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SmackDown recap & reactions (Jan. 20, 2023): A Stunning contract signing

Roman Reigns arrived to Friday Night SmackDown this week terribly unhappy with Sami Zayn’s response to last week and the way it played out.

Zayn, for his part, admitted to being upset that he was going to do the job himself — that job being “take out Kevin Owens” — but the rest of The Bloodline interrupted.

Reigns was even more unhappy when Zayn went to him to bridge the gap, with Sami admitting he didn’t like not knowing the plan. This, of course, enraged Reigns, who feels no obligation to make an honorary member of the team aware of his decision making process.

That lead to Zayn’s dismissal, with a future uncertain.

That was until The Wiseman, Paul Heyman, suggested a more tactical, less emotional approach. “Perhaps it would be better to have him inside the castle pissing out than outside the castle pissing in.”

Hard to argue with that.

Reigns responded by taking his advice, and settling up with Zayn by talking it out. He came off eminently reasonable, dare I say genuine in his words. But, per his previous chat with Heyman, we know he is doing the very thing Zayn fears, the same thing Owens has been saying all along.

Reigns is using him.

Zayn still doesn’t want to believe it, though. He seems so impossibly happy any time he gets The Tribal Chief’s approval. It makes me think The Bloodline should turn on him, instead of Zayn going off on his own accord.

Either way, they settled up and Reigns sent Zayn off to do some menial tasks while he went out with Solo Sikoa for the contract signing with Owens. Said signing wasn’t much of one — KO surprised everyone, attacked from behind, and hit Reigns with a Stunner and then a pop up powerbomb. He got the better of everyone in The Bloodline before Zayn hit the scene and watched him run away.

You can only imagine how this goes over with Reigns. The entire crew is scheduled for RAW XXX in just a couple days.

Tick tock.

I really liked that WWE actually utilized each of the tag teams they have on the blue brand to put together a full eight-team tournament to fill out a bracket. It eliminates the biggest problem I’ve always had with how Triple H likes to find new title contenders — a single multi-person match rewards those who have done nothing to earn their place.

That isn’t the case with a tournament, where entry equates only to an opportunity to prove yourself worthy. You have to win a series of matches, heating you up for the eventual shot at the titles. You can’t always do a tournament, but it works really well when you can.

I also like that they decided to do the entirety of the first round in one show. It put an added emphasis on the tournament itself, and therefore the prestige of the SmackDown tag team titles, something they’re going to have to work to do if they separate them as it appears they plan to.

Well done all around on the decision making here.

On to the matches:

  • Drew McIntyre & Sheamus defeated The Viking Raiders in a damn good hoss fight. Everybody looked good here.
  • Hit Row, consistent with their recent heel turn, cheated to defeat Los Lotharios in a nothing match. There’s no reason to think they’ll be anything but fodder for McIntyre & Sheamus, who they’ll face in the semifinals.
  • Imperium defeated The Brawling Brutes while looking relatively impressive in the process. That brainbuster Giovanni Vinci hit BUTCH with on the outside was incredible.
  • Legado del Fantasma absolutely ran through Maximum Male Models, which, let’s be real, they absolutely should have.

This sets up The Banger Bros vs. Hit Row and Imperium vs. Legado del Fantasma in the semifinals. It seems obvious what the final will be but I still greatly appreciate taking this route to get us there.

All the rest

  • The way they’re talking up Raquel Rodriguez, including making sure to note she’ll have 30 family members in the building to see her first Royal Rumble appearance, it kinda sounds like they have a big plan for her, huh? How would we feel about that?
  • LET ME TALK TO YA! LA Knight rules so very hard. This man cut a 45 second promo that talked me right into the building for a match against Bray Wyatt. That is not an easy thing to do, folks. It is my sincere hope that whatever happens with this feud, Knight comes out of it okay. He deserves that much and a whole lot more.
  • Meanwhile, the Firefly Fun House made a return on this show. Wyatt and all his dolls were back to do what they do. Uncle Howdy made an appearance via video and said “I told you so … all you needed was a little push.” Wyatt said he hoped he was happy, though he was talking to Knight. Everything that comes next is on his head. Perhaps The Fiend comes next. At that point, we will have come full circle. Again, at this point I just want Knight to make it out of this without his name being tarnished.
  • Braun Strowman declared for the Royal Rumble with a standard backstage promo. Not much to it, but it’s reasonable to expect the start of yet another push for him there.
  • Charlotte Flair is a great heel but how well will she work as a babyface? They’ve given her a program with Sonya Deville, who is outstanding as an arrogant, power hungry mid-card act desperate to regain her position higher up on the ladder. Here, Flair attempted to be the fighting champion she promised to be but Deville played her, then cheap shotted her, and bailed off. It’s going to take some work to make Flair a sympathetic character, and that was clear by the end of this. But fans do still seem to want to cheer for her. We’ll see how things evolve.
  • More vignettes for Lacey Evans, who I’m not sure is ever going to actually show up again.
  • Shayna Baszler will be in the Royal Rumble, making sure to tell us she’ll injure some folks before eliminating them. Should be fun!

This was a damn good show.

What did you think of it?

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