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By Mike Johnson on 2022-12-26 22:45:00

WWE returned to Madison Square Garden for their annual post-Christmas Holiday Show, a tradition that has run for decades at The World's Most Famous Arena.  The show was near sold out, if not 100% sold out with the crowd, mostly families, really enjoying the show.  The live event was very much based around making the crowd happy and in that regard, it was an absolute winner of a card.  I can see people who will look at the results and scratch their head at the lineup, but in terms of a series of live matches that entertained the audience, WWE had a strong show tonight.

Alicia Taylor was the ring announcer and did a great job, especially in her introductions for the stipulation matches and the main event.  She did a strong job bringing the crowd into the show and got a nice round of applause before the main event thanking everyone who bought tickets and came tonight to see the show.

Sheamus & Ridge Holland defeated Imperium in a really good, back and forth ten minute tag team bout when Sheamus pinned Ludwig Kaiser with The Brogue Kick.  Holland was worked over for a big part of the bout to set up the hot tag and all the tag team work was really good from an in-ring standpoint.  This was the MSG debut for everyone but Sheamus.  No Butch here, although at one point he was scheduled for the show.  

Hit Row defeated Legado Del Fantasma in a six person tag when Ashante Thee Adonis pinned Joaquin Wilde.  Lots of antics with B-Fab and Zelina Vega over the course of the match here.  There was a huge family and friends contingent for Hit Row for their MSG debut.   Vega at one point jumped on Top Dolla's back and was rotated around several times. Vega is from NYC and you could tell she was jazzed to play herself up to the crowd, mocking and heeling them, even giving some poor kid in the front row grief.  Dolla was dropkicked in the leg and was stumbling around after that spot.  Earlier, he did a running knee to the face of Cruz del Toro and the momentum sent him over the top, landing on his feet.  Zelina sent Fab into the steps on the floor.  Ashante showed a lot of promise as an in-ring worker and you could see here there could be a big upside to him as a singles talent down the line.  He was really in his element.  Legado were really good heels here and Wilde was getting heat giving the fans static about how bad the New York Jets' quarterback is.  There were some spots that didn't hit perfect here but the crowd was very much into giving the heels grief and cheering the babyfaces.  Dolla appeared to be limping a bit after the match but that might have been selling.   Not only was this Hit Row and Legado's Wilde and del Toros's official MSG debut, it was also Vega's first ever in-ring match in MSG.

On the screens, they played a promo from Santos Escobar, playing up he would win the Ladder Match later on.

Jinder Mahal cut a promo saying he was upset he was disrespected he wasn't in the ladder match later on for the WWE Intercontinental title.  He challenged anyone to face him.  Out came Bray Wyatt to a huge pop.  The second MSG heard his new music, they were on their feet with the cell phone lights.  The crowd chanted "This is awesome" chant at the bell. 

Bray Wyatt defeated Jinder Mahal.  Mahal had both knees taped up.  This was SHORT.  They battled on floor and Bray was cut off returning to ring.  He quickly made a comeback  and scored the pin with Sister Abigail.  We are told Jinder was a last minute addition to the show and I believe the original plan was for LA Knight to be in his spot.  Obviously, they aren't going to have Bray do a long 20 minute back and forth match on a live event before he does it on TV, but the crowd was happy to see him live and it was a nice "extra" for MSG.  No Uncle Howdy teases or anything of that nature.

They aired a video where backstage, Sami Zayn was being a jerk, only to discover it was Braun he was being rude to as Strowman was down on his knees tying his shoes or something.  Braun told him to meet him in the ring later.  The second the crowd saw Zayn, there was a big cheer.

WWE Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER (in his MSG debut) defeated Kofi Kingston, Madcap Moss (MSG debut), Shinsuke Nakamura and Santos Escobar (MSG debut) in a Ladder Match.  The spotlight early on was on Nakamura vs. GUNTHER.  They spent the entire bout making GUNTHER's chops the equivalent of a shotgun blast as everyone who took one was knocked down, selling the intensity of the shots.  They had several ladders in the aisle, but most of the ones used were pulled out from under the ring.  Madcap Moss' intensity hitting the ropes is GREATLY underrated and he worked really hard here.  The only dive was completely safe with Kofi doing a backwards dive off the apron onto everyone.  It still got a big pop.  A ladder was bridged between the apron and the railing with Kofi fighting off heel after heel who wanted to slam him onto it.  It ended up with him being whipped by GUNTHER, going under the ladder and rebounding with a leap over it onto a DDT, which looked great.  There was a scary miscue when Kofi went to springboard off a ladder laid out in the corner across the ropes and the middle buckle but the ladder slipped and he had to regroup and leap on the ladder.  Escobar had his working boots on and at one point, hit a rana off the ladder.  No Zelina or Legado with Escobar,.  Closer t to the end of the bout, Kofi nailed a stomp off the ladder, driving Santos down.  They came down awkwardly from my vantage point and Santos went to the floor.  Someone from WWE medical hopped the rail to rush and check on him.  Escobar was walked out after the bout by Jamie Noble.  The finish saw Moss get chopped off the Ladder, leaving GUNTHER to claim the title.  This was a well worked ladder match and at points, the live crowd bought into the idea that the title could change hands, especially with Kofi and to a lesser extent Escobar.  The crowd expended a lot of energy after this.

Intermission came after this.  It was the perfect time.

Karrion Kross pinned Drew Gulak.  The crowd saw the Karrion and Scarlett entrance as a big deal but you could tell when the bell rang, they were still spent from the ladder match.  This was a damn good match with lots of solid wrestling, but probably went too long.    That said, this was one of the best things on the show if you liked grappling and wrestling.  Gulak was pulling out all sorts of old school psychology and grappling with the idea he was trying to wear down the larger Kross.  He grabbed a side headlock and kept walking in circles, grinding it.  They did some grappling and submissions based around the arm.  Kross nailed a great looking Saito suplex.  He nailed some strikes and clotheslines in the corner and hit the Down the Rabbit Hole into a knee strike and finally a reverse shot to the back of the head and neck for the pin.   This was one of the best Kross matches since he returned to WWE and Gulak was give a rare chance to really go out there with some time to craft a good in-ring story.  His stuff in the ring reminded me a lot of the late Tracy Smothers in terms of how he worked the holds and counters.  This was a lot of fun for the discerning eye but if you were looking for big spots, this wasn't it.  After the bout, Kross hopped the rail to embrace an older woman sitting ringside.  The word backstage among the talents was that it was Kross' grandmother, who was seeing him perform for the first time live.   It was a really nice moment and the crowd popped for it once they realized he was embracing someone.  This was Kross and Scarlett's debut at MSG.    Scarlett had a MASSIVE smile on her face as they were leaving ringside. 

*Liv Morgan defeated Shayna Baszler in a NYC Street Fight after hitting her with a top rope leg drop onto a table, which did not break, but they went to the finish anyway.  This table looked thick and I think Sabu would have had a hard time cracking it.  Morgan, who is originally from nearby New Jersey, got some of the biggest pops of the night for her entrance and big moves.  Baszler played a great antagonist here, using a steel chair and Singapore Cane during the bout.  Crowd loved all of this and Liv Morgan really did a great job selling the big spots and moves, including being sent into a chair wedged into the buckles.  At one point, she was kicked hard and bumped backwards, bouncing on the bottom rope as if she was about to fall backwards out of the ring.  Liv beat up the table that didn't break after with a Singapore Cane.  That will teach that table to learn to work.  The crowd gave her a big reaction as she bowed to them before exiting.  This was Baszler's in-ring MSG debut.

Then, it was main event time.  Braun Strowman came out alone and said he was going to teach The Bloodline and Sami Zayn a lesson and told him to come out.  Sami came out and said he wasn't coming alone, introducing The Usos. MASSIVE pop for the Usos coming out with Solo Sikoa.    You would have thought it was John Cena coming out.  It was just an insanely loud, sustained pop.  Zayn claimed he was not medically cleared to compete so it would be Braun vs. Solo Sikoa, who was making his MSG debut.  They battled back and forth and it was two big men trying to fight it out.   Braun finally went for a powerslam but the rest of the Bloodline swarmed him and they beat him down in the ring.  The referee ran the bell.

Kevin Owens made the save to his theme song and cleared the ring.  Owens ripped The Bloodline on the mic and said he's been trying to figure out Sami's connection to them forever and finally realized that Sami keeps saying they are his dogs because Sami was their b**ch.  He challenged them to fight and then mocked them, asking if they had to call Roman to made a decision.  

It then turned it into a non-title Tag match with The Usos vs. Braun and Owens.  Braun and Kevin Owens got the win in a match that was designed to very much please the live audience.  Strowman did the running around the ring train deal, which MSG loved.  The finish came after Braun did the powerslam as Kevin hit did the stunner and they scored the pin.  Everyone went home happy and the villains were vanquished for the night, even thought New York loved them, too!

Notes: Neither Triple H nor Stephanie McMahon were there for the first-ever post Vince McMahon MSG live event...There were a LOT of travel issues getting folks to NYC for the show and some talents were called at the last minute to come in.  LA Knight, Drew McIntyre, Butch, Maximum Male Models, Ricochet, and Los Lotharios were at different points slated to be in NYC for the show.  Some talents and staff had to be rerouted to Newark and other airports to get into town as there are still so many flight issues locally here after the winter storm that hit Christmas weekend...Michael Hayes, Jason Jordan, and Molly Holly were backstage producing and running the event...Sam Roberts was at the event...Tiffany Stratton and Jinny were at the event...WWE sold a special Holiday Tour shirt as well as a New York 3:16 shirt at the event.  They also had shirts for Seth Rollins, Rey Mysterio masks and even Up Up Up Down Down replica belts...The word-traveled Kevin Gill of many promotions' commentary fame was in the house....Lots and lots of Bloodline and Cena shirts in the crowd....The infamous Ringside Charlie was, well, ringside....WWE will return to MSG with a Raw & Smackdown Supershow on Sunday 3/12.  The pre-sale code for the event at is WWEMSG.

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