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WWE Smackdown Review 08/12/23

It’s a big night as CM Punk is on Smackdown for the first time in about ten years, but it’s also a special event. This is the annual Tribute To The Troops, which is taking place on Smackdown rather than as a stand alone show. That should make for a pretty important show, especially with so much time to kill before the Royal Ruble. Let’s get to it.

There are several troops in the crowd, including opposite the hard camera.

The War And Treaty sing God Bless America.

Match 1 US Title #1 Contenders Tournament First Round: Santos Escobar vs. Dragon Lee

Survivor Series rematch. Hold on though as here is Dominik Mysterio (defending the NXT North American Title against Lee tomorrow night at Deadline) to watch.

Lee sends Escobar to the floor to start and there’s the big flip dive to follow. Back in and a superkick gives Lee two as JBL compares Mysterio to Gandhi. Escobar grabs a suplex for two and yells a lot as he takes Lee into the corner. Lee’s hurricanrana is countered into a powerbomb onto the apron and we take a break.

Back with Lee slugging away and hitting a running forearm. A German suplex drops Escobar, who drops Lee with a superkick for two.

The Phantom Driver is broken up and Lee grabs a sitout powerbomb for two of his own. Lee gets caught on top though and the Phantom Driver is good for the clean pin at 9:05.

Official Result Santos Escobar wins

Rating: B-. That’s a confusing way to go, as Dominik was right there to cost Lee the match but instead Escobar just beat him. I’m fine with Escobar moving forward in the tournament but do you have to weaken a #1 contender on the way to a title match? Either way, nice opener, even if it is part of a tournament with what should be an obvious winner (and it’s not Escobar).

Post match Dominik mocks Lee.

We look at Randy Orton signing with Smackdown last week. And RKOing Nick Aldis of course.

Aldis comes in to see Orton, who isn’t happy about teaming with LA Knight against the Bloodline. Orton doesn’t know Knight but Aldis says both of them want the Bloodline so it’s ok. With that out of the way, Orton gives him the check to pay for the fine from last week’s RKO, but he gives twice as much as needed. Orton: “That’s for next time.” That was funny.

We look at some previous Tributes To The Troops.

Here is Cody Rhodes for a chat. Rhodes says this is a special night because it is Tribute To The Troops. He is proud to be part of the team to carry on this tradition and thanks everyone here and around the world. We get a video on Tribute To The Troops over the years. Rhodes thanks the troops again and introduces the United States Army Drill Team.

Brad Nessler, who calls tomorrow’s Army vs. Navy football game, joins commentary.

Montez Ford, a veteran of the Marine Corps, wishes the troops Happy Holidays.

Match 2 US Title #1 Contenders Tournament First Round: Karrion Kross vs. Bobby Lashley

Scarlett is here with Kross. An early Hurt Lock attempt is blocked so they head outside where Lashley takes over. Back in and Lashley snaps off an overhead belly to belly as we take a break.

We come back with Kross taking over and the camera going over to commentary. A Downward Spiral plants Kross and a suplex puts him down again. The spear finishes for Lashley at 6:39.

Official Result Bobby Lashley Wins

Rating: C. This was barely long enough to rate and was little more than a squash for Lashley. Given that Lashley is an Army veteran, it would have been stunning to see him lose on this show, or to Kross in general for that matter. Not much of a match here, but it was cool to have Nessler (who was fine) on commentary as a bonus.

We look back at Bayley accidentally costing Kairi Sane a match against Bianca Belair last week.

Bayley apologizes to Damage CTRL and volunteers to stay in the back for tonight. The rest of the team seems cool with it but Bayley looks nervous.

Here is CM Punk for a chat. He says this is the top of the hour so he won’t get his time cut, so chant for him all you want. Adam Pearce is trying to sign him to Raw and maybe those Raw fans were a bit louder.

Punk says the fans are going to play a part in where he signs, so where do you want him to go? The fans seem to be pro-Smackdown, but they are even more pro-Punk winning the Royal Rumble, climbing a turnbuckle and pointing at a sign before main eventing Wrestlemania.

Apparently some people aren’t happy with this version of CM Punk so instead of “what do you all want to talk about”, it’s who do you want to talk about. Maybe Cody Rhodes? Punk has some stories, but what about someone who isn’t here? Like say, Roman Reigns? Punk acknowledges him, but remember that Paul Heyman was his wise man first.

He knows Reigns’ cousins and shoutout to Main Event Jey Uso. If he scraps with Jimmy Uso, he has to deal with ALL OF THE COUSINS so he might need some help. Who could that be?

Maybe Randy Orton? LA Knight? Kevin Owens? He’s not sure about the prickly Owens, because the two of them are too much alike. Punk: “I don’t know who would feel comfortable teaming with someone who just punches people in the face backstage.

I mean it’s 2023 ladies and gentlemen. You just can’t be doing stuff like that people. It’s insane.” After the big grin off that line (and a CM Punk chant), Punk talks about how there is one person who isn’t happy he’s back.

Punk isn’t putting any stock in that person though because he has a whiny voice and isn’t even the Man in his own household. The fans do the Seth Rollins song and Punk is glad that he’s having fun.

He is going to announce his decision about where to sign on Monday and he is back to finish his story. That means main eventing Wrestlemania, which the fans again seem to like.

The Brawl Out/Jack Perry (pick one) reference was great (though the Heyman line was up there too) and this was much more the Punk promo people were wanting to see last week on Raw. Like him or not, Punk knows how to talk and it was on full display here. Good stuff, with Punk feeling it a lot more than he did on Raw.

Post break Punk runs into Kevin Owens, who doesn’t seem thrilled to see him.

Match 3 Charlotte vs. Asuka

The rest of Damage CTRL, minus Bayley, is here too. Hold on though as Zelina Vega, Shotzi and Michin take care of the rest of the team so it’s one on one. They strike it out to start and head to the floor, where Charlotte is sent into various things.

Charlotte gets in a shot of her own though and scores with the top rope moonsault (or some of it as least) as we take a break. Back with Charlotte sending Asuka face first into the buckle and grabbing the Figure Eight.

Cue Bayley to break it up though and the distraction lets Asuka grab the rollup for the pin at 6:17. Not enough shown to rate, but this was about the Bayley interference.

Official Result Asuka wins

Cody Rhodes runs into CM Punk in the back and finds it interesting that Punk might be in the Royal Rumble.

Video on a soldier who won the Medal Of Honor in 2015.

We look at Logan Paul getting into it with Kevin Owens last week, plus Owens suffering a hand injury in a match against Grayson Waller.

LA Knight meets Randy Orton, but CM Punk pops in to say good luck. Orton to Knight: “You ready for tonight?” Knight: “Yeah.”

Here’s what’s coming next week, including Roman Reigns.

Match 4 Randy Orton/LA Knight vs. Jimmy Uso/Solo Sikoa

Orton pounds Jimmy down into the corner to start and it’s off to Knight for a sliding dropkick. Orton tags himself in (Knight doesn’t seem pleased) and it’s off to Sikoa for a rather serious showdown.

Uso gets in a cheap shot from behind and we take a break. Back with Orton hitting a belly to back suplex on Jimmy to put both of them down. Knight comes back in and grabs a swinging neckbreaker but Uso offers a distraction.

That’s enough for Sikoa to grab a belly to belly and the slow beating is on. The running Umaga Attack connects in the corner but Knight knocks Sikoa off the ropes.

A middle rope bulldog is enough for the tag off to Orton and house is cleaned. House is cleaned and Orton hits the powerslam before dropping Uso onto the announcers’ table. The hanging DDT (with a YEAH) connects but Sikoa breaks up the RKO. Knight takes out Sikoa and loads up the BFT but Orton hits the RKO for the pin at 12:14.

Official Result Randy Orton & LA Knight

Rating: B-. Oddly enough this match was mainly about Uso in a few different ways. First off, Uso might as well have come into this with a shirt on that said “I’m here to take the RKO” and that’s exactly what went down (as it should have).

At the same time, Uso is clearly having a blast with the over the top selling and movements, which is making him such a goofy heel who works perfectly in this spot. Nice house show style main event and the ans went nuts for Orton, as expected.

Knight and Orton seem to share some respect post match.

Overall Thoughts

This was a surprisingly strong show, with the wrestling being fine, but the focus was on Orton and Punk. The two of them bring so much star power to the show and they feel like the biggest things in the world. That’s on top of Lashley getting a dominant win and Roman Reigns being back next week, plus Cody Rhodes here as a guest star.

The star power was on full display here and it really does make the show feel that much more important. They also managed to weave in the troops stuff without going overboard and it worked pretty well. Good show, as they’re slowly veering towards the Rumble.


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