SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Save the Best for First
The cage match to start the show between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was not only the best match on the show, but it was the best WWE cage match in many, many years. This match did not seem like a second rate Hell in Cell, which cage matches so often do these years. Instead it felt like the proper intent of a cage match coming to fruition paired with incredible intensity – specifically by Owens- and great action. The ending was creative and managed to serve the multiple purposes of protecting Owens, turning Jey Uso full-fledged heel, and keeping Reigns as a star that is larger than life, but still cheats to win. As a long time fan, I loved the idea of having a match with cage door being slammed on someone’s head on the 38th anniversary of the WCCW cage match between Kerry Von Erich and Ric Flair with Michael Hayes as the referee. Bonus points to Paul Heyman who appeared to be living his best life throughout the segment, clearly enjoying the masterpiece come together.
•New Year’s Resolution
Daniel Bryan had a fantastic night. His match with Jey Uso was representative of the best of Smackdown in 2020 featuring two of the backbones of the entire brand. Bryan, though, was especially motivated and fought with a passion that burst from the screen, perhaps due to what awaits him on the other side of the New Year. His win was big enough to indicate that Bryan is on a path towards a universal championship program, but it was his promo indicating his intention to win the Royal Rumble that set the table for an exciting 2021 for Daniel Bryan.
For the first time in ages, the women’s division seemed stacked due to the all-star cast of female competitors in the triple threat elimination tag match. This is in obvious thanks to Charlotte Flair’s return and subsequent tag title win with Asuka enabling them to appear on both brands, and this match showed several exciting combinations for future programs awaiting us. There were moments of messiness, and Bianca Belair does read of a being green compared to the others, but the star power alone was enough to make this feel special. It’s difficult to see what challenge awaits Sasha Banks in the immediate future, however, the concept of feuds with Flair and Belair is enough to have hope.
•Big E Extravaganza
The spectacle of confetti and wrestlers carrying a conquering warrior on their shoulders tends to be saved to signify a moment of great importance. Perhaps this week was the start of a major star making run for Big E, and if that’s the case, WWE made all right moves. This included an excellent match with an opponent performing at a top quality level in Sami Zayn, a gimmick match set up that actually made sense to the story, and a solid, definitive win. I remain skeptical about the long term prospects for Big E due to his worst instincts as a performer peaking through in a way that undercuts his need for a serious tone and a need for an overhaul of his signature move set. Regardless, this indeed was as hit and a good foot forward for Big E.
•Healing of the Heels
Jey Uso, Bayley, and Sami Zayn all suffered losses last night. Yet they maintain all of the credibility they had entering into the show due to their overall outstanding performances and the quality of writing that has gone into defining them despite a relatively shallow roster of heels. All three remain ready to be significant players into the new year and are imperative in the creation of new faces, which is where the real need exists.
•A Gift Worth Opening
This week’s show was a great one and hopefully will be the start of a renewed tradition of great WWE wrestling for Christmas week to look forward to annually. This is not the type of show that we can expect to see every week with so few promos and storyline elements, but this felt special with a Clash of the Champions style card and an uncharacteristic of WWE quality of avoiding going full-on cheesy for the holiday. Most importantly it was a show that wrestling fans would not be embarrassed to share with family members that might be checking in for the first time in a while due to the holiday and could be a gateway to renewing interest in an already rejuvenated Smackdown brand.
There were absolutely no major misses on this show which is amazing considering the history of low-quality holiday shows WWE has produce over the years.
Was there really no one to catch Charlotte saying Christmas came early on a show designed to air in the final moments of the holiday? Why did Corey Graves dress like a Janet Jackson backup dancer circa Rhythm Nation era for Christmas? Do we really need to continue to kick off every show with the awkward thunderclaps and patting ourselves on the back about the Thunderdome?