WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights from December 25

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2020

WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights from December 25

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    Credit: WWE.com

    As families opened gifts, watched holiday classics, and gathered around the table for massive feasts, the Superstars of WWE SmackDown took to the squared circle for a taped episode headlined by a monumental Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship.

    Did Roman Reigns remain The Head of the Table or was Kevin Owens able to stun his way to the greatest Christmas of his professional life?

    What else went down on the jam-packed Fox broadcast?

    Find out now with this recap of Friday's very special holiday presentation.

Match Card

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    Already announced for the show are:    

    • Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
    • Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Big E vs. Sami Zayn
    • Triple Threat Match for the Women's Tag Team Championship: Charlotte Flair and Asuka vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair vs. Carmella and Bayley
    • Daniel Bryan vs. Jey Uso

        

    Coverage begins at 8:00 PM.

Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Five days removed from a late Match of the Year candidate that saw Roman Reigns narrowly retain his Universal Championship against Kevin Owens at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, The Head of the Table again defended against The Fighter inside a Steel Cage.

    Owens downed Reigns with a DDT and continued to put the champion on the defensive with a cannonball in the corner as Paul Heyman showed very real concern for the first time. Reigns turned the tides, countering a pop-up powerbomb attempt with a leg drop for a near-fall.

    Owens recovered and delivered a frog splash for two heading into the break.

    Back from the timeout, Owens successfully executed the powerbomb, but scored yet another near-fall as Reigns managed to shoot his shoulder off the mat at two. He fended off a flurry from The Tribal Chief and delivered a fisherman buster for another close two.

    Reigns blocked a stunner and rocked his challenger with a Superman Punch. Building for the momentum for the first time in the match, Reigns stalked after Owens and applied the guillotine in the ropes. Owens, on the defensive, brought The Head of the Table down throat-first across the top rope.

    Reigns sought the stunner but Owens caught him and dropped him with a stunner. Reigns kicked out at two, leaving the challenger wondering what he had to do to win the title.

    After another break, Reigns got his knees up, driving them into the challenger’s back during a swanton bomb attempt. Reigns followed with a spear, but could not keep Owens down. A look of disbelief and doubt painted the champion’s face as he motioned for the door to be opened. The resilient babyface grabbed hold of his leg. The distraction allowed Owens to reach up, grab the cage door and slam it in Reigns’ face.

    Owens came within inches of winning the title but stopped momentarily to dispose of Jey Uso. Reigns slowed his momentum and delivered another Superman Punch. Owens answered with a second stunner. Uso handcuffed Owens to the cage, proving essential to the champion’s retention odds.

    Reigns walked out of the cage, taunting his opponent along the way, before reaching the floor for the win.

        

    Result

    Reigns defeated Owens to retain his title

         

    Grade

    A

        

    Analysis

    That Reigns and Owens wrestled this quality of match some 24-48 hours after their TLC classic is a Christmas miracle.

    This was another dramatic bit of business that left the audience thinking, despite all preconceived notions, Owens may pull out the win. The bumps were great, the near-falls were fantastic and the finish allowed Owens to maintain credibility while further establishing Reigns as a ruthless, relentless but most importantly resourceful, heel champion.

    Uso continues to bail his cousin out, setting the table for some babyface to come along and neutralize him in an attempt to wrest the Universal Championship from Reigns.

Triple Threat Elimination Match for the Women's Tag Team Championships

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Women’s Tag Team Champions Charlotte Flair and Asuka hit the ring to address the WWE Universe, only to be interrupted by Bayley, SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair and Carmella in an order that makes no sense all things considered.

    This gave way to the advertised Triple Threat Elimination Match for the tag titles in which Flair and Aska defended against Banks and Belair and Bayley and Carmella. 

    Bayley and Carmella gained an early upper-hand, unprejudiced with their attack. First, they targeted Asuka before Carmella delivered a cheap shot to Banks, knocking her off the apron. The artist formerly known as The Princess of Staten Island’s arrogance backfired as Banks and Belair teed off on her.

    Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan watched from backstage as Flair and Belair paired off. A blind charge felled The EST just in time for the action to break down. Back in the ring, Bayley delivered a Bayley-to-Belly to Asuka for near-fall heading into the break. 

    After the commercial, Bayley and Carmella became the first team to be eliminated following a frog splash from The Boss to the Role Model.

    Asuka nearly eliminated Belair with an O’Connor roll off a distraction from Bayley. Belair delivered a powerbomb for a near-fall but without Banks there to support her after an attack by Bayley, she fell prey to Flair’s Natural Selection as the champions successfully defended.

        

    Result

    Flair and Asuka retained over Carmella and Bayley, and Banks and Belair

        

    Grade

    B

        

    Analysis

    The sequences here were much better than the overall product, but still managed to result in a damn fun match. Belair looked great, Bayley was the consummate antagonist and the champions picked up a quality win.

    Energetic and fun, it was the second match of the night to deliver on a jam-packed show.

    This was star-studded, yes, but it did beg the question: Why were Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan left to watch from backstage after winning consecutive matches in consecutive weeks while two makeshift teams received championship opportunities?

    In terms of capturing the attention of a new audience, this was the right call. From a continuity and logic perspective, there were probably better options to showcase the new champions.

Daniel Bryan vs. Jey Uso

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Jey Uso’s sneak attack on Daniel Bryan prior to their scheduled match left said contest in question. The double-tough Bryan shook it off and demanded the match started, only to fall prey to a big dive by Uso that allowed him to take control.

    A running hip attack in the corner continued Jey’s onslaught until a tweaked left ankle allowed Bryan to deliver a tope suicida out of desperation on the floor. Back in the ring, a side superplex brought Uso crashing to the mat as Bryan looked to build momentum. 

    Bryan continued his onslaught after the timeout, delivering a running dropkick in the corner. Uso dodged a running knee and scored a top-rope splash that would have earned him the win had it not been for his injured lower leg.

    Uso tried for another splash but Bryan got the knees up and applied the LeBell Lock. Uso fought free so Bryan transitioned into a half-crab. Uso made it to the ropes to force the break. 

    Tensions boiled over and the combatants exchanged a flurry of strikes. Uso got the best of it, laying Bryan out. He tried for a superkick but Bryan ducked and delivered the running knee for the win.

        

    Result

    Bryan defeated Uso

        

    Grade

    B

        

    Analysis

    Bryan winning was the right call, especially if the plan is to program him with Reigns in the near future.

    He showed guts in demanding the match start, then fighting through the bumps and bruises of the assault dealt him by Uso prior to the bell. Uso was a focused killer, calculatingly taking the fight to his opponent until the ankle injury that unfurled his plan.

    It was a smartly wrestled match, something you come to expect out of Bryan. Uso continued his phenomenal 2020 and, even in defeat, proved he will remain a key member of SmackDown and the main event scene as long as management will have him.

    Just a good pro wrestling match between two in-ring veterans more than capable of delivering.

Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Big E vs. Sami Zayn

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The SmackDown roster surrounded the squared circle as Big E challenged Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship in a Lumberjack Match, the main event of Friday’s show.

    The champion benefited early from cheap shots dealt by the heel lumberjacks, then worked over the powerhouse challenger. Big E recovered and applied the stretch muffler submission, turning the tide in his favor.

    All hell broke loose, with the heels involving themselves once more, as the show headed to the final break of the evening.

    Zayn controlled coming out of the break but Big E sent him flying with a suplex. A uranage downed the champ for two as the challenger built momentum. After a scuffle with lumberjacks, Zayn nearly scored a cheap win with a rake of the eyes and a schoolboy rollup.

    The fight headed up top, where Zayn delivered a sunset flip bomb for another near-fall. Big E answered with a spear that drove Zayn off the apron and to the floor. The lumberjacks ignited a brawl that ended with Apollo Crews chasing down Zayn and returning him to the ring, where the challenger delivered a belly-to-belly, followed by a splash.

    The Big Ending followed and Big E won the Intercontinental Championship to wrap up a stellar episode of SmackDown.

        

    Result

    Big E defeated Zayn to win the Intercontinental Championship

        

    Grade

    B

        

    Analysis

    While it was not up to the quality of the other matches on the show, this was a great bit of storytelling to earn the grade. 

    For so long, Zayn found ways to escape and evade en route to retaining his title. After months of cheating, sneaking and escaping, he finally got his comeuppance as Big E picked up the win and second run with the IC title.

    Zayn has been (and will continue to be) an outstanding heel for the SmackDown brand and now, has the opportunity to plead his case for a rematch. Ranting, complaining Zayn who tries to find loopholes to get what he wants could be a hell of a watch on the blue brand.

    Big E needed this win, though.

    He broke away from The New Day to be a singles star and while it remains to be seen if he will be the choice to dethrone Roman Reigns, he is ending 2020 with momentum on his side and a hell of an opportunity to do for the IC title what he was not allowed to back in 2013. 

    A great, fan-friendly ending to a wonderful holiday episode of SmackDown.