WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 12
If you were a wrestler not competing on the December 12 episode of SmackDown Live, odds are you were on commentary and ended up involved in someone else's match. No one's interference had a greater effect on the show, though, than that of SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan, who counted Shinsuke Nakamura down and added fuel to speculation that he may be biased toward Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
The lead heels on Tuesday nights were all over the show, as SmackDown Live built to its Clash of Champions pay-per-view.
Tuesday's broadcast featured the latest chapters in the rivalries between AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal, Charlotte Flair and Natalya, and the SmackDown tag team division, as the brand hoped to sell its audience on the extravaganza that will hit the WWE Network Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET.
Who emerged victorious, how did the developments help the hype for the event and what might it mean going forward?
Find out now with this recap of Tuesday's USA Network presentation.
AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal Face-to-Face
AJ Styles kicked off the program and drew a huge ovation from the SmackDown faithful.
He discussed winning the WWE Championship from Mahal and vowed to be a fighting champion.
The Singh Brothers eventually interrupted and refused to introduce Mahal, thanks to the heinous actions of The Maharaja a few weeks back, when he attacked them and left them lying in a heap of bone and flesh.
Styles, unfooled by Sunil and Samir's pledge of allegiance to The Phenomenal One, attacked them as Mahal made his entrance.
Mahal did not physically engage Styles, merely opting to stare him down before checking on The Singh Brothers to close out the opening segment.
Portraying Styles as a smarter-than-usual babyface who sees through The Singh Brothers and Mahal's attempt at deceit is so fresh it is almost amazing WWE Creative even had it in them to book it.
Usually, babyfaces are booked as complete idiots, naive fools who do not see a devious plan in motion until it is far too late.
His thwarting the attempt at betrayal before the pay-per-view was such a nice touch that it almost leads one to believe that maybe, just maybe, it is Styles and the Singhs who are setting Mahal up and luring him into a false sense of security.
Or maybe not.
Whatever the case may be, this worked and was a great start to the show.
Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott
NXT alumni squared off in the first match of the night, as Charlotte Flair battled Ruby Riott.
Riott established herself as a competitor on the level of the SmackDown women's champion, controlling the majority of the bout heading into the commercial break.
Charlotte, feeding off the energy of the crowd, fought her way back into the match.
As the action spilled to the arena floor, Charlotte found herself fighting off the other members of The Riott Squad before laying out her Clash of Champions opponent, Natalya, who was doing commentary at ringside.
This led to Natalya's assaulting Charlotte and drawing the disqualification.
The Queen of Harts watched on approvingly as The Riott Squad beat down Flair inside the squared circle. Then, Naomi made a shocking return just weeks after being laid out by the treacherous trio. She took the fight to Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan before the heels retreated.
Lana, Carmella and Tamina appeared, though, and attacked them.
Riott, Logan and Morgan escaped after having the fight taken to them for the first time in their SmackDown Live run.
Charlotte Flair defeated Ruby Riott via disqualification
A dynamic return and a united front spelled trouble for The Riott Squad, which showed the first crack in its proverbial armor Tuesday night. The return of Naomi sets up months of matches, while the union of Carmella, Lana and Tamina is unique in that it sets up a potential heel vs. heel program, if WWE explores that option.
Charlotte vs. Natalya is a program almost guaranteed to deliver in the ring but really must end Sunday night so the two competitors can move onto other feuds, rivalries and matchups.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
Bobby Roode sat in on commentary for the showdown between heels, and former rivals, Dolph Ziggler and United States champion Baron Corbin.
The match was just moments underway when both men were down, unrealistically selling exhaustion early into their clash.
Roode entered the ring and delivered the Glorious DDT to The Showoff, paying him back for the ZigZag he endured a week ago and drawing the disqualification.
Corbin attempted to counter a Roode attack, but the former NXT champion delivered another Glorious DDT, leaving The Lone Wolf lying in a heap.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Baron Corbin via disqualification
Yes, this played up the events of last week, when Ziggler interfered in Corbin vs. Roode, but this felt more like a lazy rehash than a clever follow-up.
Given the talent involved, this should be a red-hot match. Instead, it feels like a foregone conclusion of a bout, a contest that will serve as another platform for Corbin and another sad instance of the ultra-talented Ziggler eating a pin.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Colin Delaney and Joe Monroe
Colin Delaney returned to WWE television.
Had this been 2009, it may have been a big deal. It is not, and it was not, as the ECW alumnus teamed with an unknown partner to become the latest victims of The Bludgeon Brothers.
Harper and Rowan ran over the not-so-dynamic duo and picked up the victory.
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Colin Delaney and Joe Monroe
The Bludgeon Brothers are a fun throwback to the era of the Road Warriors, Demolition and the Powers of Pain. They are a dynamic big-man team with a punishing offense that pops crowds and almost always looks impressive.
The unique presentation only helps matters and should lead to their injection into the tag team title hunt sooner rather than later.
Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and the YEP! Movement
The cocky, sarcastic and immensely egotistical Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn emphatically announced the arrival of the so-called "YEP! Movement," a take on Daniel Bryan's "YES! Movement" that captivated audiences in 2013 and '14.
Owens and Zayn, biased in their opinions, referred to Shane McMahon as the worst authority figure in his family before crediting Bryan with inspiring their new movement.
This brought out the general manager, who was confident that both him and Shane-O-Mac will be on the same page come Sunday's pay-per-view event.
So confident, in fact, that he would go on to name himself the second guest referee for the high-stakes tag match in which, if Owens and Zayn lose to Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura, they will be fired from WWE.
The heels seemed thrilled by the announcement as Bryan's music played the GM out to a pop.
A new wrinkle has been added to the real main event of Clash of Champions, with Bryan's allegiances being called into question.
What on the surface appears to be another nondescript tag match between four supremely talented wrestlers now is even more significant thanks to the storyline possibilities it presents.
That is quality writing and the type of development WWE Creative would fail to deliver on Monday nights. The SmackDown brand, despite uneven booking and concerns about a lack of excitement surrounding Sunday's show, added great intrigue with this one.
The Usos vs. Aiden English and Rusev
With The New Day watching from ringside, The Usos, Rusev and Aiden English traded barbs before Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin interjected themselves into the fray and cut a not-so-fantastic promo of their own.
Back from the break, the action was hot and heavy as the heels controlled the bout.
The Usos fired off a comeback, though, and were rolling until a well-timed bit of interference from Rusev on the arena floor. Back inside, English scored a modified DDT to pick up the win.
Rusev and Aiden English defeated The Usos
The commercial break hurt the match, eating up the majority of its runtime.
With that said, the effort by WWE Creative to put Rusev and English over in recent weeks has been a welcome addition to the brand. An act that probably never should have succeeded is succeeding thanks to the performances of the Superstars involved.
Rusev and English's win here continued their recent roll.
Benjamin and Gable are another story.
What should have been a major push for their team has, instead, seen every other team on the roster overshadow them while they deliver porous promos that do them no favors.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens
The main event of this week's show pitted two of the greatest Superstars in WWE today, and two of the most celebrated champions in NXT history, against each other, as Shinsuke Nakamura battled Kevin Owens in singles competition.
With Randy Orton and Sami Zayn at ringside, and general manager Daniel Bryan on commentary, the situation was sure to turn volatile.
It certainly did.
After a back-and-forth match that saw Owens control the pace early, only for Nakamura to battle back with a fiery comeback late, the referee was bumped, and Bryan was thrust into action.
The SmackDown GM retrieved the referee's shirt and took over officiating for the main event.
Zayn attempted to interfere, but Orton cut him off, igniting a brawl between the two. Zayn recovered enough to attempt a second comeback but was knocked back to the arena floor.
Capitalizing on the momentary distraction, Owens delivered the Popup Powerbomb and scored the pinfall victory, earning him and Zayn a bit of momentum heading into Sunday's pay-per-view.
Commentator Byron Saxton flat suggested Bryan was in the back pocket of the heels come Sunday night.
Kevin Owens defeated Shinsuke Nakamura
The idea behind this was to deliver a quality main event while creating the sense that maybe, just maybe, Bryan is in collusion with Owens and Zayn.
Particularly after the announcement by Bryan that he would be the second guest referee for Sunday's high-profile main event.
Nakamura continues to have really solid matches on the main roster but has not had that one, truly great match that inspires fans to invest completely in him. Until that happens, the results will be somewhat disappointing, even if there was nothing inherently wrong with the match he and Owens delivered at all.