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WWE SmackDown recap & reactions (Dec. 17, 2021): You’re fired

WWE stretched out this story of Paul Heyman’s questionable allegiance for four months, which doesn’t seem like all that much but might as well be a lifetime by current WWE standards. The way they did so and kept it entertaining has been the performance of those involved in it. They all do the little things so very, very well.

Heyman has been the perfect enhancement talent to facilitate a new beef between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.

Reigns, by the way, feels like the only true star in WWE anymore. This week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown was held in Chicago and it felt like there wasn’t much hype for anything all night — until Reigns showed up and demanded to be acknowledged.

That’s what really makes all this work. Reigns is the only star, and he’s been on an unbelievable run of dominance that genuinely feels like it could extend for the next couple years. Would it really be that surprising if he was champion until, say, 2025? Why not? Who else could possibly be positioned to stop him.

“I’m not protecting Brock Lesnar from you. I’m protecting you from Brock Lesnar.”

That’s what Heyman said to Reigns on SmackDown this week to finally sever their relationship. It acts as a clean endpoint — or, if not that, one they can write around to come back from later if they so choose — while also reminding us once more that if there is one guy out there who could put an end to Roman’s reign as champion, it’s Brock Lesnar.

It’s not just Brock Lesnar, it’s Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman by his side as his hype man.

This has been a beautifully told story that works as is and works just as well when you get all meta with it. Because, yeah, maybe Vince McMahon would put Lesnar over Reigns once again.

Meanwhile, I’m intrigued to see how Reigns looks without Heyman, who couldn’t have been better in his role over the past year-and-a-half.

All the rest
  • Toni Storm & Sasha Banks teamed up to take on Charlotte Flair & Shotzi to kick off this show, and the match saw Storm use a sneaky tag the SmackDown women’s champion didn’t see to get the edge with a crossbody off the top. Shortly after, she managed to pin Flair, ensuring she’ll be challenging for the title again. Sure enough, they announced she’ll get that shot next week. Running the tag here got Banks and Shotzi involved and reminded us they were in or around the title scene not long ago. Which is good, considering Storm still doesn’t look like much of a threat here.
  • WWE had The Viking Raiders do their entrance before sending us to a commercial break with the promise that they would be in action “UP NEXT” against Jinder Mahal & Shanky, which was great because it gave us Pat McAfee enthusiastically saying “Viking Raiders and Shanky?!? Let’s go!” As though that’s all the reason in the world to stick around through the commercial break. If you did, you were welcomed back with a long ass video recapping Bobby Lashley overcoming all the odds to earn a title match on Raw this week, and then Mahal & Shanky making their entrance before WWE, oh yes they did, again hit us with the “UP NEXT” before sending the show to commercial once more. They really stretched that hard for a Viking Raiders vs. Mahal & Shanky tag team match. Ivar pinned Shanky after a short match.
  • Xia Li’s big debut was followed up with a brief backstage interview where Natalya reminded us all she thinks she’s the best of all time.
  • Madcap Moss is still telling bad jokes, and this crowd in Chicago reacted to them with “CM Punk” chants. It felt truly uncomfortable watching Moss and Happy Corbin fail so hard, even when that failure was intentional. It wasn’t heat they were getting, it was second hand embarrassment. I don’t really think that’s how you want to build to a match. Meanwhile, they weren’t strong enough to pull Drew McIntyre’s sword out of a desk, but he was, so I guess he’s Thor? I don’t know, this was all painfully dumb and bad and made me feel bad for spending my Friday night watching it.
  • Ridge Holland beat Cesaro with help from Sheamus. There wasn’t much to this.
  • Naomi managed to beat Shayna Baszler despite not being ready for her attacking from behind while Sonya Deville provided a distraction. We should applaud WWE for giving Naomi a win here but this program is moving painfully slow and still doesn’t have enough depth to feel like it matters at all.
  • The New Day beat The Usos in yet another fun match between the two teams. They’ve done this a million times before but they just keep delivering the goods, be it on TV, PPV, a house show, whatever. They’re really good at this.

I generally like SmackDown but this show felt very much like WWE was just trying to throw out some content to fill in two hours of programming time instead of putting together a meaningful show with actually interesting stories/matches. They did have an extra taping on this show, so it’s somewhat understandable, but we aren’t here to excuse bad shows.

Were it not for the main event segment, I don’t think this show would have even registered enough to grade.

Grade: C-

Your turn.

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