Roman Reigns and The Usos def. King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
I honestly can't remember the last time SmackDown opened with a match as opposed to a talking segment. It was a refreshing change of pace and I liked that this received a ton of time. The early goings weren't anything out of the ordinary, but once they picked up the pace, it turned into a very entertaining opener. There's no denying that Reigns and The Usos work wonderfully together and the heels were fun foils for them. I just fear that Reigns and company winning clean here means Corbin will beat Reigns at the Royal Rumble.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Lacey Evans Brawled
Evans talked a lot here about losing her father to depression, the upbringing of her daughter and how she strives to be an inspirational role model for the audience. She really laid it on thick and even got emotional toward the end. If this promo doesn't get fans to rally behind her, nothing will. I've enjoyed her babyface run so far and thought this was strong stuff. The brawl with Bayley left a bit to be desired, though.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. Fire and Desire Ended in a No Contest
These two teams have been feuding for two months, but I'm not really sure why. The ongoing angle with Mandy Rose and Otis has been entertaining, but these matches have been nothing special. This didn't even have a chance to get started because Bayley and Evans continued to brawl into the ring. It was a really lazy way of hyping up the women's Royal Rumble match, but I can't say I'm surprised given the minimal amount of focus it's received up to this point.
Braun Strowman and Elias def. Intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro
Strowman saved Elias from Nakamura, Cesaro and Sami Zayn last week, hence why they teamed up here. As I've said before, the Strowman vs. Nakamura rivalry does nothing for me and Strowman continuing to rack up victories doesn't make me care any more about him. In fact, all these losses simply make Nakamura look like a crappy champion. The match was fine, but the highlight was Elias picking up the victory by pinning Cesaro. It's about time he picked up a (somewhat) meaningful victory.
John Morrison def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Kofi Kingston
WWE made such a big deal about Morrison returning to the ring last week for the first time in over eight years, so I really wish this was advertised in advance as well. We didn't find out about it until right beforehand. Both guys are crazy athletic and got to show off their skills in this match. Morrison finally connected with Starship Pain (he rarely ever does) and scored his second straight win over The New Day as he should have. I thought he and The Miz would challenge for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at the Rumble, but it looks like that matchup won't happen until the following pay-per-view at the earliest.
Universal Champion "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt Attacked Daniel Bryan During the Royal Rumble Strap Match Contract Signing
I know this is nothing new, but contract signings in WWE (and just in wrestling in general) need to be retired forever. Seeing Wyatt (or even The Fiend for that matter) sign a contract would have been ridiculous, but thankfully, The Fiend stabbed himself in the hand with the pen instead and signed the piece of paper with his own blood. That was kind of cool, but the rest of this segment felt rushed because of how it started so close to the end of the episode. Maybe it helped that they didn't drag this on for longer, as the story they've been telling with these two lately hasn't been the best.
WWE loaded up this past week's Raw but apparently forgot they still had an episode of SmackDown to go before the Rumble. I've been a fan of the blue brand's direction in the new year, but this was easily the weakest edition in weeks. There were some solid matches, but nothing about this show sold me on Sunday's pay-per-view. I realize the Rumble essentially sells itself, but this was a below-average effort and I find myself no more excited for the event than I was before. Again, the two hours weren't a total waste, but they certainly weren't necessary.