WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 22
Every week on Bleacher Report, I take an in-depth look at WWE SmackDown to recap the action, offer analysis and grade the matches, segments and anything else that takes place on the show. I also provide some predictions on the direction of storylines.
This was the final show before Sunday's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, which means WWE had one last chance to tie up any loose ends.
Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback all returned to action after John Cena got them their jobs back on Monday, and each one of them was given a chance to earn a spot in the Rumble match.
The move to Thursday seems to have breathed new life into the blue brand, as WWE delivered another good show after debuting in the new time slot last week.
Let's take a look at everything that happened on SmackDown.
The Boys Are Back in Town
Daniel Bryan opened up the show with a quick promo before bringing out the recently rehired Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback.
Ryback gave a great promo that mixed some of the cockiness that got him over online and the realness that recently got him over with the rest of the crowd.
However, the biggest surprise of the segment was the fact that Erick Rowan strung together more than a dozen words and put together a coherent paragraph's worth of thoughts. It was a big step forward for Big Red (and yes, I hate myself a little for using that nickname).
After Ziggler got a chance to speak, Seth Rollins, Kane, Big Show and the smallest security team in the world came out and talked a little trash before revealing that each of the three rehired Superstars would have a chance to earn a spot in the Royal Rumble.
This segment ran a bit long, but it didn't lose steam. Everyone managed to stay on message, which is more than can be said about the opening segment of Monday's Raw.
Notes and Highlights:
- Who else wants WWE to shell out some money so Bryan can use "The Final Countdown" by Europe? Watch how the Ring of Honor crowd used to sing along to it as he came to the ring and then imagine an entire arena full of fans doing it.
- Wait a second. Doesn't Bryan get some kind of rematch since he never lost the title? Isn't that what usually happens when someone who is injured relinquishes a title? Bad News Barrett was given a shot at the Intercontinental Championship after never really losing it. Then again, all this would mean WWE had consistency in their storylines, and we all know that will never happen.
- It's so great to see Ziggler get a pop on par with the one Bryan received when he came out. WWE better not turn him heel anytime soon.
- Was Ziggler's comment about not sitting at home and complaining on a podcast a shot at CM Punk?
- Who else got an urge for stuffed crust pizza after Seth Rollins talked about it?
Dolph Ziggler vs. Bad News Barrett
Not only did Ziggler get a chance to enter the Rumble by winning this match, but he might have earned himself a shot at the IC title after the PPV.
Ziggler never had a rematch after losing the title, so it would make sense to have a real feud with Barrett now that he is back from being "fired."
Barrett focused most of his offense on Ziggler's left arm throughout, using a wide variety of different moves to add more punishment.
As always, Ziggler sold everything like a pro. This was a solid outing for both men, but the loss definitely didn't help Barrett look like a strong champion.
Notes and Highlights:
- Barrett is losing way too many matches. His title reign is already the worst of the five he has had.
- I will never understand the significance of Barrett turning his elbow pad around before hitting the Bull Hammer. If he pulled it down to expose the elbow, it would make sense, but all he does is flip it around.
- Ziggler should teach a class at the Performance Center about how to sell an injury during a match, with Dean Ambrose teaching how to sell an injury after a match.
Rusev vs. Ryback
This match proved that Rusev's record of being undefeated by pin or submission needs to end. Having him keep taking losses by countout and disqualification got old a long time ago.
Still, Ryback and Rusev had a decent encounter. Ryback secured his spot in the Rumble match after Rusev failed to make it back into the ring by the count of 10.
The one good thing about how the match ended was that Ryback made Rusev get counted out by beating him so badly. Rusev didn't look like a coward, and that's what's important.
It's always good when wrestlers have enough time to tell a proper story, but this match could have been kept to one segment and been just as effective.
However, the fact that these two powerhouses kept the match interesting for as long as they did really speaks to how much Ryback has improved since returning from injury.
Notes and Highlights:
- Ryback's vertical suplex to Rusev was very impressive.
- Lana must have lost all her other suits. She's been wearing the same one for a while now.
- Ryback's ability to sell is his most underrated quality. He actually looks like he is in pain when he takes a big move.
- Who made the decision to cut down Lana's mic time and how can we get that person fired?
Brie Bella vs. Naomi
Brie Bella and Naomi had a much more physical match than most people would have expected, but the outcome was extremely predictable. Brie picked up the win and taunted Paige and Natalya while they sat at the commentary table.
Naomi is so talented between the ropes, but she hasn't brought out enough personality in her character to be on top of the division.
Many people think she should be Divas champion, and if it was all about wrestling skill, those people would be right. But character matters, and Naomi hasn't found what it is that makes her stand out yet.
Even Cameron has a definable persona because her charisma makes the terrible girl she's playing seem so real. If Naomi could combine her skills with Cameron's presence, she would shoot to the top of the roster like a rocket.
Notes and Highlights:
- The friendship angle with Paige and Natalya feels too forced. They need to stop basing storylines off of Total Divas.
- What's a "glampire?"
- Who is actually feuding here? It's hard to tell.
Royal Rumble Number Selections
Throughout the show, certain Superstars were shown drawing their Royal Rumble entry number from the traditional tumbler WWE has been using for years.
The segment in which Dean Ambrose stole Fandango's number behind his back was kind of funny, but that was the only real highlight.
The one thing many people are likely to notice is how the tumbler clearly had more than 30 numbers inside. There was easily over 50 balls rolling around in there.
Obviously, the numbers are predetermined, but they could put a little more effort into making it look like it was real by only putting 30 numbers in the tumbler.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
Erick Rowan was the last of the three men given the chance to earn a spot in the Rumble to wrestle, and surprisingly, he did not succeed in the end.
Luke Harper once again ended up getting a completely clean victory over his former brother in arms, indicating that WWE clearly sees more in Harper than it does in Rowan.
They only had one segment to work with, but they packed a lot into the time they had. Both men hit some big moves that got the crowd to cheer, including a headscissor takedown by Harper that shocked almost everyone.
Rowan looked more versatile than usual, which could be a sign that he has been holding back all this time. Hopefully he gets more opportunities to show what he can do in 2015.
Notes and Highlights:
- Was anyone else surprised by Harper's choice of a pink handkerchief?
- WWE really dropped the ball by not giving these two a real feud right after they split up The Wyatt Family. It could have been awesome.
Planting the Seeds
The Miz and Damien Mizdow had a segment backstage in which Miz told his stunt double that the crowd was never actually cheering for him.
The tension has been slowly building for quite some time, but Mizdow has always played the loyal partner. However, these words seemed to strike a nerve.
The Usos came up after Miz had walked away and Mizdow did an amazing job of looking genuinely upset. The Usos reminded him that it's every man for himself in the Rumble, which is obviously setting up for some kind of confrontation between Miz and Mizdow during the match.
This storyline has had a slow build, but the payoff will be worth it. Mizdow is over enough to go off on his own, and WWE would be wise to capitalize on his popularity before the crowd gets bored of his antics.
Unless they win the tag titles before the Rumble match takes place, Sunday could be the last time Damien Mizdow plays second fiddle to anyone.
Kane vs. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan and Kane have been working as partners and rivals for a few years at this point, so they have the kind of chemistry that makes anything they do end up being good.
Bryan is one of the most talented technicians in the business, and Kane is easily one of the best big men to ever step foot in a WWE ring. Combine those two facts with their established history and you have a great main event.
The fact the match was contested under No Disqualification rules only made things better. Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble's legal interference made Bryan's eventual victory much more satisfying.
Bryan is the ultimate underdog, but he never seems outmatched. His skill always appears to outweigh any disadvantage his size gives him, and that is something you can't book unless the wrestler is as talented as Bryan.
Big Show came out to help Kane, Noble and Mercury punish Bryan, but they were met by Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan. Eventually, the whole roster filled the ring and began to brawl, ending with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns getting their own personal entrances into the fight.
The babyfaces cleared the ring to end the show on a high note and send the crowd home happy.
Notes and Highlights:
- Bryan looked like he was trying to hit a home run with some of the shots he took with a Kendo stick. Kane is going to have a lot of bruises.
- When was the last time the show before the Royal Rumble did not end with everyone fighting in the ring?
Final Thoughts and Predictions
The final show before Sunday's Royal Rumble did a very good job of mixing storylines and wrestling. Every feud was addressed in some way, and we even got a few good matches.
Ziggler and Ryback earned spots in the Rumble, but Rowan came up short. This could mean WWE has other plans for the bearded powerhouse, or it could simply mean they were running out of room for more entrants.
WWE has done a great job building up this year's Royal Rumble. All predictions for the weeks will be about Sunday's PPV.
- The Usos will retain the tag titles.
- The New Day will defeat Tyson Kidd, Cesaro and Adam Rose.
- Paige and Natalya will defeat the Bella Twins.
- The Ascension will defeat the New Age Outlaws.
- Brock Lesnar will retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
- Daniel Bryan or Roman Reigns will win the Royal Rumble after they are the last two men to enter the ring.
What did you think of this week's SmackDown, and what are your Royal Rumble predictions?
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.