12/2 WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT: Keller’s report and anlaysis of World Cup Tournament Final with Ricochet vs. Escobar, Sami vs. Sheamus, more Bray Wyatt, Tegan Nox returns

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor


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

KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
DECMEBER 2, 2022
BUFFALO, N.Y.
AIRED LIVE ON FS1

Commentators: Michael Cole, Wade Barrett

[HOUR ONE]

-Michael Cole introduced the show and touted WarGames from the prior weekend.

-Sami Zayn, The Usos, and Solo Sikoa walked out. Cole said even though Sami is wearing an “Honorary Uce” t-shirt, he’s now a full-fledged member. They went to split screen during the ring entrance of Sami and company; they aired clips of The Bloodline’s WarGames match. The graphic at the end noted it’s officially the most watched Survivor Series in history.

As the music faded, Jey said, “The Bloodline is now in your city.” (This catch phrase avoids having to memorize what city they’re in.) As Sami began bragging up the Usos, Jimmy interrupted him and said, “No, no, no. I told you tonight is about you.” He said the fans were chatting “Sami Uso!” Fans began the chant. Jey said he doubted him for a long time and he didn’t like him, but when he chose to stay with the family, he earned his respect. “It was because of you we won WarGames,” he said. Sami said it was too much and he doesn’t know what to say.

Jimmy asked how he was feeling. Fans yelled, “Ucey! Ucey!” Sami said right now he’s feeling “pretty freakin’ Usey, baby!” Sami and Jimmy were about to shake hands mid-ring, and they called Jey to join them. They did their secret handshake thing. Solo stood by, arms crossed, looking stern.

Sheamus walked out and said he hates to beat the bullocks out of a fellow ginger, but it’s Fight Night.

(1) SAMI ZAYN (w/The Usos, Solo Sikoa) vs. SHEAMUS (w/Butch, Ridge Holland)

The bell rang about eight minutes into the show. A minute in, after Sheamus threw Sami into the ringside barricade, they cut to a break. [c]

Sami took over and landed a tornado DDT for a two count. Sami attempted to forearm Sheamus’s chest over the top rope, but Sheamus grabbed his forearm and back elbowed himself free. Sheamus put Sami in a cloverleaf. Sami reached the bottom rope to force a break. Sami ducked a charging Sheamus and then landed a running flip dive over the top rope onto Sheamus. They cut to a break. [c]

Sami was on the top rope after the break, but Sheamus knocked him off balance. Sami head-butted Sheamus off of him. When he leaped off the top rope toward Sheamus, Sheamus kneed him out of mid-air and scored a near fall. Sheamus set up a second rope White Noise, but Sami turned it into a sunset flip for a near fall. Sami stood and set up a Helluva kick, but Sheamus countered him with a White Noise for a two count. Both were slow to get up.

Sheamus stood and set up a Brogue Kick, but Sami rolled to the apron. Sheamus grabbed him and hit him with his signature 20 forearms to the chest bent over the top rope. Sheamus played to the crowd to a mixed response as he signaled for his Brogue Kick. He pounded his chest and then had to fend off Jimmy on the ring apron. Sami ran up behind Sheamus and applied a sleeper. Jimmy kicked Sheamus and then Sami landed a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Holland and Butch ran around to the Usos and brawled with them. Solo joined in, attacking Holland and then Butch. He gave his Spinning Solo to Butch against the ringside barricade. Sami charged at Sheamus, but Sheamus gave him a Helluva kick. Jey superkicked Sheamus as Jimmy distracted the ref, and Sami rolled up Sheamus for the pin.

WINNER: Sami in 19:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: Despite playing to the crowd and acknowledging the cheers to a certain degree, Sami and the Usos still cheated to win. They’re still being framed, ultimately, as heels. The announcers didn’t cast judgment on the interference with their tone as they would with most heels who cheat to win. The fans love Sami, and they love the Usos because they have accepted Sami, but it’s more a matter of when this is proven to be “too good to be true.” The match was good.)

-They went to Cole and Barrett on camera who threw to a vignette on Legado del Fantasma. Santos Escobar talked about the Smackdown World Cup. He said winning the tournament shines a spotlight on Mexico and will make sure the Intercontinental Title ends up in the perfect enterprise. Zelina Vega said Santos is the best the industry has to offer, and the results will speak for themselves. She said the IC Title will give them unprecedented power in WWE. Escobar said Ricochet made it this far, but his fate now will be coming to it’s final chapter.

-Cole and Barrett hyped the World Cup Final later – Ricochet vs. Escobar. [c]

-A Royal Rumble commercial aired.

-Megan Morant interviewed Kofi Kingston backstage. He said he is the first WWE Superstar to announce he will be in the Royal Rumble. She asked for his prediction for Ricochet vs. Escobar. Imperium interrupted and said Kingston spends more time online than in an actual wrestling ring, so why ask him. Kingston said if they want a match, his partner Xavier isn’t there, but he’d wrestle either of them. “Who is it going to be?” he asked. Gunther said he’ll fight him. Kofi wasn’t expecting him to step up. Kofi said it’s alright, though.

-Bray Wyatt stood backstage in a storage area. He talked about the lavish lifestyle they lead with cutting-edge technology. He said they forget that once upon a time they were wild animals. He said people look at animals trying to survive, not as being violent. He said those primal instincts are ingrained in all of them, but they carry on in their place in society, suppressing those instincts. A slo-mo clip played of Bray slapping L.A. Knight. “We don’t talk about these things because we don’t want to be the freak, right?” he said. “But they’re still there. I’m not the one who hurt L.A. Knight.” They aired clips of Knight being crushed under equipment backstage. He said he didn’t do it, but he heard him. “And how you rejoiced,” he said. “How primal of you.” He said if he had been the one, everyone would know because there’d have been nothing left of him.

(Keller’s Analysis: Sinister and well-delivered. Still a mystery, but I think there’s more trust than in past incarnations of Bray that this isn’t just empty platitudes to sound spooky, but rather it is part of a slow reveal of something with a real payoff coming. At least I hope so. They’re not testing my patience yet, and I remain intrigued and have faith – perhaps hopeful faith more than justified faith – that there’s a good payoff coming around the bend.)

-Footage aired of Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey attacking Shotzi and Raquel Rodriguez and then footage of the Rousey-Shotzi match at Survivor Series.

-Shayna Baszler made her ring entrance. Cole said Rousey isn’t at Smackdown this week since she’s off doing p.r. after her win at Survivor Series. Barrett said Baszler is going to tear apart some more limbs. [c]

-Madcap Moss approached Emma who talked about how tough the competition is this time around. Moss said she can’t forget who she is and that the Women’s Revolution wouldn’t have happened if not for her. He said competition is tough, but she belongs there amidst that competition. “You got this,” he said. She smiled and kissed his cheek.

(2) SHAYNA BASZLER vs. EMMA

Emma made her ring entrance, which begins with her saying, “It’s all about me.” That doesn’t seem to fit her anymore. Cole brought up Bad News Barrett, and Barrett said they should bring that back. Barrett said Emma needs to remind everyone who she is and the talent that helped put women’s wrestling back on the map. (This seems to be overstating her influence and impact from her last stint quite a bit.) Baszler grounded Emma early and focused on her left arm. Emma tried a comeback but her arm was weak. Emma landed a neck breaker off the second rope for a near fall. Baszler went for an underhook suplex, but couldn’t get Emma up. Emma got Baszler tied up in the ropes. When Emma went to the top rope, Baszler knocked her down and applied a Kirafuda Clutch for the win. Cole said Baszler tapped out “a very game Emma tonight.”

WINNER: Baszler in 4:00.

-After the match, Baszler attacked Emma and was about to stomp on her elbow when Shotzi ran out for the save. Baszler fended her off and landed a knee to the head. “How dangerous is Shayna Baszler?” asked Barrett. Cole said Shotzi was overzealous. Baszler was about to stomp on Shotzi’s elbow when Rodriguez charged out for the save. Baszler looked up and smiled. She then dropped to the floor when the three stood and stared at her. Rodriguez had her arm in an immobilizer.

(Keller’s Analysis: Emma is a good addition to the Women’s Division mid-card to be in matches and angles like that. She’s likable and experienced, but this finish does signal that she’s not headed toward a top tier push.)

-They went to Cole and Barrett at ringside. Cole said “there is more talent on the way as Lacey Evans is heading back to basics.”

-A video feature aired on Evans in military pants and a USMC t-shirt, jogging on a road. A narrator said she got lost in the crowd with the whiners and “something had to change.” The graphic closed with “The Mission Begins.”

(Keller’s Analysis: Wow. Another Lacey reboot.)

-Kofi Kingston made his ring entrance. Cole hyped his match against Gunther.

-A commercial for Raw hyped the tag title match and JBL in another “epic poker game.” [c]

-They showed postcard shots of Buffalo.

-A vignette aired on Ricochet who talked about what it would mean for him to win the Smackdown World Cup. Clips aired of him training and doing highspots as he said winning would mean everything. He said he’d be ready.

(Keller’s Analysis: That was one of the best minutes on WWE TV Ricochet has had in terms of coming across as a star and hiding his weaknesses on the mic while still letting him talk and tell his story. Smart segment.)

[HOUR TWO]

(3) GUNTHER (w/Ludvig Kaiser, Giovanni Vinci) vs. KOFI KINGSTON

The announcers talked about Kingston entering himself in the Rumble. Cole said he wants to make amends for things going wrong for him last time. Barrett talked about the soccer World Cup a little. After a chop by Gunther, Cole called him “a human defibrillator.” Kofi made a comeback and kicked Gunther, who dropped to the floor. As Kofi ran the ropes to set up a dive, Ludvig Kaiser tripped him. Braun caught Vinci diving at him and threw him into the time keeper’s area. He did the same to Kaiser next. Kingston gave Gunther an S.O.S. for a near fall. Cole declared that “Kofi’s got a fighting chance!” as they cut to a break at 4:00. [c]

Kofi controlled action after the break and landed a Boom Drop. Gunther charged at him a minute later, but Kofi kicked him and landed a top rope splash to Gunther’s back as he was kneeling over. He got a two count. Gunther chopped Kofi out of mid-air. Barrett called it a game changer. Gunther landed a German suplex for a two count. He applied a Boston crab next. Then he shifted into a crossface. Gunther landed a dropkick. Barrett asked where there is a weakness in Gunther. Gunther landed a powerbomb for a near fall. Cole said Gunther was ticked off. Gunther chopped Kofi. Kofi chopped back, but Gunther then powerslammed Kingston for a three count. Cole said that new move from Gunther was called The Symphony. Cole said Gunther told him earlier he was working on a new finisher.

WINNER: Gunther in 12:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: Kofi was competitive in that match without sacrificing anything from Gunther. It just made Gunther’s win feel bigger because Kofi was so tough throughout.)

-Backstage Sami was typing in the security code to lock up the Bloodline locker room when the Usos and Solo walked up to him. Sami said he hoped they were hungry because he knew a great late night spot. Jimmy told Sami to let Solo go with him because he’s been making a lot of enemies lately. Sami asked Solo if he was good with that. Solo nodded. Sami clapped and they headed out. Jimmy then told Jey he can’t believe he’s happy Sami is with them, and he stirred trouble by asking Jey if he’s ever confronted Sami about lying to his face. Jey said he’s okay with things because Roman Reigns said he looked Sami in the eyes and was okay with him. Sheamus then attacked them with his Shillelagh.

(Keller’s Analysis: A new little plot-development dropped in there with Jimmy asking Jey about confronting Sami about lying to him. Every week there’s a little something that adds a different dynamic between key players. That was interesting. What is Jimmy up to by bringing that up anyway? Will Sami and Solo get along off premises?) [c]

-Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai stood mid-ring. Bailey told a fan to shut up and sit down “with your dumb hats.” She said they don’t want to be in stupid Buffalo anyway. She said they were in WarGames less than a week ago and the three of them combined were in the match for 99 minutes and 19 seconds. She asked if any of the “idiots” realize the magnitude of that and what it does to their bodies. “Of course you don’t,” she said.

Liv Morgan interrupted and said it appears Bayley has a problem with the Smackdown women’s locker room. She charged to the ring despite three-to-one odds. She yanked Kai out of the ring and threw her into the ringside steps. Next she threw Kai into the barricade. She then tackled Bayley, but Kai and Sky made the quick save and began stomping away at Morgan. Tegan Nox ran to the ring. “Tegan Nox is back in WWE!” exclaimed Cole. Cole talked about the “long, tumultuous history between Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai.” Morgan used a kendo stick to help clear the ring of the heel trio.

(Keller’s Analysis: There’s some risk in bringing women onto Smackdown in front of 2 million-plus viewers and having the announcers act like they’re well-known despite only largely being seen by around 500,000 give or take on NXT more than a year or two back. Triple H is at risk of letting his familiarity with these wrestlers from NXT lead to him overestimating the inherent interest fans will have in them on the bigger shows. They can always build up her character and background in coming weeks, but it can lead to a flat start.)

-Cole and Barrett hyped the main event Smackdown World Cup Final including highlights of the finalists victories in the tournament to get to the Final.

-They went to Cole and Barrett at ringside. Barrett picked Escobar to win. Cole picked Ricochet. Cole said this would be the first time Escobar and Ricochet met one-on-one in a WWE ring. [c]

-A graphic touted that Survivor Series viewership was 46 percent higher than last year.

-A vignette aired with Karrion Kross and Scarlett. He said the universe is chaos and randomness. He said he embraces that reality, but others struggle with it. He mentioned Madcap Moss and Drew McIntyre as people whom he taught lessons to. He said now it’s time to take someone else into the eye of the storm. Scarlett drew Rey Mysterio’s card from a deck. Kross looked at it and smiled.

-Cole hyped the Usos defending against Matt Riddle & Elias next week on Raw. Cole hyped The Usos or Riddle & Elias would face McIntyre & Sheamus next Friday on Smackdown live from Pittsburgh, Pa. They also announced Shotzi vs. Shayna Baszler for next Friday. Cole noted Ronda Rousey would be back. Also, Kurt Angle would be celebrating his birthday in Pittsburgh. His birthday actually is next Friday.

-A creepy video aired with what sounded like Bray Wyatt’s voice and the Uncle Howdy mask saying, “Revel in what you are.”

(4) SANTOS ESCOBAR (w/Zelina Vega, Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro) vs. RICOCHET – Smackdown World Cup Final

Zelina joined Cole and Barrett at ringside. The bell rang 37 minutes into the hour. Ricochet landed a dive through the ropes on Escobar seconds into the match. Wilde distracted Ricochet on the ring apron, slowing down Ricochet’s follow-up. Escobar re-entered the ring and battled Ricochet. Cruz distracted the ref as Wilde shoved Ricochet off the top rope. The ref kicked them from ringside. Zelina was upset, but Cole said the ref was doing the right thing to make sure the match was fair. Barrett said the miracle Ricochet needed has happened. When Zelina protested on the ring apron, the ref kicked her out too. Cole celebrated that they were going to have a one-on-one match next. [c]

Escobar dove through the ropes and knocked Ricochet hard into the announce desk. He almost went head-first into the side of the desk himself which could’ve compressed his neck badly. Back in the ring, Escobar scored a two count. A few minutes later, Ricochet connected with a shooting star press off the ring apron onto Escobar on the floor. They cut to a second mid-match break. [c]

Back from the break, both men were down on the mat. They replayed a Ricochet superplex during the break. They collided mid-air mid-ring a minute later. They went to a wide shot of the crowd as Cole reset the match and the stakes. Ricochet pursued Escobar at ringside. He walked the barricade. Escobar joined him. They battled on the ledge. Escobar used a huracanrana to yank Ricochet hard to the mat at ringside. Escobar threw Ricochet back into the ring and scored a near fall.

Escobar and Ricochet battled on the top turnbuckle next. Ricochet knocked Escobar to the mat and then stood on the top rope. Escobar met him up there. They balanced on the top rope and Escobar took Ricochet down with a huracanrana, but Ricochet landed on his feet. Ricochet had a competitive look on his face when he landed. He hit Escobar with a springboard moonsault for a near fall at 18:00.

Ricochet dropkicked Escobar into the corner. Escobar took a weird bump to the mat and then obviously began suspiciously shifting himself into perfect position for Ricochet’s top rope move. Ricochet leaped off the top rope, but Escobar lifted his knees and then scored a near fall. Barrett said he “suckered” Ricochet into that move. Escobar lifted Ricochet onto his shoulders and set up his Phantom Driver, but Ricochet countered with a roll-up. Escobar gave Ricochet a sudden poison rana for a near fall. Escobar couldn’t believe Ricochet kicked out.

Ricochet gave Escobar a poison rana off the top rope a minute later. Escobar stood. Ricochet kneed him and landed a spinning hook kick. He climbed to the top rope and landed a 630 splash for the win.

WINNER: Ricochet in 22:00 to win the Smackdown World Cup.

(Keller’s Analysis: Really good showcase for those two. They were given plenty of time to have a special match, and they did. Every move counted and by the end it felt like a big win for Ricochet over someone who hadn’t been defined down at all on Smackdown yet. The Smackdown World Cup gave Smackdown some fresh meaningful match-ups and culminated in this match that, without the Cup at stake, wouldn’t have seemed worthy of headlining Smackdown or being given 22 minutes. But it all worked out really well.)

-Ricochet celebrated with the trophy on the stage as pyro blasted. Gunther’s music played. Cole said reality was setting in as Ricochet would face Gunther for the IC Title in two weeks in Chicago. The show closed with a stare down and Ricochet having words for Gunther.

FINAL THOUGHTS: That was a really good episode of Smackdown. Well-paced book-ended by strong feature matches and a surprisingly good and competit ive match in the middle. The talking segments were good, too, and the vignettes really built the main event well. The highlight was the main event, but it was on its way to being a good overall show even before that. It’s a shame a much smaller audience will see this because of it being bumped from Fox onto FS1 this week due to college football.

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