WWE SmackDown arrived in Boston for a show one night after Goldberg shockingly blew through "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt to become universal champion at Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia. Any question over the intention of the promotion to have Goldberg as a WrestleMania headliner was erased when he booked a dance partner for the biggest show of the year.
In addition to Goldberg, another legend showed up at TD Garden with John Cena returning to WWE TV on a night where clips of his most memorable wins were peppered throughout the broadcast. Cena joined Goldberg in lining up an opponent for WrestleMania, though he entered the night looking to avoid competing.
Let's take a look at what went down on a very eventful edition of WWE SmackDown.
Roman Reigns challenges Goldberg for WrestleMania
Unsurprisingly, new WWE universal champ Goldberg opened up the show, immediately saying "it's not about who was last, it's about who's next." This drew Roman Reigns, fresh off his cage match victory over Baron Corbin, to walk to the ring. The two men engaged in a lengthy staredown before Reigns simply said "I'm next," before dropping the mic and leaving the ring. Later in the night, the match was confirmed as official for WrestleMania.
The crowd loudly booed Goldberg from the second his music hit, so the wounds had not yet healed from Super ShowDown. But this segment was probably the best you can ask for from a bad idea. No one really wants Reigns vs. Goldberg, but more than not wanting the match, no one wants to see lengthy promo segments between the two. Let them stare each other down and make their very manly points and move the show along. Grade: C
John Cena accepts WrestleMania challenge from The Fiend
John Cena's long-awaited return went down in front of his hometown Massachusetts fans, saying it was time to announce what he is doing at WrestleMania. Cena said he would be "doing something different" because he knows how hard WWE superstars work to just hope to get a WrestleMania moment and that he has listened to the fans. Cena said he shares the fans' passion for the future of WWE, and because of that he was "doing the right thing" and would sit out this year's biggest show. "This is not goodbye, this is not goodbye," Cena said. "But it is goodbye for now and it is the right thing to do."
As Cena's music played and he made his way to the entrance ramp and gave a salute to the fans, the arena's lights cut out. When the lights came back, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt was standing behind Cena. The Fiend pointed to the WrestleMania sign and a crowd still fired up from Cena's promo cheered on the idea before Cena tipped his hat and the lights cut back off and the show went off the air.
The Fiend politely challenging Cena to a match with a sign point and having that challenge accepted with a tip of the cap was odd. The Fiend hasn't exactly been a character who handles business in this way. But maybe he's still licking his wounds after being dominated by Goldberg the night before. What made the segment click was the Boston crowd going absolutely nuts for Cena and for the moment of the challenge. Hot crowds will forever make wrestling better. Grade: B
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- Naomi def. Bayley via disqualification after Sasha Banks interfered in the match. Bayley welcomed Banks back before the match and just minutes in, Banks jumped in the ring to break up a pin. After the conclusion of the match, Lacey Evans ran in to make the save, leading to an immediate tag team match.
- Naomi & Lacey Evans def. Bayley & Sasha Banks via pinfall after a Sunset Flip. Bayley was distracted by Banks and Evans brawling at ringside, allowing Naomi to land a kick on the outside before diving into the ring with the pinning combination to get a pin on the WWE SmackDown women's champ.
- Robert Roode Def. Kofi Kingston via pinfall with a roll-up. As the referee was distracted by Dolph Ziggler at ringside, Roode threw himself into the ring steps before blaming Big E, leading the referee to throw Big E out of the ringside area. This would leave Ziggler unchecked at ringside where he'd break up a pin and Roode would use the distraction to score the win.
- Mandy Rose was shown smiling at the TV while Ziggler was seconding Roode. Later, Tucker implored Otis to move on from Rose, though Otis insisted something wasn't right about the Rose/Ziggler partnership.
- Braun Strowman and Shinsuke Nakamura took part in a contract signing for an intercontinental championship match at Elimination Chamber. After Strowman said he didn't care what was in the contract and signed, Sami Zayn flipped things and altered the contract to be three-on-one with Strowman defending against Nakamura, Cesaro and Zayn. The trio then attacked Strowman and put him through a table.
- Daniel Bryan def. Curtis Axel via submission with the LeBell Lock. Drew Gulak was ringside again, this time apparently coaching Axel in his crusade to get back at Bryan for refusing his help.
- The Usos def. The Miz & John Morrison via pinfall after a second-rope Canadian Destroyer into an Uso Splash on Morrison. Before the match, Miz and Morrison were celebrating their title win at Super ShowDown only to have the celebration interrupted by the announcement they would defend their tag titles inside the Elimination Chamber against The Usos, New Day, Heavy Machinery, Ziggler & Roode and Lucha House Party.