John Cena is back. Cena will step foot inside a WWE ring for the 20th consecutive year on the second-last day of 2022 when he teams with Kevin Owens to battle Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn.
Undisputed WWE universal champion Reigns expressed his intention to rid The Bloodline of their Owens problem. Reigns would team with Zayn to fight Owens and a partner of Owens’ choosing on the Dec. 30 episodes of SmackDown. In a shocking twist, that partner was revealed to be the 16-time world champion and Hollywood superstar.
The latest blue brand presentation also featured two championship matches. GUNTHER defended his intercontinental championship against SmackDown World Cup winner Ricochet, the man he defeated for the title in June. Women’s tag team champions Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky defended their crowns against the newly united front of Liv Morgan and Tegan Knox.
CBS Sports was with you all night with recaps and highlights of all the action from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
Cena joins Owens in his battle against The Bloodline
Zayn arrived at SmackDown with The Usos in a limousine. A little later in the evening, Zayn — wearing his hair up, beard trimmed and sporting a charcoal suit — expressed nerves over the expected announcement. He excused himself to get some water. Jey Uso was enthusiastic for Zayn to become a fully-fledged Uce, but Jimmy Uso worried that it wasn’t in the cards for the “Honorary Uce” and that they were setting him up for disappointment.
Reigns arrived a little later in the evening, accompanied by Bloodline enforcer Solo Sikoa and special counsel Paul Heyman.
Jimmy Uso approached Reigns and asked him if Reigns was really going to keep Jimmy Uso out of the loop regarding the big announcement. Jimmy Uso said he loves Zayn and would love to see Zayn officially invited into The Bloodline, but also that he loves Reigns and his family and would understand if it was better to proceed without inducting Zayn. Reigns told Heyman to call authority figure Adam Pearce.
Heyman, on behalf of Reigns, offered Pearce the opportunity to book a match: Reigns and Zayn vs. Kevin Owens and a partner of his choosing. Pearce asked if tonight or the Royal Rumble would do. Heyman opted to host the tag team match on Dec. 30 episodes of SmackDown.
In the closing segment, Reigns celebrated his team’s victory at WarGames. He dapped up each member of The Bloodline, including Zayn. Reigns said it was intended to be a good night for Zayn, but there was a problem: the Owens problem. Reigns lambasted Owens for continuing to harass Zayn and said they would eliminate Owens together. Zayn agreed that Owens was dragging him down, but slipped up by describing Owens as his friend. Zayn backtracked but was interrupted by John Cena on the big screen. Cena read a text from Owens, noting that Cena had wrestled every year since 2002 except for this year. At the risk of breaking his streak, Cena accepted Owens’ request to team up against Reigns and Zayn on the final SmackDown of 2022.
A really great episode of SmackDown. WWE allowed Reigns’ big announcement to breathe with multiple segments throughout the night. The dynamic between The Usos has visibly shifted. The once bitter Jey Uso was enthusiastic about Zayn’s big night; meanwhile, Jimmy Uso has become trepidacious. Zayn’s promotion from “Honorary Uce” to full-fledged member never occurred, extending the timeline for his eventual extradition from the group. Cena’s return was previously announced, but placing him in the center of a major feud should bring an even greater ratings boost to SmackDown. Plus, Owens attacked Cena in the former’s main roster debut so it’s a fun little throwback to have them join forces against Owen’s ex-best friend. Grade: A+
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- Women’s tag team championships — Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky) def. Liv Morgan and Tegan Nox via pinfall after Sky hit Nox with a moonsault. Moments earlier, a hooded figure kicked Nox in the head.
- Uncle Howdy tied up and attacked LA Knight in footage captured from last week’s kidnapping of Knight.
- Knight later attacked Bray Wyatt in the ring, despite Wyatt’s insistence that he is not the masked assailant. Howdy appeared on the big screen and asked Knight if he wanted to see something “really scary.” Howdy physically appeared on the ramp while Wyatt smiled. Knight fled.
- Commentator Wade Barrett revealed Xia Li as Nox’s attacker earlier in the evening.
- Intercontinental championship — Gunther (c) def. Ricochet via pinfall after hitting the Last Symphony. Braun Strowman saved Ricochet from a post-match beatdown at Imperium’s hands.
- Hit Row (Ashante Adonis and Top Dolla) def. Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) and Legado del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro) via pinfall after hitting Wilde with a dropkick-assisted back suplex. Hit Row earned the right to challenge The Usos for the undisputed tag team championships.
- Ronda Rousey and Shayna Balzer attacked an already injured Raquel Rodriguez backstage ahead of next week’s No. 1 contender’s gauntlet match.