Chaos Reigns Amid A New No. 1 Contender
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
There’s a new number one contender to the WWE Universal title after SmackDown this week, only it’s not an active or returning Superstar … it’s the authority figure.
First, let’s backtrack to the beginning of the show.
Roman Reigns called out Adam Pearce for booking Kevin Owens vs. Jey Uso last week, as well as the main event gauntlet match to determine a new number one contender to his belt.
As "The Head of the Table" put it, he feels like he deserves the right to pick his own opponents.
Roman then asked Adam, a former wrestler, if he was going to put himself in the Gauntlet match … which the match-maker denied.
Paul Heyman informed Pearce later in the show, however, that he had pulled some strings to book him in the main event anyway – even though Adam has never wrestled in WWE and his last match took place in 2014.
This led to the Gauntlet match between Sami Zayn, Rey Mysterio, Shinsuke Nakamura, King Corbin, Daniel Bryan and (technically) Adam Pearce, which was entertaining for a number of reasons.
First, this was a terrific showcase for Nakamura.
For anyone who maybe forgot, Shinsuke's wins over Rey Mysterio, King Corbin and Daniel Bryan were a solid reminder of what he can do in the ring as a singles competitor.
Nakamura’s team with Cesaro can always be relied upon to produce good matches, but I can’t help but feel like both would be better served apart. Hopefully this is the start of that for both performers, even if they remain as friends for when backup is needed.
All it takes is the right storyline, push or string of wins to be hot again in WWE, and no one exemplified that more than "The King of Strong Style" this week.
Had he not defeated Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke’s wins over Rey Mysterio and King Corbin could’ve just been considered inconsequential booking choices for the lengthy match. The victory over a top guy like Daniel, though, gives hope that maybe Nakamura will be given a chance to shine in a meaningful program again.
His stare-down with Roman Reigns gave me chills prior to Adam Pearce being forced into the match.
Roman’s presence elevates most situations he’s involved in and the end of this match was no exception.
Now this leaves us with two likely options.
The first is Adam Pearce getting destroyed by Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble without wrestling an actual match.
Let's be honest here, whoever faces Reigns at Royal Rumble is most likely going to lose. WrestleMania is right around the corner and Roman is currently on the run of his life.
Therefore, using that title match at the Royal Rumble to continue building the champion's uber heel status (via this Pearce storyline) is actually pretty smart.
The story of a vet looking to get the big title win he never got during his career could be a fun detour for a few weeks. And from Roman's perspective, this is basically just "The Tribal Chief" picking his own opponent – which he believes he has the right to do.
The other option is Pearce giving his title shot to Nakamura.
This is the most likely scenario and, like I said, a match WWE got me hyped on due to the booking of this Gauntlet Match.
So either way, I’m interested in both options.
- Street Profits losing the SmackDown Tag Team titles was inevitable after their lengthy run as champs.
Fortunately, their match on Friday against Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode was fitting of a title switch, as the two teams took each other to the limit in an action-packed affair.
This tag finisher looks brutal too.
The normally fun-loving duo of Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford recently showed they can get serious if need be on the microphone, so I’m looking forward to seeing them on the chase again.
Hopefully they can regain the belts at WrestleMania in a standout match of some sort.
- Sonya Deville’s return to television being explained as her taking the position of Adam Pearce’s assistant was a minor, but necessary, story point that I’m glad was addressed.
Superstars who are "forced to leave" WWE because of a match stipulation shouldn’t just walk back onto TV without any explanation.
I’m glad that didn't happen here.
Deville now looks smart for finding a way back and the viewers don’t feel like their intelligence has been insulted.
The 27-year-old has only scratched the surface of what she’s capable of as an in-ring performer and I’m looking forward to seeing how her character convinces Pearce to re-instate her as a Superstar in some sneaky fashion.
This could be the start of her rise to superstardom.