Royal Rumble Matches Set, Lacey Evans Wins and More WWE SmackDown Fallout
The January 17 episode of WWE SmackDown brought with it the announcement of two huge stipulations for the brand's top two contributions to the Royal Rumble card, showing greater urgency than Raw when it comes to the annual spectacular.
Whether those stipulations are the right ones for the given matches is up for debate and part of the big takeaways from Friday's broadcast.
Also up for discussion is Lacey Evans' success as a babyface to this point, the questionable use of Sheamus upon his return from injury and whether fans may be witnessing the end of Fire and Desire with the implementation of the Mandy Rose-Otis romance storyline.
Dive deeper into each of those topics with this week's blue brand fallout.
Newsworthy SmackDown Sets Royal Rumble Match Stipulations
This week's broadcast set the stipulations for the brand's top two matches at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
First, Daniel Bryan proposed a Strap Match for his showdown with universal champion The Fiend, fresh off outsmarting the maniacal masked man with a little help from Team Hell No tag team partner Kane. Then, later in the broadcast, Roman Reigns defeated Robert Roode and revealed his match with King Corbin would be Falls Count Anywhere.
Those two stipulations bring a sense of gravity to those matches, sure, but one cannot help but think WWE Creative may have gotten things a bit confused.
A strap match is essentially a take on the old Dog Collar matches of the '70s and '80s, and given how often Corbin has poked fun at Reigns' "Big Dog" persona, would it not have made more sense for those two compete in that particular bout while Bryan and The Fiend battle in a Falls Count Anywhere match?
Especially since the universal champion likes to come from out of nowhere and attack his prey?
Despite the backwardness of it all, this week's show took a major step in finalizing the card for one of WWE's most prestigious pay-per-views and did so with two matches that will make or break the overall quality of that particular broadcast.
Hopefully, given the lengthy programs involved and the talent within, it is the former.
Lacey Evans' Unlikely Babyface Runs Continues with Win over Bayley
If you had said six months ago that Lacey Evans would jump to SmackDown, undergo a babyface turn and emerge as a top contender to the heel Bayley's women's title, most would have insisted you had no idea what you were talking about.
After all, Evans was in the midst of a rivalry with Becky Lynch that would culminate with her competing for the Raw Women's Championship in a major Mixed Tag Team match at the top of the Extreme Rules card. Here we are, though, kicking off 2020 with The Sassy Southern Belle as a heroine, looking to dethrone Bayley of her title.
She took one step closer to doing just that Friday on SmackDown when she defeated the frowning villainess clean in the center of the ring to earn herself an opportunity at Bayley's women's title at Royal Rumble. Before that, she had eliminated Sasha Banks from the equation by attacking The Boss backstage.
It remains to be seen if SmackDown's creative team goes all the way and books Evans to unseat Bayley, but there is no denying that the NXT export has seen considerable success to this point in her new role. Perhaps it because she can be herself, an inspirational badass mom whose service record is undeniable and toughness is second-to-none.
Maybe it is because her story is real and she conveys it with conviction every week, something not afforded every performer on the roster.
Whatever the case may be, Evans is making the most of her opportunity, and even if she does not defeat Bayley in Houston on January 26, do not be surprised if she is carrying gold around her waist by the time summer rolls around.
Shorty G Feud a Lackluster Use of Sheamus
Sheamus is a former WWE and world heavyweight champion whose return to the company following a significant injury timeout should have been a huge deal for a SmackDown brand lacking recognizable faces at the top of the card.
Instead, The Celtic Warrior finds himself engaged in a rivalry with Shorty G and will now face the former Olympian at the Royal Rumble PPV.
Of course, you may be surprised to find out that G was an Olympian with a name as ridiculous as that. The repackaging of Chad Gable has severely hurt his popularity, as witnessed by the audible boos that accompanied his appearance on Friday's show.
While the talented performer is saddled with the gimmick and has his credibility most hurt by the decision to run with the ludicrous name, Sheamus now faces the real possibility that any and all momentum he had on his side upon his return to the company will be evaporated by WWE Creative's harsh misstep in regards to Gable.
The match will likely be awesome, if for no other reason than both competitors are fantastic in-ring workers, but the silliness of the Shorty G character is going to bring both men involved down a notch and hurt the contest's overall effectiveness, and for that, WWE Creative should be ashamed.
Otis-Mandy Rose Storyline Will Lead to the End of Fire and Desire
The longtime partnership between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville appears to be coming to an end, thanks to the lovable big man, and one-half of Heavy Machinery, Otis.
This week's episode of SmackDown saw the super heavyweight save Rose by catching her in midair, the Golden Goddess resting in his massive arms. This provided just enough of a distraction for Alexa Bliss to roll Deville up and score a huge singles win.
As Rose's attraction to the fun-loving Otis intensifies with every passing week, her partnership with the driven and determined Deville takes another hit. This week, the frustration was evident on Deville's part as she was not at all thrilled by suffering a loss in a match that was winnable.
Expect to see the former MMA competitor necessitate the break up sooner than later, frustrated beyond belief at her best friend and tag team partner's inability to focus on what is most important, rather than the infatuation of another man.
Deville has long been one of the more underrated workers in the women's division, and the opportunity to showcase her abilities, both in a storyline and between the ropes, will benefit her greatly while Rose may finally achieve the breakout stardom that she has chased in the role of a babyface love interest.