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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 12.08.23

December 8, 2023 | Posted by Robert Winfree
CM Punk WWE Smackdown 12-8-23 Image Credit: WWE
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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 12.08.23  

Well everyone, it’s Friday night and we’ve got another episode of WWE Smackdown. Last week Randy Orton signed with the blue brand and set his sights on the Bloodline, so that’ll probably keep Roman busy until the Rumble when Roman’s back. LA Knight is sort of on the back burner now as he looks to be Randy’s wingman to deal with Solo Sikoa, to that effect we’ve got Randy and Knight vs. Solo and Jimmy Jannetty Uso on tap tonight. With Roman not on the show regularly and the US title around the waist of another part time guy we’re getting a tournament to crown the next challenger to Logan Paul’s US title and that’ll start tonight. Our two tournament matches are Bobby Lashley vs. Karrion Kross and Dragon Lee vs. Santos Escobar, Lee and Escobar should be good. We’re also getting another installment of Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, AJ Styles may or may not be coming back to TV finally, Butch is still looking for purpose now that the Brutes have broken up, and CM Punk will be here to talk. Punk is almost certainly RAW bound as that’s where the current on screen interactions are leading, but they might do another bit with both GMs presenting him contracts. Anyway that’s the preamble for this Tribute to the Troops episode of Smackdown, so let’s get to the action.

Because this is a Tribute to the Troops show we open with a performance of God Bless America.

No Corey Graves this week, instead Michael Cole and Kevin Patrick are joined by John Bradshaw Layfield.

Anyway after that it’s time for our first match.

After our competitors walk out for some reason Dominik Mysterio oozes his way down to ringside.

Match #1 – US title Tournament: Santos Escobar vs. Dragon Lee

Lee attacks with strikes right away then clotheslines Escobar out of the ring. Back in the ring Lee hits a hurricanrana to send Escobar out of the ring then hits a dive. A few strikes from Lee back in the ring then a superkick for 2, he tries a top rope armdarg but Escobar shoves him to the apron. Escobar with a neckbreaker through the ropes to get a 2 count. Escobar with some headbutts in the corner but then is sent to the apron by Lee. Lee then tries a jumping hurricanrana but Escobar stalls him out and powerbombs him on the apron to send us to break.

Lee is starting a comeback as we return to action, he lands punches then fires up with clotheslines. Lee with a superkick in the corner then a floating dropkick to follow up. Escobar avoids Operation Dragon but gets caught in a rebound German suplex but Lee then runs into a superkick for a 2 count. Lee avoids a Phantom Driver with an inside cradle and a near fall. Lee with his Ospreay counter to a clothesline into a Liger Bomb for a near fall, then he knees Escobar out of the ring. Outside the ring Lee gets into a brief altercation with Dom, then kicks Escobar on the apron. Lee heads up top but Escobar crotches him, hoists him up and hits a Phantom Driver to win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Santos Esocbar won in 9:08

Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts: Not surprised these two had a good match, this one got a little more time than their Survivor Series encounter and that helped. Escobar is darn good and Lee is no slouch either.

Post match Dom again oozes away to just waste everyone’s time.

We get a recap of Randy Orton signing with Smackdown last week.

In the back Randy talks with Nick Aldis after paying a fine for RKO-ing him last week. Randy then complains about teaming with LA Knight, he doesn’t even know who Knight is. Aldis says they both want the Bloodline, and Aldis wants to see the match. Aldis then looks at the check and says the fine was only 50 thousand, and this is 100 thousand. Randy: “Oh, that’s for next time.”

After this break we’ll get Cody Rhodes talking.

We get some videos about the history of Tribute to the Troops over the years.

After that here comes Cody. Cody gets a mic, “So what do you want to talk about?” He knows tonight is special and that’s why he asked to be here for Tribute to the Troops. He thanks everyone for their service on behalf of WWE, then tosses us to another video package about the history of Tribute to the Troops. This one is mostly focused on John Cena and uses his various voice overs. Back to Cody and he again thanks all the service men and women. Before he goes, he brings out the Army Drill Team to perform on stage.

Michael Cole has Brad Nessler join commentary now and they all talk for a bit. Brad will be present on commentary for at least our next match it looks like. To that end, here comes Bobby Lashley, brief video package for Bobby as his father was in the Army as was Bobby. Lashley and Karrion Kross will wrestle after this break.

Post break Montez Ford has a video about being a Marine from 2008 to 2012.

To the ring, and Kross does get an entrance at least. I half expected him to get the jobber treatment in that respect.

Match #2 – US Title Tournament: Bobby Lashley vs. Karrion Kross w/ Scarlett

Kross attacks right away with strikes, Bobby fights back but he’s kicked into the corner. Bobby hits a back elbow, tries the Hurt Lock but Kross fights away from that and lands an elbow that floors Bobby and sends him out of the ring. Outside the ring Kross tosses Bobby at the steps but Bobby just hops over them, then turns around and hits a clothesline on Kross. Back in the ring Bobby with a belly to belly suplex then he clotheslines Kross out of the ring and sends us to break.

Kross with some corner strikes as we come back, then a combination of strikes in the corner then hits an exploder suplex. Bobby with punches to start his comeback but he runs into a superkick. Now Bobby fires up with a clothesline then a neckbreaker. Suplex from Bobby but then Kross avoids a powerslam only to run into a one handed spinebuster. Bobby fires up the crowd and wants a Spear, which he hits and that’ll do it.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Bobby Lashley won in 6:46

Rating: 2 stars
Thoughts: A bit too predictable to get higher, but this wasn’t a bad match despite that. Bobby advancing to wrestle Escobar makes sense, Kross needs a rebuild and this could trigger that.

We get a recap of Bianca Belair pretty much squashing Kairi Sane last week.

In the back Asuka gets ready for her match, Bayley shows up and apologizes for last week. She’s going to stay in the back tonight, and wants the rest of Damage Control to stay back with here and let Asuka take on Charlotte alone. Dakota Kai says everyone else will be out there with Asuka tonight, but Bayley should stay back. Damage Control minus Bayley head out.

After this break CM Punk will talk.

We come back from break and after a brief other slideshow about Tribute to the Troops through the years here comes CM Punk in a “Hell froze over” t-shirt. Probably available at WWEshop dot com. Punk gets a mic and says he’s got good news, he’s starting the second hour tonight so his time wont get cut and then encourages more chanting. He says Pearce is trying to sign him to RAW, and in fact he thinks RAW as a little louder. Ultimately which brand he signs with will be partly up to the crowd. He asks if the crowd want him on RAW or Smackdown, naturally right now the crowd is pro-Smackdown. He then asks if we want him to win the Royal Rumble, point at a sign, and main event WrestleMania. I for one would enjoy Punk getting pinned by Roman Reigns at Mania, yes. Anyway he’s famous for talking, but he’s listening too and knows that a lot of people don’t like the happy go lucky CM Punk, the Punk who comes out here and says he loves the people. Well allow him to turn back into Spicy Punk for a moment, this isn’t about what we want to talk about, it’s about who they want him to talk about. A lot of disparate responses to that one, he could talk about Cody if they want, or maybe someone who’s not here tonight? Someone who’s never here. Roman Reigns, Tribal Chief, Punk acknowledges him and congratulates him on his success, but don’t forget who the OG Paul Heyman guy is. Don’t forget that Heyman was Punk’s wise man first. Roman’s not here, but his cousins are. He doesn’t know Solo well, but he knows Jimmy the jester. By the way, shout out to Jey who’s killing it on RAW. Does Punk want to hang out with Jey or be here and scrap with, what’s his name Jimmy. If he fights with Jimmy then he’s going to have to fight the endless Samoans that follow. He’d need backup, like Randy Orton who he’s got a ton of history with. Or LA Knight could be his partner. Maybe even Kevin Owens. Could Punk and Owens get along? But let’s pump the brakes on that one right now, he and Owens might be too much alike, I mean can you really team with someone who randomly punches people backstage? It’s 2023 people, you can’t just go around doing that. Even JBL is happy to see Punk back, but not that one guy. There’s always that one bad apple spoiling the bunch. Punk’s not putting stock in that, not just because of his whiny voice but because he’s not even the man in his own house. Someone in the crowd tries to sing Rollins’ song, Punk: “that’s about all he’s got, keep it up.” We’re going to find out where Punk signs on Monday, he’s heard the crowd and he’s gonna talk with Aldis and Pearce, then even talk with Shawn Michaels about NXT. Almost 10 years to the day in the same town he left this place in he’ll decide where he’s going. He’s the monkey wrench in every plan in WWE, he’s back to finish what he started and on Monday he’s starting his journey to main event WrestleMania. I’m not sure that needed to go as long as it did, but this felt more focused and like it actually had a point to it as opposed to his tepid return promo on RAW. I still expect Roman to pin Punk at Mania though, because it’ll be funny.

Poochie heads to the ring next, her match with Asuka will be up after this break.

Punk walks in the back, and finds the Bloodline locker room. He debates, but walks past and finds Kevin Owens. Punk asks for Aldis, Owens is not helpful and walks away.

Back to the ring, here comes Asuka with the entourage in tow. The other members of Damage Control are attacked by Michin and Zelina Vega to leave Asuka alone.

Match #3: Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka w/ Kairi Sane, Dakota Kai, and Iyo Sky

Charlotte with a quick fall away slam then a step over clothesline. Asuka rolls out of the ring and Charlotte lands a dropkick then some chops, but Asuka avoids a chop and Charlotte hits the ring post. I’m shocked she sold that. Asuka with a sliding knee from the apron then Charlotte hits a back suplex onto the barricade then climbs up top for a moonsault to the floor, which badly misses but Asuka sells anyway because she’s a pro as we head to break.

Both women are down in the ring as we come back, guess we missed something that was supposed to get air time. Asuka lays in kicks as Charlotte is on her knees. Charlotte with a Lethal Combination into the corner and again both women are down. Seems like Charlotte took the worse end of a slip before the break. The ref seems to convey a new finish, Charlotte sloppily applies the Figure 8, here’s Bayley though and she breaks up that hold behind the refs back. The ref sees Bayley but we’re improvising things I think, Asuka nearly gets tossed into Bayley but holds up, Charlotte clocks Bayley but Asuka with a school boy to get the pin as Charlotte still looks very out of it.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Asuka won in about 6 minutes

Rating: 1.5 stars
Thoughts: Between the commercial break and the injury to Charlotte I can’t go too high with this. Charlotte still tries that stupid moonsault to the floor that never seems to work, she nearly cracked her head on the announce table this time. Mostly I hope Charlotte isn’t hurt too badly, but they clearly had to rush the end of this.

In the back Punk and Aldis talk then Aldis leaves. Cody comes in and puts up a little tension as they both need to win the Royal Rumble to finish their stories. They shake hands though and Cody welcomes Punk back again.

Next a brief presentation about a Medal of Honor winner from 2015 then we head to break.

Post break I’m going to briefly update on Charlotte Flair, seems like she hurt her left knee on that moonsault to the floor as she was helped to the back. I’d rather it be a knee injury than a head injury, but again hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks.

After some vamping, a recap of Logan Paul’s promo from last week to set up the tournament we’re still going through.

In the back CM Punk finds Randy Orton and LA Knight and wishes them luck. Randy wants to make sure Knight is ready for tonight, Knight: “Yeah.”

To the ring, here comes Solo Sikoa with Jimmy making some very awkward hand motions behind him. That tag team match will be up after this break.

Roman Reigns will be on Smackdown next week, so that’ll be good. We’re also getting Grayson Waller vs. an undetermined NXT guy, plus Kevin Owens vs. Austin Theory. I’m always happy to see Roman back, it means things will happen that matter.

Back to the ring, here’s LA Knight to a slightly more muted pop than usual. It’s still there and I don’t mean to imply he’s falling off, but this wasn’t what it has been at times in the past. Randy Orton follows.

Match #4 – Tag Team Match: Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso vs. Randy Orton and LA Knight

Randy and Jimmy start, Randy starts with punches to Jimmy and unloads on him in the corner. Knight tags in and he starts stomping on Jimmy. Back elbow from Jimmy then a low single leg dropkick but Randy with a blind tag and they start bickering just a bit. Jimmy tags out and we’ve got Randy and Solo now. Jimmy cheap shots Randy as he and Solo are staring off and we get a break.

Jimmy is working a chin lock as we come back, and Randy fights free with a back suplex. Both men tag out and Knight goes right at Solo with punches, however the crowd was with Knight coming out they are loud now that he’s on offense. Neckbreaker from Knight then a running knee in the corner. Jimmy misses a shot on Knight but that allows Solo to catch Knight with a belly to belly suplex. Cheap shot from Jimmy now that Solo has control of things. Solo with a suplex as one of his knee braces looks like it’s falling apart. Knight fights back with strikes but Solo drops him with a right hand. Solo sets for a hip attack and hits it. Jimmy tags back in and lands a chop. Solo back in as they loudly talk about the next spot, then double whip Knight into the corner again. Again Solo wants a hip attack, this time Knight avoids it but Solo stops him from tagging out. Knight fights back with a kick and a second rope bulldog and both men are down. Both men tag out and Randy gets to run wild on Jimmy for a bit, then Knight with a diving dropkick through the ropes to Solo. Randy with a snap powerslam to Jimmy. They head out of the ring and Randy bounces Jimmy off the announce table then hits his release back suplex onto the table for good measure. Back in the ring now Randy goes for the hanging DDT and hits it after an audible “Yeah”. Randy now wants the RKO, but Solo attacks from behind. Solo clubs away at Randy, but Knight drops Solo with a DDT then tries to set up Jimmy for the Blunt Force Trauma but Randy uses that to hit the RKO and get the pin.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Randy Orton and LA Knight won in 12:15

Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts: The crowd were very into this one, Knight and Orton had them in their hands the whole time. Jimmy continues to be a clown with varying degrees of success in that department, one has to imagine Roman has enough of him at some point in the near future. This match probably had time added after shortening Asuka and Charlotte but all four men know what they’re doing so it didn’t feel like it was stretched. Good enough main event.

Knight and Orton pose to end the episode.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This had a slightly difficult needle to thread between being a Tribute to the Troops episode as well as a regular Smackdown, but I think they succeeded. Santos Escobar and Dragon Lee had a good match, heck even Bobby Lashley vs. Karrion Kross was watchable, and we got a good main event. The big downside was obviously the injury to Charlotte, and much as I meme about her for my amusement I hope she's not hurt too badly. Punk's promo was a pretty big step up from his one on RAW and we got some teases about the future on Smackdown. All in all pretty darn good episode this week, hopefully we can keep that momentum going.

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WWE Smackdown, Robert Winfree