The official WWE promo that went out before the January 12, 2024 Smackdown indicates that we will be dealing with the aftermath of what happened last week. Roman Reigns isn’t announced, so he probably won’t show up, but his Royal Rumble Fatal Four-Way opponents Randy Orton, LA Knight, and AJ Styles will, and you can bet Paul Heyman and the other Bloodline members will be there.

Smackdown is at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, and here are my thoughts:

  • I like the fakeout at the start. I thought they were playing the wrong recap package. Though it might have been a bit better if the Bloodline recap was in the cold open, and Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa just attacked Cameron Grimes with no recap showing. But still a fun surprise.
  • Too bad for Cameron Grimes, he really hasn’t been used much, but I guess the writing should have been on the wall when he was booked in the opening match…no, when he was booked to open the show with Grayson Waller. We should have known that wouldn’t happen.
  • I may be just joining the chorus here, but Smackdown General Manager Nick Aldis is perfect in his role. He got the first babyface pop of the night by shouting out the hometown and the bad weather they were having. Aldis’ cheers matched Paul Heyman’s boos.
Smackdown General Manager Nick Aldis tells Paul Heyman about the six-man tag main event on WWE Smackdown January 12 2024
  • Is it just me, or, for a moment there, did it look like Aldis was going to put Heyman in the six-man match? Now that would be interesting.
  • Santos Escobar was fun, and perfectly in character on commentary. His new heel persona came across perfectly. For the second week in a row, though, a guest announcer was mid-sentence as the show went to break. I suspect that maybe without Michael Cole, and Kevin Patrick taking the lead, transitions to commercial might not be clear enough to the guest that they should stop talking.
  • Humberto Carrillo and Angel Garza were impressive Humberto Sit-Down Powerbomb Cruz hit a Corkscrew Fly to the outside Carlito’s music hit, then he entered through the crowd and attacked Escobar. This distraction allowed Angel to roll Joaquin up and pin him while holding the ropes. A nice heel victory is a good way to start Escobar’s new faction buddies current run.
Cruz del Toro and Joaquin Wilde, with Zelina Vega, after losing to Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo on WWE Smackdown January 14 2024
  • It’s nice to see Carlito back in the picture. Not sure why they pivoted to Dragon Lee, but now he’s NXT North American Champion, and the LWO/new Legado del Fantasma feud can proceed as probably it should have after the Santos turn.
  • We’ve had the whole baby face trying to find partners trope in wrestling many times before. It’s fun to see it with a heel, especially with Heyman. The apple bit with Carlito was great. Looks like we have our backstage throughline for the night.
  • Logan Paul threatening Kevin Owens with legal action over his cast in a promo is ironic both in kayfabe (the brass knuckles), and in reality, if you know anything about what Paul has been up to (Google Logan Paul and Crypto). Still, a real solid dick move to pull in a heel promo.
  • Talk of British Strong Style and Blackpool in the Tyler Bate and Butch segment had me thinking William Regal might be coming in as their manager. Also, it’s pretty clear that the internet was right, and Butch will change his name back to Pete Dunne. If I wasn’t sure before, that long pause and cutoff at the end made it clear.
  • Bianca Belair versus Bailey was a very physical, very rough, and overall top-notch match. Just as you would expect it to be, and just as it has been with these two many times before. Yes, tthey do wrestle each other quite a bit, but it’s always a fun ride. They pulled out all the classics, such as both of them using Bianca’s hair as a weapon, and Bayley even did a Macho Man Randy Savage-esque Flying Elbow. Belair dominated for most of the match, and eventually won with a K.O.D..
Bianca Belair beats Bayley with the K.O.D. on WWE Smackdown January 12 2024
  • Of course, that’s not the whole story, or even the part of it that we will probably remember going forward. It’s the action, or rather the lack thereof, outside of the ring. The rest of Damage CTRL came out with Bayley and stayed at ringside to watch the match. And that’s all they did…watch. Even when Bayley distracted the referee and Belair was outside of the ring and vulnerable, neither Asuka, Kairi Sane, or Iyo Sky as much as kicked her. After the match, Dakota Kai told Bayley that they wanted her to do it on her own, making it clear that this was a test which Bayley failed, and the much anticipated split is imminent.
  • They told a great story in the ring with physicality, and another great story outside of the ring with none.
  • Kevin Owens’ response Logan was vintage KO. I love how he looked bored and annoyed at having to make the invitation for next week, but making it nonetheless.
  • Bobby Lashley’s new faction with The Street Profits has a name: The Pride. If there was any doubt before, there is none now. They are a babyface faction. Karion Kross, Scarlett, Paul Ellering, and Authors of Pain (Akam and Razar), on the other hand, are clearly a heel faction, and they have a name, too: The Final Testament. Both names are good, though not the best. Many have suggested altrernatives, like The Almighty Profits (WhatCulture, I believe), and The Kross of Pain (me). The in-ring promo from The Pride, and the video response from The New Testament, were both decent, and a good way to establish their names, and solidify their feud, but not much happened beyond that.
Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits cut their first promo as The Pride on WWE Smackdown January 12 2024
  • The backstage adventures of Paul Heyman did continue with Pretty Deadly, which was a solidly goofy comedy bit, showing that even in desperation, Roman’s Wiseman wasn’t THAT desperate.
  • That bit, and Heyman’s subsequent serious attempt to recruit Bobby Lashley, was good entertainment, but also really showed Smackdown’s lack of top-level heels that aren’t in The Bloodline. The only two I could think of were Escobar, who already wrestled, and Paul, who wasn’t there. Around this time in the show, I started thinking they may call Bron Breakker up from NXT.
  • Carmelo Hayes versus Austin Theory was a good match overshadowed by an unfortunate Avalanche Spanish Fly spot that went wrong, leaving both men looking potentially injured. Referee Ryan Tran stopped the match almost immediately, and threw up the X sign, signifying that something went wrong.
  • It turns out there were injuries, but they’re both okay:
  • I’d like to wish a speedy recovery to both.
  • So there wasn’t going to be a surprise callup, or an unexpected person joining The Bloodline? Instead Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso are just going to turn the 3 on 2 match into a 2 on 2 by taking out Randy Orton as he makes his entrance. That tracks. The Bloodline’s gonna Bloodline. Should have seen this coming, but wasn’t disappointed when it happened.
Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso attack Randy Orton before the six-man tag match on WWE Smackdown January 12 2024
  • Taking Randy out (for a bit) made it possible for us to get the “Can they co-exist?” trope between LA Knight and AJ Styles in full-force during the match. We didn’t really get it during the buildup throughout the show, as that was focused on Heyman’s quest to find a partner for Jimmy and Solo, so it came back with a vengeance here. I’m talking audibly arguing, Styles refusing to give a hot tag to Knight, because he thought Knight ducked an earlier tag (which he didn’t), and almost losing the match because of it. This was some quick in-match storytelling, and it worked.
  • Orton did recover and return, and, of course, won the match. He got Jimmy in the Hanging DDT. There was a bit of a delay before the RKO, but he hit it for the 1-2-3. Jimmy and Solo’s surprise at Orton’s return explained his quick victory. This was a fun match that made sense.
  • Of course, the real payoff was that, thanks to Orton, he, Knight and Styles were able to co-exist. At least long enough to defeat their common enemy. They gave Solo a Triple Powerbomb through the announce table. This was reminiscent of The Shield, so they were clearly sending a message to the absent Roman Reigns.
AJ Styles, LA Knight, and Randy Orton powerbomb Solo Sikoa through the announce table on WWE Smackdown January 12 2024

This Smackdown was built around continuing the story of The Bloodline, the Fatal Four Way, and Nick Aldis’ involvement in it. They succeeded in that regard. They also launched two new factions, and brought Damage CTRL’s story almost to its next chapter, with inaction, rather than action. But it was Bianca and Bayley match, and the story contained in it, and outside of the ring during it, that really stole the show.

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