SmackDown airs tonight (Jan. 21) with a live show from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the third SmackDown episode during the four week build towards Royal Rumble on January 29.
Seth Rollins was right about Roman Reigns
The SmackDown roster is hurting for top stars right now. That’s one reason why Raw wrestler Seth Rollins is now the number one contender to Roman Reigns’ Universal championship. That title match will take place at Royal Rumble. The former Shield brothers had a face-to-face confrontation to close out last week’s episode of SmackDown.
Both men got in their typical lines of trash talk. Reigns had some especially good moments, saying the past doesn’t matter because he’s in God Mode now, and that Seth isn’t even the biggest star in his own household. But Rollins landed the blow with the most substance behind it when he said Roman can’t hang at the top on his own; he’s nothing without help from the Bloodline. It’s certainly true that Roman would have lost the Universal championship many times over if not for the involvement of the Usos and Paul Heyman in many of his pay-per-view matches, going all the way back to his feud with Kevin Owens one year ago.
Shortly after Rollins drove that point home, Jimmy and Jey Uso hit the ring in an attempt to ambush him. Seth managed to escape Roman’s trap, but he wasn’t so lucky earlier this week on Raw. The Usos found him and put him down with a double superkick. They probably should have done more damage to Seth considering they went through the trouble of traveling all the way to Raw for the surprise attack. Regardless, the ending of both SmackDown and Raw made it clear that Seth is facing a one-on-three battle here, and Reigns will shamelessly continue to rely on help from his cousins to keep his grip on the Universal championship.
Relying on help from the Usos isn’t inherently a bad thing for Roman. After all, he’s a mob boss, and part of that game is getting others to do your dirty work. Where it can become a problem, though, is when Roman actually buys into his own bullshit and then makes bad decisions. For example, Reigns’ inflated ego caused him to fire Paul Heyman last month simply because he couldn’t face the uncomfortable truth of Paul’s words. Firing Heyman is a strategic error that will eventually backfire on the Tribal Chief. He’s likely to make more errors as he avoids all accountability when things go bad and instead just blames those underlings who he consistently needs to help him win.
WWE hasn’t advertised anything specific for Roman and Seth on tonight’s episode, so there are a lot of ways things can play out from here. At the very least, Seth will have to get his hands on one or both of the Usos to pay them back for their attack on Raw. But the Royal Rumble will be here before you know it, so Seth will have to send a stronger and more direct message to the Tribal Chief than just taking out his lackeys.
The rest of the title scene
SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair is scheduled to face Naomi tonight in what WWE’s web site describes as an “important rematch.” Maybe that’s their new phrase for a non-title match, because the gold is not on the line here. Naomi was screwed over by Sonya Deville when she faced Flair two weeks ago and is looking to prove that she can beat the best that SmackDown has to offer. Flair was embarrassed by Lita last week and needs someone to take her frustrations out on. Perhaps Lita will get involved tonight and become an even bigger thorn in Flair’s side. The match between Flair and Naomi is the only thing WWE has advertised for SmackDown tonight.
Sami Zayn has been preoccupied with Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, and it left him open to a Kinshasa from Intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura last week. Zayn has reportedly signed a new contract with WWE and is the number one contender to Nakamura’s title. Nakamura has rarely ever defended the title, and has apparently been dealing with a hand injury. Zayn’s chances of winning mid-card gold seem pretty good to me. The hardest part might just be getting an actual date booked for the match.
The SmackDown roster is a mess on several fronts. WWE addressed the mess in the tag team division last week by having the Viking Raiders win a Fatal 4-Way match to become the new top contenders to The Usos’ SmackDown tag team titles. We know these two teams can have an incredible match, it’s just a matter of whether WWE is serious about pushing the challengers or not. One win won’t undo 18+ months of very poor booking for Erik and Ivar, but it’s at least a start.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Madcap Moss is kind of a big deal. Three weeks ago he was just some secondary sidekick who was expected to be squashed by Drew McIntyre at Day 1. Now he’s out here pinning former WWE champion Kofi Kingston in singles competition. Does he actually have a chance to win the Royal Rumble? No, but Happy Corbin and Moss are definitely receiving a push heading into the event.
- Aliyah made her singles debut last week and she defeated Natalya in record time. It’s a good way to help Aliyah get over, but WWE teased that she might vomit at any time, so this can go downhill very quickly.
- Ricochet tried his best to join the Viking Raiders and Aliyah in the winner’s circle last week, but he failed. Of course he did. Considering that he and Cesaro lost what was effectively a handicap match against Sheamus at Day 1, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Ricochet to beat Sheamus in a singles match. Sheamus put him down with a Brogue Kick as he prepares to compete in the Royal Rumble match.
- Xia Li is missing from WWE television after just one appearance in the ring. The women’s Royal Rumble match will have a tough time filling out all 30 spots, yet Li isn’t listed as one of the participants yet. None of this looks good for her.
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?