WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 21
The march to the Royal Rumble on January 29 continued Friday night on Fox with an episode of WWE SmackDown that featured the latest in the rivalry between Universal champion Roman Reigns and top contender Seth Rollins.
What would Rollins do as Reigns and The Usos celebrated The Tribal Chief's record-breaking 508-day run as champion?
The potential showdown between Shield teammates headlined a broadcast that also featured Naomi's latest hurdle on her way to the SmackDown Women's Championship, as well as Kofi Kingston's attempt at redemption following a humiliating defeat last week.
- Celebration for Roman Reigns' record-breaking 508-day title reign
- Championship Challenge Match: Naomi vs. Charlotte Flair
- Kofi Kingston vs. Madcap Moss
- Seth Rollins and Reigns continue their feud ahead of Royal Rumble
The Usos Acknowledge Roman Reigns
SmackDown tag team champions The Usos kicked off the show by introducing Roman Reigns on what was his 508th night as Universal champion. The Tribal Chief made his way to the ring, accepted a microphone from his cousins and ordered, "Nashville...acknowledge me."
After a video package hyping his accomplishments since August of 2020, Reigns prepared to speak until "BURN IT DOWN!" exploded over the PA and Seth Rollins interrupted. The Visionary said Reigns has been catered to and handed everything, then criticized him for sending The Usos to Raw to do his dirty work for him.
"Did John Cena write that promo for you? Are you gonna say the same stuff?" Reigns asked.
Rollins pitched an idea for a match in which him and a partner of his choosing would battle The Usos. A win for the No. 1 contender would see The Usos barred from ringside at Royal Rumble. After Kevin Owens entered the arena, revealing himself as Rollins' partner, Reigns upped the ante: If The Usos win, Rollins loses his title shot.
The revelation of Owens as Rollins' partner makes sense beyond their recent friendship on Monday nights in that it was this time last year that KO was the top contender to the Universal Championship and repeatedly cost the title by Jimmy, Jey and Paul Heyman.
The video package highlighting Reigns' run was fantastic, the back-and-forth between him and Rollins was much better than last week's uninspired showdown, and the segment set up a big-time main event for later in the show. You cannot ask for more than that from one of these opening promo segments.
Kofi Kingston vs. Madcap Moss
After a disappointing loss to Madcap Moss last week, Kofi Kingston sought redemption, but with Happy Corbin at ringside supporting his opponent, he knew he could not arrive alone. Enter former WWE champion and Raw star Big E.
Kingston fought from underneath following the commercial break, rocking Moss with a jawbreaker. The suspenders-wearing heel flattened the former world champ with a spinebuster, though, ending his comeback attempt for the time being.
The babyface again mounted a comeback, and this time he was able to put Moss down with Trouble in Paradise for the pinfall victory.
After the match, as Corbin nursed a banged-up left arm, Big E delivered the Big Ending to Moss.
Kingston defeated Moss
This was perfectly acceptable wrestling, but nothing more or less. It was a match that happened, one that kept all four competitors on-screen and doing something but did little to advance any storyline or provide any real hype for the upcoming Royal Rumble match.
That is hardly a positive for a segment of television that involved two former WWE champions and Corbin, who has been a high-profile competitor on SmackDown for years now.
Aliyah vs. Natalya
Three-time Guiness Book of World Records entrant Natalya sought to avenge a humiliating loss in 3.17 seconds a week ago to Aliyah as she battled the NXT export Friday night, with Women's Royal Rumble entrant Summer Rae watching from the front row.
The Queen of Harts dominated the action and, after ignoring the referee's warnings, found herself on the losing end of the bout by disqualification.
After the match, she continued her attack until Xia Li made her first appearance in weeks and fought her off.
Aliyah defeated Natalya
Another week, another instance of Aliyah looking incredibly lucky to be in WWE.
Not only did she disappear from television for months, when she did pop back up, she has been overwhelmed and outmatched by an aggressive Natalya. Only thanks to a fluke rollup and a disqualification does she have two wins.
She has not been presented as on the level of her opponent either time and needed Xia Li to come to her rescue. The same Li that made an explosive debut a month or two ago then, like Aliyah, disappeared from television.
None of this hit and, worse yet, no one looked better for any of it.
Saving it from a “D” rating? The idea of a Li vs. Natalya feud, which could produce some fun in-ring action.
Viking Raiders vs. Los Lotharios
The Viking Raiders, No. 1 contenders to the SmackDown Tag Team Championship, battled Los Lotharios in tag team action in the night's next bout.
A spirited, energetic match saw Erik and Ivar overcome a stiff challenge from Angel and Humberto before putting the latter pair away with the Viking Experience as they continue their march toward a showdown with The Usos.
The Viking Raiders defeated Los Lotharios
These two teams have solid in-ring chemistry, to the point that it might be fun to see what they can do with more time and higher stakes. The opportunity may be there, if Erik and Ivar can unseat The Usos as the heads of the tag division table, whenever they actually clash.
For now, fun sprints like this where the babyfaces go over are a nice way to keep the top contenders busy and at the forefront.
Naomi vs. Charlotte Flair
What should have been a monumental opportunity for Naomi to earn a shot at the SmackDown Women's Championship turned into another disappointment.
Prior to her match with Charlotte Flair, in which a win would earn Naomi a shot at the top prize on the show, WWE official Sonya Deville removed referee Charles Robinson and named herself to that role.
Flair dominated early, but Naomi knocked Deville from the ring apron and delivered the Rearview. Instead of counting the fall, Deville stalled long enough for The Queen to deliver a chop block. She followed with the Figure Four and Deville called for the bell, despite Naomi not tapping out.
Flair defeated Naomi
The Naomi-Deville feud has run since September, so the idea that WWE officials would just suddenly be reprimanded, as Michael Cole called for, makes little sense. Deville has been routinely abusing her power, so thinking that anyone in Connecticut would finally step in isn't logical.
Nor is the idea of the feud running too much longer.
We get it: Deville doesn't like Naomi and will stop at nothing to prevent her from achieving her goals. Dragging it on is only going to lessen the inevitable impact of the moment Naomi kicks Deville's ass and pays the thing off.
Hopefully, that moment is coming sooner rather than later because WrestleMania may be too late.
Johnny Knoxville Interrupts In-Zayn
Sami Zayn again attempted to prove he could out-Jackass Johnny Knoxville, this time by trying out self-defense items against himself.
After faking using a cattle prod on himself, Knoxville arrived on the scene and proceeded to actually turn the weapon on and use it against Zayn, leaving the former intercontinental champion lying in a heap.
Backstage, Adam Pearce informed Sonya Deville that as a result of her actions, he will be recommending a match between her and Naomi for next week's show. "Let me know what they say," she responded.
The segment with Zayn and Knoxville was far from good, but the former is so good, he elevates the quality of anything he is involved in. His selling of the cattle prod was fantastic, even as the production team and its electric sound effects failed him.
The backstage segment between Pearce and Deville almost dragged the overall grade here down to the basement, if only because one has to wonder what the hell ol' Scrap Iron has been paying attention to over the last five months that he hasn't seen Deville routinely crossing the line like she did tonight.
Suddenly acting only calls attention to the fact that he and the rest of WWE management did not and sorta, kinda insults the intelligence of the audience at the same time.
Ricochet vs. Sheamus and J-E-Double-F
Ridge Holland returned alongside Sheamus, accompanying The Celtic Warrior to the ring for a showdown with Ricochet.
A surprisingly one-sided match culminated with Sheamus catching Ricochet mid-flight, sending him crashing and burning to the arena floor. A Brogue Kick moments later put the match out of reach as the former WWE champion scored the victory.
Backstage, Rick Boogs and Intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura ran into WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett, who complimented the former's guitar playing.
Sheamus defeated Ricochet
There was no reason for this match to exist other than to keep both guys on television. In doing so, it devalued Ricochet, who lost in short order in what was a glorified squash.
It is a problem that plagues WWE far more than it should. With so many hours of television to produce every week, matches repeat themselves and characters that really could not afford another loss are dealt them for no logical reason other than providing the content.
Ricochet is a guy who could provide SmackDown with much-needed depth, but every loss diminishes his worth.
The Jarrett cameo was a nice surprise. The legendary competitor will battle indie wrestling star EFFY as part of Game Changer Wrestling's Hammerstein Ballroom debut this Sunday night. B/R will have coverage of The Wrld on GCW during the event.
Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens vs. The Usos
The stakes were high as Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens battled SmackDown tag team champions The Usos in the night's main event. A win for The Visionary and KO would see The Usos barred from ringside on January 29 at the Royal Rumble. A loss and Rollins' title match would be no more.
Fighting in the best interests of Roman Reigns' historic Universal Championship run, The Usos dominated the action early and throughout the final commercial break of the night, working over Owens. A hot tag to Rollins sparked a comeback that saw the No. 1 contender within inches of victory, only to fall prey to a two-on-one attack by his opponents.
Owens re-entered the match and delivered a fisherman buster from the top rope for a near-fall, only for Jey to break up the pin. Rollins tagged back in while Owens delivered a stunner to Jey. Rollins set up for the stomp and delivered it, only to be rocked by a Superman Punch from Reigns, resulting in a disqualification.
Reigns glared back at Rollins as the show went off the air, knowing full well he will have to go it alone if he hopes to retain his title at the upcoming premium live event.
Rollins and Owens defeated The Usos
Reigns really cannot tolerate losing to the point that he would rather cause the disqualification on his own than risk Jimmy and Jey dropping the match to Owens and Rollins outright. That is a great touch by WWE Creative and one of those little things that add to The Tribal Chief persona.
The match itself was fantastic, though we should not have expected anything different from the talent involved. A red-hot, high-energy main event that highlighted Rollins as a babyface, this was the sort of match this broadcast needed. It elevated it exponentially, enhancing its quality in a big way.
Most surprising was the crowd's acceptance as Rollins in his new role, singing his theme music as he prepared to put the match away. If he and WWE Creative can maintain those reactions, there is a real argument to be made for a sustained babyface turn beyond Royal Rumble.
Ditto for Owens, who fans clearly still want to cheer, despite the heel turn a few months back.