Well, everyone, it’s Friday again so it’s time for another episode of WWE Smackdown. Things are in a weird spot overall on Smackdown at the moment, reports are that Roman isn’t scheduled to wrestle until the Saudi show in November and while he’ll be on TV ahead of that date to help promote his match it does leave a gaping hole in the Smackdown ecosystem that they’ve been unable to reliably fill.
Tonight we’re getting Finn Balor vs.
AJ Styles after Balor and Damien Priest attacked AJ last week after AJ pinned Jimmy Uso, the whole Judgement Day and remnant of the Bloodline stuff is still nascent but will need some kind of rationale or spark pretty soon if anyone’s going to buy into it.
Still no word on who might have been traded to Smackdown for Jey Uso, Rey Mysterio is trying to rehab the US title after Austin Theory’s lacklustre reign but needs a new challenger, Iyo Sky will defend the women’s title against Asuka next week but we’ll probably get something to help with that build tonight.
John Cena will be on the Grayson Waller Effect, LA Knight and Miz are having their rematch here and one has to imagine that the next real feud for Knight starts here, Jimmy Uso is still trying to get back into Roman’s good graces, Shotzi has pinned Bayley a few weeks in a row so they might do something with that.
In the rumour mill, it has something to do with The Rock, he and Pat McAfee are in general proximity to the venue tonight but I doubt Rock shows up unannounced when Roman isn’t there.
Smackdown is still kind of resetting these days, which happens, but hopefully, they can find meaningful gear for the show sooner rather than later. Anyway, that’s the preamble, let’s get to the action.
First, here’s Pat McAfee. McAfee gets a mic as he’s in the ring, and he plays with the crowd a bit. He mentions being in town for college football coverage, and when he saw that Smackdown was coming through at the same time he was going to make it here. A little more playing with the crowd, but here’s Austin Theory to make everything worse.
Theory has a mic as well and says this isn’t Smackdown it’s Austin Theory Live.
OK then. Theory with the usual weak insults to the crowd then recites some scripted lines before begging for a reaction.
Anyway, he’s out here to finish business with McAfee, and he’s going to drop him and injure him like Aaron Rodgers.
McAfee says Theory isn’t going to do a damn thing, they argue about the fashion realities of black tank tops, and then McAfee says he’s just enjoying Colorado laws and doesn’t want to fight. He brings up how disrespectful Theory is to everyone, and he says this will never be Theory’s show, this is the people’s show.
And that means. . . here comes The Rock to a MONSTER pop. Rocky just soaks in the reaction for a while before heading down to the ring. Theory desperately tries to look something other than befuddled and pensive, not sure that’s working. Rocky gets a mic and slowly circles Theory, waiting for a “holy shit” chant to die down, Theory asks if Rock knows whose ring he’s in given that Rock has been gone, and Rock tells him to shut his “bitch ass up.” Theory doesn’t know how all this works, no need to break the fourth wall like that Rock, come on.
Rock removes his jacket, and “Finally the Rock has come back to Denver!” Theory tries a “Finally,” to mock the people for being excited about Rock and Austin one more time, but now it’s a real Austin, the Austin who will be the entire Mount Rushmore on his own.
Rock tries to interrupt, but “It doesn’t matter what The Rock says”, OK that worked.
But, it does matter what The Rock says, and more importantly, it matters what the people say. If the real Austin were here he’d offer to beat Theory’s ass for a hell yeah.
Smackdown is Rock’s show, and the people rule here. Rock says it’s appropriate that Theory is from A Town since he’s an A-hole, and in about 3 seconds half the arena will chant “you are” then the other side will chant “an asshole”.
The crowd oblige to this request. It only took The Rock, but finally, people are reacting to Theory. Rock appreciates that from the crowd, then he reverses which half of the crowd chants which half of the phrase.
Theory tries to yell, but half of this is censored so he’s just yelling into the void here. Rock quiets things down and says the lesson is he doesn’t know who Theory is, but he knows what he is as do the people.
His theory about Theory is that running down the people doesn’t work, and in 3 seconds Rock will beat Theory’s ass. Theory attacks first, but that doesn’t work as he eats a spinebuster and a People’s Elbow. Rock offers one to McAfee, and McAfee hits a People’s Elbow as well, then he and Rock pose to end the segment.
Commentary reminds us what’s on tap tonight.
Here come Judgement Day as we head to break.
Post break here’s AJ Styles, all alone.
Match #1: Finn Balor w/ Dominick Mysterio and Damien Priest vs. AJ Styles
Balor attacks AJ as Priest distracts AJ, and then they fight over a hip toss before AJ hits a Russian legs weep and a backbreaker. Gallows is injured, or at least kayfabe injured.
Low dropkick from Balor to take over and he grabs a chinlock.
AJ fights free and hits another backbreaker that sends Balor out of the ring and we get another break, the opening segment ran long so that makes sense.
AJ lands chops as we come back, and then they hit the ropes for a double crossbody spot and both men are down. Striking flurry from AJ and a sliding forearm. Corner splash from AJ, then Balor rakes the eyes but is caught in a back suplex into a facebuster for a 2 count.
AJ and Balor head up top, AJ tries a top rope hurricanrana but Balor holds onto the ropes so AJ drops, Balor is too slow trying to follow up and AJ crotches him. AJ wants a Styles Clash but has to settle for a Death Valley neckbreaker though and Balor rolls out of the ring again.
Next AJ dives onto Balor, then clotheslines Dom when he tries to get involved. Priest grabs AJ but he ref sees it and ejects both Priest and Dom from ringside. AJ wants the Phenomenal Forearm, but Balor avoids him. Here’s Jimmy Uso to distract AJ though and Balor grabs a crucifix to pin AJ for the 3 count.
OFFICIAL RESULT: Finn Balor won
Rating: 2 stars
Thoughts: The commercial break gutted this, both guys can go but this never had a chance in broadcast terms to get into a flow. Judgement Day is almost as tired as the Bloodline in terms of the repetitive structure of their matches and that’s also making it harder and harder to care.
AJ is annoyed at everything as we head to break.
In the back Rock and McAfee talk about their opening segment, then hug but here’s John Cena as well. Cena and Rock stare down, then shake hands and hug before Cena heads out.
Elsewhere in the back, Jimmy Uso wanders around in mopey black, but here’s Finn Balor. Jimmy says they’re even after last week, and Balor brings up how Jimmy must miss Jey and brings up offering a Judgement Day spot to Jey.
Jey didn’t say no, so maybe Jimmy can join up with him and we’ll have everyone on the Judgement Day. Jimmy declines as Balor says there are no leaders in their group, so there’s no Roman.
The LWO is all in the ring. Rey Mysterio plays with the crowd and gives love to the LWO. Santos Escobar says he loves Rey and respects him, but he’d like a title shot against him.
Rey accepts and they hug, but here’s Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits to interrupt things. The Profits are dressed to wrestle.
Bobby says their takeover will be easy with tag teams either crumbling or engaging in love fests like this.
Joaquin Wilde and Cruz del Toro lay down a challenge that the Profits seem to happily accept as we head to break.
Match #2 – Tag Team Match: LWO (Cruz del Toro and Joaquin Wilde) w/ Zelina Vega, Rey Mysterio, and Santos Escobar vs. Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) w/ Bobby Lashley
Things are a little wild as we come back, Wilde misses a jump and Ford tags in and they hit the Revelation to win.
OFFICIAL RESULT: Street Profits won
Rating: Gem. . . SQUASH
Thoughts: I imagine that was supposed to be longer but things had to be adjusted after the opening segment ran long.
Post-match the Profits engage in a beatdown, but Rey and Santos save them. Bobby lays out Santos, then Dawkins mistimes a Rey move but still lays him out with a right hand as the Hurt Profits retreat.
After this break, we’ll get LA Knight vs. Miz again.
Post break here’s a recap of LA Knight vs. The Miz thus far. After that, here’s Miz. LA Knight follows to his usually large pop.
Match #3: LA Knight vs. The Miz
Loud “LA Knight” chants to start. They tie up, Miz gets a side headlock then runs into a shoulder block from Knight. Knight with a side headlock, then hits another shoulder block and Miz begs away from a fight.
Miz pulls Knight into a corner and hits a few stomps. Corner chops from Miz, but Knight fires up with chops of his own then hits a power slam for 2. Swinging neckbreaker from Knight, then a slingshot shoulder block for another 2 count.
Miz hits a Kitchen Sink knee lift to cut off that momentum. Knight with some body blows, then sort of flips out of a back suplex and hits a neckbreaker to recover the spot.
Diving bulldog from Knight, then a running kick to the head and another 2 count for Knight.
Miz crawls to the apron, which distracts the ref so Miz can rake the eyes and hit a Flatliner for his own 2 count. That sends us to break.
Miz is still in control as we come back, he lands a few kicks to the body of Knight then a big boot. About Miz’s third running kick of the match gets him a 2 count.
Miz wants his finish, but Knight fights free and arm drags him. Another kick from Miz, but he runs into a lariat then a Russian leg sweep from Knight and a DDT to follow. Corner stomps from Knight, then a knee as well. Miz avoids a suplex, they trade roll-ups but no 3 count.
Miz tries the kneeling DDT but Knight holds onto the ropes so Miz just slams himself. Knight jumps into a kick from Miz, and Miz then hits another knee lift and a Codebreaker through the ropes for a near fall. Corey likens Miz to Steven Segal, OK then. They start trading punches then Miz gets caught with a Stun Gun and a Blunt Force Trauma and we’re done.
OFFICIAL RESULT: LA Knight won
Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts: Good little match, very WWE style but that’s not always a bad thing.
Post match Knight gets a mic and wants to talk to us. Knight has been telling everyone that he’s coming for gold, and he looks at the top of the
WWE Mountain sees a lot of options but it doesn’t matter if it’s Rey Mysterio, Gunther, Seth Rollins, or Roman Reigns. It’s not just a catchphrase, he’s easily top two and he isn’t number 2. This is his game, with everyone saying LA Knight, yeah!
In the back Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa were watching that, Solo offered to handle the LA Knight problem but Heyman said that the order could only come from Roman and he hadn’t given it yet.
For now, they need to focus on Jimmy, Jimmy’s making deals with Judgement Day and that’s a battle that Solo’s going to have to fight. Ditto John Cena because Jimmy might be family but he’s not in the Bloodline right now.
Roman hasn’t called Heyman and given orders yet, Solo knows what he needs to do, and promises to finish this tonight. Heyman can’t help but ask again who gave that order, then calls Roman as we head to break.
Post break we find Adam Pearce in the back as Pretty Deadly show up. Elton Prince’s shoulder is healing, but he’s a shell of who he used to be.
He’s been traumatized by the injury and Ridge Holland, and he’s super dramatic. Pearce asks why Prince is in a wheelchair after a shoulder injury. Prince and Kit Wilson get super dramatic again and Wilson hypes up Prince for his recovery and they exit. OK then.
Next, a recap of the women’s tag team match from last week and Shotzi pinning Bayley again after Asuka stole Iyo’s title.
Asuka and Iyo are still on for next week. In the back Bayley and Dakota Kai are warming up, and Bayley says she had everything planned but Iyo and Asuka have never been one-on-one and she’s not sure why Iyo challenged Asuka. Dakota tries to refocus Bayley, who seems pensive about her upcoming match.
To the ring, here’s Asuka and that match with Bayley will be up after the break.
Post break a recap of The Rock’s return and opening segment.
Judgement Day is in the back loitering for some reason, and for some unknown reason, they’re shown on screen.
Back to the ring here’s Bayley.
Match #4: Asuka vs. Bayley w/ Dakota Kai
Tie up, then Asuka shoves Bayley. Right hand from Asuka, she wants a fight and Bayley obliges with strikes of her own before Asuka lays in a series of kicks.
Trip from Bayley then there’s a near roll up from Bayley and they break. Bayley slams Asuka down by the hair. Asuka up top for a dropkick and Bayley heads for a powder but Asuka follows only to get tripped on the apron. Bayley shoves Asuka into the ring post as we head to break. Oddly laid-out show tonight.
Bayley is working a rest hold as we come back. Asuka fights back with a jawbreaker, but Bayley snaps her through the ropes and lands a knee lift for a 2 count. Asuka counters a sunset flip attempt with an armbar, then has to release as Bayley gets her shoulders down.
Kicks from Asuka then a German suplex and both women are down. Middle kick from Asuka then a pop-up knee strike followed by a sliding kick for a near fall. More kicks from Asuka, but Bayley counters a Codebreaker then stomps on Asuka but Asuka catches a leg and goes for a leglock then switches to an Ankle Lock.
Bayley rolls through but Asuka climbs the ropes for a jumping Codebreaker, 2 count and Asuka grabs another armbar. They roll into the ropes, then to the floor where Bayley drops Asuka onto the apron.
Bayley tosses Asuka into the barricade and then goes to clear the announcer's table. Shotzi pops up to startle Bayley and chase her around, back into the ring where Asuka grabs a backslide for 3.
OFFICIAL RESULT: Asuka won
Rating: 2.5 stars
Thoughts: Fine enough match, but I’d rather Asuka win cleaner heading into a title match.
Post match Shotzi chases Bayley away then offers a fist bump but Asuka doesn’t seem interested.
After this break, John Cena on the Grayson Waller Effect.
We come back and here’s Grayson Waller on his show. Waller says huge guests have been on his show, people who lay claim to GOAT status but the only GOAT is his guest. Despite all the success in the ring and the movies, his star is fading quicker than his hairline, and the Grayson Waller Effect will start John Cena’s rise back to the top.
Here comes Cena to a darn good pop. Cena sits down beside Waller and enjoys some loud “Cena” chants. Waller asks Cena to take off his hat when speaking to grown-ups. Waller has to say, Cena needs help in the hosting department after Payback.
You need to be more like Grayson Waller, just sit back, and let the stars shine on their own. Cena gets a mic, but Waller cuts him off from speaking and reminds us how Cena took the spotlight at Payback.
And Cena’s lying to the people because he doesn’t want to wrestle anymore. Cena might be the greatest of all time, but he’s not close to the greatest right now.
This is starting to die, Waller is losing the crowd. Cena removes his hat and shirt, but before he can speak Jimmy Uso’s music hits.
Jimmy heads to the ring and declines a mic from Waller. Cena is bemused by all of this, then steps to Jimmy but Jimmy takes Cena’s mic again preventing him from speaking. Jimmy says no one wants Cena here anymore, everyone came to see Jimmy Uso.
The people might love Cena, but Jimmy’s here to warn him if he tries to embarrass him again then he better just get out of his ring. Poor sentence there Jimmy Boy. Solo Sikoa now marches to the ring with Paul Heyman in tow.
Solo gets in Cena’s face, then turns, and aims at Spiking Jimmy but instead decides to superkick Cena. Jimmy wants a hug, Solo declines and he and Jimmy stomp on Cena but here’s AJ Styles for the save.
AJ punches out Jimmy, Cena tosses Solo out of the ring then AJ with a Pele kick to Jimmy and Cena follows with a Five Knuckle Shuffle, he wants an Attitude Adjustment but Solo pulls Jimmy to safety. AJ and Cena stand tall as the episode ends.
Thoughts Overall Far from a perfect show, but Smackdown needed some buzz and this episode injected a little life into the proceedings. The Rock showing up was cool, but until I know it's leading to something besides a one-off appearance that was as much geographic convenience as anything else I'm not carrying too much excitement forward because of it.
If it does lead to more, awesome, for now, I'm still reserving judgment. The problems here were more technical, the opening segment going long meant we had matches shortened or oddly cut up due to commercial requirements and it hampered the flow of AJ and Balor very obviously, and it killed the Street Profits and LWO match.
Asuka got a win over Bayley, but that was more about Bayley and Shotzi than the woman challenging for the belt next week, and that's a booking decision I just don't agree with.
As for the closing segment, Waller seemed to interact with Cena much easier than Theory did, but this stuff with Jimmy and the Bloodline is tiresome because there's no way it advances before Roman returns and we know that won't be for a while. Those are more technical gripes, ultimately Smackdown finally had a big episode that generated some buzz and it badly needed to do so after a few mediocre weeks.