This week’s WWE Smackdown episode saw the return of the Universal Champion Roman Reigns, who was off the show last week while Brock Lesnar continues to make his presence felt.
While Reigns missed last week’s edition of Smackdown due to being given the week off for a family vacation, his WWE Day 1 PPV opponent Brock Lesnar continued to make life difficult for poor Sami Zayn. Even though Lesnar teased a friendship with Zayn, Lesnar delivered another attack on Zayn after Roman’s “Special Counsel” Paul Heyman did a promo hyping up Lesnar just like he used to. How will Reigns react to what Heyman did? We’ll find out on Smackdown.
From the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, this is Smackdown for episode #1165. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Let’s get to it.
The show began with a recap of the Lesnar/Zayn interaction last week while Paul Heyman fired up Lesnar with a promo. That led to Lesnar beating up Zayn. Later in the show, Heyman realized he had to answer to Roman Reigns about what Heyman did in terms of hyping up Lesnar. That brings us to this week’s show.
It was a packed house in Chicago’s Allstate Arena, which is one of WWE’s favorite venues. The commentary team was Michael Cole and Pat McAfee as usual. Smackdown starts off with a match this week. That’s a nice change since it usually begins with a promo.
Sasha Banks made her entrance while her tag team partner Toni Storm was already in the ring. Banks had some Spider-man inspired gear, which is cool. Shotzi was up as one of the heel opponents and she was joined by the Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. Big reaction for Flair, who was disqualified in a singles match against Storm last week.
Sasha Banks & Toni Storm vs. Charlotte Flair & Shotzi
Storm worked over Shotzi with a side headlock takedown, Shotzi with a leg scissors and Storm escaped that hold. Shotzi with an armbar, Storm broke free with a kick and Banks tagged in with Shotzi tagging in Flair, which led to the “WOO” chants as Flair faced off with Banks. There was an impressive headscissors takedown by Banks, then a few pin attempts and Storm tagged in with punches. Flair with a forearm to Storm and then Flair kicked Banks off the apron to the floor. Storm did a hiptoss takeover into a pin, Shotzi broke up the pin and sent Storm out of the ring. Banks and Storm were on the floor as the show went to break.
The match continued with Banks & Storm hitting a double team suplex on Shotzi leading to Storm getting a two count. Banks sent Shotzi into the turnbuckle, Storm in for a punch, Banks back in to block a kick and Banks hit a knee to the head. Banks knocked Flair off the apron, so Shotzi punched Banks. Flair tagged in with a hard chop on Banks, who went to the floor and Flair whipped Banks into the barricade. Back in the ring, Flair hit a backbreaker for a two count. Shotzi tagged back in going for a move against the ropes, Banks moved, Shotzi hit the ropes and Storm got the tag. Storm with atomic drops to Shotzi along with a forearm. Storm tried sending Shotzi into the ropes, but Flair tagged in and hit a fallaway slam that led to Storm rolling out of the ring to the floor. The faces were out on the floor again as the show went to commercial for the second time in this match.
The match returned with Flair trying to keep Storm from tagging out, but Storm kicked Flair and Banks tagged in with an arm drag across the ring. Banks countered a Flair slam into a cross body block for a two count. That was cool. Banks hit the running knees on Flair twice for a two count. They exchanged strikes, Banks got a rollup for two and Banks did a Mysterio-like counter of a move into a bulldog. Banks went up top, Storm tagged in and Flair avoided a move from Banks. Sasha with a Backstabber to Banks, Flair tossed Banks out of the ring and Storm jumped off the top with a cross body block for a two count. Great nearfall there. Flair countered a Storm move by sending Toni into the turnbuckle. Flair went up top, the first moonsault missed, Charlotte went for another moonsault, Storm got the knees up to block and then Storm did a cool jackknife pin on Flair to get the win after 18 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Sasha Banks & Toni Storm
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good match that started out slow in segment one, got better in the middle portion and was really hot by the end. If you watched it, did you hear how loud that pop was for Storm’s cross body block spot for a two count? The fans thought that was it and it was a simple cross body block off the top. I like how Storm won the match by countering the double moonsault with the knees up leading to the pin. Sometimes women’s matches on Smackdown are too short, so I’m glad that they got time. I think it’s a smart strategy to have Storm team with Banks and Shotzi team with Flair because it’s a way to elevate the newer women by having them team with the more established stars. This could definitely lead to Storm getting a title shot against Flair since Flair was disqualified against Storm last week as well.
Storm and Banks celebrated with Storm looking so happy about the win. Flair was angry about the loss.
King Xavier Woods was sitting on a ridiculous throne with Kofi Kingston standing by and some other babyface wrestlers like Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura, Rick Boogs, Mansoor were there. The Usos walked up to make fun of how silly Woods looked. It led to The New Day saying they’ll beat The Usos in a match tonight and then at Day 1 for the Tag Team Titles. The Usos agreed. That was it.
Analysis: I like New Day and The Usos as much as anybody. I have reviewed their matches many times over the years. I just think just doing that as a regular tag team match two weeks before the title match doesn’t feel that interesting to me. Let’s see them against different opponents or set up a six-man tag. Just do something a little different.
The Viking Raiders made their entrance.
The Progressive Match Flo replay showed Xia Li’s debut last week when she helped Naomi against Sonya Deville, Shayna Baszler and Natalya.
Natalya was interviewed by Megan Morant with Natalya talking about how she’s a Guinness World Record Holder that has the most matches and most pay-per-view matches of any woman in WWE history. Natalya laughed about Xia Li saying she was “protecting” when she attacked Natalya next week. Natalya said that Xia Li is a nobody while Natalya is the Best of All Time and Natalya threatened Li if she ever got in her face again.
Analysis: I like Natalya in heel mode. I think she’s at her best that way. Bragging about the Guinness World Records makes her look like an egomaniac, so it also leads to the audience wanting to see her get her ass kicked.
The Raw Rebound was shown with highlights of this past Monday’s Raw. Bobby Lashley beat Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Big E in individual singles matches. That means that Big E will defend the WWE Title against Owens, Rollins and Lashley at WWE Day on January 1 in a Fatal 4-Way match. Read my Raw review here if you missed it.
Jinder Mahal and Shanky made their entrance for tag team action.
Jinder Mahal & Shanky vs. The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar)
The match started during the break with the Raiders working over Mahal with Ivar hitting a knee to the ribs while Erik hit a knee to the head. Mahal with a jumping knee on Erik. Shanky tagged in with a boot to the face followed by a sidewalk slam. Shanky with a back elbow to the face. Shanky with a hard chop to the chest followed by a clothesline. Mahal worked over Erik over in the corner with a knee to the face along with a clothesline. Mahal with a chinlock, Erik broke free, Ivar with a running cross body block. Ivar with a cartwheel into a clothesline on Mahal. Erik tagged in so he can slam Ivar onto Mahal for a two count. Mahal with a jawbreaker on Erik, Shanky tagged in, Erik avoided him and Ivar tagged in with a splash. Erik slammed Ivar onto Shanky into the turnbuckle. Erik with a belly to belly suplex on Mahal. Ivar went up top with a big splash for the pinfall win after five minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar)
Analysis: **1/4 A solid tag team match with the big man Ivar showing off his athleticism like we have seen him do before. I thought maybe Mahal/Shanky would get the win, but I’m happy with the result because the Viking Raiders needed a win. That was the most offense I’ve seen from Shanky in a match. A lot of his moves were basic things that a big guy should be doing (sidewalk slam, chop, boot to the face, etc.), so at least he’s progressing at least.
They showed a replay of last week’s Smackdown when Drew McIntyre jammed his sword into the wooden desk of Adam Pearce. Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss stole the desk with the sword in it.
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss were shown with the wooden desk that still had the sword in it. They wheeled it in the backstage area.
Analysis: Is it realistic that they would still have the wooden desk one week after they stole it in a different city? No, but I guess they could say they put it on one of the WWE trucks that travels from city to city, so I guess that’s a way to explain it. I’m reaching here, I know!
A commercial aired for Edge vs. The Miz at WWE Day 1 on January 1.
They showed the parking lot area with a black car arriving at the building, Paul Heyman opened the door and it was Brock Lesnar warring the overalls again. Lesnar laughed at Heyman being there. Heyman said he was expecting somebody else. Lesnar said: “Maybe Roman? Good luck with that.” Lesnar patted Heyman on the chest.
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss made their entrance looking happy as usual. The wooden desk with the sword in it was in the middle of the ring part of the set. Corbin said it was a luxury item that was a hat rack, you could cut a cigar and even cut your nails with it. Moss told one of his bad jokes making fun of Drew McIntyre without his sword, so the fans booed. There were “CM Punk” chants, but then they went away quickly so WWE muted them or the fans stopped. Moss had two more bad jokes about Drew, which drew more boos from the crowd. Corbin said that he wanted Moss to have the sword in honor of his razor-sharp wit. Moss tried to pull the sword out of the desk, but he couldn’t do it. Moss admitted he really can’t get the sword out, so Corbin tried and he failed as well. Corbin and Moss tried together, Drew McIntyre’s music hit and Cole said, “Thank God.” I think a lot of the audience agrees with that.
Drew McIntyre made his entrance to a good pop from the crowd that was sick of this Happy Talk segment. Drew asked if they were having some “performance issues” and hit Moss with a microphone. McIntyre tossed Moss out of the ring. McIntyre with a Glasgow Kiss headbutt on Corbin. Drew managed to pull Angela the sword out of the desk. Moss saved Corbin from being attacked with the sword. The fans popped for Drew with the sword.
Analysis: This felt like a waste of time for the most part. It was pretty obvious what was coming there with Drew McIntyre interrupting the promo to kick some ass and get the sword back. The heels talk show segment that began this segment went on for way too long. I laughed when Cole said “Thank God” because it dragged on a lot. I felt the same way. We knew what was going to happen, so get to the point quicker. That’s all.
Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville were in their office. Sami Zayn walked up to them saying his lawyer said he didn’t need a neckbrace, they thought he meant doctor, but he said lawyer. Sami wished them a Happy Holiday even though he didn’t like the commercialization aspect of the holidays. Zayn said that he cared about the spirit of the holidays saying he liked the spirit of giving. Zayn complained about being robbed of his Universal Title opportunity because Brock Lesnar attacked him, so he wanted a Universal Title shot. Zayn mentioned his past as an Intercontinental Champion, so Pearce cut him off. Pearce said that next week there’s a 12 Days of Christmas 12 Man Gauntlet Match with the winner getting an Intercontinental Title match. Zayn wasn’t sure about that because he might have to beat 11 guys, but then he agreed to be a part of it. Zayn left.
Analysis: That’s a long match for next week’s Smackdown on Christmas Eve. They are taping next week’s Smackdown tonight, so the roster will be off for Christmas Eve, which is good for the wrestlers.
Sheamus made his entrance with his buddy Ridge Holland. Cesaro entered as the opponent. During Cesaro’s entrance, Pat McAfee said that Sheamus tossed Cesaro out like Shad Khan tossed Urban Meyer out of Jacksonville. Holland hit Cesaro in the ribs with a billy club. The referee checked on Cesaro out of the ring because the match didn’t begin yet.
Analysis: The Shad Khan line is interesting because he is the father of Tony Khan and also the financial backer of All Elite Wrestling. The Khan family owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and fired head coach Meyer earlier in the week. I’m sure McAfee saying the line will get internet wrestling fans talking. It’s not a big deal, but people will think it is.
Cesaro had his ribs taped by a trainer and the bell rang to begin the match.
Ridge Holland (w/Sheamus) vs. Cesaro
Holland with running knees to the ribs followed by a backbreaker with the knee hitting the ribs of Cesaro. Holland drove his knee into the ribs of Cesaro with a submission move on the mat. Holland with a headbutt to the ribs. Holland applied an abdominal stretch along with punches to the ribs. Cesaro with an uppercut followed by a belly to back suplex. Cesaro sent Holland over the top to the floor along with a running uppercut while on the floor. Cesaro sent Holland back in while staring at Sheamus, who distracted Cesaro and Holland hit Cesaro in the ribs. Holland with a powerslam (like a cradle powerslam) for the pinfall win after about three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Ridge Holland
Analysis: *3/4 A decisive win for Holland after working over Cesaro’s ribs to start the match. After a brief flurry of offense from Cesaro, a Sheamus distraction led to Holland getting the win. I don’t like Cesaro losing a match that was so short, but it was because of the cheap attack to the ribs before the bell rang. The story isn’t over there, but at some point, Cesaro will need a babyface ally to fight those guys.
Drew McIntyre was shown walking backstage with his sword while wearing a top hat as well. Drew said he wanted to hear a hilarious joke from Corbin and Moss, but they were not around.
Naomi made her entrance for a segment after the break.
Naomi was in the ring for a promo calling out Sonya Deville for a match right here and right now. Sonya Deville appeared by the entrance saying that when Deville has the suit on, she is not dressed to compete. Sonya said she had Shayna Baszler to fight Naomi and Naomi was okay with that. Sonya distracted Naomi, so then Baszler attacked Naomi from behind. There was a referee there as Baszler wrenched the left leg of Naomi. Deville told the referee to ring the bell.
Shayna Baszler vs. Naomi
Baszler applied a kneebar submission on Naomi, who managed to fight it off and Naomi got to a standing position where she stood up so that she was pinning Baszler. That was enough for the pinfall win for Naomi after about 20 seconds.
Winner by pinfall: Naomi
Analysis: Match of the year! Just kidding, of course. It was just a way to advance the story showing that Naomi has a lot of fight left in her even when Deville tries to stack the deck against Naomi all the time. I’m still not sure why this feud keeps on going without a payoff, but maybe that’s coming at Day 1 or some show in the near future.
Post match, Naomi smiled at Deville and they exchanged words again.
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss were somewhere backstage with Megan Morant showing up for an interview. Corbin and Moss were trying to hide in the dark, so they turned the lights on and Corbin/Moss complained. Corbin said that they are happy all the time. Corbin talked about how he was going to be happy all the way to New Year’s because Madcap Moss is going to face Drew McIntyre at the Day 1 pay-per-view on New Year’s Day. Moss didn’t seem happy about that.
Analysis: I guess that’s a way to book Drew McIntyre for an easy win in the first PPV of the year.
The New Day’s King Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston made their entrance. They found a fan dressed as Santa Claus in the crowd. That match is after a break.
The show returned with Cole clarifying that this is not a title match, but they will have a title match at Day 1 as previously announced. Cole said something about it being a title match before the break, so he had to correct it.
The Usos made their entrance as the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. They said Roman Reigns had yet to arrive even though there’s only about 30 minutes left in the show.
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. The New Day (King Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)
This was not for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles held by The Usos.
Kingston with an SOS takedown for a two count on Jey. Jimmy made the blind tag leading to a kick to the head and Jimmy pounded on Kofi in the heel corner. Jey back in with a kick to the ribs, Jimmy back in and then a chinlock. Kofi tried to break free, but The Usos prevented the referee from seeing the tag, so the referee made Woods stay on the apron while Kofi took an uppercut punch on the floor. That led to a break.
The match returned with the hot tag spot as Woods was the legal man against Jimmy with a jumping kick to the head. Woods hit the Honor Roll clothesline on Jey and Woods hit a side Russian legsweep on Jimmy. Woods with a running clothesline to send Jimmy out of the ring followed by a running dropkick on the floor. Back in the ring, Woods jumped off the top with a leg drop for two. Woods doesn’t always do that, but he got a lot of height and it looked great. Jimmy with a step up enziguri, then Jey got a hold of Woods and sent Woods into the barricade. Kofi had made the tag for his team, he exchanged holds with Jimmy and then Jimmy hit a great superkick on Kofi for two. The referee never saw the tag, so Woods shoved Jey off the top rope to the floor. Jimmy complained to the referee about how they made the tag, so Kofi capitalized with a Trouble in Paradise kick on Jimmy for the pinfall win. It went about nine minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The New Day (King Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)
Analysis: *** The usual good match between these teams. It’s the usual story that WWE always does where champions lose non-title matches so that the challengers can “build momentum” before the title match. I’d rather not see The Usos lose before the title match, but this is how WWE loves to book these things. I did like the story of the match with the referee missing a New Day tag early, then he missed an Usos tag and Kofi capitalized on that with a Trouble in Paradise kick to win. It was booked well.
There was a shot of the parking lot with a black car pulling up to the building. Paul Heyman was still there with the Universal Title in his hands. Heyman opened the door, but Reigns went out of the other door. Reigns told Heyman they should go out to his ring.
This Monday on Raw: Bobby Lashley demands respect and Edge hosts The Cutting Edge with Maryse as the guest. Edge faces Maryse’s husband The Miz at Day 1 and Maryse slapped Miz last week on Raw because Miz hid behind her. That’s why Maryse is the guest.
Next week on Smackdown: Charlotte Flair defends the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Toni Storm. Also, 12 men compete in the 12 Days of Christmas Gauntlet Match with the winner getting an Intercontinental Title match. As I mentioned, next week’s Smackdown was taped this week.
— WWE (@WWE) December 18, 2021
Analysis: I’m a bit surprised that they are doing Flair vs. Storm next week on Smackdown instead of saving it for the Day 1 PPV. They could also have a finish that will lead to another match at Day 1 or maybe some other plan.
Let’s Hear from Roman Reigns
The Universal Champion Roman Reigns made his entrance wearing his brand new “Needle Mover” shirt. Reigns had his Special Counsel Paul Heyman by his side. Reigns will defend his Universal Championship against Brock Lesnar at WWE Day 1 on January 1. Big reaction for Reigns making his way into the ring with Roma holding up one finger because he is The One. Speaking of The Ones, The Usos appeared in the ring behind Reigns as well.
Reigns: “Chicago…acknowledge me!” It led to cheers and boos, but what really mattered was that it was a loud reaction from the crowd. Reigns said that he made it clear that he doesn’t like it when his cousins The Usos lose. Reigns said that Jey knows that because they’re family and they can get through anything.
Reigns pointed to Heyman saying that he is not his blood. Reigns said that you should know better than anybody that you can’t be disrespecting Reigns because then you’re disrespecting the family. Reigns to Heyman: “Can I trust you, Wise Man?” Reigns said that last week Heyman was shady to him. Reigns asked Heyman if Brock was going to return to SummerSlam or that Brock was going to be at Madison Square Garden? Reigns asked Heyman did Paul know that Brock’s suspension was going to be lifted? Some fans chanted “you f**ked up” at Heyman and Reigns said you’re damn right he screwed up. Reigns asked: “Are you a Special Counsel or are you an Advocate?” Heyman tried using Roman’s microphone, but then Heyman had to get a microphone from ringside.
Reigns told Heyman before he says anything, he wanted Paul to acknowledge him with the truth. Reigns asked why is Heyman protecting Brock Lesnar from Reigns? Heyman said: “I am not protecting Brock Lesnar from you, I am protecting you from Brock Lesnar!” The fans let out a big “oooohhhh” reaction for that. Reigns hugged Heyman saying: “I love you, Wise Man and I thank you for your honesty.” Reigns thanked Heyman for 40 years of service to his family and told Paul that he’s fired. Reigns hit Heyman with a Superman Punch to knock him on his ass!
Reigns wanted to do more damage with two steel chairs, but then Brock Lesnar’s music hit. Lesnar showed up in his overalls with shirts underneath. The Usos ran at Lesnar, but Lesnar destroyed them with a clothesline and suplex. Lesnar hit an F5 on Jey on the floor. Jimmy with a superkick to Lesnar, but Brock was able to bounce back with an F5 on Jimmy as well.
Lesnar got into the ring under the bottom rope with Reigns hitting Lesnar in the back with the chair repeatedly. Lesnar managed to get up from that and Lesnar hit an F5 on Reigns. The fan wee going crazy for this! They loved it. Lesnar picked up Reigns again and Lesnar hit another F5 on Reigns. Lesnar’s music played as he stood tall in the ring. That was the end of Smackdown.
Analysis: I think it’s tough sometimes to put talking segments in the main event spot, but it made sense this week. That was really well done with the Chicago crowd reacting to all of it in a big way. Heyman’s line to Reigns about how he was protecting Reigns from Lesnar is what pissed off Reigns a lot and Reigns fired Heyman for it. The firing of Heyman is a big deal, but it could lead to an angle at Day 1 where Heyman helps Reigns beat Lesnar, so then Heyman is then re-hired by Reigns for showing his loyalty to the Tribal Chief. Anyway, I thought it was really done well also with Lesnar kicking ass by destroying both Usos easily and then fighting back against Reigns even after multiple chair shots to the back. The fans love babyface Lesnar and I think Brock is having a lot of fun in that role as well. I think Reigns vs. Lesnar feels like a big match again at Day 1 in two weeks, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m probably picking Reigns thanks to Heyman helping in some way. I can already tell it’s a popular prediction based on tweets I received after I commented on this angle on Twitter. Maybe WWE has something else in mind too.
Three Stars of the Show
- Roman Reigns/Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar
- Toni Storm/Sasha Banks
- Charlotte Flair/Shotzi
That’s more than three stars. I’m bad at narrowing it down sometimes.
7.25 out of 10
Last week: 6.25
2021 Average: 6.96
It was definitely a better Smackdown compared to the last few weeks. The main event segment was very good with the drama of Paul Heyman getting fired by Roman Reigns and then Brock Lesnar kicking Roman’s ass, much to the delight of the vocal Chicago crowd. It was well done as a promo segment with multiple F5’s from Brock to end it.
There are weeks where the in-ring action on Smackdown is weak, but this time it wasn’t that bad. That opening women’s tag team match was very good and Toni Storm picking up the win over Charlotte Flair was very good. I liked the New Day match with The Usos although I’d rather not see The Usos lose non-title like that. The other matches were okay.
Lastly, the Chicago crowd’s energy was really good, so that helped the show a lot.
The next WWE PPV is Day 1 on January 1, 2022 from Atlanta. Here’s what we know so far:
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship: Big E (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Bobby Lashley
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Liv Morgan
Edge vs. The Miz
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) (c) vs. The New Day (King Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)
Drew McIntyre vs. Madcap Moss
You can watch WWE Day 1 streaming LIVE on New Year’s Day, Saturday Jan. 1 at 8 ET / 5 PT on WWE Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else.
Thanks for reading. Please check out my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.