– Tonight’s WWE SmackDown on FOX opens up live from the ThunderDome at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida as Michael Cole welcomes us. He’s joined by Corey Graves at ringside.
– We go right to the ring and out comes WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, Jey Uso and Paul Heyman. Reigns stops on the ramp and raises the title as the pyro goes off. Greg Hamilton does the introductions as they march to the ring while fans boo.
Cole and Graves hype tonight’s Gauntlet Match to determine Reigns’ Royal Rumble opponent with Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, King Baron Corbin, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Reigns takes his time entering the ring and stops in the middle as more pyro goes off. A big “you suck!” chant breaks out before Heyman can speak. He hands the mic to Reigns and the boos continue. Reigns says there’s been a lot of talk about what they did to Kevin Owens last week. Reigns says Owens is a pain in his ass but he likes Owens. He respects someone as ambitious as Owens, one who keeps getting up no matter how often he gets knocked down. He says Owens is like a cockroach. Reigns never wanted anything bad to happen to Owens.
Reigns goes on and says he cares about everyone in the back, cares about their families, and this is why he does what he does. He’s putting food on everyone’s tables. But now Owens doesn’t have that opportunity, he can’t come to work anymore. Reigns says people are trying to blame him but it’s not his fault. Reigns says if you want to blame someone, point the finger in the direction of WWE official Adam Pearce. Fans boo again. Reigns tells Pearce to bring his ass out here. Heyman yells at the ring announcer to get Pearce out here. Pearce finally comes marching down the ramp and into the ring.
Pearce asks Reigns what can he do for him. Reigns tells Pearce to watch this nice clip they had done. A video package plays and shows highlights from two weeks ago, when Reigns retained over Owens in the Steel Cage. We also see how Owens talked Pearce into the match with Uso last week, how Owens defeated Uso, then the post-match attack on Uso that led to Reigns and Uso destroying Owens, ending the show by tossing him off the platform through the table. We come back and Uso is staring Pearce down. Pearce asks Reigns what he wants him to say. Reigns wants Pearce to be a man. Reigns goes on about the feud being done, and them moving on, but Owens went to his friend for another match. Reigns accuses Pearce of not making the right decision for the well-being of his friend. Reigns goes on and he’s not happy about tonight’s Gauntlet to determine his Royal Rumble challenger. Pearce says he’s just trying to put the best challengers in front of Reigns.
Reigns goes on playing mind games with Pearce. Pearce asks Heyman what they’re doing out here. Uso continues to stare Pearce down from behind, looking ready to attack. Reigns accuses Pearce of thinking he’s stupid, which means he’s insulting him and disrespecting him, and disrespecting his family. Reigns says there are consequences to that. He grabs Pearce by the collar and backs him up. Pearce asks Reigns to stop and says he does respect Reigns. Heyman talks Reigns down and gets him to back off Pearce. Reigns nods and says that was his mistake. Maybe no one in this room is stupid, and maybe right now… right now, you’re perfectly safe. Pearce looks confused as Reigns hands the mic back to Heyman, pats Pearce on the arm and then walks out of the ring as his music hits.
– Still to come, Big E defends against Apollo Crews. We go to commercial.
WWE Intercontinental Title Match: Apollo Crews vs. Big E
Back from the break and Apollo Crews is already waiting in the ring. WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E makes his way into the ring next.
The bell rings and Crews immediately drops Big E with a dropkick. Crews with another big kick to level Big E for a quick pin attempt. Crews goes to the top but has to roll through as Big E dodges the splash. Big E drops Crews with an elbow. Big E goes on and hits the running splash on the apron as the referee counts.
Crews counters a move and kicks Big E in the head. Crews clotheslines Big E, and drops him with a forearm again. Crews unloads with thrusts in the corner now. Crews with a running splash in the corner. Crews with a big German suplex, holding it for a second German, and then a third for a close 2 count. A dazed Big E rolls to the floor for a breather. Crews kicks him from the apron and then hits a moonsault to the floor. Crews rolls Big E back into the ring for a 1 count. Crews takes Big E to the corner and then to the top turnbuckle. Crews climbs up for a superplex but Big E resists.
Crews nails the superplex and looks like he’s going to hold it for another suplex but it also looks like Big E tries to turn it into a pin attempt. The referee makes the 3 count and Crews immediately starts celebrating, going to the corner to pose. The referee looks a bit confused as does Big E. Big E approaches the referee and they’re talking as SmackDown goes to commercial with no winner announced.
Back from the break and a replay shows that both competitors had their shoulders down. The referee is holding the title inn the ring now, with Crews and Big E. The referee rules that it was a double pin and per the rules, the champion retains. Crews argues but Big E says he doesn’t make the rules. They argue some more and Crews smacks Big E in the face. Crews demands Big E give him the title. Big E is ready to go at it again now. The referee calls for the bell to re-start the match.
Big E nails two straight belly-to-belly suplexes, and then a third as the crowd pops. Big E runs the ropes and hits the splash in the middle of the ring. Big E rallies and goes for the Big Ending but Crews retreats and goes to the apron. Big E runs for the Spear to the floor but Crews gets a knee up. Crews goes to the top and hits a big splash for a close 2 count.
More back and forth now. They trade counters and Crews rolls Big E for another close 2 count. Crews with strike and a Spinebuster in the middle of the ring. Crews with a standing moonsault and another close 2 count. Crews yells out in frustration now.
Crews looks to go for a powerbomb but Big E rolls him up for 2. Big E goes right into the Stretch Muffler submission. Crews fights out with a kick. Big E scoops him for a Big Ending but Crews slides out and nails a big kick to the temple. Big E fights off the spin-out powerbomb. Crews charges but Big E catches him with the Uranage from the corner. Big E then scoops Crews for the Big Ending to get the pin and the win.
Winner: Big E
– After the match, Big E stands tall and takes the title as his music hits. He yells some words at Crews and taunts him before making his exit.
– Adam Pearce is on the phone with someone backstage and says he feels like he’s damned if he does, and damned if he don’t. Sonya Deville walks in. Pearce welcomes her and says he understands they will be working together. Deville says the last year has been crazy and she’s not proud of what she’s said or done, but it’s a new year and she wants to put the past behind her. She’s not bitter about Mandy Rose beating her in the SummerSlam match, going off to RAW and leaving her career in shambles. She goes on and says she’s grateful for the new opportunity and wants to help Pearce. They exchange a few more friendly words and Pearce welcomes her back.
– Still to come, our Gauntlet Match main event. Back to commercial.
– Back from the break and Alyse Ashton is backstage with Bianca Belair, who has announced herself for the 30-Woman Royal Rumble Match. Before she can speak, Bayley interrupts and they taunt each other. Bayley also declares her spot for the Rumble and says she will win, then go on to win the title at WrestleMania 37. Bayley and Belair continue having words with each other until Belair walks off.
– We see how Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler recently attacked The Street Profits.
SmackDown Tag Team Titles Match: Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler vs. The Street Profits
We go back to the ring and out first are SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Street Profits – Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins. Back to commercial.
Back from the break and we see how Sports Illustrated named SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks as their Wrestler of the Year for 2020. Carmella is backstage with Reginald, her sommelier, now. She takes a sip of champagne and brags on pinning Banks last week. She also mentions Sasha being honored by SI and points out it was for a year where Carmella had time off. Carmella goes on talking trash about Banks and says Banks can’t touch her when it comes to talent. We go back to the ring and The Profits wait as Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler come out together.
Ziggler and Dawkins go at it to start off. Back and forth until Dawkins gets some offense and nails a big dropkick for a 2 count. Dawkins works on the arm and tags in Ford. They double team Ziggler with a double shoulder tackle. Dawkins then flips Ford onto Ziggler for another 2 count. Ziggler takes it to the corner and turns it around. Roode tags in and they unload on Ford while he’s down, stomping away as the referee counts to 5. Roode uses the middle rope on Ford as the referee counts again.
Roode takes Ford to the corner but Ford blocks a right hand, fighting out of the corner and into the opposite corner. Ford unloads with kicks and punches as the crowd cheers him on. Roode with a kick to the hurt knee to turn it right back around. Ford sends Roode to the floor, then Ziggler as he comes in. Ford runs the ropes and leaps over the top, taking out both challengers at ringside.
Ford stands back up but his knee gives out and he goes right back down. Dawkins comes over to check on Ford, as does the referee. Ford sells the knee injury as we go back to commercial.
Back from the break and Dawkins eventually turns it around on Roode. Dawkins with a big back-drop and a spinning shot int he corner. Dawkins goes on and hits a bulldog for a close 2 count. Dawkins can’t believe it. Ford is still down on the floor, barely able to get up on the apron but he makes it. Dawkins fights Roode off and decides against tagging Ford in. Ziggler tags in and drops Dawkins with a dropkick for a close 2 count.
Ziggler works over Dawkins while he’s down as fans boo. Ziggler manhandles Dawkins some using the middle rope. Ziggler argues with the referee and Roode takes advantage with a cheap shot to Dawkins. Ziggler grounds Dawkins in the middle of the ring now. Ford and Dawkins both reach for a tag but Ziggler pulls Dawkins back to their corner and in comes Roode to take over as a “we want smoke!” chant goes on. Roode with a neckbreaker to Dawkins for another 2 count.
Roode taunts Ford as Dawkins crawls for a tag. Roode continues beating Dawkins around the ring while Ziggler also taunts him. Ziggler tags in but Dawkins dodges a double team attempt. Dawkins then sends Roode through the ropes to the floor as the crowd pops and Ford reaches for the tag. Roode runs over and pulls Ford off the apron. Ford blocks a strike and sends Roode into the barrier. Ford goes back to the apron and reaches for the tag. Ziggler gets kicked away by Dawkins. Ford tags in and unloads on Ziggler with clotheslines and right hands. Ford drops Ziggler again and then back-drops Roode as he runs in. Ford is having some trouble with the leg but he still levels Ziggler with a big discus lariat for a close 2 count.
Ford slowly makes it to the top but Roode grabs the leg. Ford kicks Roode to the floor. Ziggler runs up to the top and quickly nails a super Facebuster on Ford. Ziggler covers for another close 2 count. Ziggler yells at Ford to get back up. Ford nails a superkick of his own as Ziggler charges for one. Ford falls on top of Ziggler for a 2 count but Roode breaks it up. Dawkins comes in and sends Roode back out to the floor.
Dawkins and the crowd rally for Ford now as he crawls to the corner. Roode approaches on the apron but Dawkins knocks him off. Ziggler runs and knocks Dawkins off the apron, face-first into the barrier. Ford counters a move by Ziggler and rolls him up for a close 2 count. Ziggler goes right for Ford’s bad leg. Roode tags in and hits the Fisherman’s suplex for a close 2 count. Roode can’t believe Ford is still in it.
Roode goes for the Glorious DDT but Ford slides out and hits an enziguri to drop Roode. Ziggler tags in and they immediately hit the big double team Spinebuster into the Zig Zag. Ziggler quickly covers in the middle of the ring for the pin to win the titles.
Winners and New SmackDown Tag Team Champions: Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
– After the match, Ziggler’s music hits as they take the titles. Dawkins comes in to check on Ford but the new champions attack and knock them out of the ring. Ziggler and Roode go back to celebrating in the corners with the titles.
– Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville are backstage talking strategy when Paul Heyman walks in. Deville dismisses herself. Pearce tells Heyman if this is about the Gauntlet, save it, please. Heyman says he likes Pearce and wants no hostility. Heyman goes on about knowing Pearce’s past and how things could’ve been if he managed “Scrap Daddy” Adam Pearce back then. Heyman says he knows Pearce’s accomplishments and why he was picked for this job, but also knows this wasn’t how Pearce saw his career going. Pearce wanted to be the champion. Heyman says Roman Reigns had him pull some strings and Pearce is now in tonight’s Gauntlet Match. Pearce doesn’t look thrilled. Heyman says Pearce now has the chance to pursue the dream he’s had since he was a baby, and it’s courtesy of his Universal Champion. Heyman says he’s so happy and proud for Pearce, personally and professionally. Heyman grabs Pearce’s hand and shakes it, and says it’s been a pleasure doing business with him. It’s interesting how WWE set this angle up all night as Deville also mentioned in her earlier segment how she wanted to help Pearce tonight, in his match, but he dismissed the idea and said he hasn’t wrestled in 6 or 7 years, and won’t be wrestling any matches any time soon. We go back to commercial.
– Back from the break and we see how Billie Kay’s antics led to a win for The Riott Squad last week. Kay is backstage with Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott now, and wants them to add her to the group. They’re not interested. She starts crying. Liv begins to speak up and Billie takes that as them wanting her in the group. She says she can be “punk” like them, and has even added “mosh pit” to her resume. She is happy as she walks away. The Riott Squad is annoyed and looking to fix the situation.
#1 Contender’s Gauntlet Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Sami Zayn vs. King Baron Corbin vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Adam Pearce
We go to the ring for tonight’s Gauntlet Match main event and out comes Rey Mysterio with Dominik Mysterio. The winner will become the new #1 contender to challenge WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Sami Zayn is out next. Sami starts ranting about a conspiracy against him. He has a film crew with him and says they are here to document and uncover the conspiracy against him, which led to him losing the Intercontinental Title. He goes on and says when the documentary comes out, it will prove he’s the rightful champion. Fans boo as Sami continues ranting. He enters the ring and goes on about beating Rey, then everyone else who comes down to the ring because he is undeniable.
The bell rings and Sami is still ranting to his film crew. He turns around to a dropkick from Rey. Rey knocks Sami into the ropes and then hits 619. Rey goes to the top and hits the big Frogsplash for the easy pin. Sami has been eliminated. Sami, still wearing his coat, rolls to the floor as Rey’s music hits. Sami storms away as his film crew follows. The music hits and out next comes Shinsuke Nakamura. Rey looks on as we go back to commercial.
Back from the break and the bell rings as they lock up and go at it. Nakamura with a headlock before running the ropes and dropping Rey with a shoulder. Rey counters a move and they tangle. Rey rolls through and hits a kick to the face for a quick pin attempt as Dominik looks on.
More back and forth now. Rey sends Nakamura to the floor with a hurricanrana. Rey with the baseball slide but Nakamura catches him and drives a knee to the chin on the apron. Nakamura leaps off the apron but misses a knee as Rey dodges it. Rey slides under the bottom rope with the Sunset Bomb on the floor. Nakamura ends up coming right back up and nailing a sliding knee on the outside. Nakamura brings it back in but Rey kicks out at 2 by grabbing the rope.
Nakamura controls Rey in the corner and drops him again for a 2 count. Nakamura with another takedown and a double knee drop for a 2 count. Nakamura with kicks while Rey is down. Nakamura takes Rey to the top and works him over. Nakamura climbs up for a superplex but Rey resists and fights back. Rey headbutts Nakamura to the mat. Rey nails the flying senton as Nakamura gets up. Rey with more offense and a roll-up for a close 2 count. Rey gets dumped to the apron and then stunned with a kick to the face. Rey blocks a shot into the top turnbuckle. Rey fights back from the apron and flies in but Nakamura catches him. Rey blocks a powerbomb attempt and sends Nakamura into position for 619. Rey nails it. Rey goes back to the top for the splash but Nakamura gets his knees up. Nakamura goes right into the arm bar but Rey tries to fight it off. Nakamura fights back and tightens it to make Rey tap out. Rey has been eliminated.
Nakamura’s music starts to play but King Baron Corbin runs down and attacks Dominik from behind, laying him out at ringside. Corbin rushes the ring and unloads on Rey in the corner. Corbin drives Rey into the mat with a big chokeslam as fans boo. Corbin stands over Rey and talks some trash as we go back to commercial.
Back from the break and Corbin is going at it with Nakamura. They trade shots in the middle of the ring. Corbin hits a big clothesline for a 2 count. Corbin with body strikes in the corner now. Corbin takes Nakamura to another corner and unloads with more body strikes. Corbin charges but Nakamura moves and Corbin hits the ring post shoulder-first. Nakamura drops Corbin with a kick. Corbin rolls to the floor to regroup.
Nakamura leaps off the apron but Corbin catches him and rams him into the post. Corbin brings it back in for a 2 count. Corbin continues to work Nakamura around the ring. Corbin drives Nakamura back into the mat for another close pin attempt. Nakamura counters a move and nails a leaping kick to the face to drop Corbin. Nakamura unloads with kicks now. Corbin catches one leg but Nakamura drops him with the other. Nakamura moves out of the corner and Corbin hits hard. Nakamura drops Corbin with a kick to the head. Nakamura leaps off the second rope with a flying kick for a close 2 count.
Nakamura waits in the corner for Corbin to get up now. Corbin dodges the Kinshasa and nails the Deep Six for a close 2 count. Nakamura immediately pulls Corbin into a Triangle submission. Corbin powers up and breaks it with a powerbomb. Corbin runs out and back in but Nakamura levels him with a Kinshasa to the face for the pin to get the elimination. Nakamura’s music hits as he recovers. We get a replay of the Kinshasa. The music interrupts and out next comes Daniel Bryan as a “yes!” chant breaks out. Nakamura stands tall in the ring and tells Bryan to bring it. Bryan hits the ring and poses in the corner as the “yes!” chant gets louder. We go to commercial.
Back from the break and Bryan nails a dropkick as soon as the bell hits. They tangle and Bryan ends up sending Nakamura to the floor and then nailing a suicide dive, sending Nakamura into the announce table. Bryan brings it back in and goes to the top but Nakamura kicks him in the gut in mid-air. Bryan with the reverse Exploder suplex now. Nakamura charges for Kinshasa but Bryan counters and applies a half Crab in the middle of the ring. The referee checks on Nakamura. Bryan pulls him back to the middle of the ring and then applies an ankle lock.
Nakamura tries to break it but Bryan turns that into a German suplex with a bridge for a close 2 count. Bryan with Yes Kicks while Nakamura is on his knees now. Nakamura gets up and takes more kicks, going back down to his knees. Bryan keep the kicks coming as fans cheer him on. Nakamura ducks the roundhouse kick and then kicks Bryan. Nakamura counters and rolls Bryan into an arm bar takedown. Bryan counters with an arm bar of his own. Nakamura resists but Bryan goes into the Yes Lock in the middle of the ring.
Nakamura tries to fight out of the hold. Bryan transitions again but Nakamura finally gets his foot on the bottom rope to break free. Bryan drops Nakamura to his knees and delivers a few more kicks, focusing on the arm. Bryan backs Nakamura into the arm and continues to work on the arm. Bryan takes Nakamura to the top for the Frankensteiner but Nakamura blocks it and Bryan falls to the mat. Nakamura with a flying kick for a close 2 count. Nakamura drives big knee strikes into Bryan now on the mat.
Nakamura barely hits a roundhouse kick. More back and forth between the two. Bryan forces another pin attempt. They get to their feet and exchange kicks, then punches. Bryan boxes Nakamura into the corner. Bryan with kicks to the chest in the corner now. Bryan drops Nakamura with a kick to the head in the corner. Bryan runs with the corner dropkick, and another. Bryan runs again for the third dropkick but Nakamura flies out of the corner with the Kinshasa out of nowhere to get the pin to eliminate Bryan.
Nakamura starts celebrating as his music hits. We go to replays while Bryan is still down. Nakamura kneels down on the mat and looks at Bryan. Bryan stands up and helps Nakamura up. Bryan offers his hand and they shake as fans pop. They then have a few friendly words but the music interrupts and out comes WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. Nakamura stares Reigns down. Cole and Graves remind us that there is still one man left in the Gauntlet. We go back to commercial with Nakamura staring back up at Reigns, Uso and Heyman on the stage.
Back from the break and Nakamura is still waiting in the ring while Reigns and his crew look on from the stage. Heyman motions to the back and out comes WWE official Adam Pearce. Pearce looks like he wants no part of this. He walks past Reigns and crew, down the ramp to the ringside area. Reigns, Uso and Heyman follow him. Pearce is wearing a pair of pants, no shirt on and a WWE jacket. Pearce looks like he doesn’t know what to do. Uso enters the ring and gets in Nakamura’s face, talking trash. Uso with a cheap shot to Nakamura in the face. Uso beats Nakamura down and Reigns joins him. They double team Nakamura now as fans boo. Pearce watches from ringside. Heyman watches from the other side, clutching the title.
Uso delivers a big superkick to Nakamura, then Reigns finishes him off with a Superman Punch. Uso goes to the top and delivers the big Uso Splash. Nakamura is laid out. Reigns goes out and tells Pearce that this is his show and he does what he wants to do. Reigns aggressively rolls Pearce into the ring. Pearce says some words to Reigns but turns around to a big superkick from Uso. Pearce goes down. Reigns signals for the timekeeper to ring the bell for Pearce vs. Nakamura.
Fans continue booing as Uso pulls Pearce on top of Nakamura. They are both laid out. The referee gets down and counts the pin for Pearce to win.
Winner and New #1 Contender: Adam Pearce
– After the bell, Reigns’ music hits as he stands tall and raises the title. Pearce starts to recover as the boos get louder. Cole and Graves wonder if this means Pearce will challenge Reigns for the title at the Royal Rumble. Reigns raises the Universal Title in the air and looks down at Pearce as SmackDown goes off the air.