By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,249)
Orlando, Florida at Amway Arena
Aired live July 21, 2023 on FS1
A video package opened the show that recapped the Bloodline story since Night of Champions and the setup for tonight’s “Rules of Engagement” meeting between Jey Uso and Roman Reigns. Cole and Barrett then welcomed the crowd to the arena and plugged Roman Reigns making an appearance later tonight. Austin Theory was at ringside and ring entrances began for the Fatal Four Way US Title Invitational Match. Rey Mysterio was out first, followed by Sheamus, Cameron Grimes, and LA Knight.
Knight had a microphone. An LA Knight chant broke out. LA said SummerSlam is right around the corner and it’s the biggest party of the Summer. He said the party he wants to go to is the one where he captures the US Title. Knight said there are three men who are in his way that will find out who’s game it is.
1. Rey Mysterio vs. Sheamus vs. Cameron Grimes vs LA Knight in a US Title Invitational Fatal Four Way Match: There was a brawl early on and everybody but LA Knight ended up the floor. He fired up the crowd with a prompt for his catchphrase…[c]
Grimes launched Mysterio into the barricade on the floor. Knight landed a lariat on Sheamus for a two count. Sheamus fired back with a rolling senton and a two count of his own. Knight was sent out to the apron. Grimes tried to roll up Sheamus, but got a two count. Mysterio landed a head scissors that sent Grimes colliding into Knight on the apron. Sheamus and Mysterio briefly teamed up to land clubbing blows to the chest on both Grimes and Knight.
Mysterio tried an arm drag on Sheamus but went nowhere. Sheamus picked up Mysterio but he slipped out and sent Sheamus into the ropes. This backfired and Sheamus caught him with an Irish Curse backbreaker. Grimes took out both men with a cross body from the top rope, and then traded off landing kicks on both Sheamus and Mysterio. Knight entered the ring and ate an enziguri. Grimes then planted Mysterio with a spinning side slam and covered, but Sheamus broke it up.
Grimes recovered and landed some kicks, but Sheamus used his power to regain control with a backbreaker. Knight pulled Sheamus under the bottom rope and landed a back suplex on the apron. Knight landed a forearm on Grimes, but Mysterio took him out with a baseball slide. Everybody bunched up in the corner for a tower of doom spot, and Sheamus initiated a cascade powerbomb out of the corner that had all four men down…[c]
On the floor, Mysterio sent Grimes into Austin Theory. Sheamus came off the top and landed a double clothesline to the floor onto Mysterio and Grimes. He then sent both Grimes and Mysterio into the barricades. He then landed a top rope clothesline on Knight, followed by White Noise for a near fall. Sheamus signaled for the Brogue Kick on Knight, which prompted some boos. Knight avoided the kick and slammed Sheamus. He covered but Mysterio broke it up. Things got chaotic as Knight landed an inverted Death Valley Driver on Sheamus, but Mysterio broke it up again.
Grimes and Mysterio collided and Grimes turned it into a powerslam for a near fall. Rey managed to recover and landed a 619 on Knight, and then both Grimes and Sheamus. He covered Grimes, but Austin Theory pulled Mysterio out of the ring. Santos Escobar ran down and chased off Theory. Knight landed a big elbow drop, but then walked into a Brogue Kick from Sheamus. Grimes then landed a Cave In on Sheamus. Mysterio surprised Grimes with a hurracarrana into a pin for the win.
Rey Mysterio defeated LA Knight, Sheamus, and Cameron Grimes at 20:22
After the match, Dragon Lee and Wes Lee were shown briefly applauding in the crowd. Escobar and Mysterio shook hands and shared a hug ahead of their match next week. A video package for Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar was plugged for next…[c]
My Take: In hindsight, this outcome seems obvious. The LA Knight ascendancy can be easily extended with a slow burn, and Mysterio vs. Escobar will kick off what should be a really fun program between them.
The Cavinder Twins were shown in the audience. Jey Uso walked by Stacks and Tony D’Angelo backstage, then stopped and greeted Julius Creed and Brutus Creed…
Austin Theory then walked up to Adam Pearce backstage and demanded a match with Santos Escobar for disrespecting him. He made it clear that it would not be a US Title Match. Pearce accepted it and made it official. Cole and Barrett then introduced a video package from Raw where Brock Lesnar beat up Cody Rhodes in front of his Mom in his hometown…
NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams were shown in the crowd…
Charlotte made her entrance in the arena. She will face Iyo Sky up next…[c]
Asuka vs. Bianca vs. Charlotte was confirmed for SummerSlam. NXT Women’s Champion Tiffany Stratton was shown in the crowd. Iyo Sky made her ring entrance with Bayley. A video package aired that went through the Women’s Championship match between Bianca and Asuka last week. Bayley joined in on commentary.
2. Charlotte vs. Iyo Sky (w/Bayley): Both women battled back and forth until Sky landed a dropkick to Charlotte’s leg. She then pounced on Charlotte and landed some punches. Charlotte fired back with a knee in the corner and then landed a somewhat awkward crossbody from the top. Iyo recovered and landed a springboard dropkick. Charlotte grabbed a waist lock, but Iyo escaped by running and diving towards the ropes.
Charlotte was about to dive on Iyo on the floor when Bayley provided a distraction. Iyo then landed a diving head-scissors that went poorly and Charlotte had to awkwardly perform a somersault onto the floor on her own…[c]
Iyo avoided a knee drop in the corner and then landed a double knee strike of her own. Iyo applied a crossface on the mat, but Charlotte powered her up and landed a back suplex. Charlotte landed some chops, followed by a fallaway slam. Charlotte kipped up and fired up the crowd. She then landed a front handspring into a lariat, and then stacked up Iyo for a near fall. Charlotte placed Iyo on the top rope, and then Bayley got involved again. That allowed Iyo to land a powerbomb out of the corner for a close near fall.
A chaotic Shotzi video package aired which caused Bayley to freak out and walk to the back. Iyo climbed to the top, but Charlotte pulled her down. She then missed a charge into the corner. Iyo missed a moonsault, and then Charlotte attempted one of her own but landed on Iyo’s legs. Iyo slammed Charlotte down and applied a crossface. Charlotte escaped and applied a high angle Boston Crab. Iyo flipped into a cover for a close near fall. Charlotte managed to pull off a spear for another close call.
Charlotte then attempted a Figure Four, but Iyo escaped into a cover for a near fall. Charlotte landed a bridging German Suplex for another two count. Charlotte climbed to the top, but Iyo landed a Shotei and attacked Charlotte’s knee. Iyo pulled her down with a head scissors and they traded several near falls. Charlotte managed to land Natural Selection and get the win.
Charlotte defeated Iyo Sky at 12:33
After the match, Asuka appeared from behind Charlotte and delivered a German Suplex. She then applied a cross armbar and left Charlotte laying in the ring. We then saw a video of Dominik Mysterio as he captured the NXT North American Championship. We then got an interview with Dom and Rhea backstage. He said he was on Smackdown to show his deadbeat dad what a real champion looked like. He said he was the Champion for all of North America and his Dad was fighting over the title for just the United States.
Butch walked up and challenged Dominik to a match, since they were in the home of NXT. Shawn Michaels approached from behind and said that sounded like a great idea, and that he would head to Adam Pearce’s office to make it happen. Roman Reigns was shown backstage looking unsure of himself. Austin Theory then made his ring entrance in the arena for the next match…
My Take: Iyo and Charlotte started out a bit rough but improved considerably down the stretch. They gave Iyo a lot of offense and it took Charlotte considerable effort to put her away. WWE has a full house backstage tonight being in Orlando, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing a lot of NXT talent and even Rhea and Dominick show up.
Bayley and Iyo were arguing backstage. Bayley’s photo was found stabbed into her luggage with a pair of scissors in her locker, and she and Iyo quickly exited the building. Santos Escobar made his entrance for the next match.
3. Santos Escobar vs. U.S. Champion Austin Theory in a non-title match: Escobar landed some punches, and then landed a dropkick. Theory fired back with some kicks, but Escobar landed a lariat of his own. Theory landed a DDT for a two count. Escobar landed ten punches in the corner and then covered for two. He then sent Theory to the floor with a lariat. Escobar lined up for a dive, but Theory moved out of the way and he aborted the attempt…[c]
Theory landed a backbreaker and covered for a two count. Video was shown of Theory taking control during the break with a well placed dropkick. Escobar avoided a suplex on the apron and landed an enzuigiri. He then followed up with a suicide dive that sent Theory onto the announce table. Escobar followed up with a series of flying forearms and a flying head scissors. He then picked up Theory for a Phantom Driver, but Theory slipped away and took out his knee.
He then landed a hard left hand for a two count. Theory then attempted an Ushigoroshi style backbreaker for another two count. He attempted A-Town Down, but Escobar avoided it and landed a boot to the face. Both guys ended up on the top rope, which Theory standing on the ring post. Escobar pulled off an impressive hurracanrana from the top, followed by double knees and a Phantom Driver for the win.
Santos Escobar defeated Austin Theory at 10:54
Rey Mysterio vs. Santos Escobar was advertised for next week. Trick Williams and Carmelo Hayes were shown with Bobby Lashley backstage having a conversation. Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley made an entrance in the arena. He will face Butch next…[c]
My Take: A good match from Escobar and Theory. The finishing sequence looked really good, and Escobar needed a win. I’m guessing this sets up a heel turn upcoming for Escobar as he comes up short against his mentor Mysterio.
Butch made his entrance, and footage was shown of the shoulder injury suffered by Elton Prince during his match with the Brawling Brutes last week.
4. Dominik Mysterio (w/Rhea Ripley) vs. Butch (w/Ridge Holland) for the NXT North American Championship: Butch landed a back elbow and then bent up some of Dom’s fingers and his wrist. Dom escaped briefly, but Butch went right back at it. Rhea slipped Dom a chain behind the ref’s back, but Ridge ran down and stole it away. Butch then landed a release vertical suplex and covered for a two count…[c]
Dom made a cover for a two count on Butch. Kit Wilson pushed Elton Prince down to the ring in a wheelchair. Butch landed a hard right hand and a running kick to take control of the match. Dom tripped Butch onto the ropes for a 619, but Butch avoided it and landed a German Suplex. He then landed a kick to the head for a near fall. Wilson demanded an apology from Ridge at ringside. He then punched him.
Butch then punched Wilson on the floor and Ridge chased both Prince and Wilson to the back, whose legs were miraculously healed. Rhea used the distraction to land a chop block on Butch on the apron, and Dom then ran him into the ring post. He then made a cover, and the ref started counting after Dom finally got his body out from underneath the ropes.
Dominick Mysterio defeated Butch at 8:10 to retain the NXT North American Championship
After the match, Karrion Kross vs. Karl Anderson was announced for next week. Jey Uso then made his ring entrance for the final segment….[c]
My Take: A decent match other than Dom goofing up the finish a bit. Pretty Deadly doing comedy while Prince recovers from his injury is far from the worst outcome.
Jey Uso waited in the ring. Roman Reigns’ music hit and he made his way out with Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman. Jey had a thousand yard stare on his face during their entire entrance. Heyman kept an eye on Jey and looked very paranoid. Roman demanded Orlando acknowledge him, and then both he and Jey sat down at a table set up in the ring. Roman projected confidence and asked “little Jey” if he really wanted to do this, and if he was sure. Jey said Roman called the shot, Jimmy is in the hospital, and now he has to get him.
Roman said he’s not going to get him because he doesn’t get it. He said he’s just a soldier, a pawn in this game. A huge Uso chant broke out as Roman signed the contract. Jey then ripped up the contract at his first opportunity. He said we don’t need a contract, because it’s in their blood. Jey called it tribal combat now. Roman asked if the owners know about this, and Jey said it was their idea. He said he would put him through tables, hit him with chairs, and grab that old lady’s slipper over there and slap him across the mount.
Roman got angry and told Jey and the crowd to shut up. He asked Jey if he thought it was his first rodeo like he hasn’t run the business for a decade. He slammed the title down on the table and said it means nothing to him so let’s go. Jey reiterated that it was tribal combat now, and Roman reluctantly took off his tribal necklace and placed it on the championship. They shook hands and placed their foreheads together.
Roman walked away towards the ropes. Solo flipped the table over and attempted to deliver a Samoan Spike, but Roman stopped him. Jey kicked Solo out of the ring and he and Jey stared each other down before Roman left the ring. Roman left the ring and walked up the ramp with Solo and Heyman. Roman looked nervous and Heyman cried that it was their idea…[c]
My Take: This wasn’t the strongest bloodline segment, but that’s not to say it was bad. There was some good stuff in there with Roman putting on a brave face despite being clearly spooked by the idea of “tribal combat” with his cousin Jey. The symbolism of Roman putting the tribal chief necklace up with the title was good. That said, it didn’t feel like the concept was particularly well explained, nor was the Elder’s involvement in the “ritual”. Hopefully we get more clarity before Summerslam.