The Three Count: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns Gets A Third Chapter Nobody Asked For, But SmackDown Is Still Rolling

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The third time won’t be the charm for Kevin Owens

A WWE Universal Championship Match between Roman Reigns and Adam Pearce could have been interesting. Does that mean the match would have been good? Of course not. WWE often tries new things, and plenty of these experiments fail. But Pearce and Reigns were telling a compelling story in which a retired wrestler was forced into the limelight. This intriguing narrative continued to play out on Friday night, as Reigns tried to bully Pearce into signing a contract for a Last Man Standing Match.

The WWE official played along because he had a plan. At the end of the night, after Reigns finally put pen to paper, Pearce faked an injury and told “The Tribal Chief” that the card is always subject to change. With that, Kevin Owens “returned” to the blue brand as Pearce’s hand-picked opponent for Reigns at the pay-per-view. Sure, Reigns and Owens will (probably) out on a good match at WWE Royal Rumble. But the two stars already clashed in two high-profile title matches a month ago, and it’s hard to picture how WWE will make this round different than its predecessors.

On paper, the story is practically the same; Owens wants the title, and he hopes to prove that Reigns will have to practically kill him to beat him. Plus, the suspension of disbelief can only do so much. Nobody believed Owens would dethrone Reigns at WWE TLC or on the Christmas Day episode of WWE SmackDown. There’s no reason to think that Owens stands a chance in this third chapter. It’d be shocking if Reigns dropped the title before WrestleMania 37, and there’s no reason to take the title off of him right now. WWE could easily swerve the fans by giving Owens a stunning title win and hot-shotting the gold right back to Reigns. But that would cheapen the remarkable success that “The Head of the Table” character has brought to the blue brand.

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Apollo could be rocketing to stardom

Apollo Crews is quickly becoming a prominent player on WWE SmackDown. After he unsuccessfully challenged Big E for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Paul Heyman dropped some knowledge on the standout star on WWE Talking Smack. Crews took Heyman’s message to heart. The former WWE United States Champion cheated to beat Sami Zayn this week, and he got in Big E’s face after the match. Crews is displaying a fresh edge to his character, and it seems like he could be gearing up for a heel turn.

In a brief backstage segment, Crews was sitting alongside “The Tribal Chief,” and the WWE Universal Champion invited him to stay by his side. Reigns then shared some of his own wisdom with Crews. It’s unclear whether Crews will become a full-time member of The Bloodline, but at the very least, even this remote association with Reigns strongly boosts his stock on WWE SmackDown. He’ll challenge Big E for the gold again next week, and he might lose that match, too. But even after this defeat, Crews is set up to prosper on the blue brand. Meanwhile, this feud is giving Big E (and the title) a meaningful story, and that only serves to help the fan-favorite’s rise to stardom on the road to WrestleMania.

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Who is “The EST”?

Bayley stole the show with her new talk show, “Ding Dong, Hello.” The former WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion hammed it up as the host in the newest addition to a long line of WWE programs like “The Highlight Reel” and “The Cutting Edge.” The best part of the segment was the utilization of the door, as Bayley forced her foe, Bianca Belair to knock on the door before she entered the set, though she obviously knew who her guest was. This segment was quite entertaining, and it was a change of pace for the blue brand.

“Ding Dong, Hello” also set up an Obstacle Course Challenge for next week’s show. Bayley wants to prove that she’s truly “The EST,” but Belair is one of the most impressive athletes on the roster. Barring some heelish shenanigans, Belair should win this showdown and pick up the momentum she desperately needs as WWE Royal Rumble nears.

There’s so much more to dig into. From Shinsuke Nakamura’s newfound success to Rey Mysterio’s tease of an incoming ally, this week’s episode of WWE Friday Night SmackDown was absolutely packed. To hear a thorough breakdown of the show, check out WrestleZone’s SmackDown Double Down podcast.

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