By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,243)
Des Moines, Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena
Aired live June 9, 2023 on Fox
A video package recapped Roman Reigns’ 1000 day title celebration and the Usos crashing the party, ending with Solo turning on his brother Jimmy and Roman proclaiming Jey would come back into the fold. After a brief show introduction from Michael Cole and Wade Barrett, Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman were shown standing in the ring. Paul attempted to introduce himself, but they was immediately interrupted by Jey Uso.
Jey walked to the ring and Solo stared at him while he circled the ring to grab a microphone. The crowd chanted “Uso” as Jey paced around. He said he had let a lot of things slide, but stabbing their big brother in the back is something you don’t do. Jey said he’s not sure he can forgive him for that, but say what he had to say. Heyman said Jey had this all wrong. It wasn’t Solo, Heyman, or Roman’s fault. This was Jimmy’s fault, because Jimmy made up his own mind and not just for himself. Heyman continued that JImmy had made up his mind for Jey, and asked Solo to back up so he could talk to him.
He said he wasn’t a threat, so he was pouring his heart out to him. Heyman asked Jey if he was asked about Jimmy kicking Roman at Night of Champions, and said that it’s not the first decision that Jimmy made for him. Paul said that Jimmy resents Jimmy because he knows something Jey doesn’t, and that’s the fact that Roman wants to groom him to become the next tribal chief. He offered to prove it to him, because Roman had gotten him a United States Championship with Austin Theory to set him on a path to become Tribal Chief.
Once Jey wins the match, the Tribal Chief will publicly groom him to become a World Champion and one day become Tribal Chief. Paul wanted him to give an answer right now, and Jey accepted the US Title Match. Heyman offered a handshake on the “deal”, and the boos rang out from the crowd. Jey told Heyman that he would get back to him on that, and left the ring. Cole and Barrett speculated about Jey’s decision, and Asuka’s Championship presentation was hyped for later, along with several Money in the Bank Qualifier matches.
Santos Escobar made his entrance for the first Money in the Bank qualifying match. He was accompanied by Rey Mysterio. He will face Mustafa Ali next…[c]
My Take: A solid opening segment with Heyman doing the hard sell and Jey holding his ground. It seemed too early for all the unanswered questions to be resolved and they managed to dance around it here.
Austin Theory vs. Jey Uso was confirmed for later tonight. Mustafa Ali completed his ring entrance. LA Knight then made his entrance and joined in on commentary.
1. Santos Escobar (w/Rey Mysterio) vs Mustafa Ali in a Money in the Bank Qualifier: Escobar got off to a hot start, but Ali got back into things with a hurracarrana and sent Escobar to the outside. Both men traded strikes out in front of the commentary table. Escobar landed an enziguri on the apron and attempted a suplex, but Ali broke free. Escobar shoved him into the ringpost and landed another hurracarrana and pulled Ali off the ring steps and to the floor. Mysterio ran over to check on Escobar as it sounded like he took a rough landing, hitting the steps himself.
Ali fled through the ring and back to the floor near the entrance, but Escobar ran and landed a suicide dive through the ropes. He then dove on Ali from the second rope with a flying body block…[c]
Both men battled on the turnbuckle nearest the timekeeper’s area. Ali performed a backflip to escape the situation and landed on his feet. Escobar jumped at him, but Ali landed a dropkick. Ali went for a 450 and missed. He then charged hard at Escobar in the corner and took a hard bump into the second turnbuckle face first. Escobar followed up with a poisonrana for a close near fall.
Escobar followed up with a running double knee strike in the corner. Ali avoided a Phantom Driver and pulled off a leaping tornado DDT for a near fall. He went back up to the top rope, but Escobar got to his feet and met Ali up top. He pulled Ali onto his shoulders, and landed an Avalanche Phantom Driver and got the win.
Santos Escobar defeated Mustafa Ali at 8:48
After the match, Escobar celebrated with Rey Mysterio. The rest of the LWO walked out and joined in on the celebration. Sami Zayn appeared and walked up to Jey Uso backstage. He spoke fondly of his time in the Bloodline, and told Jey in a different world they might still be doing it, except for the Tribal Chief. He spoke about Roman’s paranoia and how nothing he ever did was enough, and Roman was constantly testing his loyalty, even putting him against his own brother just like he’s doing to him.
Sami continued and said that he hopes Jey wins the US Title so he can see that The Bloodline needs him more than he needs them. He finished by telling Jey to follow his heart instead of what Roman and Paul Heyman were putting in his head. Jey walked off without saying a word…[c]
My Take: A fun match from Ali and Escobar. There was one scary spot where it looked like Escobar hit the back of his head on the ring steps, but he seemed ok afterward. The camera angle may have made it look worse than it actually was. Sami continuing to play a part in the Bloodline story as the good angel on Jey’s shoulder to Paul Heyman’s bad one is an interesting use of his character.
Braun Strowman will drive the Pace Car at a Nascar event this weekend. Jey Uso vs Austin Theory was advertised for later. Kayla Braxton stood in the ring, and brought out Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn for an interview. Before they could speak, they were interrupted by WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler.
Baszler had a microphone and reminded Fyre and Dawn that she was the reason that those titles were created. Ronda piped up and said she crunched some numbers and they were going to run out of competition soon. She said that the division wasn’t big enough for the four of them, and she wanted their titles. Fyre and Dawn considered their proposal and accepted, and then popped them both in the face. A brawl ensued, and Fyre and Dawn got the better of it. Shayna wanted to continue to go after them, but Shayna held her back.
Michael Cole then introduced a memorial video package for the Iron Sheik, including his title win over Bob Backlund, and his impact on the launch of WWE’s early success in the 1980s. After the video, Bayley made her entrance for her Money in the Bank qualifying match up next…[c]
My Take: I’m happy they are unifying the Women’s Tag Titles. Having the ability for those titles to move back and forth between NXT and the Main Roster will create more opportunities for strong feuds and for developing some of the young Women’s talent in Orlando.
Michin completed her entrance with AJ Styles when the show returned.
2. Bayley (w/Iyo Sky) vs. Michin in a Money in the Bank qualifier: AJ Styles joined on commentary at the start of the match. Bayley ended up on the floor early and gloated to AJ Styles. Michin dove on her with a suicide dive, and then continued to land strikes in the ring. She then pulled Bayley down with a flying body scissors of sorts, and then a tornado DDT for a near fall. Bayley faked a broken nose, but it didn’t pay off as Michin didn’t buy it and landed a kick.
Bayley escaped to the apron and pulled Michin’s hair and sent her into the turnbuckle in the corner. She then followed up with the Roseplant and got a quick victory.
Bayley defeated Michin at 3:12
After the match, Scarlett walked up to AJ Styles and blew some red powder into his face. Karrion Kross then snuck up from behind Styles in the crowd, and applied a choke. Michin interrupted and ran off Scarlett, who jumped into the arms of Kross. Styles was left to recover with Michin. Backstage, Bianca Belair spoke to Adam Pearce. He asked her not to interfere with the title presentation for Asuka. She initially refused, but softened her position after Pearce told her she was in line for a rematch…[c]
My Take: Not much of a match there. The finish was designed to protect Michin, but I’m not sure it came across that way. Kross continues to search for a character and a purpose.
A video of the Kross and Scarlett attack on Styles was shown. The OC were shown backstage angry and swore revenge on Kross and Scarlett. Adam Pearce was shown in the ring with the same title presentation table that was used for Roman Reigns’ new title last week. He then brought out Asuka. Pearce quickly unveiled and presented Asuka with what was termed the new “WWE Women’s Championship”. It was a gold face similar to Roman’s title form last week, except on a white leather strap.
Charlotte Flair made her entrance to interrupt things, fresh off her post WrestleMania vacation. Asuka did her best to look surprised. Adam Pearce said he knew what Charlotte was trying to do, but told her she needed to get in line. Charlotte told him that she doesn’t wait in line because she made the line. Charlotte said no one respects Asuka more than her, but she wants that title and she was challenging her for it. Asuka quickly accepted, which made Pearce angry. Asuka attempted to spray Mist on Charlotte, but she ducked it and landed a big boot. Asuka rolled to the outside and walked to the back while Charlotte celebrated.
A recap was shown of the opening segment with Jey Uso refusing to give Paul Heyman an answer on his status in the Bloodline. Jey was then shown taping up his wrists backstage. Paul Heyman walked up to him and gave him credit for leaving him hanging. Heyman said the next thing he wants him to put in his hands are his passport and his suit measurements. He continued and told Jey that he would have a celebration next week as new US Champion, and that Roman would publicly acknowledge him as being groomed for the next Tribal Chief.
Jey told Heyman that all sounded great, but he’s not sure why he looks so happy, because if he’s in the Bloodline that means Heyman is out. Heyman pulled his phone up to his face as the camera cut away. Back in the arena, The Brawling Brutes made their entrance, with Butch wrestling next…[c]
My Take: Charlotte returning doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as she seemed like a lock for Summerslam if nothing else. Charlotte vs. Bianca has seemed inevitable for a while, but we’ll see if it’s over the Women’s Championship or not. It certainly doesn’t need to be in order to sell that match. Jey outplaying Heyman again was a fun segment.
Backstage, Adam Pearce talked up the Asuka and Charlotte match to someone on the phone. Bianca walked up angry, and he told her he’d figure it out. She said he better, and when she gets her lick back it will be justified. Baron Corbin made his entrance for the next match. Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams were announced as being at ringside. Corbin grabbed a microphone and said he was going to beat Butch and win Money in the Bank again. He then turned his attention to Hayes and called him a fan who should stay on the safe side of the barricade.
3. Baron Corbin vs. Butch in a Money in the Bank Qualifier: Butch landed some quick strikes and a tornado DDT for a near fall. Corbin returned fire some some punches. Butch bent up Corbin’s fingers, but was dropped by a hard right hand. Corbin attempted a chokeslam. He turned to talk trash to Hayes, and was rolled up for the win by Butch.
Butch defeated Baron Corbin to qualify for Money in the Bank
After the match, Corbin jawed with Hayes and Williams, and got punched in the jaw for his trouble. WWE officials separated them and pulled Corbin away. After the match, we got a video package for Bobby Lashley. Shotzi then made her entrance in the arena.
My Take: WWE seems to be doing their level best to raise the stock of NXT. I have to believe the fact that it’s happening during TV negotiations is no coincidence.
Butch was interviewed backstage, and said he was going home to London to take that briefcase, because every night the Brutes are back in the UK is Fight Night. Baron Corbin tried to interrupt, but Cameron Grimes walked up and sucker punched him. In the arena, Iyo Sky made her entrance for the next Money in the Bank Qualifying Match.
4. Iyo Sky (w/Bayley) vs. Shotzi in a Money in the Bank Qualifier: Bayley provided early interference and Iyo landed a dropkick. Shotzi fired back with a suplex, but Iyo quickly recovered and attacked Shotzi’s right arm. Iyo went for a top rope dropkick and nobody was home. Shotzi replied with a dropkick and a double underhook suplex. She then landed a suicide dive onto Sky on the outside.
Shotzi climbed up top and Sky interrupted her with a Shotei. Sky then jawed with the ref so Bayley could shove Shotzi into the ring. Iyo then landed a moonsault and got the win.
Iyo Sky defeated Shotzi at 3:12
After the match, Austin Theory was interviewed backstage. He said Jey Uso would go back to The Bloodline without a title like the loser that he is. Theory then said that if Heyman is looking for new clients, he should take a look at Austin Theory…[c]
My Take: No surprises in the Money in the Bank qualifiers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the amount of interference and bad finishes was disappointing.
Sami Zayn was shown backstage. Kevin Owens walked up to him and asked him whether he talked to Jey. Sami said yes, and Kevin then asked if they could focus on the Tag Team Championships. Eventually Pretty Deadly, The Good Brothers, Brawling Brutes, LWO, and Street Profits all demanded tag title matches in rapid fire order. Owens freaked out and said that he needed some space. Sami tried to calm down the situation. Adam Pearce walked up and said they could all have a gauntlet match next week to determine the next challengers for the Tag Team Titles.
Cole and Barrett then introduced a video package that hyped up Grayson Waller. He will have Charlotte Flair on the Grayson Waller Effect next week. Jey Uso made his ring entrance after the video package.The Main Event is up next…[c]
My Take: Owens and Zayn seem to be having a lot of run doing these characters. I’m not a huge fan of gauntlet matches, but hopefully they can surprise me.
It was confirmed that Asuka will defend the Women’s Title against Charlotte in 3 weeks in London. In two weeks, the Women’s Tag Title Unification Match will take place. A mixed tag between Michin/AJ Styles and Scarlett/Karrion Kross is coming up next week, along with the Tag Gauntlet Match and the return of Roman Reigns. Austin Theory made his ring entrance for the Main Event. Mike Rome made ring introductions.
5. Austin Theory vs. Jey Uso for the WWE United States Championship: They traded strikes early on. Jey clotheslined Theory to ringside and then tossed him over the announce table. Jey celebrated on top of the announce table and played to the crowd…[c]
Theory regained control during the break and held into a side headlock. Jey broke free and traded punches with Theory, and then delivered a neckbreaker for a near fall. He then attempted a charge in the corner, but Theory sent him into the second turnbuckle. Theory then followed up with a rolling drop kick. He then picked up Jey in a torture rack and spun out Jey into a powerbomb. Theory covered for another near fall.
Jey avoided A-Town down, and landed an enziguri. He then went for a kick, but Theory bumped the referee in the process of going down. Jey landed a splash from the top but wasn’t able to make a cover. Pretty Deadly ran down to attack Jey, but Jimmy Uso made the save. Solo ran down to attack Jimmy, and Jey stopped him from landing a Samoan Spike. Jimmy attempted to superkick Solo, but hit Jey instead. He then took Solo out with a kick and sent him to ringside. Jimmy then dove on Solo, but Theory snuck in and stole the win.
Austin Theory defeated Jey Uso at 8:40
After the match, Jey looked frustrated while Jimmy was apologetic. Solo and Heyman looked on from the entryway. Jimmy helped Jey up, but he was angry and shoved him away. Jey then walked by Solo and Heyman, and Heyman told him he was sorry it had to happen this way. He then walked out and Heyman initiated a phone call to Roman Reigns. Cole and Barrett ran down next week’s card one more time to close the show.
My Take: You had to know there wouldn’t be any definitive developments on this show given that they have so long until the next PPV. I assume Jey will continue to be conflicted until they get to London and he sides with his brother, setting up the Summerslam feud. The match with Jey and Theory was fine, but there wasn’t much of it on TV with the commercial break. I will back tomorrow with the Member’s Exclusive audio review of Smackdown.