Going into last night's SmackDown, the question was whether or not Adam Pearce would end the night still in line for a Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
Last night's show was built around a contract signing for Roman Reigns and Pearce's title match. But after the contract was signed, Pearce noted that all standard WWE contracts say the card is subject to change. Pearce claimed to have an old knee injury flaring up. He said that -- in his role as a WWE official -- he has the right to find a suitable replacement for the Universal Championship match. Pearce then announced Kevin Owens as Reigns' new Royal Rumble challenger.
Reigns vs. Owens at the Royal Rumble will be a Last Man Standing match. Reigns originally wanted the stipulation when he thought Pearce would be his challenger at the pay-per-view.
Reigns had forced Pearce into last week's number one contender's gauntlet match after not being happy with Pearce's recent decision-making. Reigns and Jey Uso attacked Shinsuke Nakamura at the end of the gauntlet, Reigns threw Pearce into the ring, and Uso laid out Pearce with a superkick. Uso then put Pearce on top of Nakamura and the referee counted the pin.
With Uso getting involved throughout the match, Reigns retained the Universal Championship against Owens in a tables, ladders, and chairs match at December's TLC PPV. Reigns then retained against Owens in a steel cage match after Uso handcuffed Owens to the cage.
The New Year's Day episode of SmackDown earlier this month ended with Reigns throwing Owens off a ledge at the ThunderDome and through a table below. Last night was Owens' first appearance since then.
More coverage from last night --
- Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss, Randy Orton segment announced for WWE Raw
- Men's and women's Dusty Classic matches set for next WWE 205 Live
- WWE 205 Live results: Two Dusty Classic matches
- IC title match, obstacle course set for next week's WWE SmackDown
- Two new entrants declare for WWE Royal Rumble
- Owens replacing Pearce in WWE Royal Rumble Universal title match
- WWE SmackDown live results: Reigns-Pearce contract signing
WWE SmackDown video highlights --
A video package looks back at last week's gauntlet match
Jey Uso declares for the Royal Rumble
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jey Uso
The Street Profits don't regret accepting Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode's challenge
Roman Reigns wants a Last Man Standing stipulation for his match against Adam Pearce
Liv Morgan vs. Natalya
Rey Mysterio vs. Baron Corbin
Bianca Belair appears on the premiere edition of Bayley's "Ding Dong, Hello!" talk show
Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro
Sasha Banks will give Carmella a title shot -- as long as she gets to face Reginald first
Apollo Crews vs. Sami Zayn
Kevin Owens replaces Adam Pearce in Royal Rumble Universal Championship match
SmackDown fallout: Shinsuke Nakamura wants to face Roman Reigns
SmackDown fallout: Cesaro reacts to his big night
SmackDown fallout: There's no one Natalya would rather have on her side than Tamina
SmackDown fallout: Liv Morgan doesn't want to hear Ruby Riott and Billie Kay's arguing