Universal Champion Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens in a Steel Cage Match
It was incredibly smart for WWE to kick off the show with this match as SmackDown had an NFL lead-in this week. The Steel Cage stipulation made sense given how much Jey Uso interfered at TLC, even though Uso got involved a bunch here as well. That would be my only nitpick of this as it was an excellent piece of business otherwise. Owens is flourishing in the underdog role while Reigns continues to kill it. I figured this would be the end of the rivalry with Reigns winning, but Owens getting screwed over yet again means a third match is likely for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, potentially with Uso either banned from ringside or being trapped inside of a shark cage.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Charlotte Flair and Raw Women's Champion Asuka def. SmackDown Women's Champion Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair and Bayley & Carmella in a Triple Threat Tag Team Elimination Match
When WWE advertised that the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship would be defended on SmackDown this week, I assumed The Riott Squad would get the title shot. After all, they won on the last two episodes of SmackDown, but they watched from the back instead. Rather, it was two makeshift teams that likely aren't going to stick. I realize this was designed to further the feuds involved, but three makeshift teams fighting for tag titles doesn't sit well with me. Thankfully, this was a great match that was all action from start to finish. I don't know if the elimination stipulation was necessary, but it did give them more time to work with and the final few minutes were a blast even though the outcome was never in doubt.
Daniel Bryan def. Jey Uso
This is the third match these two have had in recent months and it was arguably the best of the bunch. Uso has really risen to the occasion as a singles star and has held his own against everyone he's stepped in the ring with. Uso attacking Bryan beforehand made it seem like he had a real chance of winning, but in the end, Bryan won as he should have. He declared later on in a backstage interview that he'll be taking part in the men's Royal Rumble matchup next month and he's officially my new favorite to win it. I thought we might get Bryan vs. Reigns at the Rumble, but I'm all for WWE saving it for WrestleMania 37 instead if that's indeed the direction they're headed in.
Big E def. Sami Zayn in a Lumberjack Match to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Lumberjack matches aren't typically my favorite, but this was perfectly logical because of how often Zayn has won by count-out lately. He couldn't escape here with the lumberjacks throwing him back into the ring more than once. It was an entertaining main event with the feel-good finish. All of the babyfaces putting Big E up on their shoulders as the confetti fell in the background made for a cool moment and I really hope WWE can give him a meaningful Intercontinental Championship run this time around.
This just may have been my favorite edition of SmackDown all year, and that's saying something with how strong the show has been on the whole since the summer. The timing couldn't have been better with it falling on the Christmas holiday. Of course, the holiday shows have traditionally been abysmal as they always feel phoned-in, but this was anything but. It had a streamlined format with four top-notch matches, three titles being defended, a new Intercontinental Champion being crowned, a Royal Rumble announcement, and a partridge in a pear tree (I kid, I kid). It was practically a perfect show and I'd love for SmackDown to deliver more special shows like this one a regular basis. These two hours were wonderful. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!