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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 3.17.23

March 17, 2023 | Posted by Robert Winfree
WWE Smackdown Sami Zayn Kevin Owens Image Credit: WWE
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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 3.17.23  

Well everyone, WrestleMania is just about 2 weeks away and there doesn’t seem to be a ton of steam at the moment. Tonight represents one of the last chances they have to build some, so let’s see what’s on tap for WWE Smackdown tonight. Our big match is Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre with the winner getting a shot at Gunther’s Intercontinental title at Mania, so I’m sure we’ll have no shenanigans or awkward finish to set up a triple threat between them. There’s also a tag team match when Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega team up to take on Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley. The number of things I’d rather watch/listen to than anything involving Dom is extensive. The big overall story at the moment is trying to get Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to reunite, Owens was on the wrong end of a Bloodline beat down on Monday and tonight we’ll see if they take further steps to finally teaming up to battle the Usos at Mania. To that end Jey Uso and Sami Zayn will be involved in some kind of confrontation tonight, and for the record I appreciate that Jey came back only to save Jimmy from Roman’s wrath and I imagine that will be reinforced tonight. If Bobby Lashley vs. Bray Wyatt is still on they’re running out of time to make that matter, there’s no real direction for Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey, though I imagine LA Knight’s quest for a Mania match will continue and is rumored to be involving Stone Cold Steve Austin. Anyway that’s the preamble, let’s get to the action.

Up first, “Wrestling has more than one royal family” and here comes Cody Rhodes in a suit. Cody gets a mic, and wants to know what we want to talk about. We could talk about Mania, in the last few weeks tempers have flared and the stakes have been raised, but Cody has the utmost respect for Roman Reigns. He calls Roman the greatest champion in sports entertainment, and he’s looking forward to beating him at Mania. But Cody doesn’t want to talk about someone, he’d rather talk to someone, so please can Kevin Owens come on down. No immediate response from Owens, but eventually his music hits and here comes the prize fighter. Cody hands Owens a mic, and Owens thanks Cody for inviting him out here but he’s pretty sure they’ve been over this. Cody says just hear him out, because this is a conversation that needs another person and then brings out Sami Zayn. Owens looks less than pleased, but here comes Sami. Cody gets another mic and hands it to Sami as Owens continues to look unhappy. Cody then makes sure there’s no imminent violence, and says he’s peeling back the curtain just a bit here. He has incredible respect and love for Owens, you see 7 or so years ago when Cody wished WWE good luck and left he had a ton of false confidence and Owens is the one introduced him to his friends that helped him and calls this a favor he can never repay. But he’d like to try right now, and wants to have the conversation. This gets a “hug it out” chant. Owens has heard everything Sami has to say, but Sami cuts him off saying he hasn’t heard what Owens has to say. Sami knows that throughout their history of doing unspeakable things to each other they’ve always come back to the same page eventually, and he doesn’t know why this time is so different. If there’s anything Owens needs to say, please tell Sami that, if that’s yelling or violence then fine but Sami wants to get back to working together. Owens considers, and asks if Cody got what he wants and if he can leave. Cody says they’re in the service industry, what Cody wants doesn’t matter and says this might be what everyone wants because everyone wants to see Sami and Owens back together. Sami says everyone wants this, and it’s in their best interest, and he says they can be the ones that bring the Bloodline. He knows it’ll take years to actually repair things, they don’t need to be friends, and Owens cuts him off again by saying he’s heard this. Owens reiterates the stated position about them not needing to be friends, but Owens doesn’t know why he’d fight for someone who doesn’t want to be his friend. He appreciates Cody trying to do this, but he’s all set, and Owens leaves the ring. Interesting opening segment, Owens basically drawing the line that Sami being pragmatic actually hurts his feelings makes a ton of sense. That sends us to break.

We come back to Sami stopping Owens from getting in a car in the back. Sami says Owens was wrong, they are friends and will always be that, they’re brothers and if Owens never wants to talk to him again that’s fine but Sami still loves him. Owens gets into his car and drives off but he was clearly effected by that.

To the ring, and here come Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley.

Match #1 – Mixed Tag Team Match: Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley vs. Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega

Escobar and Dom start us off, Dom attacks at the bell then desperately appeals to the crowd to care. They don’t. Escobar fires up with some strikes and Dom takes a powder. Ripley comes into the ring and Escobar catches a kick, then Vega flies in with a seated senton then a slightly ugly kneeling hurricanrana. Escobar dives onto Dom, then Vega hits a moonsault to the floor onto Ripley and that’ll send us to break.

We come back to Dom landing some strikes in the corner. Escobar eats a kick then a hilo from Dom gets a 2 count. They hit the ropes and Escobar lands a dropkick then a tilt a whirl into a leg drop. Ripley in to break up a pin then drops Dom onto Escobar and Vega breaks up that pin. More rope running and we get a double down off of a collision. Both of them tag out, though with this rule set you don’t need another tag. Vega with some knees then an around the world DDT and a school boy but Dom breaks up the pin. Escobar knees Dom in the face and looks for a superplex but Ripley tosses Vega then hits the Tower of Doom spot. Vega up onto the ropes and hits a crossbody then a knee of her own. Vega up again but Dom intercepts the hurricanrana to allow Ripley to hit the Rip Tide and get the win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley won

Rating: 2 stars
Thoughts: Dom is still so unbearably boring in the ring, he’s got a bit of heat until he actually works then everyone kind of checks out. Ripley keeps building momentum though, and that’s definitely for the best.

Post match Dom has a mic, God help us. He just wants to say Rey is just a disrespectful deadbeat father, cue piped in boos. More whining from Dom, and we cut to Rey Mysterio walking in the back. That sends us to break. I can get the comedy of prison Dom, but whatever he’s doing now isn’t that and this just needs to go away.

As we come back from break, here comes Rey Mysterio. Rey gets in the ring and Dom laments that Rey finally showed up now but never did as a father. Rey asks Ripley to leave, politely, so he can have a moment alone with his son. Ripley obliges. Dom again brings up his late nights all alone, then gets mad that Rey took his Mania moment. Fake boos follow. Rey cuts him off from profanity then offers to tell him the truth. Rey admits to not being the best father in the world, he knows all that, but that doesn’t take away his love and he still loves Dom. Whether Dom believes him or not, Dom is his world. But soon Dom is going to find out how selfish this business is, Rey made sacrifices so his family could live the life he only dreamed of. The fancy cars, brand names, all of it, it’s all Dom’s, just like how the Mysterio name would bail him out of trouble. Rey struggles with his emotions, and says he’d love nothing more than be with his son on the stage when he goes into the Hall of Fame, but they both know that wont happen. His biggest regret is what Dom has turned into. If someone like Dom, some pathetic punk ass kid called him out for Mania, he’d gladly whip their ass. That gets a prolonged and loud “Kick his ass” chant. Unfortunately Dom is his son, and fighting him would be the biggest disgrace he could imagine as a father. Dom’s not worth it, now or ever, here or at Mania. Rey heads out. Dom asks if Rey is running away, and calls Rey a scared little man, but Rey doesn’t even turn around to look at Dom. Decent promo, the crowd cares about Dom only when he interacts with Rey but boy do they care in that specific instance.

Back to the ring, our winner here will be shoved into WrestleMania in some capacity. Here come Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez, they’ll take on Emma and Tegan Nox after this break.

Post break Nox and Emma get the jobbers entrance.

Match #2 – Tag Team Match: Raquel Rodriguez and Liv Morgan vs. Tegan Nox and Emma

Raquel and Nox start things off, Raquel easily overpowers Nox but Nox lands a slap with her bad arm. That inspires Raquel to toss her into the corner then tag in Morgan. Some corner offense to Nox then Morgan lands a kick for a 2 count. Nox lands an uppercut then a knee, to dead silence. Emma tags in and hits a low corner crossbody for a 2 count. Mounted punches from Emma then a butterfly suplex. Nox tags back in and hits a gordbuster, Morgan did not take that very well. Some kicks from Nox but Morgan just laughs then hits a Backstabber and tags in Raquel. Emma tags in as well but Raquel just runs her over several times, including a clothesline. Fall away slam from Raquel then the twisting Vader Bomb but Nox breaks up the pin. Morgan hits a Codebreaker (not a Cod Red Cole) but Emma sends her out of the ring. Raquel crushes Emma with a Tejana Bomb as Morgan tags in the Morgan hits the ObLIVion to get the win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Raquel Rodriguez and Liv Morgan won

Rating: Delicata squash
Thoughts: Competently worked but boy the crowd was dead for this.

Morgan comes up favoring her left ankle, hope that’s not legit.

We get a recap of the less than stellar promo between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley last week. It hasn’t aged well either.

Here comes Charlotte Flair in a TRON style onesie, because it’s high time we hear from Poochie I guess. She’ll take up promo time after this break.

We come back to Poochie talking. The more things change they more they stay the same, years ago the business was built on Rhodes as a challenger and Flair as a champion. Well here we are in 2023 and the same thing is still happening. Charlotte reminds us she’s always been in a title match at her 7 WrestleMania appearances. Trust me, we remember. She says Ripley can’t be a star until she’s a champion and can’t become a champion until she goes through Charlotte. 3 years ago Ripley couldn’t get by Charlotte, and she can’t do it here either. Ripley’s music interrupts, but Charlotte ignores it to finish her line. That’s a choice I guess. Here come Ripley and Dom. Ripley has a mic, and puts Dom in a corner so the grown ups can talk. Ripley says Charlotte is right, she chose her because while she’s got reasons for maybe fighting Bianca Belair that will be on hold for now. Everyone fears Ripley, except for Charlotte. Charlotte has no fear looking at Ripley right now, and Ripley is pissed off by that. Ripley puts over Charlotte for a bit, and she’ll give her that credit but Ripley needs that title. She needs to be a star, and after Mania Charlotte will learn to call Ripley champion, and learn to fear her. Dom walks into frame to distract Charlotte so Ripley can land a cheap shot. Charlotte doesn’t actually sell that apart from a slightly shocked look on her face. Charlotte stands and charges the couple so we’ve got a pull apart brawl between Charlotte and Ripley. That goes on for a while before eventually they’re separated and Charlotte pulls a Hogan by posing in the ring.

In the back Kayla finds Sami Zayn, she asks about his headspace going into his talking with Jey. Sami says two men who’ve considered him a brother, one drove off and one might want to take his head off. Well if enough people tell you you’re the problem, maybe there’s truth to it. If he’s brought all of this on himself then fine, he’ll deal with it.

Back to the ring here comes Xavier Woods, the only healthy New Day member. He’ll take on LA Knight after this break.

Post break here comes LA Knight, to a decent pop.

Match #3: Xavier Woods vs. LA Knight

They tie up, Woods winds up sent into the corner allowing Knight to take over. Some rope running from Woods, but Knight lands a right hand then a DDT for a 2 count. Knight puts Woods on the ropes but Woods punches him down then hits a dropkick. Woods hits a Falcon Arrow for a 2 count. Knight fights off the shoulders of Woods and hits a neckbreaker then a backsuplex into a facebuster. Woods counters a suplex with the Back Woods to get the pin.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Xavier Woods won

Rating: 2.5 stars
Thoughts: Technically competent, and it’s a shame they’re doing a losing streak for Knight leading to his assumed interaction with Stone Cold at Mania.

We’re reminded that the Great Muta is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Well deserved, Muta’s the man.

After this break we’ll get Drew vs. Sheamus.

LA Knight walks in the back as we return, Kayla wants to talk to him. Knight wants to talk to us, but is distracted by Rey and says he’ll fight Dom for him and keeps talking to earn a right hand from Rey. So we’re doing the usual “make them eat crap for 8 months to see if they want it” thing with Knight are we?

We get a video recap of the match last week that ended with Drew and Sheamus getting a double pin to set up this match tonight. After that here come Sheamus and Drew for our main event match. Drew and Sheamus both point at the Mania sign with their implements, Drew with his sword and Sheamus with his shillelagh. Oh, and here come Imperium to observe the match, which will start after this break.

We replay that Stranger Things inspired trailer, they’re just not even trying anymore are they?

Match #4: Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre

Drew offers a handshake to start, Sheamus declines. They tie up and fight for position in the corner then Sheamus grabs a side headlock and hits a shoulder block. Drew hits a Kitchen Sink knee strike then lays in a chop. Snap suplex from Drew as Kaiser tells off Wade for trying to talk with Gunther. Kaiser relates the message and Gunther does take a headset, then just glares at Wade. Gunther just plans on fulfilling his duty at Mania, and insults Wade for his ill prepared questions. Drew fights off a Cloverleaf and hits a Michinoku Driver as Cole apologizes on behalf of Wade. Another chop from Drew, he and Sheamus start trading strikes then Drew hits an Irish Curse for a 2 count. Now Sheamus goes Bodhran Beating but Drew catches the blow and instead turns it around trying his own, but Sheamus stops that gimmick infringement and looks for a Finlay Roll but has to settle for just booting Drew out of the corner. They fight up to the top rope where Drew hits a superplex to send us to break.

Drew is landing chops as we come back but Sheamus cuts him off. Now Sheamus can go Bodhran Beating, he gets up to 10 this time. Sheamus sets for a Brogue Kick but Drew avoids it and hits a neckbreaker. Drew wants a Claymore, but he runs into a knee and that gets a near fall. They fight up and trade clotheslines but neither man is going down, then Drew lands a headbutt but Sheamus comes off the ropes with a knee and they’re both down. Double finish as they both hit their finishing kicks and both men are down again. The ref starts counting, and Gunther yells at them to get up because he wants a challenger. Gunther jumps into the ring to confront the ref about doing his job, then he yells at Drew and Sheamus to get up and earn a shot at his title. Drew and Sheamus then get jumped by Kaiser and Vinic and this is thrown out.


Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts: Drew and Sheamus beating the crap out of each other is always fun, this struggled a bit because we all kind of knew what was coming in terms of the finish.

Post match the beat down is on, Gunther lays out Drew then Powerbombs Sheamus onto him and heads out. This is interrupted by Adam Pearce on the tron, and he says Gunther’s actions have forced his hand he’s having to make Gunther vs. Drew vs. Sheamus in a triple threat at Mania. Drew and Sheamus are happy enough, Gunther is pissed but can’t do anything else.

In the back Jey Uso walks. He’ll confront Sami after this break.

Post break Jey is in the ring with a mic, but before he can say anything here comes Sami Zayn. Sami has a mic and talks his way to the ring, asking if this is what Jey wanted. Jey looks conflicted. Sami is here and asks how Jey wants to do this. Jey says he’s got a job to do, but first Sami has to hear this. Since day one he didn’t like Sami, didn’t trust him, he didn’t want him around. But then week after week Sami earned the affection of Jimmy, Solo, Heyman, and Roman. Still not Jey though. Jey always tried to protect the family, and the one time he put his gun down what did Sami do? He betrayed them, made Jey look stupid in front of the whole world. Jey called Sami family, do you know what that means? Well now Jey has to remind Sami that he’s always been a fake uce. Now he’s got no choice. Sami cuts him off, saying Jey chooses to take Roman’s abuse. He loved the family but wasn’t going to take Roman’s abuse week after week and says Jey is mad at himself, not Sami. He’s not mad that Sami hit Roman with a chair, he’s just mad that Sami did it first. Jey debates, then decides to lay into Sami and we’ve got a brawl. They fight but here’s Jimmy to put the odds against Sami. Jey super kicks Sami out of the ring. Jey with the ring steps and cracks Sami with them as Cole calls the ring steps a chair. Jimmy gets Sami back in the ring but here comes Kevin Owens, his music hits and Owens comes through the crowd to attack Jimmy and Jey from behind. Owens fights both Jimmy and Jey, ejecting Jimmy but Jimmy comes back only to eat a Stunner. Jey takes a pop up powerbomb and Owens stands tall. Owens yells at Jimmy and Jey as Sami pulls himself to his feet. Sami and Owens are alone, there’s our third “Hug it out chant” and this time Owens obliges to a massive pop. We see Cody Rhodes looking pleased as punch in the back as the Usos stare daggers at Sami and Owens in the ring.

The final score: review Good
The 411
A decent rebound from last week, we had a solid narrative through line with the Sami and Jey stuff and the pop for Owens and Sami finally hugging was big. This wasn't without fault, the mixed tag team match was kind of heatless, Charlotte and Ripley just don't have chemistry on the mic though this was better than last week, and the stuff with Dom and Rey just feels tedious at this point but I might be in the minority there. The stuff with Gunther, Drew, and Sheamus was a decent enough example of taking the predictable path but everyone being happy because we know where we want to go. LA Knight on a losing streak is a very odd choice, and the random bit about Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez getting to Mania felt every bit like an afterthought. Largely this episode rests on the opening segment and the payoff at the end, the stuff in the middle was somewhat hit or miss. Still, enough to sneak it into the Good category I think.

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WWE Smackdown, Robert Winfree