With the Men’s WarGames Match at Survivor Series pretty much set up on RAW, the November 17, 2023 WWE Smackdown had a mission to start solidifying the women’s match on the card. The Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana was the host. Here are my thoughts:

  • Road Dogg can talk. And he’s on commentary replacing Corey Graves, who’s on paternity leave. This should be fun.
  • The tension was palpable. Bayley was cutting a promo while watching her back, selling both the WarGames challenge and Asuka’s turn, as well as her own uncertainty over the whole situation.
Bayley officially invites Asuka to join Damage CTRL in front of Dakota Kai, Iyo Sky, and Kairi Sane on WWE Smackdown November 17 2023
  • So Nick Aldis gave Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, and Shotzi a deadline to find a WarGames partner, and also gave us a backstage throughline for the show. Nice work, Nick.
  • I thought The Brawling Brutes would win the Number One Contenders’ Match for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships. That’s because I thought this match was just an excuse to get Judgement Day on Smackdown the night before Survivor Series, and not a serious challenge. Pretty Deadly would have also fit the bill, but a pair of babyfaces would have been better. Instead we got The Street Profits, in the midst of a full heel push with Bobby Lashley, who was watching backstage. While I’m still pretty sure Damian Priest and Finn Bálor will retain, I’m also sure WWE doesn’t want Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford to lose clean. Not sure how they’ll swing this one, but I am interested.
  • The match itself was fun. The Brawling Brutes looked strong for most of it. When the Profits foiled their attempt to hit the Ten Beats of the Bodhran on Pretty Deadly, Butch and Ridge Holland got the Beats in on Dawkins and Ford instead. Pretty Deadly and the Profits got some good moves in, too. Ultimately, though, the Brutes would do themselves in, when Butch accidentally booted Holland, and the Street Profits took advantage and hit the Revelation on the downed Ridge. I’m curious to see if there will be a Brawling Brutes split that Seamus has to come back and fix.
The Brawling Brutes hit the Ten Beats of the Bodhran on The Street Profits during the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship Number One Contenders’ Match on WWE Smackdown November 17 2023
  • So Bianca talks to Mia Yim about WarGames, then Damage CTRL attacks Mia Yim. I see where this is going.
  • And then we got a luchador match. I mean luchador Dragon Lee versus luchador Axiom, called up from NXT by Nick Aldis for the occasion. And while this was yet another showcase for Lee, it hinted at a new division that maybe WWE wants to bring in on a more regular basis, and didn’t bury the new callup on his first Main Roster match. It was exciting, and high flying, as you might expect. And we also got properly introduced top Lee’s finisher, the Operation Dragon, which he used to claim the victory. While this was loosely tied to the LWO storyline, with Lee wanting to do something for the injured Rey Mysterio, it was still a match for its own sake, rather than one to progress an angle. I wonder who Lee will face next week.
Dragon Lee hits Operation Dragon on Axiom on WWE Smackdown November 17 2023
  • Santos Escobar had some explaining to do. And explain he did. He’s a full-blown heel now, and seemingly a great heel at that. From his new entrance, and his new (new again, that is – don’t forget Legado Del Fantasma) look, to how he took the slap from Zelina Vega, and took out Cruz del Toro and Joaqun Wilde from behind, it became clear that he had embraced his new bad guy status, and there wouldn’t be an internal LWO split, but rather him splitting from the group completely. His rationale made perfect heel sense, his quoting the famous “Never meet your heroes ” line was a great touch, declaring that Dom was right was icing on the cake, and while the amputation line might have been a bit much, it worked. And this segment set up a match with his first challenger, Carlito, for Survivor Series. This is a heel turn done right, and it looks like Santos will be great in this new role.
Santos Escobar heads to the ring on WWE Smackdown November 17, 2023
  • Last week, LA Knight got his payback match against Grayson Waller. This week, Grayson got his payback. Unfortunately for Cameron Grimes, he took the pin. Sure, it was after Austin Theory jumped up from commentary and caused a distraction, but still.
  • Bianca, don’t talk to Zelina, she’s already having a bad night, and we know what happened to the last woman you talked to backstage.
  • Just in case you forgot that Solo Sikoa pretty much ended John Cena’s current run on Smackdown, and at WWE Premium Live Events (with a little help from the actor’s strike ending), Paul Heyman was here to remind you. The Wiseman brought his usual verbal heel excellence, and used it to put over Solo’s performance at Crown Jewel, and continue to turn the Bloodline’s enforcer into main event talent. Heyman also used the modern trope of a wrestler’s music playing to signal an interruption when someone is talking about them to reinforce the fact that Cena really wasn’t there. That was some real fourth wall-breaking stuff. And it worked, Solo looked even stronger.
Paul Heyman praises Solo Sikoa on WWE Smackdown November 17 2023
  • Of course there was an interruption, but it was from LA Knight. The Megastar was on fire, as was the crowd for him. The MC Boss Hogg line directed at Heyman may have gone over some of the younger viewers’ heads, unlike his Uncle Phil jab at Top Dolla a few months ago, but his promise that The Bloodline would cease to exist, until it was just him and Roman hit home, and Knight’s passion was palpable.
  • Knight was out there because he had a match with Jimmy Uso, for him the first step in eliminating The Bloodline. Said Bloodline made it easy, or easier, for him on this occasion, as someone (Roman Reigns, obviously) called Heyman, and he and Solo left ringside during the match. This threw Uso off his game, and Knight took full advantage, slamming him into the announce table repeatedly, and grabbing the win with the BFT. And then Solo returned, and joined Uso for the beatdown, showing some potential distrust of Jimmy within the Bloodline, and doubling down on the faction still being in a program with Knight.
  • But in case you were wondering if WWE has shifted gears from the Cody Rhodes/Roman Reigns WrestleMania rematch, here comes Cody, to Knight’s defense, and inching back into finishing his story. It was, for sure, a surprise to the live crowd (unless they had already announced his post-show dark match), and got an expected huge pop.
  • I liked Cody’s encounter with Aldis after his run-in. For the sake of consistency, it was nice to see that they didn’t ignore the GM’s stance on RAW superstars interfering on the blue brand when the star in question was Cody.
  • I noticed that I didn’t mention Road Dogg’s commentary much during this review. I did notice him, and he did a good job, but he sounded more like a regular commentator than a standout like Kevin Owens was last week.
  • And then came the not so-surprising ending. The throughline was well executed, though I think everyone knew that neither Mia Yim, nor Zelina Vega would be the mystery partner. It would probably be Becky Lynch, or the slight longshot Jade Cargill. It was Lynch, and while not a shocker, she will make this a really interesting match. And this was a nice bookend for Smackdown.
Becky Lynch joins Shotzi, Charlotte Flair, and Bianca Belair to accept Damage CTRL’s WarGames challenge on WWE Smackdown November 17 2023

With a throughline dedicated to the Women’s WarGames Match, and the solidification of the Santos heal turn, this Smackdown was mainly about WarGames setup, with a bit of Bloodline, and a few separate, and good, matches thrown in. It was fun and well executed.

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