WWE SmackDown recap & reactions (Dec. 16, 2022): And his name is…

WWE seemed to be promising something big in regards to the Sami Zayn journey with The Bloodline on Friday night smackdown just outside Chicago, Illinois this week. There was every reason to think that Zayn would become “a made man” as they put it a few times.

Or, if not, some major angle.

There was no major angle.

Unless you count a surprise video appearance by John Cena as a major angle.

At least there was some progression in the story. Reigns made it clear that it was going to be a big night for Zayn, but he changed his mind because Kevin Owens continued to be a problem as he clung to Zayn a little too much. Sami even slipped out and called him his “friend.”

A mistake he immediately corrected, but a remarkable one nonetheless.

Reigns’ plan to deal with this is a tag team match, where he will tag with Zayn against Owens and a partner of his choice on the Dec. 30 episode of SmackDown. That would be the same show that Cena was already set to appear on, and by the time everyone was connecting those dots, Cena appeared via video to say that he would indeed be Owens’ partner for that tag match.

It’s hard to imagine what this would be like where the big turn takes place, but at least they’ve set up a big match with today’s biggest star against yesterday’s biggest star and two secondary stars that will shine alongside them.

It is enough.

Having said all that, it made for something of a disappointment for this show. Cena was his ultimate crazy self for his video promo, even if you overlook that his performance was via video. It was a classic case of Cena doing the thing he could do sometimes: take a serious story and make it feel silly.

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We met Uncle Howdy on this show:

I think the idea here was to make it clear that Uncle Howdy is not Bray Wyatt as it first sounded, but just a guy of a similar build. But that’s not really what this is happening to. It’s not like that can’t be pared back and/or used as a way to play more of the dreaded MIND GAMES with whoever is facing Wyatt at any given time.

Right now it’s LA Knight and while I remain entranced by Wyatt more generally, I just can’t seem to get into all the spooky, over-the-top cinematic stories they’re doing with him. It’s a visual trip with him, with the smoke and the mood lighting and everything.

It just doesn’t feel professional enough to me. That’s about the best way I can put it.

I think what I learned from this Bray Wyatt story more than anything is that L.A. Knight is an incredibly gifted talker. Some credit may be due for that. One of the main criticisms of Wyatt in the past has been that no one came out of a feud that made him look better. Knight obviously isn’t getting the better of this feud, but if nothing else, he’s had a chance to show how much fun it is to hand him a microphone and let him talk to you.


So, hell with it, consider it a win.

The rest
  • Damage CTRL retained the women’s tag team titles thanks to a hooded figure interfering with the crowd and kicking Tegan Nox in the face despite being in control and having just dealt with Bayley’s interference. We have no indication of who it was, but it kept the tapes at IYO SKY & Dakota Kai. The match itself was sloppy on points, but also featured some fun spots, like Kai willingly taking a sunset powerbomb from the apron to the floor on the outside. I would definitely be interested in seeing more of these teams go. But the focus that emerged was less on another round between these teams and who the hell was the hooded figure. Strangely enough, they revealed that it is Xia Li – in a “digital exclusive” video that they released online and did not play during this show. I do not get it.
  • Ricochet said his gameplay was to completely flip GUNTHER and use his high flying skills to neutralize the power of the Intercontinental champion. The match ended up being a really fun contrast of styles, a predictably awesome back and forth. The crowd really seemed to buy Ricochet as he won a beautiful Shooting Star Press and exploded when GUNTHER kicked out. Ricochet’s reaction was even better – instead of flying, he took off his tape and started throwing heavy blows. He couldn’t win in the air, so he had to win on the ground. But that’s GUNTHER, and he just rocked from there to get the pinfall, with a power slam that seems to be his new finish, what Michael Cole dubbed “The Last Symphony.” This was absolutely fantastic. Braun Strowman seems to be next, if you like.
  • Hit Row won a three-way tag team match to become the new top contenders for the titles. Next week they face The Usos. The match was pretty sloppy, with Top Dolla missing several spots. It was rough all around but this seemed like the only option they had as they were going to be taping next week’s show right after and The Usos would only have to beat these two and definitely not the others.
  • Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler almost completely beat everyone in the women’s division backstage and I kind of like that. I’m afraid I’m one of the only ones, but I don’t care, it was entertaining. Rousey’s attempts at clever one-liners were the best part of it. Raquel Rodriguez was attacked this week, but she’s still set for the Gauntlet match next week and seems to be a clear favorite.
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It felt like this was going to be a big show and it was mostly a disappointment outside of that great Ricochet/GUNTHER match.

Rank: C

Your turn.

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