By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,227)
Evansville, Indiana at Ford Center
Aired live February 24, 2023 on Fox
[Hour One] Smackdown opened with a video package that recapped Roman Reigns beating Sami Zayn at the Elimination Chamber, followed by Kevin Owens rejecting Zayn’s request to join forces on Monday’s Raw…
Kayla Braxton stood backstage and welcomed viewers to Smackdown. Jimmy Uso entered the building behind her. Braxton asked him about Jey Uso’s status with The Bloodline. Jimmy said he’s tried unsuccessfully to reach his brother, but he left him a message that he could meet him in the middle of the ring and say whatever he needs to get off his chest…
Michael Cole and Wade Barrett were on commentary, and Samantha Irvin was the ring announcer. Entrances for the opening six-man tag match took place…
1. “Imperium” Gunther, Ludwig Kaiser, and Giovanni Vinci vs. Braun Strowman, Ricochet, and Madcap Moss. Emma did not accompany the babyface trio to ringside. Imperium got the better of Ricochet and had him down at ringside heading into the first commercial break. [C]
Ricochet was isolated coming out of the break. As Gunther was working over Ricochet, Drew McIntyre walked out minus street clothes without entrance music. McIntyre stood in the entrance aisle while the broadcast team wondered why he was there. Vinci tagged in and went for a clothesline that Ricochet avoided before making a hot tag.
Strowman tagged in and roughed up Vinci and Kaiser before staring down Gunther, who had tagged into the match. Strowman was distracted and then Gunther entered the ring and chopped him. Gunther got the better of Strowman and then Moss tagged himself in. Gunther performed a release German suplex, a clothesline, and a powerbomb on Moss before pinning him.
“Imperium” Gunther, Ludwig Kaiser, and Giovanni Vinci defeated Braun Strowman, Ricochet, and Madcap Moss in 10:50.
McIntyre remained in the aisle and looked unimpressed. Gunther stared down McIntyre, who started to remove his jacket. “The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar ran out and attacked McIntyre from behind. Sheamus ran out and helped McIntyre, but the Raiders put both men down. Strowman ran over and shoulder blocked the Viking Raiders, and then Ricochet hit them with a flip dive from the ring.
McIntyre and Sheamus performed stereo Claymore and Brogue Kicks that sent Erik and Ivar over the barricade. McIntyre and Sheamus entered the ring and celebrated with Strowman and Ricochet. The four babyfaces each stood on the middle rope in the four corners of the ring and played to the crowd…
Powell’s POV: A good opening match. I suspect that Gunther will end up defending the Intercontinental Title against at least McIntyre, but I’m not sure how they’ll get there. It was interesting that the babyfaces celebrated without Moss, who took the loss for his team and came off heelish after last week’s show.
Backstage, Rey Mysterio was interviewed by Braxton on the ring set. Rey spoke about putting an end to Karrion Kross until he was interrupted. Santos Escobar spoke about his respect for Mysterio and said he wanted to show the WWE Universe how much he respects him.
Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley showed up. Dom asked Escobar how much longer he was going to kiss up to Rey. Escobar said that that if Dom didn’t have respect, he would teach it. Dom said those who haven’t backed up what they said got dealt with. Escobar turned to Rey and laughed, then turned around to address Dom, but Ripley was standing in front of him. “Good luck, Rey,” Dom said before leaving with Ripley. Escobar told Rey not to let it bother him, but Rey asked how he couldn’t let it bother him… [C]
Powell’s POV: All of this respect talk from Escobar means he’s turning on Rey soon, right? If Ripley wins the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania, then perhaps Dom comes to Smackdown with her and ends up with Legado Del Fantasma?
Backstage, Jimmy Uso told Solo Sikoa that he knew Jey would be there for him when they defended the tag team titles recently, but things feel different after what happened in Montreal. He said Jey might be spooked by the whole situation with Sami Zayn. Paul Heyman entered the picture and suggested that Sikoa stay backstage while Jimmy handles his business with Jey. Jimmy agreed with Heyman…
LA Knight made his entrance. Knight said everyone is backstage talking about having a WrestleMania moment. Knight said he didn’t come for a WrestleMania moment, he came to make money, and the way to do that is to go to WrestleMania. He said you can’t have an L.A. WrestleMania without LA Knight. He said he would give WrestleMania an LA Knight moment.
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods interrupted Knight. Kingston said Knight has only been on the roster for two-and-a-half months and asked who he thought he was to demand anything. Knight said he didn’t invite “the Nerd Day.” Woods said that being nerds has made them a hell of a lot of money. Woods claimed Knight’s vest was fake leather and said spots on WrestleMania are earned. He spoke about Kingston’s long career.
Knight said he creates circumstances and asked Kingston how the KofiMania thing worked out for him. Kingston and Woods entered the ring. Kingston said it worked out pretty well since he became WWE Champion. He also said he would shut Knight’s ass up. Woods called for a referee. Cole said Knight and Kingston would meet after the break… [C]
2. Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) vs. LA Knight. The match was joined in progress. Kingston hit Knight with a crossbody block from the ropes for a two count. Knight rallied and was on the offensive until Kingston stuffed a neckbreaker attempt. Kingston went for a corner splash, but Knight caught him and slammed his head into the turnbuckle pads twice. [C]
Knight got Kingston down at ringside. Woods checked on Kingston until Knight arrived. Knight dared Woods to hit him and then went back to Kingston. Back inside the ring, Kingston eventually rallied and executed a Boom Drop. Knight ducked Trouble in Paradise and then slammed Kingston to the mat and got a near fall.
Woods played his trombone at ringside. Knight went to the floor and hit Woods from behind. Kingston took out Knight on the floor and then threw him back inside the ring. Kingston went to the ropes, but Knight cut him off. Kingston kicked Knight away. Knight charged Kingston, who moved, but Woods ended up bracing himself on the top rope. Woods played his trombone, which distracted Knight long enough for Kingston to crotch him. Kingston hit his Trouble in Paradise finisher and scored the pin…
Kofi Kingston beat LA Knight in 12:50 of television time.
Powell’s POV: A longer than anticipated match. In fact, it looks like the referee was calling for the bell to start the match just as the show went to break prior to what we saw of it. Am I the only one who thought it was a babyface turn when Knight attacked Woods for playing the obnoxious trombone? I’m beyond over New Day at this point, so it was disappointing to see the fresher Knight character lose to Kingston.
A video package aired on Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley. Cole hyped the face-to-face segment between the two for after a break… An ad for Raw hyped the previously advertised segments… [C]
A graphic touted WWE Elimination Chamber being the most viewed Chamber event in history and doubling last year’s viewership total…
Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair made her entrance. Flair called out Rhea Ripley, who didn’t come out. Flair said it was okay to be afraid of her and pointed out her success in their previous WrestleMania match.
[Hour Two] Dominik Mysterio came out minor entrance music and said he wasn’t going to let Flair run down Mami. Flair said it was adult time and told Dom to go get his Mami so that she wasn’t hiding behind her boyfriend. Dom said Charlotte sounded jealous. He said Ripley is the hottest thing in WWE and touted that she entered first and won the Royal Rumble.
Dom said Flair is a beautiful woman, but Ripley is strong. Dom said Ripley is so strong that she nearly breaks his back. Flair said that she has a real Latino man at home who calls her Mami and has a much thicker accent. Dom said he just wanted to chat since they have a lot in common.
Dom said he and Flair are both generational superstars who know what it’s like to be compared to their fathers and to be better than their fathers even though the fans don’t like to see it. Dom said he had the worse father. Dom called Rey an afterthought of a father who messed him up. Dom said that when Ripley beats Charlotte at WrestleMania, she’ll know that her own father was right in saying she just wasn’t good enough.
Flair said she loves her father and noted that he turns 74 tomorrow. Charlotte said that if Ric was there, he’d kick Dom’s butt. “But since he’s not here,” Flair said before dropping the mic and removing her title belt. Flair approached Dom, who backed off.
Rhea Ripley’s entrance music played and then Dom smiled. Dom held the ropes open for Ripley, who approached Flair and spoke to her off-mic. Dom pulled Ripley back and held the ropes open for her again. Ripley and Dom dropped off the ring apron together while Flair held up her title belt.
Ripley and Dom returned to the ring. Ripley went face to face with Flair, who said, “Bye bye, Rhea.” Ripley simulated biting, and then Flair simulated a kiss. Ripley and Dom left the ring while Flair’s entrance music played…
Powell’s POV: Dom continues to be a really fun heel. The overall segment was fine, but I can’t say that it really made me look forward to Flair vs. Ripley any more than I was going in.
Cole and Barrett spoke about WWE being a hot ticket. Cole touted the success of Elimination Chamber and said Money in the Bank in London sold out instantly. He also said that they put “a number of full view seats” on sale for both nights of WrestleMania. Cole said they were moving fast because it’s the hottest selling ticket in WrestleMania history.
Cole turned his focus to recapping the social media feud involving Natalya and Shayna Baszler. Cole said Baszler challenged Natalya to a match, but Natalya needed to be cleared by the medical team…
Natalya’s entrance music played and she came out with Tegan Nox. Cole said Natalya had indeed been medically cleared. Footage aired of Adam Pearce saying that while Natalya was cleared, whether she faced Baszler was up to her. Natalya said she wanted the match. Nox was in the room and said it she’s have Natalya’s back. Natalya said she appreciated and then Pearce said he would make the match official. On commentary, Cole assumed that Ronda Rousey was be in Baszler’s corner.. [C]
Cole spoke about Sami Zayn returning to Montreal a “conquering hometown hero” while footage aired from his vlog that chronicled 48 hours of last weekend…
Ronda Rousey’s entrance music played while she made her entrance along with Shayna Baszler…
3. Shayna Baszler (w/Ronda Rousey) vs. Natalya (w/Tegan Nox). Baszler targeted the left arm of Natalya right from the start. Cole noted that Baszler previously broke Natalya’s nose. Baszler tried to do it again with a running knee, but Natalya stuffed it and went on the offensive. Natalya put Baszler down with a German suplex and followed up with a discus clothesline for a two count.
Natalya went for the Sharpshooter, but Baszler avoided it and rolled to ringside. Natalya kicked Baszler through the ropes and then went to ringside and tossed her back inside the ring. Natalya jawed at Rousey before climbing back on on the apron. Baszler hit Natalya with a running knee and then dragged her back inside the ring beat her by submission with an armbar.
Shayna Baszler beat Natalya in 2:55.
After the match, Nox climbed onto the apron and was booted back to the floor by Baszler. Rousey had Baszler hold Natalya in place and set up for a move, but Nox ran in and broke it up. “Who the hell is this?” Rousey asked on the floor. Rousey yelled that Nox “is done next week, kiddo”…
Powell’s POV: There was no real mystery regarding the outcome and the addition of Nox out of the blue seemed like it was done just to set her up in a match with Rousey for next week. I guess we’ll see if there’s anything more to it than that.
A graphic hyped the Firefly Funhouse as coming up next… Cole said WrestleMania is five weeks from Saturday and then set up the Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch video where they impersonated The Joker and Batman… [C] Cole hyped Fox’s college basketball coverage…
The Firefly Funhouse opening aired. The set was shown and the lighting turned red. A television on the floor showed someone playing with a pair of Undertaker action figures. They cut to Bray Wyatt in a production room watching footage of himself saying that the winner of Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley at Elimination Chamber should run. Wyatt laughed as he watched himself and then footage aired of Lashley mentioning Wyatt on Raw.
Wyatt and one of his puppets were on a news set. Wyatt told Uncle Howdy that it was time for the weather. “I am all of us,” Howdy said. Up next was a game show called “Can You Keep A Secret.” Wyatt was the host and wore a bad wig. “Well, can you?” Wyatt asked. A graphic listed “Can You Keep A Secret” twice on a programming guide followed by “Well Can You.” The doorway to the Firefly Funhouse was shown with a bunch of disturbing images playing. Wyatt wore his black mask and asked, “If I told you a story, could you keep a secret?”…
Powell’s POV: Um, sure, now can you get to the point?
Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa were shown seated on a couch while Paul Heyman stood behind them. Jimmy spoke about what he wanted to say to Jey. Heyman informed Jimmy that Roman Reigns would appear next week. Heyman said that if Jimmy couldn’t handle Jey this week, then Roman would handle Jey for him next week…
Cole hyped Rey Mysteiro vs. Karrion Kross… [C] A graphic boasted about the MITB instant sellout… Entrances for the Mysterio vs. Kross match took place…
4. Rey Mysterio vs. Karrion Kross (w/Scarlett). Rey pulled the top rope down when Kross charged him. Kross ended up on the apron and then Rey hit him with a 619 that sent him to the floor. Rey followed up with a suicide dive heading into an early match break. [C]
Kross took control and hoisted up Rey on his shoulders before climbing onto the middle rope. Rey elbowed his way free and performed a huracanrana that led to a two count. Rey got Kross in position for a 619. Rey ran the ropes and ended up bouncing Scarlett into the ring because she was leaning on the ropes.
Rey decided to go for the 619 anyway, but Dominik Mysterio showed up and blocked it from the floor. Dom dared Rey to hit him, but Rey returned to the ring while Cole questioned how much more disrespect Rey could take. Kross blasted Rey with a forearm to the head and then put him in the Kross Jacket and got the win.
Karrion Kross beat Rey Mysterio in 8:40.
After the match, Dom entered the ring and continued to taunt his father by shoving him and daring him asking Rey to hit him. Rey fired up and went face-to-face with Dom while cocking his fist. Dom dared him to do it and the crowd chanted for Rey to do it. Rey kept his cool and said he couldn’t do it because Dom’s his son. Rey left the ring without any physicality…
Powell’s POV: Dom is a knight in shining armor. Rey knew what he was doing when he bounced poor Scarlett into the ring, and Dom simply couldn’t just stand by and allow his father to do that to a woman. No? Okay, Dom taunting Rey and making the fans wait for Rey to get physical in response was well done.The fans should go crazy when Rey finally snaps.
The broadcast team hyped the following matches and segments for next week’s Smackdown: Roman Reigns returns, Rhea Ripley vs. Liv Morgan, Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler vs. Natalya and Tegan Nox…
Jimmy Uso made his entrance dressed in non-wrestling attire. Jimmy looked into the camera and said he knew Jey was watching somewhere. Jimmy said he knew Jey was hurting and when Jey hurts, he hurts. Jimmy said he would always be there for Jey, just as he needed Jey to be there for him at this time.
Jimmy said people claim there are cracks in the Bloodline. Jimmy said they have a Sami Zayn and a Kevin Owens problem. Jimmy said he knew Jey had issues with Roman Reigns. “But I can’t do this on my own,” Jimmy said.
Sami Zayn showed up in the crowd with his hood over his head. Sami hopped the barricade and entered the ring as Jimmy finished speaking. Sami told Jimmy that he wasn’t there to fight. He said Jimmy had his back in the Bloodline since day one. Sami said Jimmy saw value in him from day one and made him the Honorary Uce.
Sami said that when things went south at the Royal Rumble, Jimmy didn’t think twice and took him down with zero hesitation. Zayn said that hurt. A “Sami” chant broke out while Zayn and Jimmy looked at one another. Jimmy called Zayn selfish and told him that he was the one who made the choice.
“You stepped on me and you stepped on Jey,” Jimmy said. Jimmy added that family doesn’t betray you. Sami said family doesn’t make you test your loyalty every week or make you jump through hoops to prove something. Sami said Reigns manipulated him for years.
Jey Uso was shown standing in the crowd (in the old Shield entrance through the crowd spot). Sami told Jimmy that he doesn’t have to go down with the ship. Sami turned and looked at Jey. Jimmy blindsided Zayn and worked him over. Barrett said Zayn walked into a trap.
Jey started walking to the ring. Jimmy turned and yelled out to Jey. Zayn recovered and hit Jimmy with a Helluva Kick. Jey stopped and stood on the fan side of the barricade. Solo Sikoa headed to the ring. Zayn saw Sikoa coming and made his exit from the ring. Sami and Jey made eye contact at ringside. Sami hopped over the barricade away from Jey. Cole reminded viewers that Roman Reigns would appear on next week’s show…
Powell’s POV: A logical first step for Sami and the Usos coming out of Elimination Chamber. They continued the story with the Sami and Jimmy confrontation while leaving the mystery of where Jey stands hanging. Things should heat up when Roman Reigns appears next week.
Overall, this was a solid show. Things slowed down a bit coming out of Elimination Chamber while they started building toward WrestleMania in some cases. I will have more to say about Smackdown during my weekly same night audio review for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons). Let me know what you thought of the show by grading it below. Have a great weekend.