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

wwe smackdown dec 23 braun ricochet

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured a Trick or Street Fight main event along with a women’s gauntlet match and some thoughts from The Bloodline as well.

I will be doing a condensed review this week meaning just summaries of the matches. I’ll go play-by-play for the main event. This episode was taped last week after the December 16th episode of Smackdown in Chicago.

As a reminder, my WWE Johnny Awards column is coming next week, most likely on Thursday, December 29th or the next day. It depends on how much time I have because it’s going to be a busy week for me.

From the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, this is Smackdown for episode #1218. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

Let’s Hear from The Bloodline

The Bloodline group consisting of Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso), Solo Sikoa, the “Honorary Uce” Sami Zayn and Special Counsel, Paul Heyman made their entrance. The commentary team of Michael Cole and Wade Barrett plugged the big tag team match on December 30th with Reigns teaming with Zayn against John Cena & Kevin Owens. This match was set up last week on Smackdown, which was taped on the same night as the show we are watching.

After The Bloodline got to the ring, Paul Heyman said he was there to hype us up about The Bloodline. Heyman spoke about how The Usos will successfully defend their Tag Team Championships against Hit Row and that’s not a prediction because that’s a spoiler. Heyman said next week in Tampa, Florida on Smackdown, Solo Sikoa will take out Sheamus. Heyman talked about how Owens and Cena will get smashed by Reigns and Zayn next week as well. There were some “Sami” chants.

Reigns said that on December 30th in Tampa, you know he’s going to smash somebody. Reigns said he multiple millions of dollars by whooping John Cena and whooping KO because that’s who he is and that’s what he does. Reigns wants to know what Sami is going to do because he looks a little flustered and irritated. Reigns wanted Sami to tell us what is going to happen.

Sami Zayn said that he should be on top of the world because it’s the holidays and all he’s ever wanted is what everybody wants, a little respect. Zayn said after all these years, he’s found a place to belong with the hottest group in the history of WWE, The Bloodline. Zayn said he found family, he found respect: “They love me!” This city loves me! Sami said that every city they go to it’s “Sami” everywhere they go. Zayn talked about the black cloud hanging over his head called Kevin Owens. Zayn said that KO’s name has been tied to his name for his entire career and he can’t get rid of him. Zayn said that Owens wants to say that he’s done with Zayn, but he’s not done with The Bloodline and now he wants to bring back John Cena? Zayn stared into the camera: “We are the show!” Zayn said he doesn’t care where Cena has been and he doesn’t care. Zayn shouted about how they are going to rip them apart, they will leave them mangled (Reigns was impressed in the background) because they are trying to step to The Bloodline and when that happens, you get smashed. Zayn told them to prepare to do what every WWE superstar and this city is about to do: Acknowledge the Tribal Chief! Roman’s music played to end it. Reigns hugged Sami and Reigns looked into the camera: “We’re going to get rid of you.” Is he talking about Owens/Cena or is he talking about Zayn? Oh, the intrigue. I think he’s talking about Owens/Cena but it could be a bit of a hint there.

Analysis: I loved the passion shown by Zayn there. Great promo. Reigns and Heyman were awesome as well. There’s a lot of goofiness to Sami’s character, but I liked the serious tone he took going into the big match next Friday with Reigns against Cena & Owens to show that Zayn is as focused as ever. With that said, I think Zayn is probably going to get pinned in that match or maybe he makes a mistake to cause Owens to pin Reigns because I think Owens should win since he’s getting a title shot against Reigns at Royal Rumble. I think after Reigns/Zayn lose, that’s when Zayn is going to get blamed and we’ll see the relationship dissolve in the weeks ahead as we get into January. I’m looking forward to seeing how this story continues into 2023.

Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) (w/Sami Zayn) vs. Hit Row (Top Dolla & Ashante “Thee” Adonis) (w/B-Fab)

The Usos have been champions for a record 523 days. Top Dolla and Adonis got some offense early on including a boot to the face by Dolla, but then The Usos took control. Jey hit a chop block to the left knee as the show went to a break.

Top Dolla was still being isolated by The Usos until he hit a spinebuster. Adonis got some offense going with a kick and DDT on Jimmy. Adonis jumped off the top with a cross body block for two. Jimmy hit a popup Samoan Drop on Adonis for a two count. There was a rollup for two and superkick by Adonis. Hit Row hit the Heavy Hitter (dropkick into a back suplex) for a two count because Jimmy broke up the pin. Jimmy superkicked Adonis out of the ring. Dolla was selling the left knee injury, so The Usos hit superkicks leading to the 1D (One And Done) for the pinfall win after nine minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso)

Analysis: **1/2 It was just an average match. Some Usos tag team matches are great, but this wasn’t that. This was more about giving the champions a win against a team that really had no chance. I doubt anybody watching this thought that Hit Row would get the win. It was impressive to see The Usos hit 1D on Dolla because most people assume Adonis is going to lose, so having Dolla take the pin is fine with me.

A Progressive Match Flo replay video aired showing GUNTHER’s successful Intercontinental Title defense over Ricochet last week on Smackdown.

Imperium’s Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci were interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Kaiser and Vinci complained about being in the Miracle On 34th Street Fight main event.

Gauntlet Match To Earn A Smackdown Women’s Title Shot

It was announced that the winner of this match gets a title match against the Smackdown Women’s Championship held by Ronda Rousey.

Gauntlet Match #1: Emma vs. Xia Li

Xia Li beat Emma with a Cyclone Kick to the head for the pinfall in under about two minutes. The crowd was dead. They were pumping in fake crowd noise for sure.

Gauntlet Match #2: Xia Li vs. Tegan Nox

Nox was aggressive right away with a corner splash and a cross body block off the top. They battled on the apron with Li hitting a knee to the jaw. Li did a Cyclone Kick for the pinfall. More fake crowd noise during that match.

Gauntlet Match #3: Xia Li vs. Raquel Rodriguez

Raquel was wrestling with a brace on her left arm for her “broken left elbow” that is just a storyline. Li was in control until Raquel got some offense going with a fallaway slam followed by an elbow off the ropes. Li went for her kick, Raquel avoided it and a Texana Bomb by Raquel won it.

Gauntlet Match #4: Raquel Rodriguez vs. Liv Morgan

Morgan was in control with a dropkick and running knee. Morgan also got a couple of pin attempts after that. Morgan was on Raquel’s back for a submission and Raquel dropped back to knock her down going into a break.

Raquel hit a superplex leading to both women selling on the mat. Morgan worked on Raquel’s injured left arm with double knees and a stomp on the arm. Morgan did a Rings of Saturn-like submission pulling back on the arms, but Raquel got out of it. Morgan kept on getting nearfalls to tire out Raquel. Morgan tried Oblivion, Raquel blocked it and Raquel hit a Texana Bomb shortly after that for the pinfall.

Gauntlet Match #5: Raquel Rodriguez vs. Sonya Deville

Deville worked over Raquel’s injured left arm and hit a running knee for a two count. Raquel’s arm brace was falling apart as she hit Deville with a flatliner. Deville was wrenching on the arm while on the turnbuckle, but that allowed Raquel to hit a Texana Bomb off the ropes.

Ronda Rousey, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, told Raquel that she can wipe the grin off her face because she hasn’t won anything yet. Shayna Baszler was the last opponent even though she wasn’t originally part of it.

Gauntlet Match #6: Raquel Rodriguez vs. Sonya Deville

Deville ripped the brace off Raquel’s left arm and stomped on the arm. Cole said it was an absolute joke. Baszler was celebrating with the arm brace, so Raquel did a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Baszler for the pinfall win. The entire Gauntlet Match lasted 24 minutes.

Winner: Raquel Rodriguez

Analysis: *** A long match as usual for a Gauntlet Match that was designed to make Raquel look like a superwoman throughout the match by getting multiple victories to win the match. This was how Raquel was booked in NXT often with Triple H booking, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Raquel win in this manner. The sequence between Raquel and Liv was the best part of the match. Baszler being part of the match was done to make it even harder for Raquel to win, but Raquel found a way to get the victory. Baszler loses to the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! far too often. They don’t want her losing to finishers, but she loses to the damn rollup way too many times. I’m assuming the crowd was dead for most of this because WWE really used a lot of fake crowd noise.

Next week on Smackdown: Ronda Rousey defends the Smackdown Women’s Title against Raquel Rodriguez.

A video aired recapping the Bray Wyatt-LA Knight segment from last week that saw Uncle Howdy make an appearance in the arena.

Let’s Hear From Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt made his full entrance with the lantern and the crowd lighting up the arena with their phones. It took a few minutes as usual. Wyatt said for one of the hardest things in the world for him to do is stand out there talking to us because it’s nerve-wracking. Wyatt said he’ll never get used to people being excited to see him and he doesn’t understand it. Wyatt talked about presenting us with the realest him, but he doesn’t know if there is a real him. Wyatt said that LA Knight owes him an apology. Wyatt talked about how Knight didn’t believe him and the fans didn’t believe him because they thought it (Uncle Howdy) was him for a minute at least. Wyatt: “I’m not Uncle Howdy. I never was Uncle Howdy.” Wyatt lost his train of thought while he spoke, then he dropped the microphone and looked confused. Wyatt lunged at a camera guy, took him down and gave him the Mandible Claw putting his hands in the guy’s mouth. WWE Officials (like Adam Pearce, Shane Helms, Shawn Daivari) and referees ran out to the ring to get Bray to stop, so they saved the camera guy.

Analysis: It was more of the bizarre behavior of Bray Wyatt, this time attacking a poor cameraman. It was likely an indy wrestler rather than a camera guy. This worked in terms of reminding people that Bray is a madman that’s capable of snapping at any time. That makes him more interesting because he’s a guy you need to keep an eye on to see what he might do at any time.

They said that Bray Wyatt was escorted out of the arena and Adam Pearce will talk to WWE Headquarters about the appropriate disciplinary actions.

Rey Mysterio vs. Angel (w/Humberto)

Rey is back after missing about six weeks with a foot injury. Karrion Kross and Scarlett were watching in the crowd. Angel avoided a springboard attack from Rey and hit a dropkick followed by a backbreaker. Rey countered an Angel move by sending him into the turnbuckle. Humberto pulled Angel out of the ring, so Rey hit a cross body block on Humberto on the floor. Angel got a superkick for two. Angel did way too much stalling, so Rey hit him with the headscissors into the ropes, the 619 kick and a leaping DDT for the pinfall win after four minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Rey Mysterio

Analysis: ** A simple match to give Rey the win to get him some momentum for his feud against Kross. It would be nice to see Los Lotharios being used better, but the roster is so deep these days, so I don’t think they are considered a priority by WWE.

They showed Rey Mysterio celebrating while pointing at Kross/Scarlett in the crowd.

There was a locker room promo from Ricochet and Braun Strowman about their main event match.

After a break, Karrion Kross and Scarlett were walking backstage with Emma not liking that they disrespected Rey Mysterio. She also mentioned Riddick (Madcap Moss) a joker a few weeks ago. Scarlett said she called him a fool, so Emma slapped Scarlett in the face. Kross warned Emma saying she had absolutely no idea what she’s just done.

Analysis: This should lead to Scarlett making her in-ring debut in WWE soon since she’s been wrestling at live events and did wrestle before she was in WWE. They can do Scarlett vs. Emma after this.

A video package aired about John Cena with career highlights along with some talking heads talking about Cena’s greatness in WWE over the last 20 years. They used that Fort Minor song “Remember The Name” for it, which was a good call. Love that song that is fitting for Cena. They also showed Cena’s incredible work with Make A Wish by granting more wishes than any celebrity has ever done along with his respect for the military saying they are his heroes. They also showed Cena doing movies, television shows and talk show appearances. Some of the talking heads included Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton, The Rock, Steve Austin, Cody Rhodes, and even Vince McMahon, who said he’s one of those people that when you meet, you feel better off meeting the man. Vince called Cena “a real-life superhero.” They had a Cena quote about how he’s still a kid that’s absolutely living the dream.

Analysis: An excellent video as usual. I have been writing about Cena matches since he started and he’s always going to be one of my favorite wrestlers ever.

Next week on Smackdown in Tampa:

* John Cena & Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn

* Smackdown Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Raquel Rodriguez

* Sheamus vs. Solo Sikoa

Analysis: It’s a big Smackdown. I won’t be able to see it live because I have plans that night that I made many weeks ago. I can’t get out of those plans. I’ll try to get the review done on Saturday morning next week.

A video aired about Lacey Evans doing some military training to help her get back to basics prior to whenever she returns.

Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. Imperium – Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci

I’ll go play-by-play for this match. No tags in a match like this. Gunther was not with Kaiser and Vinci for this match. Ricochet was sent out of the ring and Strowman clotheslined Kaiser out of the ring. Strowman launched Ricochet toward Vinci in the turnbuckle leading to a dropkick. Kaiser pulled Ricochet out of the ring and sent him into the steel steps. Vinci did a chop block on Strowman as Imperium double-teamed Strowman with forearms to the back. Strowman punched Kaiser and sent Vinci out of the ring. Strowman gave Kaiser a back body drop over the top to the floor. Ricochet ran the barricade leading to a headscissors on Vinci to send him into the other barricade. They went to a break.

The match continued with Vinci sending Strowman into the ring post. Vinci also sent Strowman into the Christmas trees and some presents at ringside. Vinci hit Ricochet with a candy cane kendo stick. Kaiser used a steel chair (with a bow on it) to hit Strowman in the back. Ricochet was hit with the chair too, but Strowman was back up with punches. Strowman decked Kaiser with a punch. Strowman threw Kaiser and Vinci into some Christmas trees/presents that were part of the set. Imperium gave Strowman a double suplex on the floor by the entrance. Vinci was bleeding by the left eye. Ricochet was back into it with a jumping knee on Kaiser and a knee to Vinci as well. Kaiser hit Ricochet in the back with a steel chair while Ricochet was on the apron. Imperium sent Strowman into some presents and Vinci shoved a tree over so that it landed on Strowman. Vinci and Kaiser opened a present and it was a ballerina, who started dancing while some ballet music played. She danced her way to the back. That was strange. There was another box that was opened and it was The New Day dressed as nutcrackers. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods has the NXT Tag Team Titles around their waists. Woods kicked Kaiser in the groin and Kofi did that to Vinci as well. Barrett: They’re not soldiers, Cole, they’re nutcrackers!”

Strowman was back up with a running shoulder tackle on Vinci and Kaiser two times each. Ricochet was down by the barricade at ringside where the announcers are. Strowman grabbed a mistletoe from ringside, Strowman picked Ricochet and called for the lovely ring announcer Samantha Irvin to get up as Strowman held a mistletoe over Ricochet. That meant it was kissing time, so Samantha kissed Ricochet with Cole pointing out that Ricochet and Samantha were dating, which most of us knew, but this was the first time they mentioned it on TV. Ricochet was fired up with a kick along with a springboard clothesline. Ricochet hit a springboard moonsault on Vinci and Strowman gave Kaiser a Powerbomb through a table. Ricochet hit the Recoil on Vinci and Strowman hit the running Monster Powerslam. Ricochet was on Strowman’s shoulders and Ricochet landed a splash on Vinci for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Braun Strowman & Ricochet

Analysis: ***1/4 A fun tag team match to put over the babyface team of Strowman and Ricochet. That’s what always happens on the last show before Christmas because they want to end it on a happy note, so that’s why the good guys are going to get the win. Kaiser and Vinci are always going to put on an entertaining match if they get time like they did here. They had some good comedy spots with The New Day as nutcrackers (wink, wink) and Samantha Irvin doing her part to revive Ricochet when he needed it. I liked the double team finish. Ricochet got a cut on the top of his head and Vinci had a cut by his left eye. That means it was a Street Fight that had some accidental blood.

They showed replays of the key spots in the match. Cole: “A Merry Christmas to all and Imperium…goodnight.”

There was a plug for next week’s Smackdown with the big Cena-Owens vs. Reigns-Zayn tag team match. Strowman and Ricochet celebrated with the fans. That was the end of the show.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Braun Strowman & Ricochet
  2. Sami Zayn
  3. Raquel Rodriguez

The Scoreboard

7.25 out of 10

Last week: 7.5

Final Thoughts

This was a good Christmas show that was taped last week. The main event was a feel-good match with Braun Strowman & Ricochet beating Imperium as you would expect. Raquel Rodriguez was also dominant in the Gauntlet Match to earn a Smackdown Women’s Title shot. They always book her strong while Shayna Baszler loses to the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! far too often. Lots of fake crowd during that women’s Gauntlet Match too. Just saying. There were also solid wins by The Usos and Rey Mysterio to give them some momentum.

Even though John Cena and Kevin Owens weren’t on the show, they did a nice job of building to their tag team match against Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn next week. That’s because Reigns delivered a confident promo while Zayn did as well. The video package about John Cena was outstanding too.

They also progressed some other stories as well including Bray Wyatt attacking a “cameraman” in the ring to show he’s very unpredictable at all times. Overall, an enjoyable show for the most part.


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.

John Canton


Twitter @johnreport