By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,168)
Live from Omaha, Nebraska at CHI Health Center
Aired January 14, 2022 on Fox
[Hour One] A video package aired that recapped the story developments from last week between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, as well as the introduction of Seth Rollins as his Royal Rumble opponent. Rollins was shown cackling backstage, and Pat McAfee and Michael Cole announced that they would go face to face tonight. They also announced that Lita would return tonight on Smackdown for the first time in 12 years.
The Usos made their entrance in the arena. Video was shown of them retaining the Tag Team Championships against the New Day. King Woods was said to have torn a calf muscle during the match, putting him out indefinitely. Jey said they went to war last week with the New Day and beat them, but they respected them as the only team that pushed them that hard. Jimmy said they let everyone know who runs Smackdown, who the Bloodline is, and who the best Tag Team in WWE is.
Jey then said the grind is never done, because tonight they can’t afford to celebrate because they have to help Big Uce with his face to face with Seth Rollins. Jimmy said management was already lining up their opponents for a contenders match, and then introduced their potential opponents. They brought out Los Lotharios, Cesaro and Mansoor, Jinder Mahal and Shanky, and the Viking Raiders. They insulted all the teams as they made their entrances. These four teams will receive a Tag Team Championship opportunity. Jimmy said the most important rule to remember is that they are the ones, and then they superkicked Shanky and Mansoor and ran away before a brawl broke out…[c]
My Take: Not a particularly strong opening segment. The Usos are one of the best teams in the world, but the competition on Smackdown is very thin. Xavier Woods being hurt is another blow to a show that couldn’t afford to lose any more star power.
1. “Los Lotharios” Angel and Humberto vs. Jinder Mahal & Shanky vs. Cesaro & Mansoor vs. “The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar in a four-way for a shot at the Smackdown Tag Titles: Humberto Carillo and Mansoor were in the ring when the show returned. Cesaro tagged in and laid in some uppercuts. Erik from the Raiders made a blind tag, as did Shanky a moment later. Shanky landed some blows on Erik before tagging out to Jinder Mahal. The match plodded along as a punch and kick fest. Shanky and Ivar ended up the legal men and traded more punches. Shanky missed a charge in the corner, setting up a Viking Raiders double team. Ivar went to the top rope, but Jinder Mahal prevented any offense.
Jinder met Ivar on the top, and Cesaro joined him to give Ivar a Double Superplex. Erik joined them, and we got a tower of doom spot out of the corner…[c]
Mansoor and Humberto were back in the ring. Cesaro tagged in and began to clean house. He knocked Jinder and Shanky from the apron, and then landed a Samoan Drop on Humberto. Ivar tagged himself in, and Cesaro set up for the Cesaro Swing. Jinder Mahal interrupted and landed a Khalas on Cesaro. Chaos reigned as everybody started clearing each other from the ring. Los Lotharios dove on everybody at ringside.
Ivar teased a dive, but was stopped by Garza and Carillo. Erik and Ivar cleared Garza from the ring and landed The Viking Experience on Carillo for the win.
The Viking Raiders defeated Los Lotharios, Jinder Mahal & Shanky, and Cesaro & Mansoor at 13:21 to earn a shot at the Smackdown Tag Titles
After the match, The Usos talked trash and told the Viking Raiders that their people were never able to pillage in their part of the world…
We then got a video package that recapped Sonya Deville continuing her torment of Naomi in her match last week against Charlotte…
Sonya Deville was then approached by Naomi backstage. Naomi told Deville to keep her mouth shut, and to stop messing with her career. She said she hasn’t heard one reason why she has been hating on her this hard. Deville said when she wears this jacket, she can’t touch her. Sonya then explained that Naomi annoys her because she acts like she’s a main character when everyone knows she’s an extra. She then threatened to pull her from the Rumble or fire her if she put her hands on her…
Adam Pearce walked up and said it was cold in there, and turned up the heat…
Sami Zayn made his entrance in the arena…
My Take: A very formula WWE tag match to determine the number one contenders. The Viking Raiders have been treated like a joke for so long that it’s hard to take them seriously as challengers. Hopefully they can change that impression of them in the coming weeks. Naomi and Sonya Deville feels like it has to be a WrestleMania match at this point, right?
A video was shown of some of the history between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, including the breakup of The Shield. In the arena, Sami Zayn ranted about the conspiracy against him, and how it started with him being robbed of the Intercontinental Championship. He then called Johnny Knoxville the latest cast member of the conspiracy against him. Zayn demanded the producers put footage from last week’s show with Knoxville on the screen.
Zayn then revealed a skate ramp, and said he would one up Johnny Knoxville by displaying the most outrageous stunt show in history. He called in Inzayn. He then went backstage and emerged in a shopping cart and said he could jump the wrestling ring. He had second thoughts, and said this didn’t feel like the shopping cart they tested with earlier. Zayn continued to stop and start his guys pushing him to the ring.
They finally started, but he stopped them just as he reached the ramp. Zayn got booed by the crowd, and Zayn said he just wanted to check to make sure it was safe. He asked the crowd if they wanted to see him get hurt, and they cheered. Rick Boogs showed up, and Sami gave him his attention. Nakamura then snuck up behind Zayn, and landed Kinshasa. Boogs then press slammed Zayn over the top rope onto the crash pad at ringside…
Aliyah was shown backstage, and was asked about her singles debut against Natalya. She said she was very nervous, and she hoped she puts on a good show and doesn’t embarrass herself. She feigned vomiting. Natalya showed up and said she was the most winning woman in WWE history, and said it was one of her three Guinness World Records. Aliyah said she wasn’t even aware that was a thing.
Aliyah made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Zayn was funny as usual in his deranged conspiracy role. Boogs and Nakamura got a very strong reaction from the live crowd. I think they move the Intercontinental Title back onto Zayn, but I think Boogs and Nakamura could be a boost to the Tag Division when that feud is over. They have good chemistry together.
Natalya went on and on about her Guinness Records backstage, and said she would break the record of 3.8 seconds for the fastest victory of any woman in WWE history. She then made her ring entrance with her Guinness Book. She attacked Aliyah before the bell rang, and stomped her out all over the ring. The ref begged her to stop and pulled her off and separated them. The ref asked Aliyah if she could continue, and she didn’t respond immediately. The ref gave her a second chance and allowed the match to start.
2. Natalya vs. Aliyah: Aliyah rolled up Natalya immediately.
Aliyah defeated Natalya in 3.17 seconds
The time was announced by new ring announcer Samantha Irvine. Backstage, Adam Pearce complained their office was hot and turned the temperature back down. Lita returns next…[c]
My Take: The foreshadowing on the fastest victory was a bit heavy, but the crowd enjoyed it.
A video package was shown that recapped the shield break up, and plugged Reigns vs. Rollins in the Main Event segment. In the arena, Michael Cole welcomed Lita to the arena, and called her a legend and a trailblazer. He asked her how it felt to be back in a WWE ring. She said she was home. Lita said she had chills from the crowd chants. Cole said she used to give them chills week after week, and spoke about how she inspired current superstars like Naomi and Becky Lynch. Cole asked what motivated her to come back for the Royal Rumble Match.
Lita said she had a lot of memories and highlights, including the first Women’s Main Event with her bestie Trish Stratus. She said she was very satisfied with her career, at least until recently. She spoke about how the Rumble didn’t exist during her era, and she had a plan to mow through 29 other women to challenge for the Women’s Title at WrestleMania. She claimed that she had one more good run left in her. Am I hallucinating that she already competed in the first Women’s Royal Rumble????
[Hour Two] Charlotte Flair’s music hit and she walked to the ring. She said she wasn’t aware it was Flashback Friday, and said she was also competing in the Royal Rumble. She said when she throws her out at the Royal Rumble, she could choose her own opponent at WrestleMania. She claimed she would end her WrestleMania dreams.
Lita then said she was aware of this version of Charlotte, and said they had a real Tonya Harding on their hands. She told Charlotte that should probably wouldn’t be able to throw anybody out with that giant head of hers. She encouraged a Giant Head chant. Charlotte replied that at SummerSlam 2018 her bestie Trish Stratus demanded a match with her, and she embarrassed her into retirement. Charlotte asked if she thought she could do any better. Lita then feigned a slap, and then gave her a twist of fate. Lita celebrated and left…
Footage was shown of Ridge Holland’s broken nose…
Backstage, Sheamus was interviewed and said his protege Ridge Holland should be standing beside him. But he’s at home with his nose around the back of his head taking notes because of the human pinball machine Ricochet. Sheamus said he would show Ricochet what it feels like to leave the ring with a broken nose. He then made his ring entrance.
My Take: WWE’s amnesia about Lita already competing in a Royal Rumble aside, the crowd was into that segment and her return. Charlotte did look like she stole a jumpsuit from a figure skater. The Twist of Fate looked like the safest one that’s ever been delivered on anybody.
Ricochet made his ring entrance. In a pre-taped promo, he said he would repeat what he did to Ridge Holland to Sheamus tonight…
3. Sheamus vs. Ridge Holland: Both men traded hip tossed and headlock takeovers. Sheamus got dumped to ringside, Ricochet dove on him over the top rope. Sheamus scrambled away to escape, and Ricochet followed. Sheamus took over by tripping up Ricochet on the apron. He then shoved Ricochet partially under the ring and did a catapult style lift into the ring support steel…[c]
During the break, Sheamus retained control. Ricochet broke free of a hold and then landed a back elbow and some kicks. Sheamus attempted a Brogue Kick, but Ricochet moved and his momentum carried him out to the apron. Ricochet landed a moonsault as Sheamus hung inside the second rope for a two count. He then went up top and missed a shooting star press attempt. Sheamus got to his feet and quickly landed a backbreaker.
Sheamus landed clubbing blows to the chest. He then picked up Ricochet and ascended up the ropes. Ricochet escaped and landed a sunset flip powerbomb for a near fall. After waiting for Sheamus to get to his feet, Ricochet attempted to pick him up, but failed. Sheamus attempted an Alabama Slam, but Ricochet escaped and rolled him up for two. He then attempted a springboard, but Sheamus caught him with a Brogue Kick and got the win.
Sheamus defeated Ricochet at 9:53
Sheamus celebrated briefly and left the ring. Footage was shown of Aliyah setting the record of fastest victory in WWE earlier in the show. Backstage, the GM’s office continued to be very hot and Adam Pearce took off his jacket. Sonya Deville then took off her own jacket, and Pearce said he was going to go check with maintenance. Naomi walked back in and noticed she didn’t have her jacket on. Before Naomi could kick her ass, Pearce showed up and kept them apart. He agreed with Naomi that Sonya had cost her the match with Charlotte, and said they could run it back next week…
Kofi Kingston made his entrance in the arena. He will face Madcap Moss next…[c]
My Take: Sheamus continues to have really good matches on television without a ton of recognition. I’m curious if we’ll see Sonya enter the Rumble. It would make sense with how thin the roster is.
Footage was shown of Rollins cashing in on Reigns and Lesnar at WrestleMania to continue the story of their history together. Kofi read a statement from King Woods. It revealed that Woods has a calf injury and wouldn’t be able to compete in the Royal Rumble, but Kofi would represent the kingdom by entering the Royal Rumble match.
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss came out. Corbin blathered on about being happy and rich, and then showed footage of them putting Drew McIntyre out of commission. Moss then made a joke about Kofi being so scared that he would crap his pants, and called him Poo Day. Kofi made a ridiculous exaggerated laugh, and said he would drop a royal deuce on his forehead during the match.
4. Kofi Kingston vs. Madcap Moss (w/Happy Corbin): Kofi cleared Moss and Corbin from the ring, and then dove on them at ringside…[c]
After the break, Moss was in control and beat down Kofi in the corner. Kofi turned things around with a springboard dropkick and a jumping lariat. Kofi then mimed dropping the deuce he mentioned earlier, and then landed a boom drop. Corbin got involved, and Kofi missed an attempt at Trouble in Paradise. After a series of reversals, Kofi went for an SOS, but Moss blocked it. He then landed his Punchline neckbreaker and got the win.
Madcap Moss defeated Kofi Kingston at 5:01
After the match, Corbin and Madcap celebrated. We then got a Raw preview for Monday that featured Lesnar, Lashley, Maryse, and Beth Phoenix. Seth Rollins made his entrance in the arena in a very shiny jacket…[c]
My Take: Moss and Corbin are the worst characters in WWE, and it’s not even close. Channel changing stuff. I feel bad Kofi has to carry forward the Royal gimmick in Woods absence. This could have been a good excuse to just drop it.
Roman Reigns made his entrance to have his face to face with Seth Rollins. Roman and Rollins smirked at each other as Reigns circled him and grabbed a microphone. There was a smattering of cheers for Roman. He then asked Omaha to acknowledge him, before Seth said anything. Rollins then said it was nice to acknowledge that this was quite a moment. Rollins then put his fist out, just for old times sake. Roman said that was beneath him now.
Seth said Roman may not acknowledge that, but he had to acknowledge that he was the last person he wanted to see in his office last week. Seth said their track record in title matches is pretty one sided, and said he has one all of them. Roman smiled and said he was talking about the past, because he’s on god mode now. He called himself the greatest Universal Champion of all time, and that makes him the greatest to ever do this.
Seth said he acknowledges all of Roman’s accomplishments, but asked him if he can look in the mirror and say that he did it all himself. He said he was working his way to the top when Roman was riding the pine in the CFL. Seth then said he held his hand throughout their time in The Shield, and when he cut him loose with a chair to the back, he still couldn’t do it on his own. He told Roman that he still needed his precious Bloodline to hold him up.
Roman said this was a waste of his time, because Rollins isn’t on his level and never will be. He said if he wanted to choose a star from Raw, it wouldn’t have been him. He wouldn’t even have chosen him from his own household. If he wanted to main event WrestleMania with a mega star, he would have chosen his wife. The Usos then appeared to take down Rollins, but he managed to elude them and make his way back up to the stage. The show ended with Roman staring angrily while Rollins said he would destroy him.
My Take: This segment had its moments, but it felt like they just scratched the surface of a much deeper history between the two. There’s still a few weeks to get into that, and I think this was a good start, but I wouldn’t call it a stellar performance from either guy. I think the heel vs. heel dynamic hurts the program, because neither guy really had the support of the fans while they were taking their verbal shots at one another. Perhaps this program will begin to shift Rollins in the direction of being a babyface.