By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,244)
Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena
Aired live June 16, 2023 on Fox
A video recapped last week’s “As the Bloodline Turns” storyline. The result was Roman returning for this week’s show, and Jey stipulating that Paul Heyman had to leave the Bloodline for him to remain in, and then remaining conflicted after Jimmy inadvertently cost him the US Championship.
The Bloodline limo pulled up backstage with Kayla Braxton standing by. Solo, Roman, and Paul Heyman got out. Roman blew off Kayla and left Heyman to deal with her. He sighed and walked away. Michael Cole then joined the broadcast and questioned whether Jey Uso would fall in line. The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) made their ring entrance for the Gauntlet Match to determine the number one contenders for the WWE Undisputed Tag Team Champions. The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus and Ridge Holland) made their entrance next.
Around the ring we saw Hit Row (Ashante Thee Adonis and Top Dolla), The LWO (Cruz Del Toro and Joaquin Wilde), The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows), as well as Pretty Deadly (Elton Prince and Kit Wilson).
1. The Street Profits vs. The Brawling Brutes start the Tag Team Gauntlet Match: Sheamus and Ford started the match. Holland tagged in quickly and landed a suplex. Ford flipped out of several offensive attempts from Holland and landed a leaping enziguri. He tagged in Dawkins, who knocked Sheamus off the apron and splashed Holland in the corner. Sheamus made a blind tag and caught Dawkins with a surprise Brogue Kick to get a quick victory.
The Brawling Brutes defeated the Street Profits at 2:42 to advance.
The Brawling Brutes vs. The Good Brothers: Gallows and Anderson got quick jump on Sheamus and Holland to start…[c]
My Take: Not much of a showing there for the Street Profits. That’s a bit surprising.
Sheamus attempted to punch his way back into the match, but Gallows picked him up and slammed him to regain control. Anderson tagged in and landed a punch to the gut. He continued to grind down Sheamus and made a tag back out to Gallows. Sheamus punched his way free of a headlock and managed to push Gallows off the ropes and land a powerslam. Anderson prevented a tag with a kick to the ribs and knocked Holland off the apron. Sheamus caught Anderson with a Brogue Kick and got the pin.
The Brawling Brutes defeated The Good Brothers at 8:16
3. The LWO vs. The Brawling Brutes: Del Toro and Wilde sent The Brutes to the floor and splashed them. Del Toro then landed a moonsault on Sheamus in the ring for a near fall. Sheamus landed a knee strike and made a tag. Holland slammed down Del Toro and got the win.
The Brawling Brutes defeated the LWO at 10:04
4. Hit Row vs. The Brawling Brutes: Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick on Top Dolla and Holland covered him for the win almost immediately.
The Brawling Brutes defeated Hit Row at 10:16
Pretty Deadly’s music hit and they remained on the floor…[c]
My Take: The Smackdown Tag Division are a bunch of chumps, apparently.
5. Pretty Deadly vs. The Brawling Brutes: The match was joined in progress with Elton Prince in control on Ridge Holland. Kit WIlson tagged in and delivered a neckbreaker for a near fall. Prince tagged back in and tossed Holland into the corner at high speed. Pretty Deadly attempted a double team, but Holland landed a double backdrop and crawled for a hot tag to Sheamus. Prince tried to stop him, but to no avail.
Sheamus entered the match and landed a pair of Irish Curse Backbreakers on Prince and Wilson. He then slammed Prince on top of Wilson and played to the crowd. He called for the Brogue Kick, but Wilson avoided it. Sheamus managed to land an Alabama Slam, but Prince broke up the pin. Wilson rolled out to the apron, and Sheamus landed clubs to the chest on both Wilson and Prince. The crowd counted to 30.
Prince managed to slap Wilson and get a blind tag. Sheamus landed a Razor’s Edge on Wilson, but Prince came off the top with a leg drop and rolled Sheamus over to get a win.
Pretty Deadly defeated The Brawling Brutes at 21:02 to become #1 Contenders for the Tag Team Championships
Wilson and Prince celebrated after the match…[c]
My Take: I’m happy with the outcome, but some of the teams definitely got short changed by the layout of the match. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be mad if Pretty Deadly captured the Tag Titles at some point, but this seems a little early for that. There’s enough teams on both shows that I wonder if splitting the titles up at some point makes the most sense.
Pretty Deadly remained in the ring celebrating after the show returned from commercial. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens made their entrance with microphones. Zayn said there were some congratulations were in order because nobody thought they were going to win. He said they won 5 minutes ago and they were still in the ring celebrating, which means they’ve overstayed their welcome by about 5 minutes.
Prince asked who they were to interrupt Pretty Deadly, the Dandy Highwaymen, the Tastiest Snacks in WWE. They questioned how Sami’s hair was so wet and theirs was dry after they just defeated five teams, and said they will celebrate even longer when they win the Undisputed Tag Team Titles. Sami asked Kevin if he was hearing this, because he’s been going off on everything lately. Owens said yes, and it would be wonderful if they could run down there and punch their stupid faces. They then ran to the ring, but Pretty Deadly made a run for the back.
Backstage, Paul Heyman nervously asked Roman Reigns if he had spoken to Jey Uso. He said no, he’s the Tribal Chief and Jey should be reaching out to him. He then asked Heyman if he had spoken to Jey, and he said not since last Friday. Roman said that wasn’t a question, and commanded him to go speak to Jey. Heyman nervously ran out of the room.
In the arena, Iyo Sky made her ring entrance with Bayley for the next match…[c]
My Take: Pretty Deadly delivered well in their first promo, and they don’t feel out of place feuding with Owens and Zayn. Hopefully they get more microphone time in the next few weeks before the PLE. It’s always fun to see Paul Heyman nearly crapping his pants.
Zelina Vega mad her entrance while a video was shown of this match being made on Smackdown Lowdown last week.
6. Zelina Vega vs. Iyo Sky: Vega offered a handshake to start the match, and Sky slapped her instead. Iyo flipped out of a headscissors attempt and then landed a dropkick. Vega charged the corner, but Sky got a foot up. She then applied a straightjacket choke over the top rope. Sky applied a hammerlock, but Vega escaped and rolled her up for two. A referee distraction from Bayley resulted in a late count from the ref and Vega kicked out of a roll up.
Sky accosted Bayley on the outside, and Vega took advantage with a 619. Vega stacked up Sky and stole the win.
Zelina Vega defeated Iyo Sky at 3:55
After the match, Bayley and Sky argued. A video was then shown of the drama triangle between Charlotte Flair, Asuka, and Bianca Belair. Bianca walked up to Adam Pearce backstage, and he told her to be patient and she would get her rematch. In the arena, the set was being put together for the Grayson Waller Effect with Charlotte Flair…[c]
My Take: The blow up between Bayley and Sky should be ready to kick off at Money in the Bank. I hope that means Iyo going after Asuka and the title. Charlotte and Bianca at SummerSlam doesn’t need the title to feel like a big deal.
Bayley and Iyo continued to argue backstage when Shotzi walked up. She told Bayley that if it weren’t for her, she’d be in the Money in the Bank Match. Bayely said she’s not on Damage Control’s level, and she doesn’t deserve to be in the match. Shotzi replied that if she was so sure of that, she should put her spot on the line. Iyo accepted on Bayley’s behalf, and Shotzi walked off to make it official.
Grayson Waller was introduced in the ring. He introduced Charlotte as a 14 time Champion and a titan of the industry. She made her entrance and walked carefully to the ring in very tall heels. Waller held the ring ropes open for her as she got to the ring. Waller set things by speaking about Charlotte ending Asuka’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, but said it wasn’t the same Asuka she had faced before.
Waller asked if she was going to become a 15 time champion. She said 15…16, but as long as they’re talking numbers she has Asuka’s number. Waller wooed and that prompted Bianca Belair to walk out in her own catsuit and heels combination. She asked Charlotte if she was trippin’ because she was due a rematch and Charlotte just walked in and called her shot. Charlotte said she didn’t make the rules and didn’t politic to change them so she wasn’t going to apologize.
Bianca said she stuck around and got her title shot the right way, and Charlotte ran away for 3 months and then called her shot. Charlotte said she didn’t run away, she stepped away, and she has lost before and picked herself back up 14 times. She questioned whether Bianca was a champion with or without the title like she was. Bianca replied that she’s the longest reigning Women’s Champion of the modern era and Charlotte should put respect on her name. She told Charlotte that she would be ringside for her match with Asuka in London, and no matter who won she would call her shot.
Backstage, Paul Heyman approached Jey Uso. He told him he was sorry that he was right last week. Paul said Jimmy Uso was the most accurate kick in WWE next to Jey, and he meant what he did last week just like he meant to kick Roman Reigns at Night of Champions. Jey replied that he was sorry too, because if he was in that Paul Heyman was out. Heyman stared at him and walked away.
Back in the arena, AJ Styles and Michin made their entrance for the next match…[c]
My Take: A good promo from Bianca. Charlotte really had no logical defense of the way she is continually granted title shots, and Bianca defended herself well. Charlotte gets babyface reactions as a legacy star but her reasoning is very heel in nature.
Scarlett and Karrion Kross made their entrance. Video was shown of the setup for this match last week, with Scarlett and Kross attacking Styles.
7. AJ Styles and Michin vs. Karrion Kross and Scarlett: Styles and Kross started the match. AJ got the early jump on Kross with a running forearm. He tagged Michin, who then landed an assisted Tornado DDT on Kross. Scarlett entered and both women traded blows. Michin landed a German Suplex, and Kross tagged back in. Styles entered and landed a Styles Clash, but Scarlett broke up the pinfall. Scarlett attempted to seduce him, and Styles pointed to his hand and said he was married.
Michin pulled Scarlett to the floor. Kross applied a Kross Jacket, and then landed a Kross Hammer, He then landed a spinning slam similar to the F5 and got the win.
Karrion Kross and Scarlett defeated AJ Styles and Michin at 2:44
After the match, Roman Reigns was shown backstage. Paul Heyman walked up and nodded no. He spoke up briefly but then got quiet again. Solo stood up and Heyman scampered away. Solo asked if Roman wanted him to handle it, and Roman told him to take it easy since they had plenty of time…[c]
My Take: The booking for that mixed tag was awful. AJ looked like a moron and Michin apparently left the earth after pulling Scarlett to the floor.
A video aired that showcased WWE’s involvement with the Special Olympics coming up in Berlin. Cameron Grimes was interviewed backstage. He said about 4 words before being assaulted by Baron Corbin. He told Grimes that he got lucky and his luck has run out. In the arena, Rey Mysterio made his entrance in street clothes.
Rey said hello to the crowd and talked about how reforming the LWO was one of his proudest accomplishments. He then brought out Santos Escobar, and called him the essence of the LWO and the next Mr. Money in the Bank. Escobar walked out and spoke about the lifetime of sacrifices that led him to Money in the Bank. He thanked Rey for believing in him and told him he loved him. Santos told Rey he inspired him, and he was fighting for him. He then said he was fighting for mi gente, mi familia, and la raza. Escobar said he was fighting for everyone in the WWE Universe that has a dream.
LA Knight then made his entrance and immediately shoved Rey Mysterio to the ground. Escobar attacked him, and set him up for a 619. Knight rolled out of the ring before Rey could pull it off…[c]
My Take: Escobar delivered a convincing babyface promo there, which is not easy to do. Knight is a great shitbird.
8. LA Knight vs. Santos Escobar: The match was joined in progress with LA Knight in control. The crowd chanted for Knight. Escobar fired back with a clothesline and a tilt a whirl backbreaker. He then landed a flying crossbody and double knees in the corner. He set up for the Phantom Driver, but Knight escaped and landed a neckbreaker. A moment later, Escobar attempted to roll up Escobar and grab the ropes. Escobar knocked his arm free with his leg and reversed the roll up for the win.
Santos Escobar defeated LA Knight
After the match, Knight attacked Escobar again, which prompted Rey Mysterio to run down and make the save…[c]
My Take: WWE continues to refuse to give crowds a reason to cheer Knight, but they do it anyway. Apparently the reverse psychology is working. Escobar is a good babyface but a better heel. When he kicks Mysterio out of the LWO and turns on him it’s going to be a huge program.
Jey Uso walked backstage and ran into Sami Zayn. They exchanged looks and Sami walked away. Roman’s music hit in the arena and he walked out with Solo and Paul Heyman…[c]
Roman carried his new Unified Championship and Paul Heyman still carried the other two. Roman addressed Lexington and told them to acknowledge him. Jey Uso’s music hit and he headed to the ring. Roman told Jey that he knows what they want, and they want answers. He asked him if he was in or if he was out. Jey paused briefly and told Roman to tell him. He pointed to Heyman and told Roman that was either him or it’s me.
After a pause, Roman told Jey that when he’s tribal chief he can choose who he wants for a wise man. He said that Paul is his wiseman, not The Bloodline’s wise man or Jey’s wiseman. Roman explained that he was only meant to get them to the promised land, and Jey was meant to keep them there. He said that’s why they’ve been grooming him for 3 years, made him the right hand man, and put him in position to be main event Jey Uso. Roman said the problem isn’t the wise man, it’s his brother.
Jimmy made his entrance and said that his brother isn’t the problem, it’s his cousin. He asked him whether he believes the garbage coming out of his mouth or his brother. Roman responded and said it took them 10 years to get them on WrestleMania, and since they’ve been with him it’s been every year. Roman then prompted Paul Heyman and asked who was the only one who had a problem when they made Jey the right hand man, and Heyman revealed it was Jimmy.
Jey asked him if it was true, and he said it was. He paced around and asked Jimmy if he has been doubting him this whole time. Jimmy said he was looking out for him. Jey brought up that their entire lives they thought they were competing against Roman, but the reality is he was keeping up with Jimmy. He recalled him being Prom King and being voted most likely to succeed.
Jimmy looked depressed. Jey said a blessing happened in disguise. When Jimmy got hurt, he stepped up. He main evented Smackdown and PPV’s and they know him now as the right hand man and that’s because of Roman Reigns. He told Jimmy that he was out, and guess what….he was out too.
Jey then kicked Roman in the face, and they both kicked Solo Sikoa. Heyman looked disgusted and Roman angrily got back to his feet. They both kicked him again to close the show. Jimmy and Jey celebrated.
My Take: A big revelation heading into Money in the Bank. The Bloodline is crumbling around Roman and he is running out of friends. This is usually the part of the rise and fall story where the leader gets desperate and starts enlisting the help of untrustworthy people that end up turning on him and picking over the bones. The other possibility is that Roman completely isolates himself with paranoia. In either case, he’s got a big babyface run coming down the road.