Toni Storm and Sasha Banks def. SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and Shotzi
It's not often WWE starts off their shows with wrestling (what a concept, I know), but we got that here and it opened the night on a high note. The stuff with Storm and Flair has been incredibly underwhelming over the last month, but they worked well together here and it was a very good match on the whole that received plenty of time. I was beginning to think Shotzi was on the chopping block considering we hadn't seen her on TV since Survivor Series, but I'm glad she resurfaced here. Storm pinning Flair was the right call and earned her a shot at the SmackDown Women's Championship on next week's episode.
The Viking Raiders def. Jinder Mahal and Shanky
When I've talked in the past about how thin SmackDown's tag team division is at the moment, I've completely forgotten about Mahal and Shanky. Now remembering they exist, my opinion doesn't change at all. They're hardly a team, but they're competent enough together that this was decent. There was nothing special about the match, but the Chicago crowd being as into the Viking Raiders was notable. That's the loudest I've heard any crowd for them in years.
Drew McIntyre Attacked Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss
The show was going great up until this segment, at which point they likely lost a lot of viewers. This was genuinely terrible. I've been a defender of the Happy Corbin character and I honestly don't mind his pairing with Moss, but the awful laughing shtick is, well, awful. It's legitimately channel-changing material, and getting the sword involved takes it to another level of goofy. I have sub-zero interest in another McIntyre vs. Corbin match, which we all know is inevitable.
Ridge Holland def. Cesaro
I was looking forward to this match because their original encounter was cut short. Unfortunately, this was also fairly brief at only a few minutes long. It was nice while it lasted, but I wanted more. It's interesting that Cesaro would be protected in defeat. I'm happy about it (and Holland needed this win after losing to Cesaro in his debut) and hopefully it means he'll be more of a focal point going forward, especially with the departure of Jeff Hardy.
Naomi def. Shayna Baszler
Naomi giving her Christmas list was slightly silly, but I understand it was WWE's way of telling the same story they have for months without being redundant. Sonya Deville reiterated Naomi can't touch her as long as she's in WWE official mode. That led to an impromptu match between Naomi and Baszler that was over in approximately 30 seconds. That was total throwaway, but the people were into Naomi. Can we please hurry up and get to Naomi vs. Deville already? I thought Day 1 would be the perfect place for it, but unless it's announced next week, it doesn't look like it'll happen there.
The New Day def. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos (Non-Title)
Two weeks ago on Talking Smack, it was announced that The Usos will defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against New Day at Day 1. It was bad enough that they technically faced off before then in that Triple Threat tag team main event last week on SmackDown, but then they had a straight-up tag team match on this show. Basically, they gave the match away early without the belts being on the line. This was incredibly pointless and shouldn't have happened. This was a quality contest, but fans are already sick of New Day vs. Usos, so running it into the ground before we even get to the pay-per-view is bad booking.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns Fired Paul Heyman; Brock Lesnar Attacked The Bloodline
Kudos to WWE and for everyone involved for crafting such a compelling story with Reigns, Heyman and Lesnar. It's been months since it started and they still have me hooked. I'm not sure how you can't be excited for their upcoming encounter at Day 1 after a segment as strong as this. Reigns and Heyman had a hell of an exchange with both men playing their roles remarkably well while the Chicago crowd was white-hot for Lesnar. I didn't think Lesnar would lay out all of The Bloodline, but I was actually fine with it because The Bloodline (and specifically Reigns) has been dodging him for so long.
SmackDown has been in something of a rut now for a few weeks if not longer, but I thought this was one of the better shows we've seen from the blue brand in recent memory. Not all of SmackDown's issues were automatically fixed with this episode, but the two hours clicked more than they have lately and the electric atmosphere among the audience in Chicago helped a lot (unless it was piped in but it was tough to tell). This show had excellent opening and closing segments and the stuff in the middle was mostly solid (except for that abysmal segment with McIntyre, Corbin and Moss). I also appreciate that they advertised two big matches for next week's Christmas Eve edition between the 12-man Gauntlet match to determine the next number one contender to the Intercontinental Championship and Flair vs. Storm for the SmackDown Women's Championship.