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SmackDown recap & reactions (Jan. 19, 2024): It’s official

The first moving images we were greeted with on Friday Night SmackDown this week featured Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa greeting Roman Reigns as he arrived at the building. He was there, he said, to do like he always does — fix it. It sure seems like he’s the guy who always has to make things right, again and again.

After he walked off, however, Solo spoke up to hit us with a well actually: he’s going to fix it. He’ll fix everything. This, of course, was in reference to his announced match later in the evening against Randy Orton.

They wasted no time from there, going right into the contract signing for the WWE Universal championship match at Royal Rumble. This was one was a bit different in that AJ Styles, LA Knight, and Orton all signed on the dotted line immediately upon entering the ring, one right after the other. The three challengers crossed their i’s and dotted their t’s before the champ ever showed his face.

I liked that. Too often, these signings play out the same. We know what it is, let’s just get to it.

And then Reigns didn’t actually show his face. In fact, Paul Heyman walked out and claimed he wasn’t going to sign it at all, upset that it will be a Fatal 4-Way. General Manager Nick Aldis threatened to vacate the title.

Intrigue!

Naturally, Styles and Knight couldn’t get along, reminding each other the match isn’t just about fighting Reigns but each other. So they had themselves a pier-six brawl all the way to the back, leaving Orton and Heyman all alone in the ring. Randy wrapped Paul’s tie around his hand and worked the gimmick.

Heyman all but pissed down his leg — he’s so unbelievably good at this — and that’s where we left the opening segment. You’ll note Reigns never did sign the contract.

So what would happen?

Later, Reigns was belittling Jimmy when Solo stepped in to take responsibility for last week before promising to fix it later on. That took the form of interrupting the Styles vs. Knight match that was booked earlier in the evening and putting both of them down. “Two down, one to go,” Solo proclaimed on the mic.

That left Orton and the main event match.

Sikoa, despite a distraction from Jimmy, wasn’t able to handle business, eating an RKO and taking the pinfall loss while Styles and Knight took Jimmy out. After, Orton left both Knight and Styles laid out with the RKO.

And then he ate a Superman punch from a smiling Tribal Chief, here to clean up like he always does. He called for Aldis to deliver the contract, then he signed it with the bodies of his enemies laid out before him.

It’s official.

Reigns attempted to punctuate the message with a Spear but Orton hit him with an RKO and stood tall to close out the show.

I enjoyed the way they played this as a full show angle that felt different to the usual contract signing shenanigans.


The top secondary feud on the blue brand these days is United States Champion Logan Paul vs. Kevin Owens. The former was a guest on “The KO Show” for the first time, something Owens was incredulous about.

Paul, meanwhile, was hilariously immature all throughout. He claimed Owens is actually the reason he’s in WWE and he came with a clip to show exactly how — Owens embarrassed him in front of 70,000 people at WrestleMania three years ago by hitting him with a Stunner, something everyone in the building responded to with cheers.

Paul: “That was the moment that I realized that I had to prove to you and the entire WWE Universe that I belonged here.”

The fans: “One more time! One more time! One more time!”

Fantastic.

Owens claimed he barely remembered the incident in question. Paul is just one of many to be hit with the Stunner but credit where it’s due, he’s put in the work to get better and even stuck around to become a champion. But he’s not “one of us.”

Paul celebrated that because he’s “one of one.” That’s actually a damn good response to that, which is a line that folks are going to have to stop using on this man sooner rather than later. It still works for now but the guy is showing himself to be one of the boys.

Even if he’s doing it the new way.

And then Owens went full blown worked shoot on it — Paul is protected and he always has been, because WWE wanted him to win a title for all the press and notoriety it would bring. It’s all a big joke, one that he thinks has gone on for too long, and it’s his job to end it at Royal Rumble.

Paul again had a great response — Owens is the one who is protected, because he’s quite literally wearing a cast on his hand. I loved this. I get it, the business evolves, meta stuff is always going to be a thing, but I quite like that Paul responded to it in story.

KO ditched the cast and Paul hit him with a cheap shot, the big punch he used to win his previous matches with to give him the credentials Owens tried to verbally strip him of. Owens got back up, but Paul battled him off and ultimately left him laid out when he blasted his hand on the steel steps.

This was a damn good segment to build to their match.


All the rest

  • The LWO and Legado del Fantasma had a hugely fun six-man tag team match the latter emerged victorious in after Santos Escobar snuck a tag and rolled up Carlito from behind. It was a beautifully played sneak victory, the kind they can hang their hat on even that was clean even while feeling a bit unfair. There’s still plenty to get out of this feud, and Rey Mysterio’s eventual return should make it feel even bigger.
  • Bobby Lashley & The Street Profits got a backstage promo to tell The Final Testament they’re up for a fight anytime and now they’re on the hunt for them. It’s worth noting they have yet to refer to themselves as “The Pride” on television.
  • Pete Dunne is back! British Strong Style had a match scheduled with Pretty Deadly and after Tyler Bate made his entrance, we were reintroduced to The Bruiserweight. The response this got was most welcome. They, of course, won the match and we can all feel good about that. Kit Wilson and Elton Prince, by the way, were awesome in a backstage interview after complaining that they weren’t prepared to face a guy they’ve never seen before. I love those two.
  • Kayden Carter & Katana Chance defeated Unholy Union in a short match that did absolutely nothing for poor Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn. In fact, they immediately exited stage left in favor of Damage CTRL’s Kabuki Warriors confronting them after the match to set up a future title shot of their own.
  • The Final Testament got the chance to fire back at Lashley & The Profits. Karrion Kross called them the “yes men of this company” and said they don’t get the same opportunities because they’re disruptors who make people nervous. They set up a showdown face-to-face for next week.
  • Carmelo Hayes and Austin Theory argued over last week’s near miss injury for the both of them before setting up a match for next week. What’s noteworthy is that Theory initially refused it before Grayson Waller volunteered him for it, something Austin said “you gotta stop doing.” Worth keeping an eye on, perhaps.

Another solid effort from SmackDown.

Grade: B-

Your turn.

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