WWE Smackdown was in the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Friday, September 22, 2023. After last week’s massive Colorado surprise, I wondered what was in store. Here are my thoughts:

  • John Cena is now in that rarified air where crowds treat him as a returning legend with massive pops, but also feel comfortable enough with him being there to confront him with “What?” chants. He handled those chants like the pro that he is, and brought AJ Styles out to set up a match that we wouldn’t get right then, or even tonight. Nowhere near as long as last week’s opening segment, but solid, if short.
John Cena kicks off WWE Smackdown September 22 2023
  • I’m not sure about the merry-go-round intro to Jimmy Uso’s new theme music, but I am sure that pitting him against Cena is the right call. We’re not there yet, but we’re circling it. Got to get him back into The Bloodline officially first, as the evening’s backstage segments would suggest is happening. Also, given the amount of times Paul Heyman calls, instead of texts, Roman Reigns on camera, him not doing commercials for a long-distance cellphone plan would be a missed opportunity.
  • The Street Profits, with Bobby Lashley in their corner, versus LWO members Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar, with Zelina Vega in theirs, was a solid match. But it was really all about the finish, and how Angelo Dawkins was momentarily conflicted about truly being a heel, costing his team the match. I’m hoping that this, and the ensuing backstage verbal beratement by Lashley, doesn’t mean that WWE is giving up on this new faction. They seem to be having trouble getting the crowds to boo them, so maybe this is just to reinforce their collective heel turn. Time will tell.
Angelo Dawkins in shock after The Street Profits lose to Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar of the LWO on WWE Smackdown September 22 2023
  • Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn’s promo about the Women’s Tag Team Titles being cursed was a nice little bit of fourth-wall breaking, and also a clever way to bring the pair back into the main roster mix. Hopefully they stick with it, because WWE needs a bigger, and stronger women’s tag team scene.
  • I get that the contract signing would be the main event of the show, but I don’t see why Theory and Waller versus two of The Brawling Brutes got to be the main event match, while the WWE Women’s Championship match went on third. Asuka versus Iyo was the sort of match that could go on a Premium Live Event, and it was the one that was promoted in advance as the main event, too. Maybe the top of the hour seemed like a better choice, but I’m not sure,
  • That said, Iyo Sky defending the WWE Women’s Championship against Auska with the rest of Damage CTRL (Bayley and the still injured Dakota Kai), and Charlotte Flair, for some reason, at ringside, was quite the intense bout. Yes, there was some high-flying, but there were also plenty kicks, back strikes, and submission attempts, and both fighters came out of it looking strong. Sky won with an Over the Moonsault, but that was only after some interference by Bayley, and the ensuing distraction. So maybe we’ll get a rematch at Fastlane, and maybe in a cage at that.
Asuka tries to submit Iyo Sky during their WWE Women’s Championship match on WWE Smackdown September 22, 2023
  • Pretty Deadly’s hospital promo made me think of early Edge and Christian, and what they would probably do if one of them was injured. I hope that they keep up this same level of narcissistic comedy when Eldon Prince’s shoulder heals, and he and Kit Wilson get back to the ring.
  • The Brawling Brutes versus Austin Theory and Grayson Waller was a good match, though a predictable one. Butch and Ridge Holland dominated, and even gave the 10 Beats of the Bodhran at one point, only to be quickly defeated. Without Seamus, I’ll admit I’m just not that into the Brutes, though, Butch’s digit manipulation is still one of the few things in pro wrestling that makes me a bit uneasy when watching.
  • When Cena came out first alone to the contract signing, I had my suspicions (or feelings of almost certainty) that something was amiss backstage, and that AJ Styles wouldn’t be joining the ceremony. From the Bloodline beatdown, to the Styles stretcher job, to cutting back and forth between Heyman coming out to a chorus of boos and Styles being taken away in an ambulance, to the Jimmy Uso power play attempts, it was pure WWE drama. When Cena came out alone, it was a great setup for the beating that happened, and also something else that didn’t.
Bloodline members Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso (with Paul Heyman) after knocking out John Cena on WWE Smackdown September 22 2023
Bloodline members Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso (with Paul Heyman) after knocking out John Cena on WWE Smackdown September 22 2023
  • Turns out there was supposed to be a run-in, from LA Knight no less. This explains why he wasn’t there:

Of course, I wish Knight a speedy recovery, and hope he is feeling well. But talk about shitty timing, testing positive for COVID right before the start of teaming with Cena in a Roman-adjacent feud. They didn’t have anyone else run out, so I’m hoping the WWE powers-that-be are themselves hoping Knight will be COVID-negative, and ready for action in time for Fastlane, and we still get him and Cena versus Solo and Jimmy.

While a lot more low-key throughout than last week, there was a really great match, some good matches, and a real dramatic ending to this Smackdown.

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