By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,248)
Raleigh, North Carolina at PNC Arena
Aired live July 14, 2023 on Fox
The show began with Jey Uso walking backstage. Cole and Barrett welcomed the crowd to the arena and Bianca Belair made her ring entrance in street clothes. She faces Asuka later tonight for the WWE Women’s Championship. Bianca said it’s often said that good things come to those who wait, but it’s difficult when you want something so bad. She mentioned wanting a title match since she lost at Night of Champions in Jeddah, and all the hoops she’s had to go through to get it. Bianca said tonight was her night, and she would give Asuka the KOD and walk out as WWE Women’s Champion.
Charlotte’s music played and she made her way out to the ring. Charlotte said Bianca had her fired up. She predicted that Bianca would win tonight and walk out as the WWE Women’s Champion, and she wanted to put an end to any confusion for who is next in line. Bianca mockingly said the line begins and ends with her, and Charlotte smiled and said she wouldn’t have said it that way. Charlotte then laid out a challenge to her if she wins the title, and Bianca said she wasn’t going to jinx herself, but pitched the match at Summerslam. Charlotte said if she wins, it’s on, and they shook hands.
Charlotte left and Bianca was left in the ring. Asuka was shown backstage looking at a monitor unimpressed. Cole and Barrett said Jey Uso is on the warpath and he would appear later tonight. They then plugged AJ Styles facing Santos Escobar, Butch, and Grayson Waller in a US Championship Invitational later on as well. Backstage, The Brawling Brutes got fired up for their matches. Sheamus and Ridge face Pretty Deadly, and Butch is in the aforementioned US Title Invitational match. Ridge and Sheamus made their ring entrance for the match with Pretty Deadly next…[c]
My Take: Bianca overlooking Asuka and Iyo to plan for a match with Charlotte couldn’t possibly backfire. I’m sure of it.
Pretty Deadly made their entrance after the break for the opening match.
1. The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus and Ridge) vs. Pretty Deadly (Kit Wilson and Elton Prince): Prince started the match with Sheamus, but he quickly rolled out of the ring. Sheamus pulled Wilson into the ring and pummeled him. He then delivered rolling sentons to both Prince and Wilson. Sheamus clotheslined Wilson to the floor and tagged in Ridge. Sheamus landed a body slam on Prince and Ridge landed an elbow drop.
Prince and Wilson quickly responded by cutting off Ridge in their corner. They made frequent tags and kept Ridge from getting any traction. Ridge avoided a charge into the corner and made a tag to Sheamus. They then pulled Pretty Deadly into the apron and landed some clubbing blows to the chest as the crowd counted them up….[c]
Prince and Wilson isolated Sheamus as the show returned. Prince ran around the ring to prevent a crawling Sheamus from reaching Ridge for a hot tag. Wilson climbed to the top and jumped right into a knee, and both men were down. Ridge tagged in and used his power to throw around both members of Pretty Deadly. He tossed Prince into Wilson with an overhead suplex and landed a Fisherman’s Buster on Prince for a near fall.
Sheamus climbed to the top and took out Wilson with a body block. Ridge covered Prince in the ring, but Wilson broke it up. Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick on Wilson, but Prince sent him to the floor afterwards. He then loosened the turnbuckle pad, and baited Ridge into charging into the exposed turnbuckle throat first. He then landed a top rope leg drop and covered for the win.
Pretty Deadly defeated The Brawling Brutes at 10:36
After the match, a video package aired that recapped Edge vs. Grayson Waller from last week. Waller was then interviewed backstage and said he had Edge right where he wanted him, and he swam last week. He then brought up The Rock addressing him on Social Media rather than his imploding family. He called that the Grayson Waller effect, if you smell what he’s cooking. A tribal court supercut was promised for next…[c]
My Take: A decent TV Tag match to open things up. I’d rather see Sheamus doing meaningful singles work, but until then this isn’t bad. Pretty Deadly continues to be entertaining even if they don’t feel like major threats to the tag titles without a few more convincing wins.
Bianca vs. Asuka was billed for the Main Event. We then got a recap video segment for the Tribal Court segment from last week. Afterwards, the announce team said Jimmy Uso suffered ruptured rib cartilage and will be out of action for the foreseeable future. Charlotte was shown walking backstage and got approached by Adam Pearce. She said she felt good about Bianca and her title match at Summerslam, so she was leaving. Pearce was surprised and said ok. Bayley and Iyo Sky approached and said they also felt pretty confident, and Iyo tapped her briefcase.
Charlotte returned to Pearce and said that she was going to stay, on second thought…[c]
My Take: I can’t believe Iyo blew up Charlotte and Bianca’s plans.
Zelina Vega completed her entrance for the next match. She was followed by Bayley (w/Iyo Sky). Bayley carried a lock of Shotzi’s hair to the ring. A video was shown of them cutting her hair from two weeks ago. Bayley laughed as it was shown on the screen.
2. Bayley (w/Iyo Sky) vs. Zelina Vega: Bayley jumped Vega as the bell rang and landed an elbow strike. Vega retreated to the floor, but Bayley followed and bounced her off the announce table. Vega recovered and landed a second rope meteora for a near fall. She then landed a flying head scissors and a twisting cutter for another two count.
Bayley grabbed Zelina’s chancla and tried to hit her with it, but ate a Codebreaker for her trouble. Vega retrieved the chancla and smacked Bayley with it multiple times. There was a distraction near the ropes from Sky, and Bayley ended up landing a Rose Plant and got the win.
Bayley defeated Zelina Vega at 2:02
After the match, Shotzi was shown on the screen with a hair clipper. She said she was in control and wanted to show Bayley how chaotic she really is. She then buzzed off her hair and admitted that she is a little weird, and screamed that she was in control. Jey Uso then made his entrance for a promo coming up next…[c]
My Take: Not much of a match there, but it was fine. Shotzi’s going down the rabbit hole of being a mentally unstable heel could pay off if she can find a way to connect with the audience with it. Only time will tell.
The Club was shown backstage with AJ getting ready for his US Title Match. Jey Uso stood in the ring for his promo. An Uso chant broke out as he was pacing around. He spoke about growing up with his brother and being inseparable. Jey said it’s great having brothers but being twins is special. Jey said if Jimmy is sad, he’s sad and so on. When Jimmy is hurt, he’s hurt too, and he never imagined Jimmy would be hurt by his own family member.
He said he respected everyone in his family, but Roman Reigns would get all of his disrespect. Jey said he would spank his younger brother Solo just like he did last week. He addressed Paul Heyman and said he had been puppeteering his family for 40 years and it ends today. Jey called himself the real chief, and his name is Main Event Jey Uso.
Paul Heyman and Solo walked out, and told him Solo was there to keep the peace. Heyman continued and said next week he would meet with Roman Reigns to determine the rules of engagement, following a process handed down by Afa and Sika. He then explained that what happened to Jimmy Uso was his fault, because he tried to rip away the title of tribal chief from Roman Reigns against the wishes of the family. He addressed Jimmy and told him that he was in the hospital because of his brother.
Heyman continued and told Jey that his father, his mother, and Roman Reigns will never forgive him. Solo took the mic and said what happened to Jimmy is all on him, and he would never forgive him either. They traded blows and Jimmy kicked Solo through the ropes and out of the ring. Heyman begged off, and the crowd got excited about Jey attacking him. Solo clubbed him from behind and attempted the Samoan Spike, but Jey grabbed a double leg and landed punches. He then dumped Solo to ringside and kicked Paul Heyman in the face.
Jey looked down at a chair that Paul had brought into the ring. He grabbed it, but Solo got back in the ring. Jey hit him in the ribs and then across the back. Solo and Heyman escaped to ringside and up to the stage. Jey held the chair over his head and fired up the crowd. Cole and Barrett plugged the Women’s Championship Match in the main event.
Austin Theory made his ring entrance.for the invitational match coming up next…[c]
My Take: Great stuff from Heyman and Jey Uso. The crowd was going nuts for Jey’s offense and Heyman taking a superkick had them unglued. Jey protected Heyman pretty well and barely made any contact to speak of.
Butch and Santos Escobar were in the ring. Grayson Waller made his ring entrance. Austin Theory was introduced on commentary. AJ Styles rounded out the ring entrances.
3. Grayson Waller vs. AJ Styles vs. Butch vs. Santos Escobar: Waller punched Butch and left to ring side to talk trash to Austin Theory. Escobar was sent to the floor with a dropkick from Styles. Butch returned and he and Styles tied up. Waller and Escobar quickly got involved again, and the pace picked up. Rapid fire offense from everyone saw Styles land a Pele Kick on Escobar and Butch take down Waller with a German Suplex…[c]
AJ landed a sliding forearm on Waller and followed up with an Ushigoroshi. He covered, but Butch broke up the pin. Escobar landed some chops on Butch, and everybody ended up stacked up against the ropes. Escobar pulled off a tower of doom sunset flip powerbomb on all three opponents. He then followed up with diving double knees, and a Phantom Driver on Waller, but Butch broke up the fall.
Butch fired up and took out Escobar and Styles with acrobatic strikes. He then landed a kick to the back of the neck of Waller. Things got Chaoticas Styles landed a phenomenal forearm and took out Escobar. A video played on the screen where Karrion Kross choked out Karl Anderson backstage and told Styles they weren’t done. Waller took out Styles on the outside as he left the ring and landed a rolling stunner on Butch. Escobar landed a top rope splash on Waller as he laid prone and got the win.
Santos Escobar defeated AJ Styles, Grayson Waller and Butch at 10:41
The women’s match was hyped up for later…[c]
My Take: This Kross and Styles program just won’t end. Good to see Escobar get a win, though.
Backstage, Styles told the rest of The OC that Kross was right, and it’s not over. Backstage, a Limo pulled up alongside the Street Profits. Bobby Lashley emerged and greeted them. He asked if they were ready to talk, and they got in. A video package was shown for Rey Mysterio, and he was entering the tournament for the US Title Tournament. We also saw brief promos to the same effect from Cameron Grimes and Sheamus.
In the arena, LA Knight made his entrance to a pop. He declared that he was coming for the US Title. He said you can call him the Megastar or The GOAT, but sooner or later you will be calling him Champ. The crowd went nuts for all of his catchphrases.
Bianca Belair made her entrance for the Main Event…[c]
My Take: LA Knight is mega over. The US Title qualifier match next week sounds like it will be fun.
Asuka made her entrance for the Main Event. Mike Rome made ring introductions.
4. Asuka vs. Bianca Belair for the WWE Women’s Championship: Bayley and Iyo were shown approaching the ringside area with tickets. Asuka attempted a sliding kick, but Bianca avoided it. Bianca then landed a shoulder tackle. Asuka used Bianca’s hair to regain control, and landed a drop toe hold into the second rope. Bianca attempted a KOD, but Asuka avoided it and pulled her down with an arm drag.
Bayla and Iyo were agitating at ringside with a briefcase. Charlotte appeared with a ticket of her own and headed to ringside…[c]
My Take: Where are they getting all of these paper tickets? Do they even exist anymore?
Bianca landed a clothesline and a vertical suplex. She then followed up with a moonsault for a two count. Both women battled on the ropes. Bianca backflipped away to avoid a strike, and Asuka followed up with a shotgun dropkick. Asuka landed a knee strike and then pulled Bianca down for an arm submission. Bianca powered Asuka back up and landed a spinebuster for a near fall. She then attempted another backflip moonsault, but Asuka caught her in the Asuka Lock.
Asuka landed a codebreaker and Bianca landed on the floor. She followed up with a strike, but Bianca avoided it and landed a KOD onto the announce table. This prompted everyone at ringside to get involved. Bianca was speared by Charlotte inadvertently and caused a disqualification.
Asuka defeated Bianca Belair by disqualification at 8:32
After the match, Iyo attempted to cash in, but Asuka recovered and misted Bayley before making her escape. The announce team plugged Roman Reigns and Jey Uso’s confrontation for next week. The show will be on FS1 next week due to pre-emption.
My Take: A decent match while it lasted, but the outcome never seemed in doubt so it was difficult to fully invest. I think the Triple Threat between Asuka, Charlotte, and Bianca is still in play, with the threat of an Iyo cash-in looming.