WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Randy Orton, LA Knight and AJ Styles brawl ahead of No. 1 contender bout

WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Randy Orton, LA Knight and AJ Styles brawl ahead of No. 1 contender bout

There are a lot of people out to get Roman Reigns but they are not on the same page. Randy Orton, LA Knight and AJ Styles came to blows on WWE SmackDown ahead of a triple threat match to determine the No. 1 contender for Reigns’ undisputed WWE universal championship at the Royal Rumble.

SmackDown general manager Nick Aldis booked the three-way match to remedy the three superstars’ desires to get revenge on The Bloodline. Friday’s show also featured an interesting power clash between Aldis and Reigns.

The action-packed episode also set the finals of the United States championship No. 1 contender tournament, featured an NXT North American title defense and found a new challenger for Iyo Sky’s WWE women’s championship.

CBS Sports was with you all night with recaps and highlights of all the action from Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Viper, Knight and Styles clash

A serious Styles opened SmackDown by announcing his desire to battle Reigns at the Royal Rumble, an opportunity seemingly earmarked for Orton. Styles said his feud with Reigns takes priority over Orton’s and Knight’s. Queue Knight. The fan favorite told Styles to get behind him in the Reigns revenge tour. Knight said that Styles could get some too after sucker-punching Knight last week. Orton entered next, reminding both parties that The Bloodline sidelined him for 18 months. General manager Nick Aldis interrupted the bickering and presented a solution. A triple threat match between Orton, Styles and Knight will take place at a special “New Year’s Evolution” of SmackDown on Jan. 5 to determine Reigns’ No. 1 challenger for the Royal Rumble.

The camera later caught up with The Bloodline backstage. Reigns asked his special counsel Heyman who SmackDown’s new general manager was, seemingly unaware, and commanded Heyman to bring Aldis in. Heyman expressed trepidation, but Reigns overruled him. Reigns and Aldis sat down for a meeting. Reigns informed Aldis that everything on SmackDown runs through him, something that Raw general manager Adam Pearce understood. Aldis called Pearce “middle management” before asserting himself as a proper general manager, an executive and the sharp end of the stick on SmackDown. Aldis took a subtle jab at Reigns, describing Sikoa’s victory over John Cena at Crown Jewel as more impressive than anything Reigns mustered against Cena. Aldis told Reigns he looks forward to more productive meetings with the undisputed WWE universal champion moving forward.

Later in the evening, The O.C. welcomed Styles back on SmackDown. Karl Anderson mentioned how they hadn’t heard from Styles and asked if they were good. Styles replied, “I don’t know, are we?” before walking off.

Styles def. Sikoa via disqualification after Reigns attacked him. Styles started the match like a bat out of hell, determined to get revenge on The Bloodline for taking him out months before. Sikoa balanced the scales with his strength but Styles’ agility and veteran savvy kept him in the match. Styles was approaching victory after landing a Phenomenal Forearm on Sikoa, but Reigns’ interference robbed him of a clean win.

Post-match, Styles cracked Reigns with a Pele kick before falling to the numbers advantage. Orton rescued Styles despite Styles’ early demand that Orton and Knight stay out of his business. Uso got the jump on Orton but Knight evened the playing field. Styles berated Knight and Orton for aiding him, ultimately leading to a brawl between the three faces. Reigns watched gleefully as his rivals took each other out.

Once upon a time, WWE would phone in these pre-taped holiday episodes. That was not the case on Friday. One of WWE’s strengths in recent months has been the development of multiple believable main-event faces. That was exemplified by the booking of a triple threat match to determine Reigns’ next challenger. Speaking of Reigns, the interaction between him and Aldis was fascinating. Aldis has been presented very well as a thoughtful and assertive general manager. It appears Reigns will no longer enjoy the control he did under Pearce’s authority and that makes for compelling programming. Grade: A

What else happened on WWE SmackDown?

  • Bianca Belair, Michin, Shotzi and Zelina Vega def. Damage CTRL (Asuka, Bayley, Kairi Sane and Zelina Vega) via pinfall after Michin hit a splash on Sky through a table in a no-disqualification match. Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn attacked Asuka and Sane during the match.
  • NXT North American Championship — Dragon Lee (c) def. Butch via pinfall after hitting Butch with Operation Dragon to retain his title.
  • Kevin Owens def. Carmelo Hayes via pinfall after landing the stunner. Owens qualifies for the finals of the U.S. championship No. 1 contender tournament.
  • Santos Escobar def. Bobby Lashley via pinfall with a roll-up and a handful of tights. Lashley was distracted while two masked assailants, later revealed to be Los Lotharios, attacked the Street Profits. Escobar qualifies for the finals of the U.S. championship No. 1 contender tournament.
  • Butch and Pretty Deadly brawled backstage. Aldis told Butch to find a tag team partner to take on Pretty Deadly in two weeks.
  • Sky will defend her WWE women’s championship against Michin at SmackDown New Year’s Revolution on Jan. 5.