12/25 WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT: LeClair’s alt-perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Owens, Big E vs. Zayn, Charlotte & Asuka defend titles, Bryan vs. Jey

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
DECEMBER 25, 2020
TAMPA, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN TROPICANA FIELD
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michale Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a thunder crack over a roof shot of the Thunderdome. Lightning pyro struck the entrance stage, lighting it and revealing a number of Christmas trees surrounding the ramp. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to a very special “holiday edition” of Smackdown as the camera cut to the steel cage engulfing the ring.

-Roman Reigns headed to the ring, flanked by Paul Heyman. Cole talked about Reigns’ Universal title retention this past Sunday at TLC. Reigns entered the ring and held up the title. Pyro shot off from the top of the Thunderdome. Kevin Owens headed to the ring as Cole discussed his gutsy performance on Sunday. Owens slammed the steel cage door shut behind him.

(1) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. KEVIN OWENS – Steel Cage match for the WWE Universal title

Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns traded quick right hands as the bell rang. Reigns quickly backed Owens into the corner, gave him a quick uppercut, and let him drop to his knees. Reigns shot Owens off the ropes and took him down with a big boot, then covered KO for a quick one count.

Reigns tossed Owens violently into the steel cage two times, then hit a Samoan drop for a two count. Reigns sized Owens up for the Superman punch, but Owens ducked it and caught Roman with a DDT. Reigns struggled to his feet, Owens met him with quick strike forearms then tossed him into the cage. Roman tried to battle back with a punch, but Owens ate it and bounced back with a clothesline followed by a senton.

Roman retreated to the corner. Owens pounced, kicking him to the mat and then hitting a running cannonball. Owens covered for a two count. Paul Heyman showed concern at ringside. Owens shot Reigns off the ropes and lifted him for the pop-up power bomb, but Reigns countered it in mid-air into a leg drop. Reigns scored a two count.

Owens found himself on the turnbuckle at the hands of Reigns. He fought Roman off, knocked him down, climbed to the top rope and connected with a frog splash for a near fall. Cole sent the show to commercial.

KO went for a super kick when the show returned from break. Reigns caught the leg, scooped him up and hit a sit-out power bomb for a near fall. Owens struggled to his feet with help from the ropes. Reigns battered him with short arm clotheslines in the corner. Both men traded stiff elbows, followed by a surprise pop-up power bomb from Owens. He covered Reigns, but only scored a two count.

Reigns fought to his feet and drove KO into the corner, then lifted him onto the top turnbuckle. Reigns slammed KO’s head off the back of the cage, then set up for a superplex. Owens held onto the cage to thwart the attempt. Reigns lost his grip, allowing Owens to capture Reigns and connect with a Fisherman Buster off the top rope, leading to a near fall.

Owens sized Reigns up, then went for a Stunner. Reigns shoved Owens away and hit a quick Superman punch. He covered, but Owens kicked out at two. Reigns began talking to himself. Owens punched him the jaw. Reigns snapped, pummeling Owens and then tossing him violently into each side of the steel cage. Owens wound up trapped between the cage and the ropes. Roman grabbed the guillotine. Owens remained trapped for a bit, but managed to choke Reigns across the top rope, forcing him to break the hold.

Reigns came up choking for air. Both men struggled to their feet.Reigns went for a spear, but Owens kicked him in the face and hit the Stunner for a close near fall. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Kevin Owens was trying to escape the cage when the show returned from break. Reigns climbed up halfway to meet him. The two traded blows, trying to knock each other down. Owens managed to drop Reigns to the mat, reaching the top of the cage. Reigns leapt to his feet and caught Owens by the ankle. Both men teetered on the top rope, trading punches. Owens caught Reigns with a super kick, then went for a Swanton. Reigns got his knees up. Owens rolled to his feet and ate a spear from Reigns. Roman covered, but Owens kicked out at the last possible moment.

Reigns called to the referee to open the door. Owens grabbed at Reigns’ leg as he tried to escape. Roman grabbed Owens by the face. “I’ve always been better than you,” Reigns said. Owens slammed the door on Reigns’ leg and dragged him back inside. KO slammed Roman’s head against the cage repeatedly, then went to leave the cage. Jey Uso appeared and slammed the door into Owens’ face. Owens pushed it back, dropping Jey Uso.

Owens hit Reigns with a super kick then went for the pop up power bomb, but Reigns ducked. Roman hit a Superman punch, then set up for the spear. Roman charged, but Owens ducked. Reigns speared the steel cage. Owens caught Roman with a stunner. Jey Uso grabbed Owens’ hand from outside the cage and handcuffed Owens to the cage. Owens kicked at the steel frantically, but couldn’t prevent it. Owens tried to escape the door, but didn’t have enough leeway for his feet to touch.

Roman Reigns stirred to his feet, realizing what had happened. A smile crept on his face as he slowly walked toward Owens, and the door. “Kevin Owens is trapped,” Cole said definitively. Roman methodically stepped through the ropes, staring back at Owens with a smile on his face as he descended the steps and touched the floor. “You can’t keep me down, you bitch,” Owens screamed as the bell rang.

WINNER: Roman Reigns in 25:00 to retain the Universal title

(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent match. This may have been my favorite match on Smackdown this year. It was better than their TLC encounter, which was very good in its own right. Methodical, brilliantly paced, well wrestled, and hugely entertaining. Roman Reigns is on another level right now, and Kevin Owens has been reinvigorated as a character thanks to this program. The story of Roman Reigns and Jey Uso is the best thing WWE has produced this year, and in many years, and it’s great to see them end the year on such a high note. The only downside here is that I sort of expected them to get another match out of this feud at the Rumble, and this felt more like a conclusion.)

-After a commercial break, Asuka headed to the ring. Michael Cole said she just reached over 1,000 days as champion in WWE, making her one of the most decorated champions in modern history. Nice stat, I suppose. Charlotte Flair followed. Graves touted her newly cemented status as a Grand Slam champion.

Charlotte Flair said Christmas came early, because the empress and the queen returned to Smackdown. Asuka began to speak, but was very quickly cut off by Bayley’s music. She headed to the ring. “Impressive,” Bayley began. She said what’s most impressive is her. She said 2020 was a downer for most everyone in the world, but not her. She was quickly cut off by Sasha Banks’ music.

Banks asked Bayley if she wants to talk about who the Smackdown Women’s champion is now. “That’s impressive,” she said. Bianca Belair’s music cut in and she skipped to the ring. Bayley mocked her hair whip. Banks danced to her music. Belair said if they want to talk about impressive, they should look at her. Carmella’s music cut her off. She headed to the ring with her assistant, now named Reginald.

“Look at all these witches. Actually, what I meant to say was bitches,” Carmella said She told everyone to look at her. Flair covered Asuka’s eyes. Carmella said she’s the only woman in the ring who is “naughty and nice and nice and naughty.”

As the women prepared to brawl, Cole awkwardly transitioned into a match graphic, saying it would begin after the break.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Yuck. This is one of the worst type of promo segments WWE falls back on far too regularly – wrestlers speak one or two highly scripted lines, only to be interrupted by the next in line, leading to a disjointed, fake-sounding mess. This was just bad.)

(2) CHARLOTTE FLAIR & ASUKA (c) vs. BAYLEY & CARMELA vs. SASHA BANKS & BIANCA BELAIR – Triple threat elimination match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team titles

Charlotte Flair began the match with Bayley. They locked up in the center of the ring. After a brief struggle, Charlotte slammed Bayley to the mat. Bayley rose to her feet, stepped on Charlotte’s foot, and attacked. Charlotte no sold the flurry of offense and chopped Bayley to the mat, then tagged in Asuka.

Asuka and Charlotte took turns peppering Bayley with chops. Asuka kicked Bayley then covered her for a two count. Bayley managed to battle back with a punch to the stomach. She dragged Asuka to the corner and tagged in Carmella. Asuka shoved Carmella. Charlotte took a swipe at her from the apron. Carmella took a cheap shot at Sasha Banks. Asuka dropped Carmella with a hip attack, then sent her to the corner. Carmella fought out with a quick boot.

Asuka caught Carmella with a quick spin kick, then stumbled into Sasha Banks, who tagged herself in. Banks sent Carmella into the corner and hit her with running double knees before tagging in Beacon Belair. Belair went for a body slam, but Carmella slid down the back and pulled her hair. Carmella made a quick tag to Charlotte.

Charlotte and Belair ran into each other with dueling shoulder tackles. Flair grabbed a side headlock, then did a handstand backflip out of it. Belair followed up with her own, angering Flair. Charlotte went for a big boot, but Belair ducked. Both women hit dropkicks and kipped up to their feet. Flair tripped Belair into the bottom turnbuckle and tagged in Asuka. Bayley tagged Belair out.

Flair wound up getting into a tussle with Carmella on the outside. Banks got involved, but Carmella tossed her into the barricade. On the opposite side of the apron, Asuka tossed Bayley back in the ring. Bayley hit a Bayley-to-Belly for a near fall. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Bayley dragged Asuka out of the corner when the show returned from break. Asuka fought free and hit a springboard dropkick, then covered for a quick two count. Bayley dragged Asuka to her corner and tagged in Carmella. Carmella drove her boot into Asuka’s face, then downed her in the corner. ‘Mella hit the bronco buster and covered Asuka for a two count. She followed up with a suplex, then another cover for a two count. Carmella tagged Bayley back in. She and Carmella tagged in and out repeatedly, isolating Asuka.

Carmella knocked Charlotte off the apron while Bayley continued to wear Asuka down in the ring. Asuka managed to create separation with a knee. She looked to Charlotte, who was still down. Asuka tagged Bianca Belair instead. Belair cornered Bayley and stomped away at her. Belair hit a stalling suplex and float over cover for a two. Carmella broke it up. Banks rushed in to take down Carmella. Charlotte hit Banks with a fallaway slam. Belair hit Charlotte with a Glam Slam.

Bayley rolled up Belair, but Bianca rolled through it and hit a spinebuster for a near fall. Belair tagged in Sasha Banks. Banks hit the frog splash on Bayley for a three count, eliminating she and Carmella at 14:00.

Charlotte entered the match. Banks locked her in the Bank Statement, but Flair fought out quick and tried to set up the Figure Eight. Banks rolled through into a roll up for a near fall. Charlotte rolled to her feet and hit a big boot. Flair locked in the Figure Four. Sasha reached desperately. Bianca gave Banks her ponytail and dragged her to their corner. Belair tagged herself in and hit Flair with a standing moonsault to break the hold on Banks. She covered for a two count.

Belair climbed to the top rope. Charlotte knocked her off. Belair rolled Charlotte up for another two count. Flair swept Belair to the mat and locked in the Figure Four. Banks flew from out of nowhere with the Meteora to the face of Flair. Flair dragged herself to the corner and tagged in Asuka. Asuka shot across the ring and knocked Banks off the apron, saving the tag. Banks ran into Reginald.

Bayley returned, jumping on the apron and distracting Belair. Asuka hit a pair of kicks. Belair caught the last one and deadlifted Asuka into a power bomb, scoring a near fall. Bayley taunted Belair from ringside. Belair went for a suplex, but Asuka slid down the back and tagged in Charlotte, unbeknownst to Belair. Charlotte hit Natural Selection from behind for a quick three count.

WINNERS: Charlotte Flair & Asuka in 17:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, especially toward the back half. There was a lot of standard WWE tag team chaos, but the women involved managed to hit a lot of creative spots. It showcased Belair well, gave Sasha Banks some highlight moments, and also teased a future match between Flair and Belair. As much as I disliked the promos leading into the match, they certainly redeemed themselves with the action itself.)

-The Street Profits ran down the Christmas edition of Smackdown backstage, wearing Santa hats. Suddenly, they heard Sami Zayn berating an employee on the social media team. Zayn wanted to know who authorized a Lumberjack match for his Intercontinental title. The Street Profits crept over. Zayn said he didn’t have time for them. Montez Ford offered them a gift. Sami seemed intrigued and apologized.

Angelo Dawkins opened the gift, revealing a t-shirt that said “I was Intercontinental champion.” Zayn laughed uproariously with them, then screamed, “you’re not funny!” He left angrily.

-Back in the Thunderdome, Daniel Bryan headed to the ring. He made it half way down the ramp, but was attacked from behind by Jey Uso. Jey tossed Bryan into the presents and Christmas trees surrounding the stage. Referees spilled from the back to separate him. Jey broke away briefly, but charged back, delivering a kick to Bryan’s ribs.

Jey scooped up Bryan and gave him a body slam on the stage. Cole lamented that they were supposed to have a match next, but wondered if Bryan would be able to compete. The show went to break.

Bryan refused medical attention and insisted on wrestling when the show came back from break. He slid into the ring slowly as Jey waited to attack.

(3) DANIEL BRYAN vs. JEY USO

Jey Uso immediately dropped Daniel Bryan when the referee called for the bell. He stomped at him, tossed him from the ring, and hit a quick suicide dive through the middle rope to the floor. Jey tossed Bryan into the steel steps, then slid in the ring to break the count.

Jey circled back and tossed Bryan into the steps again. He tossed Bryan back in the ring and began talking trash. “Why’d you come back?” Jey asked. Bryan rose, but Jey gave him a stinging chop to the chest. Jey backed Bryan into the corner and chopped him again. Bryan shook it off and delivered three chips of his own. Bryan flipped over Jey and shot off the ropes, but Jey cut him off with a Samoan drop. Jey covered for a two count.

Bryan dragged himself to the ropes as Jey looked on angrily. He sized Bryan up then gave him a body slam. Jey went for a leaping headbutt, but Bryan rolled out of the way. Jey hit the mat face first and retreated to the corner. Bryan charged, but Jey moved, sending Bryan colliding violently with the turnbuckles. Jey hit a hip check in the corner.

Bryan managed to recover enough to dump Jey over the top rope. Jey clutched at his ankle. Bryan dove through the ropes, but Jey side-stepped him. Bryan collided with the announcers desk. After a few moments, both men returned to the ring. Jey set Bryan up on the top turnbuckle, but Bryan slid through his legs, climbed back up and hit Jey with a big back superplex. Cole sent the show to break.

Jey Uso ate a running dropkick from Bryan in the corner when the show returned from break. Bryan hung Jey’s leg up in the rope and kicked it. He hoisted Uso to the top turnbuckle and hit a hurricanrana off the top for a near fall. Bryan started to psych himself up. He peppered Jey with Yes Kicks to the front and back. Bryan set up for the running knee. He charged, but Jey caught him with a super kick.

Uso climbed to the top rope and hit Bryan with a big splash. Jey hesitated in making the cover, selling the injury to the leg. He finally hooked the leg, but Bryan kicked out at two. Jey returned to the apron and ascended the turnbuckles again. He went for another splash, but Bryan got his knees up and transitioned Uso into the Yes Lock. Jey ripped at Bryan’s fingers and managed to break free. Bryan rolled into a half crab. Jey managed to reach the bottom rope.

Bryan grabbed onto Jey’s bad leg. Jey kicked at Bryan with the good one. The two wound up rolling back and forth with flurries of punches. Jey eventually gave Bryan a headbutt, breaking the stalemate. Jey went for another super kick, but Bryan ducked it and hit the Running Knee. Bryan hooked the leg and scored the pin.

WINNER: Daniel Bryan in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: 3 for 3 tonight, thus far. Great match. Bryan and Jey have excellent chemistry. They told a great story here. Bryan needed a win, and Jey Uso’s victories are measured in the level of approval he receives from Roman Reigns. So, after helping Reigns secure two title consecutive title retentions in the last week, it doesn’t really hurt Jey to drop a win here to a guy like Bryan in a match that was that competitive. It also gives Reigns more chances to be disappointed in Jey, leading to more great TV between those two.)

-Big E was shown warming up backstage for his Intercontinental title match later in the night.

-Daniel Bryan joined Kayla Braxton backstage out of the break. She asked what’s next for Bryan. Bryan said he’s always looking for new goals to set and achieve. Bryan said he’s never won a Royal Rumble, and that’s what he’s going to put everything into. He declared his entry into the Royal Rumble 2021.

Sami Zayn wandered on screen. “So funny seeing you here,” Sami said. He said Bryan has had it out for him more than anything, and it’s his fault that he has to defend the Intercontinental title tonight. “I think you stooged to management to make this happen,” Zayn declared. He said karma will take care of Bryan. Zayn promised to defend the Intercontinental title successfully, then go home and polish his two Sami Awards. He said karma will catch Bryan at the Royal Rumble.

“I guess Santa didn’t get him a PS5? Is that what the kids are into?” Bryan said, comically.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Bryan is so good. I love the idea of building up some stories for wrestlers going into the Rumble. Even if Bryan is unlikely to actually win the match, he’s declared that he’s going to compete, and that it’s important to him, and that winning it actually means something. I hope we get more of this kind of declaration on the way to the Rumble.)

-Michael Cole and Corey Graves teased the main event for the Intercontinental title, tossing to the Progressive Match Flo, which recapped the Sami Awards.

Following the video package, a cavalcade of Smackdown wrestlers emerged from the back, surrounding the ring for the Lumberjack match.

Big E’s music hit. He powdered his hands, clapped, psyched himself up, and rushed to the ring, fully focused and serious. Cole sent the show to break.

Corey Graves teased this week’s Talking Smack, featuring Daniel Bryan, Charlotte Flair, Asuka, and either Sami Zayn or Big E.

Sami Zayn headed to the ring, talking trash and carrying his Sami’s.

(4) BIG E vs. SAMI ZAYN (c) – Lumberjack match for the WWE Intercontinental title

Sami Zayn and Big E locked up and walked each other across the ring as the Lumberjacks pounded the ring. Zayn grabbed a rear waist lock, but E overpowered him quickly. Zayn grabbed a side headlock, but Big E shoved him away, leapfrogged him, and caught him with a big back elbow.

Zayn managed to catch Big E with a drop toe hold in the corner. He used the opportunity to push Big E out of the ring, in front of a group of heels. Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, and King Corbin beat down Big E and then tossed him back to Sami. Sami happily tossed Big E back to the wolves, who repeated their beating.

Big E was tossed back in the ring and kicked out of a cover from Zayn at one. Sami got cocky, allowing Big E to recover and briefly trap Zayn in the Stretch Muffler submission. Zayn fell to the outside in front of the babyfaces. They tossed him back in the ring to eat a clothesline from Big E. E set Zayn up on the apron, then went for a big splash. Zayn rolled, causing Zayn to crash into the apron and fall to the outside. Dolph Ziggler tossed E into the announcers desk and then the steps. E knocked Ziggler away, but Zayn dove over the top rope, colliding with Big E and causing a pile up at ringside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Sami tossed his shirt in Big E’s face as the show returned from break. E caught Zayn with a pair of overhead belly to belly suplexes to Zayn. Sami blocked a third and then pushed E into the corner. Sami went for the Heluva Kick, but Big E caught him with a Uranagi for a near fall. Big E set up for the Big Ending, but Sami left the ring.

Zayn was quickly retrieved by the Lumberjacks. They tossed him into the ring. Sami caught Big E with a poke to the eye, then a roll up for a two count. Zayn headed to the top rope, but Big E cut him off. Zayn and E traded punches on the turnbuckles. Zayn hit a sunset flip power bomb off the top rope for a near fall.

Zayn set up for the Heluva Kick again, but Big E side stepped him. Zayn felt out onto the apron. Big E speared him through the middle rope to the floor. The Lumberjacks surrounded both men. A brawl broke out between the babyfaces and heels. In the scrum, Sami Zayn escaped up the ramp. Apollo Crews gave chase, reaching him just before he disappeared to the back.

The Street Profits, Chad Gable, Otis, and Apollo Crews carried Sami Zayn, crowd surf style, all the way back to the ring. They tossed him to Big E, who hit a belly-to-belly, followed by a big splash. Big E followed it up with the Big Ending for a three count.

WINNER: Big E in 12:00, new Intercontinental champion

Sami Zayn sat in anguish at ringside. Big E was hoisted onto the shoulders of Otis and Chad Gable to celebrate as confetti shot from the rafters as the show went off the air.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Another good one. I could’ve done without the confetti, but I’ll tell myself that it was as much about celebrating getting through 2020 as it was celebrating an Intercontinental title change. This is precisely the kind of character I want to see from Big E. There were big stakes, and it felt like it. Big E was still Big E, but there was a weight to the moment, and to his character recognizing the moment. Zayn has been a formidable, entertaining Intercontinental champion, but it’s time to see what they’ve got with Big E. This was the right move, and because they closed the show with it and treated it like a big moment, it could be a career launching point. I just wish they paid this much attention and lent this much credence to the Intercontinental title on a regular basis.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I certainly didn’t expect to conclude my delayed report of the taped Christmas edition of Smackdown by saying it was the best episode of Smackdown this year, but that’s precisely what I’m doing. Outside of the small, forgivable women’s promo blip, this was smartly booked, incredibly well wrestled and highly entertaining from start to finish. While Raw struggles to pop a one of rating by dragging a bunch of legends out of retirement, Smackdown quietly showed that WWE can put on formidable shows with the current crop of talent who excel when they aren’t hampered by poor writing and poorer booking. A pleasant surprise, to say the least. Go out of your way to watch this one.

 

 

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