Shinsuke Nakamura def. Jey Uso
First and foremost, "The Rising Sun" is back! That's tremendous. If the plan is indeed for Nakamura to become a full-fledged face again (which it should be), then that was the first step. It's crazy to think he was a heel longer in WWE than he ever was a face, and that includes his NXT run. Nonetheless, this was a fun opener with Uso once again putting in a great effort before eating defeat. Cesaro congratulated him afterward, but I'm wondering how long it will be before he turns on Nakamura. Nakamura later said he's coming for Roman Reigns, so maybe that's the match for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February?
Natalya def. Liv Morgan
I guess the Natalya and Tamina vs. The Riott Squad feud is going to continue with Billie Kay as the focal point pretending she's a member of Riott Squad. As I've said several times already, it's nice to have an additional story in SmackDown's women's division, but this doesn't do much for me, personally. It was a fine match that saw an inadvertent distraction from Kay cost Morgan the victory.
King Corbin def. Rey Mysterio
I'm a firm believer that these two could have great chemistry together based on the size difference and how each of them wrestle. Unfortunately, this wasn't it. It was better than their last outing, though that's not saying much. On the bright side, I'm happy the Murphy and Aaliyah angle has apparently been scrapped, but it's a shame WWE never capitalized on Murphy's big win over Seth Rollins back in November. But yeah, this just sort of existed because WWE doesn't know what else to do with them before Royal Rumble.
Bayley Hosted the Premiere of 'Ding Dong, Hello!' with Bianca Belair
Was it just me or did this remind anyone else of Britt Baker's The Waiting Room from AEW? That talk show had a rocky start and ended up improving, so we'll see if that ends up being the case with Ding Dong, Hello! with Bayley or if it will be abandoned before it has a chance to get better. I honestly didn't mind this, especially since Bayley has improved immensely on the mic as a heel. Belair was fine in her role and this did its job of building toward their rematch next week on SmackDown.
Cesaro def. Daniel Bryan
When you put Bryan and Cesaro in the ring together, greatness is virtually guaranteed. This was no exception as they ripped it up against together and produced a hell of a match. I assumed Bryan would avenge his loss to Nakamura in the Gauntlet last week by beating his tag team partner here, but I was shocked that wasn't the case. Bryan winning would have been perfectly acceptable, but Cesaro scoring a rare singles win over a top talent was a pleasant surprise. We'll see if it leads anywhere or if it was simply a case of Bryan being generous and allowing Cesaro to beat him.
Apollo Crews def. Sami Zayn
Both of these guys have been involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture lately and are looking for another shot at the title. Zayn is claiming conspiracy (and he even has his own film crew as evidence, which is funny) while Crews is all fired up following his pep talk from Paul Heyman on Talking Smack last week. Hell, Crews was even getting a few pointers from Reigns backstage earlier in the evening. If it wasn't already apparent that he's going heel, he pretty much cemented that here by cheating to beat Zayn when the referee wasn't looking. It was a well-wrestled match while it lasted that progressed the story with these three along. Big E will defend his Intercontinental title against Crews again next week.
Adam Pearce Named Kevin Owens as His Replacement to Challenge Universal Champion Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble
You had to know exactly where this was going as soon as they announced the contract signing later on in the show, and I'm not complaining. I know some people were looking forward to Reigns facing Pearce at the pay-per-view, but I doubt they would have positioned Peace as a legitimate threat to Reigns or even acknowledged his history as a wrestler (and a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion), so I'm glad they're resuming the rivalry with Reigns and Owens instead. The Last Man Standing stipulation should be great and will prevent Owens from eating another pinfall loss (unless he pulls out the upset, which there's a slim chance of).
SmackDown smokes Raw almost every single week and it's not even close. Not every episode of SmackDown is a home run, but this was an enjoyable episode on the whole. Nakamura is off to a strong start as a babyface, Bryan vs. Cesaro was a treat, two matches were set up for next week, and Reigns vs. Owens is official for Royal Rumble. I didn't care for Natalya vs. Morgan and Corbin vs. Mysterio felt like filler, but the two hours largely flew by. It will be interesting to see what the road to WrestleMania will look like on the SmackDown side coming out of the Rumble.