Coming out of a major Survivor Series pay-per-view based around brand vs. brand competition, it was time for WWE to establish the new normal for SmackDown. The brand’s biggest stars had standout nights, advancing programs heading into December’s TLC pay-per-view event.
Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan appear to not be finished with each other yet, while Roman Reigns’ long-standing issues with Baron Corbin boiled over in new and violent ways as Reigns snapped following an extended opening segment. The course was also set for the SmackDown women’s division, though whether it was successful is likely up for you to decide.
Let’s take a look at what went down at SmackDown from Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan aren’t done yet
WWE universal champion Bray Wyatt hosted a new edition of the “Firefly FunHouse.” He said he’d give Daniel Bryan another chance to “play” if he lets him in. During camera flashes to “The Fiend,” Wyatt was holding a belt that featured the Fiend mask in place of the standard title. Later in the night, Bryan was asked if he was ready to answer Wyatt’s challenge, but the FFH interrupted before he could answer. Wyatt cut to a music video with he and Huskus the Pig rapping about food and reptilians. Bryan did not answer one way or the other, speaking no words during the segment. Later, Miz talked to Bryan, sharing the dangers of facing Wyatt and saying Bryan is too important to the SmackDown locker room and to his own family to accept the rematch.
Bryan closed the show with an in-ring promo, claiming Miz’s warning “The Fiend” changes people — citing Finn Balor and Seth Rollins’ recent heel turns as examples — was a good thing because he needed to change. Bryan then said the fans had revived “The Yes Movement,” which he’d previously claimed was dead. As Bryan chanted “Yes!” along with the fans to accept the challenge of a rematch, another FFH interruption took place. Wyatt said Bryan helped him build the FunHouse, before saying he was a man of his word and would introduce the previously teased “new face” for the set. The lights cut before Wyatt popped up through the ring, locked Bryan in the Mandible Claw and dragged him through the ring, ripping out handfuls of Bryan’s hair in the process. Wyatt continued to pull up handfuls of hair as the show came to a close.
The best touch in the entire angle tonight was WWE focusing on the recent heel actions of former long-standing babyfaces Rollins and Balor. Both men “changed” shortly after falling victim to Wyatt’s mind games and seeming near-invincibility in the ring. Bryan’s intended change being a competition of the long-teased face turn and revival of “The Yes Movement” being cut short was another nice touch, not letting things go too well for a man involved with such a dangerous character. Grade: B+
Roman Reigns snaps after being triple teamed
Roman Reigns opened the show discussing SmackDown’s victory in the men’s Survivor Series tag match this past Sunday, thanking every member of his team before calling out the “dummy” on the team, King Corbin. Corbin, of course, took credit for the victory and claimed Reigns, the match’s sole survivor, got him eliminated from the match out of jealousy. Corbin shot down Reigns’ challenge to a match, saying “The Big Dog” would instead be wrestling Robert Roode to kick off the show — promising Reigns would leave the arena on a stretcher.
Facing Roode with Corbin and Dolph Ziggler at ringside, Reigns initially overcame the odds, avoiding Roode’s attempt to use Corbin’s scepter before hitting a spear for the victory. After the match, Ziggler ran in for the attack, roughing up Reigns before eating a Samoan drop. Reigns also dispatched of Corbin before Roode finally managed to attack with the scepter from behind. Roode laid Reigns’ head on a chair and attempted to hit him with the scepter again before Reigns escaped and hit a Superman punch and a spear through the ringside barricade. Reigns continued triumphant moment by throwing the announcers’ chairs on Roode and laying out Ziggler with the ring steps before flipping the announce desk onto Roode — who was the man ultimately leaving the arena on a stretcher.
I’m as tired as anyone of 30+ minutes of Corbin on screen during SmackDown, but this was a very strong segment for Reigns. While the show opened with his usual watered down white meat babyface shtick, the segment ended with Reigns regaining some edge, really putting a beating on the trio of heels — especially Roode and Ziggler. This was likely in large part heavy on the involvement of tables, chairs and stairs as WWE enters into the build to TLC. Grade: B
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- A video package aired for Sheamus after a lengthy absence from WWE programming. The former world champ called out the SmackDown locker room for having become soft, specifically mentioning Wyatt, Corbin and Shorty G.
- Mustafa Ali def. Drew Gulak via pinfall after a 450 splash. The match was kept short and a showcase for Ali, who continues to be one of the most reliably entertaining in-ring performers on the roster.
- Sasha Banks and Bayley cut an in-ring promo, refusing to take heat for their respective losses at Survivor Series. Banks said she did not get to pick her own team for the women’s tag match and that the entire team was the weak link. Bayley said there is no way Baszler is as good as her. Lacey Evans entered after the duo began running her down on the mic. Evans claimed it was time for a new face of the SmackDown women’s division before laying out Banks with the Women’s Right.
- Nikki Cross def. Sonya Deville via pinfall with an inside cradle. Prior to the match, Mandy Rose ran down Cross, saying she looked like a “cold plate of Thanksgiving leftovers.” Following Cross’ quick win, Rose attacked her from behind before Alexa Bliss ran in to make the save, eventually hitting a double DDT with Cross on Rose before the tag partners celebrated with a hug.
- Elias returned to SmackDown playing a brief song and saying he had been gone on a journey. This interrupted an interraction between Dana Brooke and Drake Maverick involving mistletoe backstage.
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship — New Day (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro via pinfall to retain the title when Kofi Kigston hit Cesaro with Trouble in Paradise. New Day’s open challenge for the titles was answered by Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Nakamura. Zayn attempted to hop in the ring and use New Day’s pancake platter to take out Kingston but was caught and ejected from ringside. As Zayn was walking up the entryway and yelling to Cesaro, Kingston took advantage of the distraction to hit Trouble in Paradise for the victory.