Friday Night Smackdown has consistently been the must-see show of WWE, while Monday Night Raw has been rather lackluster and not showcasing the same level of excitement.
This week was no exception, with LA Knight’s rivalry with Bray Wyatt reaching new heights and the confirmation that a multi-time world champion will make his thrilling in-ring return on December 31.
Welcome to the WWE Weekly Round-up, where The Inner Sanctum will take you through this week’s most pivotal moments on WWE television and preview what shapes to be a huge period ahead.
There was also a large focus on the championships this week, with three number one contender’s matches across both shows and two title retentions on Smackdown. Gunther defeated Ricochet for his Intercontinental Championship, while Damage CTRL prevailed over Liv Morgan and Tegan Nox thanks to an assist from Xia Li.
Alexa Bliss earns title opportunity and teases heel turn
Monday Night Raw commenced with Alexa Bliss and Bayley colliding for a Raw Women’s Championship opportunity against Bianca Belair.
Before the bout started, Becky Lynch ensured that Dakota Kai and IYO SKY wouldn’t have an influence on the match by running the duo out of the arena with a steel chair. Although it was expected, Bayley was not impressed and she was left by herself to secure a title shot against the E.S.T.
Belair was sitting at ringside during the contest and in the dying stages, the Role Model removed the padding from the turnbuckle and the champion informed the referee. The bitter rivals then had a verbal exchange, before Bliss took advantage of the situation and nailed her finisher for the win shortly after.
Following the match, Belair entered the ring to congratulate her new challenger and one of her closest friends. Bliss wanted to hug the E.S.T. and when Bray Wyatt’s logo flashed on the titantron, she placed Belair in position for a Sister Abigail.
However, the number one contender retracted and left the ring in an unsettled state. The Raw Women’s Champion was confused, as she should seek clarification and further answers for the incident next week.
While she hesitated to pull the trigger on Raw, Alexa Bliss should still eventually turn heel and potentially reconnect with Bray Wyatt. If this championship match is scheduled for the Royal Rumble that occurs on January 29, this was the right decision for WWE to buy some time in this storyline and not execute the turn so soon.
Bobby Lashley ‘fired’ after loss to Seth Rollins
In the second number one contender’s match on Monday Night Raw, Bobby Lashley fought Seth Rollins for the right to challenge Austin Theory for the United States Championship.
The final stages of the main event clash saw the Almighty apply a hurt lock to his opponent, but the Visionary pushed Lashley towards the corner and it forced the referee to retreat before getting hit. However, Chad Patton tweaked his leg in the process and was late to the count after the Almighty delivered a spear to Rollins.
Lashley was furious at the official and before he could connect with another spear, the Visionary countered into a pedigree and secured the victory. While Rollins had earnt a future United States Championship match, the Almighty confronted Patton after his defeat and blamed him for the loss.
Another referee entered the scene to make sure Lashley wouldn’t assault Patton, but he was elbowed and it forced Adam Pearce to involve himself in the situation and calm down the Almighty. Lashley was still fuming and as he was heading backstage, he shoved Pearce and the WWE Official ‘fired’ him.
The former world champion was already on thin ice from last week when he accidentally speared WWE Official, Petey Williams during a brawl with Rollins. While Pearce had no choice on Raw, he announced on Twitter a day later that Lashley was not indeed fired and apologised for how he conducted himself.
It is still shaping to be an intriguing situation and members of the WWE Universe are all speculating that this storyline could lead to one of two pathways. Since Lashley is now removed from the United States Title picture, it is anticipated that this angle may result in either a third and final match against Brock Lesnar or the reunion of The Hurt Business.
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Uncle Howdy finally appears in the flesh
LA Knight has been victim to continuous blindsided attacks for the past several weeks, ever since he ignited a rivalry with Bray Wyatt by slapping him in the face on November 19.
On this week’s episode of Friday Night Smackdown, Knight entered the ring to discuss the ongoing situation after he was kidnapped and held hostage. He had always been adamant that Wyatt was behind the assaults, but the latter denied it again before Knight unleashed a beatdown on him.
During the attack, Uncle Howdy finally emerged after weeks of vignettes and made his way to the top of the entrance ramp. Knight was in disbelief and asked Wyatt what was exactly happening, but he left the ring before anything else could eventuate.
Uncle Howdy’s laugh echoed throughout the arena and while it was always wondered who exactly the cowboy-like figure was, it was confirmed on Smackdown that he is a separate individual rather than one of Wyatt’s potential personas.
Some were saying before this feud commenced that Wyatt’s direction was stagnant and needed an injection of excitement. The WWE Universe were also growing impatient for an answer if Uncle Howdy was Wyatt behind a mask or someone else, as his segments were all too similar without revealing his true identity.
However, this rivalry has now eradicated those issues and is increasingly becoming interesting by the week. A match at the Royal Rumble seems likely and whether Knight would step in the ring against Wyatt or Howdy remains to be seen.
Huge tag team match scheduled for final Smackdown of 2022
To close Friday Night Smackdown, Roman Reigns made his first appearance since Survivor Series after Jey Uso informed Sami Zayn last week that it was going to be a big night for him.
It seemed like the Honorary Uce was either going to be officially accepted as an Uso into the group, or betrayed by The Bloodline. However, the Tribal Chief instead ordered Adam Pearce to set up a tag team match for the final Smackdown of the year.
Reigns said he would like to tag alongside Zayn against Kevin Owens and a partner of the Prizefighter’s choosing in two weeks.
As soon as this backstage segment concluded, it was projected that Owens would elect John Cena as his tag team partner after it was announced last week that the 16-time world champion would return on this episode of Smackdown.
When The Bloodline entered the ring in the closing stages of the show, Reigns declared that it was originally going to be a good night for Zayn until he mentioned that Owens is still involving himself with the Honorary Uce.
During the promo, Cena appeared on the titantron to the elation of the crowd and revealed he would be the Prizefighter’s partner after receiving a text from Owens. The huge tag team match was then confirmed and could be paving the way for The Bloodline to turn on Zayn or officially accept him.
Nonetheless, it will be Cena’s first match of the year after last competing against Reigns for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam in 2021 and a fantastic way for WWE to close out the calendar year.
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