WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 30
John Cena kept a 20-year streak intact Friday night, returning to SmackDown for a year-closing main event in which he partnered with Kevin Owens to battle Sami Zayn and Undisputed WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns.
Cena's first, and only, match of 2022 headlined an episode that also saw a defense of the SmackDown Women's Championship by Ronda Rousey and the latest in the battle for supremacy between The Brawling Brutes and The Bloodline.
- John Cena and Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn
- Sheamus vs. Solo SIkoa
- SmackDown Women's Championship Match: Raquel Rodriguez vs. Ronda Rousey
Bray Wyatt Kicked Off SmackDown
Bray Wyatt kicked off the night's broadcast and immediately apologized for his actions a week ago, which saw him attack an innocent cameraman. LA Knight interrupted, though,
After Knight issued a challenge for a match at Royal Rumble and Wyatt accepted, Uncle Howdy made his way to the ring. He came face-to-face with Wyatt, then stood by his side before dropping the former WWE champion with Sister Abigail and leaving Knight to ask, "what is going on?!"
This was a noteworthy start to the show. It once again put Howdy in the arena, and this time, his actions suggest he might not actually be on the same side as Wyatt. Knight audibly questioning what is going on reflects the audience's sentiment as they try to figure out the pieces of the puzzle Wyatt and the creative forces at play are producing.
The Rumble match between Wyatt and Knight should be good and, more importantly, prevents the former from having to lose in the actual Royal Rumble.
- "Deep down, I don't think of myself as a good person, though I really do try."
- "You can't even finish a sentence, then you get all embarrassed and take it out on a poor cameraman," Knight said, mocking Wyatt.
- "You pay one of your goons to come down here in a Captain Howdy outfit..."
- "You used to be something. You used to be a force," Knight said, taunting Wyatt. "Week after week, all you've proven yourself to be is a fraud. A broke-down loser."
- Uncle Howdy entered the arena, stepping through what appeared to be an enflamed doorway, complete with his own theme music.
Sheamus vs. Solo Sikoa
An appropriately physical match kicked off the night's in-ring action as The Brawling Brutes' Sheamus battled The Bloodline's Solo Sikoa one-on-one. Butch and Ridge Holland accompanied The Celtic Warrior while The Usos backed up their brother.
Sheamus fought from underneath and surged late, but a momentary distraction caused by his attack on Jimmy and Jey allowed Sikoa to drive him into the post and deliver a Samoan Spike for the pinfall victory.
After the match, The Bloodline wiped out Butch and Holland and beat down Sheamus until Drew McIntyre returned for the first time since Survivor Series and made the save.
A bit more seasoning for Sikoa and this would have been a real banger, but as it is, this was a fine, competitive match that spotlighted the young star while continuing to put over the grittiness of Sheamus at this point in his Hall of Fame career.
McIntyre making the save makes sense, not only because of his respect for Sheamus but because of the unfinished business he has with Sikoa. It was the NXT export who cost The Scottish Warrior the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship back at Clash At The Castle, and the company has done a fantastic job with the slow burn rather than jumping at the first opportunity to book the match.
Sikoa pinned Sheamus
- Sheamus wiped out The Usos at ringside, allowing Sikoa to grab him by the arm and drive him into the ring post.
- The McIntyre save drew a big pop, a testament to his continued popularity with the WWE fans.
SmackDown Women's Championship Match: Raquel Rodriguez vs. Ronda Rousey
Driven by fury following multiple attacks that left her with an injured arm, Raquel Rodriguez wasted little time taking the fight to SmackDown Women's Champion Ronda Rousey in their title bout Friday night.
Rousey capitalized on an ill-fated blind charge heading into the break and targeted the arm, looking to exploit it to her advantage as she seized control. A big vertical suplex coming out of the break earned Rodriguez a two-count.
Later, interference from Shayna Baszler went unpunished by the official and, moments later, a recovered Rousey applied the armbar and pulled Rodriguez from the top rope to the mat below, forcing an immediate tap out.
With zero time to waste, Charlotte Flair returned to WWE, months after losing the same SmackDown Women's Championship to Rousey, and issued a challenge for a match tonight. Rousey accepted, and Flair proceeded to score a pin on Rousey to win the title.
WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!<a href="https://twitter.com/MsCharlotteWWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MsCharlotteWWE</a> IS BACK AND JUST WON THE <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SMACKDOWN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SMACKDOWN</a> WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SmackDown</a> <a href="https://t.co/Rl3nSKyiZb">pic.twitter.com/Rl3nSKyiZb</a>
This is some expert Jedi mind trickery here as Triple H and the creative team have the crowd cheering Flair in a way she had not been in quite some time, partly because of the surprise but, also, because they really don't like Rousey that much more.
Of course, it will be interesting to see if Flair can retain that popularity as it becomes clear that she is in her 14th reign as champion and literally just strolled back in and won the gold. With that said, she is a standard-bearer for women's wrestling and has more than earned her spot.
A new look, a new theme song, and a different presentation helped pique interest in The Queen once more. Whether Triple H and Co. can help preserve that interest is the real question moving forward.
As for Rodriguez, she looked very good and was clearly the better of the two wrestlers. It would not be surprising to see her in a high-profile match or position against Flair right around WrestleMania 39.
Rousey defeated Rodriguez to retain; Flair defeated Rousey to win the title
- "Oh, we got a bleeder!" Rousey taunted as she continued her domination of Rodriguez.
- Rousey grabbed Rodriguez's arm, but the challenger powered through it, spilled to the floor and powerbombed the champion on to the ring apron.
- Rodriguez had the title won, but Baszler interfered on behalf of the champion as the commentary team called for her dismissal from ringside. It did not come.
Gunther's Path of Destruction
Intercontinental champion Gunther, Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci hit the ring for a promo segment, but Braun Strowman interrupted relatively quickly.
Strowman issued a challenge for an IC title match, but Gunther turned to walk away. Strowman insisted and a brawl broke out. The Monster Among Monsters launched himself at The Ring General but crashed through the timekeeper's barricade. Imperium beat him down before Gunther targeted the left arm of his top contender.
Vinci and Kaiser fended off referees and officials, but a chair-toting Ricochet chased the heels off.
It appears destined to be Strowman who, potentially, ends Gunther's run. At the least, Strowman is his latest and greatest challenger. Either way, it was nice to see the heel get some heat back by punishing Strowman and potentially injuring him after running like a coward the last handful of times he was in the big man's vicinity.
The inevitable showdown will have heat and, if recent history is any indication, Gunther will probably give Strowman his best match to date.
- Backstage, Sami Zayn asked Roman Reigns if he is upset about the crowd chanting his name instead of The Tribal Chief's. The Undisputed WWE Universal champion laughed it off.
- Some friendly backstage competition gave way to a heated exchange between Hit Row and Ricochet after the latter referred to Top Dolla as "Flop Dolla" in response to his recent botched dive.
- Michael Cole officially announced Wyatt vs. Knight for Royal Rumble as the "Mountain Dew Pitch Black" match but did not go into further detail.
John Cena and Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn
John Cena may have returned to the ring for the first time in 2022 as part of Friday's main event tag team match, but the story of the first half was Sami Zayn, who sought to impress Roman Reigns as The Bloodline representatives battled The Greatest of All Time and Kevin Owens.
The heels isolated and beat down Owens through the commercial break, cutting him off from Cena. When it looked like a hot tag might be coming, The Tribal Chief pulled Cena off the apron.
Cena eventually exploded into the match, wiped out Reigns with an Attitude Adjustment and watched as Owens finished Zayn with a Stunner for the win.
The match was seriously abbreviated, having only 10 minutes once the entrances and final commercials wrapped up. The action was abrupt and rushed, with a brief heat segment on Owens before the Cena hot tag. By the time he finally hit the ring to spark the comeback, it was over.
All of the hype and Cena's involvement was limited to a few moves before it went home.
With that said, the energy he brought to the match and his selflessness when it came to giving Owens the shine was the stuff of a real pro. His involvement may have been short-lived, but he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand and really helped put over Owens by sharing the spotlight with him and allowing him to get the pin on Zayn.
How will Reigns react to Zayn failing to end the KO problem and, worse, losing the match for The Bloodline? That will be the story to watch heading into 2023.
Cena and Owens defeated Reigns and Zayn
B, elevated significantly by the fun of it all and the raw energy of Cena, which is majorly missed
- Amid the pomp and circumstance of the match, Michael Cole slyly reminded the audience that Zayn is still "honorary" until that title is dropped and he had to impress Reigns and end the KO problem to make that happen. Great setup and a reminder of what's actually at play in this match.
- "You're embarrassing yourself in front of The Tribal Chief," Owens exclaimed.
- Owens scored a near-fall off a frog splash on Reigns.
- The Cena hot tag was special stuff, as was the double Five Knuckle Shuffle to the heels.