Universal Champion Roman Reigns Addressed Adam Pearce; Pearce Accepted Paul Heyman's Challenge
This is nothing new, but Reigns is just on another level on the mic compared to everyone else in the company, and I'm not just saying that because I just interviewed him this week. His line about carrying the company these past few years wasn't wrong, even though he's been at his best only since returning at SummerSlam. The Pearce and Heyman exchange was well done and provided a nice hook for the "main event" between them. I also appreciated that Reigns brought up that Pearce used to be a wrestler because I don't think that has been mentioned at all up to this point.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Charlotte Flair and Raw Women's Champion Asuka def. The Riott Squad (Non-Title)
WWE doesn't have many women's tag teams, so I wouldn't have rushed into doing this match, especially without advertising it in advance. Maybe the idea is that Asuka and Flair aren't long for the tag team ranks, but if Asuka and Flair were always going to win, this should have been for the titles considering The Riott Squad have racked up plenty of victories lately. Billie Kay unintentionally cost Ruby Riott the win and they berated her afterward for it, which honestly made me feel bad for Kay. We'll see where that goes. By the way, are Asuka and Flair not going to address the issues the other has been having recently, or are they saving that for Raw?
Daniel Bryan Vowed to Win the Men's Royal Rumble Match; Cesaro def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Dolph Ziggler
Despite losing a few matches recently, I would still say that Bryan is the odds-on favorite to win the men's Rumble this year, as he should be. It just makes the most sense and I think there's going to be a lot of unhappy fans if he doesn't (also depending on who does instead). It was cool that Cesaro interrupted him and acknowledged beating him last week. I know that sounds simple, but it's typical of WWE to forget about that stuff and quickly move on from it. Cesaro followed up his win over Bryan with another over Ziggler. It was a quickly contest, but I'm not sure why it had to be a fellow heel answering Cesaro's challenge. I suppose he could be going babyface, but it doesn't feel like that's the direction WWE is going in with him.
SmackDown Women's Champion Sasha Banks def. Reginald (Non-Title)
If Jim Cornette gets upset about the high-fliers in AEW, his head will probably explode after watching this. WWE doesn't do intergender matches very often, but when they do, the male usually can't hit much offense. That's totally understandable, but it also gets old very quickly depending on how it's booked. This was just a bunch of acrobatics from him before Banks forced him to tap out. Reginald isn't a Superstar, so that didn't bother me, but it dragged on for a little longer than it should have. Plus, does Reginald have enough heat to where people care about seeing him get his ass kicked? I'm still looking forward to the eventual rematch between Banks and Carmella for the SmackDown Women's Championship, though.
Intercontinental Champion Big E vs. Apollo Crews Ended in a No Contest
I've been really digging what Crews has been doing since resurfacing on SmackDown this year. He's definitely headed for a heel turn and I thought it might happen here, but Sami Zayn interfered, attacked and caused the contested to be thrown out. Up to that point in the show, Zayn had handcuffed himself to the barricade on the ramp, which was funny. What we got here was good but way too short. I really want Big E and Crews to be given the time they deserve to have the match they're capable of, but it looks like we might be getting a Triple Threat instead. That should be great, too, but hopefully we get a proper Big E vs. Crews match down the line.
Bianca Belair def. Bayley in an Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Course Challenge
I usually loathe these types of segments on WWE TV, but this was actually pretty entertaining and played to the strengths of both Belair and Bayley. We've heard a lot about Belair's incredible athleticism since her arrival on the main roster, but we haven't seen a ton of it outside of her matches. This obstacle course allowed her to showcase her skills in that respect as well as further her feud with Bayley. Belair deadlifting Otis was especially impressive. I hated it on the first season of NXT (OG fans remember), but it worked here.
King Corbin def. Dominik Mysterio
This was a significant improvement over Corbin's match against Rey Mysterio last week, which I was looking forward to before it fell flat. Obviously, Dominik's much younger and can move around the ring better, so that shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Granted, this didn't last long, but I liked what we got from them. I was left wondering who Rey was referring to when he said he had backup or something along those lines last week. I assumed he was talking about NXT's Damian Priest (who is due for a call-up) and he still could be, but I thought it was weird there was no follow-up to that on this show.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns Brawled with Adam Pearce and Kevin Owens
As expected, the Pearce vs. Heyman match didn't happen before, like Pearce did last week, Heyman feigned an injury and referred to the old "card subject to change" line when he revealed Reigns as his replacement. The matchup never got started, but Reigns did hit more offense on Pearce than I thought he would. Owens wasn't supposed to be in the building (as illustrated during his excellent pre-taped promo earlier in the evening) but made the save anyway and got one over on Reigns for once. This was a really well-done segment that served as a nice preview of their upcoming Last Man Standing war at Royal Rumble.
It's amazing that this the same company that produces Raw every Monday, which has become a chore to sit through. Some editions of SmackDown are better than others, but it's rarely as abysmal as Raw, or at least it hasn't been since Reigns' return last summer. This was a solid show on the whole. I didn't care much for Banks vs. Reginald and Corbin vs. Mysterio was too short (though some may argue that's a good thing), but mostly everything held my interest and moved most of the storylines along as Royal Rumble approaches. I just wish something had been advertised for next week's episode.