WWE SmackDown Live recap and reactions (Dec. 26, 2017): Where focus reaps benefits

As always, for detailed play by play of the episode, check out ReverendKain’s always amazing live blog here.

The last SmackDown Live of 2017 aired last night, and an astonishing amount of stuff actually happened instead of being a regular filler episode. Now probably due to the Holiday rush, there was no recap for the show here on the site, so I thought to make an unofficial FanPost one to hopefully discuss a little bit all that took place. I'm also almost certain that the official recap will be posted within minutes of this and I will once look like an idiot, but such are the risks we live with [Narrator: "It wasn't"; Editor: "Thanks, Lucean"]

As a final few intro words here, this is the first I've written a recap like this so forgive for my failures with the structure. With that said, let us dive in to this episode.


The righteousness of Shane McMahon

The main storyline over the past few months on SmackDown has been Shane's vendetta against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, and how that obsession has created conflict between him and General Manger Daniel Bryan. For the most part, it has been a really well told slow burn of a story, which is why I was surprised that they took pretty critical steps forward with in this holiday episode.

Now, what happened here was minor, but it did involve two things: First, it established that Shane's dark side is starting to expand beyond his feelings on Zayn/Owens. Second, we finally saw that singlemindedness begin to have negative consequences on uninvolved parties.

The first segment of this story was the backstage promo between Bryan and Shane where Shane was critical of several decisions made by Daniel Bryan. While this was some really rough promo work by Shane, there was a really great moment where Shane took offense to Daniel comparing him to his father last week. What was brilliant here wasn't that Shane was insulted by this comparison, but rather because he didn't like Daniel making that comparison a negative as, despite all their differences, Vince McMahon is a great man.

What worked so well was that Daniel never disputed that. That was never the comparison, but rather Daniel had pointed out how Vince had justified questionable decisions by claiming they were best for business. Shane ignoring the context of the comparison while defending his father was just another layer indicating that the current issues with Shane aren't just about his crusade against Zayn/Owens, but that there is a deeper darkness there.

Then we get to the main event. I'll be honest, I laughed out loud when the commentary sold the AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens feud from earlier this year as one of the most brutal, intense feuds of 2017 as I found it to be really underwhelming for the most part, and I hadn't seen many people really praise it. This match itself was good, although nothing special for me as for some reason KO and Styles still struggle to maintain psychology in their matches, which is really weird.

The highlight of the match, however, was the finish where Zayn causes a distraction that allows Owens to turn the tables and consequently brings out Shane McMahon to order the referee to throw out Zayn from the ringside. However, in the chaos created by Shane, the referee first misses Styles pinning KO before being pinned himself due to more outside distraction. And as Kevin and Sami celebrate winning the last main event of 2017, Styles slowly walks back up the ramp before stopping to give Shane a long disapproving look.

What makes all of this so great is that Shane will claim he was just being righteous here. He had, after all, raised concerns about Zayn being allowed there for the match to Bryan earlier in the show, and seeing Zayn pull of those shenanigans was just too much for a just man like Shane. And all of that would be understandable if it wasn't for the man who Styles took the title from.

For a better part of the year, the title was held by Jinder Mahal whose reign was maintained only because of the constant interference of the Singh brothers, which Shane never had any kind of issues with despite the multiple occasions they affected those championship matches. This was all about Shane's ego once again masquerading as being a righteousness and good sense.

And that is what makes this version of Shane so compelling. Stephanie McMahon knows exactly who she is, she simply considers a lot of the things others see as flaws as virtues. Shane, though, is so deep in hypocrisy that he cannot be truthful even to himself about why he does what he does.

Masterful writing so far from the Blue Brand and I am excited to see what is next. My only hesitation is that I don't know what the payoff will be as I don't expect Bryan to wrestle, but we will see.


The US Title Tournament begins

Since Dolph Ziggler apparently relinquished the US title, a move which left Daniel Bryan just as confused as the rest of us, the GM announced a tournament to crown a new US Champion while hailing the vaunted history of the tilte itself. Naturally, Shane had issues with the tournament instead of just having Corbin and Roode just wrestle for it, but for Bryan this was another chance to establish SmackDown as the Land of Opportunity.

And while I thought the two matches we got here were just fine, decent even, to me the bigger achievement here is that this allows SDL to build a narrative to carry them through the Rumble build where the male singles talent are facing each other in meaningful matches.

The first winners here were Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal. Using this tournament to kind of give Jinder a new avenue to tell the story of his growth is really smart. I'm already looking forward to next week, especially since it doesn't seem like Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton are going to participate, thus giving some of the undercard talent on SmackDown time to shine.


While the tag team division flourishes, the women's division flounders

SmackDown really went all out on their tag team division to start the show by having all the contender tag teams interrupt Bryan's US Title tournament announcement to make their cases for why they should challenge the Usos for the tag team titles before having a really good Tag Team Triple Threat match for the number one contendership while the Usos pulled commentary duty.

After that we got a pretty entertaining segment where the Ascension keep having Breezango fight the Bludgeon Brothers and get destroyed in the process. All of that I could not recommend enough as that first hour was such a great example of how the SmackDown tag team division is on fire.

Then we got a short throwaway match with Naomi losing to Ruby Riott, who then beat both her and Charlotte Flair down before being driven off by Tamina, Natalya, Carmella and Lana. It was so meaningless that it was almost painful to watch.

The reason I clump those two things together is that while watching that first hour, I realized that SDL has actually taken a similar approach with both tag teams and the women, but only one of them is succeeding while the other one is an flailing disaster as indicated by the times the two divisions got here. This episode was a great illustration why. The initial answer would of course be the difference in the performers as all the talent involved with the tag teams are great while the women's division has several of the worst workers in the WWE. However, for me, the issues go beyond that.

With the tag teams, even though they are all constantly being thrown out there together and have had these endless matches agains each other, it all feels that it matters. In the promo segment, they kept pointing out how this team had beaten that team and thus had a claim for the title. That parity was used as an effective storytelling method instead of just a shruggy way to feature everyone.

Furthermore, amidst all of that, the Usos are the clear focus of the divisions. These teams were arguing about facing the champions and the show has constantly gone out of their way to give the Usos the opportunity to react and comment on what is happening. This makes them feel important, which in turn makes the tag team championship feel important.

With the women, though, the priority is just to feature and try to get them over at the same time. There is no focus beyond that and SDL seems to be taking Charlotte for granted on such a level that it doesn't bother having her react to almost anything that is happening, while giving plenty of time for all the other women to say exactly the same thing in different ways in an effort to get over.

There's little positive to say about the Women's division while there is so much to praise for with the Tag Team division, which is genuinely astonishing considering how similar they are. In that spirit, I can't recommend the tag team segments enough and just skip the women's stuff. It won't even affect the run time that much.

With that, I end this unofficial recap - which ended up being a lot longer than I intended. Hopefully it was enjoyable to read, though, and I would love to hear what others thought of the last SmackDown of the year? It has been a rollercoaster of a show, but we are in a lot better place now than we were in Summer.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.