For the 843rd week in a row, we start off with Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman talking. This week, Roman is back to bullying Adam Pearce. I liked Roman deciding that Edge not committing to challenge him at WrestleMania must mean that Edge is scared of him, but did this really have to take the from of a promo cut to Adam Pearce? Why can’t Roman just talk to the f*cking camera?
Anyway, Pearce is out here to discuss Roman’s title defense at Elimination Chamber. Normally I would ask why they’re doing this now instead of during the week, but Pearce answered that question by saying that Reigns and Heyman insisted on waiting until now. I think it would be a good idea for the commentators to explain why Roman and Heyman keep doing this sort of thing (they’re trying to waste time until Pearce’s back is against the wall and he needs a match signed for the PPV, and thus trying to force him into agreeing to their demands just to get things done in time), because if they don’t, it looks like the sole purpose of this is to belittle Adam Pearce, and that Pearce is standing there and taking it because either A) he’s a wimp or B) the script says he must, neither of which are good reasons.
Reigns and Heyman say that Roman has to defend the title at the Elimination Chamber 2021 event, but Roman never signed a contract saying that he has to defend the title in an Elimination Chamber match like Pearce wants. That’s fair.
Heyman suggests that Pearce book six Smackdown Superstars™ in an Elimination Chamber match, and the winner will get a shot at Roman later that night. Why the hell would Pearce ever agree to that? He already has an Elimination Chamber match booked on Raw so the PPV name is already justified, and even if he had to have one from each show, he could just book the women’s or IC champion to defend in the Elimination Chamber in a fair match rather than booking something that would give Roman a major advantage. Why doesn’t he just book Roman in a regular singles match for the title? Surely he’s allowed to do that (and if the fact is that Roman has such control over his matches that he could veto a regular singles match and he’s willing to forgo all appearances of fairness by demanding that his challenger go through an Elimination Chamber first, why should he care about any other appearances of fairness and why wouldn’t he insist on some ridiculous stipulation like the opponent has to have both arms tied behind is back and Roman is allowed to use weapons and can also win the match with a one-count?).
Well, apparently Pearce has to book this match that Heyman has suggested because the script requires him to. Either that or we’re supposed to think that Pearce is an idiot.
And it gets worse. Pearce decides that some people will have to qualify but not others. He mentions two people who won’t have to qualify. One is Kevin Owens, because I guess interference in a match where there are no DQs still constitutes a BS finish and Pearce thinks Owens deserves another title shot. I’m fine with that, but if you’re going to go that way, then Pearce needs to actually do something to put a stop to any outside interference (like have Jey and Hyeman barred from the building, or have someone attack them and tie them up backstage).
The other person who doesn’t have to qualify is Shinsuke Nakamura, who legitimately won a shot at Pearce at the Royal Rumble but then got screwed out of it when Roman & Pals forced Pearce into the match at the end and beat Nakamura up and made Pearce pin him.
JUST KIDDING! That would be logic, and as I’ve already established, this segment is not overly concerned with logic. The other person who gets a by is Jey Uso because.. um… uh…
I mean really! Never mind the fact that Jey hasn’t done sh*t to earn a title shot, but the dude keeps interfering on Roman’s behalf, and at this point we have no reason to think that if he does win, he won’t just lie down for Roman, so why the hell would Pearce book him in this match?
Pearce left the ring to announce Owens’ participation in the Elimination Chamber, as if he was terrified of Roman attacking him, once again making him look like a wimp. The segment ended with Roman once again getting in Pearce’s face and threatening him for no f*cking reason. Not only did he get what he wanted here, but there is now even a one in six chance that he won’t have to put any effort into defending the title because his lackey will win and the Elimination Chamber match and just lie down for him. Why is he upset? Are we really supposed to believe that this Roman Reigns would be worried about having to defend his title against Kevin Owens if Owens had to go through an Elimination Chamber match first?
Roman’s promo on Edge was good and the shots they got of Jey and Roman reacting to the announcement that Jey would in the Elimination Chamber were great (Jey was expressionless and Roman didn’t even turn to look at Jey), but everything else here was stupid.
ADAM PEARCE & SONYA DEVILLE BACKSTAGE- terrible
In the previous segment, Pearce wanted to book Roman in a match but Roman (through Heyman) said “no, book me in this match instead, where I’m going to have a huge advantage,” and Pearce gave Roman what he wanted. Somehow, in the mind of Sonya Deville, this constituted Pearce having “stood up to Roman Reigns,” so she’s an idiot, too (and we’d get more evidence for that before this segment ended).
Then it somehow got worse. Pearce and Sonya are now worried about how they are going to fill out the Elimination Chamber match. How do you not have this mostly solved yet? You wanted to book an Elimination Chamber match at the PPV for Roman’s title, remember? Yes, now you’re booking it as a #1 contendership match instead, but that’s only one new person you should need to find (a sixth contender to replace Roman). Did you really book an Elimination Chamber match and give no thought to how you would fill it out half of the spots?
Just to make things stupider, they absolutely must have the spots filled out by the end of the night, even though there is one more episode of Smackdown between this one and the PPV.
Sonya has an idea for how to do this:
“Elimination Chamber is every man for themselves. What if we did a tag team match?”
No, Sonya. No. What you just said is like suggesting that because the Daytona 500 is an auto race, the best way to determine who qualifies for it would be by having the drivers all race on horseback because “hey, it’s still a race.”
Just look at the first sentence there! They actually had her go out of her way to point out that here idea makes no sense! They must be trying to write the single dumbest episode of a wrestling show in history. They must be.
Sonya pitches the next match (Rey & Dominik vs. Baron Corbin & Sami Zayn) be made a qualifying match. Okay… what about the other two spots?
Pearce agrees with Sonya’s very dumb idea. Sonya then tells him that she already told the wrestlers that this was happening… meaning she did this before she even had Pearce’s approval. Is she trying to get fired? I’m not even sure she’s officially allowed to make those decisions because at the beginning of this segment there was a “WWE Official” over Pearce’s name on the graphic but not on Sonya’s.
Michael Cole thinks that all of this is a good thing, so he’s an idiot, too.
WINNING TEAM QUALIFIES FOR THE #1 CONTENDERSHIP ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH: Sami Zayn & Baron Corbin vs. Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio- 4.75/10
Sami cut an annoying promo on his way to the ring. As I said in my Raw review, I think Sami is effective at delivering his message, but because I have no faith that anything will come of this gimmick of his, his otherwise effective heel work is merely annoying.
Dominik dove onto Sami early on and appeared to smash his face into the front of the announcers’ table. Rey dumped Corbin to the outside with a headscissors reversing a powerbomb, then pulled Dominik into the ring so they could give us a fighting pose and there would be a lull in the action so we could cut to commercial at our forced, formulaic time.
(The more I think about that, the more annoying it gets. A lull in the action like that is, honestly, the most logical time to cut to a commercial if you absolutely MUST do so in the middle of a match, but the fact that the do every f*cking commercial like that makes it feel so forced that instead of appreciating that I’m not missing much actual action, it just makes me enjoy the show less because it feels more scripted and controlled.)
Anyway, they did their stuff. Zayn pinned Dominik clean, which surprised me. I was expecting the heel victory, but not a clean one.
Cole claimed that Triple H created the Elimination Chamber, but in kayfabe, credit has always been given to Bischoff (they originally tagged it “from the mind of Eric Bischoff”). Not only is this a completely pointless revision (no one is going to think any more of Hunter if you tell us that he created the Elimination Chamber, even if that’s a shoot), but it goes against kayfabe, as I remember Hunter being rather unhappy about the match.
ADAM PEARCE, SONYA DEVILLE, DOLPH ZIGGLER, & BOBBY ROODE BACKSTAGE- bad
Everyone in this segment was annoying.
Roode & Ziggler want to be in the Elimination Chamber match. Sonya books them against the random team of Daniel Bryan & Cesaro because they have to “earn” their spot, even though Jey Uso just gets given his for no reason. Also, this now means that not only is Nakamura not even getting a chance (and he should for the reasons I outlined before), but neither is IC Champion Big E., which means that the IC Champion is not in the top TEN of people who deserve the chance to at least earn a world title shot. Way to bury the IC Title.
Speaking of Big E., after that segment, we saw him coming out to the ring for a match. And if you don’t believe me that he’s a chump, they forced him to wait in the ring while first played two video packages not relating to either him or his opponent, and then cut to camera shot Regiland walking around with a drink backstage. Luckily for WWE, he bumped into someone he could have an interesting interaction with.
REGINALD APOLOGIZES TO SASHA BANKS- bad
He says that he really thinks that Bianca can’t beat her. She touches his hair because I guess she’s into him. He offers her a pre-poured glass of champagne, and, like an idiot, she drinks it. I assume that it has been drugged and Carmella is going to beat the sh*t out of her and steal the title and make Sasha give her a title shot in order to get the belt back.
Oh, also, Kalisto was there. This has to be the first time he’s been on TV in a long time.
IC TITLE SEGMENT- GREAT!
He says he’s done with Crews and Zayn and starts to talk about a new challenger. Apollo Crews comes out because he thinks Big E. is about to issue an open challenge, so he decides to preemptively come out and accept it. A fine strategy.
Big E. says that he was going to offer an open challenge to anyone in the arena- even Michael Cole or the janitor- other than Apollo Crews. That’s kind of a dick move, E. Yes, Apollo got pinned last week and doesn’t deserve a title shot, but neither have most of the other people on this show, and you’re fine to give one of them a title shot- even some untrained jamoke or Michael Cole- so why not Apollo?
They had a good, realistic-feeling argument without their microphones, with Big E. coming off like the disrespected vet and Apollo like the frustrated but in some ways justified angry young guy. Neither of them really felt like a heel here, which means that there is room for either of them to grow in that direction.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Big E.(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- DUD!
Apollo Crews decided to lurk around ringside for this match to let us know that there was going to be a f*ck finish coming. A few minutes in, he ran in and hit Big E. with a dropkick when Big E. was about to hit the Big Ending, needlessly speeding up a turn that should have been given time to breathe. Also, whoever thought it was a good idea to have Big E. set up for the Big Ending when Crews interfered should be flogged, because all this did was needlessly make Nakamura look like a loser, ensuring that we got all of the bullsh*t of doing a DQ but none of the benefit (that no one has to get beaten). The incompetence is staggering.
THE RETURN OF SETH ROLLINS- very bad
They had the entire locker room come out and surround the ring before Seth came out to show him respect, even though he has been a total douchebag for the past year-plus. Even the f*cking MYSTERIOS, who he spent six months feuding with, were out here. And it turns out that he’s still that exact same douchebag, so they all walked out on him. Yes, having everyone walk out on Seth is a good way to show that he’s an arrogant douchebag who they don’t like, but despite the other characters reacting to Seth in a natural way, their reaction here doesn’t feel natural because you had them all act in a completely unnatural way to get them into position to have the desired natural reaction.
Anyway, they all walk out on Rollins… aside from Cesaro. Except it turns out that Cesaro only stayed out so
Cesaro’s dick move angered Rollins, so Rollins attacked Cesaro from behind and beat him up until Daniel Bryan came back out to make the save (after yelling from the referees failed to force him to stop).
And not only was the logic here terrible, but this segment also told us that instead of using the circumstances of his departure to give us a new Seth Rollins, we’re getting the same, stupid, floundering character he was when he left.
BAYLEY vs. LIV MORGAN (w/Ruby Riott)- 3/10
We were shown Nattie and Tamina watching backstage, at which point Michael Cole broke the news that these two are best friends. You can’t just tell us people are best friends out of nowhere! I’ve been watching WWE every week for a decade now, and I was surprised that these two were even on the screen together.
These two were having a meh match when that bumbling idiot Billie Kay came out with her stupid pictures and began to bother Ruby Riott, so Ruby took them and threw them behind her. Some landed in the ring, so the referee went to clear them out, and as a result, he missed Bayley raking Liv’s eyes, allowing Bayley to hit her finisher and get the win.
I’m sure there is a solid argument that this is more Ruby’s fault than it is Billie’s, but I’m still blaming Billie because what the f*ck was she doing out here in the first place, coming out to ringside and making a bunch of noise and bothering Ruby while she was trying to manage Liv? What was so G-d damn important that she couldn’t wait until Ruby got to the back to show it to her? If the goal of this storyline is to make me want to see the Riott Squad throw Billie Kay into a vat of acid, then it’s working.
Obviously I’m exaggerating for the sake of the joke there, but I’m honestly having trouble figuring out what outcome I’m supposed to want to see. Them be friends? I like the Riott Squad. They are honorable babyfaces (and Ruby Riott is tremendous and Liv is passable and comes off as an authentic friend to Ruby, and thus is a fine fit to be her tag team partner), so I want to see them do well. Billie Kay is an incompetent moron who never wins and can’t do anything right. I don’t want her to be friends with them and go bumbling around ringside and causing them to lose every week like she has been doing. I want her to go far away from them. I want Hunter to show up and grab one of her resumés and tell her he has decided to hire her starting tomorrow as the head trainer of NXT Siberia and hand her a plane ticket.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS DANIEL BRYAN & CESARO- fine
Kayla wants to know if Cesaro is going to be able to wrestle his match tonight after being attacked by Seth Rollins. He said he would be able to, and vowed to win. Then Bryan said something that I couldn’t understand because the audio was garbled.
THE STREET PROFITS TALK ABOUT NASCAR- snore
STREET PROFITS PROMO- bad
There was a Marshawn Lynch “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” reference from 2015, complete with a wig. They made fun of themselves for using an old pop culture reference. Just because you acknowledge that your pop culture reference was dumb doesn’t change the fact that it was dumb.
OTIS & GABLE PROMO- bad
Otis is a stupid goof.
THE STREET PROFITS vs. CHAD GABLE & OTIS- 4/10
Both Cole and Graves are insistent that the Street Profits deserve a title shot… which just makes me wonder why management hasn’t booked one yet. It’s not like the Street Profits are on some kind of winning streak and only became worthy last week. This is their first match since they lost the titles FIVE WEEKS AGO.
The Street Profits won a short but fun match. I really enjoyed seeing Gable and Dawkins roll around in the beginning.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- didn’t like it
Sasha interrupted the Street Profits’ celebration, then started to dance with them. I guess this means they were cool with it, because she came off like jerk to me, playing her music to interrupt theirs.
SASHA BANKS, BIANCA BELAIR, NIA JAX, & SHAYNA BASZLER SEGMENT- bad
Sasha came out and pointed at the sign while telling us that we were “on the road to WrestleMania™.” That’s a heel move at this point. Sasha said that Bianca should choose to challenge her. Bianca came out and said that Sasha wasn’t the boss of her. Then Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler came out because
Nia & Shayna are upset about having their big title victory ignored. That’s valid. They claim to be “on a roll,” to which Sasha Banks responds by saying that she “heard rumors” that they were going to show up, so she had already prepared footage of Nia and Shayna losing their respective matches on Raw. I guess she also must have “heard rumors” of what they were going to say so that she would know what footage she needed to compile to refute it.
I hope I never find out if Sasha ad-libbed the “heard rumors” line in a desperate effort to make this segment make more sense, because if she didn’t and that line was written for her, then my mind might just unravel. The idea that they felt that they needed to explain how Sasha had this footage ready but not any of the other million things on this show that need an explanation is completely insane to me.
Sasha and Bianca danced around while instructing the production truck to “roll it” (the film). It was extremely annoying, to the point where I popped when Nia and Shayna attacked them. Unfortunately, Sasha & Bianca won the brawl. So either:
1. This will go nowhere, and you’ve just made your tag champs look bad for no reason.
2. This will lead to a title match where Sasha & Bianca will win, icing the title for Mania season because the champs will be feuding with each other.
3. This will lead to a title match where Nia & Shayna will retain cleanly, so either Sasha or Bianca will do a clean job on the way to Mania (even if Nia & Shayna cheat to win, management should book rematches until we get a clean finish, because that’s their job).
4. This will lead to a match where either Sasha or Bianca will turn on the other in the middle of the match, f*cking us out of a finish in a title match.
WINNING TEAM QUALIFIES FOR THE #1 CONTENDERSHIP ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH: Daniel Bryan & Cesaro vs. the Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode)- 7/10
Yes, the “Dirty Dawgs” is their actual name. They even made t-shirts. This has to be one of the worst names in wrestling history. It’s just… SOOOO lame.
Michael Cole claimed that “Sheamus & Cesaro were bitter rivals for years” (his emphasis, not mine) before forming The Bar, which is false. They feuded for a few months, and the feud only last more than one match because Mick Foley decided to randomly book them in a best-of-seven series.
He would also proudly describe Roode distracting the ref so Dolph could take a “cheat shot” a Bryan was “classic tag team wrestling.” You’re supposed to be the babyface announcer you f*cking moron! BE ANGRY ABOUT THE HEELS CHEATING!
Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn came out to ringside (right before a commercial break, of course), so now we have a f*ck finish to look forward to. When we got back from said commercial, we cut away from the match to show us Roman watching TV backstage. I assume he was watching this match, but I don’t know because we couldn’t see the TV… so we weren’t seeing the f*cking main event! (And for anyone who had any doubt about how high up Roman is in the WWE star-power hierarchy, not only was he allowed to face the TV like a normal person, but Roman even got to sit down in a chair. When was the last time we saw someone watching TV while sitting down in WWE?
Holy crap, Zayn and Corbin didn’t interfere! The babyfaces won clean… which means that the tag champs just lost cleanly to two guys who haven’t teamed with each over in well over a decade (and in WWE’s canon, have NEVER teamed together).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- meh
Jey Uso attacked Bryan and Cesaro from behind. Zayn and Corbin got involved as well. Kevin Owens came out and ran wild on everyone. They cut to Roman, who was not happy with this. Owens cut a promo into the camera.
I’m not saying that this segment didn’t make total sense, but it also felt rather forced. I think I would have liked it better if Corbin and Zayn had come out with Uso, making it clear that this was a plan rather than them coming out ringside on their because I guess they want to hype the Elimination Chamber match. They put a lot of effort here into making us think that we’re going to get Roman vs. Owens again, but I don’t know why they would think that anyone wants to see that match again at this point, and especially in a situation where the odds are so tilted in Roman’s favor. And if they’re focusing on Owens to swerve us from the actual winner, I still don’t think that does much good because we all know that whoever wins, they’re going to lose to Roman, and that’s what we’re supposed to think in kayfabe, too, due to the biased stipulation.
This was a very bad episode of Smackdown. There were little bits of good here and there, but most of this show was just stupid. I’ve been angrier at shows before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a show that got me so consistently angry at simple things. This felt like a show that was written with an attitude of “let’s just get to done so that we can go home for the weekend.” Each segment had a booking goal it needed to accomplish, and the writers seemed to just put down the first answer that popped into their heads and never looked back to make sure that their answer made any sense.