Triple H Reasserted His Authority
It was wise to start SmackDown by immediately following up on what we saw close Thursday's press conference. Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes and The Rock obviously weren't present, but Triple H putting Rock in his place was certainly interesting. Rock obviously joined the TKO board last month, so it looks like they might be doing some sort of power struggle between HHH and Rock on television. Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce then announced that an Elimination Chamber match will be held at the eponymous event to determine Seth Rollins' World Heavyweight Championship challenger for WrestleMania 40.
Drew McIntyre def. AJ Styles to Qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber Match
Are all of the qualifiers for the men's Chamber going to be Raw vs. SmackDown? If so, that's cool because it will give us some fresh matchups. We've seen McIntyre vs. Styles before, but not in at least three years (the WWE Championship Chamber in 2021 came down to them two, ironically enough). Unsurprisingly, this was a great match. I would've liked to see Styles in the Chamber, but it looks like we're getting Styles vs. LA Knight at the event and I appreciate that they're resuming their rivalry from the Royal Rumble (not to mention McIntyre might win the whole thing).
Bianca Belair def. Michin to Qualify for the Women's World Championship No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber Match
I remember the series of matches Belair and Michin had in NXT five years ago. Yes, it's been that long and I feel old just typing that. Although the outcome was never in doubt, they had a good match. I expect Tiffany Stratton to qualify as well so she can eliminate Belair and set up a WrestleMania match between them. Not only would it be the best use of them at the event, it'd also mark the first non-title singles women's match at 'Mania that wasn't something stupid like a "cat fight" or "pillow fight."
Dakota Kai Saved Bayley From Damage CTRL
Bayley's shift back into being a babyface has been completely organic, so she came across as natural in her promo here and explained where it went wrong with Damage CTRL. Kai wasn't there for last week's segment, so I like how they're telling the story of where her allegiance lies. It'll help kill time until WrestleMania, which isn't for another two months. Kai was on Bayley's side here, but I think she'll ultimately remain with Damage CTRL. This was a solid segment.
Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne def. #DIY in an Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Neither of these teams are over at the moment, but they tend to get the crowd behind them in their matches just by doing their thing. This didn't reach the gear I hoped it would, but it was still a fun match and the crowd did eventually get into the action. #DIY already failed against The Judgment Day last week on Raw, so Bate and Dunne getting the next shot at Elimination Chamber makes sense.
Randy Orton def. Sami Zayn to Qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber Match
This was another matchup we haven't seen in several years. Realistically, either guy could have won. It was a top-notch main event that saw Zayn give it his all only to fall short as he usually does. The dude's an underdog and will bounce back, but it's a shame he likely won't be a part of Elimination Chamber after headlining last year's installment in his hometown. I'm not certain what his role at WrestleMania will end up being and the same can be said for Orton as well.
Stakes, stakes and more stakes! All four matches had them and felt more meaningful as a result. In fact there was zero filler on this episode whatsoever. They did what they could to follow up on the hot ending to the press conference without the main players appearing (though Rock and Reigns were announced for next week), more was made clear regarding what the Chamber card will look like, and the Damage CTRL segment was well done once again. It was another great edition of SmackDown that left me looking forward to next week and the rest of the road to WrestleMania in general.