Sasha Banks Enters Royal Rumble, Andrade El Idolo Tease and More Friday Fallout
Fridays are a great night for wrestling fans, and this week's SmackDown and Rampage did not disappoint with the final buildup for the Royal Rumble and some great wrestling.
Sasha Banks returned earlier than expected from her foot injury to declare her entry into the women's Royal Rumble and confront Charlotte Flair.
We also saw Naomi get her hands on Sonya Deville in an official match, while Big E may have made the jump back to SmackDown after losing the WWE title. Andrade El Idolo also appeared to be on a recruiting mission for a new stable.
Let's look at some of the biggest moments from Friday's shows heading into Royal Rumble weekend.
One Final Chance to Make an Impact Before the Royal Rumble
As the final WWE show before the Royal Rumble on Saturday, this was the last chance for the Superstars of the blue brand to gain some momentum before the pay-per-view, or premium live event as they are now called.
Charlotte opened the show with a promo promising to win the Rumble despite already being the SmackDown women's champion. Shayna Baszler, Aliyah, Natalya and Shotzi Blackheart all joined her to voice their opinions.
As they all stood and argued, Sasha Banks made an unexpected return. Many expected her to miss the Rumble due to a foot injury, but it looks like that was a work or she made a quicker recovery than originally expected.
Needless to say, Banks being able to participate immediately makes her one of the favorites to win the women's Rumble match.
Naomi vs. Sonya Deville but for Real This Time
After months of buildup and filler segments, Deville finally stepped foot in a WWE ring to battle Naomi in a real fight. There were no shenanigans and no bait-and-switch. This was an actual match, and a competitive one at that.
This is one of the longest-running storylines in WWE right now. Deville gave a weak excuse for why she hates Naomi a few weeks ago, but there has never been a satisfying reason established for this feud.
Deville started off slow by trying to avoid Naomi's grasp, but once she found her groove, the former MMA fighter started to control the pace and dominate her opponent.
As the match progressed, they kept upping the intensity and aggression. The crowd was getting more into it over time and just when it looked like Deville might cheat her way to a victory, Naomi was able to hit a split-legged moonsault for the win.
This may finally put this storyline to rest, or it might lead to Deville going after Naomi even harder. As she tried to celebrate, Deville put her manager's jacket back on and announced herself for the Rumble match, so these two will likely cross paths during Saturday's event.
Even if this feud does continue, at least we have passed the point where Deville is trying to avoid Naomi. Let's hope this leads to a permanent return to the ring for The Jersey Devil.
Big E Is Back on SmackDown
Big E made an appearance this week to reunite with his New Day teammate, Kofi Kingston, to take on Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin in a tag team match.
While WWE has blurred the lines between the brand split a lot in recent weeks, it seems Big E is back with his New Day brethren on a permanent basis after he was announced as having "officially" returned.
If Big E has moved back to the blue brand, it means WWE probably isn't looking him to keep him in the hunt for a world title. If that is the case, it would be disappointing for both Big E and his fans.
The New Day is awesome, but Big E was doing some great work as a solo act. His title reign might not have been too eventful, but that is more on WWE than him. He only has so much control over the stories he gets to tell.
If Big E is back with Kingston and Xavier Woods, we can expect to see them holding the tag titles within a few months.
Andrade El Idolo Continues to Scout Talent
Following the deal he made with Matt Hardy last week, El Idolo has been hard at work trying to recruit new talent for some kind of stable or camp.
He approached an uninterested Darby Allin during Rampage, but he was also shown in the crowd supporting Private Party, who are still associates of Hardy and his group.
This is all somewhat confusing. Hardy was already leading a stable, but now he is joining forces with El Idolo to expand it. To what end? Is El Idolo eventually going to oust Hardy from his own group? Will that be what facilitates Matt bringing in Jeff to reunite The Hardy Boyz?
Why does El Idolo want to work with Hardy? What does he gain from aligning with a group that has come up on the losing end of most of its feuds? There are too many questions and not enough answers.
This will all play out eventually, but for now it's unclear what any of this is meant to accomplish. If it leads to Jeff and Matt vs. Private Party, maybe it will be worth it.