Smackdown opens up with Daniel Bryan making his way down to the ring. Tonight, his spot in the Royal Rumble is on the line when he faces Kane. He says we are days away from the RR, and we’re about to begin the Road to Wrestlemania. He could talk about how important his match against Kane is tonight, how he’ll do anything to win. He could talk about how, ever since he had to forfeit the title due to injury, he’s spent every waking moment thinking how to win the belt back. He could talk about Sting and his first-ever appearance on RAW. He could talk about how the Authority flat-out sucks. He could talk about all of that, but he won’t, because John Cena did something very important on RAW. Instead of Bryan yakking, he knows some guys who have some things they want to get off their chests.
Bryan points to the stage, and out first is Ryback. Erick Rowan is out next, and finally, Dolph Ziggler. All three join Bryan in the ring, and Bryan introduces them all to the crowd. He’s sure they’re all excited to get into the ring. He asks what Ryback what he thinks, and Ryback says it sounds like there are some hungry people in Austin, TX. Both he and Bryan know what it’s like to sit at home and watch the world pass them by. He could have felt sorry for himself, but this was his dream since 12, and no one takes that away from him, especially the Authority. Thanks to Cena and the man they call Sting for reminding the world how bad the Authority sucks. This little game is over, and so is Ryback. The “Big Guy” is back.
Rowan takes off his mask to a surprisingly loud pop. He says being gone was sort of a blessing. He had time to sit back and think. He used to be a different person. He was naive. He was somebody’s puppet. These last few weeks…he’s seen himself in a new light, and he knows who he really is.
Last but not least is Ziggler. He says he sat around, ate some stuff-crust pizza, watched the new Trips and Steph fitness DVDs…anyway, before he was fired, he finally started to show everyone what he’s known all along, and that is that he belongs on top in this company. He was the IC Champion and the sole survivor at Survivor Series. He earned the right to fight with the best, but the Authority tried to take it all away. These guys are a threat, and they stood up for something they believed in. So, he’d rather sit in the ring and face any punishment forever than sit at home and complain on a podcast. This is what he loves to do, and he’s just getting started.
MATCH 1-ROYAL RUMBLE QUALIFIER: DOLPH ZIGGLER VS. INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION WADE BARRETT (NON-TITLE)
Much like other matches we’ll see later, Ziggler has to win to get into the RR. BNB hits a waistlock takedown. Ziggler counters into an arm wringer, then goes into a side headlock. BNB backs him into a corner, hits a cheap shot, then stomps him down. Ziggler ducks a clothesline and pops up with a dropkick for 1. In the corner, Ziggler nails a series of rights. BNB reverses a corner whip, blocks a reverse leapfrog and nails a kick to the gut. He sends Ziggler shoulder-first into the ring post, which causes him to collapse to the floor. Outside, BNB rams Ziggler into the apron, then slams his arm into . BNB wraps the same arm around the ring post. Ziggler tries to fight back, but to no avail. BNB rolls him back in for 2, then applies 3/4-nelson. Ziggler tries to fight out, but BNB snaps him back down to the mat for 2. BNB continues to work over the bad arm before applying a fujiwara. Ziggler gets to his feet and hits a few rights before BNB kicks his bad arm. BNB misses a corner splash, which allows Ziggler to hit a leaping DDT for 2. Commercials.
Back from the break, BNB is back in control. He sets Ziggler up on the top, nails a couple shots to the back, then hits a running kick to the gut for 2. BNB applies an armbar, which Ziggler counters out of with a jawbreaker. BNB charges in, and collides with the ring post, much like Ziggler earlier. Ziggler hits a corner splash and a neckbreaker. The Shot to the Heart connects for 2. Ziggler misses the rocker dropper, and BNB rolls him up for 2. Ziggler comes back with a superkick for 2 of his own. Ziggler goes for the Zig-Zag, but BNB grabs the top rope. Ziggler ducks a big boot, but then gets put down with a mule kick. He sets up the Bullhammer, but Ziggler surprises him with a dropkick to the elbow and quickly hits the Zig-Zag for 3.
WINNER: DOLPH ZIGGLER.
Ziggler is now officially in the Rumble.
It is announced that the Ascension will face the New-Age Outlaws at the Rumble. Didn’t Billy Gunn nearly die the last time he wrestled on PPV? Is this really wise?
Renee Young is standing by with Roman Reigns. She quickly cuts back to RAW when the Big Show knocked out Ric Flair, only to have Roman Reigns come down and clothesline him over the top and to the floor. Back to Young and Reigns, Reigns cuts her off and says apparently Show is a giant. He knows because Show reminds everyone every chance he gets. You know who didn’t have to do that? Andre the Giant. Andre was the man, and Show is an insecure man trapped in a giant’s body. Reigns doesn’t want his spot; he wants his own. He wants to carve his own path and that starts at the Rumble. His feet will be planted, his head will be on a swivel, and his fist will be cocked. He’ll have no friends, and it is one versus all. You’re looking at the one. Believe that.
We see Fandango (remember him?) with Rosa Mendes (remember her?) in the back, with Fandango about to draw his entry number for the Rumble. He looks at his number and seems very pleased. He starts to make out with Rosa, with his back turned to the tumbler. Dean Ambrose walks up and switches Fandango’s ball with another one and walks off.
MATCH 2-ROYAL RUMBLE QUALIFIER: RYBACK VS. WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION RUSEV (W/LANA) (NON-TITLE)
I was starting to forget Rusev worked here. It was kind of nice. The two lock up, and Rusev shoves Ryback away. They go at it again, and Ryback applies a side headlock before nailing a shoulder off the ropes. He goes for the cover, but Rusev immediately rolls to the floor. Back in the ring, Rusev nails some shots before stomping Ryback down. He goes for a suplex, but Ryback blocks it and hits one of his own for a 1-count. Rusev rolls to the floor once again. Back in, Ryback goes on the attack in the corner, hitting a series of shoulder thrusts. Rusev comes back with a dropkick off the ropes, sending Ryback to the apron. Rusev attacks Ryback’s knee, and Ryback slumps to the floor. Commercials.
Back from the break, Rusev puts Ryback down with a DDT for 2. Rusev drags Ryback to the apron, then slams his knee onto it from the floor. Rusev pulls him over to the ring post, wrapping the leg around the post. Back in the ring, Rusev hits a knee and a bodyslam. He connects with a second slam, then starts pie-facing Ryback. Ryback surprises him with a slingshot back suplex. Ryback connects with an elbow to the head and a forearm. Rusev reverses a corner whip, runs into a boot, then gets hit with a tilt-a-whirl powerslam for 2. Rusev hits a couple of shots, then ducks a roundhouse and picks Rusev up for a backpack stunner for 2. Ryback nails shots to the side of Rusev’s head and sets him up for a powerbomb. Rusev blocks and counters into an Alabam Slam for 2. The two trade punches, with Ryback getting the better of the exchange. Rusev sends him into the corner and charges in, but Ryback catches him with a belly-to-belly. Ryback heads up top, but Rusev crotches him before blasting him with a jumping side kick. Ryback slumps to the mat and Rusev covers, but it’s only good for 2. Rusve begins throwing a fit, then stomps Rusev in the back before setting up the Accolade. Ryback blocks it, powers himself up, rolls Rusev off his back and hits a standing spinebuster. Ryback goes for the Meat Hook, but Rusev hits the floor. Ryback heads out and assaults him with rights. He hits some knees to the gut, then whips Rusev into the barricade. He mounts Rusev and nails more rights to the head. He hears the ref count to 9 and manages to run in just before the count.
WINNER VIA COUNT-OUT: RYBACK.
Ryback qualifies for the Rumble, but before he can celebrate, Rusev nails him with a forearm to the head. He stomps Ryback down, then signals for the kick. Ryback blocks it and hits the Meat Hook. He goes for Shell Shocked, but Rusev escapes and heads for higher ground.
MATCH 3: NAOMI VS. BRIE BELLA (W/NIKKI BELLA)
Paige and Natalya are on commentary. We get an inset promo from the Bella Twins. They bash Nattie for liking cats and Paige for being pale. That’s pretty much it. The match starts and Naomi rolls Brie up for 1. She hits a dropkick, ducks a clothesline and hits a flipping clothesline. She hits a kick in the corner, then nails a few more shots before Brie hits a back elbow. Brie hits some forearms and goes for an Irish whip. Naomi slides under the bottom rope and winds up on the apron. Brie blocks a high kick and hits a hotshot, sending Naomi to the floor. Brie rolls Naomi back in and hits a low dropkick for 2. Brie throws Naomi to the corner, then hits a bulldog for 2. Brie hits a knee off the ropes, then goes for one against the ropes. Naomi avoids it and hits a pair of clotheslines. Brie blocks a high kick, hits a leg stunner, then follows up with a diving facebuster for 3.
WINNER: BRIE BELLA.
Luke Harper is somewhere in the back. He says that, this Sunday, in the Rumble, you can send in anyone you want, but don’t send in anyone you want back. After tonight, Rowan, you won’t even get the chance. Don’t blink, or the monsters will get you, the monsters that live in here now. Are you scared yet? You should be.
It’s time for Gold & Stardust to choose their entry numbers for the Rumble. Stardust rambles on, then draws his number. He doesn’t look pleased. Goldust draws his, and it’s hard to tell if he likes it or not. Then they start hissing at each other.
MATCH 4-ROYAL RUMBLE QUALIFIER: ERICK ROWAN VS. LUKE HARPER
Rowan gets the jobber non-entrance, so his chances here aren’t good. They immediately start trading punches. Rowan sends Harper into the corner and hits a big boot for 2. He drives Harper’s head into the top buckle and hits a bodyslam for another 2. Harper rolls to the floor, and Rowan follows. He hits a shot and rolls Harper back in, where he hits a Pounce for yet another 2. Rowan sets up a powerbomb, but Harper counters with a hurricanrana. Rowan is quickly back up, and he powers Harper to the corner for some headbutts. After a corner whip, Rowan hits an avalanche. Harper recovers and hits a big dropkick off the ropes. Harper runs into an elbow in the corner, and Rowan tosses him upside down into the buckles. Rowan hits another avalanche, then another across the ring. Another one connects, and a spin kick gets 2. Rowan goes for a full-nelson, but Harper escapes. He runs into a knee, and Rowan puts him down with a powerbomb for 2. Rowan heads up top, missing a big splash. Harper nails a superkick and lands the discus clothesline for 3.
WINNER: LUKE HARPER.
Rowan becomes the first man to not qualify for the Rumble tonight. Big surprise. Seriously, WWE seems to have no clue what they want to do with this guy.
Rollins and Kane are in the back, and Kane says it’s a big night, and he needs every possible advantage. the camera pans out to show that J&J and Show are there as well. Kane wants to borrow J&J for this match. Rollins understands and knows they need to make sure Daniel Bryan stays out of the Rumble. Rollins agrees to let J&J accompany Kane for the main event.
We get the annual “By the numbers” video for the Rumble.
Damien Mizdow gives Miz a latte in the back, and Miz asks if it’s his way of apologizing for embarrassing Miz on RAW. Mizdow says he doesn’t know what came over him. He got caught up in the moment, but to be honest, the people seemed to like it. Miz says the crowd is never cheering for Mizdow. He is a stunt-double, so when he thinks the crowd is cheering for him, they’re really cheering for the Miz. Miz says the latte needs more froth, and he’ll be in his trailer. He walks off, and the Usos approach Mizdow. Mizdow says he has nothing to say. The Usos say that they’ve got a tag title match at the Rumble, and then the Rumble itself, where its every man for themselves. Last year, they almost eliminated each other. If Miz goes over the top rope, will Mizdow do it, too? This is Mizdow’s chance to be a star. Think about it.
Bryan hits some quick strikes, but Kane retaliates almost immediately. Bryan ducks a clothesline and htis a cross-body for 1 before getting tossed to the apron. J&J interfere, and Kane boots Bryan to the floor. Kane hits a neckbreaker at ringside, then dumps Bryan across the top of the barricade. Kane grabs a kendo stick from under the ring and cracks Bryan across the back several times. He rams the end of the stick into the back of Bryan’s neck, then rolls him back in. He grabs the stick before climbing back in and swings for the fences. Bryan ducks the shot nails a forearm and grabs the stick. He nails Kane repeatedly across the arm and shoulder while peppering in some Yes! Kicks for good measure. He puts Kane down with a Buzzsaw for 2, then goes up top, stick still in hand. He comes off the top for a shot to the head, but Kane meets him with an uppercut for 2. Bryan gets tossed to the floor as we go to commercials.
Back from the break, Kane has Bryan in a rear chinlock. Bryan fights out, but Kane kicks him in the knee and hits a DDT off the ropes for 2. Jamie Noble hands Kane a chair, and he rams Bryan in the gut before cracking him across the back for 2. Kane wedges the chair in between the middle and top buckles and goes back to Bryan. Bryan lands a kick to the head, then hits a series of kicks and punches. Kane shoves him into the ropes and charges in, but Bryan low-bridges him to the floor. Bryan dropkicks him through the ropes and goes for a suicide dive, but Kane nails another uppercut, sending Bryan crashing to the floor. Bryan gets whipped into the steps, and now J&J are tearing up the announce desk. Kane climbs on, and J&J roll Bryan onto the table. Kane goes for the tombstone, but Bryan escapes and shoves Kane to the floor. Bryan dives off, right into a goozle. He escapes a chokeslam attempt and shoves Kane shoulder-first into the ring post. Bryan rolls into the ring, where he hits a suicide dive. Bryan then hits a running dropkick against the barricade before attacking both members of J&J Security. The distraction allows Kane to nail Bryan from behind, and he rolls Bryan back into the ring. Kane heads up top and goes for the clothesline, but Bryan catches him in the Yes! Lock. J&J break it up before Kane can tap. Bryan fights them both off, hitting each with dropkicks in the corners. Kane recovers enough to hit a chokeslam, but it’s only good for 2. Kane flips out before rolling to the outside for another chair. Back in the ring, Kane charges in with the chair, but Bryan dropkicks him in the knee, sending him into the buckles face-first, the chair colliding with his face in the process. Bryan blasts him with the knee strike and gets 3.
WINNER: DANIEL BRYAN.
Bryan keeps his spot in the Rumble. He celebrates on the stage, only for Big Show to attack him from behind. Show boots Bryan down the apron, then picks him up over his shoulder and carries him to the ring for a 4-on-1 attack. Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan hit the ring to even the sides. Harper, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd and Titus O’Neil then come out to attack the faces. Goldust, Stardust, R-Truth, Sin Cara, and pretty much everyone else in the Rumble then hit the ring, and we’ve got a massive brawl. Dean Ambrose’s music hits, and he joins the fray. Now it’s time for Roman Reigns to come down through the crowd as guys are getting tossed over the top rope left and right. Reigns goes right after Show, knocking him out. He lays out J&J with a Superman Punch, then drops Titus with a spear. Reigns, Ambrose, Ryback and Bryan are left standing as Show & Kane look on from the apron.
End of show.