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SmackDown recap & reactions (Dec. 22, 2023): Main event mess

We didn’t have to wait long on Friday Night SmackDown this week to get an explanation from AJ Styles on the events of last week and his primary motivation for returning but also attacking LA Knight from behind.

He kept it short and sweet.

“I don’t give a damn about Randy Orton or LA Knight. I want Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble.”

He’s pissed, and he wants his revenge on The Bloodline. He doesn’t care one bit about anyone else and what they’ve got going on.

This brought out LA Knight — to yet another big pop, so it sure doesn’t look like his popularity is waning at all despite the return of so many main event level stars over the past month — who reiterated his desire to take down Reigns. It wasn’t long after that Orton made his way out to echo the sentiments.

They all want to take down The Bloodline but, more than anything, they want to be the man to defeat Reigns and take his title.

Finally, Nick Aldis hit the scene to solve the issue in the only way that made sense, considering they all deserve a shot. So he announced a triple threat match for the right to challenge Reigns at Royal Rumble, and it will take place in two weeks on a special “New Year’s Revolution” edition of SmackDown.

Simple enough! I’m actually really happy that we’re finally getting a multi-person match that fits with the story and actually makes sense to put together. I’ve been critical of the overuse of it in finding title contenders but this is an instance where the logic is sound.

Later, The O.C. ran into Styles backstage and asked if everything was good between them, considering they haven’t heard a peep from him. AJ acted like it was a question for them to answer.

Intrigue!

Finally, it was time for the main event and Styles getting his hands on Sikoa for the first time since he was taken out by him months ago.

They were having a good match too, but as soon as it started to look even moderately dangerous for Sikoa, Reigns made his way out to interfere and cause a disqualification. That gave Styles a chance to square up with the champ, but that lasted only long enough for the numbers game to catch up to him.

Which, of course, brought out everybody involved in this main event mess, with the babyfaces running off the heels before all turning on each other. The Bloodline was content to let them duke it out, and the show went off the air with the melee ongoing in the ring.

What’s interesting about all this, and the way it’s playing out, is I’m having trouble seeing a clear favorite of the three. I’m guessing it’s Orton but they’re all on such even ground right now, it’s hard to tell. A definitive win in a couple weeks looks necessary to me.


I really enjoyed this little tete-a-tete between Nick Aldis and Roman Reigns. The “Head of the Table” was upset about Aldis booking both the triple threat match to determine his next title challenger and Styles vs. Solo Sikoa on this very show.

Reigns mentioned Adam Pearce understanding that he needed to run things by The Tribal Chief first — not entirely true, but it made the point well enough — and Aldis stood firm, refusing to back down while calling himself the sharp end of the stick as General Manager on SmackDown.

This was pretty great all on its own, and I really liked how Aldis was positioned in opposition to Reigns. I do wonder what it could mean for the future, especially if we’re in the home stretch of


All the rest
  • It wouldn’t be a holiday themed episode of SmackDown without a major gimmick match, and we got that in the form of an eight-woman tag team battle they called a “Holiday Havoc Match.” This one was interesting both for being the usual gimmicked up fun but also because Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre finally made a meaningful appearance, with some spooky bass playing while they showed up through some presents and put the boots to Damage CTRL. Michin & Shotzi & Zelina Vega & Bianca Belair would go on to win the match, with Michin scoring the pinfall on Iyo Sky. As it turned out, that was so they could book a women’s championship match at “New Year’s Revolution” that Sky is definitely going to win.
  • Dragon Lee continued his streak of awesome television matches with a successful North American title defense over Butch. They shook hands after in a show of respect. Commentary was pushing Butch having a bit of an identity crisis considering everything else he has going on, what with Ridge Holland going back to NXT to have one of his own. This was well played all around, as it gave Lee another good match, another title defense, and added some depth to Butch, who should be getting a refresh sooner rather than later.
  • Kevin Owens defeated Carmelo Hayes in the semifinals of the United States Title Tournament in a good match that again showed ‘Melo should be on the main roster. Owens paid him respect after the fact. The clock ticks.
  • Karrion Kross is now taking credit for a lot of bad things happening to all the people he’s come across, and that’s kind of true. Then, he agains teased what’s next and mentioned “Authors.” Oh. Oh, that means... Yep! Sure enough, a flash on the screen showed the silhouettes of the Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering. We’ve got another new faction, folks. And I think... I love it?
  • Santos Escobar defeated Bobby Lashley in the semifinals of the United States Title Tournament thanks to an assist from Humberto Carrillo & Angel Garza, who have returned to the main roster to align with Escobar. It looks like we’ve got a new version of Legado del Fantasma, and it’s a damn good looking group of men. And, hey, they’ve already got a great program awaiting them, pending the outcome of the Final.

This was one hell of a noteworthy show for being taped ahead of time!

Grade: B+

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