By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,242)
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at Mohegan Sun Arena
Aired live June 2, 2023 on Fox
Michael Cole and Wade Barrett introduced the show while standing at ringside. Cole said only 5 men in WWE history have held a title for 1000 days. They then introduced a video package that recapped his impressive title Reign with some highlights of his various successful title defenses, and showing all of the various legendary WWE wrestlers he has defeated and surpassed along the way. Austin Theory was shown in the ring briefly, and then we got some plugs for Money in the Bank and the two qualifying matches on this show.
Austin Theory welcomed the crowd to Austin Theory live, and he said tonight was a special night to celebrate Roman’s historic title reign. He said it would be even better if you combined it with the reign of the greatest United States Champion of all time, Austin Theory. He said that would be 1209 days, and that would be inspiring, just like his victory over John Cena at WrestleMania. Theory continued and said he would have a 1000, 2000, and 3000 day celebrations, and if he kept getting opponents like Sheamus he would be champion forever.
He said people can’t really boo him because he’s 25 and the best to ever do it. He then introduced Pretty Deadly, who came out to some new disco themed music. Theory said they had done the right thing last week. WIlson and Prince grabbed microphones and praised Theory before giving him the “Yes Boy!” treatment. The Brawling Brutes then made their entrance for the opening six man match.
1. Elton Prince, Kit Wilson, and Austin Theory vs. Sheamus, Butch, and Ridge Holland “The Brawling Brutes: Holland roughed up Prince to open the match. He quickly tagged Butch, who entered and landed a double team dropkick and suplex combinations. Prince fought into his corner and tagged in Wilson. They got in some quick strikes, but Butch quickly took over with some of his own. Theory and Sheamus ended up tagging into the match, but Theory quickly bailed from the ring…[c]
My Take: Heavy advertising for the Roman Reigns celebration as you’d expect. It’ll be interesting to gauge how people react to Pretty Deadly’s new music.
Theory took control on Butch during the break, and they continued to isolate him in the heel corner as the show returned. Theory knocked Holland from the apron and then used Sheamus’s reaction to land some double team offense on Butch. He fired up and got back into the match with some chops and a swinging DDT, leading to a hot tag to Sheamus. He entered the match and landed a slam on Theory. He attempted to land clubs to the chest on both members of Pretty Deadly, but Theory rolled him up for a two count.
The Brutes all entered the ring and they all landed White Noise on a member of the heel squad. Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick on Theory, but Pretty Deadly pulled him from the ring to prevent a pin. Sheamus then went up top and landed a diving clothesline to the floor on both members of Pretty Deadly, and Butch landed a Moonsault that took out theory. The Brutes celebrated briefly….[c]
Butch continued the abuse of Pretty Deadly by landing dropkicks to both men. Holland powerbombed Prince, and Sheamus landed a diving knee from the top for a close near fall. Theory entered the match and landed a torture rack into a spin out powerbomb for a near fall. He then landed some strikes from a mounted position and talked trash. Sheamus fired back with a big lariat. The action broke down again with everybody in the ring. Sheamus landed a big knee lift to Theory and got a close near fall.
Holland and Prince officially tagged in. Holland tossed aside both members of Pretty Deadly, and they rolled to the apron. The Brutes then delivered clubs to the chest on all three members of the heel team. Holland landed a slam to Wilson, and Theory landed A-Town Down on Butch. Prince covered his face with the ring apron so Holland would think he was the legal man. Wilson then chop blocked him from behind. They both then landed spilt milk on Holland. Theory tagged in and got the pinfall victory.
Austin Theory and Pretty Deadly defeated The Brawling Brutes at 14:43
After the match, we got a video package that recapped the breakdown of The Bloodline at Night of Champions. Paul Heyman was shown backstage walking into Roman Reigns’ locker room…[c]
My Take: A good opener. Austin Theory isn’t over as much as WWE has tried with him, but I’m optimistic on the upside of Pretty Deadly. They’ve had them use some fairly silly antics thus far, but I think that’s just a part of the act and the crowds have responded positively to it.
Heyman lectured Solo backstage about how special this night needs to be for Roman Reigns. He told Solo he knows he feels the same way, and he was going to talk to Adam Pearce about making sure the Usos were nowhere to be found later. Cole and Barrett introduced a video package that recapped Seth Rollins title win at Night of Champions. Wade Barrett said he thought Rollins had an unfair advantage but never elaborated on it.
AJ and The OC were shown “earlier today” celebrating his birthday. AJ asked for the crew to take out Hit Row for his birthday. The OC then made their ring entrance in the arena. Gallows and Anderson will be wrestling a tag match…[c]
My Take: The Usos crashing the 1000 day celebration is the obvious play and the right one for the story. It’s good to continue to foreshadow Solo being conflicted.
2. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson “The Good Brothers” (w/AJ Styles and Michin) vs. Ashante Thee Adonis and Top Dolla “Hit Row” (w/B-Fab): Adonis and Dolla worked over Karl Anderson to start the match. They made frequent tags and used the ropes to choke Anderson. B-Fab got involved and slapped Anderson from the floor. Anderson fired back with a big spinebuster and got the got the tag to Gallows. He entered the match and landed kicks to Adonis and then knocked Top Dolla to the floor. He then landed a big slam and tagged Anderson. They quickly landed a Magic Killer on Adonis and got the win.
The Good Brothers defeated Hit Row at 3:55
After the match, Top Dollar entered the ring and dumped Gallows and Anderson from the ring. He talked trash and walked right into the Phenomenal Forearm from AJ Styles. Backstage, Adam Pearce informed Paul Heyman that The Usos’ travel was canceled and they were informed they weren’t needed. If they decide to show up, building security has been doubled. Heyman looked skeptical and then used the voice assistant on his phone to call Roman Reigns before walking away…[c]
My Take: Hit Row has felt incomplete without Swerve. I’m not sure who would be able to fill the role, but they need something new and fresh if they want to a chance at getting over.
A title match was announced for Raw between Damien Priest and Seth Rollins. Mike Rome introduced the Grayson Waller effect. He will interview Asuka. Waller made a quick introduction and brought out Asuka, who made her entrance in street clothes and without face makeup. Waller introduced a video of Asuka getting her victory via mist over Bianca Belair. Asuka got hyped up in Japanese, and Waller said he couldn’t have said it better himself.
He then brought up the Money in the Bank briefcases and Bianca coming back after her championships. She responded in Japanese and Waller laughed while pretending he understood. Iyo Sky walked out and she and Asuka had an argument in Japanese. All I caught was that Iyo said she should be champion, and Asuka called her a child and an idiot. Bayley walked out and tried to clarify that they both would qualify for Money in the Bank. Shotzi walked out and made her claim.
Lacey Evans walked out and demanded everyone salute her, and said the contract was coming home with her. She said she would use her Cobra Clutch to choke out that shrimp Zelina Vega. Cue Vega, who walked out and said Evans could trade in her piss soaked boots for red bottoms and she still wouldn’t be half the woman she is. She also said the women could underestimate her at their own risk.
Grayson Waller thought this was awesome and said to bring out more women and that America was awesome. Asuka got everyone’s attention from the stage and said no one was ready for her. Bianca Belair approached from behind and brawled with her. They were eventually separated by officials…[c]
My Take: WWE should really subtitle these non-English promos. I quite like wrestlers speaking in their native tongue, but I don’t think the subtitles would be a difficult technical achievement. Even if it’s not perfectly accurate I think it would help the TV audience have a reasonable understanding of the intent behind the words.
Footage was shown of Baron Corbin attacking Carmelo Hayes on NXT TV. Cameron Grimes told Adam Pearce backstage that he would take care of Corbin when he shows his face on Smackdown again. Footage was then shown of Lacey Evans landing a hard right hand to Vega during the break.
3. Zelina Vega vs. Lacey Evans in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match: The referee checked on Vega and started the match. Evans had control early on, but Vega used her speed to evade some heavier offense. Evans managed to land a backbreaker and slam her head into the mat several times. She then applied a chinlock. Vega escaped and managed to pull down Evans with a crucifix. She then transitioned into position for Code Red. She pulled it off and got the win.
Zelina Vega defeated Lacey Evans at 3:03
After the match, Montez Ford vs. LA Knight was advertised for next. Roman’s 1000 day celebration will be later.
My Take: Lacey Evans best character was her Rosie the Riveter inspired character from NXT, and it’s been a downhill slide ever since.
Backstage, Santos Escobar told Zelina Vega Latinos worldwide celebrate her accomplishments. He then said he would qualify for the Money in the Bank next week. Rey Mysterio walked up behind them and said that everyone would soon call them Mister and Miss Money in the Bank. In the arena, Montez Ford made his entrance with Angelo Dawkins. He was followed by LA Knight.
4. Montez Ford vs. LA Knight in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match: Knight got some chants early on and took control with a hammer lock. Ford reversed, and then both men got into a shoving match. Ford replied with a clean dropkick. Ford ended up out on the apron, and Knight landed a hard right hand that sent him to the floor…[c]
Knight continued to get a positive reaction and they did some yay and boo strike exchanges. Ford landed a back suplex and kipped up to a heel reaction. Ford attempted a standing moonsault but Knight got out of the way and picked up Ford for a torture rack neckbreaker. Knight attempted a moonsault, and nearly under-rotated into a neck injury. Ford got out of the way and delivered a Rock Bottom for a near fall.
Both men collided with a double clothesline and crawled back to their feet. They ended up on the top rope in the corner. Ford landed a headbutt to knock down Knight. He then attempted his signature splash, but Knight got out of the way. Ford landed on his feet, and rolled up Knight near the ropes. Knight reversed the pinfall and grabbed the ropes for the win.
LA Knight defeated Montez Ford at 9:28
After the match, Knight climbed a ladder and celebrated. We then got a video package that showed some various latin words on the screen, and then showed Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn laughing. It ended by saying “The Unholy Union” is here. Back in the arena, Tripel H made his entrance for the 1000 Day Celebration. We then got some highlights from Cody vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39. The celebration is up next…[c]
My Take: That Fyre and Dawn video package made it seem like they are going full supernatural with them, which I’m not particularly keen on personally. Ford and Knight delivered a good match, and the finish protected Ford so that he’ll probably be one of the favorites to get in on any second chance opportunities.
Butch vs. Baron Corbin, Santos Escobar vs. Mustafa Ali, Michin vs. Bayley, and Shotzi vs. Iyo Sky were announced for next week’s Smackdown Money in the Bank qualifiers.
Triple H stood in the ring and spoke about Roman Reigns as being on the same level as Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali, and reminded the crowd to appreciate that they were seeing a future legend perform in his prime right in front of them. Triple H then brought out Roman, who was accompanied by Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa. Michael Cole listed Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, and Bruno Sammartino as the other men in the same league as Roman Reigns.
Roman entered the ring and Triple H had a table next to him with a cloth covering a new Title Belt. He congratulated Roman on reaching an achievement that hasn’t been equaled in nearly 40 years. He then unveiled the new Undisputed WWE Universal Championship belt, which looked similar to his existing belts with a black strap and a gold background instead of black or blue. Roman held up his new title and then Triple H put it around his waist.
Roman smiled and gloated and the crowd booed. He then demanded that “The Entire Universe” acknowledge him. The Usos’ music hit and they appeared on the stage. Triple H wisely left the ring…[c]
My Take: Roman’s airport trips just became a lot more convenient.
As the show returned, Jimmy Uso stood face to ace with Roman Reigns. Roman ordered Jey to kick Jimmy in the face, and said he wasn’t joking. He said Jimmy kicked him in the face and cost him his Tag Team Championships, so he needed to fix this and kick him in the face right now. Jey paced around and did not comply. Roman ordered him to fix it again, and Jimmy finally replied that the only one that needed fixing was him.
Jimmy said he did what he did because he was being a brother, and brother’s treat each other with love and respect and lately he hasn’t been a good one. He told Jimmy that Jey is his brother and it’s in his blood to protect him. He told Solo that as soon as Roman was done using, abusing, and betraying him, he would toss him to the side and bury him.
Roman replied that Jimmy was talking for the entire family like he was the leader, so maybe Solo should speak for himself. Solo said that he acknowledged his tribal chief, but Jey and Jimmy were his brothers. He then turned around to join The Usos to some loud cheers. Jimmy then told Roman that he was going to end up on the Island of Relevancy all by himself. Roman told him to shut up, and Jimmy pie faced him in return. Jey got between them and told him they were moving all wrong and they needed each other.
Jimmy said they were right and that they were all brothers. They needed each other and if they could treat each other with respect they could run this place as a family like they have been doing. Roman was conflicted and embraced Jimmy, but eventually just told him no. He let him go and Jimmy looked shocked. Solo then blind sided him with a spike, and then Roman left the ring. Solo stared down his brothers and walked out with Roman.
They paused near a camera and Heyman asked Roman about Jey Uso. He said Jey would do what he always does and fall in line and come home. That line closed the show.
My Take: I’m thinking we’ll get a Tag Match between The Usos and Roman and Solo at Money in the Bank, and perhaps one of the Usos facing Roman for the Undisputed Title at Summerslam. This was another compelling bloodline segment, and teasing the crowd with Solo joining his brothers was a nice touch. It was far too soon for that to actually happen, but the deception paid off in a big way.