It started out as business as usual as SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan moderated the Royal Rumble WWE Championship Match Contract Signing between WWE Champion AJ Styles and John Cena for their match at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Both Cena and Styles were incredibly passionate, with Styles proclaiming he had no respect for the 15-time World Champion and Cena confidently declaring that he was the more passionate Superstar and would defeat The Phenomenal One at Royal Rumble.
The two Superstars signed the contract without coming to blows, a rarity in WWE … but then out came Baron Corbin. The Lone Wolf announced that he was not only entering the Royal Rumble Match this year, but promising to win it to main event WrestleMania. He then added that he wasn’t pinned in the WWE Championship Triple Threat Match last week either.
Tensions escalated quickly between Cena and Corbin, which allowed Styles to blindside Cena as he was focused on The Lone Wolf. The Phenomenal One then exited and Corbin talked some trash as Cena laid prone on the mat.
Nikki Bella and Natalya’s war of words continued as the two spiraled into deeper hostility as they slung insults each other’s way on SmackDown LIVE.
The Queen of Harts continued to question Nikki’s values and ascent while Fearless Nikki implied that Natalya was only where she was in WWE because of her uncle, WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart. This escalated into Natalya claiming she is better than her uncle and that one day Nikki’s boyfriend John Cena would leave her and that she would die alone.
Those were indeed fighting words, as Nikki hauled off on Natalya with a huge forearm, knocking Natalya down and out.
Following their confrontation in the ring earlier in the evening and then Maryse slapping Renee Young backstage, the stakes were raised even higher for The Miz and Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Championship Match.
Ambrose was a house of fire right out of the gate, bringing furious flurries of offense to Miz both in and outside of the ring. The A-Lister was able to gain control, however, when Maryse was able to distract The Lunatic Fringe.
From there, the two Superstars put forth a thrilling and brutal contest that kept the WWE Universe on its toes. Maryse tried to pull a fast one by slapping Ambrose, clearly looking for a disqualification, but instead Ambrose pleaded with the referee to simply eject Maryse, which is ultimately what occurred. From there, The Lunatic Fringe survived an assault with the Intercontinental Championship behind the referee’s back, then reversed a Skull-Crushing Finale into Dirty Deeds to defeat Miz for the Intercontinental Championship.
In other action ... Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler ... Becky Lynch def. La Luchadora ... AJ Styles and John Cena’s official Royal Rumble WWE Championship Match Contract Signing ... Carmella def. Aliyah ... and American Alpha def. Breezango.