WWE aimed to produce a special SmackDown for its Christmas episode, which followed a big NFL game, and it most certainly delivered. Focused on in-ring quality and getting its major stars on television, WWE basically put on a four-segment show featuring 10 of the SmackDown brand's biggest stars along with two hue names from the Raw roster.
Roman Reigns (universal), Sami Zayn (intercontinental) and the team of Asuka & Charlotte Flair (women's tag team) all defended their titles on the show, and one of those championships changed hands before the night was out. All three of those matches were stipulation affairs with Reigns defending in a steel cage, the women's tag team titles being on the line in an elimination match, and Zayn attempting to overcome a lumberjack match.
So what went down Friday night on this unique edition of SmackDown? Keep on reading for full results and grades from the show.
WWE SmackDown results, grades
Universal Championship – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens (Steel Cage Match): There was no shortage of big spots in this match with Reigns and Owens giving it their all from the opening bell in large part to capture the crossover Fox audience. Owens hit a frog splash and a Pop-Up Powerbomb for a pair of long two counts. Owens followed with an avalanche fisherman's buster or another long two. Reigns got a near fall after a Superman punch and pummeled Owens when that didn't result in a victory. Owens finally countered with the Stunner for a 2.9 count, leaving him extremely frustrated. Reigns and Owens battled on the top rope. Owens pushed Reigns off but got caught with knees on a flying senton, and Reigns' ensuing spear only delivered a 2.5 count. Owens slammed Reigns into the door a few times to knock him out and then tried to escape himself. Jey Uso tried to slam the door into Owens' head, but he dodged and knocked Uso out with the door. Reigns then dragged Owens back inside and countered the Pop-Up Powerbomb with a Superman punch, but Owens dodged the spear as Reigns flew into the cage.
Owens hit a second Stunner but could not capitalize. As he reached for the cage, Uso grabbed his arm through the grate and handcuffed him to the chain link. It was just far enough that Owens could not angle his body out of the door and to the floor. Reigns slowly stepped through the ropes smiling at Owens and went step by step down the steel steps as Owens called him a "bitch." Reigns sat on the steps and mocked Owens after as they continued to trash talk.
This was undoubtedly a pay-per-view quality match on television. While the spot with Uso handcuffing Owens was tough to believe due to the exacting nature of the positioning for Owens to get his arm caught, it was a good way to finish the match. Owens has now looked extremely strong in a pair of defeats at Reigns' hands, particularly in this match where he kicked out of the spear. Reigns (c) def. Owens via escape to retain the title | Grade: A-
Women's Tag Team Championship – Asuka & Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley & Carmella vs. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair (Elimination Match): Asuka kicked out of a Bayley to Belly early in the match, and the heels dominated most of it with Carmella getting a lot of offense as well. Belair hit her press vertical suplex for a near fall on Bayley, but Flair got caught on a kip up after a fallaway slam as Belair hit her with the Glam Slam. A spinebuster by Belair didn't put Bayley away, but Banks' frog splash did, resulting in the first elimination. Flair booted Banks but could not move the Figure Four into a Figure Eight. Belair used her braid as a rope to drag Banks to the corner so she could make the tag and hit a springboard moonsault on Flair. Banks broke up an ensuing Figure Four with a meteora, Asuka got the hot tag, knocked Banks off the ring apron and Bayley distracted Belair, who nearly got rolled up. Belair caught Asuka with a sit-out powerbomb for a 2.5, and Bayley taunted Belair from ringside. Belair missed a blind tag and got hit with a combination Codebreaker and Natural Selection to take the loss.
There was good action in this match, but the elimination rules were strange, as is any time WWE does a triple threat tag team match without three legal competitors. Belair taking the fall felt unnecessary one week after losing head-to-head with Bayley. But sticking with the kayfabe booking, it was an entertaining bout featuring arguably the six best female wrestlers on the main roster. Banks & Belair def. Bayley & Carmella via pinfall, Asuka & Flair def. Banks & Belair via pinfall to retain the titles | Grade: B
Daniel Bryan vs. Jey Uso: As Bryan made his entrance, Uso attacked from behind. After commercial, a hobbled Bryan had to agree to start the match. Uso was dominant throughout due to his pre-match advantage and countered Bryan's running knee with a superkick late. However, Uso was unable to take advantage of the Samoan splash due to selling an injured knee. They brawled on the canvas with Uso headbutting Bryan and the referee nearly calling a knockout. Bryan ducked under an ensuing superkick and hit the running knee for the win.
No surprise this was a winner with these two battling. As the "least important" match on the card without a title on the line, it still delivered massively. Bryan def. Uso via pinfall | Grade: B+
Intercontinental Championship – Sami Zayn (c) vs. Big E (Lumberjack Match): Early in the show, the Street Profits got into it with Zayn backstage. Big E got attacked by the lumberjacks a couple times early with Zayn hitting a tope con giro to take advantage. Big E hit a few strong suplexes and countered Zayn's Helluva Kick into a uranage for a near fall. Zayn escaped the ring after getting out of the Big Ending, but the lumberjacks threw him back inside. Zayn gave Big E a thumb to the eye behind the referee's back but got caught on the top rope only to hit Big E with an avalanche sunset flip powerbomb.
Big E speared Zayn through the ropes to the outside, and the lumberjacks began brawling as Zayn ran away. Apollo Crews caught him, and the faces carried him all the way back to the ring. Big E caught Zayn with a belly to belly suplex back in the ring, and he followed it with a splash and then the Big Ending for the clean 1-2-3 to become the new champion. Big E got hype after the match celebrating with all the faces after winning his first singles championship in seven years.
Though the title change was expected on a holiday show, I wish it was even cleaner without a lumberjack stipulation, which gives Zayn an out for losing. Other than that, there's no question this was well-wrestled and plenty exciting. Big E becoming the champion before the year ends is a great result of his singles push, and hopefully it's just the start of a long run into the main event picture. Big E def. Zayn (c) via pinfall to win the title | Grade: B+