With WWE Survivor Series in the rearview, it was time for Roman Reigns to find a new dance partner. On Friday night's edition of SmackDown Kevin Owens appeared to emerge as the next man up for the universal champion.
Reigns spent much of the show demanding that Jey Uso begin to make people fear and respect him, because when Uso is not feared and respected, that disrespect spills over onto Reigns. Uso would lash out with attacks through the night before drawing the ire of Kevin Owens, who would end the night standing tall and demanding that Reigns face him in a moment that left the universal champion fuming.
Owens strikes back at Reigns, Uso
Jey Uso opened the show with an in-ring promo, saying the only thing anyone should be talking about after Survivor Series is Roman Reigns' win over Drew McIntyre in the main event. Before he could complete his introduction of Reigns, The Tribal Chief's music hit and Reigns made his way to the ring with Paul Heyman in tow. After a video recap of Survivor Series, Reigns told Uso that he told him to leave after Uso and Team SmackDown were swept in the men's elimination match, then said he did not ask for help beating McIntyre in the main event. Reigns blamed Uso for not controlling his team and said that Uso's losses were making the locker room look at his family as failures, and he doesn't like the way that feels. After the segment, Uso passed Otis, who was making his way to the ring for his match, so he returned to ringside to attack Otis with a chair.
Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan via count-out. Bryan was interviewed earlier in the night, discussing his feelings about Zayn as a champion and the idea that the man who holds the intercontinental championship should not exploit loopholes like Zayn does. Zayn almost scored a win by count-out after a brainbuster on the ring apron, but Bryan was able to beat the count and then kick out of a Blue Thunder Bomb. After Bryan fired back up, Zayn ran from the ring and into the backstage area. After Bryan gave chase, Zayn ran back in and slid in the ring to beat the count. The shot then cut to backstage where Uso was attacking Bryan until Owens made the save.
Kevin Owens def. Jey Uso via disqualification after Uso used a steel chair. Owens would confront Reigns and Uso backstage, telling Reigns that for someone who insists family is so important, he sure treats his family like crap. Reigns told Uso to fix the fact that Owens does not look at the universal champion with fear. Uso focused much of his offense on the arm of Owens, leading Owens to fail to hit the pop-up powerbomb when he couldn't elevate Uso. Uso countered a stunner attempt by ramming the injured arm into the corner twice before sliding out of the ring and grabbing a steel chair. Uso hit Owens with the chair multiple times for the disqualification, but Owens came back after the match with a stunner before throwing Uso over the announce table and returning the favor with a chair. Owens shouted into the camera, asking if Reigns was watching and said that Reigns may want people to fear him, but Owens fears no one. Owens closed the show with one final stunner on Uso before pulling a chair to the head of the announce table, sitting down and saying, "I'll be waiting" as Reigns watched on a monitor backstage.
WWE running angles that weave through the entire show has been a key to a more watchable television product in recent months. Shows in the past have felt disjointed and scattershot. Owens makes a good choice for a short-term opponent for Reigns and can carry his weight in a one or two-month program. Uso continues to do a great job as a main-event player, and the struggles with the expectations of Reigns has made the story of their family very compelling. Grade: B+
What else happened on SmackDown?
Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode def. The Street Profits via pinfall in a non-title match after a schoolboy by Roode on Montez Ford. Ziggler and Roode said they were setting their sights on the SmackDown tag titles after seeing the Profits beat New Day at Survivor Series. Roode and Ziggler took advantage of Ford's injured ribs, surviving a frog splash before Roode scored the flash pin in a bit of chaos, likely setting up a title match down the road.
Bianca Belair def. Natalya via pinfall with a roll-up. Bayley was on commentary and got involved in a shouting match with Belair, only to get hit by a punch when Natalya ducked. Bayley then tried to enter the ring, but that led to a collision with Natalya that allowed Belair to roll her up for the finish.
Murphy def. King Corbin via pinfall after a running knee. Corbin -- who was originally set to face Otis before Uso's attack earlier in the night -- had interrupted a backstage interview with Murphy and the Mysterio family earlier in the night. Through the match, Dominik, Rey and Aalyah Mysterio all interfered to help Murphy, with Dominik eventually distracting Corbin, allowing Murphy to hit a running knee. Corbin got his foot on the bottom rope, but Dominik shoved it off before the referee saw, giving Murphy the win. Corbin then demanded a rematch for next week, saying he'd be ready.
Sami Zayn was confronted by Big E. Zayn was on his way to be interviewed when Big E made fun of Zayn's run with the intercontinental championship and the cheap ways he had managed to win. Zayn bragged about taking 10 seconds to beat Daniel Bryan earlier in the night, so Big E offered to shake his hand and then squeezed and refused to let go while counting to 10.
Sasha Banks attacked Carmella after a promo. Carmella discussed her recent attacks of Sasha Banks before ending with a snap and extending her hand for a glass of champagne. The hand that reached into the camera shot was Banks', and when Carmella realized, the SmackDown women's champion attacked Carmella until WWE officials separated the pair.