WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Highlights and Analysis from December 17
After Brock Lesnar again planted seeds of distrust within The Bloodline, what did Universal champion Roman Reigns have to say to WWE fans and his special counsel, Paul Heyman, when he returned to SmackDown Friday night?
It was the question on the minds of fans after Lesnar referred to Heyman as his advocate.
Would Reigns again grill Heyman on his allegiances, or did The Head of the Table see through Lesnar's mind games when he returned to the show he has ruled over for the last year?
Find out with this recap of the December 17 broadcast.
- Roman Reigns returns
- Did Brock Lesnar interrupt The Bloodline?
- Cesaro vs. Ridge Holland
Sasha Banks and Toni Storm vs. Charlotte Flair and Shotzi
Two of the most intense rivalries in the SmackDown women's division kicked off Friday's show as Sasha Banks and Toni Storm partnered to battle hated foes Charlotte Flair and Shotzi.
Early back and forth gave way to Flair establishing dominance by downing Storm and knocking Banks off the ring apron. Shotzi broke up a near-fall from Storm, tossing her to the floor with her partner as the heels stood tall ahead of the commercial break.
The heels retained the upper hand until a hot tag to Storm sparked the babyface comeback. A fallaway slam by The Queen cut her prospective No. 1 contender's momentum off, though, entering another timeout.
Storm created separation and tagged Banks in. The Boss exploded into the match with a flurry of offense, and Storm executed a blind tag that allowed her to nearly defeat Flair with a crossbody block. The Queen momentarily turned the tide back in her favor, but the Aussie caught her off-guard and scored a big pin-fall victory to further entrench her in that No. 1 contender spot.
Storm and Banks defeated Flair and Shotzi
Giving four talented wrestlers a boatload of television and a clean finish is usually the recipe for success, and that was the case with this one.
Flair and Banks already have wicked in-ring chemistry but this was a nice excuse for Storm and Shotzi to share the ring with them, get a little rub from working with two genuine stars and elevate their standing. Storm securing the win for her team sets her up perfectly to challenge Flair for the SmackDown Women's Championship at Day 1.
Had the entirety of the feud been centered around her proving herself as a credible threat to The Queen, perhaps things would have been better set up for her to actually contend for the title. As it is, Flair will win the inevitable match, but, hopefully, Storm can remain in the hunt for the title moving forward.
The Viking Raiders vs. Jinder Mahal and Shanky
The Viking Raiders battled Jinder Mahal and Shanky as the tag team matches continued.
Erik and Ivar started fast, but a distraction by Shanky on the apron allowed former WWE champion Mahal to down Erik and turn the tide in his team's favor. The heels worked over the smaller Raider, cutting him off from his partner.
The Viking Raiders regained control thanks to a bevy of double-team maneuvers before Ivar put Shanky away with a middle-rope splash for the win.
The Viking Raiders defeated Mahal and Shanky
The Viking Raiders continue to roll, inching closer to tag team title contention and a date with The Usos sooner rather than later, one would have to assume.
Here, they knocked off a former WWE champion and his massive tag team partner. Mahal and Shanky may not have the stature of Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss, but a win is a win, as long as there is a payoff. With New Day eyeing the tag titles, it remains to be seen if there is one of those on the horizon.
If not, all of this is for naught and will culminate with nothing of real note for a team too talented to constantly feel like they are treading water.
Drew McIntyre Interrupts Happy Talk
Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss made their way to the ring, and in the center was Adam Pearce's desk with Drew McIntyre's sword, Angela, sticking out of it.
Moss made bad jokes targeting McIntyre's kilt-wearing, and the heels tried pulling the sword from the desk, not unlike an old fairy tale. They failed, of course, and McIntyre hit the ring to mock their "performance issues" before retrieving Angela and clearing them out.
Nothing about this was good, and it is an utter waste of McIntyre.
The Scottish Warrior is above bad comedy and midcard shtick like this, and too much of it threatens to damage the star aura both he and WWE spent a year building.
Even Corbin, who has been one of the company's low-key MVPs over the last two or so years, is better than whatever this "Happy" character has devolved into.
Cesaro vs. Ridge Holland
A scheduled match between Cesaro and Ridge Holland (accompanied by Sheamus) almost never got started as the latter attacked The Swiss Superman with a billy club to the ribs, injuring him before the bell.
After a commercial break, the NXT export worked the rib area of his more experienced opponent, looking to score what would have been a landmark victory.
When Cesaro did mount a comeback, a distraction by Sheamus allowed Holland to take advantage, drive his opponent into the mat and score the victory.
Holland defeated Cesaro
At least they gave Cesaro an out here with the rib injury.
This was what it was: more of an excuse to continue the feud than an actual match.
Holland is still green, literally learning on the fly as he works with and alongside two of the most respected wrestlers on the roster. It will benefit him in the long run, so it's hardly a bad thing to put him in the position that he is in.
The matches just lack the spark that a straight Cesaro vs. Sheamus program would have provided, is all.
Naomi vs. Shayna Baszler
Naomi again challenged Sonya Deville to a match, only for the WWE official to book her in a bout with Shayna Baszler. The Queen of Spades attacked from behind, injuring the former women's champion's left knee. With the babyface unable to stand, Deville called for the bell.
Baszler's hubris got the best of her, though, as Naomi rolled her up for a quick upset win.
Naomi defeated Baszler
Not all that long ago, WWE had the easiest layup it could possibly hope for in terms of a red-hot storyline that fans genuinely wanted to see come to a head. All it had to do was book Naomi vs. Deville and let the former give the latter her comeuppance. Instead, it has dragged out longer than it should, to the point that these segments are beginning to become repetitive.
How many times do we have to see Deville throw the same hurdles in Naomi's path before the fans grow tired of it?
Whatever happened to Sasha Banks' involvement in the story? Or Aliyah, who was screwed out of a Survivor Series appearance by the official?
The company's reliance on the same old, same old has robbed the story of the emotional impact it could have had, and that is an indictment on the writer's room given how into Naomi's story the fans were a month or two ago.
The New Day vs. The Usos
The New Day and The Usos wrote the latest chapter of their years-long feud Friday night.
The back-and-forth match culminated with the official missing a tag between Kofi Kingston and King Woods, only to do the same thing moments later with The Usos.
This one cost the SmackDown tag champs as Kingston rocked Jimmy Uso with Trouble in Paradise and scored the win for the top contenders, giving them momentum ahead of Day 1.
New Day defeated The Usos
There is no such thing as a bad match between New Day and The Usos. This was, like most of their meetings, a fun and energetic encounter that saw Kingston and Woods build momentum ahead of their upcoming title opportunity.
Hopefully we get a reprieve next week, because booking the same match over and over is a trademark of WWE programming that this, a feud already in year five, doesn't need.
Roman Reigns Returns
Roman Reigns made his anticipated return in the night's main event slot, flanked by The Usos and special counsel Paul Heyman.
The Tribal Chief admitted he can look past Jimmy and Jey's failures because they're blood. He then said Heyman isn't the same. He asked Paul if he knew Brock Lesnar would be at SummerSlam or Madison Square Garden. "Why are you protecting Brock from me?"
Heyman, fighting back tears, admitted he's not protecting Lesnar from Reigns, but vice versa.
Reigns fired his special counsel and rocked him with a Superman Punch. Before he could do any further damage with the steel chair, Lesnar made the save, wiping out The Usos and delivering two F5s to The Head of the Table to close out the show.
This was great television.
Chicago was red-hot for Reigns and even more so for Lesnar. They ate up the drama involving Heyman, who finally addressed the elephant in the room and admitted something The Tribal Chief didn't want to: Reigns should fear Lesnar and everything The Beast can do to him.
He found out the hard way here, but more interestingly, the element of a free agent Heyman looms over the Day 1 rematch.
Will Lesnar take Heyman back, or will Reigns realize how important his special counsel actually was to him when he no longer has him?
It is a question that creates intrigue for a match we've seen numerous times already.