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SmackDown recap & reactions (Mar. 17, 2023): Reunited and it feels so good

Cody Rhodes came to Friday Night SmackDown this week and while he opened with the usual words on his upcoming championship match in the main event of WrestleMania 39 against Roman Reigns, he wanted to handle some other business.

The reunion of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

He called both of them to the ring, an act Owens was none too pleased about. Cody softened that by making clear to everyone it was Owens who introduced him to those friends he got AEW going with many years ago, and therefore owes a debt to him.

But what would happen with the conversation Cody so hoped for?

Again, Owens was resistant but Cody and Sami both did what WWE babyfaces tend to do — they appealed to the crowd. It’s not about what they want, it’s about what we, the fans, want and why can’t they just come together and make that happen?

Where the rubber met the road was when Zayn repeatedly mentioned that they didn’t even need to be friends to fight and take down The Bloodline and Owens made clear that that was precisely the problem. Why would he come together and fight for a man who doesn’t even care about being his friend?

What went unsaid was that it was this man in particular who was saying these things.

It seemed to have one hell of an impact on Zayn, who watched Owens walk off with the look of devastation that only comes to a man who understands how much pain he’s caused someone he loves.

After a commercial break, we saw Sami running to Kevin, who was trying to leave.

“You’re wrong — we are friends. We’ll always be friends. We’re not just friends, we’re brothers. If you never want to talk to me again, that’s fine. But I just wanted to let you know I love you. That’s it.”

Owens shook his head, turned, got in his car, and drove away.

A showdown with Jey Uso loomed large later in the evening.

That showdown came and they wasted no time getting down to it.

Jey went over everything, how he never liked or trusted Sami, but then things turned around and he came around and accepted him. But then Sami turned on the family, the same family Jey always swore to protect, and that made him an embarrassment, like being made a fool of in front of everyone. So now he has no choice but to do what he’s gotta do.

Sami fired back and said no, Jey does have a choice. He chooses to take the abuse from Roman Reigns every week. Maybe he’s really just mad that Sami was the one to put the chair in his back first.

That’s when the beating started.

Jimmy quickly joined Jey in attacking Zayn. In a 2-on-1 he stood no chance.

But then that familiar music hit.

And then Owens was there in the ring, fighting off The Usos, powered by vengeance but by something else too — the need to protect someone he loves. And that someone is Sami Zayn.

When the ring was cleared, Sami finally stood up, across the ring from his dear friend, a man he called his brother just an hour before. He made no move, because it wasn’t his choice at that point. It was Kevin’s.

The crowd hardly got very far into their “hug it out” chants before Owens had charged across the ring and wrapped his arms around Zayn to a thunderous ovation. Finally, they’ve reunited.

They cut to the back to show Rhodes watching on a monitor backstage, a smile on his face as he nodded his head at what he was witnessing. This was a beautifully executed set up for what is shaping up to be the ultimate babyface team collectively taking down The Bloodline in two separate matches for all the gold at WrestleMania 39. They have to close the show with those three celebrating together.

And it’s going to feel damn good when they do.

All the rest
  • Rhea Ripley & Dominik Mysterio came to the blue brand to beat up on Zelina Vega & Santos Escobar. I say that, but Zelina actually had a good showing, even if she was always going to do the job for Ripley. Then, Dom hopped on the microphone and started running down his father before Rey made his way out. It was the same thing they’ve been doing — Dom ran down how bad of a father he has been. This time, Rey copped to that, saying he wasn’t there as much as he should have been but he was doing everything he could to make life better for his family. For Dom. And now it’s just pain because all he wants is for Dom to be there on stage with him when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. But maybe it’s too late for that. If it was any other pathetic, disrespectful, punk ass kid, he would beat their ass at WrestleMania. But he can’t do it. “It would be a disgrace.” Dom kept trying but Rey walked off once more. This has been one hell of a slow burn, and I’m ready for Rey to finally tip over the edge. I’m still invested in how they’ll do it too.
  • They announced two Fatal 4-Way matches for WrestleMania 39 in the women’s and men’s tag team divisions, then said the next match would be a qualifier. Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan defeated Emma & Tegan Nox in said match. It was as good as you could expect from a TV match like this.
  • Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley came together for another promo to try to talk folks into their match and they largely went over the same points. Flair beat Ripley once before and she’ll do it again. Rhea, meanwhile, took note of Charlotte staring her down with no fear in her eyes and how “that pisses me off.” I quite enjoyed that line. Then she said she needs to become a star on Flair’s level and that means she needs to win the title from her. So after WrestleMania, she’ll learn to call her champion and “you’re gonna learn to fear me.” Then Dom, the little bastard, came into the picture and popped off at the mouth, giving Ripley the chance to lead a cheap shot. Flair let it ride for a second, then ditched the shoes and the title and went sprinting into a big brawl. This was pretty damn good! The crowd was hot for it and it felt like two big stars going at it.
  • Xavier Woods and Madcap Moss were doing some gaming earlier today and LA Knight came along and talked some trash. That led to Woods and Knight getting together for a singles match. There wasn’t much to it. Woods rolled Knight up for the win after just a couple minutes and they made fun of LA losing too much. Booooooo. Then he was shown backstage telling Rey Mysterio he would call himself LA Mysterio and beat up Dominik for him at WrestleMania. So he got dropped with one punch. Booooooo!
  • Drew McIntyre and Sheamus had their singles match to determine who would go on to WrestleMania 39 to wrestle GUNTHER for the Intercontinental championship. It was one hell of a back-and-forth battle, as you would expect from these two, and they made the case for just letting them duke it out forever. The crowd rewarded them with justified “this is awesome” chants for their efforts. Ultimately, they hit a double finisher, and were about to get counted down together when GUNTHER charged the ring pissed that neither was going to win. He wanted a singles match, but then got them both disqualified. So Adam Pearce finally booked the long rumored triple threat. This one has real potential to steal the show.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed about SmackDown lately is how tight the shows have become. They aren’t wasting a lot of time on any kind of fluff, instead giving extended time to all the programs that matter heading into the big show.

Grade: A

You damn right.

Your turn.

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