Daniel Bryan and Kane Reunited to Combat Universal Champion "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt
I thought Kane coming back to SmackDown was strange when it was originally announced earlier in the week (unless he was announcing his entry into the Royal Rumble), but it ended up making complete sense. Wyatt interrupted him on the Titantron, acknowledged their history, and attempted to attack him before Bryan made the save. Team Hell No reuniting was a pleasant surprise, even though they didn't hug it out. We found out afterward that Bryan vs. Wyatt at the Rumble is now a Strap match. I don't know how to feel about that, but hopefully they can make it work.
John Morrison def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Big E
It really feels like no time has passed since we last saw Morrison in a WWE ring. He's still a crazy talented athlete and he only improved in the eight years he was away for. He and Big E had a fun match, and considering Morrison cheated to win, I think it's safe to say he and The Miz are the heels in their feud with The New Day. A SmackDown Tag Team Championship matchup wasn't formally announced for the Rumble on this episode, so unless it's added to the card next week, it's possible WWE will wait to do it until the next pay-per-view.
The Usos def. The Revival
The Usos and The Revival had a strong series of matches together last year on Raw, so it was nice to see that their in-ring chemistry hasn't faltered one bit. They weren't given a ton of time here, but this was enjoyable and showcased the skills of both teams. It's worth noting that the commentators acknowledged Revival's losing streak. I'm not sure what it's leading to (if anywhere), but their contracts are reportedly set to expire in the next few months.
Lacey Evans def. SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley (Non-Title)
Evans was once again scheduled to face Sasha Banks, but because Evans injured Banks' ankle backstage before the bout, she was replaced with Bayley. I hate how WWE continues to have the champions get pinned in non-title matches to establish new contenders. That said, this was a pretty good match where the crowd was behind Evans throughout. She has far exceeded my expectations as a babyface so far and I'm looking forward to the rematch at the Rumble.
Braun Strowman Saved Elias From Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro and Sami Zayn
Strowman saving Elias is never something I'd thought I'd see, but here we are. Strowman laid claim to a shot at the Intercontinental Championship earlier in the evening during a backstage interview after pinning Nakamura twice in recent weeks. Both men have since been added to the men's Royal Rumble match, so WWE might hold off on having them clash for the title until after the event. Nonetheless, this was a solid segment that seemed to set up a tag team matchup for a later date.
Alexa Bliss def. Sonya Deville
Sonya requested earlier in the show that Otis accompany her and Mandy Rose to ringside because of how he helped Mandy win her match last week. While he did show up, him catching Mandy when she fell off the ring apron was enough to distract Sonya and cost her the victory. Of course, the match itself was short-lived and nothing special, but I continue to dig what they're doing with Otis and Mandy. Sonya's clearly growing jealous of what they have going on, but I suspect Sonya and Mandy will eventually reveal they were playing mind games with Otis the entire time.
Roman Reigns def. Robert Roode in a Tables Match
The Tables stipulation was fitting because of how Reigns put Roode through the commentary table all those weeks ago and sidelined him from action as a result. Since there weren't any disqualifications, you had to know interference was inevitable, but I thought this was well done on the whole. The crowd was into it and they made the most of the time they had. By virtue of his victory, Reigns got to choose the stipulation for his match with King Corbin at Royal Rumble (which was a nice touch) and settled on it being Falls Count Anywhere. That's a vast improvement over what was rumored a while ago (Loser Eats Dog Food).
SmackDown has been a much more streamlined show in 2020 and it's been refreshing to see. Storylines are progressing nicely, there's more entertaining matches, and the build for the Royal Rumble has also picked up. Not every episode is amazing, mind you, but the blue brand is significantly better than it was in the final few months of 2019. This was a quality show and the effort from WWE to improve SmackDown in the new year has not gone unnoticed.
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