By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,266)
Evansville, Indiana at Ford Center Evansville
Aired live November 17, 2023 on Fox
Smackdown opened with footage of last week’s Main Event where Asuka betrayed Charlotte and Bianca Belair and sided with Damage Ctrl. Kevin Patrick welcomed the audience to the show, and Damage Ctrl made their entrance in the arena. Kairi Sane and Asuka joined the usual group of Iyo Sky, Bayley, and Dakota Kai. Michael Cole and special guest Road Dogg joined on commentary.
Bayley spoke and said they were there to have a good time tonight. She welcomed the crowd to Smackdown and said her plan to bring Asuka into Damage Ctrl has to be one of the top moments in WWE history. Bayley said normally she’s humble but this was brilliant. She called them the most dominant faction in WWE, and said they are playing chess while everyone else is playing Candyland.. Bayley laughed at her bad jokes and the rest of the faction was quiet. Asuka cracked a joke in Japanese and they laughed.
Dakota said this isn’t the new and improved Damage Ctrl because someone in the ring wasn’t a part of the new and improved Damage Ctrl. Bayley looked surprised for a minute, until Dakota revealed that Asuka hadn’t been inducted as a member yet and that was Bayley’s job. Bayley got on a knee and offered Asuka a Damage Ctrl T-Shirt and she accepted. Dakota said Iyo’s idea was the four of them (Iyo, Kairi, Asuka, Bayley) challenge Bianca, Charlotte, Shotzi, and another partner to a War Games match.
Bayley again acted surprised but played it off like it was a great idea. Shotzi’s music hit and her tank rolled out onstage. No one was in it…and Shotzi dove on the Damage Ctrl members from the top turnbuckle. Charlotte and Bianca joined and a brawl broke out. The babyfaces were outnumbered quickly and run out of the ring. Damage Ctrl stood strong in the ring to end the segment.
LA Knight vs. Jimmy Uso was advertised for later, as well as an appearance by Solo Sikoa. The Street Profits made their entrance in the arena for the opener…[c]
My Take: The crowd was pretty quiet throughout the opening interview, and Bayley kept going after the crowd to try and generate some heat. Seems pretty clear that she is getting the boot from Damage Ctrl eventually, but they have their work cut out for them to reinvigorate the Women’s division after a long cold spell.
Backstage, Bianca and Charlotte calmed down Shotzi and told her they needed to do this together. Bianca said Charlotte knows somebody who could help them out, and Charlotte said she was thinking about it. Nick Aldis stopped by and said he needed to know who that fourth member is by the end of the night.
The Brawling Brutes completed their entrance in the ring. They were followed by Pretty Deadly.
1. Elton Prince and Kit Wilson “Pretty Deadly vs. Butch and Ridge Holland “The Brawling Brutes” vs Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins “The Street Profits”: This match was unique and three men were allowed in the ring at a time. Prince, Butch, and Montez Ford started the match. With some double team assistance from Dawkins, The Street Profits took over quickly. They made quick tags and isolated Butch in the corner.
Prince got up from a long powder and made a tag to Kit Wilson. They landed some double team flying forearms to Ford and Butch to take over. Butch quickly recovered and made a tag to Ridge, who entered and used his power to land some big strikes and a suplex. He then delivered a DDT to Kit Wilson and then clotheslined him to the floor. After a bunch of maneuvering on the apron. Ridge and Butch landed some clubs to the chest on the Street Profits. Pretty Deadly picked up the scraps and dumped Butch on the apron before sending Ridge into the ring steps…[c]
Ridge gave Prince and Ford a double suplex and tagged in Butch, who took out everyone on the apron with head kicks. He then landed a tornado DDT on Prince on the floor and dove on the pile on the floor with a moonsault. Butch applied a cross armbar on Dawkins, but he picked him up and powerbombed him into Elton Prince. Everybody tagged out and so Ridge, Wilson, and Ford were legal.
Ridge sent Ford to the outside, and then he and Wilson battled on the top rope. Prince snuck a blind tag and Ford landed his Frog Splash on Ridge. Prince tried to steal the win with an Alabama Jam, but Butch broke up the cover. The Profits landed a double dropkick on Pretty Deadly and cleared everyone but Ridge to ringside after a misfire front kick from Butch. They then landed The Revelation and got the win.
The Street Profits defeated The Brawling Brutes and Pretty Deadly at 11:13
After the match Bobby walked out and celebrated with the Street Profits. Ridge shoved Butch and walked away after friendly fire cost them the match. Backstage, Mia Yim was being recruited by Bianca Belair…[c]
My Take: A solid opener that didn’t seem to benefit at all from allowing three men in the ring. It seemed like somebody was awkwardly taking a powder while two guys were working.
Backstage, Damage Ctrl beat the crap out of Mia Yim until WWE Officials cleared them off. A video package was then shown of the LWO implosion following Rey Mysterio’s loss to Logan Paul. The announce team announced Rey Mysterio had successful surgery. In the arena, Dragon Lee made his entrance for the next match.
Footage was shown from earlier today where Dragon Lee asked Nick Aldis for the opportunity to avenge Rey Mysterio. Nick Aldis then said he appreciated the offer, but he had already arranged for Axiom to come up from NXT so he could show the world what Lucha Libre can do. Axiom then made his entrance in the arena.
2. Dragon Lee vs. Axiom: They traded reversals early on until Lee landed a shotgun dropkick that sent Axiom to the floor. He then landed a dive onto Axiom on the floor and tossed them back into the ring. Lee then landed a springboard kick in the corner and covered for a two count…[c]
Axiom landed a back elbow in the corner followed by an arm drag. He then sent Lee to the floor, followed by a springboard moonsault from the top rope. Axiom went up top, but Lee avoided him and landed a superkick. Both men ended up on the top rope, and Lee did the lame double stomp where Axiom had to hold himself in position. Lee covered for a near fall. Axiom fired back with a beautiful dropkick and a German Suplex.
He followed up with a soccer kick and covered for a two count. Lee fired back with a brainbuster. He set up for a Powerbomb, but Axiom reversed into a Canadian Destroyer for a two count. Lee landed a kick in the corner and went up top. Axiom landed an Enziguri and met Lee on the top rope again and landed a Spanish Fly for a close near fall. Axiom went for a hurracarrana, but Lee reversed into a Liger Bomb for a close near fall. He followed up with a knee strike and Operation Dragon for the win.
Dragon Lee defeated Axiom at 9:40
After the match, Dragon Lee celebrated the victory and showed respect to Axiom…[c]
My Take: That match was a lot of fun for an exhibition showcase. The idea was that it was a tribute to Rey Mysterio, but they are doing a nice job of putting a spotlight on Dragon Lee and getting him some credibility building wins.
LA Knight vs. Jimmy Uso was announced for later. Santos Escobar walked to the ring in his Legado Del Fantasma music. He got huge boos and “you suck” chants. He referenced the expression “never meet your heroes”. He said he came from a long Lucha Libre tradition, and all of his family members were considered heroes, but his was Rey Mysterio. He always dreamed that the next generation would see him the way he viewed Rey Mysterio. Santos said that Rey became a father figure to him and made him feel at home.
He then said that after last week he realized that everything Dominick Mysterio said about him was true. Santos recalled Rey winning the US Championship when he deserved it, and then he took over the LWO and added new members. Santos blamed Rey for siding with Carlito over him and said the only thing he would apologize for is not doing more damage. He said he wished he got an infection and his leg had to be amputated, and then wished he never came back.
Zelina Vega ran out and asked what the hell he was doing. He said she made her decision when she chose Rey Mysterio over him. She then slapped him in the face and walked away. Cruz Del Toro and Joaquin Wilde walked down to the ring and he asked them if it was going to be them again like old times. They refused and said what he had done to Rey was out of line. Santos responded that they were dead weight and they should get out. He then assaulted them when they tried to walk away. Carlito’s music hit and he ran down to make the save and Santos escaped through the timekeeper’s area.
Video footage was then shown of Kevin Owens getting harassed by Grayson Waller and Austin Theory last week, and getting suspended for beating them up. Grayson Waller will face Cameron Grimes next…[c]
My Take: Really strong promo and segment from Santos Escobar. He was a menace and wished amputation on Rey Mysterio, and ran off all of his former friends. I’m excited to see him make a run as a dastardly heel singles wrestler.
Cameron Grimes made his entrance after the break.
2. Grayson Waller vs. Cameron Grimes: Austin Theory joined in on commentary. Early on in the match, Theory landed a rolling flatliner from outside to inside. Grimes fired back with some clothesline and a spinning sit-out side slam. Austin Theory got involved, and Grimes hit him with a soccer kick from the apron. Waller dumped Grimes into his head and landed a somersault facebuster of sorts and got the win.
Grayson Waller defeated Cameron Grimes at 2:25
After the match, Bianca Belair was shown speaking to Zelina Vega backstage…[c]
My Take: Zelina is going to get hit by a car when the show returns from commercial break.
Damage Ctrl beat up Zelina backstage. Who could have anticipated this? Video was shown of John Cena getting put in the dirt by Solo Sikoa at Crown Jewel. Paul Heyman stood in the ring with Solo and Jimmy Uso. Heyman called it an acknowledgement ceremony and gave Solo his props for defeating John Cena by pinfall after a series of Samoan Spikes. Heyman teased John Cena being present on the show, and then pulled the rug on the crowd and gave credit to solo for making sure he’s never coming back.
He then said Cena doesn’t have the guts to come back to talk to the Cenation and it’s all because of Solo. Heyman then did a countdown and said that’s how we know it’s serious, because that was John Cena’s cue. This is the part where he comes down to the ring and bumps them out of the ring with the five moves of doom and the crowd goes crazy. Heyman then mocked Cena and said he couldn’t go back to WWE or Hollywood and no one will ever get to experience him again. He was about to congratulate Solo again, but LA Knight interrupted.
Knight said that as good as Roman Reigns has been, but he’s only the WWE Champion because of the Bloodline. He recognized that’s a problem, and everyone realized it, and said he was on a path to take out every member of the Bloodline one at a time. Knight said Jimmy was first on his list, and recited a few bars about how Jimmy says yeet or no yeet, Jim is him, but he’s about to run into BFT and blunt force trauma. He closed out with his catchphrase…[c]
My Take: Heyman was good there, and Knight had to make a bit of an awkward transition away from Cena to his beef with Roman and The Bloodline. It’ll be interesting to see if Cena makes another appearance or if they will just milk this for heat for a bit.
Backstage, Bianca told Shotzi and Charlotte were out of options, so she needed to make her call. Charlotte agreed and walked off. Heyman got a phone call and walked off with Solo before the match started.
3. LA Knight vs. Jimmy Uso: Knight got an early advantage and stomped Jimmy in the corner. He then landed a slingshot shoulder tackle and covered in the corner. The action spilled outside and Knight landed a baseball slide. He then slammed Jimmy into the announce table and tossed him over the top of it…[c]
Jimmy landed an enziguri and took control of the match. He landed a series of punches in the corner, but missed a follow up splash. Knight landed a DDT and both men were down. Knight battled back and both men ended up on the top rope. Jimmy avoided a superplex, but walked into a BFT a few seconds later. Knight followed up with a pin and got the victory.
LA Knight defeated Jimmy Uso at 9:17
After the match, Solo Sikoa walked down to the ring and he and JImmy jumped LA Knight. They were about to put him through the announce table when Cody Rhodes’s music hit and he ran down to the ring and cleared the Bloodline from ringside. Backstage, Charlotte met up with Shotzi and Bianca and said she called her but she’s not sure if she will make it in time…[c]
My Take: Cody pulled up on Smackdown. I don’t envy his travel schedule. I assume we get LA Knight vs. Solo at Survivor Series?
Backstage, Nick Aldis told Cody Rhodes he had to go. It was announced that Kevin Owens will appear on the Grayson Waller Effect next week. Bianca Belair made her entrance in the arena. She was followed by Shotzi and Charlotte Flair.
Charlotte had a microphone and said they could talk all night about what Damage Ctrl has done, but they accepted their challenge. She said she knows something about turning on a best friend, and if they are going to war, there’s only one person she wants to go with. Damage Ctrl interrupted and Bayley told them they would not make it out of the building tonight. They jumped on the apron, and Becky Lynch suddenly joined the babyface team from the crowd. A brawl erupted and there was a long pause for a staredown between Charlotte and Iyo after a moonsault from Charlotte took out everyone at ringside. The brawl continued as the show ended…[c]
My Take: Becky is a nice addition to the match, given that she was supposed to be involved in the initial feud with Damage Ctrl after Summerslam a few years ago before her untimely injury. I’m not sure how they’ll explain all the cross brand aspects of this, but they tend to play fast and loose with the rules even if I’m not a gigantic fan of it.