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SmackDown recap & reactions (Dec. 30, 2022): Cena, Flair, Howdy, oh my!

Early on during this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown, they starting laying the groundwork for Roman Reigns being unhappy about Sami Zayn shining a little too bright while in the ring with him, referencing the Honorary Uce getting loud chants last week.

It’s just bad optics, as Paul Heyman put it.

Reigns played it off to Zayn like it wasn’t a problem but it absolutely felt like something to take note of for down the line, if there would be a down the line. After all, there was a match later with the two teaming against Kevin Owens and the returning legend himself, John Cena.

That match had a feel to it, man. It genuinely felt like something important, with a great atmosphere from the live crowd in Tampa, the kind of feeling we don’t get enough of in pro wrestling anymore.

They put together a fun match too, doing a great job building to the hot tag to Cena, who the crowd was absolutely begging for. Unfortunately, they seemed rushed for time by then, as you could hear the referee telling them to take it home and giving them a countdown as they hurried to the finish. It didn’t take away anything for me, just left me wondering how much better this would have been if they had more time to work with.

Ultimately Owens — who got his eye busted open pretty bad — scored the pinfall on Zayn. Gee, I wonder how Reigns is going to react to that next week.

This was great. I wish it had more time, but it was still great, and it set up the future well too.

First, let’s shout out Raquel Rodriguez here. She was put in a bit of an unenviable position on this show, going in knowing she wasn’t going to be winning the SmackDown women’s championship and then ultimately, despite the way she was protected in her loss, being completely overshadowed by a major return that led to a title change right after.

Rodriguez got a pretty damn good match out of Rousey, all things considered, and deserves a lot of credit for what she did here.

Charlotte Flair, though, is inevitable.

Flair has been out since May, having taken time off so she could get married and go on her honeymoon and generally enjoy living a life away from pro wrestling. It was only a matter of time before she came back. It was also only a matter of time before she won the title again.

I just didn’t expect those two things to happen so close together.

Flair quite literally won the title within minutes of her return, challenging Rousey to a match right then and there and rolling her up to take back the title she lost earlier this year. I guess they did want to make this a big show, huh?

I couldn’t be happier Flair is back. This division needed her.

Is that?

Could it be?

He’s a couple inches shorter, which tracks.

I can buy that it’s his build.

Yep, I’m prepared to say it.

Uncle Howdy is Bo Dallas.

Please let Uncle Howdy be Bo Dallas.

We got another appearance from ol’ Unc during this show, this time appearing after Bray Wyatt and LA Knight agreed to a match at Royal Rumble. Howdy took his sweet time getting to the ring, staring down both men, and then, just as it seemed he took Wyatt’s side, he hit him with Sister Abigail.

The message seemed obvious enough — Wyatt wasn’t giving in to his more violent urges, having offered an apology to the cameraman he assaulted last week and then remaining relatively calm while accepting Knight’s challenge for a match. If he’s not going to “revel in what you are,” as Howdy has repeatedly demanded, he’s going to pay the price for it.

As he did here.

I think.

Knight was incredible during all of this, playing the deeply confused guy who just wants to be done with all this weirdness. He seems to get more and more comfortable as his old self every week and each one of us are better off for it.

But we’re also getting honest to goodness movement in this story, and it’s a welcome sight indeed. Business is about to pick up, and I gotta admit I’m here for it.

Especially if Howdy is Dallas.

Come on!

All the rest

  • Solo Sikoa defeated Sheamus in a singles match that featured plenty of interference from both The Bloodline and The Brawling Brutes. It was still a fun match and Sikoa was made to look strong. He was on the verge of taking Sheamus out completely when Drew McIntyre made his return after a few weeks away and cleared the ring. This didn’t feel like a resolution between these two sides and indeed they announced later in the show McIntyre & Sheamus will get the title match they missed out on against The Usos next week.
  • I quite enjoyed the entire locker room making fun of Top Dolla for his inability to jump over the top rope a couple weeks ago. I also enjoyed that he responded to this by getting good and pissed off and ready to fight people over it. Hey, it’s some actual character building, something they’ve done none of with Hit Row since they came back. I’m all for it.
  • Imperium and Braun Strowman had themselves a confrontation that was mostly just a brief bit of fisticuffs that saw neither side really look much stronger than the other. When Strowman was going to be overwhelmed, Ricochet showed up to help him and ran everyone off (unfortunately nailing GUNTHER with a chair shot to the head in what one can only assume was an accident). Not much to this but done to set up the announcement of GUNTHER vs. Strowman for the Intercontinental championship in two weeks.

This was a damn good show.

Grade: A-

Your turn.

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