So Smackdown was going to kick off the month of December 2023, on the first, no less at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn crowds have proven to be quite raucous, and make up their own minds about things like who to support. Plus Randy Orton’s already confirmed to be there. Will CM Punk show up as well?

This should be interesting. Here are my thoughts:

  • Starting off with Bianca Belair makes sense in more than one way. She is the perfect babyface to work this hot Brooklyn crowd. Also, her storyline capped off the last Smackdown, and was the dominant Smackdown portion of the Survivor Series.
  • The Damage CTRL interruption was expected, as was Charlotte Flair and Shotzi coming in to help the EST. Bayley’s absence was interesting, but overall the segment was a bit predictable. Though sometimes that’s all you need to get the show started.
Kairi Sane, WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky, and Asuka confront Bianca Belair on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • Dakota Kai has some solid heel mic skills and crowd work chops. If Bayley is out, she really could step into that role nicely.
  • The backstage segment where Bayley said she didn’t know they were going out there has me thinking that maybe her split with the group may happen as early as tonight.
  • Something tells me Brooklyn isn’t buying the Bobby Lashley heel turn, or maybe they just like who they like, regardless of alignment. There was a huge pop for The All-Mighty, and The Street Profits’ entrance.
  • Lashley versus Butch was a mismatch, to say the least. Yes, the current only member of The Brawling Brutes still appearing on Smackdown (since Ridge Holland walked out last week) did get some offense in, and even had Lashley down for a one count, but Bobby dominated the match. After a bit of time, Lashley speared Butch, and got the win, and got to pose for the crowd with the Profits.
Bobby Lashley slams Butch on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • Nick Aldis plans to sign Randy Orton to Smackdown, and Paul Heyman isn’t happy about it? When Orton said he wanted to take out all of the Bloodline on RAW, I thought it was a reference to Jey Uso, but now I realize that it means we’re looking at Orton versus Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble.
  • Santos Escobar is really getting the heel reaction he’s looking for from this Brooklyn crowd.
  • Joaquin Wilde was impressive at how long he lasted against Escobar. He hit a springboard mid-match, among other moves, and got a nice DDT in at the end, almost winning with it…almost. Escobar hit a Phantom Driver and won, setting up Dragon Lee’s run-in to save Wilde from a post-match beatdown, and continuing Lee’s spot in the LWO storyline after his solid performance at Survivor Series.
Santos Escobar fights Dragon Lee after defeating and attacking Joaquin Wilde on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • Adam Pearce is in the house, and now we’ve got a bidding war for Orton. This just got more interesting, though I think the Viper is headed to Smackdown, and Punk is staying on RAW.
  • I had thought Logan Paul’s next opponent would be LA Knight, but maybe they’re saving that one for WrestleMania. Kevin Owens is a great choice for now, but I don’t see the point of holding a tournament. If main eventing Mania twice in a row, recently holding a tag title, as well as holding several other titles, doesn’t qualify you for a United States Championship match, I don’t know what does.
Kevin Owens confronts United States Champion Logan Paul on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • The promo started a story that continued to be told during the subsequent match between Owens and Grayson Waller. KO and Logan both referenced their strength with punches when verbally jousting, and then Austin Theory injured KO’s hand, and Waller kept working on it during the match. Throw in Owen’s excellent selling, and the story really came across. It was overall a good match, and KO eventually won with a small package, because his hand hurt too much to execute a stunner. Not only the right result, but it made sense.
  • UPDATE: WWE announced that KO suffered a real injury to his hand during the match. If this isn’t a work, I wish him a speedy recovery. If it is, it’s a good one:
  • Logan Paul on commentary felt real. I like how he dissed Waller’s in-ring ability, and put over Owens as a threat, and then openly admitted that he had to say otherwise to stay in character (not exactly those words, but it was understood what he meant). He also said Kevin Owens is like Otis on a diet, but I digress.
  • So Punk won’t be on Smackdown tonight, but will be next week. Good to know.
  • The Main Event (match, that is) was a good showcase for Kairi Sane, and a logical one, too. It was clear that Bianca Belair had the strength advantage, but it made sense how Kairi was able to hold her own with her ariel skills and speed. Sane lost, of course. Bianca’s not going to lose on her first match going through all of Damage CTRL to make it back to a title shot against Iyo Sky. Yes, Kairi is 0-2 for her return, but this wasn’t a burial. Nothing embarrassing about losing to a K.O.D from the EST in a well-fought match.
Bianca Belair hits the K.O.D. on Kairi Sane on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • Of course, she can, and probably will, pin the loss on Bayley, though she really shouldn’t. Yes, Bayley was told by Iyo not to come to ringside, but after everyone else, on both sides, was sent to the back (Honestly, Asuka, standing IN the ring?!?), her showing up was probably okay. And if Kairi wasn’t briefly taken aback by Bayley’s presence, she might have hit the Insane Elbow and won.
  • A contract signing that ends in a fight? Who would have thunk it? Seriously, though, even though I knew Randy would choose Smackdown, and The Bloodline would nudge him in that direction, it was still real fun to watch.
  • Just when I started to think that LA Knight would miss this show, his music hit. He and Solo Sikoa fought to the back, leaving Orton in the ring with Jimmy Uso, who took an RKO, and kept selling it even after Smackdown went off the air.
Randy Orton hits the RKO on Jimmy Uso on WWE Smackdown December 1 2023
  • Orton’s line to Paul Heyman all but confirmed that he will be facing Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble, and his RKO to Nick Aldis was just a fun, and very Stone Cold-eque bit of business to cap off the show.

I love a show with a hot crowd, and Brooklyn delivered. Meanwhile, WWE delivered Randy Orton’s trajectory for the next few months, setup for a potential Logan Paul/Kevin Owens feud, possibly the last straw before a Bayley face turn, and some fun and decent matches. Plus, I learned that Cody Rhodes was in a dark match after the show, and this crowd deserved it.

Let’s see what happens next week when Punk’s in the mix.

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