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SmackDown recap & reactions (Jan. 13, 2023): The Bloodline’s pawn

Sami Zayn was tasked with taking out Kevin Owens on this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown, an order given straight from Roman Reigns himself. He found out shortly into the show, from none other than Paul Heyman, that he would be going it alone, as the rest of The Bloodline wasn’t even in the building.

And so he went it alone, and he certainly appeared to be giving it his all, and his all was sure looking like it was going to deliver a victory. But right when he was setting up for the Helluva Kick, the dogs were unleashed, with Jimmy, Jey, and Solo Sikoa hitting the ring to force a disqualification going after Owens.

Zayn seemed confused and a bit displeased. Again, it felt very much like he was eager to prove himself.

My read on this is that this was just another example of The Bloodline not actually accepting Zayn in the way he wants. They could have trusted him to get things done himself, and they didn’t. Instead, he feels more like a pawn here, the guy they sent in to get beat up to weaken Owens so they could run in and pick at the scraps right at the end.

There’s no triumph for Sami here.

They lift him up, and then they tear him down just so they can lift him back up again. He is in the cycle of manipulation and perhaps this was the night he finally started to see it for himself, after hearing Owens try to explain it to him multiple times now.

There’s still room to wiggle, though, and it seems clear they aren’t quite ready for the breakup just yet. But this was another good story beat.

I’m for damn sure staying tuned.


I’m giving this its own space because sometimes I really do enjoy when Bray Wyatt is given the chance to just get in the ring and speak like only Bray Wyatt can.

The throwbacks to the Wyatt we used to know really hit home for me, for reasons I’m not even entirely sure of or could explain. I miss when Wyatt was twisting tales with his tongue and telling us to “RUN” before blowing out electric lanterns. That guy felt so special, like a transcendent talent whose potential just needed to be unlocked.

Maybe part of our fascination with Wyatt is that it’s long felt that potential has gone unrealized. There’s just something to this guy, and I want to experience it fully. This felt like getting back to that in some way.

Here’s to hoping the future holds more like this.


All the rest
  • This show kicked off with Braun Strowman challenging GUNTHER for the Intercontinental championship. They had a decent match but it was fairly standard considering the participants and it certainly didn’t feel like they gave everything they had to it. GUNTHER beat Strowman clean — there was some Imperium interference during the match, but it didn’t seem to affect the outcome — and left little room for a rematch. Perhaps this is over already? It definitely doesn’t feel like they need to go back to it.
  • Rey Mysterio is good and fed up with Dominik’s shit but instead of letting his own son instigate him, he’s moving forward by entering the Royal Rumble and trying to go big and win the damn thing. Naturally, Karrion Kross interrupted to call him a bad father and then choke him out when Rey responded with violence. This is doing a fantastic job of making me feel really bad for poor Rey. The guy is a legend, he deserves better than this, right?!?
  • Liv Morgan slapped the taste out of Raquel Rodriguez’s mouth. Like, holy shit, dude! That was brutal! But it was also great because it showed us a new side to Rodriguez, who ditched the smiling happy go lucky attitude in favor of getting good and pissed off and eager to remind everyone she’s the biggest and baddest woman on the roster. She showed that by beating Morgan in a singles match later in the evening, though she was right back to cheesing after doing it. Still, they showed it’s there and that’s some progress.
  • Tegan Nox defeated Xia Li in a standard singles match. Li has been getting on TV a bit more lately but they’re doing absolutely nothing with her.
  • They announced a tag team tournament will start next week to determine the next top contenders to The Usos’ SmackDown tag team titles (yes, they specified). Sheamus & Drew McIntyre will get The Viking Raiders in the first round, based on the latter attacking the former after last week’s show. They’re doing a lot of cinematic work to make Erik & Ivar cool but even with Valhalla, I’m just not feeling it. Your mileage may vary.
  • Sonya Deville wants her rematch with Charlotte Flair, so she campaigned for it to Adam Pearce — who indicated she’ll need to win the Royal Rumble for all that — and when that didn’t work she just straight up brawled with her backstage. It was a pretty damn good pull apart. We’ll see if it ends up with Deville getting another shot or if she does indeed have tow in the Rumble.

This was a solid show.

Grade: C+

Your turn.

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