Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. It’s the Christmas episode of Smackdown that was taped earlier in the week on Tuesday night. I know the results already, but that’s not going to affect my opinions on what happens. There are three title matches on Smackdown this week. This is also the last Smackdown of the year since next Friday is January 1. Here's the annual TJRWrestling Christmas card that I shared on social media earlier in the day.
Now we look ahead to a big day on Monday, December 28 for the 12th annual WWE Johnny Awards column. I'm done most of it. It will get done on time.
From the WWE ThunderDome at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1114. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Let’s get to it.
There was some pyro that went off on the stage area to welcome us to the show. There were Christmas trees around the stage/ramp area. Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed us to the show as the steel cage surrounded the ring.
The Universal Champion Roman Reigns made his entrance with the special counsel Paul Heyman by his side. It was a slow walking entrance as usual for Reigns as he walked around the ring. Kevin Owens was up next as the challenger. Owens lost at TLC this past Sunday because Jey Uso repeatedly interfered, so that’s why Owens gets another shot.
Analysis: It was smart to start off with this match because it’s an important match to lead off the broadcast right after Fox aired an NFL game with a big audience.
Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Kevin Owens
The rules for WWE Steel Cage matches are that you have to win by pinfall, submission, climbing out of the cage, or by walking out the door.
They started out brawling leading to Reigns getting into control with a boot to the face for two. Reigns whipped Owens into the steel cage followed by a Samoan Drop for a two count. Owens avoided a Superman Punch and then hit a DDT. Owens continued the attack with a whip into the ropes, a clothesline and a senton splash. Owens hit a cannonball splash on Reigns against the turnbuckle. Heyman was shown taking a deep breath at ringside to show that maybe he was feeling nervous. Reigns countered a Popup Powerbomb into a leg lariat for a two count. They battled by the turnbuckle, Owens with elbow shots to the face and Owens hit a Frog Splash off the top for a two count as the show went to break about five minutes into this match.
The match returned with Owens going for a superkick, Reigns caught the leg and picked up Owens for a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Reigns attacked Owens with punches/clotheslines against the turnbuckle, Reigns charged in and Owens hit a Popup Powerbomb for a two count with Heyman looking nervous. That is not KO’s finisher anymore, but it’s good for a two count spot now. Reigns with shoulder tackles along with an uppercut punch. There was a battle on the turnbuckle, Reigns countered a superplex attempt with a fisherman’s buster off the ropes for a two count. Nice nearfall there since it was a big move. Owens went for a Stunner, Reigns shoved him off and Reigns came back with a Superman Punch for a two count. Reigns was very aggressive as he whipped Owens into the cage twice. Reigns went for a guillotine choke by the ropes, but Owens got a hold of Reigns and choked him across the top rope, so Reigns fell to the mat. Both guys were down selling. Reigns charged, Owens with a kick to the body and a Stunner got a two count. That is KO’s finisher, so Reigns kicked out of that as the show went to break about 15 minutes into the match.
The match continued with Owens going for a cage climb, but Reigns met him up there with punches. Owens overpowered Reigns with punches to knock him down and then Reigns reached up to pull KO back inside the cage. Owens with a headbutt while on the top, then KO hit a superkick and Owens went for a Senton Bomb was blocked by Reigns getting the knees up and Reigns hit a Spear for two. It’s rare to see a Spear getting kicked out of during a Smackdown match, but that’s what happened. Reigns was stunned by that, so he asked for the door to open and KO grabbed Roman’s foot. Owens managed to grab the door that he used to smash against Roman’s face. Owens sent Reigns repeatedly into the cage although it was more like the hand of Reigns that hit the cage instead of Roman’s head. Owens tried to get out of the door, but Jey Uso was there and Owens slammed the door into Jey. That allowed Reigns to bring Owens back in the ring. Reigns with a Superman Punch, Owens avoided a Spear with Reigns hitting the cage and Owens hit a Stunner on Reigns. As Owens crawled to the door, Jey got a hold of KO’s left arm and Jey handcuffed KO’s left wrist to the cage. Owens put his legs towards the door, but he wasn’t far enough over to get out of the cage. Reigns got up smiling about the situation while Jey was happy while on the floor. Reigns walked out of the ring, then slowly down the steps and Owens said something like “you should be ashamed of yourself” and Reigns slowly walked down the steps. Owens: “You’re a little bitch!” Reigns touched the ground to win the match while Heyman presented the Universal Title for him. The match went 27 minutes.
Winner by escaping the cage: Roman Reigns
Analysis: **** Awesome match for the Universal Title even with the cheap ending. I liked this match a lot because of the intensity shown by both guys. There were plenty of believable nearfalls during the match with Reigns kicking out of everything that Owens has. When Reigns hit the Spear, Owens was even able to kick out of that as well. I would have liked to see more attempts to climb out of the cage or go out the door because they didn’t really do that. When you’re in a cage match, there needs to be a lot of attempts to try to win the match. Jey Uso’s appearance wasn’t a surprise by any means and the way he cost KO this match will make fans hate Reigns/Jey even more while also making Owens more popular. They could have booked this in a way to make Reigns look like a dominant champion. Instead, Reigns got more heel heat because of how he won and how he escaped with the title. I like how it was booked.
After the match, Reigns stared at Owens in the cage while getting a hug from cousin Jey. Reigns held the Universal Title on his shoulder to remind Owens who the winner was.
Analysis: That might be the end of the feud unless WWE wants to keep it going into the new year. I think they might move on from it with Reigns possibly feuding with Daniel Bryan leading to a Universal Title match at Royal Rumble.
Charlotte Flair and Asuka were shown walking backstage for their title match up next.
The Women’s Tag Team Champions were up next as Raw Women’s Champion Asuka and tag team partner Charlotte Flair made their entrance. The rules are that the Women’s Tag Team Champions are allowed to appear on all three brands. When Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were champions, they were only on Raw, but now that Flair is a champion again, clearly WWE wants to get her on Smackdown as well. Flair and Asuka did a quick promo with Flair talking about how she has returned to Smackdown.
Bayley made her entrance with her “Ding Dong Hello” shirt. Bayley said they were impressive while noting that 2020 was a downer for everyone in the whole world, but not for her. Bayley mentioned holding the Smackdown Women’s Title for 380 days and here’s an interruption.
Sasha Banks, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, joined the party in the ring. The foursome of Banks, Bayley, Asuka and Flair are all Grand Slam Champions in the women’s division. Banks reminded Bayley that she’s the Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Bianca Belair was next as Sasha’s partner in this match. Belair did one of her usual promos talking about how she the strongest, toughest and so on because she’s the EST of WWE.
Carmella made her entrance with her sommelier named Reginald. She is Bayley’s partner in this match for this reunion of the Baymella team. Carmella called them witches, then she said they’re bitches and encouraged everybody to look at her while Flair covered Asuka’s eyes, so that was funny. Carmella said she was naughty and nice and nice and naughty. Banks shoved Carmella as the show went to break.
Analysis: A bunch of quick promos to set up the match that was already advertised. There wasn’t much to this in terms of interesting dialogue. It was the usual stuff from all these characters. You can make a point that the challenger teams shouldn’t have even got a title shot in the first place, but I think WWE did the match this way just to get a great match on the show.
Women’s Tag Team Championships Elimination Match: Asuka and Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair vs. Carmella (w/Reginald) and Bayley
It’s an elimination match with two wrestlers in the ring while the others are on the apron.
Charlotte shoved Bayley down, Bayley stomped on the foot and Flair hit a chop. Asuka tagged in for some double team chops on Bayley along with a kick to the chest by Asuka. Bayley with a punch to the jaw. Carmella tagged in with Asuka hitting a hip attack. Asuka charged, Carmella got her foot up to block and Carmella did a choke using the ropes. Asuka with a kick to the gut leading to Banks tagging Asuka to tag in. Banks with a double knee attack on Carmella, Belair with shoulder tackles and Carmella broke free to tag in Flair, who became legal. The Riott Squad were shown watching on a TV backstage. Charlotte with a shoulder tackle, then she showed off her athleticism with a cartwheel and Belair did it as well with a handspring. They each did some taunting leading to a double dropkick and a double kip-up. Belair sent Charlotte face-first into the middle turnbuckle, but then Charlotte moved and Belair hit the middle turnbuckle. The women all left the ring leading to a brawl as Banks hit the double knees on Flair, Carmella sent Banks into the barricade, Asuka hit a hip attack on Belair and back in the ring it was Bayley hitting a Bayley to Belly on Asuka for two as the show went to break there about six minutes into the match.
The match returned with Asuka hitting a missile dropkick off the middle ropes on Bayley, but Bayley came back with a clothesline. Carmella tagged in with a corner splash as her boyfriend Graves put over how unbelievable she looks. Carmella hit a suplex on Asuka for two. Bayley and Carmella made quick tags as they worked over Asuka in their corner. Carmella grabbed Asuka by the head and slammed her to the mat. Bayley was back in with a chinlock on Asuka. A rising knee to the face by Asuka, then she tagged in Belair since Flair was knocked to the floor and Belair hit a dropkick on Bayley. Belair was aggressive with shoulder tackles on Bayley followed by a delayed vertical suplex for two as Carmella broke up the pin. Banks with a knee to Carmella. Flair hit a fallaway slam on Banks and Belair lifted Flair with a Glam Slam like move. Bayley with a rollup on Belair, then Belair with a spinebuster and Banks tagged in with a Frog Splash off the top onto Bayley. Banks pinned Bayley to eliminate her team about 15 minutes into the match.
Bayley and Carmella were eliminated
Banks went for the Bank Statement submission, but Flair fought out of it and Banks managed to counter a submission attempt with a pin attempt. Charlotte came back with a running boot to the face for the Figure Four Leglock with Banks fighting to block the Figure Eight attempt. Belair used her hair, Banks pulled on it and Belair made the tag. Belair hit a moonsault after a handspring and that got a two count. Belair went up top, Charlotte kicked the leg to knock her down and Charlotte with a Figure Four Leglock again, but Banks was back in with a double knee attack on Flair. Asuka with a running hip attack on Banks on the apron with Banks landing on Reginald on the floor. Bayley was on the apron to distract Belair, Asuka rolled up Belair and got a two count. Asuka with kicks to the chest, but Belair blocked another kick and hit a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Bayley told Belair that Banks was out on the floor so she can’t tag out. Charlotte got the tag, Asuka with the double knees and Charlotte hit the Natural Selection neckbreaker for the pinfall win after about 18 minutes.
Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks were eliminated
Winners by pinfall: Asuka and Charlotte Flair
Analysis: ***1/4 This was pretty good with a lot of talented women in the match, so I’m not surprised they worked well together. I like how there was a sense of urgency to win throughout the match. The teams of Bayley/Carmella and Banks/Belair had issues with eachother so when the heels were eliminated, they stayed at ringside to cause some havoc and that led to Banks being taken out. No surprise that Charlotte and Asuka retained their titles. No surprise to see the champs win.
Asuka and Flair celebrated the win while Carmella and Bayley were happy that Belair/Banks lost.
The Street Profits, who are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions, were backstage doing a promo. Montez Ford had a present with him. Sami Zayn holding two Sami Awards complained to a woman on the social media team about having to defend the IC Title. Angelo Dawkins and Ford told Zayn that they had a Christmas gift for him. They presented the gift that was a t-shirt that said: “I WAS INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION.” That’s because Zayn has a shirt that says “I’m the Intercontinental Champion.” Street Profits and Zayn laughed, then Zayn yelled at them and lift without the shirt.
Analysis: That was clever.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance leading the “YES” chants as Jey Uso attacked Bryan from behind. Jey whipped Bryan into some Christmas trees and boxes that were on the stage. Referees and officials like Pat Buck and Jamie Noble showed up to break it up, but then Jey hit a bod slam on the ramp. That led to a break.
The referee asked Bryan if he wanted to start the match. Bryan was adamant that he wanted to have the match, so the referee called for the bell.
Jey Uso vs. Daniel Bryan
Jey went after Bryan right away with Bryan grabbing his head/neck to show he was hurting. Jey hit a suicide dive into the barricade. Jey whipped Bryan into the steel steps. They went back into the ring with Jey working over Bryan with hard chops to the chest. Bryan came back with chops, then he ran the ropes and Jey was there with a Samoan Drop for two. Jey with a body slam, but when he went for a headbutt, Bryan moved and Jey hit the mat. Bryan went for a corner dropkick, Jey moved and Bryan hit the turnbuckle. Jey hit the running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Jey with a kick to the gut, but Bryan got some momentum with a back body drop over the top to the floor. Jey was grabbing his left ankle. Bryan with a suicide dive, he partially hit Jey and Bryan also hit his left arm into the announce table, or at least that’s what Bryan was selling. Jey was up top, Bryan shoved him down and Bryan hit a belly to back suplex as the show went to break.
The match returned with Bryan kicking the back of Jey’s left leg. Bryan with a running corner dropkick along with punches/kicks and Bryan hit a running dropkick into the leg against the ropes. Bryan set up Jey with a hurricanrana off the top for two. Bryan worked over Jey with kicks including two kicks to the head. Bryan went for a running attack, but Jey hit a superkick to the chest and a superkick to the head as well. Jey jumped off the top with an Uso Splash, but Jey couldn’t cover because of the injured leg and Bryan kicked out. Jey jumped off the top again, but Bryan caught him and went for the Yes Lock. Bryan slapped on a half crab submission on the left leg with Jey managing to get to the bottom rope to break the hold. Jey worked over Bryan with kicks and punches, which led to Bryan getting some punches of his own. Jey with forearms to the face along with a headbutt with Bryan selling like he was dazed by that. Bryan ducked a superkick attempt and Bryan hit the running knee to the face for the pinfall win after 15 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a great, entertaining match with Bryan at his best as a babyface selling a beating for most of the match before turning it on and getting the win. Jey sold the left leg very well after his offensive move on the floor and that played a big story in the match. When Jey hit an Uso Splash, he couldn’t cover right away because of the leg injury, so Bryan had time to kick out. Shortly after that, Bryan came back for the pinfall win. Jey looked like he belonged with a former WWE Champion like Bryan, which is great to see. If Jey was booked in a way that made him look like he didn't belong then that hurts Bryan, but since Jey has been pushed in the last few months, he has proven that he belongs with the big names. There was history here because Jey beat on Bryan in the past along with some cheap attacks, so Bryan getting the win makes sense.
Bryan celebrated the win with the “YES” chants as the crowd joined in.
Analysis: I think it’s a strong possibility that Bryan goes on a bit of a winning streak leading to him as a future challenger for the Universal Title held by Roman Reigns. It makes a lot of sense and would lead to some great matches between two guys that have worked well together in the past. It doesn't mean that he is the next challenger, though. Find out in the next segment.
Big E was shown getting ready backstage for the main event match.
The WWE Happy Holidays video aired.
There was a backstage interview with Daniel Bryan with Kayla Braxton asking Bryan what’s next. Bryan said he’s always looking for new goals that he wants to achieve. Bryan said that he has never won a Royal Rumble. Bryan announced he is going to enter the 2021 Royal Rumble. Sami Zayn walked up to Bryan complaining about how he thought Bryan made Zayn have this IC Title match. Zayn told Bryan that he’s going to fail in the Royal Rumble match. Bryan: “I guess Santa didn’t give him a PS5. Is that what kids are into?” It sure is, pal.
There was a recap of last week during the Sami Awards when Big E messed with Sami’s presentation and said he was the Superstar of the Year. Sami didn’t like that. Sami ripped on Big E in a backstage segment and Big E warned Sami that he was coming for him.
There were lumberjacks that made their entrance as lumberjacks for the Intercontinental Title match. They were mostly Smackdown guys, but I noticed some Raw guys like Angel Garza, Drew Gulak and Akira Tozawa as well. I'm sure people will complain about it. I'm assuming it's just because WWE felt they needed more lumberjacks so those guys were brought in. It wasn't mentioned by the announcers.
Big E made his entrance looking ready to go. I like the new theme song. That main event is up next.
This week on Talking Smack the guests are Sami Zayn, Asuka & Charlotte Flair and Big E
or Sami Zayn.
Sami Zayn made his entrance with the Sami Awards in his hands. He argued with some of the lumberjacks on his way to the ring.
Analysis: The reason it's a lumberjack is that the last time they wrestled, Zayn won by countout by going under the ring and getting back in the ring before Big E. By having lumberjacks at ringside, the idea is that Zayn would be unable to do that or run away successfully. It's a nice way of booking match finishes that matter and lead to consequences the next time there's a match.
Intercontinental Championship Lumberjack Match: Sami Zayn vs. Big E
Zayn was wrestling in his “I’m The Intercontinental Champion” shirt. Big E countered a waistlock with a takedown. Zayn tripped up Big E leading to Big E bumping into the turnbuckle. Some of the heel lumberjacks beat on Big E a bit and sent him back in the ring. Zayn tossed Big E out of the ring again as Blake and Cutler stomped on Big E a bit, which led to a one count in the ring. Big E countered a Zayn move into the Stretch Muffler submission with Zayn getting to the ropes to break the hold. Zayn choked Big E across the top rope leading to Zayn sending Big E into a turnbuckle. Big E came back with a clothesline on the apron followed by the running splash on the apron, but Zayn moved and Big E bounced from the apron to the floor. Big E fought off some of the heel lumberjacks. Zayn ran the ropes and Zayn hit a somersault dive over the top onto Big E on the floor. That led to a break.
The match continued with Zayn throwing his shirt in Big E’s face and punching him. Big E started the comeback with the two overhead belly to belly suplexes, then Zayn blocked the third belly to belly and got a boot to the face. Big E countered a charge by Zayn into a uranage slam for two. Zayn slid out of a Big Ending attempt and bailed to the floor, but the babyface lumberjacks sent Zayn back in the ring. The referee was distracted by the ring apron, Zayn did an eye gouge and got a rollup for two. Big E sent Zayn onto the apron, then Big E charged and Zayn got a knee up to block a charging attack. Zayn went to the turnbuckle, Big E was up there with him and Zayn hit the Sunset Flip Powerbomb off the turnbuckle for a two count. Great spot for a nearfall. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, Big E moved, Zayn hit the turnbuckle and Big E hit a running Spear onto Zayn on the apron to drive Zayn on the floor. That led to lumberjacks fighting on the floor as Big E went into the ring and Zayn tried to get away. Zayn tried running up the ramp, but Apollo Crews tackled Zayn. The babyface lumberjacks lifted Zayn over their heads and brought him back in the ring. Zayn charged, Big E hit the side belly to belly slam and the running splash. Big E hit the Big Ending for the pinfall win after about 13 minutes. Big E is the NEW Intercontinental Champion.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW Intercontinental Champion: Big E
Analysis: ***1/4 A very good match with a satisfying ending with Big E winning the IC Title from a chickenshit heel champion that couldn’t run away due to the lumberjacks. I liked the spot with the lumberjacks fighting, then Zayn tried to leave, but Crews and others stopped Zayn, so that led to Big E getting his hands on Zayn one more time, which led to the finish. Even if I didn’t know the results beforehand, I would have assumed Big E would win. It just made sense here. I loved the nearfall off the Sunset Flip Powerbomb out of the corner because it showed how tough Big E was to kick out of that. It also reminded us how great of a worker Zayn is. Fun match with a happy ending result.
Big celebrated with the Intercontinental Title and told Graves that the prophecy was fulfilled. Graves shook his hand while congratulating him. Replays aired of the key moments of the match.
Big E continued to celebrate with the IC Title while Zayn looked sad at ringside. Big E was lifted up onto the shoulders of babyface wrestlers as the confetti filled the arena. Zayn was in near tears while Big E celebrated to end the show.
Analysis: Cool celebration that made the IC Title change feel like a big deal. I’m also genuinely happy for Big E. With that said, I loved heel Zayn as the IC Champion too, so I’ll miss seeing him with that title. I don’t mind the title change, though. It’s smart to end the Christmas show with a likable face like Big E becoming IC Champion.
Three Stars of the Show
- Big E – Congrats to him for winning the IC Title again
- Kevin Owens/Roman Reigns
- Daniel Bryan/Jey Uso
Also great performances from Sami Zayn and the women in the tag team match.
9 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2020 Average: 6.55
That’s the last episode of the year, so Smackdown finishes with a 6.55 average. Raw is 6.19 in case you’re wondering.
Best Smackdown episode this year for the last Smackdown episode of 2020. Trust me, I reviewed them all. This was a great episode of Smackdown with a lot of in-ring action and very little in the way of talking. A lot of talented wrestlers got the time to put on entertaining matches and they delivered. I assume WWE booked it this way just because it was Christmas, so they wanted a simpler show that non-wrestling fans may stumble upon. I just think they need to do this kind of show more often. We don’t need the 10-15 minute promo to start. They went right to Reigns/Owens for 25+ minutes in a Universal Title match. That’s one of the best starts to Smackdown this year. It’s also smart to end the Christmas show with a likable face like Big E becoming IC Champion. The Bryan/Jey Uso match and Women’s match were also well done too.
Look at the match times of the four matches in terms of minutes: 27, 18, 15 and 13. If you tune in for matches that mean something, this was the show for you. Three of the matches were rematches of past matches that had controversial finishes in some ways too, so they were building from match to match. I like to see that.
A lot of talented performers getting the time to put on a show and they delivered. This is the kind of show that WWE can put on more often. The problem is they feel the need to do too many promos or goofy comedy bits that hurt the product. I think more fans want episodes like this. I know I do.