dog food all over Reigns again only for The Usos to return for a big pop and to save their cousin. It was a nice way to end the show although I would have preferred Bray Wyatt’s attack to be the last visual on the show so that we can have a nice cliffhanger. But we will take what we get.
This episode felt like a slow start for the WrestleMania season, and Smackdown started to put pieces into places for what we can expect to see on April 6th in Florida. However, between now and then WWE may consider making their shows a tad more exciting, particularly with two returns that could be big were hugely executed in a very lame manner. It seems that my curse reviewing this show is continuing as this is once again a middling effort from a company that provides plenty.
Final rating: 6.5/10 (Strowman vs Cesaro and the main event were really good, everything else mediocre)
After all, this is one man’s opinion. You can reach me @austin316tn or tell me your opinion in the comments. Till next week!.