Lacey Evans & Dana Brooke def. SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley & Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match
All three teams received mic time before the match, and I appreciated Bliss bringing up how they didn't really belong in the bout but are determined to get back in the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship hunt. I was pleasantly surprised by how much time this got and thought everyone had a solid showing. Brooke wasn't as bad as she's been in the past and seeing her score the win for her was refreshing. SmackDown doesn't have a super strong women's division, so I love that they had the entire first half hour of the show to themselves.
In case it wasn't already obvious enough, Elias is totally directionless at the moment. I'm glad he's back from injury and that WWE is trying again with him as a babyface, but it feels like he's killing time ahead of the Royal Rumble. His silly songs aren't entertaining at all, but at least the segments don't last longer than a few minutes. I'm just not sure what you do with him going forward.
Shorty G def. Dash Wilder
I know he's been going as Shorty G for a few months now, but the shtick isn't any less stupid to me. His "rise over size" motto sounds ridiculous. Thankfully, he's still insanely talented in the ring and this was a nice little match while it lasted. The Revival's post-match beatdown on Shorty G was interrupted by the returning Sheamus, who wound up laying out Shorty G with a Brogue Kick. It's happy Sheamus has finally returned and is remaining a heel, the role he's best in.
SmackDown Tag Team Champion Kofi Kingston def. The Miz
Miz was already frustrated coming into this contest following his recent string of losses (the guy hasn't won a televised singles match since September), so his heel turn here was hardly surprising. I'm disappointed WWE didn't do more with him as a babyface (especially considering how over he was early on), but there's no denying he's a natural heel. The actual match was enjoyable as Kingston and Miz have plenty of history together as opponents. John Morrison popped up in Miz's dressing room afterward, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing where this goes. Dirt Sheet Duo vs. The New Day has the potential to be awesome (no pun intended).
Otis def. Drew Gulak
An argument can absolutely made for the angle involving Otis and Mandy Rose being the best thing on SmackDown at the moment. It's such a simple storyline but both of them have played their respective roles remarkably well so far. It's rare we get to see Otis showcased on his own, so this was necessary. He made short work of Gulak and went over in decisive fashion. Speaking of Gulak, I can't believe he's back to doing the dumb PowerPoint gimmick. It was funny for a few months in 2017, but WWE is completely ignoring the stellar run he had as a no-nonsense badass last year.
Braun Strowman def. Cesaro
I assume Strowman will be vying for Shinsuke Nakamura's Intercontinental Championship at the Royal Rumble. Thus, this was designed to be a warm-up for Strowman. He and Cesaro had a solid match, even if the end result was never in doubt. I've come to terms that Cesaro will likely never be pushed again as a singles competitor, but at least he's part of a stable and gets to shine in the ring from time to time.
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler Ended in a No Contest
The Reigns vs. Corbin feud needs to die a death and fast. Their in-ring chemistry is terrible and there doesn't seem to an endgame to any of it. While this wasn't bad by any means, it was a pretty ho-hum main event overall. Bryan's offensive flurry was fun, but that's about it. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt's attack on Bryan halfway through caused the contest to be thrown out, and before Corbin and Ziggler could shower Reigns in dog food, The Usos shockingly showed up and helped out their cousin Reigns. That's a stable I've been longing to see for years and I'm excited that it's becoming a reality.
This was a far more newsworthy first SmackDown of the year than I was expecting. Multiple Superstars returned (Sheamus, Morrison and The Usos) and Miz turned heel. Several storylines including Otis and Mandy, Bryan vs. Wyatt, Reigns vs. Corbin, Evans vs. Bayley and Strowman vs. Nakamura were effectively furthered and Evans vs. Banks was advertised for next week. Very few Superstars have announced their entry in the Royal Rumble matches so far and minimal matches have been confirmed for the card, so hopefully the build to the event picks up in the coming weeks. Otherwise, this was a strong show on the whole. I'd love to think that SmackDown will start to feel important again in the new year, but time will tell.