SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair, Shayna Baszler, Aliyah, Natalya, Shotzi and Sasha Banks Made Royal Rumble Proclamations
First and foremost, the new entrance music for Baszler is awfully generic and a significant downgrade from her previous theme, which was great. With that out of the way, the rest of this segment was fairly basic. My top two takeaways are that SmackDown's women's division is very thin and that Banks is back ahead of schedule. It's possible that she was never supposed to be out for six weeks and that WWE only exaggerated the injury to make it more of a surprise when she came back in time to be in the Rumble. The question is, why wasn't she saved as a surprise? Did they feel she'd be overshadowed by the possible return of Ronda Rousey? Either way, she's a strong addition to the match and immediately became a strong contender to win the whole thing.
Sheamus and Ridge Holland def. Cesaro and Ricochet
The winning streak Sheamus has been on for the last month has definitely been noticeable. Granted, they've been beating the same two people, but it's better than WWE doing the dreaded 50/50 booking. It was a quality contest to boot, which should come as no surprise given the level of talent involved. At last glance, WWE.com preview of the men's Rumble features Ricochet but not Cesaro. That's pretty damn sad when you consider that he was on the hottest run of his career going into WrestleMania last year.
Naomi def. Sonya Deville
Considering Deville hadn't wrestled since SummerSlam 2020, I thought she had a damn good showing in this match. It was far from perfect, but they worked well together and Deville was impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed this and was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't any interference and that Naomi actually won clean. You'd think that was the payoff to the program after so many months, but Deville announced afterward that she'll be joining Naomi in the women's Rumble on Saturday. Maybe one will eliminate the other, but I don't see there being a need for a rematch at WrestleMania seeing as how Deville already lost in clean fashion.
Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs Interrupted Sami Zayn's In Zayn Podcast with Jinder Mahal and Shanky; Nakamura and Boogs def. Mahal and Shanky
Instead of doing something stupid in typical Jackass fashion, Zayn instead opted to host a podcast. I honestly wouldn't have minded if Zayn hosted a podcast for the entire second hour of this show if his guest wasn't Jinder Mahal. This segment just sort of existed until Nakamura and Boogs came out for their tag team match with Mahal and Shanky, which was fine while it lasted. The bigger story was that Nakamura has apparently been cleared to compete, so hopefully that means we'll be getting that Intercontinental Championship match between him and Zayn soon.
The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) def. Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss
WWE has explained Big E being on SmackDown by saying that it's Royal Rumble, but the funny thing is that we're barely seeing any SmackDown stars on Raw. That's because the blue brand could desperately use the star power. At any rate, this was an enjoyable tag team affair for what it was. Corbin and Moss finally got their comeuppance for once and New Day got to score some last-minute momentum ahead of the Rumble.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Seth "Freakin" Rollins Went Face-to-Face
These segments with Reigns and Rollins have been hit or miss since the start of the program, but I thought this was solid on the whole. Rollins referenced a lot of their history, including The Shield's split in 2014. Rollins has been portrayed as the babyface for the better part of the build to the Rumble, but he definitely came across as the heel here. They're really teasing that Rollins could win and I can see it as a possibility, but I maintain that Reigns should and will retain the title.
As a go-home show, this wasn't the strongest effort from WWE. I've seen worse and this certainly wasn't a bad show, but the hype for the Rumble could have been better. I realize the Rumble sells itself, but most of this show fell flat aside from the ending segment, Banks' return and Naomi vs. Deville. Those were the highlights, but the other matches and segments weren't terribly exciting. That's been par for the course for blue brand over the last month or two and I fear what that might mean for the road to WrestleMania on the SmackDown side.