WWE SmackDown Recap: December 25, 2018
S18 episode 52 Aired on December 25, 2018

What was a festive Christmas night edition of SmackDown LIVE took a shocking turn when AJ Styles met with WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon, who said he wanted to see the “animal” inside The Phenomenal One. A slap from The Chairman to Styles’ face did the trick, as the former WWE Champion struck Mr. McMahon with a thunderous right hand. Also, a new United States Champion was crowned and “The New” Daniel Bryan continued to run roughshod over anyone in his path.

R-Truth and Carmella (or Truthy Claus and CARMelfA on this night), arrived on the blue brand looking like the coolest Santa and cutest elf to ever trot the globe. The Mixed Match Challenge Season 2 winners simply wanted to spread a little holiday cheer and sing some Christmas carols … but WWE Champion “The New” Daniel Bryan just wasn’t with it.

A furious Bryan didn’t think he should be away from his family on Christmas and quickly became irate at Truth & Carmella’s holiday antics. The WWE Champion then railed against the WWE Universe’s adoration for Santa, suggesting that their yearning for more and more material things has done significant damage to the planet. Bryan suggested that because of their greed, there would soon be no North Pole, and thus, no Santa Claus.

The Beard’s rant prompted Truthy Claus to call Bryan an “angry little elf,” which led to Bryan to calling him a joke. Truth then reminded the WWE Champion that he would be No. 30 in the Royal Rumble and that he would be coming for Bryan after he wins the Royal Rumble … if Bryan was still champion. Truth and Carmella opted for one of their signature dance breaks, but an incensed Bryan chop-blocked Truth and savagely assaulted him with leg locks while Carmella was forced to helplessly watch in horror.

Talk about a grinch.

After weeks of jaw-jacking back and forth, United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and rRusev finally collided for the star-spangled title on Christmas Day (and Rusev Day) (and Rusev’s birthday).

Hard hits were the theme from the get-go, with both Rusev and Nakamura exchanging several punishing haymakers. Nakamura used his versatile offense to wear down Rusev with pounding blows and push him to his max with his versatile ground game. The Bulgarian Brute surged back though, using his bruising strength and awe-inspiring athleticism to bring the fight to WWE’s Rockstar.

Nakamura got Rusev in perfect position for the Kinshasa, but The Bulgarian Brute popped up and connected flush with the Machka Kick, only for The Artist to kick out. However, Rusev refused to be deterred by Nakamura’s resiliency, and after finding a way out of a triangle submission attempt from Shinsuke and surviving a knee to his temple, The Super Athlete rallied once more, connecting with a second Machka Kick to win the United States Championship.

So, what do Christmas Day, Rusev Day and Rusev’s birthday all have in common? They’re now all the same day when Rusev became a three-time United States Champion.

SmackDown LIVE came to a shocking conclusion when AJ Styles met with WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon in the back.

Mr. McMahon wanted to know more about the “real” AJ Styles, questioning why The Phenomenal One was letting “The New” Daniel Bryan run roughshod through the house he built. The Chairman went on to say that he and Styles were a lot alike, that they both had black holes in their hearts, as a confused Styles listened.

Mr. McMahon then began poking Styles in the chest, demanding to see the animal within The Phenomenal One before slapping the former WWE Champion in the face. Apparently, that woke up Styles’ inner animal, as The Phenomenal One decked Mr. McMahon with a big right hand, sending The WWE Chairman crashing to the floor. Styles let out a primal scream as he stood over Mr. McMahon, officials rushing to check on The Chairman. Mr. McMahon said he was OK after the surprise attack, as a smile crept across his face, leaving many to wonder why The WWE Chairman wanted to see this side of Styles.

In other action … Mustafa Ali def. Andrade “Cien” Almas … The Usos & Gallows & Anderson def. The Bar & SAnitY … Shane McMahon finally agreed to team up with The Miz on “Miz TV” … and Samoa Joe def. Jeff Hardy via disqualification.

Season 18 episode guides