Friday night’s episode of Smackdown offered a few presents to everyone tonight, in the form of a tremendous promo by Paul Heyman and a fantastic Women’s Championship match. A lengthy 12-man gauntlet match offered some decent moments as well. And even a quasi-comedic streetfight offered some fun, though purists would undoubtedly consider it the in-ring equivalent of a lump of coal. Overall, though, the show was a fine way to spend some time while waiting for Santa Claus.

The show started with an interview segment from earlier today where a despondent and scruffy-looking Paul Heyman was being interviewed by Kayla Braxton. She offered to give him the opportunity to discuss what happened last week when he was publicly fired by Roman Reigns last week. Heyman said because he told the truth to Reigns last week, he was humiliated and beaten up and paid the price publicly. But he said he doesn’t regret telling the truth, because his role as Special Counsel was to tell Reigns “these uncomfortable truths” to protect the championship. Heyman said that Reigns was the greatest Universal Champion of all time, but he needs to be protected from Brock Lesnar. Kayla asked Heyman what was next for him. He said that he isn’t ready to start over with someone new. He said that maybe it’s time to acknowledge that his career is likely over.

Heyman deserves an Emmy nomination for his performances this year, and this was just even more support for that argument. He was perfect here.


Match 1: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Toni Storm – for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

After some jockeying for position, Storm tried for a couple of quick pinfalls, prompting Charlotte to leave the ring to cool Storm’s momentum. When she got back in the ring, Charlotte turned up the aggression, ramming Storm’s head into the turnbuckles and alternating between power shots and wear-down-moves to keep Storm immobile. Storm tried to fight back, but got blasted with a huge Pump Kick that sent her to the floor, and into a commercial break.

When we got back, Charlotte was trash-talking Storm between beatdowns, but all the trash-talking did was light a fire under Storm, who tried to come back with a couple of Suplexes, the second of which scoring a long 2-count. But Storm wasn’t able to sustain an advantage, as Charlotte had an answer for everything she tried.

Eventually, Charlotte locked on a Figure-Four Leglock, but Storm was able to flip over to break it. The match spilled to the floor, and Toni took over, throwing Charlotte into the ring post. Back in the ring, and Charlotte nearly stole a pin with a rope-assisted pin, but the ref saw and stopped the cheating attempt.


A series of roll-ups and reversals followed, and ultimately it was Charlotte who was able to roll-up Storm and keep her down for the count.

This was a really good match, though the ending seemed to come out of nowhere and felt a bit anti-climactic. This would have been a good opportunity to mix things up with a new champion and mix things up. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end of Storm’s push, because she could easily be the face of the division.

Winner, and still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Charlotte Flair

They replayed the segment with Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss and their quest for Deskalibur that got thwarted by Drew McIntyre who was able to retrieve the sword.

In the back, the New Day were talking about Drew’s feat and he came up to them. The three of them will face the Usos and Madcap Moss tonight. The New Day got Drew to laugh along with them like a nerd.

Rick Boogs introduced the Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. He’ll be watching the 12-Man Gauntlet Match since the winner will become the number one contender for his championship.

They aired a quick recap of Naomi’s troubles with Sonya DeVille, and the debut of Xia Li, who is on a collision course with Natalya.

Li cut a pre-taped promo. She said she doesn’t fear Natalya, and she will take her on because she is The Protector.


Match 2: 12-Man Gauntlet Match

Angel (formerly Angel Garza) of Los Lothorios was the first entrant and his opponent was Mansoor. Mansoor was doing well until Angel swept his legs out from under him when Mansoor was climbing up the ropes. Mansoor scaled the ropes again, but when he went for a leaping attack, Angel hit him with a well-timed kick to the gut. A Wing Clipper by Angel ended Mansoor.

Erik of the Viking Raiders was trying to enter next, but Angel attacked him before Erik could get into the ring. But when Angel went for a Moonsault off the top to the floor, Erik caught him and slammed him hard onto the floor, leading to an ad break. Erik used some power moves, but Garza avoided Running Corner Knees and Erik hit the mat hard. A Wing Clipper was enough to end Erik’s night.

Shanky was in next and he just dominated Angel, hitting a bunch of power moves, and pinning Angel after a Fireman Carry Slam.

Ivar was the fifth competitor and he went toe-to-toe with Shanky. And then ate Shanky’s toes and the rest of his feet with a huge Boot to the Head. But the agile Ivar was able to employ a hit-and-move attack and when he got Shanky down, hit him with a Flying Viking Splash off the top to get the pin.


Sheamus entered next and he and Ivar started off by clobbering each other, with Ivar getting the early advantage, sending Sheamus arse-over-teakettle to the floor with a big clothesline. Sheamus was in control after the commercial, to the delight of his protégé Ridge Holland who joined at ringside to watch the action. Ivar hit a Seated Splash onto Sheamus’ chest, but Sheamus kicked out. And then he Brogue Kicked Ivar to put the Viking down and out.

Drew Gulak was lucky number seven, but his luck ran out in mere seconds as he was Brogue Kicked immediately after entering the ring and pinned.

Sheamus wouldn’t have time to celebrate, as Cesaro was in there next. The erstwhile tag team partners had no time for nostalgia, but instead immediately tore into one another on the floor. Sheamus escaped to the confines of the ring, but nearly got pinned after a High Cross Body. Sheamus slowed things down by targeting Cesaro’s injured ribs. Cesaro fought back and hit a Dropkick and then put Sheamus in the Giant Swing, though his ribs prevented him from getting too many rotations. He was going for the Neutralizer, but Holland jumped up on the apron and distracted Cesaro. He took his eyes off Sheamus long enough to get hit with the Brogue Kick and pinned.

Ricochet ran in next and used his speed and aerials to stagger Sheamus, hitting a huge Springboard Asai Moonsault onto Sheamus on the floor, landing hard on Sheamus’ head. Wow!


But after the commercial, Sheamus was in control, grounding Ricochet and squeezing his head before slamming him down with authority. Ricochet hit a surprise Tornado DDT and then chopped at Sheamus with kicks, and knocked him down with a Springboard Cross Body. Ricochet hit a number of big high-flying moves, but couldn’t keep Sheamus down. He was going for one when Ridge Holland hopped onto the apron to try to interfere. Cesaro ran down to the ring and took out Holland (and a camera man who Holland got shoved hard into). When a shocked Sheamus reacted to this, Ricochet took advantage and rolled up Sheamus for the three.

With a mouthful of sour grapes, Sheamus hit Ricochet with a Brogue Kick, much to the delight of Umberto of Los Lothorios who was in next. He hit Ricochet with a huge Dropkick and then scaled the ropes for the easy win. But Ricochet wouldn’t make it easy, as he got his feet up into Umberto’s face, stunning him. And then a Recoil was enough to put Umberto down for good.

Jinder Mahal stormed his way to the ring as number 11, and he tore into Ricochet. But his progress in the match was hindered – and ended – with a roll-up by Ricochet.

Sami Zayn was the final entrant and coming in completely fresh had a definite advantage. He started off by ground-and-pounding Ricochet who was feeling the effects of his previous battles. Sami got a bit too cocky and started jawing at Ricochet, only to nearly get pinned after a Hurancarana. But he recovered and went back on the offense, hitting Ricochet with a Blue Thunder Bomb – but Ricochet surprisingly kicked out!

Ricochet valiantly fought back over and over again and nearly pinned Sami on a couple of occasions. But Sami got his knees up when Ricochet went for the Shooting Star Press and that crunched Ricochet hard. An Exploder Suplex in the corner and a Helluva Kick was enough and Ricochet finally had to succumb for the pin.

After the match, Nakamura and Sami had a bit of a stare-down.

This was generally good, though the number of competitors could easily have been cut down to half. Was anyone really thinking that any of the tag team competitors had a shot? The slobberknocker between Cesaro and Sheamus was really good. And Ricochet did some magical things during his time there. I worry about Los Lotharios – losing their last names and being given a Spanish team name makes them almost feel like Los Matadores v2.0 – all that’s missing is a mini in a bull costume. But more Shanky, please – that guy is like a young version of the Great Khali… and I mean that in a good way… but I know I’m probably in the minority. Anyway, based on his win, it looks like Sami is next in line for the IC Championship. So if that’s the thing that you want to see, then this may very well have been your Christmas present.

Winner: Sami Zayn

They replayed the closing segment from last week where Roman fired Heyman. After that, they aired a Heyman career retrospective package, talking about his managerial roles in WCW and as the brainchild behind ECW. They acknowledged his influence on the Attitude Era and then talked about the ill-fated Invasion angle. From there, they recapped his history with Brock Lesnar, from his huge initial run in 2002 and after Brock’s return, including ending the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. They noted how Heyman was a man without a home after Lesnar left, and was saved by Roman Reigns. Which led to the love triangle between the three of them now. This was great. The first half of the video should be the package they show when they inevitably induct Heyman into the Hall of Fame – actually, I thought when watching it that was where they were going, since it had the same feel as those announcement videos.


Match 3: The New Day (King Woods and Kofi Kingston) and Drew McIntyre vs. the Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) and Madcap Moss (w/ Happy Corbin) – Miracle on 34th Streetfight

They had a table set up ringside with a pitcher of eggnog and plates of cookies on it, so look for that to play into the match at some point.

For some reason, they started off with some traditional wrestling like it was a normal six-man tag team match instead of a streetfight. Even the referee was enforcing the rules. Huh?

After a while, everyone started brawling, and Corbin came in and smacked Drew several times with a Singapore cane wrapped up like a candy cane. Meanwhile, the Usos and New Day fought up the ramp where the Usos threw the New Day into Christmas trees.


Back from the commercial break and everyone had embraced the streetfight stipulation, with weapons being used – including one present that bounced off one of their heads and into the crowd, prompting Pat McAfee to mention a “friendly elf in the audience” (translation: please don’t sue us for being hit with an errant cardboard box).

Between swings of eggnog, the Usos used the Christmas trees like battering rams into the New Day, while Moss beat up Drew in the ring. Hopefully the eggnog wasn’t spiked, because the last thing they need for Christmas is another DUI.

Outside the ring, Woods unwrapped a present and inside was a steel chair, and he hit Jimmy with a Van Daminator. Meanwhile, Kofi hit Jey with a series of kicks and a Boom Drop and followed that up with a nifty-looking Springboard Hurancarana. Kofi then climbed to the top turnbuckle and jumped down, whacking each of the Usos in the head with a tray of cookies.

Moss hammered away at Drew in the ring, but got cut down with a huge Clothesline, and then Drew heaved him around the ring like Santa throws around the elves when they spill hot chocolate on the workshop floor.

Drew was going for a Claymore on Moss, but Corbin grabbed his foot to thwart the attempt. Drew chased Corbin around the ring until Corbin’s path was blocked by the New Day. The faces poured pitchers of eggnog onto both Corbin and Moss.


Shortly thereafter, Drew hit Moss with a Claymore in the middle of the ring and pinned him.

After the match, the New Day and McIntyre threw t-shirts and action figures into the crowd. And then for good measure threw a present right to the back of Moss’ head, knocking him out. Okay, that was funny.

As far as matches go, this was a big mess with bad logic and silliness and worthy of a “Bah, humbug!” But this was clearly meant as a light-hearted, feel-good, fun-fest. The crowd seemed to enjoy it and in particular, liked seeing Moss and Corbin get an eggnog soaking. So in the spirit of the season, let’s just say it was more nice than naughty.

Winners: Drew McIntyre and the New Day

And on that note, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and the best of the season to you and yours.


WWE Smackdown - December 24th, 2021

All-State Arena - Rosemont, Il

This episode had a good mix of solid in-ring action, a promo for the ages, and silly seasonal fun. Paul Heyman was, unsurprisingly, the episode’s MVP, both for his promo and the video highlight reel. With Charlotte and Toni Storm putting on a strong match that suffered only slightly from an anti-climactic finish. The other matches also had bright spots that, overall, made the show an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.