Smackdown took over the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California on September 29, 2023, just as The Bloodline almost took over the show. Aaaah, the good old days. Here are my thoughts:

  • The Bloodline did kick things off, and by this I mean Paul Heyman, Solo Sikoa, and Jimmy Uso headed to the ring to gloat about what they did to John Cena and AJ Styles the previous week, and that Cena was having transportation issues. The gloating is nothing new, but Jimmy, who hasn’t officially been allowed back in the group, taking charge was. When he held out his hand for the mic, a la Roman Reigns, I thought he had gone too far, and this new arrangement wouldn’t last, but I guess Jimmy thought so too, and laughed it off, before taking the mic. I’m once again interested in the new dynamic of this faction, and know that there will be some hell to pay when the Tribal Chief finally returns.
  • So Karl Anderson attacked them mid-promo…a little too late, Karl. If Anderson and Luke Gallows not getting involved with this angle until AJ was in an ambulance didn’t signal that The O.C. will split, the ensuing Anderson/Uso match most certainly did. It was short, Jimmy won, quickly. Sure there was some interference from Solo, and the pair beat down Anderson after the match, but the only interesting part of this sequence was when Mia Yim came out and slapped the gloating Jimmy on the ramp. He sold it, maybe over-sold it, real well, falling down as Heyman and Sikoa looked on.
Mia Yim heads to the ring after slapping Jimmy Uso in front of Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa on WWE Smackdown September 29 2023
  • The result of this was an episode-long series of backstage vignettes with Jimmy attacking random people, Solo backing him up, and Paul looking on, worried, deciding if he needed to “Call Roman Reigns” or not. We’ve seen The Bloodline run wild backstage before, on Roman’s orders, but this was a wholly new, if familiar animal. It was Jimmy taking out his frustrations on whomever he found, like a production assistant with a clipboard, or Ashante “Thee” Adonis (with B-FAB looking on). Jimmy yelling at Ashante: “You’re not going to be John Cena’s tag-team partner!” was a good look into Uso’s frame of mind. No, Jimmy, he’s not, but what you did is far from the reason.
  • This Friday’s Grayson Waller Effect was a decent way to progress the Bobby Lashley/Street Profits storyline and also get Austin Theory out there for his match with Cameron Grimes. It was amusing when Waller seemed to be unaware of Lashley’s moths-long feud with Theory last year, and Bobby had to remind him. I was expecting the Street Profits to come out, and thought they would attack Waller and Theory to please Lashley, but that would make them babyfaces, and a definite solidification of their heel turn was in the works.
Bobby Lashley turning away from The Street Profits on WWE Smackdown September 29 2023
  • Austin Theory versus Cameron Grimes was a good, though short match. Theory won after some interference by Waller. Normally this would be par for the course, but I wonder why it took WWE so long to feature Grimes again, after a strong start on the Main Roster, only to beat him like this. Sidenote: I do hope A-Town Down Under does, in fact, become Waller and Theory’s tag team name.
  • Santos Escobar challenging Rey Mysterio for the United States Championship, on the other hand, was a masterclass in how to use great match storytelling to make a babyface versus babyface contest get over. There were high spots and dives, as you might expect from these two. There were also submission attempts, which you might not. Zelina Vega came out on her own and was in a neutral corner. There was drama, thwarted 619s, reversals, and no heel turn from Escobar. Rey turned a Phantom Driver attempt by Santos into a small package for the win, capping off a great contest. Then we all waited to see if, after the match, there would be an Escobar heel turn, which there wasn’t. Though there might have been. This is how you do it.
Rey Mysterio performing a Moonsault off the top rope during his United States Championship match with Santos Escobar on WWE Smackdown September 29 2023
  • During the match, they cut to the back, where Jimmy Uso was still on a rampage. I thought this meant he and Solo would make their way to the ring and get even more heat for ruining a match the crowd, plus prevent any LWO tension. I’m glad I was wrong, and instead they finally found a way to make the new Street Profits/Bobby Lashley faction true heels. Forget fighting beloved babyfaces, attacking them after a stellar match is the way to go. Also, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this, but Dragon Lee would make a perfect third member of the LWO team at Fastlane.
  • wait, Elton Prince has a shoulder injury, so why is he in a wheelchair? Yes, I just got that aspect of Pretty Deadly’s silly series of recovery videos. They only moderately impressed me when they first went to the Main Roster, but now they’ve got me hooked.
  • Bayley accompanied by WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai versus Charlotte Flair was a solid encounter. There was some high-flying, some interference, and a surprise spear by Flair to win. Of course, the story here is still potential tension within Damage CTRL, with Bayley, upset at losing, pretending to understand what Asuka said in Japanese after her post-match run-in and setting up a triple-threat match between Sky, Flair and Asuka for Fastlane. I had a chuckle when Iyo told Bayley that it’s not what Asuka said at all. It’ll be be interesting to see what game Bayley is playing here, and I think we’ll find out soon enough.
Charlotte Flair coming off the top rope to deliver a Crossbody to Bayley on WWE Smackdown September 29 2023
  • I already knew LA Knight was supposed to have saved John Cena, then signed to be his partner against Solo and Jimmy at Fastlane on last week’s Smackdown, only to be stopped by testing positive for COVID when he got to the building. So this week’s surprise ending was kind of predictable (assuming Knight was now cleared, which he was). Still, that crowd pop was great and I’m really happy to see that Knight is getting the push he deserves, which may end in a match against Roman Reigns. When they said they were pushing him, I thought mid-card title run at first, not going from beathing The Miz to challenging the Tribal Chief, but I’m happy I was wrong. Yeaaah!
John Cena watches LA Knight sign the contract for Fastlane on WWE Smackdown September 29 2023

This Smackdown was well-paced, exciting, and had me both satisfied, and wanting more. The predictable elements still worked, and some expectations were subverted, in the best way possible. Now if we can only untangle what this new incarnation of The Bloodline will look like.

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