The Christmas edition of WWE SmackDown LIVE includes a new tag team alliance, Naomi channeling Cardi B, and the happiest Rusev Day in a long time.
The episode opens festively with Carmella and R-Truth entering the arena as “Carmelfa” and “Truthy Claus,” throwing presents into the audience. Corey Graves is a bit of a Grinch about this, despite wearing a Christmas sweater with a llama on it, but “The New” Daniel Bryan manages to have even less holiday spirit than the curmudgeon of an announcer. The WWE Champion interrupts a “Seven-Second Carol Break” to “expose Santa Claus… the epitome of all your cheap material desires” that are destroying the planet. Bryan calls Truth’s career a joke, but Truth still manages to rattle Bryan by declaring that when he wins the Royal Rumble (after entering at number 30), he’ll defeat him for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania… if Bryan is still champion.
After distracting Truth, Bryan attacks him during a seven-second dance break. He targets Truth’s legs much like he did those of AJ Styles before their title match, as Carmella yells at him to stop.
Mustafa Ali’s great start on the blue brand continues this week when he defeats Andrade “Cien” Almas in a short singles match. Almas dropkicks Ali right as the bell rings, looking like he might have revenge for that tag team loss last week on his mind. The wrestlers go back and forth, but Ali’s satellite DDT is the game-changer for the match. After hitting hit, he pulls Almas into the corner and hits the 054, his inverted 450
Later in the show, it looks like the man Ali pinned in his first match as a member of the SmackDown Live roster (Daniel Bryan) still wants a piece of him too. Ali is congratulated backstage by fellow cruiserweights Brian Kendrick, Akira Tozawa, and Cedric Alexander, then by Shelton Benjamin in what is almost definitely a trick to allow Daniel Bryan to attack him from behind. Bryan shouts “You don’t deserve to be here!” at Ali as he holds his head and his friends call for medical attention.
The SmackDown LIVE men’s tag team scene continues to evolve with a four-on-four match that pits The Usos, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows against Sanity and The Bar, with The New Day on commentary. After the Good Brothers and the actual twin brothers found themselves at odds with the SmackDown Tag Team Champions and the recent NXT call-ups last week, you might expect at least one of these teams to not mesh that well. But both groups worked together without issue. Gallows and Anderson won the fun, fast-paced match with a Magic Killer to Cesaro, gaining valuable momentum after spending so much time off TV.
Jimmy Uso later gets caught up with another tag team, not in the ring, but under the mistletoe. Mandy Rose, with Sonya Deville at her side, propositions Jimmy, but he turns her down. That doesn’t stop Naomi from throwing a shoe at Rose though. Jimmy and Naomi embrace, and everything seems fine between them, but a clash between Rose and Naomi must be impending.
It’s a very A-List Christmas for The Miz when he finally gets Shane McMahon to commit to working with him in the “Best in the World” tag team. The Miz pivots a Miz TV discussion of what the McMahons are doing as managers of RAW and SmackDown into a long, too-sincere-to-be-true monologue about how he’s never heard his dad say he’s proud of him, but his dad is a Shane McMahon fan. The Miz takes the decision to the WWE Universe, and most of the audience chants “Yes!” to the concept of a Miz-McMahon tag team. Shane McMahon says The Miz’s speech resonated with him and gives in, with a certain caveat: “You better not screw me or there’s going to be major consequences.”
Ahead of their match later in the show, we see Samoa Joe cut a pre-recorded promo on Jeff Hardy. He mocks him for his past bad decisions under the influence of drugs and alcohol, says that he has become Hardy’s “new addiction,” and implies that he’ll cure him of this by choking him out.
When the two square off in the ring, Hardy starts their match more aggressively than usual. It looks like he’s either determined to prove Joe wrong or very psyched out by his mind games. Joe gains back control, and the match goes back and forth. It looks like Hardy could put Joe away after a Twist of Fate and a move to the top rope, but Joe rolls out of the ring in time to dodge the probable Swanton Bomb. Hardy tackles him outside the ring and kicks him against the barricade.
The match ends with a disqualification, but neither man is finished fighting. Hardy throws Joe over the announce table, but Joe locks on the Coquina Clutch and knocks Hardy out. Joe’s mind games may have briefly backfired, but he still left the match on top.
Backstage, Rusev tells the audience that his United States Championship match against Shinsuke Nakamura isn’t just a big deal because it’s Christmas, but also because it’s his birthday. He’ll become the new, handsome U.S. Champion on his birthday to make this the “most complete Rusev Day ever.” Nakamura isn’t convinced and says since the “Total Diva” Rusev’s been naughty this year, so all he’ll get is a knee to the face.
Rusev and Nakamura wrestle a hard-hitting main event match. Rusev is extra fired up and has the support of most of the crowd, but Nakamura dominates at first with his large striking range, technical skills, and willingness to fight dirty. Rusev, weakened with shots and submissions targeting his neck and torso, makes a comeback and gets a few nearfalls, but looks like he can’t figure out how to put Nakamura away.
The men brawl outside the ring, and we see Nakamura reaching deep into his arsenal to try and defeat the Bulgarian Brute. He goes to the top rope, kicks out of a Machka Kick, and counters the Accolade into a triangle that Rusev struggles to power out of. Rusev manages to dodge the Kinshasa though, and a second Machka Kick wins him the match and the United States Championship. The crowd celebrates this happiest of Rusev Days with Lana and her husband.
This episode of SmackDown ends with a confrontation between AJ Styles and Vince McMahon with mysterious consequences. Mr. McMahon calls Styles to his office and questions why he’s not competing tonight in the house that he built. He suggests that Styles has become complacent, but he sees similarities between himself and the former WWE Champion. In a Sith Lord-esque speech, Mr. McMahon urges Styles to harness the evil in his heart. Styles punches the old man and is dragged out by referees and management, but McMahon, smiling on the floor, looks like he got what he wants. After Styles retained his title and his identity despite the mind games of Nakamura and Joe earlier this year, it looks like he might have finally met his psychological match in Mr. McMahon.