By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,237)
San Juan, Puerto Rico at Coliseo de Puerto Rico
Aired live May 5, 2023 on Fox
There was a drone shot that started outside the building and carried into the arena to start the show. Michael Cole announced that this is the first Smackdown to take place in Puerto Rico. Rey Mysterio’s music hit and he walked out a much smaller entrance than usual. The rest of the LWO followed. The crowd was hot as video from the Backlash Press Conference from earlier today was shown. Cole plugged Vega vs. Rhea Ripley for the PPV after the video.
Rey cut a promo in spanish. I was able to pick up a few words, but not everything as I don’t speak much Spanish. He said he was proud to be in front of their people in Puerto Rico, announced Zelina Vega as a future Smackdown Women’s Champion, and said Bad Bunny would take care of Damien Priest at Backlash. He was interrupted by Judgement Day, but Damien Priest was absent, so it was just Rhea Ripley, Finn Balor, and Dominik Mysterio. Dom grabbed an LWO shirt from what I assume was a plant and ripped it up.
The crowd booed heavily and wouldn’t let Dominik speak. Dominik called Rey the same deadbeat Dad he’s always going to be. Rey called out Dom for a WrestleMania rematch between the two of them one more time. Rhea then stepped up and asked Rey to fight her. Zelina then stepped up, and Dominik said they could fight the both of them. Rey asked if he meant a tag match, and Rhea told them they were on. Judgement Day started to leave, but Dominik slapped Rey across the face and ran away up to the arena entrance.
I had a weather related interruption at this point. When the show returned, video was playing of The OC beating up The Viking Raiders last week. The OC then made their entrance in the arena. They take on the Viking Raiders next…
My Take: A solid promo segment that fired up the crowd. Dom has intense heat and his cheapshot on Rey had the building roaring. I presume the giant LED board couldn’t fit in this arena, but the smaller one works just fine and allows more fans in the building.
Rey Mysterio and Zelina Vega vs. Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley will be tonight’s Smackdown Main Event. The Viking Raiders made their ring entrance as the show returned. AJ Styles joined in on commentary.
1. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows “The Good Brothers” vs. Erik and Ivar “The Viking Raiders”: Erik and Karl Anderson started the match. Erik landed some punches, and Karl fired back with a low dropkick. Ivar and Gallows both tagged in, and Ivar landed a series of elbow strikes. Gallows fired back with some punches and a splash in the corner. Anderson tagged back in and landed a diving strike that AJ Styles called “Brother Me Softly”. Valhalla provided a distraction that allowed Ivar to dump Anderson to the floor. Michin confronted her to prevent further damage…[c]
Gallows got a tag as the show returned, and took down Erik with a series of clotheslines in a diving shoulder tackle. Ivar tagged in and ate a sitout chokeslam for a near fall. Erik tagged back in and traded punches with Gallows. Erik caught Gallows attempting a big boot and landed a powerbomb. He then tagged Ivar, who landed a big splash, but Karl Anderson broke up the pinfall.
Another Valhalla distraction led to Michin landing a huge dropkick on the floor. Gallows broke free of a DDT attempt, and the Good Brothers landed a Magic Killer and got the win.
The Good Brothers defeated The Viking Raiders at 8:08
After the match, The OC celebrated in the ring. Michael Cole then explained the upcoming tournament to crown the new World Heavyweight Champion that starts this Monday on Raw. There will be two one night tournaments to crown two challengers that will face off at Night of Champions. Bianca Belair made her entrance for the next segment…[c]
My Take: A fairly basic tag match that was aided heavily by the hot crowd. The Good Brothers and The OC in general are getting a push. We’ll see how far they go with it once the new rosters are in play next week.
Some promotional videos aired for WWE’s sold out European Tour. Bianca Belair mentioned all the love they got on their European Tour, and how excited she was to be in Puerto Rico. She mentioned making history when she won the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Bianca then mentioned Iyo Sky, and said he’s good, but she’s always showed up and showed out when facing the best of the best.
Bianca said if she wins tomorrow, she will become the longest reigning Women’s Champion of the modern era. This prompted an interruption from Damage CTRL. Bayley said she made Bianca on Smackdown, and she’s not surprised she’s out here bragging about how many days she’s been champion. She claimed Iyo Sky would end her little history party tomorrow, and then she and Dakota feel like becoming the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, and then Smackdown will belong to Damage CTRL.
A brawl broke out, and Bianca nearly got the better of it, but was taken out by a springboard dropkick from Sky. This resulted in Liv and Raquel making a save, and Damage CTRL ending up on the run.
Backstage, Karrion Kross said everyone is sure who they are until you take away one little thing and it all begins to crumble. He addressed Nakamura and asked him how much his honor is really worth to him. They will face each other later tonight. The Street Profits then made their entrance for the next match. They entered through the crowd and had some fun directing the crowd in some dancing. They will face Imperium next…[c]
My Take: I think Iyo was a little late on her dropkick, because Bianca had to wait on her a bit. Bianca remains very popular but hasn’t has much new material to work with for a while. I think we’re at the point where she needs to lose her title and go on a new journey and tell some different stories. I’m sure she’ll retain her title tomorrow and set the record she spoke about, but I hope they find a creative way to do a bit of a soft reset of her character soon. I wouldn’t even mind a heel turn at some point. She played that role so well in NXT.
A video recapped The Usos challenging the Tag Titles last week, and Solo “getting the call” from Roman Reigns before getting disrupted by Matt Riddle. Solo was shown taping up his thumb backstage. The Usos walked up and asked him if he was ready for their six man tag match tomorrow. He didn’t respond immediately. Jey leaned in and reminded him that he was asked a question. Solo said he would do his part, and they better do theirs.
Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser made their entrance.
2. Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser “Imperium” vs. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins “The Street Profits”: Vinci tagged Kaiser immediately and they used a quick ambush to take control of the match. Vinci splashed both Profits on the floor, and then Kaiser landed a moonsault on Ford back in the ring for a two count. He followed up with some strikes and a suplex for another two count. Ford created an opening with a high angle back suplex, and made a tag to Dawkins.
He entered the match and cleaned house on both Vinci and Kaiser. He sent Kaiser to the floor and then landed a huge spinebusters on Vinci. Ford followed up with a huge frog splash and got the win.
The Street Profits defeated Imperium at 4:33
The Profits celebrated in the ring, and then Cody Rhodes was shown walking towards the ring backstage…[c]
My Take: A fairly lopsided win for The Street Profits. Hopefully Imperium is treated a little better over on Raw after the draft rosters take effect.
A lengthy recap video of Cody Rhodes’ WrestleMania loss and post WrestleMania story with Brock Lesnar was shown. He then made his entrance in the arena. Cody asked the crowd what they wanted to talk about. Cody addressed the Beast and called him the Cowboy Coward. Cody called Brock a gatekeeper to “The Kingdom”, a term he borrowed from Arn Anderson to describe making it in Pro Wrestling. He admitted being scared of Brock Lesnar in the video, but said he doesn’t have time to be scared because tomorrow is Backlash. Cody said he will claim his Kingdom and get back on the path to finishing his story when he defeats Brock Lesnar tomorrow night.
Backstage, Shinsuke Nakamura was asked if he had anything to say to Karrion Kross, and he said “C’monnnnnnn”. He then made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: A strong promo from Cody. Whenever wrestlers set up “must win” situations in the opening match of their feuds with a freshly turned heel…it could get ugly.
Matt Riddle stood with Kevin and Sami and rambled about their title win at WrestleMania and the need to destroy the Bloodline so Roman has nothing to come back to. Sami said they agreed with everything he said, but he and Kevin have nothing left to say. In the arena, Karrion Kross made his entrance. Scarlett did her full dance routine.
3. Karrion Kross (w/Scarlett) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Shinsuke landed some punches and knees in the corner. The action spilled outside, where Kross landed a knee lift and then picked up Shinsuke and ran him spine first into the ring post…[c]
Kross mocked Shinsuke and said he’s not the King of Strong Style, he’s the King of Trash. Nakamura fired back with some strikes and an enziguri. He then placed Kross on the top rope and landed a running knee to the ribs. He covered for a near fall. A distraction from Scarlett led to a Saito Suplex for a near fall. Kross recovered and attempted the Kross Jacket, but Nakamura applied a diving arm bar.
Kross escaped, and Shinsuke slipped in a Guillotine. Kross escaped again, and landed a lariat when Nakamura set up for Kinshasa. He then landed another Doomsday Saito for another near fall. He set up for a Kross Hammer, but Nakamura landed a series of kicks followed by a Kinshasa for the win.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Karrion Kross at 8:53
The mixed tag Main Event was hyped for later…[c]
My Take: The crowd came alive for Shinsuke’s offense, which helped a match that lacked chemistry between the performers.
A video recap was shown of the draft picks that came from NXT to the Main Roster. Cameron Grimes was shown backstage with Adam Pearce. Baron Corbin walked up and they got into an argument about who was worth a draft pick and who wasn’t. Corbin called Grimes Mr. Irrelevant for being the final draft pick. Grimes challenged him to a match next week, and Pearce made it official for next week. Cole and Barrett then went over the Backlash card ahead of tomorrow’s show.
Video was shown of the press conference where Bad Bunny slapped Damien Priest ahead of their match. In the arena, Rey Mysterio made his entrance for the main event with Zelina Vega…[c]
My Take: Good to see NXT stars getting a vignette before their debuts next week. Corbin vs. Grimes should be fun.
Roman Reigns was advertised for next week’s Smackdown, along with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Morgan and Rodriguez will face Bayley and Kai for the Women’s Tag Team Championships. In the arena, Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley made their entrance with Finn Balor.
4. Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley (w/Finn Balor) vs. Rey Mysterio and Zelina Vega: Rhea and Zelina started the match. Vega used her speed to land some early shots. She attempted a roll up, but was stuffed by Ripley. Vega evaded further offense and leapt to the second rope. From there he was able to land a flying head scissors. Rey and Dominik tagged in, and Rey landed some quick punches. Zelina tagged in and used a head scissors to send Dom onto the second rope, but was shut down by Rhea on a 619 attempt and sent to the floor…[c]
Vega landed a forearm and pulled Rhea into a crucifix pin for a two count. Dom pulled Rey off the apron to prevent the tag. Rhea performed an Eddie taunt, but Zelina managed to create some space with a jawbreaker. Ripley charged hard into the corner and hit the post with her shoulder. Vega was able to make a hot tag to Rey, who entered and landed a springboard crossbody on Dom. He then sent him into the corner.
Rey went for mounted punches, but was picked up and slammed into the top turnbuckle. Dom landed a sit out powerbomb, but Vega broke up the pinfall. Rhea sent her to the floor and Rey setup Dom for a 619. Vega pulled Rhea off the apron and then shoved her into the barricade. Rey landed a 619 but Balor prevented the follow up splash. Dom then performed a Three Amigos suplex, but Rey rolled him up on the second one and got a quick win.
Rey Mysterio and Zelina Vega defeated Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley at 9:35
After the match, Damien Priest joined in on a beatdown of Rey. Bad Bunny and the rest of the LWO entered to make the save. LWO cleared everyone but Priest, and Bad Bunny got in the ring with a kendo stick. Dominik ran in and took the kendo stick shots for Priest, who escaped the ring and avoided the confrontation. Bad Bunny put on a Puerto Rico themed LWO shirt to close the show to great applause.
My Take: The crowd went crazy for Bad Bunny and roared when he put on the LWO shirt at the end of the show. The LWO standing strong to end the show with a crazy crowd was a sight to see, and I expect we’ll see some of the same on Saturday Night. Hopefully this rubs off on the other LWO members and they can find success after Backlash.