It looks like the Royal Rumble will feature Bill Goldberg vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship. A very strong matchup for Raw to showcase and hype up for the next couple of weeks. obviously a big selling point from the red brand, whether you like the clash or not. For Smackdown, they needed a little something for the Rumble pay-per-view as well. The blue brand has been great as of late and just last week, we saw Universal Champion Roman Reigns take out his nemesis Kevin Owens.
Well, that left Reigns without an opponent for Royal Rumble at the end of the month.
Enter tonight’s Gauntlet Match. A series of one on one matches in the main event of Smackdown to determine the #1 contender. The competitors were Rey Mysterio, Sami Zayn, King Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Daniel Bryan. Very odd on the surface considering Bryan was one of the Royal Rumble entries and was a strong favorite to actually win the famed 30 man over the top rope battle royal in three weeks on PPV. Weird.
Anyways, there was no ‘mystery’ in the opening round, as Rey Mysterio easily took care of Zayn. Pinning him in short order. No way to mask the pain here. Sami Zayn ran his mouth and was defeated, haha. Okay, all jokes aside, this one wrote itself.
Shinsuke Nakamura was next out and beat Mysterio. A mild upset in my opinion, as Mr. 619 had to be a favorite to start. Remember Roman Reigns is a hated heel right now. You have to kind of assume his opponent will be a good guy, right? A face was sure to win the gauntlet.
Not so fast, as Nakamura then took care of King Corbin. No shocker there – Corbin has been far away from the main event scene for a long time now. The right move, if you ask me. He is fine as a mid-card heel. As THE top guy of the company and Universal Champion? No thanks.
In the final round, Daniel Bryan entered the gauntlet to wrestle Nakamura. In a big upset, Nakamura actually defeated Bryan! Wow. I didn’t see that coming. Reigns is a heel. Nakamura is a heel. I suppose it made sense in hindsight, as Bryan already declared for the Rumble match as noted above. A handshake afterwards may mean a shift in Nakamura’s character? We’ll see. Definitely a shocking sight to see Nakamura win clean. Not that he isn’t talented…but that is NOT how he has been portrayed on TV during the past year or so. A tag team with Cesaro was about it for him. Hoping for more than that in 2021.
We weren’t done yet folks! In a twist, Paul Heyman (with Roman Reigns) was able to pull some strings and add WWE official Adam Pearce to the gauntlet! Yes, Pearce, who said he didn’t want to wrestle anymore and was perfectly content as an authority figure for the company, working in a suit – not in trunks. Yes, Adam Pearce was added to the gauntlet match! After Reigns and Jey Uso attacked Nakamura and left him laying, they threatened and intimidated Pearce to enter the ring and win the pin fall.
Uso super kicked Pearce and placed him on top of Nakamura.
One, two, three.
Unbelievable. Adam Pearce vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble!
This was already a noteworthy Smackdown, as Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode defeated The Street Profits for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Not a call I would have made. Not at all. However, it does shake things up a bit. As I mentioned, a noteworthy Smackdown. To be expected on the road to WrestleMania! Let’s go.
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)