In a shocking turn of events, this week’s edition of WWE SmackDown saw the return of former champion AJ Styles, who made an emphatic statement by viciously attacking LA Knight. Additionally, Randy Orton inserted himself into the title picture by challenging Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Tournament Action and a Controversial Finish
The show kicked off with the next round of matches in the ongoing tournament to crown a new #1 contender for the United States Championship. Up first was a battle between Carmelo Hayes and Grayson Waller. In the end, Waller managed to score a tainted win after interference from his stablemates in The Schism allowed for a roll-up pin on Hayes.
The other tournament match saw Kevin Owens square off against Austin Theory. In contrast to the previous bout, this one had a clean finish as Owens hit Theory with a stunner to advance.
United States Championship #1 Contender Tournament Updated Bracket
So the next round is now set with Owens taking on Waller. The winner of that match will go on to challenge for the US Title at a later date against whoever the champion is by then. Given the controversial nature of Waller’s win over Hayes, it seems likely these issues between The Schism and Hayes are far from over.
AJ Styles Makes Long-Awaited Return
In a surprise that no one saw coming, former two-time WWE Champion AJ Styles made his return on SmackDown after months off TV selling injuries from his program with The Judgment Day. Styles popped up backstage during a segment with LA Knight and hit him out of nowhere with a brutal assault using a steel chair.
This sets up a potential high-stakes rivalry given both men have unfinished business on the blue brand. It remains unclear what provoked this attack or why Styles targeted Knight. More details will hopefully emerge in the coming weeks on SmackDown. Either way, with Styles back on the scene, the landscape of WWE just got more exciting.
Orton Steps Up to Roman Reigns and The Bloodline
In the main event segment, Roman Reigns finally returned after his WarGames absence alongside The Bloodline. As the group was boasting about their success, Randy Orton’s music hit to bring things to a halt.
Orton marched down and stepped up to Reigns, reminding him of the con-chair-to beatdown he suffered recently at the hands of The Bloodline. Vowing revenge, Orton laid down the challenge for Reigns’ Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble premium live event in January.
Reigns accepted the challenge after some goading from his cousins The Usos. He will now put his historic title reign on the line against Orton at the Rumble in what’s sure to be an instant classic.
This main event level match adds even more anticipation and intrigue to an already stacked Royal Rumble card. And with Orton’s issues with The Bloodline still boiling, one has to wonder if there will be any mindgames or tricks up their sleeves before the title showdown.
Either way, with Orton chasing championship gold and AJ Styles also returning to shake things up, the road to the Royal Rumble just got a lot more interesting thanks to this week’s angle-heavy edition of SmackDown.
What This Means Going Forward
With Randy Orton now next in line to challenge Roman Reigns for the coveted Undisputed WWE Univeral Championship, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Orton will get his shot at redeeming himself from that brutal beatdown and taking the belts off of Reigns’ record setting title reign.
Meanwhile, AJ Styles is clearly not done pursuing championship glory of his own. His sudden return and attack on LA Knight signals that he is back with a vengeance. Once he’s done with Knight, could a world title bid of his own be far behind?
Let’s also not forget hovering issues like the controversial finish to the Carmelo Hayes vs Grayson Waller #1 contender’s match. That sparked tensions that seem destined to boil over between The Schism and Hayes.
And there’s still the matter of who will win the US Title tourney to go on to face the champion. Plus, with the Royal Rumble itself drawing near, surprises always lurk around the corner in WWE.
So buckle up WWE Universe! If this week’s SmackDown is any indicator, the road to WrestleMania season promises twists, turns, scores to settle, and of course – championship gold hanging in the balance. This train is only just leaving the station.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.