Firstly – Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all our readers. Thank you for joining us this year. It has certainly been one hell of a ride and I hope you are all staying safe and well. Secondly, this was meant to be a very festive recap of a Christmas Day SmackDown and we will get to that, but I would hate to go any further without mentioning the sad passing of Jon Huber aka Brodie Lee/Luke Harper at the young age of 41.
I first became a Brodie Lee fan during the height of my love of independent wrestling, especially Ring of Honor in 2008 with The Age of the Fall (which also introduced me to Tyler Black, aka Seth Rollins) and I followed his career closely after that. To see him as part of a huge act like The Wyatt Family in FCW/NXT and then the main roster in WWE was a real pleasure, especially their notorious feud with The Shield. Over the years he had ups and downs in WWE but got to go out on a high this year in AEW, including a match of the year candidate against Cody in a dog collar match. Jon will be missed greatly by the fans, his friends and the family he leaves behind. Thank you for the memories and your legacy will live on.
And now it’s back to the ThunderDome for some Christmas cheer…
Universal Championship Steel Cage Match: Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens
Man, it feels like time is a strange thing this year. Hard to believe that the TLC PPV only just happened as it already feels like a lifetime ago. I thought it was another stellar effort from WWE and, apart from a few questionable early Covid-era PPVs, they’ve really found their groove on the monthly specials which have really showcased the talent they have this year. Of course, Roman Reigns found a way to escape TLC with the title again – mostly because Kevin Owens still doesn’t have any backup – but he didn’t manage to keep KO down for too long. This week we were treated to a rematch inside a Steel Cage, which I suppose is meant to keep out Paul Heyman and Jey Uso, although that was always unlikely.
How often do we get to open the show with a Universal Championship match? A rare treat but hey it is Christmas right? These guys just click in the ring and on the mic and there’s something really intense that makes you want to watch them beat the absolute hell out of each other. Despite how incredible the whole Reigns, Heyman and Uso trio is, I have to give credit to Kevin for making the most of his time in the spotlight over the past few weeks too. He has really showcased his talents and is such a well-rounded guy in every sense that WWE would do well to get behind him. He gets lost in the shuffle sometimes and it’s pretty criminal really considering how damn good he is.
For a TV opener on a Christmas show, this was a really enjoyable match. Did I ever really think KO was escaping with the title? Not really but it didn’t mean I wasn’t fully invested in it and hoping he would squeeze out a win somehow. Again it wasn’t down to a lack of effort or determination on Owens’ part but instead the numbers. I hope Santa brought him some friends for Christmas so 2021 can start off a bit more even. Uso managed to be the difference-maker after a hard-fought back and forth match, as he handcuffed Owens to the side of the cage, allowing Roman to escape through the door in such a cocky manner that I wanted to beat him up myself. He definitely wasn’t on my Christmas card list this year. Roman Reigns continues as the head of the table going into next year but with KO shouting “you can’t keep me down bitch!” I think maybe this feud is not being left behind in 2020.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles – Triple Threat Elimination Match: Charlotte Flair & Asuka (c) vs Bayley & Carmella vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
Even just reading that list of talent makes me salivate. How good is the WWE (and NXT) women’s division? Yes, if you didn’t watch TLC then you’ll notice that Charlotte Flair is back and she won the tag titles with Asuka. If she keeps going it’ll take longer to read her list of titles than it will to watch her actual matches. I know she’s a very polarising individual, and a lot of people believe she’s only there on her name value alone, but it’s hard to argue against her presence and in-ring talent. I’d quite like Rhea Ripley to get a chance at revenge on Flair, but other than that I’m pretty happy that she’s back. I just think she adds an extra level to the division when she’s around as long as she’s not too dominating.
If you’ve been an NXT follower for a long time then you might have enjoyed seeing Bayley and Carmella together again, like I did. They’ve been friends for ages so you would think they’d make a good team, especially in their new successful personas. Both have certainly changed a lot over the years and for the better in my eyes. In fact, this whole match was basically a reminder of how well NXT has done by its women’s division in particular. And while Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were a decent enough team to hold the titles, I think the match quality from Flair and Asuka is bound to be better, especially judging on this week’s effort.
While it was always going to be too early to expect a title change, all three teams looked like they might win at some point. Poor BayMella managed to be eliminated first after Bayley was eliminated by Sasha Banks and then it was down to Banks and Belair to try and pick up the victory. I am all in on Bianca Belair but I get why they can’t just have her win every week. That gets boring fast and developing a character over time is far more interesting. Despite another fighting performance from Bianca, she came up short this time after a Natural Selection and Charlotte and Asuka walked out with the titles. Who’s next on their list? Maybe a Baszler/Jax rematch? Hopefully, we might see another visit to NXT for the titles again when possible.
Daniel Bryan vs Jey Uso
Talk about two men with a lot to work out in the ring. Bryan’s been on an interesting journey as of late, trying to find his best again and working with some new talent to see what he’s still capable of. Jey on the other hand is a whole new man. Main Event Jey Uso they’re calling him now and it’s hard to argue against that. The transformation into delivering week on week has been incredible and I almost want him to stay as a singles wrestler forever now. I am curious to see what will happen to him once Jimmy is back and where the family dynamic goes from there. So we had a match between two men with a lot to prove going into Royal Rumble season.
As expected, this was a physical and hard-fought match, only this time a lot more personal. As technical as Bryan can be, he’s always capable of absolutely destroying someone when he wants to, and I love it when he takes it up a few gears. Jey has been up a few gears for weeks now but he has to struggle with that internal process and deal with whatever anger he’s got, as well as trying to please Roman, so his focus isn’t always there. Both men made some mistakes, but the end came from Jey hurting his leg, which allowed Daniel to get the upper hand and eventually hit the running knee for the victory. I hope Roman wasn’t too angry. Bryan then declared himself the first entrant in the 2021 Royal Rumble and I am all for him winning that.
Intercontinental Championship – Lumberjack Match – Sami Zayn (c) vs Big E
Starting with a Universal Championship match and ending with an Intercontinental Championship match? Oh, SmackDown you really are spoiling us. If you saw the TLC pre-show then you would’ve seen Big E pick up the victory against Sami Zayn in an eight-man tag team match in the same week that he won a coveted Sami Award. He’s finally on a roll as a singles competitor which is something I’ve been waiting for since 2012 when he debuted in NXT. It feels like a very long road for him, especially after his questionable initial main roster run with AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler, but thankfully The New Day happened and really gave him an outlet to showcase his character and in-ring talent.
So now, as we bring this ridiculous year to an end, we got to finish on a high note. Two of the best wrestlers on the SmackDown roster going at it for one of the most prestigious prizes in the wrestling industry. Starting with the sorely missed Pat Patterson back in 1979 the IC title has been in the hands of such legends like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, HHH, The Rock, Steve Austin, Edge, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero through to more recent names like Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles and of course Luke Harper. The title has been that important stepping stone to greatness for many, and while Sami Zayn may not be the most competitive and legitimate champion he has certainly been entertaining.
It was only ever going to be one man walking out with the title though and that man was Big E. He actually won the title once before in 2013 but no one remembers that. Despite the heel lumberjacks playing unfairly in the main event this week, Big E managed to fight them off and have the face lumberjacks on his side to make sure Sami couldn’t escape. All his sneaky activity over the past few weeks finally caught up with Zayn and after a running splash and a Big Ending his reign was over. Wrestling doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes you just want a nice predictable ending with the good guy overcoming the odds and that’s exactly what we got for Christmas. Sami played his part perfectly and Big E gave us something to smile about.
The best of SmackDown
- Big E – winning the most important title of his career
- Charlotte and Asuka – overcoming the odds to keep their titles
- Roman Reigns – getting the job done
- Daniel Bryan – back on the right track and bringing the Yes movement to the Royal Rumble
The worst of SmackDown
- Sami Zayn – poor guy tried to run away but failed and lost his title
- Bayley/Carmella – didn’t gel enough to stop their team from being eliminated first
- Jey Uso – he helped Roman gain a victory but couldn’t squeeze one out for himself
- Kevin Owens – another huge opportunity blown because he has no friends
A surprisingly good SmackDown considering it was a Christmas one and I didn’t think many people would be watching, although the viewing figures were outstanding, so that’s something. This felt like a great summary of everything that SmackDown has done well this year. Showcasing some new talent on the rise while showing that others aren’t ready to give up their spots quite yet. For me, the Blue brand remains head and shoulders over RAW week on week and SmackDown delivers the best of WWE every time. I can’t wait to see what we get at the Royal Rumble PPV as we get on the road to WrestleMania.
All images and videos courtesy of WWE