By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,228)
Washington, D.C. at Capital One Arena
Aired live March 3, 2023 on Fox
[Hour One] Michael Cole and Wade Barrett welcomed the TV audience to the arena. Roman Reign’s music played and the crowd erupted. He walked to the ring with Paul Heyman, Jimmy Uso, and Solo Sikoa. They paused for a long time on the stage so that ring announcer Samantha Irvin could announce Roman Reigns. Cole then performed some promotional announcements for Reigns vs. Rhodes at WrestleMania. Boos echoed throughout the arena as Roman grabbed a microphone and told Washington DC to acknowledge him.
Cody Rhodes’ music hit shortly thereafter and the crowd got loud for him. Roman Reigns had a slightly amused look on his face as Cody walked to the ring. He addressed Roman Reigns and said he was there to have a conversation, not a wreckless negotiation, and he wanted to speak to Roman Reigns one on one. Cody said he didn’t see a reason for his compatriots to be there…unless you need them.
Roman dismissed Heyman, Sikoa, and Jimmy Uso. Roman asked if that made him more comfortable, in fact let’s get even more comfortable. Roman said Cody might not like it, but he’s going to do it anyways, and threw down his title belts in front of him. He then mocked Cody and asked “So what do you want to talk about?”
Cody said fair enough and said let’s talk about you. He called out Roman’s 915 day title reign, and congratulated him on his accomplishment. Cody then wanted to touch on something about himself, and said that Roman has become an impossible mountain to climb, but that’s kind of his thing. He then recalled people saying he’d never be anything but Randy’s understudy, he’d never survive Stardust, no one would ever pay to see him and his buddy’s little indie show. Cody then said that the goal posts keep moving for him, and he keeps punching it through the uprights. He said Roman might be impossible, but not for him.
Roman then fired back and pointed at the title belts and asked if Cody have ever won one of those, or even competed or one, or Main Event a WrestleMania? He then said he’s done all of that and is the most experienced WrestleMania Main Eventer of all time. Roman continued and said he was groomed from a young age to be great by his father, and by Cody’s father. He continued and said he respected Dream and everything he did for him, so he wasn’t going to denigrate him.
Reigns continued and did a Dusty impression and how he used to talk about Roman having “it”. He recalled a story of all of Dusty’s teachings, and revealed that Dusty never spoke about him at all. Maybe he talked to Seth or Kevin or Becky, but he didn’t even exist when he was around. Roman stuck out his hand and assured Cody that if Dusty failed to teach him anything, then he would.
Cody twitched and sputtered for a second and told Roman that they aren’t even playing on the same field. He didn’t send Heyman to get in his head, he sent Heyman to Raw to convey the truth about the fact that one of Dream’s kids is better than his actual kid. Cody said in order for him to exist, it’s a necessity that he defeats Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. He then stuck out his hand and said may the better man win. Roman shook his hand and walked away to the back…[c]
My Take: A very strong opening segment. Both guys had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Roman seemed a bit shook at the end that his big bombshell didn’t rattle Cody off of his game. It’s a good start to what will be the focal point story heading into WrestleMania. The crowd’s reaction of content listening during most of the segment is an indication that people are truly pulled into the story. There was no attempt to hijack the segment.
Rhea Ripley made her entrance for the next match with Dominik Mysterio. She was followed by Liv Morgan…
1. Liv Morgan vs. Rhea Ripley (w/Dominik Mysterio): Morgan started out with some strikes, but Ripley used her power to shrug her off. She then attempted a springboard DDT of sorts, but Rhea caught her and tossed her into the air for a rough landing. Ripley choked Morgan on the bottom rope, and then landed some clubbing blows across the back. She then tossed Morgan into the corner, but Liv avoided an incoming shoulder block. Morgan landed a rising knee and then sent Ripley to the floor with a missile dropkick.
Morgan hit the ropes and dove at Ripley, but was brushed away as she flew through the ropes and landed with a thud on the floor. Ripley trashed talked Charlotte Flair into the nearest camera…[c]
Ripley picked up Morgan, who slipped over her back and landed a back cracker. Morgan pressed the offense and landed back to back double knee facebusters. She then did a diving Codebreaker from the second rope for a near fall. Ripley got to her feet and Liv went for Oblivion, but Rhea held onto her. She attempted Riptide, but Morgan slipped out and landed a kick to the face. Liv went up top and dove at Ripley, but was slammed to the mat for her trouble. Ripley landed Riptide and then applied a nasty inverted cloverleaf for the tap out victory.
Rhea Ripley defeated Liv Morgan at 8:12
After the match, a girl was shown crying in the front row after Ripley got the win. Sami Zayn vs. Solo Sikoa was announce for the main event…[c]
My Take: Never any doubt about the finish, but Liv had a good outing in the ring. They both work well together.
Backstage, Roman asked Jimmy Uso about Jey, and he responded that he’s a hothead and he needs more time. Roman said he’s running out of patience, and Jimmy said he’d tell him. Roman said it wasn’t with him, he was running out of patience with him. Jimmy told Roman he’d let him know, and walked off…
A video package recapped the Rey Mysterio and Karrion Kross match from last week, along with the post match confrontation between Rey and Dominik…
Rhea and Dominik were shown backstage. They ran into Santos Escobar backstage, and he said Rey should have punched Dominik in the face last week. Santos told Dominik he’s going to the ring, and if Dominik is half the man he would mean him out there man to man. He then blew a kiss at Rhea and walked towards the entrance….[c]
My Take: Roman’s empire is headed towards collapse, and it’s fun to watch it play out. Crowds seem to want to cheer Santos Escobar, so I’m glad WWE is leaning into it.
Solo Sikoa vs. Sami Zayn was advertised for the main event. Santos Escobar made his entrance for the next match. He carried Rey Mysterio’s mask that was gifted to him a few weeks ago. Dominik then made his entrance with Rhea Ripley, shocking no one.
2. Dominik Mysterio (w/Rhea Ripley) vs. Santos Escobar: Dominik took advantage of an early distraction and landed a few kicks. Escobar fired back with a dropkick and then forced Mysterio’s face into the corner and demanded he look at Rey’s mask and respect his legacy. He then applied a modified surfboard submission. After the hold was released, Dominik managed to trip Escobar into the bottom turnbuckle and out to the floor. He continued the assault on the floor and gloated with Ripley…[c]
Dominik dumped Escobar on the second rope and set up for a 619, but then there appeared to be an awkward miscommunication. Escobar tried to quickly cover it up by throwing some punches. Dominik took over again and shoved Escobar’s face into the corner where Rey’s mask was and jawed about his legacy. He then slapped Escobar, which seemed to wake him up. He landed a series of flying forearms followed by a clever leg drop for a near fall.
Both men hit the ropes and collided awkwardly. Dominik pulled brass knuckles out of his pants, and Rhea Ripley used the distraction to hit Riptide on the floor. Dominik then landed a Frog Splash and stole the win.
Dominik Mysterio defeated Santos Escobar at 7:49
[Hour Two] After the match, Dominik took the mask that Rey gave Escobar and tore it up with his hands. Santos screamed at him from the ring. As they walked to the back, Rey Mysterio walked out to meet him. He asked for the mask back, and Dominik begged him to hit him. Rey refused, and Dominik tossed the mask on the ground. As Rey bent to pick it up, Dominik landed a cheap shot to the back of his head. Rhea and Dominik walked off…
Video was shown from earlier today of Sami Zayn walking through the concourse of the arena and recording on his phone. He said Roman is feeling the heat, and tonight is not about wins and losses. Sami addressed Solo Sikoa and said he’s sending a message tonight that the Bloodline will not be rid of Sami Zayn until The Bloodline goes down. The crowd surrounded him and chanted Sami.
In the arena, Drew McIntyre made his entrance in street clothes…[c]
My Take: Dominik continues to have good heat on his matches. He’s a complete chickenshit heel hiding behind Rhea. I assume that means Santos will find a way to even the odds eventually. The crowds are going to lose it when Rey decks his own son. It will be quite a sight to see.
McIntyre said it’s four weeks from WrestleMania and he doesn’t have a match. There’s a certain WWE Superstar that he wants to beat the schnitzel out of. He said Gunther, I’m calling you out. Sheamus then walked out and accused McIntyre of going behind his back. He explained that McIntyre knows more than anybody that he wanted Gunther at Mania and he’s always wanted the Intercontinental Championship.
McIntyre told Sheamus that he doesn’t need Sheamus’s permission because he’s not his parent. Sheamus replied that he’s not his parent, but he considered him a brother, but you’re not, you’re a backstabbing bastard. McIntyre said the truth hurts, and the fact of the matter is he’s had his chance and he lost twice. LA Knight then walked out and the crowd popped for him. He talked trash about wanting a match at WrestleMania on his way to the ring while Sheamus and McIntyre muttered to each other.
New Day then walked out and Kofi said LA Knight has been pouting about wanting matches at WrestleMania, but he can’t even win matches on Smackdown. Karrion Kross then made his way to the ring, and LA Knight attacked Kofi from behind. He then cleared Woods from the ring. Sheamus cleared LA Knight from the ring, and then he and McIntyre had a staredown. Drew decided to dive on everybody at ringside. Kross then attacked Sheamus and stood tall to close the segment…
Cole and Barrett plugged NXT Roadblock, followed by a video package for the show…[c]
My Take: I was hoping that we’d get a triple threat between Sheamus, McIntyre and Gunther at WrestleMania. Perhaps they can still get there, but it seems we’re either looking at a crowded six pack match or one guy emerging from the pile here? Time will tell.
A brawl was shown backstage between Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, and Tegan Nox. Ronda apparently suffered an arm injury, and Baszler had to be separated from Nox. Tegan then made her entrance with Natalya, but came out to Natalya’s music?
3. Tegan Nox (w/Natalya) vs. Shayna Baszler (w/Ronda Rousey): Nox came out of the gate fired up and landed some strikes. Baszler quickly took over and stomped on Nox’s arm while Ronda shouted at her to break it. Shayna continued to focus on the arm, and very quickly Nox had lost complete use of it. Nox rolled up Baszler by surprise and got a two count. Baszler landed a huge knee and then applied a cross armbar and got the win.
Shayna Baszler defeated Tegan Nox at 1:59
Tegan screamed after the match that she thought her arm was broken…
Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviewed Gunther. He called it an absolute disgrace and a lack of leadership that he doesn’t have a worthy challenger for WrestleMania. Gunther said he needed a battle to cement the legacy of the Ring General and the Intercontinental Championship, and to claim his place on the grandest stage of them all…
In the arena, Bobby Lashley made his entrance. A Bray Wyatt logo was shown on the screen as the show went to commercial…[c]
My Take: Hopefully whatever injury that kept Ronda out of the ring isn’t serious. I’m not sure what Mania plans were but that could certainly derail them. Poor Tegan Nox just shows up to TV to lose quickly.
Footage was shown of Bray Wyatt’s muscle man dance from Monday’s Raw. Bobby said the last two weeks, Bray Wyatt has been telling him to run. He said he doesn’t run from anyone, and since that didn’t work, he wants to play his kid games like the muscle man dance. Bobby said where he comes from that’s a sign of weakness because when you have a problem with someone you come and see them to their face. He then demanded Wyatt come to the ring and see him.
Music played and Uncle Howdy attacked Bobby from behind. He got an early couple of shots in, but Bobby delivered a spinebuster to Howdy. Bobby set up for a spear, but the lights went out and Howdy was gone. A Wyatt logo flashed…
Cameras cut backstage to Roman Reigns, who asked Jimmy Uso if he spoke to his brother. He said yes, and initially he said that he asked for more time, but after being pressed he said Jey told Roman to leave him the hell alone.
Reigns said that this didn’t start happening until Sami came around. He then explained that Sami introduced all this selfishness into Jey, and if Jimmy can take care of their Sami Zayn problem Jey would come home. He told Jimmy to go to the ring with Solo for his match and take care of it for the family. Jimmy walked off, and Heyman told Roman that was great. Roman continued to look upset and told Heyman that Jey has one week, and after that he’s going to start blaming Jimmy instead of Sami…[c]
My Take: Well, at least Bobby didn’t have to sell for puppets. The Bloodline story continues to be excellent.
A Fatal 5-way “qualifying match” for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania was announced for next week’s Smackdown, along with The Viking Raiders vs. Braun Strowman and Ricochet…
Solo Sikoa made his entrance for the main event with Jimmy Uso. He was followed by Sami Zayn. Roman Reigns was shown backstage rambling to Paul Heyman while Sami made his entrance. Sami rush the ring and immediately attacked Solo. He ended up clearing both Jimmy and Solo from the ring. He then dove on both of them at ringside. Sami chants broke out in the arena.
4. Sami Zayn vs. Solo Sikoa (w/Jimmy Uso): The match began when Solo got back into the ring. Solo cut down Sami with some strikes and then sent him off the ropes. Sami held onto the ropes and then ducked a charge from Solo. Sami sent Solo to the outside with a lariat. Jey then distracted Sami, and Solo was able to take control on the floor. He sent Sami into the ring post repeatedly and then dumped him into the timekeeper’s area…[c]
Solo continued to land heavy shots. Sami fired back with some ineffective punches, but got quickly swatted away. Solo hit the ropes, and Sami caught him with a lariat to get some breathing room. Sikoa shut him back down again with a huge Samoan Drop. He then performed a running hip attack in the corner, and placed Sami on the top rope. Sami recovered and landed a tornado DDT for a one count.
Sami climbed up to again and landed a flying forearm for a short two count. Sami managed to land a Blue Thunder Bomb 10 seconds later and scored a near fall. Jimmy saved Solo from the Heluva Kick, and Solo landed a Samoan Spike and covered for the win.
Solo Sikoa defeated Sami Zayn at 7:13
After the match, Jimmy and Solo continued the assault on Sami. Solo retrieved a chair from ringside and then wrapped it around Sami’s head in the corner. Solo lined up for another running hip attack, but Jimmy stopped him and said he wanted to do it. The hesitation allowed Zayn to recover and throw the chair at Solo. He then landed a Heluva Kick on Jimmy.
Sami grabbed the chair and was setting up for a chair shot on Jimmy, but Solo ran him off. Sami escaped into the crowd and lived another day. Roman was shown fuming backstage.
My Take: A pretty basic angle to close the show. I had a feeling that they would be in a bit of a holding pattern until we get closer to WrestleMania. Next week should be interesting with Jey having a deadline to return to the family, and that leaves three weeks to finish up the story between Kevin and Sami putting their differences aside before WrestleMania.
The crowd is great tonight! That’s been the case as of late, sure makes things play out better! Where has the rest of LDF been?
They are trying to make Escobar look like a babyface at the moment. I’m guessing they are keeping the others away for now because it would look a little odd for him to be a babyface with a heel manager and two heel sidekicks.
I love the Dom character but I am not a fan of feeding Escobar to him, even with interference, to move the story forward
You’ll live. If they do it right, Escobar should come out of this in a better place and no one will remember this loss.
Ah that makes sense. It’s a shame LDF never really got much momentum on the main roster, but Escobar is gonna be big.
I know santos is on the older side but I think he is sensational in the ring and has great charisma
I’m with you. Great in the ring and a good promo. I hope they get it right with him.
If Santos loses to Dom here, uses that as motivation to regain his heel edge, and turns on Rey with LDF that could potentially get him rolling on the main roster.
I agree a feud after Mania between Rey and Santos seems likely.
Clearly. The only other way a babyface would lay it on as thick as he has by carrying around the Rey mask like his prized possession was if he was going to be turned on. I don’t see them turning Rey, so all signs point to Santos turning on Rey. I’ve even mentioned the possibility of Dom joining LDF if he’s going to end up on Smackdown eventually.
Am I the only one who finds the ring announcers voice bloody annoying when she’s introducing people? She seems so over the top
I like Samatha Irvin’s work more often than not, but I know what you’re saying. There are some introductions that are just too over the top. She seems to go especially overboard during PLE introductions. But she’s actually fun to watch in person. She comes off as being really into everything and gets into the entrance themes even when she’s not on camera.
Somewhere along the way, the tribal “elders” HAVE to show up and make some declaration on the Bloodline – that they’ve had enough. The question is, will it be before, during or after WM?