The John Report: WWE SmackDown 12/22/23 Review

wwe smackdown december 22 main

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured a big women’s tag team match, AJ Styles taking on Solo Sikoa, two US Title tournament matches and more.

It is the last new Smackdown episode of the year since next week’s show will be a taped “best of” show. This episode was taped last week after the December 15th Smackdown episode because it allowed WWE to give the roster over a week off. That’s great. On that note, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas if you are celebrating on Monday. I certainly am and I look forward to some time with family as well as writing a bit less for a couple of days. Also, my 15th annual WWE Johnny Awards column is coming on Thursday, December 28th or maybe Friday if I need more time. Anyway, it’s coming soon.

From the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, this is Smackdown for episode #1270. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

A recap aired of last week’s show. Randy Orton beat Jimmy Uso in a singles match. After the match, LA Knight joined Orton to fight The Bloodline’s Jimmy Uso, Solo Sikoa and Roman Reigns. AJ Styles made his return after three months away to save Orton and Knight…or maybe just get after The Bloodline. Styles hit Knight with a clothesline to end the show.

The commentary team was Michael Cole, Corey Graves & Kevin Patrick. They had Christmas trees and presents by the entrance area.

Let’s Hear from AJ Styles

AJ Styles made his entrance wearing a black hoodie shirt. Styles said that Randy Orton wants to face Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble and LA Knight wants to face Roman Reigns wherever. Styles said he didn’t care about Orton or Knight so the fans booed that a bit. Styles said he is number one when it comes to getting his hands on Reigns while adding that he wants Reigns at the Royal Rumble.

LA Knight interrupted the promo with his usual: “Let me talk to ya.” Knight said he won’t argue with Styles about who gets Reigns first because there’s nothing to argue about. Knight said you can have Reigns after Knight gets him first. Knight said that Reigns will get this man first with everybody saying: “LA Knight…yeah.” Knight said because of what happened last week, the next one that he could face is Styles.

Styles reminded Knight that he stepped over a fallen Styles to team up with John Cena against The Bloodline at Fastlane and that led to Knight facing Reigns. Knight got into the ring with Styles, but there was another interruption.

Randy Orton interrupted the promo saying that he understands their issues. Orton reminded us that Reigns and The Bloodline put him out for 18 long months. Orton said he enjoyed being home, but this ring is his second home. Knight reminded us that The Bloodline took Styles and Orton out while Knight is bulletproof at this point. Knight said they could come along for the ride, but he’s got Roman Reigns.

Nick Aldis, the Smackdown General Manager, arrived in a suit. Aldis said that each of them had a legitimate claim to face Reigns. Aldis said they’ll give them an opportunity to face Reigns next. Aldis said in two weeks they will present Smackdown New Year’s Revolution and at that event, it’s going to be AJ Styles vs. LA Knight vs. Randy Orton in a triple threat. Aldis said that the winner gets Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble.

Styles said he was fine with that and he’ll see them at New Year’s Revolution. Styles warned both guys that if they get close to him during his match with Solo Sikoa, he’ll take them out too. Styles left.

Analysis: That’s a big match for the first episode of Smackdown that they are calling New Year’s Revolution. I thought AJ Styles did a nice job of keeping it simple with his promo by talking about why he did what he did. It made sense from AJ’s perspective. I also thought LA Knight made good points and so did Randy Orton as well. It’s good storytelling because WWE has built up three viable contenders who want a shot at Roman Reigns, so that sets up the triple threat match in two weeks. I like it. I’m picking Orton to win that triple threat match.

The team of Bianca Belair, Shotzi, Michin & Zelina Vega made their entrance for a Holiday Havoc tag team match.


Holiday Havoc Eight-Woman Tag Team Match: Damage CTRL – IYO SKY, Asuka, Bayley & Kairi Sane (w/Dakota Kai) vs. Bianca Belair, Shotzi, Michin & Zelina Vega

There are no countouts and no disqualifications in this match. There were Christmas-themed items around ringside.

The ring was cleared quickly leading to Belair facing off with Sky. Belair hit a dropkick along with a delayed suplex. Bayley saved Sky from being pinned by Belair. Shotzi faced off with Bayley leading to Shotzi connecting with an arm drag off the ropes along with an enziguri kick. Shotzi jumped off a chair leading to a splash on Bayley’s back against the ropes. Shotzi hit a suicide dive while Michin held open the ropes. Asuka and Sane used candy cane kendo sticks to beat up Michin and Vega. Belair and Shotzi were back in with kendo stick attacks to Asuka and Sane to knock them out of the ring. Belair and Shotzi grabbed a table from under the ring, but Sky & Bayley were able to stop that. Sky & Bayley used the table to knock Belair & Shotzi down.


The match returned with two suplexes taking place off the ropes so six women were down in the ring. Sky tried a suplex on the floor, but Vega countered with a DDT. Asuka delivered strikes to Michin until Michin came back with a Powerbomb. Sky was back in with a missile dropkick on Michin for two but that pin was broken up. Belair rolled up Bayley for two. Belair tossed Bayley out of the ring. Sky punched Belair, but Belair delivered a kick and Belair smashed a box on Shotzi’s head. Shotzi hit a missile dropkick on Sky, who had the box on her head. Sane got a trash can lid that she used to hit Shotzi in the head. Sane threw Shotzi into a tree. Vega hit Sane in the back softly with a chair to the back. Kai smashed a pumpkin pie in Vega’s face and Asuka delivered the blue mist on Vega. Bayley suplexed Belair and Bayley sent Belair out of the ring. Asuka and Vega opened up big presents on the floor. It was Isla Dawn in one box and Alba Fyre was in the other box. Dawn and Fyre took care of Asuka & Sane on the floor. They did a double team slam on Sane on the floor. Belair battled Bayley by a table in the ring. Belair hit the Koss of Death on Bayley. Sky jumped off the top with Over The Moonsault on Belair. Michin hit Eat Defeat on Sky. Michin jumped off the top with a senton splash on Sky to put Sky through the table. Michin covered Sky for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Bianca Belair, Shotzi, Michin & Zelina Vega

Analysis: ***1/4 That was a lot of fun and better than I expected it to be. I say that because those matches are hard to do with eight people and all those weapons. The thing about a match like that is you see two women in the ring wrestling and then the other six women have to wait on the floor for their spot in the match. In the second half of the match after the break, it really picked up. The inclusion of Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre made it unfair for Damage CTRL, so the babyface team got to capitalize on that and pick up the win. I assume Dawn & Fyre attacking Asuka & Sane can put them in a tag team feud for a few weeks. Michin pinning Sky will lead to Michin getting a title match against Sky. I wouldn’t expect Michin to win the tile, but I’m happy that they are using Michin a bit more.

The Bloodline were in their locker room with Jimmy Uso trying to give Solo Sikoa some tips. Roman Reigns asked Paul Heyman who this new Smackdown GM is and Heyman said it’s Nick Aldis. Reigns told Heyman to bring Aldis to him. Heyman tried to say something else, but Reigns cut him off and said bring Aldis to him. Heyman left.

Analysis: I think that was Heyman trying to tell Reigns that they should go see Aldis, but Reigns is the Tribal Chief so he demands that people come see him.

Dragon Lee made his entrance as the NXT North American Champion and he was in action up next.


A video was shown from Smackdown Lowdown last week with Dragon Lee saying he was a fighting champion so Butch challenged him to this match.

NXT North American Championship: Dragon Lee vs. Butch

Lee got a rollup quickly for two and Butch got an armbar that Lee turned into a pin attempt for two. Butch smashed Lee with a forearm to the face followed by a double knee drop on the arm. Butch bent back the arm of Lee. Lee did a headscissors followed by a leap over the top followed by a boot to the face. Butch was upside down against the turnbuckle, so Lee superkicked him. Lee went for a dive, but Butch came back with a leaping kick. Butch suplexed Lee onto the apron leading to a break.


Butch was in control of the champion with a stomp on the arm. Butch stomped on Lee’s hands. Butch was on the apron, so Lee jumped over the top leading to a hurricanrana on Buth to the floor. Back in the ring, Lee hit a running corner dropkick. Butch countered a move and Butch hit a sitout Tigerbomb for two. Lee and Butch exchanged strikes. Butch delivered a forearm and kick, but Lee hit a jumping knee. Butch hit a German Suplex. Lee hit a German Suplex and Butch wasn’t selling that as he hit some kicks. Lee came back with a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Lee trapped Butch upside against the ropes, but Butch snapped the fingers of Lee and Lee still did the double stomp to Butch. The fans were chanting “this is awesome” for them. Lee charged and Butch nailed an uppercut. Butch wanted Bitter End and Lee countered it with a Canadian Destroyer. Lee hit the Operation Dragon neckbreaker slam for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Dragon Lee

Analysis: ***1/2 This was great. The counters that they did in the last few minutes were incredible. They had awesome chemistry together with each guy hitting a big move, then the other would come back and it just kept going. I like how when Butch did the finger-snapping, Lee was still able to come back and hit the double stomp attack. Lee doing a Destroyer is rare to see in WWE because that’s a move we rarely see in WWE, but it looked great. Lee continues to earn a lot of respect as a fighting champion.

After the match, Dragon Lee and Butch shook hands.

A recap was shown of last week when Carmelo Hayes beat Grayson Waller and Kevin Owens beat Austin Theory.

Kevin Owens made his entrance for his match.


Roman Reigns was shown in his dressing room where Paul Heyman introduced Nick Aldis to the Tribal Chief. Reigns told Heyman to leave them, so Aldis sat down on the couch near Reigns. They leaned forward to talk. Reigns asked Aldis if he booked the triple threat match and Solo vs. AJ. Reigns claimed those were good ideas, but it would be a better idea if he ran it by Reigns first. Reigns said that everything goes through him. Reigns claimed that Adam Pearce understood that. Aldis said he’s an Executive and he doesn’t have feelings. Aldis said that the buck stops with him. Aldis said that Solo is a big boy who took care of John Cena in a way that he doesn’t even recall Reigns taking care of John Cena. Aldis said that he’s looking forward to Solo facing AJ Styles and he’s looking forward to the triple threat match and the winner of that match facing Reigns at the Royal Rumble for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. Aldis said that he looks forward to more productive dialogue and he hopes they can get to know eachother better. Aldis left while Reigns wasn’t thrilled about it.

Analysis: Good job by both guys making their points. Reigns wants control, but Aldis made it clear he is the Smackdown GM who won’t be pushed around. They edited in some crowd reactions during that to make it awkward a bit. It sounds like Aldis will be more of a babyface GM moving forward.

Carmelo Hayes made his entrance for the match. Logan Paul did a cell phone promo trashing both guys.

United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Semifinals: Kevin Owens vs. Carmelo Hayes

Owens had a brace/cast on his storyline injured right hand. They each went for holds on the mat, but Owens got his foot on the bottom rope leading to a break. Melo ran off the ropes, he couldn’t knock Owens down and then Melo did a headscissors. Melo and Owens each missed moves due the other guy avoiding them, but Melo managed to come back with a dropkick. Owens decked Melo with a left chop. When Owens punched with the right hand, he sold the hand. Owens hit a back elbow to Melo followed by a senton splash. Melo came back with a springboard clothesline. Melo pulled Owens out of the ring and slammed KO’s head to the mat. Melo tried to jump on Owens on the floor, but Owens moved and Owens sent Melo crashing hard into the steel steps.


Melo was in control with a body slam. Melo jumped over Owens, he hit an enziguri kick to the head and Melo hit an ax kick for two. Owens kept using his right hand while also selling it. Melo delivered a kick followed by a slamming facebuster slam for two. Owens came back by setting up Melo against the top turnbuckle and delivering a DDT for two. It was like Orton’s draping DDT except Owens used the turnbuckle instead of the middle rope. Melo was back up, they each did a superkick and Owens delivered chops. Melo went for a springboard attack, Owens avoided it and Owens hit a clothesline. Melo countered a Popup Powerbomb with double knees. Melo went up top, he jumped over KO, who moved and Owens hit a Popup Powerbomb for two. Owens jumped off the top with a Swanton Bomb. Owens hit a Stunner for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Kevin Owens

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a very good match with both guys hitting big moves in the latter stages, but Melo wasn’t able to hit his top rope finisher while Owens managed to hit his Stunner finisher to end it. I’m glad that Melo got plenty of offense in the match to show he can hang with Owens. I think most of us assumed Owens was the favorite to win this tournament, so it’s not a shock that Owens got the win.

After the match, Owens picked up Hayes and they shook hands as a sign of respect.

AJ Styles was shown getting ready backstage when The OC’s Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows and Michin arrived. Michin hugged Styles because he was back. Anderson said they never heard from him, so Anderson asked: “Are we good?” Styles: “I don’t know. Are we?” Styles left.

Analysis: It seems like AJ Styles will be a more determined solo act rather than part of The OC group. They could also have the group join Styles with his new attitude.

Bobby Lashley made his entrance with The Street Profits by his side. The US Champion Logan Paul did a cell phone promo laughing at the idea of Lashley or Santos Escobar taking the US Title from him. That Lashley-Escobar match was up next.


Karrion Kross with Scarlett were featured in a video package. Kross said he knows the power of words. Kross talked about how he has changed people like the guys in The Bloodline, Drew McIntyre, Rey Mysterio and Shinsuke Nakamura. Kross said that the greatest proclamation is about to be written without a scribe and “without authors.” Scarlett asked: “Do you see the vision?” She screamed. There was an image of two tall guys with a bald headed man. It was likely the Authors of Pain and Paul Ellering. The words “You Cannot Endure” also appeared on the screen. That ended it.

Analysis: Those were good points made by Kross because McIntyre & Nakamura have turned heel while Rey hit his own son in front of his son’s mother. The Bloodline part was Kross saying he presented them with an hourglass and in the months that followed, they had issues. The Authors of Pain returning gives Kross some backup for future battles. That’s cool.

There were highlights shown of Bobby Lashley beating Karrion Kross and Santos Escobar beating Dragon Lee in their first tournament matches.

United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Semifinals: Bobby Lashley (w/Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) vs. Santos Escobar

Lashley was in control early with a clothesline followed by an overhead belly-to-belly suplex across the ring. Lashley tossed Escobar across the ring again. Escobar came back with a jumping kick. Escobar jumped off the top, Lashley caught him and Lashley sent Escobar over the top to the floor.


Escobar managed to take control with a suicide dive on the floor. Escobar kicked Lashley’s left leg to knock the big guy down. Escobar wrenched on the left leg. Escobar hit a running double knee attack two times in a row. Escobar hit double knees for the third time. Escobar set up Lashley on the turnbuckle and wanted a move, but Lashley shoved Escobar down. Lashley dropped Escobar with a flatliner. There was a masked guy at ringside, so security took him out. Another masked guy arrived. The two “fans” attacked The Street Profits on the floor. Escobar delivered a chop block to Lashley’s left knee. Escobar did a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Lashey with a tight grab for the pinfall win. It went about nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar

Analysis: **1/2 It felt like an average match with Escobar getting a cheap win. Lashley is booked strongly, so beating him with a chop block and a rollup with tights doesn’t seem like it should win, yet it was enough to win here. Obviously, the chaos caused by Escobar’s friends led to the distraction for the finish.

The win by Escobar means he’ll face Kevin Owens in the US Title Contender’s Tournament Finals at Smackdown New Year’s Revolution.

The two masked guys revealed themselves to be Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo. Santos shook their hands.

Analysis: It looks like a new three man stable that gives Escobar some backup. Garza & Carrillo did well in their NXT run, but I like seeing them on Smackdown.

Butch was shown walking backstage where Cathy Kelley interviewed Butch. Butch talked about how he brought the fight. Pretty Deadly arrived to sing some carols, so Butch went after them with punches. The fight was broken up by WWE Officials and Smackdown GM Nick Aldis walked up to Butch saying we don’t do that back here, we do that in the ring. Aldis told Butch to find a partner and at New Year’s Resolution, they can face Pretty Deadly.

Analysis: I wonder if that will be the return of Sheamus to team with Butch, but I don’t know if Sheamus is ready to come back yet.

AJ Styles faces Solo Sikoa up next.


Logan Paul, the US Champion, did a taped promo trashing Santos Escobar and Kevin Owens saying they weren’t worthy opponents against him.

Here’s the lineup for Smackdown New Year’s Revolution on January 5th.

* United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Finals: Santos Escobar vs. Kevin Owens

* WWE Women’s Championship: IYO SKY vs. Michin

* AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton vs. LA Knight – The winner will challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at Royal Rumble.

Plus, Butch and a partner against Pretty Deadly.

AJ Styles made his entrance on his own first and then Solo Sikoa entered on his own.

AJ Styles vs. Solo Sikoa

Styles brought the fight right from the bell. Solo managed to hit a body slam. Styles sent Solo out of the ring. Styles delivered a kick while Solo was on the ground. Styles did a slingshot attack over the top onto Solo on the floor. They went to break there.


Solo was in control with a back body drop. Solo sent Styles crashing ribs-first into the ring post. Solo worked over Styles with headbutts. Back in the ring, Solo hit a jumping headbutt. Styles tried to come back with chops, but Solo whipped Styles hard face-first into the middle turnbuckle. Solo hit the running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Solo went for a headbutt off the middle turnbuckle, but Styles moved out of the way. Styles hit a running clothesline followed by a sliding forearm. Styles hit a springboard moonsault off the middle ropes aka a Lionsault for a two count. Solo managed to hit a popup Samoan Drop for a two count. Solo with a lift, Styles got out of it and Styles hit a jumping Pele Kick to the head. Solo sent Styles to the apron, Styles with a forearm and Styles wanted Phenomenal Forearm, but Solo caught him. Solo wanted the spike, Styles got out of it and Styles hit a jumping kick. Solo lifted Styles to the apron. Styles delivered a forearm to the face followed by Styles hitting the Phenomenal Forearm to the face. Solo rolled out of the ring, so Roman Reigns went into the ring and punched Styles for the DQ. It went 11 minutes.

Winner by disqualification: AJ Styles

Analysis: *** They were on their way to a pretty good match when the obvious disqualification happened. We know WWE loves to book Solo strong while it would have been dumb to have Styles lose his first match in over three months, so I figured the DQ was coming. Styles looked fresh in there and I have missed watching him in the ring. Solo knows his role as a power guy who’s believable in everything that he does.

Reigns picked up Styles on his shoulders for something, but Styles got out of it and Styles hit a jumping enziguri kick to the head. Solo was back in with punches on Styles. Randy Orton ran out to join the fight. Orton punched Reigns and Solo a bunch of times. Jimmy Uso saved his cousin Roman with punches for Orton. That led to the obvious save as LA Knight ran out to join the fight. Knight worked over Roman and Solo with a bunch of jabs to the face. Knight sent Solo out of the ring while Orton sent Jimmy out of the ring. Reigns had already bailed from the ring.

Analysis: This was done very deliberately with a 2-1 situation that was evened up, then a 3-2 scenario that was evened up and then the three faces cleared the ring as you would expect.

AJ Styles got up to argue with Orton and Knight. Styles said he didn’t want them to come down there. Orton and Knight tried to reason with Styles saying they were helping him. Styles delivered punches, so Knight and Orton punched back. Orton and Knight exchanged punches. Reigns held back Solo & Jimmy so they could watch those other three guys fight. Knight, Styles and Orton kept exchanging strikes in the ring. Graves asked what one of them would face the Tribal Chief and the show ended there.

Analysis: It was done that way to give nobody the advantage to end the show. That’s fine with me. Like I said I’ll pick Orton to win the triple threat match in two weeks.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. AJ Styles
  2. Dragon Lee
  3. Kevin Owens


The Scoreboard

7.5 out of 10

Last week: 7.5

2023 Average: 7.24


Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown

I thought this was an entertaining Smackdown that did a great job of setting up the New Year’s Revolution episode in two weeks. The trio of AJ Styles, Randy Orton & LA Knight all want a shot at Roman Reigns, so they have a big triple threat match in two weeks to figure that out. Reigns attacked Styles during his match with Solo Sikoa leading to a big brawl. It appeared like Styles, Orton & Knight were on the same page until they fought eachother, so that was a fine way to end it.

It was a good wrestling show with five entertaining matches. I didn’t love two of the finishes, but the other three were clean. That 8-woman tag team match was a lot of fun with some creative spots and weapons used. Big win for Michin over Iyo Sky too. Kevin Owens beating Carmelo Hayes was a good match. Santos Escobar got a cheap win over Bobby Lashley thanks to Angel & Humberto returning to the main roster to help Escobar win. The Dragon Lee-Butch match was terrific. It was fast-paced and fun to watch.

This was taped a week ago and the crowd in Green Bay must not have been loud because there was a lot of that fake crowd noise used by WWE. That hurts the show more than it helps. I don’t know why the fans would have been quiet, but I guess they were. Anyway, that was the last new Smackdown of 2023 since it’s a “best of” show next week.

If you’re wondering, Raw finished 2023 at 7.41 as the average score while Smackdown finishes at 7.24 this year. Just saying.


Thanks for reading. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport