WWE spent the entirety of Friday Night SmackDown this week airing clips from the past showcasing the deep history between Universal Champion Roman Reigns and his challenger at the Royal Rumble, Seth Rollins. They ran the scene together in The Shield, Rollins turned on the group, they battled in the main event of major shows, the full nine.
Now, they’re back at it again.
But this feels … I don’t know, forced? Rushed? Weak?
After all, this came about when Adam Pearce simply decided Rollins would be the guy to challenge Reigns for his title at the next major WWE pay-per-view event because his bosses said he needed to do so. That they have such a rich history helps, sure, but their respective character alignments makes for a strange viewing experience as a fan.
They’re both bad guys! Who the hell am I supposed to cheer for here? Why do I really care all that much about who wins?
In their first in-ring meeting since the announcement, Rollins focused on the fact that he’s out ahead in singles matches against Reigns while Roman said that’s the past and he’s in “God mode now.” That’s a pretty badass line, no doubt, and they’re both much better now than they ever were before, but, again, who am I to cheer for?
When Reigns decided to dig deeper with his insults, telling Rollins if he wanted someone from the Rollins household with actual star power to headline Royal Rumble with he would have called Seth’s wife, it was a hit. But how much of a hit can it be when they’re both heels?
It’s also unfortunate because I don’t want this to end up with Rollins turning. He’s fantastic in his current role. It all just felt odd, which is unfortunate because this could have been genuinely interesting if they had hit the story at the right time. Now just wasn’t that time.
At least the match will be an absolute banger.
I love Sami Zayn.
This segment was peak Sami, the debut of a new show he called “INZAYN” that was supposed to be him doing “Jackass” better than “Jackass” ever could do itself. He was going to accomplish this by having two dudes roll him down the aisle, up a ramp, which would then lead to his jumping over the ring and landing on the other side just in front of the commentary desk.
They decked it out with pads, a big bullseye, and Pat McAfee eagerly awaiting his pulling it off. It was perfect!
Then, Zayn took his sweet time, pumping himself up, trying to make sure it was safe, then checking it again, then going and stopping just so he could check it again. I almost couldn’t believe that it genuinely pissed me off that he didn’t go through with the attempt.
That’s why I loved this so much.
As soon as you saw the setup, you knew he wasn’t actually going to do it. I mean, come on. It was so obvious. But he’s so damn good, he had me going with it to such a degree I outright wanted him to do the thing that would plainly result in some form of injury, enough so that I was legitimately angry when he wouldn’t do it.
And was, therefore, happy that Shinsuke Nakamura showed up to knee him in the skull and ol’ reliable Rick BOOGS was there to throw him over the top rope into the bullseye anyway.
Sami Zayn is incredible.
All the rest
- The Usos have a way about them but WWE actually let them show some range in their show opening promo, and the result was a wildly entertaining bit where Jimmy introduced all the teams in a Fatal 4-Way to determine their next challengers. It was fun! We need more fun in WWE. The ensuing match was just that, all while The Usos were on commentary having a blast. The Viking Raiders emerged victorious and they’ll get a future title shot.
- Sonya Deville once again reminded Naomi she hates her and maybe she’ll take her Royal Rumble entry away, or something or other. Her reasoning? “You act like a main character when you’re just an extra.” Later, they did a bit where Naomi tried to manipulate the heat to get Sonya to take her jacket off so she could jump her but instead of that, Adam Pearce gave her another shot at Charlotte Flair next week. Yep, still don’t know what is really happening here, still think it sucks because they haven’t bothered to flesh the story out.
- They brought the “Natalya, Guinness World Record Holder” character to television and actually did a great job with the segment they booked for it. Nattie pledged to earn a fourth record by beating Aliyah, a bundle of nervous energy for her first SmackDown singles match, in just over three seconds. So he jumped poor Aliyah before the match could start, got her down and nearly out, then stepped back so the match could begin and she could score the quick pin. Instead, Aliyah, who begged the referee to let the match go on, rolled Natalya up and scored the three count in a record breaking three seconds. It was a pretty damn good way to use the new Nattie character to get over a new babyface in the women’s division who is, presumably, about to get more TV time. Really well done all around here.
- Lita is back! She showed up on this show in a nice surprise — well, she was promoted briefly beforehand, but only the day of — and made clear she thinks she’s got one more run in her. Whether or not that’s actually the case, I mostly just appreciate that instead of using her as a Legend returning to fill out a spot in the match, they gave us some real backstory for her appearance in the Royal Rumble and a reason to cheer for her beyond simply being a returning Legend. With Sasha Banks hurt, one last run for Lita for some matches with Charlotte Flair actually sounds like a good time, too. They did well to set that up here, and I’d absolutely love to see it.
- Sheamus beat Ricochet in a decent match. There isn’t really much to say about it otherwise.
- Madcap Moss beat Kofi Kingston following the latter’s announcement that he will indeed be in the Royal Rumble match this year. And now we wait to see what kind of cool save he’ll do. That’s still a thing, right?
This was a pretty good show.