By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,232)
Los Angeles, California at Crypto.com Arena
Aired live March 31, 2023 on Fox
[Hour One] The announce team of Michael Cole and Wade Barrett plugged Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes’ confrontation later in the show, as well as the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Jimmy and Jey Uso made their entrance in the arena. Jimmy said tonight was the last Smackdown until the biggest Tag Team Title Match of all time on the grandest stage of them all….which brought out Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Sami said tomorrow they would put an end to this once and for all, but tonight they would make sure there was nothing left unsaid between them.
Owens said there was something he wanted them to know. He said he was conflicted about what they had to do, because their relationship went beyond the last 6 or 7 months. Owens recalled Jimmy and Jey welcoming him into the locker room when he first started in WWE and playing with his son backstage. He thought of them as men he could look up to, and he did, until they started doing the bidding of their cousin. Owens continued and said there was a part of him that didn’t want to do what he needed to do, but there’s another part of him that can’t wait. He said it wasn’t paranoia, they were taking their titles tomorrow at WrestleMania.
Jimmy said they showed him love when they first showed up, but there’s none of that left anymore. He spoke about how the only love he had left was for his family. Jey stepped up and said neither of them had any idea what family and loyalty were all about. Sami reminded Jimmy and Jey that he had been loyal from the start, but they chose Roman Reigns over loyalty and self respect. He said they can go back to being the guys that Kevin talked about, they just wouldn’t have the World Tag Team Championships anymore.
Jey replied that it was going down the way it always does. They would lose the big match, and Kevin would stab Sami in the back like he always does. Jey said by this time tomorrow night they would be in the ring with the greatest of all time, and they would continue doing what they have done for the last 600 days. He said they would retain their titles, and called it Bloodline Mania. The Usos dropped the mics and celebrated as they headed to the back.
The Street Profits music hit, and they walked by The Usos as they made their entrance and had a bit of a staredown. The Profits bumped fists with Sami and Kevin and the match was announced as a Fatal Four Way Match. Montez Ford will face Ricochet, Erik, and Chad Gable…[c]
My Take: A strong segment to start the show. It laid out the stakes for everyone involved and allowed everyone to show serious determination heading into the big show tomorrow.
Ricochet finished his entrance as he got to the ring. Erik and Chad Gable were already in the ring. Ivar, Braun Strowman, Angelo Dawkins, and Otis were at ringside.
1. Montez Ford (w/Angelo Dawkins) vs. Erik (w/Ivar, Valhalla) vs. Chad Gable (w/Otis) vs. Ricochet (w/Braun Strowman): The match featured some early taunting and showboating from Chad Gable, who was quickly dumped from the ring. Erik tangled with both Ricochet and Ford, but was quickly sent to the floor himself. Ford and Ricochet attempted to dive to ringside, but Gable and Erik caught them and threw them overhead for suplexes. Gable and Erik formed an alliance and took control of the match. Once Ford and Ricochet were down, Erik landed a cheap shot on Gable. He came back with a cross body from the top…[c]
Everybody ended up down in the ring after Erik landed a superplex on Ford, and Gable landed an overhead suplex on Ricochet. Ford got to his feet and landed a cross body on Erik, followed by a kick to Ricochet. Gable took out Ford with a forearm and then landed a Chaos Theory suplex on Ricochet, but Erik broke up the fall. Chaos broke out and Ford landed a top rope frog splash on Gable, but couldn’t make a cover. Ricochet then landed a huge shooting star press and got the win.
Ricochet defeated Chad Gable, Montez Ford, and Erik at 9:47 in a four-way
Roman sat down with The Usos backstage. Cody and Roman’s confrontation was advertised for later…
Bobby Lashley was shown warming up for the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, which is up next…[c]
My Take: This was an entertaining but fairly basic TV match. I wish there was more at stake for these eight men tomorrow.
A video package aired that highlighted Rhea Ripley’s journey to WrestleMania from the Royal Rumble onward. It condensed the story down to Charlotte being the confident incumbent Champion and Rhea being the hungry challenger looking to emerge as a star on a big stage…
Back in the arena, Samantha Irvin announced the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. A flood of people poured out of the back and started to fill the ring. During the entrances, an Andre themed video package aired. Bobby Lashley got a separate entrance after the video package…
A staffer was shown leaving Great Muta’s dressing room with green mist on his face… [c]
Braun Strowman made the final entrance for the Battle Royal.
2. The 2023 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Baron Corbin was eliminated almost immediately, and he sold frustration on the floor arguing with the referees. The announce team said there are 32 men in the ring, and the match is impossible to keep track of. Joaquin Wilde and Top Dolla were quickly eliminated by Bobby Lashely. People were paired off as best they can be. Otis tried to bond with the Maximum Male models, but they tried to eliminate him. He tossed Mace over the top and then Gargano eliminated Mansoor.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were both eliminated by Otis. Rick Boogs gave Elias an assist and tossed Otis out to the floor, but the Los Lotharios ran up from behind and sent Elias to the floor. Boogs got revenge and eliminated both Humberto and Angel…[c]
The match returned with Madcap Moss eliminating Dexter Lumix. Xavier Woods was then tossed by Karrion Kross. Mustafa Ali and Ziggler battled on the apron, with neither man being able to eliminate the other. LA Knight approached and knocked Ali off the apron. Kross snuck up behind Knight and applied the Kross Jacket submission. Bobby Lashley interrupted and brawled with Kross, but neither man was able to get an elimination.
Bronson Reed eliminated Madcap Moss, and then had a staredown with Braun Strowman. Bobby Lashley cut the distance between them by tossing out Dolph Ziggler, and then the three big men traded heavy shots. Reed sandwiched both of them in the corner with a splash, but the Brawling Brutes quickly teamed up to take him down. Butch traded offense with Gargano.
We got some rapid fire offense with everybody left in the ring hitting signature offense. Lashley tossed Gargano, and then Bronson Reed eliminated both Ridge and Butch. LA Knight and Reed traded shots, but Reed couldn’t get him all the way out to the floor. Knight briefly got some offense, but Reed turned things around and eliminated him with a fireman’s carry. That got a lot of boos from the crowd, who were behind Knight in a big way.
[Hour Two] Reed, Strowman, and Lashley were the final three. Strowman landed a running powerslam on Lashley, but he was surprised by Reed who dumped him to the apron and then knocked him down with a body block. Lashley avoided a Tsunami and then landed a spear on Reed. They both jockeyed for an elimination but Lashley emerged as the victor.
Bobby Lashley defeated at least 30 other people to win the 2023 Andre the Giant Battle Royal at 16:11
After the match, a Cody Rhodes video package aired. It told the story of his return to WWE, unexpected injury, and return to make his run at Roman Reigns and WrestleMania…
Cody was shown backstage contemplating life among a sea of shipping crates. The face to face between Cody and Roman Reigns was advertised for later…
In the arena, Raquel made her ring entrance, accompanied by Liv Morgan. She will face Natalya, Shayna Bazler, and Sonya Deville next…[c]
My Take: A fun Battle Royal. They got quite a few people some moments throughout to land some signature offense. Lashley got the win as expected, but I don’t mind it. He really got hosed with the Bray Wyatt situation.
Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler completed their entrance as the show returned.
3. Raquel Rodriguez (w/Liv Morgan) vs. Natalya (w/Shotzi) vs. Shayna Baszler (w/Ronda Rousey) vs. Sonya Deville (w/Chelsea Green) in a four-way: Both Baszler and Deville were sent to ringside early on. Rodriguez and Natalya squared off, and Natalya went for a rollup. Deville intervened and gave Natalya a facebuster. After a few seconds, Natalya turned things around and had Deville in a Sharpshooter. Baszler entered and broke it up. Raquel recovered and picked up Natalya and Baszler simultaneously, but Deville cut in and gave her a chop block.
Deville sent Raquel shoulder first into the post, and then climbed to the second rope. She jumped into a Tejana Bomb from Rodriguez, who covered and got the win.
Raquel Rodriguez defeated Shayna Baszler, Natalya, and Sonya Deville at 2:57 in a four-way
After the match, JBL was shown talking to Rey Mysterio backstage. They were both dressed up for the Hall of Fame ceremony that would follow the show…[c]
My Take: Not much happening there for the women. Unfortunately that’s been par for the course lately. WWE needs to put some serious effort into revitalizing the division on both shows after WrestleMania.
Solo Sikoa was shown standing in The Bloodline dressing room. Roman Reigns was seated on a couch while Paul Heyman stood and spoke in his ear…
A video package that recapped Dominik finally goading Rey into punching him in the face, and then claiming Rey was a disgrace for hitting him…
Backstage, “Legado Del Fantasma” Santos Escobar, Zelina Vega, Joaquin Wilde, and Cruz Del Toro approached Rey Mysterio. Rey thanked them for having his back on Raw. Santos and Zelina were both very over the top in their respect for Rey and said they had his back at WrestleMania if Judgment Day played the numbers game. Rey then handed them all shirts with the LWO logo and welcomed them all to the new group. Cole mentioned Rey being forced to join the LWO (Latino World Order) in WCW by Eddie Guerrero.
In the arena, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus made an entrance together…[c]
My Take: Well, I was not expecting an LWO revival. I have to believe this will end up with Dominik pulling a swerve here and stealing the group from Rey.
Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci made their entrance for the next match…
4. Drew McIntyre and Sheamus vs. Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci: Gunther was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Sheamus and Drew argued immediately about who was going to start the match. McIntyre ended up opening the match against Vinci, and landed some hard chops.
Kaiser got a blind tag and kicked McIntyre in the back of the head from the apron. McIntyre recovered and tagged Sheamus, who entered the match and landed a diving clothesline on Kaiser. Sheamus dumped Kaiser to the apron and landed clubbing blows to the chest. McIntyre and Sheamus cleared Kaiser and Vinci from the ring and had a staredown with each other afterwards…[c]
Sheamus landed an Irish Curse Backbreaker on Kaiser and then both men were down. McIntyre fired up on the outside and tagged himself in when Sheamus reached the ropes. McIntyre landed two belly to belly throws on Vinci and then a neckbreaker on Kaiser. He then set up for a Claymore, but Sheamus stepped onto the apron and tagged himself into the match. They had a confrontation and Vinci sent them crashing into one another. He then landed a big lariat on Sheamus for a close near fall.
Sheamus fired back with a rising knee and then signaled for the Brogue Kick and landed it on Vinci. Kaiser tried to intervene but McIntyre took him out with the Claymore. Sheamus covered Vinci for the win.
Sheamus and Drew McIntyre defeated Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser at 8:43
After the match, Cole ran down the lineup for both nights of WrestleMania. The final face to face between Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes is up next…[c]
My Take: Another enjoyable match that further establishes the love/hate relationship between McIntyre and Sheamus. The Intercontinental Triple Threat is going to be a real ass kicking match on Sunday.
Cody Rhodes made his entrance for the final segment. He asked Hollywood, Inglewood, LA what they wanted to talk about. Cody said all his cards are on the table and there are no aces left in the hole. He said his nutrition is right and his workouts are strong, and he’s ready to execute and deliver on exactly what he said he’s going to do.
Cody said he’s the most prepared he’s ever been, but he feels wildly unprepared to be in front of this crowd. He feels like there’s been enough talking and the fighting should start. Cody then broke out into Tupac’s verse on California Love, and then quickly transitioned into talking about defeating Roman Reigns.
He said Roman told him he couldn’t even be the guy in his own company, but we’re in year 11 of an investment on behalf of WWE that only started paying off in year 8. Cody then remarked that one thing Roman said that stuck with him is that everybody thinks they’re the guy until they meet the guy. He then introduced himself as Roman’s successor, the new head of the table, and the next WWE Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Cody started to say that he would finish the story at WrestleMania, but he was interrupted.
Roman Reigns took his sweet time getting to the ring with Paul Heyman and then circled around Cody. Reigns had a smile on his face and a Roman chant started up. Reigns casually asked for the microphone and said “Los Angeles…”, and then turned to Heyman and said he didn’t care about any of them. Roman then told Cody that it wasn’t their turn, it’s his. He then looked Cody in the eyes and told him to acknowledge him.
Both men exchanged a staredown to close the show.
My Take: A good promo from Rhodes and a dismissive response from Reigns. It was simple and effective and it set the stage for what should be a very interesting match on Sunday. I’m curious how they mesh the ring, and I applaud the effort to keep them from physically interacting before their match. This match will have a big match feel on Sunday thanks to that discipline.
It’s so weird watching everybody just walk to the ring together for a battle royal lbs.
Did I miss anything about Bray and Lashley? Sorry if there’s an injury, but I didn’t hear about it. The whole Bray Wyatt return just went over a cliff…ZERO buzz.
Oh. Wyatt’s out with a “physical issue” according to Bleacher Report.
Anyone from Illinois watching Smackdown getting interrupted by the stupid weather report!!
I’m from Chicago & I can second what Tom wrote. The Chicago Fox affiliate & most of the other local channels are covering all the severe weather alerts.
What a shame we’re missing the battle royal!lol
This is a very weird going home show for Wrestlemania. TWO inconsequential fatal four ways? Let’s hope Rhodes-Reigns is a home run…the opening was a little disappointing.
I’m looking forward to Mania this weekend, seeing some of these storylines get paid off or advance will be great. But this has to be about the worst theme song they ever have had for a Wrestlemania
Yep, Springfield Illinois got to see the last 1/2 hour of the show.
Might be because your neighbors in Missouri getting tore up. Along with arkansas