By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,268)
Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center
Aired live December 1, 2023 on Fox
[Hour One] The broadcast team of Michael Cole, Kevin Patrick, and Corey Graves welcomed viewers to the show and plugged the sponsor. Bianca Belair made her entrance. A video package recapped the women’s WarGames match from Survivor Series.
Belair started her promo by playing to the Brooklyn crowd. She shouted out her WarGames teammates and then said her war with Damage CTRL isn’t over. Belair said she’s coming for Iyo Sky because she wants the WWE Women’s Championship back.
Damage CTRL’s Iyo Sky, Asuka, Kairi Sane, and Dakota Kai made their entrance. Kai spoke as they walked to the ring and trashed Brooklyn. Sky, Asuka, and Sane entered the ring while Kai spoke from the apron. Kai said that Sky has already beaten Belair twice and she’ll have to go through the rest of Damage CTRL to get another title shot.
Charlotte Flair’s entrance music played and she walked out with Shotzi. Flair said Belair isn’t the only one coming for Sky. She added that she would love to go through all of Damage CTRL. Shotzi said it looked like there was enough of Damage CTRL to go around.
Flair and Shotzi charged the ring and joined Belair in fighting the Damage CTRL trio while Kai remained at ringside. The babyfaces got the better of the brief fight, which Belair capped off with a spinebuster on Sky. Belair’s music played while the babyfaces stood tall…
Patrick hyped a look back at CM Punk’s return on Raw, and Graves hyped the Kevin Owens vs. Grayson Waller match. Cole said U.S. Champion Logan Paul would appear live for the first time since Crown Jewel…
Ring announcer Mike Rome introduced Butch, who made his way to the ring for a match against Bobby Lashley heading into a commercial break… An ad listed “a special Tribute to the Troops edition” for next week’s Smackdown… [C]
Powell’s POV: The opening segment was pretty basic, but it established that the issues between Damage CTRl and the three babyfaces were not full resolved at WarGames. Meanwhile, it looks like Tribute to the Troops will not get its own standalone special this year. Finally, I’m filling in for Jake Barnett tonight, but he will be back covering Smackdown next week.
Patrick announced Bianca Belair vs. Kairi Sane for later in the show…
Backstage, Sky, Asuka, Sane, and Kai found Bayley. Sky asked Bayley where she was. Bayley said she would have gone to the ring had she known and things may have ended differently. Kai said Sane had a match and would appreciate Bayley’s help…
Bobby Lashley made his entrance and was accompanied by The Street Profits. Lashley took the mic and recalled telling Butch to make a name for himself when they had a backstage argument on Saturday. Lashley said Butch shouldn’t have tried to use him to make a name for himself. He said he could break Butch into pieces and then asked him if he was ready for that. Butch slapped Lashley, who smiled in response…
1. Bobby Lashley (w/Montez Ford, Angelo Dawkins) vs. Butch. Butch kicked Lashley and then threw punches at him. Lashley took control for a moment. Butch came back and hit Lashley with a knee off the apron and eventually moonsaulted onto him. [C]
Butch threw a series of kicks at Lashley and then double stomped his arm. Butch used joint manipulation and placed Lashley’s hand on the mat before stomping it. Lashley came back with a running powerslam for a two count. Lashley turned Butch inside out with a clothesline. Butch caught him with an enzuigiri, but Lashley came right back with a spear and then pinned him…
Bobby Lashley defeated Butch in 8:10.
Powell’s POV: Butch was given more offense than I anticipated, but the end result was no surprise.
A video package recapped the men’s WarGames match from Survivor Series…
Nick Aldis was seated in his office and had Jets and Giants title belts on a table behind him. Paul Heyman entered the room and polished the Jets belt, then took issue with Aldis inviting Randy Orton to Smackdown. Heyman asked if Roman Reigns was aware of it. Aldis pointed to a memo on his computer that said all communication for Reigns must go through Heyman. Aldis said he would sign Orton even if he had to offer up the entire Bloodline. Aldis asked Heyman what he was going to do about it. Heyman smiled and said, “Anything it takes”… [C]
Powell’s POV: I definitely look forward to more verbal exchanges between Heyman and Aldis.
Cole touted the WWE partnership with the Big 12 Conference Championship and noted that Undertaker would be among the wrestlers taking part in the events…
Kayla Braxton caught up with Butch in the backstage area and asked him about Ridge Holland walking out on him last week. Butch said he didn’t know why Holland walked out and he didn’t care. He said he had to focus on himself and will fight anyone.
The Pretty Deadly duo Elton Prince and Kit Wilson interrupted and mocked Butch for being abandoned and then called his career a dead end. Butch shrugged and then threw punches at both men. Pretty Deadly regrouped quickly and ran Butch into a production create while taunting him for being alone…
Santos Escobar was interviewed backstage and asked about his match against Joaquin Wilde. Escobar took issue with Wilde and Cruz Del Toro for being blinded by their hero worship of Rey Mysterio. He said that if Wilde couldn’t see the truth, he would put him on the shelf. Escobar walked through the curtain and made his entrance…
An ad for Raw focused on Seth Rollins vs. Jey Uso for the World Heavyweight Championship, and said Cody Rhodes would address Shinsuke Nakamura after being sprayed with red mist on Monday… [C]
2. Santos Escobar vs. Joaquin Wilde. Wilde’s entrance was televised. Wilde dropkicked Escobar once the bell rang to start the match. Escobar ended up at ringside moments later. Wilde performed a springboard flip dive onto Escobar on the floor. Wilde brought Escobar back to the ring and covered him for a two count.
Escobar took offensive control and tied up Wilde in a tree of woe before dropkicking him. Wilde battle back and dropkicked the knee of Escobar. Wilde played to the receptive crowd and then performed a somersault into a DDT for another two count. Wilde charged Escobar, who superkicked him. Escobar told Wilde this is what happens when you cross him. Escobar hit the Phantom Driver and got three count.
Santos Escobar defeated Joaquin Wilde in 4:00.
After the match, Escobar threw punches at Wilde. Dragon Lee made his entrance, causing Escobar to duck to ringside. Escobar tried to sneak attack Lee while he was checking on Wilde. Lee cut off Escobar and worked him over before dropkicking him in the corner…
Powell’s POV: Another spotlight win for Escobar. His heel turn is off to a strong start. That said, it was nice to see Wilde display a little flashy offense before Escobar put him away. It looks like we’ll be getting an Escobar vs. Lee rematch. Here’s hoping they get more time than they had at Survivor Series.
U.S. Champion Logan Paul was shown shaking hands with Nick Aldis in the backstage area while the broadcast team hyped Paul as appearing next… [C]
Backstage, Adam Pearce asked Nick Aldis if he heard him right when he said he intends to sign Randy Orton. Aldis said Orton is a free agent and confirmed that he did intend to sign him. Pearce held up his own contract folder and said he would join him…
Logan Paul made his entrance holding the U.S. Championship. He said he had a question for every friend who stabbed him in the back and for every hater. “Where are you now?” Paul yelled. He spoke about how they drive him to work harder.
Paul asked the jealous wrestlers backstage who are mad at him because they’ve done this their whole life while he’s the fastest rising star in WWE. He held up the title belt and said it’s been on his junk, just as they have been since he arrived in WWE.
Paul said that he and Aldis created a tournament to determine his next challenger. Paul said the tournament will start next week and features Santos Escobar, Dragon Lee, Karrion Kross, Bobby Lashley, Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, Kevin Owens, and an NXT superstar. Paul said the tournament winner would have a nightmare trying to take the belt from him.
[Hour Two] Kevin Owens made his entrance and joined Paul inside the ring. Owens said that Paul being in his ring is a nightmare. He said the first time he saw Paul was on the Vine app. He said it took him six seconds to figure out that Paul is an unbearable jackass. Owens said the only junk around here is the crap drink that Paul peddles.
Owens said he’s in the tournament, so the nightmare is about to end, because Paul’s days as champion are numbered. Paul said Owens calls himself a prize fighter. He said he’s been in the ring with the greatest boxers in the world. Paul said if they fought, six seconds is five more seconds than he would need to KO him. Owens said Paul is very clever, but that’s another world. Owens said WWE is his world.
Grayson Waller made his entrance with Austin Theory. Waller said Owens was just a troll trying to get attention. He said that he and Theory have a lot in common with Paul. The duo entered the ring. Theory said Owens likes to punch people in the face and noted that he was standing in the ring with Paul. Theory said that once Paul knocks him out, maybe his days of knocking people out would be over. Owens punched out Theory. Owens and Paul jawed while Owens’ music played to end the segment…
Patrick hyped Owens vs. Waller for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: This segment made Owens feel like a pretty strong favorite to win the tournament. Of course, that could be by design. I’m curious to see which NXT wrestler they go with.
3. Kevin Owens vs. Grayson Waller (w/Austin Theory). Logan Paul sat in on commentary. Waller bailed to ringside once the bell rang. Owens went right after him and roughed him up in front of Paul before tossing him back inside the ring.
Graves asked Paul about including Owens in the tournament. Paul recalled Owens giving him a Stunner at his first WrestleMania and said he holds a grudge. It was noted that Randy Orton is the guest on Paul’s latest podcast. I the ring, Owens set up for a cannonball, but Waller rolled to ringside again.
Owens followed Waller to the floor, but this time Waller caught him with a shot and ran him into the broadcast table. Owens fought back and then splashed Waller from the apron. Waller came back and ran Owens into the ring post casing. Theory stomped Owens’ hand on the ring steps. Waller slammed Owens’ hand on the ring post casing. [C]
Owens continued to sell his hand coming out of the break. Eventually, Waller had Owens’ hand against the bottom turnbuckle. Waller went for a running kick that Owens avoided. Owens rolled up Waller and pinned him…
Kevin Owens defeated Grayson Waller in 10:50.
Powell’s POV: A flat finish that didn’t get a big rise out of the live crowd. That said, they established that Owens has a hand injury, which I assume will be played up during the tournament.
Cole touted CM Punk’s return to WWE generating over 95 million social media views. A video package recapped Punk’s return at Survivor Series and included some over the top fan reactions. The footage also included Punk’s return promo on Raw…
CM Punk was advertised for next week’s Smackdown in Providence…
Bianca Belair made her entrance along with Charlotte Flair and Shotzi… [C]
Damage CTRL was standing on the Gorilla Position set. Dakota Kai asked Bayley if she was okay because she didn’t seem like herself. Bayley said she was, but Iyo Sky told her to stay backstage and then the rest of the group made their entrance…
4. Bianca Belair (w/Charlotte Flair, Shotzi) vs. Kairi Sane (w/Iyo Sky, Asuka, Dakota Kai). Belair jumped out to a quick start, but she was tripped by Asuka while the referee was checking on Sane. Flair returned the favor, but the referee caught her and ejected Flair and Shotzi from ringside. Asuka entered the ring and was caught by the referee, who ejected the Damage CTRL extras. Belair dropkicked Asuka out of the ring. [C]
Belair slammed Sane twice and then tossed her into the corner. Belair stood on the middle rope and threw ten punches before backflipping off the ropes. Belair performed a handspring into a standing moonsault for a two count. Sane came back and dropped Belair with a spinning back fist. Sane went up top and threw a flying forearm at Belair before covering her for a two count.
Sane sent Belair to the floor and dove at her. Belair avoided it and then picked up Sane and dumped her on the barricade. Belair slid Sane back inside the ring. The referee checked on Sane while Bayley came out and pulled Belair down via her braid. Sane went up top for her finisher, but Belair cut her off. Belair placed Sane on her shoulders and hit the KOD for the win…
Bianca Belair defeated Kairi Sane in 10:25.
Powell’s POV: I was hoping that Bayley’s interference would give Sane a cheap win in her return to put some heat on Damage CTRL, but this approach kept Bayley from getting back in the good graces of her faction mates despite her best efforts.
Backstage, Adam Pearce was shown looking at the contract that he wrote up for Randy Orton. Nick Aldis entered the picture with his contract and then they walked side by side through the backstage area… [C]
The following matches and segments were announced for next week’s Smackdown: Dragon Lee vs. Santos Escobar, and Bobby Lashley vs. Karrion Kross in tournament matches, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, and CM Punk appears on the Tribute to the Troops edition of Smackdown…
Mike Rome introduced Raw general manager Adam Pearce and Smackdown general manager Nick Aldis, who were already in the ring. Aldis said it was his honor and privilege to welcome back Randy Orton, who then made his entrance.
Pearce and Aldis started bickering. Pearce told Orton that if he signed with Raw, he would give him the winner of Seth Rollins vs. Jey Uso for the World Heavyweight Championship. Aldis stated that if Orton signed with Smackdown, he could give him the guys who took him out.
Paul Heyman interrupted with a “ladies and gentlemen and things that live in Brooklyn.” Heyman said there would be no decision made by Orton, because The Bloodline would make Orton’s decision for him. Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso came out and got the better of Orton due to the numbers advantage.
LA Knight made his entrance and helped Orton. Knight and Sikoa brawled to the back. Orton put Jimmy down with a Draping DDT. Orton struck the Viper’s Pose and then dropped Jimmy with an RKO. Orton turned and glared at Heyman, who was watching from ringside.
Orton looked to Pearce and Aldis and had them hand over the contract folders. “Go to Raw,” Heyman said. Orton stood over Jimmy and then tossed the Raw folder to ringside. Orton signed the Smackdown contract and dropped it on Jimmy.
Orton pulled a mic out of his pocket and turned to Heyman. “Hey, Paul, you can call Roman Reigns and you can tell him Daddy’s back.” Orton smiled and dropped the mic and then pointed at Heyman and jawed at him. Aldis joined Orton in the ring and applauded him before raising his arm. Suddenly, Orton hit Aldis with an RKO out of nowhere and then stood over him…
Powell’s POV: A good segment to close the show. It didn’t come off like Raw was second rate. Rather, it was a case of Aldis being able to promise Orton a chance to get his hands on The Bloodline. I wonder if Orton will challenge Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble or if that’s too soon. I also wonder if Aldis will eventually do something to get revenge for that RKO. Will CM Punk have a similar decision to make?
Overall, this was a pretty basic episode until the final segment. I will have more to say about Smackdown when I fill in for Jake Barnett tonight in the audio review for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons). Let me know what you thought of Smackdown by grading it below.