The WWE’s Christmas gift to everyone tonight comes in the form of three championship matches, and one of them in a steel cage. Will they turn out to be the type of presents that make you yell “YES!”, or the equivalent of lumps of coal in your wrestling boots? We’ll find out tonight in the ThunderDome.
The Dome is fitted out with Christmas trees galore (which means someone’s getting thrown into one), but I half-expected them to switch up AC/DC’s SmackDown theme Are You Ready with Mistress for Christmas from the same album. I don’t suppose that would be all that appropriate.
Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship: Roman Reign (champion) VS. Kevin Owens
Owens can’t wait to start this match, moving quickly down the ramp, into the ring, slamming the door shut, and going straight after Reigns as soon as the bell rings.
As Reigns quickly takes the upper hand, running Owens into the sides of the cage, Michael Cole dutifully offers up the logic that this match is designed to make this a fair fight and keep Jey Uso from interfering. Except a steel cage match doesn’t do that — not even a Hell in a Cell match seems to do that anymore.
Reigns readies a Superman Punch early, but Owens ducks, dodges, and DDTs the champ. Owens takes a big punch, falls back and bounces off the second rope before launching a clothesline into Reigns in kind of a weird Dean Ambrose tribute spot.
A cannonball in the corner nets Owens a two-count, and soon after Reigns very creatively turns a pop-up powerbomb attempt into a Rough Ryder. Maybe this whole match will feature ex-WWE wrestlers’ moves?
A sit-out powerbomb by Reigns welcomes us back from a lengthy commercial break, but it can’t finish the job for the champ. Owens successfully lands his own powerbomb via pop-up, but again only for a two-count.
Cole, again dutifully, says that Owens must be wondering what he has to do to beat Reigns after beating him with his signature move. I’m going to guess that, if Owens has been watching wrestling evolve over the past several years, then he knows he needs many more signatures and finishers to win.
A blocked superplex by Owens leads to a fisherman buster off the top rope, which looks like it could get the job done. It doesn’t, though, and soon afterwards Reigns hits his own signature Superman Punch for yet another two-count.
Reigns is talking to himself after the kick-out and takes out his aggression on the challenger. With Owens trapped between the ropes and the cage, Reigns locks in his guillotine choke, but Owens counters by pulling Reigns down throat-first into the top rope and forces a break.
Owens blocks a spear attempt with a kick and responds with a stunner but it only continues the two-count parade. After commercial, Owens is attempting to win via escape and gets all the way to the top before Reigns drags him down to a standing position on the ropes.
Owens superkicks the champ and tries to follow up with a Swanton, but Reigns gets his knees up and delivers a spear immediately afterwards. Owens kicks out yet again and then grabs Reigns’ foot just in time as he was ready to leave the cage.
Owens drives Reigns’ head into the cage about as many times as you’d sing “A partridge in a pear tree”, then seems poised to walk out before Jey blocks the exit. Owens turns his attention back to Reigns and is soon dodging a spear, letting Reigns run himself into the cage before delivering a stunner.
As Owens is crawling towards the exit, Jey grabs his arm and handcuffs Owens to the cage, preventing him from winning. Reigns very happily walks over top of his challenger and exits to the floor for the win.
Winner via cage escape and STILL Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
Match Rating: 3/5
Next up, Women’s Tag Team Champions Asuka and Charlotte are in the ring and barely have time to try and convince us that they make a great team before Bayley interrupts and brags about her successful 2020. Then it’s Sasha Banks’ turn to insert herself into the conversation and … now Bianca Belair wants some mic time. She skips down to the ring wearing elven-colours.
Okay, so after Belair has a few moments to promote herself, Carmella is next up. She has nothing of substance to say … and then we find out all of this was really just stalling before getting to this:
Triple Threat Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Asuka & Charlotte (champions) VS. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair VS. Bayley & Carmella
No Riott Squad? No rematch for Baszler & Jax? Don’t even get me started on what happened to The IIconics. Hopefully 2021 brings some sense to the women’s tag division.
Bayley starts off with Charlotte, and I’d think anyone in the ring with Charlotte would just hit her with chop after chop. Just saying.
Instead, Charlotte chops her former fellow Horsewoman down and quick tags follow to bring in Carmella and Asuka. Carmella ducks an attack by Asuka and punches Banks on the apron. Shouldn’t that have counted as a tag?
Carmella takes a hip attack from Asuka, then a kick to the gut before Banks tags in on Asuka and starts a double-teaming sequence along with Belair. Carmella scampers away to tag in Charlotte, who looked surprised and a little unimpressed.
As Belair excitedly awaits her turn against Flair, we do at least see the Riott Squad watching from backstage. Charlotte and Belair match up evenly, but both do backflips, dance, and slap their butts in defiance of the other. Yes … that’s how they tried to assert dominance.
The fight opens up on the floor as everyone gets into a big brawl, highlighted by a meteora by Banks from the apron to Charlotte on the floor, and a Bayley-to-Belly on Asuka in the ring for a two-count.
Back from commercial, we hear for the first time from Corey Graves that this is an elimination match. It’s Bayley and Carmella now double-teaming Asuka very effectively, with Carmella also taking a moment to knock Charlotte off of the apron. Because of that, Asuka is forced to go to another corner for a tag and she brings in Belair.
Bianca does some press suplexes on Bayley and now there’s a breakdown in the ring. Flair tosses Banks over her head, but Belair drops Charlotte with a Glam Slam, and it all ends with Banks landing a frog splash on Bayley to eliminate her and Carmella from the match.
Moments later, Flair is caught in the Bank Statement, but she powers out and flattens Banks with a big boot followed by a Figure-Four. In an “I’ve never seen that before” moment, Belair tosses Banks her hair and allows her partner to pull herself towards the corner to make a tag.
Belair runs the ropes and lands a moonsault on Charlotte, while the champ just stayed in the figure-four and let it happen for some reason. Charlotte makes a tag and strange sequence follows with Asuka knocking Banks to the floor and into Reginald — why is he still here? Bayley is also still here and sort of distracts Belair, but not really.
Moments later, Asuka tags in Charlotte, gives Belair a Codebreaker, and Flair finishes her off with Natural Selection for the win.
Winners via pinfall and STILL Women’s Tag Team Champions: Asuka & Charlotte
Match Rating: 2.5/5
The Street Profits are backstage, promoting the upcoming matches as they are wont to do, but they overhear a conversation between Sami Zayn and the social media manager wondering when it was decided that his Intercontinental Match against Big E turned into a Lumberjack Match. He doesn’t get an answer.
He does get a present from the Profits, though. It’s a t-shirt that says “I was Intercontinental Champion”. That’s rude.
Daniel Bryan VS Jey Uso
As Bryan makes his entrance, Uso attacks him on the ramp and it seems that it’s Bryan that’s getting thrown into the Christmas trees.
After commercials, Bryan is crawling into the ring to start the match. The ref asks him if he’s ready to go, and Bryan says “Yes … yes”. Really, what else would you expect him to say?
Uso continues his brutalization of Bryan, throwing him into the barrier, the stairs, the other stairs, and then brings him into the ring for a Samoan Drop. Jey tries a running headbutt, which actually started with a very “People’s Elbow” inspired run, and even though Bryan dodges it he can’t build any momentum.
Bryan finally catches a break by back body-dropping Uso over the ropes, which seems to hurt Uso’s ankle, and then Bryan dives through the ropes and hurts his own arm in the process. So, this could be war of attrition.
After commercials, Bryan lands a series of kicks, focusing his attack on Uso’s leg, and a top-rope hurricanrana gets Bryan within a count of winning. The Yes Kicks chop Uso down to the mat, but his running knee is met with a superkick, then another, and then a top-rope splash that may have ended the match were it not for a slow cover as Uso hurt himself with the splash too.
The fight breaks down into a fistfight, which Uso wins (albeit with a headbutt), but Bryan gets the last laugh with a running knee for the win.
Winner via pinfall: Daniel Bryan
Match Rating: 3.5/5
Backstage, Kayla Braxton speaks to a very pumped-up Daniel Bryan. Apparently, that win ended the feud between him and Uso, so he announces his plans to win the Royal Rumble as his next achievement. Sami Zayn comes in to mock him and to show off his two Slammys.
Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (champion) VS Big E
The lumberjacks surround the ring as Langston shoves Zayn around to start the match. Zayn manages to dodge a running charge and kicks Langston to the floor, where an assortment of heels punch and kick the challenger before sending him back into the ring.
Zayn sends Langston to the floor again for more of the same treatment, but Langston manages to get a watered-down version of a Brock Lock on Zayn before taking the fight to the apron. Big E tries a splash, but the champ scurries into the ring and Langston rolls to the floor for another beating. This time it ends with Zayn diving over the ropes and taking Langston to the ground.
A commercial break brings us back to Zayn taking shots at a dazed Langston before Big E responds with a couple of belly-to-belly suplexes. He thinks about a Big Ending, but Zayn wiggles away and goes to the floor. Of course, there’s no escape that way and, with the fight continuing in the ring, Zayn hits a sit-out powerbomb from the second-rope for a two-count.
Langston spears Zayn (and himself) to the floor, which inspires a fight amongst the lumberjacks themselves. Zayn tries to use the confusion to run to the back, but a crew of babyface lumberjacks brings him back to the ring. Langston welcomes him with a belly-to-belly, a splash, and a Big Ending for the win and a new champ!
Winner via pinfall and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Big E Langston
Match Rating: 3/5
Big E is hoisted by his friends, confetti rains down, and Sami Zayn looks awfully dejected by the loss. I like both of these guys, so this is a bittersweet win/loss.
SmackDown, December 25th
As far as a final Friday night show for 2020 goes, this had solid storytelling and a feel of earnestness from most of the wrestlers. I’ll miss Zayn as champ, but he’s someone who certainly doesn’t need a belt to get himself noticed. As for Big E, this could be the beginning of a big 2021.