WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 23
'Twas two sleeps before Christmas and all through SmackDown, the team of Ricochet and Braun Strowman battled Imperium in a main event at the Miracle on 34th Street Fight.
The battle headlined a holiday-themed episode that also crowned a new No. 1 contender to Ronda Rousey's SmackDown Women's Championship and saw The Usos defend their historic reign as tag team champions.
Who won, what did it mean for the immediate future of the blue brand, and how did each of the night's segments and matches grade out?
Find out with this recap of the December 23 Fox broadcast.
- Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Braun Strowman and Ricochet vs. Imperium (Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci)
- Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Hit Row vs. The Usos (c)
- No. 1 Contender's Gauntlet Match: Liv Morgan vs. Raquel Rodriguez vs. Emma vs. Tegan Nox vs. Xia Li vs. Sonya Deville
- Bray Wyatt promo
- The latest from The Bloodline
The Bloodline Kicked Off SmackDown
The Bloodline's Solo Sikoa, The Usos, Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns kicked off Friday's show with a promo segment that continued the extraordinary storytelling involving the hottest faction in professional wrestling.
Reigns vowed to smash John Cena and Kevin Owens next week in Tampa, Florida, because that is what he does. From, there he turned the microphone over to Zayn. The Ultimate Opportunist cut a venomous, angry promo in which he referred to KO as the dark cloud that hangs over his career and echoed The Tribal Chief's vow to win the year-end tag team main event.
This was more superb mic work from Reigns and Zayn, whose dynamic has helped fuel the best story WWE has produced arguably since Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho's monthslong story in 2017.
The emotion of Zayn has helped him connect with audiences while Reigns stands by watching, manipulating the situation and conveying as much through his excellent facial expressions.
The moment that the divorce between Zayn and The Bloodline occurs, the fans will erupt and WWE will have its biggest babyface since Daniel Bryan—a face popular enough for the company to consider pivoting from whatever WrestleMania plans it has in place to Zayn challenging The Head of the Table.
It's that good.
- "I found family. I found respect. They love me!" Zayn said of The Bloodline.
- "There is a black cloud hanging over my head, and its name is Kevin Owens."
- "We. Are. The. Show!"
- "We are going to leave you mangled!"
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Hit Row vs. The Usos
"That's not a prediction. It's a spoiler," Paul Heyman told fans of The Usos' victory over Hit Row to retain the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship prior to Friday's match.
Jimmy and Jey proved him right, overcoming the game challengers to retain and continue their history-making run as champs.
Late, Top Dolla powered Jimmy and Jey up for what appeared to be a double powerslam, but his body gave out on him and the heels capitalized, delivering stereo superkicks and a 1D for the pinfall victory.
This was a big test for Hit Row. Without Swerve Strickland, there had been rumbling among fans about Top Dolla, Ashante Thee Adonis and B-Fab's prospects for success. Luckily, the team turned in one of the best performances of their young careers against the division standard-bearers.
Whether that is enough to earn them another opportunity in this spot remains to be seen, but when presented with an opportunity to sink or swim, they did the latter. That bodes well for them and the SmackDown tag team division as a whole, which has struggled to create a bona fide roster of championship contenders despite certainly having the depth and quality.
The Usos defeated Hit Row.
- The attempted power-up spot with Top Dolla was solid and helped to the tell the story of a powerhouse failed by his body.
Gauntlet Match to Determine the No. 1 Contender
Six women battled in a Gauntlet Match for the right to challenge Ronda Rousey for the SmackDown Women's Championship, with Emma and Xia Li kicking things off. Nondescript action, though not lacking effort, concluded rather abruptly with Li scoring the pinfall on the Aussie. (Emma eliminated.)
Tegan Nox entered the match next, taking the fight to Li in retaliation for the Chinese-born competitor costing her and Liv Morgan the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship a week ago. The same fate awaited Nox as Li wiped her out with a kick to the back of the head to advance. (Nox eliminated.)
The still-injured Raquel Rodriguez entered the match next as the commentary team repeatedly put over the elbow injury plaguing the former NXT women's champion. Rodriguez overcame the targeted offense of her opponent to down her with the Chingona Bomb. (Li eliminated.)
Former champion Liv Morgan entered next and took the fight directly to Rodriguez. The second-generation star powered out of the Rings of Saturn submission and continued to fight for a spot in next week's title match. Spotty selling from Rodriguez of the elbow notwithstanding, the two had the best stretch of the match, ending with her scoring the pin. (Morgan eliminated.)
A relentless, cerebral Sonya Deville attacked early and often, targeting the elbow. Rodriguez fought out, drove the former WWE official off the top rope and pinned her. (Deville eliminated.)
Rousey appeared and revealed that there is one last opponent for Rodriguez before introducing Shayna Baszler. The Queen of Spades attacked the elbow, but Rodriguez quickly rolled her up to win the match. (Baszler eliminated.)
It may sound like a broken record, but all of this would have meant so much more if fans had any reason to care about half of the competitors in this one. The talent is there, but underwritten characters and lackluster storytelling has hurt the SmackDown division and this was a greater extension of it.
Nox just returned but was beaten. Ditto Emma. Li had a big moment last week but, despite an impressive early run, also suffered a loss. Rodriguez was pushed to the moon and, fine, that may help create a new star but the (lack of) reaction from the fans suggests they are not ready or willing to throw their support behind her.
Maybe that changes by next week.
Rodriguez defeated Baszler, Deville, Morgan, Li, Nox and Emma.
- The Morgan-Rodriguez match showed some promise and begged the question: Is Rodriguez in the wrong role as a generic babyface rather than working heel as an imposing badass?
Bray Wyatt Addresses LA Knight, Uncle Howdy
One week after Uncle Howdy emerged from the backstage and revealed that Bray Wyatt was not the man behind the mask, Wyatt took to the squared circle to demand an apology from LA Knight.
A torn, conflicted Wyatt ultimately ended the brisk segment with an attack on the cameraman, applying a mandible claw a la The Fiend before staring stoically ahead.
Some may mistake this as a step back based on what we saw last week, but it was a logical progression for Wyatt, who is coming more and more to terms with the idea that, for all of his attempts at presenting a new side of himself, he really is the monster that lies behind the different masks he has worn over the years.
Look no further than the ode to The Fiend and his recent, apparent recruiting of Alexa Bliss.
- "Be honest! You thought it was me for a minute at least," Wyatt told the WWE Universe.
- The stoic look on Wyatt's face after his shocking actions helped put over the story of a man losing touch with reality.
Rey Mysterio vs. Angel
Rey Mysterio returned to action Friday, battling Los Lotharios' Angel, who had Humberto lurking in his corner.
Mysterio found himself on the defensive, battling not only his opponent but the ominous presence of Karrion Kross and Scarlett watching from the stands.
He overcame the arsenal of a game Angel, though, and scored the win before challenging Kross to join him in the ring. The former NXT champion pointed at his wrist, insinuating that time is up for the legendary star.
This was a nice little showcase for Mysterio against someone in Angel who, along with Humberto, continues to be underutilized by WWE. With that said, the focus was on Mysterio and his budding rivalry with Kross, which is the perfect use of two guys who can be easily plugged into the main event scene as needed but are not at this point.
Mysterio pinned Angel.
- Backstage, Emma confronted Kross and Scarlett. "Who do you think you are disrespecting a legend like Rey Mysterio?" she asked before taking exception to their treatment of Madcap Moss of late. She slapped Scarlett, prompting Kross to warn, "You have no idea what you've just done."
That was one heck of a slap by Emma 😬<a href="https://twitter.com/Lady_Scarlett13?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Lady_Scarlett13</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/realKILLERkross?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@realKILLERkross</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SmackDown</a> <a href="https://t.co/Fmz6mUKRPj">pic.twitter.com/Fmz6mUKRPj</a>
- A phenomenal video package paid homage to John Cena and hyped his return on next week's show.
Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Ricochet and Braun Strowman vs. Imperium
The rivalry between Imperium and the duo of Ricochet and Braun Strowman continued Friday night as Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser squared off with The One and Only and The Monster Among Monsters in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight.
The wild, chaotic brawl had everything: cookies, Christmas trees, ballerinas, New Day as nutcrackers, mistletoe, Samantha Irvin and another signature win for Ricochet, who earned the win with a Shooting Star Press.
This was a fun, energetic match that is not going to be confused for a wrestling classic but gave the audience a lighthearted holiday offering to cap off the WWE week.
More importantly, it continued a career renaissance for Ricochet in 2022, really highlighting him and serving as a statement to the wrestling world that he is one to keep an eye on in the new year.
Ricochet and Strowman defeated Imperium.
B, mostly for the fun spots, the added involvement of Irvin and a cameo by indie competitor Ashley D'Amboise as the ballerina
- Michael Cole explained away Gunther's absence by stating he got an early start on holiday vacation. It was a nice touch because it distances the uber-serious wrestler from the hijinx in a match of this sort.
- A ballerina emerged from one giant gift box on the stage while NXT Tag Team champions The New Day stepped out of the other apparently as nutcrackers as they kicked Vinci and Kaiser low.
- Strowman grabbed mistletoe and urged ring announcer Samantha Irvin to kiss Ricochet. She did and he fired up, leading to the finish. Cole actually acknowledged the couple's real-life relationship, another sign that Triple H respects his fans' intelligence and understands they have social media.