Normally I don’t feel the need for spoiler warnings on WWE reviews, as they generally come out the next day, but as I was spoiled a bit myself checking Facebook a few hours before I watched Smackdown on replay, why not. If you haven’t read the title or looked at the featured image before finding yourself here, go back and watch at least the first segment before reading on.

WWE Smackdown on Friday, September 15th, was in the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, and…forget it, let’s just get to what everyone’s talking about:

The Rock returns to WWE Smackdown on September 15, 2023
  • The Rock is back! Yes, after the surprise return of Pat McAfee, the not-so-surprising Austin Theory interruption, we got Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson back on WWE programming for the first time in four years. It wasn’t at WrestleMania, or even a Premium Live Event. No, just a random Smackdown episode that he wasn’t even billed to appear on. Of course, he was on McAfee’s show just a bit down the road earlier in the day, and he is on strike from Hollywood, as is every other unionized actor. Plus this was the same day WWE laid off 100 office staff due to their merger with UFC under the new company name of TKO Holdings. So was this meant as a distraction? That’s a subject for a different type of article, not a Smackdown review. But it did definitely distract, in terms of what the headlines were.
  • It was an excellent kickoff segment, albeit a long one without a commercial break by Smackdown standards. The crowd pop for The Rock was massive. Theory’s snarky, disrespectful heel work was on point (and he was the one who made reference to it being The Rock and “Austin” in the ring together again). I love how FOX censored McAfee and Rock when they told the crowd what to chant, but didn’t censor the ensuing crowd chant itself. It’s great to see Rock back, though I wonder if this was just a one-off, or could lead to a match at a larger event. It’s interesting that while he did have a funny backstage encounter with John Cena, he avoided any interaction with the Bloodline storyline, which was all over the rest of this show.
  • While the AJ Styles/Finn Bálor match was a good one, the real story was Jimmy Uso interfering to cost Styles the victory after the ref sent Damian Priest and Dominik Mysterio. Did he do it on behalf of The Bloodline to help Judgement Day? Is he even in The Bloodline? Subsequent backstage segments would answer that…sort of. With no Roman Reigns, were still in the murky waters phase of the storyline that dominated WWE for over a year.
  • The LWO in-ring celebration moved quickly to the tease of a Santos Escobar heel turn, to Rey Mysterio graciously accepting Escobar’s United States Championship challenge, to Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits interrupting, to the match. Then Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford made quick work of Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro, applied their as-of-yet unnamed finisher move, and moved right into the brief post-match brawl. I’m betting they had added the opening Rock segment kinda last-minute, and it went a bit long, so this had to be sped up. It still got a lot accomplished in little time, but I don’t know if a feud with the LWO will really give the still popular Lashley and Street Profits stable the heel heat WWE is after for them.
Santos Escobar asks Rey Mysterio for a United States Championship match WWE Smackdown September 15 2023
  • I’m glad to see that LA Knight, who has been called a knockoff of The Rock, was still way over on a show that started with The Great One himself. I’m happy he had a solid match with The Miz, and probably ended their feud with it by beating him a second time (no need for a tie-breaker, or rubber match now). I’m really intrigued by yet another couple of hints that the top babyface on Smackdown may be about to take on The Bloodline, and even feud with the show’s top heel Roman Reigns. Paul Heyman seems to be afraid such a prospect may become reality. If it does, that’s one helluva push for a guy management seemed to be ignoring a few months ago.
  • Asuka versus Bayley was the main event match on the show, and it seemed primarily designed to remind everyone of how solid a wrestler former champ Asuka is, ahead of her title match against current WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky. The other objective was to build Shotzi’s feud with Damage CTRL. I’d say it was mission accomplished on both fronts. I’m looking forward to Sky versus Asuka, and I think Shotzi’s finally in an angle that works well for her.
Shotzi congratulates Asuka after she defeated Bayley on WWE Smackdown September 15, 2023
  • The actual main event was The Grayson Waller Experience with special guest John Cena. And it ended with Paul Heyman, on instructions from Roman Reigns over the phone, telling Solo Sikoa to save Jimmy Uso from Cena and AJ Styles. It did all make sense if you watched it in sequence, and it was a fun bit that, hopefully, is setting up a Cena/Jimmy Uso feud, and properly getting the (barely) elder Uso as over as a heel as his brother Jey is as a babyface on RAW.

This would have been a good ending, and this episode of Smackdown would have been solid even without that opening segment. Throw The Rock returning into the mix, and it became truly memorable.

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