The main storyline running throughout Friday’s SmackDown was WWE producer — and former star independent wrestler — Adam Pearce being sent on a journey by Vince McMahon to get the contract for Bray Wyatt vs. Braun Storman vs. Roman Reigns signed by all parties ahead of Sunday’s Payback pay-per-view. That journey led to a major twist at the conclusion of the show, with the recently-returned Reigns making a career-changing decision.

Reigns was impossible for Pearce to find for the majority of the show, but by the time the show came to the end, it was revealed Reigns was now working with Paul Heyman. Heyman has been off WWE TV since WrestleMania when his client, Brock Lesnar, lost the WWE championship. The two have long been on opposing sides with Lesnar and Reigns having a long history, but now “The Big Dog” appears to have put his career in the hands of one of wrestling’s greatest minds.

CBS Sports was with you all night long on Friday, bringing you results, highlights and recaps of all the action. Read on to see what all happened on the go-home show ahead of Sunday’s Payback event.

WWE SmackDown recap, grades

Vince McMahon sends Adam Pearce on a mission: Adam Pearce opened the show by prepping security for a “combustible night.” He then entered a room with Vince McMahon, who gave him the task of getting the signatures on the contract before the night is over. McMahon suggested Pearce start with “The Fiend,” or Bray Wyatt — whoever was easiest to find. This sent Pearce on a journey where he appeared on Wyatt’s latest edition of “Firefly Fun House” as Postman Pearce, had to make a match between Strowman and Drew Gulak (see below) and repeatedly knocked on Reigns’ locker room door with no result.

Intercontinental Championship — Jeff Hardy (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall to retain the title: Hardy was just starting a promo where he was about to say he was ready to defend his intercontinental championship when AJ Styles interrupted. Styles ran down Hardy, saying he was a liar and a cheat for landing a blow with his knee brace to win the title last week on SmackDown. Styles said that he had the match clearly won before Hardy landed the shot and then blamed Hardy for the doctor not clearing him to wrestle this week, but Hardy said he was issuing an open challenge to anyone but Styles tonight. After the two nearly came to blows, the show went to commercial. After the commercial, Nakamura was in the ring to challenge Hardy. Cesaro was shown during the match complaining without really complaining that Nakamura took the match. After a solid bit of back-and-forth wrestling that included Hardy throwing Nakamura into Styles at the announce table, Hardy landed a knee using the leg with the knee brace, allowing him to hit the Twist of Fate and a swanton for the win. It’s a little screwy for Hardy to be using heel tactics by using the knee brace to score wins. And adding tension to Cesaro and Nakamura’s team makes no sense, but the match was fine. Grade: B-

Sami Zayn made a surprise return, attacking Jeff Hardy: As Hardy walked up the entrance ramp, jawing with AJ Styles, Zayn’s music hit and he emerged with the intercontinental championship he never lost in the ring. Zayn, calling Hardy a fraud and claiming to be the real champ, hit a Helluva Kick cheap shot on Hardy and left before some further arguing between Hardy and Styles. Later in the show, as Cesaro and Nakamura were discussing the situation earlier in the night, with Nakamura challenging Jeff Hardy, Zayn excitedly met up with his former clients and claimed his absence was part of the plan to bring Cesaro and Nakamura closer. And since they won the tag titles — it worked. Zayn tried to put his intercontinental championship belt by the tag titles, but Cesaro and Nakamura said they were having a conversation and asked him to leave. Zayn’s return is more than welcome and his interactions with Cesaro and Nakamura will be an interesting minor storyline moving forward.

Matt Riddle def. Shorty G via pinfall: Riddle cut an in-ring promo calling out King Corbin for a match. As Corbin came to the ring, Riddle was attacked from behind by Shorty G. Corbin then accepted the match on behalf of Shorty G. After some quick back-and-forth action, Riddle hit Bro Derek on Shorty G for the win. Corbin tried for a sneak attack on Riddle, but Riddle ended up running him off. Later in the show, Corbin said that he would face Riddle at Payback. Riddle and Shorty G could clearly have a fantastic match, but we didn’t get much of a chance to really drill into that as this was all about getting to Riddle vs. Corbin. Grade: C+

Bayley and Sasha Banks cut an in-ring promo: A fired up Bayley kept making “unintentional” digs at Banks no longer holding the Raw women’s title, including saying that Banks’ loss was all her fault because she shouldn’t have allowed her to challenge Asuka given her inability historically to successfully defend the Raw title. Bayley backtracked by saying that Banks always says the tag titles represent their friendship, and on Sunday, they can’t lose. Banks said that Bayley’s lucky she’s still her best friend before the duo were interrupted on the Tron by Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. Jax and Baszler talked about hating each other, but hating Bayley and Banks more. Banks ended the segment by saying that she will leave Payback still holding “her” tag team championship.

Braun Strowman def. Drew Gulak via pinfall: As Adam Pearce was looking for Strowman backstage, he ran into Gualk, who tried to get revenge on Strowman by hitting him with a steel chair from behind. Strowman didn’t budge and told Pearce the only way he would sign the contract is if Pearce got Gulak in the ring. He got his wish and Strowman decimated Gulak quickly, finishing up with the running powerslam for the three count. After the victory, Pearce met Strowman on the entrance ramp to get the signature. Grade: C

Cesaro def. Kalisto via pinfall: Before the match, Kalisto told Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado to stay in the back and watch how it’s done, but that choice was taken out of their hands anyway after Metalik and Dorado were attacked backstage by Cesaro and Nakamura. Kalisto looked good, keeping Cesaro from getting on track with his fast-paced offense, but Metalik and Dorado ran down to try and get revenge on Nakamura, a distraction that allowed Cesaro to score a rollup for the win. After the match, another argument broke out between Kalisto and Dorado before they seemed to patch things up. Fun little match but not much more, and I’m not sure what breaking up Lucha House Party is going to do in the long term. Grade: B-

Alexa Bliss showed some of the effects of having been with The Fiend: Nikki Cross and Tamina were discussing being worried about Bliss, when Bliss showed up with her hair in her old school pigtails. Cross then noticed that Bliss had a braid in her hair that she said reminded her of “The Fiend,” causing Bliss to briefly stare off into space. Bliss then said that she thought they were friends before smashing a mug she had previously given Cross and storming off.

Heavy Machinery & Big E def. Miz, John Morrison & Sheamus via pinfall: The six-man action was pretty standard, but at one point, Sheamus went to the timekeeper’s area and rang the bell to cause a distraction and break up a pin. Sheamus spent the match not tagging in before throwing a fit, yelling at Miz and Morrison while Miz begged him to stay. Sheamus did leave, though. Otis tried to hit a double caterpillar but Miz moved out of the way before hitting the Skull-Crushing Finale. Big E was the legal man, however, and he slid into the ring and finished Miz off with the Big Ending. Fine enough match, but weird stuff with Sheamus, though. Grade: B-

Roman Reigns enlists an advocate: At the end of the show, Pearce finally was able to enter Reigns’ locker room, where Reigns took time to review the contract. Reigns then promised Pearce that he would be at Payback  to be in the triple threat match. Finally, Reigns said that winning the universal title back was not a prediction, it was a spoiler. The camera then panned over to show Paul Heyman seated next to Reigns, who had just used one of his trademark lines, as the show went off the air. Pearce’s journey to get the contract signed was a fun part of the show, but the reveal that Reigns and Heyman now have a partnership was a shocking way for the show to end and adds a wild twist to Reigns’ return. Grade: A

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Roman Reigns’ affiliation with Paul Heyman was revealed: Reigns finally promised Adam Pearce that he would be at Payback. He then promised to be in the triple threat match. Finally, Reigns said that winning the universal title back was not a promise, it was a spoiler. The camera then panned over to show Heyman seated next to Reigns, who had just used one of his trademark lines, as the show went off the air. Pearce’s journey to get the contract signed was a fun part of the show, but the reveal that Reigns and Heyman now have a partnership was a shocking way for the show to end and adds a wild twist to Reigns’ return. Grade: A

Heavy Machinery & Big E def. Miz, John Morrison & Sheamus via pinfall: The six-man action was pretty standard, but at one point, Sheamus went to the timekeeper’s area and rang the bell to cause a distraction and break up a pin. Sheamus spent the match not tagging in before throwing a fit, yelling at Miz and Morrison while Miz begged him to stay. Sheamus did leave, though. Otis tried to hit a double caterpillar but Miz moved out of the way before hitting the Skull-Crushing Finale. Big E was the legal man, however, and he slid into the ring and finished Miz off with the Big Ending. Fine enough match, weird stuff with Sheamus, though. Grade: B-

Alexa Bliss showed some of the effects of having been with The Fiend: Nikki Cross and Tamina were discussing being worried about Bliss, when Bliss showed up with her hair in her old school pigtails. Cross then noticed that Bliss had a braid in her hair that she said reminded her of “The Fiend,” causing Bliss to briefly stare off into space. Bliss then said that she thought they were friends before smashing a mug she had previously given Cross and storming of.

Cesaro def. Kalisto via pinfall: Before the match, Kalisto told Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado to stay in the back and watch how it’s done, but that choice was taken out of their hands anyway after Metalik and Dorado were attacked backstage by Cesaro and Nakamura. Kalisto looked good, keeping Cesaro from getting on track with his fast-paced offense, but Metalik and Dorado ran down to try and get revenge on Nakamura, a distraction that allowed Cesaro to score a roll-up for the win. After the match, another argument broke out between Kalisto and Dorado before they seemed to patch things up. Fun little match, but not much more and I’m not sure what breaking up Lucha House Party is going to do in the long term. Grade: B-

Braun Strowman def. Drew Gulak via pinfall: As Adam Pearce was looking for Strowman backstage, he ran into Gualk, who tried to get revenge on Strowman by hitting him with a steel chair from behind. Strowman didn’t budge and told Pearce the only way he would sign the contract is if Pearce got Gulak in the ring. He got his wish and Strowman decimated Gulak quickly, finishing up with the running powerslam for the three count. After the victory, Pearce met Strowman on the entrance ramp to get the signature. Grade: C

Sami Zayn reunited with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura: As Cesaro and Nakamura were discussing the situation earlier in the night, with Nakamura challenging Jeff Hardy, Zayn excitedly met up with his former clients, claiming him going away was part of the plan to bring Cesaro and Nakamura closer, and since they won the tag titles it worked. Zayn tried to put his intercontinental championship belt by the tag titles, but Cesaro and Nakamura said they were having a conversation and asked him to leave.

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