As the build to the Royal Rumble continues, two title matches will take place on tonight's SmackDown from the WWE ThunderDome.
Intercontinental Champion Big E makes his first title defense tonight as he faces Apollo Crews. Big E took on Baron Corbin in a non-title match last week that turned into a tag team match with Big E & Crews defeating Corbin & Sami Zayn.
After the match, Crews pointed out that he saved Big E and helped him win the title from Zayn in the previous week's lumberjack match. Big E said he was going to issue an open challenge for tonight's show, but Crews told him that he could consider the challenge already answered.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Street Profits also defend against Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode tonight. The Street Profits retained the titles against Ziggler & Roode two weeks ago. Ziggler & Roode then attacked the champions during their "New Year's Smoke-Tacular" last week
Plus, tonight's show will feature a number one contender's gauntlet match to decide Universal Champion Roman Reigns' Royal Rumble challenger. Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, Zayn, Corbin, and Rey Mysterio will face off in the gauntlet match.
Our live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns, Jey Uso, and Paul Heyman made their way to the ring to start SmackDown. As they slowly walked to the ring, Michael Cole and Corey Graves discussed the gauntlet match later tonight.
Reigns praised Kevin Owens and claimed he never wanted to hurt him. He blamed Owens for making him attack him last week. Reigns said he loves the entire roster and their families. He was furious that people are blaming him for injuring Owens. Reigns said people should blame Adam Pearce for making the match.
Reigns then demanded Pearce come to the ring. Heyman went ballistic trying to get Pearce to come out. Pearce slowly entered the ring, and Reigns got in his face. They recapped Owens begging Pearce to give him a match with Uso. The recap included Reigns viciously attacking Owens and throwing him out of the stands.
After the recap, Reigns wanted Pearce to take responsibility and be a man. He pointed out that he was done with Owens and wanted to move forward. Instead, Owens went to his friend, Pearce, to get the match.
Uso stood behind Pearce and glared at him. Reigns noted Pearce gave Owens the match, and now Owens isn't here. He was furious that Pearce made the gauntlet match for a shot at his title. Reigns brought up everything he does for the company. He felt betrayed that Pearce would make the match.
Pearce said he's just trying to make the best match possible.
Reigns wondered if Pearce is going to put himself in the match. Pearce said that would be a conflict of interest.
Reigns became upset and wondered if Pearce thinks he's stupid. He handed the title to Heyman and grabbed Pearce. Reigns backed him into the corner. He noted Pearce doesn't respect him, which means he doesn't respect his family. Pearce was terrified and begged Reigns to stop.
Heyman advised Reigns not to hurt Pearce.
Reigns quickly calmed down. He said that maybe nobody called each other stupid. Reigns tapped Pearce on the shoulder and walked off with Heyman and Uso.
This was a good opening segment.
Intercontinental Champion Big E defeated Apollo Crews
Crews and Big E had a good match with lots of hard-hitting, fast-paced action. The angle in the middle did slow the momentum a bit at one point.
Crews hit a dropkick and big boot for a near fall at the ring of the bell.
Big E fought back and hit a big splash on the apron. Crews regained control and hit a splash in the corner. He followed up with three rolling German suplexes for a near fall.
Big E rolled to the floor, but Crews caught him with a moonsault off the apron. Crews backed Big E into the corner and set him up for a superplex.
They briefly fought on the top turnbuckle, but Crews hit the superplex. They did the Randy Savage-Dynamite Kid finish. Both guys got their feet up, and the referee counted three.
There was confusion in the ring. Crews celebrated as if he won, but Big E protested to the referee. They quickly cut to a commercial break.
Back from the break, they showed different angles of the pin and pointed out that both guys had their shoulders down.
The referee was standing in the ring with the belt. He declared the match a draw because of the double pin. The belt went to the champion because of the draw. Big E tried to shake Crews' hand, but Crews wanted the match to continue. Crews got in Big E's face and slapped him hard across the face. Big E agreed to restart the match.
Big E ran wild and hit a series of belly-to-belly suplexes. Crews fought back and hit a huge frog splash for a close near fall. He followed up with a standing moonsault for another near fall. Big E went for the Big Ending, but Crews slipped out the back and hit an enziguri.
Crews charged at Big E, but he caught him with an uranage. He followed up with the Big Ending for the win.
In the back, Adam Pearce was on the phone when Sonya Deville entered the room. He's happy to have her back. Deville noted she's not bitter even though her former best friend beat her in a loser leaves town match, went to Raw, and formed a new tag team.
Deville pointed out that Pearce is very busy running SmackDown and even has a match later. Pearce quickly noted that he's not in the match later.
Deville wondered why he's not in the match. He said that he hasn't competed in years. They've mentioned Pearce wrestling twice tonight so far.
Alyse Ashton tried to interview Bianca Belair about entering the Royal Rumble match. Bayley interrupted and wondered if Belair eliminated Bayley from the match last year. Belair pointed out Bayley wasn't in the match.
Bayley bragged about being champion last year. Belair promised to eliminate her this year.
They recapped Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode jumping The Street Profits last week.
They showed that Sports Illustrated ranked Sasha Banks top wrestler of 2020.
In the back, Carmella was enjoying champagne with Reginald in the background. She sarcastically praised Banks. She then claimed that Banks doesn't have her talent.
Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode defeated The Street Profits to win the SmackDown Tag Team Titles
This was a good match. They worked hard and told a good story.
Cole and Graves wondered if Ford is injured because Dawkins started the match. Dawkins had the early advantage and hit a dropkick on Ziggler for a two count.
Dawkins dropped Ford on Ziggler for a near fall, but Ziggler went after the injured leg. The heels isolated Ford and cut him off from Dawkins.
Ford fought back and sent the heels to the floor. He followed up with a huge dive to the floor but sold his knee as they went to commercial.
Back from the break, Dawkins ran wild on Roode and hit a twisting splash. Ford was walking around ringside, selling his knee. Dawkins considered tagging Ford but decided not to. The heels quickly took advantage and gained control of the match.
The heels isolated Dawkins on their side of the ring. Ziggler slowed the pace down with a front face lock.
Roode got the tag and hit a neck breaker for a two count.
Roode threw Ziggler into Dawkins, but he moved out of the way. Ziggler crashed hard into the corner. Dawkins sent Roode to the floor and attempted to tag Ford.
Roode pulled Ford off the apron, but he fought back. Ford finally got the hot tag and ran wild. He hit a discus lariat on Ziggler for a close near fall. Ford climbed to the top rope for the frog splash, but Roode tried to stop him.
Ford knocked down Roode. Ziggler ran up and dropped Ford on his face. Ziggler went for the superkick, but Ford hit a superkick first for a near fall. Roode and Dawkins fought on the apron. Roode took Dawkins out of the match.
Ford used a sunset flip on Ziggler for a near fall.
Ziggler attacked the injured leg to regain control. Roode used the Perfect Plex for a near fall. Roode attempted the Glorious DDT, but Ford fought out. The heels took back over. The finish came when Roode and Ziggler hit a spine buster into the Zig Zag to win the titles.
In the back, Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville discussed the title match. Paul Heyman entered the office and praised Pearce. He brought up Pearce's past as Scrap Iron Adam Peace. Heyman noted Pearce is excellent at his job, but his dream was to be a wrestler.
Heyman pulled some strings, and Pearce is now competing in the gauntlet match. Pearce wasn't happy to be added to the match.
In the back, Billie Kay approached Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott. She asked to join them, but they turned her down. She started to cry, so Morgan tried to comfort her. Kay assumed that meant she's a member of the Riott Squad now.
Kay's been preparing to join the Riott squad already. She started listening to Blink 1-8-2 and added Mosh Pitting to her resume. Kay was funny in the segment.
Gauntlet Match: Rey Mysterio (w/Dominik Mysterio) defeated Sami Zayn
Before the match, Zayn came out with a documentary crew. He said that once he heard there was a gauntlet match, he demanded WWE management put him in the match.
Zayn was furious that WWE management put him first in the gauntlet. He said there is obviously a conspiracy against him. He has the crew to uncover the plot against him, which cost him the I.C. title. Zayn promised to defeat Mysterio and win the gauntlet match.
Mysterio hit Zayn with a dropkick right at the bell. He followed up with the 619 and a splash for the very quick win to advance.
Gauntlet Match: Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rey Mysterio (w/Dominik Mysterio)
Nakamura and Mysterio had a good match. Corbin's attack after the match didn't make much sense since Mysterio didn't win.
Mysterio had the early advantage and sent Nakamura to the floor with a hurricanrana.
Nakamura blocked a sliding dropkick and hit a knee to the face. He then missed a knee off the apron to the floor.
Mysterio fought back and attempted a running sunset bomb from inside the ring to the floor. Nakamura rolled through and hit a sliding knee.
Nakamura placed Mysterio on the top turnbuckle. Mysterio fought back and hit a seated senton. The finish came when Mysterio hit the 619 and went for a splash, but Nakamura got his knees up. Nakamura then locked on the armbar, and Mysterio tapped. Nakamura advances to the next match in the gauntlet.
King Corbin ran out and attacked Dominik at ringside. He tossed Nakamura into the ring post and attacked Mysterio. Corbin beat down Mysterio as they went to commercial.
Gauntlet Match: Shinsuke Nakamura defeated King Corbin
This was a fine match.
The match started during the commercial break. Corbin was firmly in control and hit a clothesline for a near fall. He missed a charge in the corner and went shoulder-first into the ring post.
Corbin drove Nakamura back-first into the ring post on the floor. Corbin continued to beat down Nakamura. Nakamura fought back and hit a knee off the second turnbuckle. He set up for the Kinshasa, but Corbin countered with Deep Six for a near fall.
Nakamura caught Corbin with a triangle, but Corbin countered into a powerbomb for a near fall. The finish came when Nakamura hit the Kinshasa on Corbin for the win to advance in the gauntlet.
Gauntlet Match: Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Daniel Bryan
Bryan and Nakamura had a really good match.
Bryan jumped Nakamura to start the match and sent him to the floor. He followed up with a suicide dive. Nakamura fought back and set up for the Kinshasa. Bryan countered with the half-crab and transitioned into an ankle lock.
Nakamura tried getting to his feet, but Bryan hit a German suplex for a close near fall. Bryan rocked Nakamura with Yes kicks, but Nakamura avoided the last kick. Nakamura locked on an armbar, but Bryan counted with an armbar as well.
Bryan transitioned into the Yes Lock, but Nakamura made it to the ropes to break the hold. Bryan went for a hurricanrana off the top rope, but Nakamura held on, and Bryan fell to the mat.
Nakamura went back to the armbar, but Bryan countered with a roll-up for a near fall. Bryan rocked Nakamura with a series of kicks in the corner. He followed up with two running dropkicks in the corner. Bryan went for a third dropkick, but Nakamura hit the Kinshasa for the win to advance.
After the match, Bryan and Nakamura shook hands.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman, and Jey Uso walked out to the ring to watch the gauntlet's last match.
Gauntlet Match: Adam Pearce defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to earn a title shot at the Royal Rumble
This wasn't a match and was more of an angle.
Pearce reluctantly walked to the ring with the heels behind him. Graves praised Pearce's past career, but Cole said Pearce wasn't good enough to make it in the WWE.
Uso and Reigns jumped in the ring and viciously beat down Nakamura. Reigns hit the superman punch, and Uso followed up with a splash off the top rope. There was no mention of Nakamura's tag team partner Cesaro and no explanation for his absence.
Reigns threw Peace into the ring. Uso knocked out Pearce with a superkick. Reigns then ordered the referee to ring the bell. They dragged Pearce on top of Nakamura, and the referee counted three. Adam Pearce is the number one contender and gets a title shot against Reigns at the Royal Rumble.
Reigns music played as he posed in the ring.