Smackdown builds towards the Rumble, Mixed Match Challenge rolls on
Sami Zayn and AJ Styles
Robert O’Neill: Styles had two matches in the main event segment, facing both men he’ll be facing at Royal Rumble. The match with Zayn was very good. They work well together, and Zayn used the Blue Thunder Bomb as a finisher for the first time in recent memory which was awesome. This matchup still feels fresh because they haven’t done it to death, as WWE sometimes does. This is only the third or fourth Zayn/Styles singles match that I can remember.
Robert O’Neill: These days, I’m (at best) indifferent to Randy Orton. His best days are behind him, and his character work hasn’t been interesting to me in about a decade.
However, when he interrupted the Baron Corbin/Shinsuke Nakamura match (a very good match, in its own right) with an RKO OUTTA NOWHERE (https://youtu.be/GWB3hohzed0?t=118) on Nakamura as he was preparing to hit Corbin with the Kinshasa, I almost jumped off my couch. Orton’s got a long history in the Royal Rumble, and while he probably won’t win a second straight Rumble, he’s going to put in a lot of time in the ring Sunday.
Kevin Owens and AJ Styles
Robert O’Neill: Owens and Styles are two of my favorite wrestlers on the planet. The Owens/Shane McMahon story is one of my favorite WWE stories in years. But good lord, we need to get Owens and Styles far away from each other. For whatever reason, they just don’t click. If you go back to their US Title series of matches last year, it’s hard to find a good one. With Styles likely to retain at the Royal Rumble, hopefully we see a different direction on the other side of the PPV.
Chad Gable d. Jey Uso
Robert O’Neill: I will always watch Chad Gable singles matches, because he’s immensely talented in the ring. That was the case here, as well. It’s just a matter of time before Gable becomes a singles star, though he and Benjamin will likely have a nice run with the Tag Titles sooner or later.
Naomi def. Liv Morgan
Chris Novak: Blah blah, Naomi defeated Liv Morgan rather emphatically. Blah blah, the women’s division got their licks in. Blah blah, teases for the Rumble. Blah blah, Charlotte came out and said she was impressed by Becky Lynch. Let’s just get to the Rumble already and hope things get better then and after that.
Bobby Roode and The New Day def. Jinder Mahal and Rusev Day
Chris Novak: Completely inoffensive six-man tag team match that set the midcard up nicely for Sunday. New Day singing along with Roode’s theme song was hilariously awesome, and just about what we’ve come to expect from them. Not much else to say here, though. Everything’s mostly just building up for Sunday.
Mixed Match Challenge
Asuka/Miz d. Carmella/Big E
Robert O’Neill: Carmella came out in a New Day-colored Fabulous singlet (and Big E had a matching one!) which was really cool, but I kinda felt terrible knowing she was about to get her head kicked off by Asuka. It was a really fun back and forth match, and Asuka and Miz doing dueling Yes Kicks was a fantastic spot. Eventually, Carmella tapped to the Asuka Lock.