With the Jan. 31 Royal Rumble event drawing ever nearer, WWE still has some heavy lifting to do before the second biggest of their annual pay-per-view events. That work continued during Friday night's edition of SmackDown, which was largely anchored by the continued issues between Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman, Adam Pearce and Kevin Owens.
Reigns was once again looking to exact revenge on Pearce for defying his wishes, putting together an elaborate series of events that would result in the universal champion getting Pearce one-on-one in the ring to close the show. Reigns was not counting on Owens showing up to spoil his fun, however, and was caught off guard and laid out as Owens sent one of his final messages ahead of their Last Man Standing match at the Rumble.
CBS Sports was with you all night, bringing you recaps and highlights of all the action. Read on for everything you need to know coming out of the ThunderDome.
Kevin Owens leaves SmackDown as last man standing
Roman Reigns opened the show in the ring, saying that, despite Kevin Owens promising to send a message, no one would see Owens during the show, because Reigns said so. Reigns said nobody snuck one past them when Adam Pearce and Kevin Owens managed to switch places for the upcoming Royal Rumble match, calling the use of "card subject to change" was the move of losers. Reigns listed all the injuries he deals with, pointing out that they don't keep him from making every appearance and obligation while carrying the company. He then implied that maybe his injuries would keep him from defending the title against Owens at the Royal Rumble event. Pearce joined Reigns and Paul Heyman in the ring, getting further run down by the duo before pointing out that he was not willing to take any verbal abuse from Heyman, leading to Heyman demanding a match against Pearce later in the night. Owens was, in fact, not in attendance, cutting a promo from inside a car and blaming Reigns for pulling strings to keep him away.
Adam Pearce vs. Paul Heyman ended in a no contest. After Pearce was in the ring, Heyman walked to the ring and began limping before telling Pearce, "Card subject to change." Reigns then walked to the ring to replace Heyman in the match. Reigns hit a Superman punch as soon as he stepped into the ring, sending Pearce to the outside of the ring. Pearce tried to fire back with punches but he was tossed around the ThunderDome, driven repeatedly into the video boards. Owens then ran in and attacked Reigns and the action hit the ring where Owens hit Reigns with a stunner. Owens continued the attack, hitting another stunner even as WWE officials were trying to pull him away. Finally, Owens drove Reigns through the announce table with a pop-up powerbomb as the show went off the air.
Scrap Daddy fans are being teased with Pearce actually having a match almost weekly at this point, but they'll have to settle for Pearce landing a single punch on Reigns. It's been a necessary development in recent weeks to have Owens get one over on Reigns, otherwise the story is just Owens constantly running into walls and never achieving anything meaningful. Everyone involved in the angle is outstanding on the microphone, so this was yet another good week for all involved and builds more momentum toward yet another somewhat predictable showdown between Reigns and Owens. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
Sami Zayn handcuffed himself to the ringside barricade for the show. Zayn also announced that he was entering himself into the Royal Rumble match.
Charlotte Flair & Asuka def. The Riott Squad via pinfall when Flair hit Ruby Riott with Natural Selection. Billie Kay was again out with the Squad and again cost them the match in her attempt to find acceptance with the group. Riott and Liv Morgan were shown extremely upset with Kay. Kay tried to win their favor back by telling them she had gotten them entered into the Royal Rumble, but Riott still walked off telling Kay things were better without her.
Cesaro def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall after hitting a Neutralizer. Cesaro cut off a Daniel Bryan promo about his desire to win the Royal Rumble. Bryan threw down a challenge to Cesaro to fight on the spot, but Cesaro said he was issuing an open challenge instead since he beat Bryan last week. Ziggler was the man who accepted the challenge, leading to a short match that was won by Cesaro.
Sasha Banks def. Reginald via submission with the Banks Statement. Carmella's sommelier showed off some incredible athleticism while not getting in any offense, keeping in line with WWE's stance on intergender matches, before Banks finally was able to pin him down and lock in the submission.
Apollo Crews def. Sami Zayn via disqualification after interference from Sami Zayn. During the match, Zayn removed his handcuffs as Crews took over the action. Zayn ran in and delivered a Helluva Kick to Crews for the disqualification. He then turned and delivered the same kick to Big E, getting revenge on the two men he held responsible for no longer being intercontinental champion.
The Street Profits petitioned Sonya Deville for a rematch for the tag titles they lost to Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler. Deville, in charge as Adam Pearce was getting ready for his match, said they had to wait until Montez Ford recovered from his leg injury, but when he was healed, they would be back in the title picture.
Bianca Belair def. Bayley in the Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Challenge. Bayley ran the course first, which included a tire flip, hurdles, wall climbing and carrying Chad Gable. Before Belair went, Bayley had the hurdles made higher and instead of Gable, Belair had to carry Otis. She still managed to win with ease, but Bayley attacked after Belair won, walking off having gotten the better of Belair despite losing the challenge.
King Corbin def. Dominik Mysterio via pinfall after hitting End of Days. Dominik reassured Rey Mysterio that he had a plan for taking on Corbin. Corbin dominated the match and won quickly without running into much resistance from Mysterio.