This week’s WWE Smackdown featured the return of Roman Reigns, plus Randy Orton facing Jimmy Uso and more US Title Contender’s Tournament matches.
It’s the last Smackdown taping of the year because they are doing this week’s show along with the December 22nd episode. The December 29th episode is likely a taped “best of’ kind of show since there is no TV taping that night, but they are doing live events that week. Speaking of that week, I think my 15th annual WWE Johnny Awards will be posted on either December 28th or 29th. I think it will be one of those days.
Last week’s episode of Smackdown was the Tribute to the Troops show that ended with Randy Orton & LA Knight beating The Bloodline’s Jimmy Uso & Solo Sikoa. This week they are bringing back the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns for the first time in over one month.
Let’s Hear from Roman Reigns
The show started with the “Tribal Chief” Roman Reigns making his entrance with Solo Sikoa, Jimmy Uso and “Wise Man” Paul Heyman. Together, they are known as The Bloodline. It took about four minutes for Reigns to get into the ring as usual.
Reigns: “Green Bay…acknowledge me.” There were a lot of boos with some cheers. Reigns told them to shut their mouths. Reigns said he was here to celebrate the Christmas season and the holidays. Reigns said that it was promotion season because he’s a good boss. Reigns said when somebody is doing good, they let them know and if they are doing bad then they smash them. Reigns said that this is about one man. Reigns said that this man understands what it means to keep this family at the top of the mountain. Reigns spoke about how if something happened to him, this is the man that is next in line and Jimmy Uso thought it was him. There were “Randy” chants for Orton, so Reigns said this ain’t for Randy. Reigns said that this is the next tribal heir, the next Tribal Chief and he told Jimmy to congratulate Jimmy’s brother…Solo Sikoa. Reigns hugged Solo. Reigns told Solo he loved him. Jimmy thought it was him the whole time, so that made it funny.
Randy Orton’s music hit as The Viper entered the arena to a big pop. Reigns wasn’t happy about it as the show went to break.
Analysis: That’s a weird spot for a commercial because it was in the middle of a promo with Randy Orton making his entrance. I think it’s because it was going to be a longer than usual promo, so WWE felt like they had to put it in there. Reigns endorsing Solo as the next Tribal Chief is a big deal for the future of the group. It was funny watching Jimmy acting like he thought it would be him and then Reigns made it clear that he was talking about Solo. Well done.
Let’s Hear from Randy Orton and Roman Reigns
Randy Orton was on the apron as his music kept on playing. There were loud “Randy” chants for Orton. Orton got into the ring saying that for 18 months, he had been thinking about this moment and what he was going to do and say. Orton told Reigns he was coming from him. Orton said that Reigns took 18 months away from him, so Orton will take everything from Reigns. Orton said that it starts tonight and ends at the Royal Rumble because he is challenging Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship. There were more “Randy” chants.
Roman Reigns said by the sound of the fans, it sounds like Orton deserves it. Reigns said that he hasn’t thought about Orton for 18 months at all. Reigns told Orton he hadn’t done anything to earn this opportunity, so he could go back to the back of the back of the line where he belonged. Reigns told Orton to listen to those voices in his head. Reigns said it isn’t 2007 because Reigns is levels above him and everybody else. Reigns told Orton that it wouldn’t be 18 months of vacation because it would be retirement and Orton wouldn’t ever come back.
Orton replied saying maybe Reigns was right. Orton said that Reigns has changed for the better. Orton spoke about how Reigns wasn’t just a historical champion, he was a legend. Orton claimed that he has changed and evolved too. Orton said that the one thing he will always be is a legend killer. The fans cheered that. Orton went for an RKO, but Reigns slipped out of it. Orton told Reigns he should start thinking about him. Orton claimed the voices in his head just told him that Reigns might have just crapped his pants. Orton said they also said: “Daddy’s back.” Orton left the ring while Reigns was furious about it.
Analysis: I like how that was done with Randy Orton playing some mind games with Roman Reigns and outsmarting him a bit. Orton had a great line about how Reigns might be a legend, but Orton is always going to be known as a Legend Killer, which was his nickname going back nearly 20 years in the early days of Orton’s career. They are obviously going with Reigns-Orton at the Royal Rumble and it’s clear that has been the direction for a few weeks now. This was a big segment to further the story since it was the first time Orton and Reigns interacted to set up the feud.
The commentary team was Michael Cole, Kevin Patrick & Corey Graves as they welcomed us to the show.
A video aired about former NXT and former two-time NXT North American Carmelo Hayes. It showed highlights of Melo in action along with a promo about how the US Title contender’s tournament is his moment.
Grayson Waller made his entrance for his match with Carmelo Hayes. That match was next.
Carmelo Hayes made his entrance. Logan Paul was shown doing a cell phone promo trashing Hayes while supporting his buddy Waller. The reaction for Melo was okay, but not that big.
United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Grayson Waller vs. Carmelo Hayes
Melo connected with a dropkick. Melo held Waller with an armbar leading to Waller punching Melo on the face. Melo came back with a chop. Melo countered a suplex into a cradle. Waller was back up with a jumping side kick. Melo got a headscissors followed by a kick that trapped Waller against the ropes. Melo hit a springboard leg drop to Waller. Melo hit a springboard clothesline followed by Melo clotheslining Waller over the top to the floor.
The match continued with Melo missing a move off the ropes and Waller jumped back into the ring with a flatliner for a two count. Melo came back with a clothesline along with a pump kick. Melo spun around Waller’s upper body leading to a facebuster into the mat. Melo went to the turnbuckle, but Waller tripped him up. Waller hit an impressive spinning leg drop to the back of the head for a two count. That was a cool move with the announcers getting very excited about it. Melo countered a move into a victory roll for two. Melo hit a superkick followed by a springboard DDT for two. Waller pulled on Melo’s arm against the ropes. Waller charged, but Melo hit a lung blower with the double knees. Melo went up top and hit the Nothing But Net leg drop to the back of the head for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Carmelo Hayes
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a very good match between two guys who have worked together several times in their NXT days. I’m glad that Melo picked up a win because if they brought him to Smackdown for one match just to have him lose would be a bit damaging to Melo. Instead, Melo picked up the big win and looked impressive in doing so.
Randy Orton was shown walking backstage where he walked up to LA Knight. Orton said that he didn’t need Knight’s help out there. Knight said Orton knows how those numbers work. Orton said that they were good, so Knight should stay out of his way. Knight claimed that there was one man who was going to take everything from Roman Reigns before everybody else and it’s LA Knight…yeah.
Analysis: It was a good segment to show that while Orton is focused on going after Reigns, LA Knight is going after Reigns too. It’s smart booking to have them chat like that to show that Knight is still coming after Reigns after losing cheaply at Crown Jewel last month.
Kevin Owens made his entrance for his match with a brace on his right hand.
This Monday on Raw: Seth Rollins addresses his Raw Day 1 match with Drew McIntyre, plus GUNTHER faces The Miz for the Intercontinental Title and The Judgment Day defends the WWE Tag Team Titles against The Creed Brothers. Two title matches on the final Raw of 2023. The Christmas Day Raw will be a taped “best of” style show.
A video aired about Kevin Owens injuring his right hand. Orton had a brace on his right hand to sell the storyline injury. After Austin Theory made his entrance, they showed Logan Paul doing another cell phone promo. Paul mocked Owens for his look saying he was embarrassing himself with the tank top look.
United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Austin Theory vs. Kevin Owens
Owens knocked down Theory with a shoulder tackle followed by an armbar. Owens got a lefty rollup. Owens did a lefty chop, but Theory overpowered KO with punches. Owens hit a back elbow as well as a senton splash. Theory bailed to the floor. They battled on the apron with Owens kicking Theory from the apron to the floor. Owens hit a cannonball off the apron onto Theory on the floor. Back in the ring, Theory rolled out of the ring to the apron. Theory did a necksnap across the top rope followed by Theory hitting a dropkick (with loud leg slap). Theory suplexed Owens on the apron leading to a break.
Owens was in control with a headbutt. Owens went up top and Owens hit a Frog Splash, but he was too hurt to cover right away. Owens covered after a few seconds leading to a two count. Owens jumped off the top with a Swanton Bomb, but Theory blocked by getting the knees up, so Theory covered for two. Theory got a bit of offense although Owens came back with stomps to the body. Owens hit a kick to the gut along with a shoulder tackle, atomic drop an Owens hit a one-armed DDT for two. Owens tried a Popup Powerbomb, then he sold a hand injury while going for that move and Owens hit a superkick. Owens went up top so he was sitting on the top rope and Theory jumped to the top leading to a top rope springboard Spanish Fly for just two. They left the ring where Theory was in control with a suplex onto the barricade along with Theory hitting a clothesline. Owens got back into the ring before the ten count. Theory hit a rolling Blockbuster neckbreaker for a two count. Owens managed to set up Theory upside down against the turnbuckle. Owens hit the cannonball splash against the turnbuckle. Owens went up top for a Swanton Bomb that led to a two count. Owens went for a Stunner, Theory got out of it and Theory kicked KO’s right arm. Theory rammed KO’s arm into the ring post and stomped on the right hand. Back in the ring, Owens shoved Theory into the ropes leading to Owens punching Theory in the face with Owens realizing that the arm brace gave Owens a weapon. Owens got the win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***1/2 I liked the match a lot with Owens getting plenty of offense while Theory went after the left arm throughout the match. Theory could have went after the left arm even more, but I wasn’t really bothered by it. Owens picking up the win is okay with me since he’s the bigger star while Theory has been losing a lot since coming to Smackdown. They just haven’t booked Theory that well in the last few months.
The final four in the US Title Contender’s Tournament: Bobby Lashley vs. Santos Escobar and Kevin Owens vs. Carmelo Hayes.
Roman Reigns was shown in The Bloodline’s dressing room. Reigns complained about what Randy Orton said. Jimmy Uso claimed he could silence Reigns, but he thinks that it could be a chop for the Tribal heir Solo Sikoa. Reigns told Jimmy it was promotion season so if you can silence Orton then you can get anything you want. Jimmy yelled “Yeet” so Reigns stared at him and Jimmy said “no yeet” to end it.
There were some members of the Green Bay Packers at ringside. That was RB Aaron Jones holding the Packers WWE Title.
A video aired about Karrion Kross talking to us about an urgent world event. Kross said that when he walked through the door, everything was set in motion. Kross said that this is a new beginning and everything is about to crumble. Kross asked if we can see it yet. Kross: “Soon…you will.”
Analysis: It sounds like there is some storyline plan for Kross. I don’t know what it is, but Kross rarely wins, so it will be interesting to see if Kross starts picking up wins.
Kevin Owens was shown walking backstage with Cameron Grimes congratulating Owens on the win. Kayla Braxton walked up to Owens asking about his upcoming match with Carmelo Hayes. Owens said he liked Hayes, who showed up for the interview. Hayes told Owens he had a ton of respect for him. Hayes claimed that he needs this more than Owens does. Melo said you’re not going to punch me in the face and you’re not going to “lil bro” me either. Melo left while Owens wasn’t sure what Melo meant there.
The announcers spoke about Charlotte Flair’s knee injury suffered last week against Asuka. Patrick said Flair will be out for nine months with a knee injury. That likely means it’s a Torn ACL injury.
Analysis: Best wishes to Charlotte Flair. That’s a long injury and recovery for her. I figured it was an ACL tear, which means a lengthy absence. That means we won’t see Charlotte most likely until around SummerSlam next year.
A video aired about Damage CTRL with Bayley talking about her plans for the group from day one. Bayley talked about IYO SKY’s greatness as the WWE Women’s Champion. Bayley talked about the Kabuki Warriors duo of Asuka & Kairi Sane becoming the Women’s Tag Team Champions. Bayley said that Dakota Kai was the mastermind of the group. Bayley said Asuka & Sane will become Women’s Tag Team Champions, Bayley will win the Royal Rumble and take the Women’s World Title from Rhea Ripley. They all laughed.
Analysis: That was a lot of confidence shown by the group. I think it was a good idea to add Asuka & Sane to the group to make them even stronger.
The Kabuki Warriors duo of Asuka & Kairi Sane made their entrance. Mia Yim & Zelina Vega attacked them from behind. Yim & Vega went into the ring because that tag team match was after a break.
Kabuki Warriors – Asuka & Kairi Sane (w/Dakota Kai) vs. Zelina Vega & Michin
The heel team of Asuka & Sane early in the match. Asuka and Sane hit running kicks to the body of Michin. Asuka applied an armbar leading to a hair pull on Michin. There was a backslide pin by Michin for two. Asuka got back up with a clothesline for two. Yim hit a vertical suplex. Yim kicked Sane away and Vega tagged in with clothesline. Vega hit a boot to the face of Sane followed by a running knee for two. Vega hit a hammerlock DDT on Sane. Vega went for a 619 kick, but I think Sane avoided it and hit a spinning back fist. Asuka tagged in with the Asuka Lock submission. Vega fought out of it and countered it into a pin for two. Michin tagged in with a headbutt to Asuka followed by a cradle leading to Michin bumping to her butt. Sane broke up the pin attempt. Vega went after Sane on the floor leading to Sane giving Vega an Alabama Slam onto the commentary table. Michin hit an overhead kick to Asuka. Kai was on the apron to distract the referee, so Bayley shoved Michin off the top rope. Asuka kicked Michin down. Sane was legal, Sane went up top and Sane hit the Insane Elbow on Michin for the pinfall win after six minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Kabuki Warriors – Asuka & Kairi Sane
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid tag team match with an obvious result as the Kabuki Warriors built some momentum to possibly set them up for a title match. I don’t think they needed Bayley out there to cheat to win, but it’s a way to show that Damage CTRL is always willing to use their numbers game advantage to pick up the win. Michin and Vega had no shot to win here. I certainly think that Asuka & Sane are going to be Women’s Tag Team Champions in early 2024.
They showed Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa in the dressing room. Jimmy said that Roman and Paul were talking for a long time. Jimmy asked his brother Solo if he would tell him if something were to happen to Jimmy. Solo said “I’m your brother” and then Solo extended his fingers on his right hand. That was all Solo said.
The Randy Orton-Solo Sikoa match was coming up.
There was a taped promo from Santos Escobar talking about the US Title Contender’s Tournament match. Escobar spoke about how he was going to take what he gave to Logan Paul and he’ll become the new US Champion.
Bobby Lashley was backstage in the locker room with The Street Profits duo of Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins standing in the background. Lashley told Santos he was just standing in his way.
Next week on Smackdown:
* US Championship Contender’s Tournament Semifinals: Bobby Lashley vs. Santos Escobar
* US Championship Contender’s Tournament Semifinals: Kevin Owens vs. Santos Escobar
* NXT North American Championship: Dragon Lee (c) vs. Butch
* Holiday Havoc 8-Woman Tag Team Match: Bianca Belair, Shotzi, Michin & Zelina Vega vs. Bayley, IYO SKY, Asuka & Kairi Sane
As I mentioned earlier, that show was taped after this week’s show.
Randy Orton made his entrance for the main event. Jimmy Uso made his entrance on his own.
Jimmy Uso vs. Randy Orton
Orton took control early and went for a DDT off the ropes. Jimmy slipped out of it and went to the floor. Jimmy said “timeout” as the show went to break.
Orton remained on offense with a belly-to-back suplex onto the commentary table. The fans were chanting “one more time” so Orton did it again. They were back in the ring with Orton punching Jimmy ten times while the fans chanted along with it. Orton did his usual bit stomping on Jimmy’s limbs. Jimmy went for a kick, Orton caught the foot and Jimmy came back with a spinning kick to the head. Jimmy worked over Orton with punches. Jimmy hit a running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Jimmy did some choking while Orton was against the middle rope. Jimmy worked over Orton with punches, but Jimmy hit nine of them and Orton hit a thumb poke to the eye. Orton wanted a DDT off the ropes, but Jimmy countered it with a back body drop over the top to the floor.
The match returned with Orton hitting a powerslam. Jimmy went to the apron, which was a big mistake as Orton hit him with a kick and Orton hit the draping DDT leading to Cole calling it “Vintage Orton” as usual. Orton set up for an RKO, but Solo Sikoa’s music played to interrupt. That led to Orton starting at Solo walking down to the ring. LA Knight’s music hit as Knight went after Solo with punches. Jimmy tried to attack Orton from behind, but Orton was ready with an RKO for the pinfall win. It went 15 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton
Analysis: *** It was obvious that Randy Orton was going to win there, so it’s like that result is going to surprise anybody watching at home. Jimmy didn’t get a believable nearfall in the match. I would have had Jimmy get a two count after Solo appeared to at least make it look like Orton could lose. Instead, Orton just stared at Solo and then Orton hit an RKO on Jimmy for the win.
After the match, Roman Reigns attacked Knight from behind with a forearm to the back. Orton wanted Reigns to get into the ring with him.
Reigns got into the ring with Orton as they exchanged punches. Jimmy was back up with a forearm to the back of Orton to knock him down. Reigns stomped on Orton repeatedly. Knight was back in with punches for The Bloodline guys. Solo Sikoa joined the fight with punches for Knight so it was 3-on-2 for the babyfaces.
AJ Styles’ music hit as AJ Styles made his phenomenal return after nearly three months away. Styles was on the apron and he hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Reigns. Styles connected with an enziguri kick. Knight hit a clothesline to clear the ring. The Bloodline retreated while the three faces stood tall in the ring. Styles grabbed Knight and Styles nailed Knight with a clothesline. The announcers were shocked: “Wait! What?” Styles stared out at The Bloodline. Styles walked right by The Bloodline as the fans booed Styles for his actions.
Randy Orton’s music played as he stood in the ring with Knight. The announcers went over the matches coming up on next week’s show. Orton and Reigns continued to stare at eachother from a distance. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: A lot was going on there. First of all, welcome back to AJ Styles. It was a good spot to bring back Styles since The Bloodline took out Styles three months ago. As for Styles going after Knight, I think what they can say is that Knight took AJ’s spot as John Cena’s tag team partner when Styles got taken out by The Bloodline, so Styles is angry about that. I wouldn’t mind seeing Styles as a heel again with The OC watching his back. Anyway, we’ll likely get Reigns-Orton at the Royal Rumble, but it’s not official yet.
Three Stars of the Show
- Randy Orton/Roman Reigns
- Kevin Owens
- Carmelo Hayes
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 7.25
2023 Average: 7.24
Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown
I thought it was a very good Smackdown episode that was definitely better than the last couple of weeks. The presence of Roman Reigns helps because everything he’s involved in feels like a big deal. I liked the Randy Orton promo with Reigns. They’re going to meet at Royal Rumble, but it’s not official yet. Orton’s match with Jimmy Uso was fine, albeit very predictable. Post match was also done well with AJ Styles making his return after three months away. Styles stood tall with Orton and LA Knight, but then Styles clotheslined Knight. I guess AJ might be jealous that Knight got to team with John Cena since Styles was taken out in the storyline. It will be interesting to see how they play that.
The two US Title Contender’s Tournament matches were entertaining. Carmelo Hayes was impressive beating Grayson Waller and Kevin Owens had a crafty finish for his match with Austin Theory. Hayes faces Owens next week in a match that was taped after this week’s show.
They said that Charlotte Flair is going to be out for about nine months. That’s a major knee surgery and long rehab, so best wishes to her. I know some fans don’t like Charlotte, but she’s been very durable for a decade in WWE. I feel bad for her having to deal with that kind of injury while missing out on some huge shows next year. Best wishes to her.
Thanks for reading. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. You can contact me using any of the methods below.