By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,116)
Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired live on January 8, 2021 on Fox
[Hour One] Michael Cole opened the show and was joined on commentary by Corey Graves. Greg Hamilton was the ring announcer. Cole hyped the gauntlet and title matches, then plugged the sponsor…
WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns made his entrance along with Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. Reigns said there was a lot of talk about what they did to Kevin Owens last week. Reigns said he likes Owens. He said he’s a pain in the ass, but he respects him and never wanted anything bad to happen to him.
Reigns said Owens put him in a tough spot and he did what he had to do. Reigns said he loves everyone in the locker room. As the leader, Reigns said he had to care about everyone in the locker room and their families because he puts food on their tables. Reigns said people are claiming he’s the bad guy, but it’s actually the person who booked the Owens vs. Uso match.
Adam Pearce was called out by Reigns. Heyman barked at the broadcast team to get Pearce to the ring. Pearce walked to the ring with a mic in hand. Pearce asked Reigns what he could do for him. Reigns told Pearce to watch a video clip on the big screen. The video recapped Reigns beating Owens in a cage match, and last week’s show closing attack.
Reigns asked Pearce what he had to say for himself. Pearce asked what he wanted him to say. Reigns said he wanted Pearce to be a man and take responsibility. Reigns recalled telling Heyman that he was finished with Owens and was moving forward, but Owens went to Pearce and got the match with Uso.
“You would think someone who has known a friend for that long, they would care about their wellbeing,” Reigns told Pearce. Reigns asked what Pearce does, then said he knows because he knows everything. Reigns said Pearce threw Owens into the deep end and now he can’t provide for his family.
Reigns said he’s a good guy and therefore he gave Pearce a chance to redeem himself. Reigns took issue with Pearce booking a gauntlet match to determine his challenger at the Royal Rumble. Reigns said he should be able to choose his own opponents given everything that he’s done for the company.
Reigns asked Pearce if he was going to put himself in the match. Pearce said it’s a complete conflict of interest. Reigns said it was sounding like Pearce thinks he’s stupid. Pearce noted that he never said that. Reigns asked if Pearce was stupid, then asked if he was saying that Vince McMahon is stupid. Pearce said that’s not what he was saying.
Reigns said that if Pearce was insulting him, then he was wasn’t respecting him or his bloodline. Reigns grabbed Pearce by the collar. Pearce told him to stop and said he has total respect. Reigns let go of Pearce’s collar and adjusted his jacket for him.
“My mistake,” Reigns said. “Maybe nobody in this ring is stupid, and maybe right now, right now you are perfectly safe.” Reigns left the ring with Heyman and Uso while Pearce remained in the ring…
The broadcast team hyped the Intercontinental Title match as coming up after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good character building segment for Reigns. As much as I wanted him to come out and heel on the fans once he finally turned, the approach they have taken is so much better. Plus, I like that they are putting Pearce’s mic skills to good use by having him do more than just announce matches. The hook of Reigns stating that Pearce is safe for now is a nice hook in terms of teasing the possibility that something bad is going to happen to him during the show.
1. Big E vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Championship. Both men were already in the ring coming out o the break. Crews got off to a quick start, but Big E cut him off with an elbow. A short time later, Crews performed superplex and then hooked the legs of Crews. The referee made a three count. Crews celebrated while Big E spoke with the referee. [C]
Cole recapped the pinfall and noted that the shoulders of both men were down when the pinfall occurred. In the ring, the referee stood between Big E and Crews and said it was a double pinfall, which means the match was a draw, and the title stays with the champion.
Big E fought Apollo Crews to a double pin in roughly 3:20 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Big E told Crews that he doesn’t make the rules and asked Crews to shake his hand. Crews slapped him and told Big E to give him a rematch on the spot. Big E worked over Crews and the match was on…
2. Big E vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Championship. Crews escaped a Big Ending attempt and rolled to the apron. Big E charged, but Crews caught him with a knee. Crews performed a top rope frogsplash for a near fall.
Crews rolled up E for another two count, then put him down with a spinebuster. Crews performed a standing moonsault for a two count. Big E came back with a uranage slam, then performed the Big Ending and scored the pin…
Big E defeated Apollo Crews in 2:30 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: I like the way they teased a title change heading into a break. Sure, it was easy to figure out what they were going for with the double pin, but it was still a nice hook to keep viewers watching just to make sure. It’s worth noting that it looked like Crews actually had a shoulder up on the one count, so that might have left some viewers wondering if he really did win the title.
Adam Pearce was talking on the phone when Sonya Deville showed up. Pearce said it’s awesome that they would be working together, but he was surprised that she wanted the job. Deville said she’s not proud of the things she’s done. She noted that she lost a loser leaves WWE match and was happy for the opportunity. Deville said she wanted to learn and help him.
Deville brought up Pearce being in a match. Pearce said he won’t be in a match. He said he hasn’t had a match in six years, then added that he didn’t know if he could beat a referee let alone Reigns…
An ad for Raw hyped Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton… [C]
Powell’s POV: This is much better. I believe they simply said last week that Deville had been reinstated, which was awkward considering the stipulation of the loser leaves WWE match. But it looks like she’s going to be Pearce’s assistant. I assume it will lead to her manipulating her way back into the ring and all, but at least they are telling a story rather than just blowing off the stipulation.
Backstage, Alyse Ashton tried to interview Bianca Belair after noting that Belair was the latest Royal Rumble entrant. Bayley quickly interrupted the interview and said Belair could throw out as many people as she wants, but she won’t win the match. She said even if she did win, she would squander the opportunity. Belair said that if she won, she would be honored to choose Bayley as her opponent, then mocked her by reminding her that she’s not the champion anymore…
The broadcast team set up a sponsored recap of Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode attacking The Street Profits last week… The Street Profits made their entrance… [C] The broadcast team noted that SI named Sasha Banks as the wrestler of the year…
Backstage, Carmella delivered a promo while Reginald stood by. Carmella said she would commend Banks for winning the SI award, but she took a little vacation. Carmella said things come easier for some people, so all of Banks’s hard work and determination won’t matter if she’s overmatched by raw talent…
3. “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Unfortunately, Roode and Ziggler’s entrance was televised. Roode and Ziggler wore pink tights with “The Dirty Dawgs” logo.
Ford sold the knee injury from last week. Ford performed a flip dive onto both opponents, then stayed down and sold the knee while Dawkins checked on him. [C] Dawkins was isolated while Ford continued to sell his knee injury in his corner.
[Hour Two] Dawkins made a hot tag to Ford, who worked over both heels while limping. Ziggler came back with a great facebuster from the top rope. Ziggler set up for a superkick, but Ford beat him to it and covered him, but Roode broke it up. Dawkins cleared Roode, then went to his corner.
Roode returned to the apron and was fought off by Dawkins, who was knocked to the floor by Ziggler. Roode tagged in and performed a fisherman’s suplex on Ford for a near fall. Roode went for a Glorious DDT, but Ford avoided it. Roode and Ziggler performed a Zigzag and spinebuster combo, then Ziggler covered Ford for the win…
Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler defeated “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins in roughly 15:00 to win the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: A good match with the heels exploiting the injury, and Ford showing good heart despite losing. I like the tag title change. The only way to make Roode and Ziggler relevant was to give them the tag titles. New gear, new team name… new music next?!?
Backstage, Deville spoke with Pearce about potential challengers for the new tag champions. Paul Heyman entered the picture and shook hands with both. Deville left while Heyman told Pearce that he liked him. Heyman said he was concerned for Pearce while he was in the ring with Reigns.
Heyman said he holds Pearce in the greatest respect and admiration. Heyman wondered what Pearce’s career would have been like if he had managed him. Heyman said he pulled a few strings and Pearce is now in the gauntlet match. He said Pearce now has the opportunity to pursue the dream he’s always had…
The broadcast team hyped the gauntlet match now involving Pearce and said it was coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: I love it. WWE hasn’t really explained Pearce’s background in great detail, but he’s a longtime pro wrestler and a former NWA Champion. I don’t know how much wrestling he wants to do these days, but it’s cool that he’s going to have a match on Smackdown.
Backstage, Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan were talking when Billie Kay approached them and made a play to join the Riott Squad. Riott and Morgan declined, then Kay pretended to cry while saying 2021 was supposed to be a better year, but it’s not. Morgan said it’s not that they don’t want her.
Kay snapped out of her fake crying and spoke about how she can be punk. She said she’s been listening to Blink 182. She handed Riott her headshot and left. Riott told Morgan that “moshing expert” was listed on her resume…
Rey Mysterio and Dominick Mysterio made their entrance for the gauntlet match. Sami Zayn was out next and delivered a promo while standing on the stage with cameramen who stood by him wearing his t-shirt. Zayn said he was surprised that WWE officials answered his demands by putting him in the match, then cried conspiracy over being the first entrant. He said the camera crew was documenting the conspiracy. Zayn entered the ring and said he would beat Mysterio and everyone who follows…
4. Rey Mysterio (w/Dominick Mysterio) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. King Corbin vs. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Adam Pearce in a gauntlet match for a shot at the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. Zayn turned and spoke to the camera crew. Mysterio dropkicked him, gave him a 619, and then performed a frogplash that led to a three count.
Sami Zayn was eliminated by Rey Mysterio in 0:20.
Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance as the next entrant in the gauntlet match. [C] Nakamura jumped out to a quick start and hit Mysterio with a knee strike at ringside early in their match.
Back in the ring, Nakamura continued to dominate until Mysterio performed a clunky huracanrana. Nakamura fell short of the ropes and apparently put himself there so that Mysterio could hit him with a 619. Nakamura rallied and applied an armbar to get the submission win.
Rey Mysterio was eliminated by Shinsuke Nakamura in 4:50.
Powell’s POV: It’s pretty sad that Nakamura felt out of place when this was a five-way gauntlet match because his character hasn’t done enough lately to warrant a spot in a No. 1 contender’s match.
King Corbin was the next entrant. Corbin came out and ran Dom into the ring post. Corbin attacked Nakamura, then chokeslammed Mysterio heading into a break. [C]
Nakamura vs. Corbin was joined in progress. Nakamura went for a Kinshasa, but Corbin countered into a Deep Six for a near fall. Nakamura caught Corbin in a triangle. Corbin powered him up and slammed him to break the hold. Corbin did his move where he slid to ringside and rushed back inside only to be meet with a Kinshasa, which led to the three count.
King Corbin was eliminated by Shinsuke Nakamura.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance. [C] The Bryan vs. Nakamura portion of the match was joined in progress. Bryan put Nakamura down with a series of kicks. Nakamura ducked the grand finale and rolled Bryan into an armbar attempt, which Bryan countered into his own armbar try. Bryan rolled Nakamura into a Yes Lock.
Bryan gave up the Yes Lock and applied another hold, but Nakamura reached the ropes to break it. A short time later, Nakamura stuffed a huracanrana attempt and then threw a kick at Bryan that led two a two count. Nakamura threw knees to Bryan’s side.
Bryan got up and returned fire with kicks. Nakamura went for the armbar, but Bryan rolled onto him for a two count. A short time later, Bryan performed two running dropkicks in the corner. Bryan went for a third, but Nakamura put him down with a Kinshasa and pinned him.
Daniel Bryan was eliminated by Shinsuke Nakamura.
Bryan shook Nakamura’s hand afterward. Roman Reigns made his entrance along with Jey Uso and Paul Heyman heading into a break. [C] Reigns and his crew remained on the stage and then Adam Pearce made his entrance dressed in a WWE jacket, pants, and sneakers.
Pearce walked by Reigns, who smirked, then Reigns, Uso, and Heyman followed him to ringside. Uso entered the ring and jawed at Nakamura, then hit him with a forearm shot. Reigns joined Uso in attacking Nakamura while Heyman held the WWE Universal Championship belt at ringside.
Reigns spoke to Pearce at ringside and then threw him inside the ring. Uso superkicked Pearce. Reigns told the timekeeper to ring the bell. Uso dragged Pearce onto Nakamura, and Reigns ordered the referee to make the three count.
Adam Pearce eliminated Shinsuke Nakamura to win a gauntlet match to earn a WWE Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
Powell’s POV: An amazing and inspirational victory for Adam Pearce! Okay, not so much, but I love the creativity. The Royal Rumble matches sell the Royal Rumble event, so they can get away with doing something outside the box and I’m happy that they are. It’s really fun storytelling and hopefully WWE will use this time to properly introduce Pearce, who just became a “WWE official” without any explanation.
Overall, a very good show with the creative Intercontinental Title match, the Smackdown Tag Title change, and the gauntlet match. It was nice to see Nakamura featured prominently even if he did not win, and hopefully there’s more to come with him. I will return shortly with my same night audio review for Dot Net Members. Let me know what you thought of the show by assigning it a letter grade below. Have a great weekend.