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SmackDown recap & reactions (Dec. 15, 2023): They don’t want none

Roman Reigns, after an absence that felt much longer than it actually was, made his return to WWE on Friday Night SmackDown in Green Bay this week to handle some business with The Bloodline. Things have been getting out of hand since he’s been gone, as outside forces have grown in numbers and therefore power. There has never this much danger lurking around every corner.

Acknowledge him.

But, also, acknowledge the Tribal Chief in waiting, Solo Sikoa. That’s right, folks — Reigns outright called him the future.

Enter Randy Orton, who made clear what we already knew without him needing to say it but he did anyway. Orton vs. Reigns for the WWE Universal championship, he’s coming to take it away, to get his revenge, to make things right.

And he’ll go through everyone he has to in order to make that happen.

Reigns said he didn’t even deserve a match for the title, seeing as he’s been gone for so long and done so little to reestablish himself. But if they did square up, hey, there’s only one outcome and it’s not a comeback, it’s flat out retirement.

But you know what Roman is fast becoming? A legend.

You know what Randy is?

That’s right.

Meanwhile, Orton ran into LA Knight backstage after all this and they butted heads just a bit over the fact that they both want to be the man to take Reigns down. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, usually, but the tension was thick here.

And that could go somewhere eventually.

Later still, Jimmy Uso, scheduled to wrestle Orton on this show, wondered aloud to Sikoa about Reigns and Paul Heyman talking longer than normal and this all possibly being a set up. Would his brother have his back if something was going to happen to him?

“I’m your brother,” was what he got back.

Finally, it was time for Orton vs. Jimmy and wouldn’t you know it, Sikoa was there for his guy — but LA Knight was there for Orton, ensuring Solo couldn’t get to the ring and allowing Randy to win the match. Of course, that just brought out Reigns, to make it a 3-on-2 mismatch.

Then, a surprise — the return of AJ Styles.

Styles, you might remember, has been out of action dating back to September when The Bloodline took him out. Naturally, he was there to get after them but he also surprised us even more when he, out of nowhere, decided to lay Knight out with a shot from behind. It shocked even Orton, who is known for doing such things and even kinda sorta hinted at the possibility of it earlier in the evening straight to LA.

It raises some questions about what the future actually holds for everyone involved here. WWE smartly played up the fact that this raised so many questions with a teaser for next week’s show, where we’ll presumably get answers. It looks like this could be how they move Knight away from The Bloodline, and if so that’s a smart play. Plus, it’s a fresh coat of paint for AJ with what looks like could be a fun run as a heel.

This was pretty well done all around.

Also, holy shit, Styles looks JACKED.

All the rest
  • Carmelo Hayes defeated Grayson Waller to advance in the United States Title Tournament. This was almost purely a way to show off what Hayes has to offer when he becomes a main roster star proper. They didn’t give away all the goods but he very clearly has quite a bit to offer and that he got to advance tells us they want us to see even more sooner rather than later. We’ll all be better off for it.
  • Austin Theory and Kevin Owens, meanwhile, had an unexpected banger. Owens was working with the hand injury they kayfabed last week, wearing a cast to get around it. Naturally, he used that same cast to punch Theory in the face to score the pinfall. That sets up what should be a fun semifinal in Hayes vs. Owens.
  • Karrion Kross is finally getting back on TV! He got a short vignette teasing out something coming soon. I’m here for it. This man deserves something to sink his teeth into.
  • Damage CTRL is once again acting like everything is great, with Bayley remarking they plan to take all the gold once again. The Kabuki Warriors are back after it and are going for the tag team titles and Bayley is entering the Royal Rumble to try to take Rhea Ripley’s women’s world championship. Sure. The Kabuki Warriors then scored a strong win over Michin & Zelina Vega, firmly establishing them as top contenders in a division sorely lacking as much.

It felt like they didn’t do a lot on this show, even though they hit all the major stories and even had a show long story end with a surprise return. The blue brand always delivers, even when it seems like they played it slower than normal.

Grade: B+

Your turn.

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