By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,254)
Louisville, Kentucky at KFC Yum Center
Aired live August 25, 2023 on Fox
Dueling images of Terry Funk and Bray Wyatt were shown on the screen. The entire roster stood on the stage. Michael Cole announced that WWE has lost two beloved family members, and they would celebrate their passion, creativity and spirit on tonight’s broadcast. A ten bell salute rangout during a moment of silence. Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman were notably present.
After the salute, a video package aired that recapped some of Bray Wyatt’s most memorable and creative moments, along with candid moments with his family and co-workers. As you can imagine, there were many tearful and heartbroken faces on the stage. The crowd broke out in song and sang “He’s got the whole world in his hands”. The lights went down and Bray Wyatt’s rocking chair was shown on a spotlight in front of the gathered wrestlers.
My Take: It’s profoundly difficult to watch people struggle with such an unexpected loss. This is a deeply devastating situation for everyone, but particularly for Windham Rotunda’s family and his close friends. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy, and I hope the outpouring of love and support brings them some semblance of comfort during this time of grief.
A video was shown of social media posts celebrating the life and career of Terry Funk. Michael Cole said they were there tonight to entertain in honor of Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk, who had spent their lives dedicated to their craft. Rey Mysterio made his entrance for the first match of the night. Austin Theory vs. Rey Mysterio was advertised for WWE Payback. Grayson Waller then followed with his entrance. Cody Rhodes will make an appearance on the Grayson Waller Effect at Payback? Ok?
1. Grayson Waller vs. Rey Mysterio: Waller was cocky out of the gate and taunted Mysterio. Rey landed an arm drag and taunted Waller to return the favor. He then followed up with a hard right hand that sent Waller stumbling into the ropes. Both men traded some basic offense and then Mysterio landed a few mounted punches in the corner. Waller recovered and dumped Mysterio to the outside, but Rey recovered and landed a head scissors that sent Waller in to the barricade…[c]
Mysterio rushed in the corner, but Waller caught him with a double stomp as he was running in. Waller then pounced on a grounded Mysterio and landed punches. He then climbed to the middle rope and landed an elbow drop for a two count. Mysterio tried to battle back in, but Waller caught him with a leg lariat and covered for another two count. Rey rallied back and sent Waller shoulder first into the corner post. He then landed a seated senton and a springboard crossbody. Rey spiked Waller with a tornado DDT for a near fall.
The crowd called for 619, but Waller landed and landed a somersault Stunner. Waller picked up Rey into the Electric Chair position, but Rey slipped out and Waller hit him in the back of the head. Waller was tripped into position for a 619, but Austin Theory made his entrance to prevent it. Waller tried to roll up Mysterio, but only got two. Santos Escobar ran down and took out Theory temporarily.
Theory landed a chop block on Escobar, but Rey took him down with a baseball slide. Waller attempted to Capitalize, but Mysterio landed a 619 shortly afterward. Theory attempted to prevent the follow up springboard splash, but Escobar took him out. Rey landed a splash and got the win.
Rey Mysterio defeated Grayson Waller at 12:04
After the match, a brief video highlighted the creation of the Wyatt Family. The Women’s Title will be defender later in the show…[c]
My Take: A solid match, but nothing you’ll remember next week. It forwarded the story between Mysterio, Escobar, and Theory, so the mission was accomplished.
Various tributes to Bray Wyatt from various WWE talents were shown on screen along with photos of them with him. The Main Event was announced as LA Knight vs. Finn Balor, and called them out as signature opponents of Wyatt. Video was shown of Zelina Vega’s victories over the past few months over Iyo Sky. Backstage, Iyo defense was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Bayley and Dakota Kai were with her.
Bayley answered for Iyo, and asked if Kayla was looking to join the LWO since they only hire short people. She called Iyo Sky a generational talent and listed her accomplishments, and said they were currently in Iyo’s era. Bayley told Kayla to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Iyo then made her entrance with Damage Ctrl, and was followed by Zelina Vega. Mike Rome made ring announcements. The match is up next…[c]
The Fiend’s Debut was shown as another Bray Wyatt memory.
2. Zelina Vega vs. Iyo Sky for the WWE Women’s Championship: Iyo showed off her quickness early on and taunted Vega. She then landed a scoop slam and taunted again. Vega avoided a second slam, but got pulled off the ropes with a powerslam a moment later. Iyo charged into the corner and ate the top turnbuckle. Vega then landed a hammerlock leg sweep DDT and went to the middle rope. She then landed a Meteora and covered for a near fall.
She made two subsequent pinfalls but the result was the same. Iyo returned fire with a springboard dropkick, but Vega was quick to respond with a DDT. Vega lined up for Code Red, but Iyo turned it into a Powerbomb. Iyo attempted to go to the top or a moonsault, but Vega pulled her from the top rope and landed a code red. Iyo was able to roll out of the ring to avoid a pinfall.
The action spilled outside, where Iyo shoved Vega into the ring steps. She then was able to land a double knee strike and a Moonsault back in the ring and put her away.
Iyo Sky defeated Zelina Vega at 7:44
Cody Rhodes will pay tribute to Terry Funk up next…[c]
My Take: A good win for Iyo on television. It was nice to see her win without requiring a lot of active interference from the other members of Damage Ctrl.
More tributes to Bray Wyatt were shown from WWE talent and some other notable celebrities from Social Media.
In the arena, Cody Rhodes made his entrance. Cody told the crowd that he knew what he wanted to talk about. He recalled being a young child and being with his Dad, and hearing a man call his father a peculiar insult. He heard a man scream that Dusty Rhodes was an egg sucking dog, and when he finally saw him he realized it was Terry Funk. Cody then said that people who work for WWE call themselves Superstars, but they’ve been called wrestlers, athletes, and competitors, but only a rare few get to call themselves Cowboys.
He then said that both Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk are Cowboys in the best way possible. He alluded to “The Rub”, a concept where an iconic wrestler faces someone in the ring who hasn’t reached that level and lifts them up. Cody said Terry did that for an entire company, and an entire movement. He then said that Terry Funk had made his mark on wrestling for over 50 years, and had evolved the entire time. He then introduced a video package that paid Tribute to the career and legacy of Funk.
After the video, Cody said that Terry Funk was hardcore before it was cool, and that he had the pleasure of announcing that the next match is a Terry Funk Hardcore Match. First out was the team of Butch and Ridge Holland, the Brawling Brutes. They will face the Street Profits up next…[c]
My Take: A nice tribute from Cody. I was surprised by how few people seemed to catch the “Egg Sucking Dog” reference, but I guess that just shows you how few people there are who have memories that go that far back.
3. Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford “The Street Profits” vs. Ridge Holland and Butch “The Brawling Brutes in a Terry Funk Hardcore Tag Match: This is a tornado rules match so everybody is active all at once. The action went outside immediately. Butch pulled at Ford’s ears and nose. The Profits regained control pretty quickly and showed aggression as they pummeled Ridge in the corner. Butch managed to take out both Profits with a moonsault. Ridge picked up Butch over his shoulder and swung him around like Terry Funk used to swing around a ladder.
The action spilled outside again where Ford splashed both Ridge and Butch with a suicide dive. That prompted Bobby Lashley to make his entrance and walk down to the ring…[c]
My Take: Thus far this is very….uh….softcore.
Ridge landed a body slam on Ford. Ridge and Butch then landed clubbing blows to the chests of Ford and Dawkins. The Brutes landed a double team suplex and powerbomb combo on Ford for a near fall. Butch then went to the outside, but got leveled by Dawkins. He then took out Ridge in the ring with a splash in the corner and flying back elbow. Dawkins picked up Ridge, and then Ford landed a Doomsday Blockbuster and made a cover. Butch broke it up.
Dawkins and Ridge met on the top rope, and Ridge landed a superplex. Ford flew from the opposite corner and landed a Frog Splash, but Butch broke up the fall again. Butch then retrieved a table, but he bumped into Bobby Lashley, who gave him a death stare but didn’t act on it. Ford setup the table, but Ridge landed a combo neckbreaker and backdrop combo on Dawkins and Ford.
Butch went up top, but Lashley pushed him off the post and landed a spear on the floor. Ford and Dawkins landed their new Revelation finisher through the table and got the win.
The Street Profits defeated The Brawling Brutes at 13:56
After the match, a Wyatt video was shown of the birth of the Firefly Funhouse. John Cena was advertised for next week…[c]
My Take: A fun match, but by no means a hardcore brawl. Lashley getting involved means we’ll likely see him tie up with Sheamus soon enough.
A video package was shown of the Akira Tozawa and Miz match from Raw that featured LA Knight’s involvement. Miz was then shown on TMZ Sports calling LA Knight a fad like Napster or MySpace. LA Knight then made his entrance for the Main Event.
Knight had a microphone and said he’d get to The Miz in a second, but as far as he can tell tonight is about Bray Wyatt. He said greatest foes can often be your greatest helpers, and he credited Wyatt for preparing him for anything. Knight said that he can feel the spirit of Bray Wyatt and the fireflies in the building. He said he can’t pretend they were best friends, but he will echo the sentiment of “Thank You Bray”. Knight then turned his attention to The Miz.
He said Miz never mattered, and nobody cared about him even when he was a Champion 12 years ago. Knight said he was just a secondary character in a story between John Cena and The Rock. He then walked up real close to the camera and repeated a phrase somebody else told him a while ago, “Next to you see me…..Run.”
Knight vs. Finn Balor is up next…[c]
My Take: Knight did well in mixing tribute with character work there.
4. Finn Balor vs. LA Knight: Balor and Knight took turns taunting each other after landing some basic maneuvers. Balor missed an elbow drop and rolled to the floor. Knight slammed him multiple times into the announce table. Miz vs. Knight was confirmed for Payback by the announce team. Knight landed a flying shoulder tackle and covered for a two count. He then went up to the second rope, but Balor ripped him off the ropes and he went back first into the top turnbuckle before falling to the mat…[c]
Knight turned the tables with a neckbreaker. He then avoided a clothesline and landed a DDT for a two count. Knight followed up with a pancake and a big boot or a near fall. Balor recovered and landed a side Russian leg sweep. He then landed some boots and a slingblade. Balor cued up a shotgun dropkick, but Knight cut him off with a lariat. He then landed a running knee strike in the corner. Knight hoisted up Balor on his shoulders, but Balor broke free and landed his Shotgun Dropkick.
Balor went up top and went for the Coup de Grace, but Knight avoided it and landed a lariat. He then landed a running elbow drop for a two count. Knight attempted a BFT, but Balor slipped out and drove Knight to the mat. He then went back up top, but Knight met him up there. Balor shoved him down, but Knight popped back up and landed a Superplex. Knight then landed a BFT and got the win.
LA Knight defeated Finn Balor at 11:14
After the match, Knight celebrated in the ring and on the stage. Suddenly, the lights slowly powered down in the arena. A foggy lantern was shown in the ring, and a photo of Bray Wyatt was shown on the big screen.
My Take: I’m surprised to see Balor take such a clean loss there, but he can absorb it and not lose a whole lot. Knight got a big win, and a fitting tribute to Wyatt closed the show. I’ll be back with more to say in my Member Exclusive Smackdown Audio Review tomorrow morning.