By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,119)
Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired live on January 29, 2021 on Fox
[Hour 1] Daniel Bryan started the show in the ring. He played to the virtual crowd. Michael Cole and Corey Graves were on commentary. Bryan welcomed everyone to Smackdown and the Royal Rumble weekend. He said now that they were close, “2 sleeps away” as his daughter would say, he was excited about finally achieving the one thing he hasn’t accomplished in his career, and that’s winning the Royal Rumble match. He spoke about the life changing nature of being in the main event of WrestleMania, and nobody knew it better than him.
He said in order to achieve that dream one more time, he would have to go through 29 other men. Bryan wasn’t certain how many more WrestleMania moments he would have, but he wanted to have one more by winning the Royal Rumble match. He got fired up and said because of Alpha Academy, he was prepared. His hips were loose and strong. Bryan then said we’d see best friends throwing each other over the top rope, and surprise entrants, and….AJ Styles interrupted.
AJ said we’d see him throw 29 other men thrown over the top rope by AJ Styles. Bryan reminded him it was Smackdown, and asked why he was there. AJ asked Omos, and he said it was the brand to brand invitational. AJ then said he was the gatekeeper of Raw, and everyone is trying to follow in his footsteps. He said he had crushed all their hopes and dreams on Raw, and said Bryan doesn’t look ready while he was dressed in his suit. He asked him if he was GM again, and wondered if he had one foot out the door.
Bryan said he doesn’t have one foot out of the door of anything, especially something he loves as much as wrestling. He then challenged Styles to a match later in the show. Styles said he would like one more warm up, and shoved Bryan down. He got up, but Omos stood there towering over him. Bryan said if AJ had any guts at all, he’d show up later without Omos. He then said with or without Omos, he would still kick his ass. Bryan then did some Yes fist pumping for the virtual crowd.
The announce team reflected on the Royal Rumble, and then threw to a video recap of the obstacle course segment from last week with Bianca and Bayley. Kayla Braxton was shown backstage, and confirmed the match between Bryan and Styles. She then introduced Bayley for an interview. Kayla reminded her that she lost the obstacle course, but Bayley said the last thing she remembered was throwing Bianca into the steps.
Bayley referenced Bianca’s documentary, and said she had run away from all of her problems for most of her life. She said after she loses the Royal Rumble, she can crawl back into the darkEST hole of her life. In the arena, Bianca Belair made her entrance…[c]
My Take: Bryan had a few verbal slips during his promo, but was otherwise fine in delivering some final hype for his entry into the Rumble. The match with Styles should be good stuff, but if I had to guess, it will end with a bunch of Rumble participants running down to start a brawl. I’m wondering if Bayley and Bianca won’t be the same?
Bayley completed her entrance as the show returned.
1. Bayley vs. Bianca Belair: They started out methodically. Bayley got the leverage advantage, and Bianca used her power to escape and land a body slam. She followed up with a snap suplex for a one count. Bayley escaped to the apron to regroup. She took control with a kick to the knee, and then threw Bianca down by her hair. Bayley landed a clothesline to a seated Belair, and covered for a one count. Bianca sold arm damage from last week’s attack after the obstacle course.
Bayley insulted Bianca by swinging around her hair. That caused Bianca to fire up and land a hail of strikes. Bayley had to roll to the ropes to escape, where she used the ropes to target Bianca’s injured shoulder. She tried to push the advantage, but Belair replied with a dropkick. Bayley once again retreated under the ropes to recover…[c]
Belair shoved Bayley into the corner, and then picked her up in a powerbomb position. She then threw Bayley over her shoulders, and covered for a near fall. Bayley climbed to the second rope in the corner, and Belair pursued. Bayley grabbed the injured arm and landed a tornado STO of sorts for a two count. She then landed a knee strike for another near fall.
Bayley climbed to the top and landed an elbow to her back as she struggled to get to her feet. She covered for a near fall. Bayley then tried a number of pinning combinations, which Bianca powered out of. Bianca landed an elbow to escape a backslide attempt. She then tried for a Glam Slam, but her shoulder gave out. Bianca evaded an attack in the corner, and then landed a KOD for the win.
Bianca Belair defeated Bayley at 11:07
There was a replay after the match, and Bayley was shown with an angry look on her face. Kayla Braxton interviewed Bianca on the stage, and asked about what was the biggest week in her career. She said she would never apologize for being herself. She said Bayley is not her role model, and never has been, but she was Smackdown Women’s champion for 380 days. She called it the biggest win of her career, and she’s not stopping with Bayley. She staked her claim to the Royal Rumble Match, and said she would be the EST of WrestleMania. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens will have an interview later, and Bryan will take on Styles.
Cesaro was shown backstage as he spoke to AJ Styles and Omos. Baron Corbin made his entrance in the arena. He was attacked from behind by Dominick Mysterio as he stood on the stage. Dominick tossed him into the barricade near the ring and rained down punches…[c]
My Take: That was a good win for Belair, and puts a bit of wind in her sails heading into the Royal Rumble. She’s one of the favorites to win the match, but it would put her in a weird position as a character to challenge a babyface champion in Sasha Banks. I’m glad the match didn’t end with interference.
2. Dominick Mysterio vs. Baron Corbin: Corbin started out on the attack, but Dominick used his speed to escape and land a knee to Corbin on the apron. He then splashed him on the floor. Corbin paced around the ring and talked trash to Rey Mysterio on commentary. He then entered the ring and landed an elaborate back suplex on Dominick, followed by a second one. Corbin remained in control until Corbon posted himself in the corner. Dominick capitalized with a dropkick, and a slingshot splash from the apron for a two count. A moment later, he set up for the 619, but Corbin caught him and pulled him into the ring.
They attempted a couple of lucha moves, and Corbin had to save Dominick both times with his power. Dominick eventually landed a nice tornado DDT. Corbin avoided a dropkick from the corner, and landed a big right hand. He then followed up with End of Days for the win.
Baron Corbin defeated Dominick Mysterio at 4:55
After the match, Corbin went to attack Rey, but he successfully evaded the attack and put Corbin down with a splash on the floor.
Backstage, Big E passed Sonya Deville a dollar and asked to find out his number in the Rumble. He sweetened the deal with an Arby’s coupon. Miz and Morrison walked up and asked where Adam Pearce was. Sonya said someone pulled some strings and got him suspended for a week. Miz said pulling strings to get what you want is just a nasty thing to do. Morrison made a terrible joke about Gamestop stock, and Sonya decided it was a good time to leave. Big E tried to leave too, but Morrison and Miz mocked him. A brawl ensued, and Big E got the better of both of them…[c]
My Take: Corbin and Dominick are both cold as ice. There’s just nothing exciting about that program, and it’s a waste of Rey Mysterio’s star power and considerable talent. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think Big E spends a lot of time at Arby’s.
Tamina and Natalya will apparently have a match tomorrow night on FS1 to determine the #30 spot in the Women’s Royal Rumble. Why I have no idea. A video clip was shown of Sasha Banks as she defeated Reginald last week. Sasha encountered Kalisto backstage and gave him a hug. Reginald walked up and presented her a bottle of wine, and said she should pair it with losing her championship. Sasha asked him if he freelanced, because he should find Carmella a wine for when she has a broken jaw. She then told Reginald that he could find a wine for himself, because he looked like he could use a drink.
We then got a long form video package that went through the Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns feud. They are preparing for a sit down interview segment next…[c]
My Take: That was a solid video package. I hope this match is the blowoff, because they’ve gotten as much out of it as they can.
[Hour 2] Sami Zayn spoke to Shinsuke Nakamura backstage and spoke about the grand conspiracy that stoke his title reign from him. Shinsuke blew him off and said he would see him in the Royal Rumble. Zayn tried to create conflict between Nakamura and Cesaro.
Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns had a split screen conversation. Owen said as far as he’s concerned he’s already beaten Roman Reigns twice, and he would get up as many times as it took to become the Universal Champion again. Paul Heyman piped up and said Owens should not talk about the Tribal Chief or his family that way, and he should speak of him with the utmost respect. Owens asked Reigns if he was going to let Heyman recycle material when talking about him. Reigns asked Owens about his father. He said he is a great man, and he should be careful about where he’s going.
Reigns asked if he was a smart man, and Owens answered yes. He then asked Owens why he wasn’t smart enough to understand that he’s not in his league. He said he’s not a King, a Knight, or a Bishop, he’s a pawn that doesn’t know his place. Reigns said everything revolves around him, and Owens needs to understand that. If Owens is that big of a fool, then his father is a fool, and his Grandfather is a fool.
Owens then said he saw where Owens was going with this, after he saw what he said about his Grandfathers, and how much they meant to him. Reigns then continued that he would meet his Grandfathers again one day, and they would tell him what a disgrace he was for not acknowledging him as the tribal chief. Owens replied that his Grandfathers would only want him to recognize him for what he is, and that’s an insecure jackass. He said Roman shows up every week and plays a community theatre version of a Mafia Boss tough guy, but that’s not who he is.
Owens got fired up and said he would expose Roman for what he really was, and show his entire family that he was someone they could be proud of. After The Royal Rumble, they would still be proud of him, except now he would be the Universal Champion. Reigns cut off his camera part way through Owens tirade, and Owens ripped off his microphone and left when he was done.
In the arena, Daniel Bryan made his entrance, followed by AJ Styles with Omos. AJ walked to the ring and sent Omos to the back…[c]
My Take: A really strong sit down interview from Owens and Reigns. Owens showed some good fire towards the end, and got under Reigns skin with the line about the community theater mafia boss. Reigns did the same by refusing to listen to Kevin Owens finish his remarks. Styles and Bryan should be good while it lasts, but a clean finish seems unlikely.
The announce team hyped up the Royal Rumble Card, and a video package aired for Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg.
3. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles: They traded headlocks to start the match. Cesaro joined in on commentary. We got some mat wrestling and they traded leverage. Bryan bridged and Styles jumped on top of him. Bryan then powered him up and landed a monkey flip. Styles then reversed the process and did the same to him. They continued to go back and forth, with Styles landing a dropkick, and Bryan returning fire with a suplex.
Sami Zayn walked out during the match with his documentary crew. Bryan looked at him, and Styles knocked him down off the turnbuckles. Styles threw Bryan into the ring steps on the outside…[c]
Cesaro spoke French to mock the announce team. Bryan leapt out of the corner and landed a clothesline on AJ Styles. He then landed kicks in the corner, and a top rope head scissors for a near fall. Sami Zayn had a number of signs at ringside with his documentary crew. Styles caught one of Bryan’s kicks and threw with a dragon screw leg whip.
AJ set up Bryan in the corner and kicked his knee out. He then applied the Calf Crusher, and Bryan had to drag himself to the bottom rope. Bryan sent Styles to the apron in the corner. AJ shoved him away and went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Bryan trapped his arm on the way down. He landed a Butterfly Suplex and applied an arm bar, and then transitioned into the LeBell Lock.
Big E walked out as Styles reached the ropes. He then landed a hard lariat on Sami Zayn on the floor. He then threw Zayn into Cesaro, who kicked Big E in the face. Daniel Bryan then splashed Styles, Cesaro and Zayn on the floor. Zayn then entered the ring and attacked Bryan, and caused a DQ.
Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles ended in a no contest at 12:37
After the match, a brawl erupted that resulted in the babyfaces clearing the heels from the ring. I think you see where this is going…[c]
My Take: If you thought six man tag, open yourself a beer. As predicted, this was fun while it lasted, but giving away a finish just didn’t seem likely.
4. Daniel Bryan, Big E, and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Cesaro, AJ Styles, and Sami Zayn: Cesaro and Nakamura started the match. Cesaro landed a sliding german suplex, and then tagged in Big E. Cesaro turned the tables on Big E and tagged in Sami Zayn. After landing a series of punches, Zayn hit the ropes and ran into a back elbow from Big E. Bryan then tagged in and landed a european uppercut. He then tagged Big E back in, and they landed a double hip toss for a two count.
Big E tied up Zayn and tagged in Bryan, who landed a top rope axe handle on Zayn’s arm. Sami fired back with a chop block on the knee that Styles worked on earlier. Styles then tagged in and rapped Bryan’s leg around the post a few times…[c]
Cesaro swung Bryan around and then applied a half crab submission. Styles tagged in and continued the focus on Bryan’s leg. Zayn did the same. He then set Bryan on the top rope, and set up for a superplex. Bryan landed a headbutt to send him down. He then followed up with a missile dropkick. Bryan sold the leg and struggled to make it to his corner. Bryan made a hot tag to Big E, who threw everybody around with overhead belly to belly suplexes. Cesaro fired back with a corkscrew uppercut for a near fall. He then went for a Neutralizer, but Big E avoided it and landed a corner Uranage.
Miz and Morrison ran down and attacked Nakamura. They then attacked Nakamura, and the match was thrown out.
The match ended in no contest at 9:27
Miz and Morrison double teamed Big E, but Otis ran down for the save. Despite having personal beef with Miz and Morrison, he still took time to dance on his way to the ring. He cleaned house on Miz and Morrison, with lariats and overhead suplexes for everyone…[c]
My Take: They are really going out of their way to make this second hour deeply unsatisfying to watch.
Apparently this is now a 5 on 4 tag match.
5. Miz and Morrison, AJ Styles, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Otis: Miz tossed Bryan into the announce table, and then applied a Figure Four in the ring. Bryan escaped, but Miz tagged himself in and landed a Blue Thunder Bomb on him for a near fall. Cesaro tagged in and landed a vertical suplex, and then brought in Morrison. We got more rapid tags from the heels. Bryan and Styles had a double cross body collision, and the heels ran around the ring to pull the heels from the apron.
Zayn remained on the apron because of the man advantage, and tagged in to assault Bryan. Sheamus ran down to the ring to even the numbers. Bryan made a hot tag to Sheamus and he cleaned house on the heels. Sheamus landed an Irish Curse backbreaker on Zayn and applied a Cloverleaf submission. Morrison broke it up, and all hell broke loose. We got a cascade of finishers from Big E, Miz, Nakamura, and Zayn. Sheamus managed to get a pin after landing a Brogue Kick on Zayn.
Daniel Bryan, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura, Otis, and Sheamus won the match at 4:55
After the match, the brawl continued. Braun Strowman made a surprise appearance and tossed around Cesaro. He landed a powerslam on Cesaro and celebrated as everyone else was laid out…[c]
My Take: Well, we got a finish eventually, though they quickly moved on to the next thing like it didn’t matter. Braun Strowman returning just isn’t that big of a deal. He hasn’t been gone long enough to miss him, and the work he was doing before his absence was some of the worst of his entire WWE run. He looked to be in good shape, but that was a resounding meh for me. Kudos to Bryan and Styles for being out there for the better part of an hour.