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SmackDown recap & reactions (June 9, 2023): The new Tribal Chief

It sure felt strange, but not entirely unnatural, for Friday Night SmackDown this week to start with Solo Sikoa standing in the ring, flanked by Paul Heyman. A glimpse into the future, perhaps? I couldn’t help but consider as much as Heyman started talking.

And then The Usos’ music hit and Jey was on the scene demanding to hear what these two had to say. This show was all about his big choice, right? So here we were.

Heyman’s appeal was simple — this isn’t Roman Reigns’ fault. It isn’t Solo’s fault. It’s Jimmy’s fault. His reasoning? Jimmy is jealous because he’s aware of the fact that Reigns wants to groom Jey to become the next Tribal Chief.

As a show of that, a match was worked out — an opportunity for Jey to add another singles title to The Bloodline, in this case the United States championship. Defeating Austin Theory would start him on his path to singles glory.

“But I need your answer now.”

Jey accepted the U.S. championship match but was hesitant to shake hands to make it official. The fans didn’t want it at all. After deliberation, he vowed “I’ll get back to you on that.”

A bit later, Sami Zayn made sure to find Jey and try to offset everything Heyman said a short time before. Zayn reminded him of the good times but also tried to open his eyes to how miserable it was because Reigns gaslighted him constantly and made him prove himself over and over again.

It never mattered.

The Bloodline needs The Usos more than The Usos need The Bloodline.

“You listen to what’s in your heart, not what’s being put in your head.”

Later still, Heyman was back in Jey’s ear, telling him they plan to do a triple celebration next week on SmackDown and everything will be grand for everyone in The Bloodline.

Jey responded by saying if he’s in The Bloodline, Heyman won’t be.


Finally, it was time for Jey vs. Theory. The match was fantastic on its own — something I’d love to see them run back another time later — but the story was everything here. Jey had the match won but, of course, there was a ref bump and then Pretty Deadly showed up to assist their new buddy Theory. That’s when Jimmy ran in to help, getting them the hell out.

But then Solo hit the ring to put the boots to Jimmy. But before he could hit the Spike, Jey stopped him. Solo pushed him off and Jimmy set up for a superkick … but when he went for it, Solo moved and Jey was laid out.

That’s how Theory ended up scoring the pinfall and retaining the United States championship.

Obviously, Jimmy wasn’t trying to lay his brother out. But how would that play into the decision he had to make?

He pushed Jimmy away.

But he didn’t stand with Heyman and Solo either.

The show ended with a dejected Jimmy hanging off the ropes, shaking his head, wondering what the future holds.

I’m not crazy about the way they sold this as hard as they did on Jey making his decision on this night, I do like how they left it hanging the way they did. It’s still clear what they’re ultimately going to end up going with, but they set it up in such a way that the payoff will be fulfilling.

WWE unveiled yet another new championship belt that looks almost exactly the same as the old championship belt and also one of the other new championship belts.

Yes, they’re really going big on the brand synergy thing here.

Having said that, I really like the gold backing and while I’m not crazy about the design overall — how can anybody be crazy about it, it’s just the company logo — it makes sense why they would do this. It’s at least a big step in the right direction because they kept referring to it simply as “the women’s championship.”

And while they didn’t expand upon that point during SmackDown, one would think it wasn’t an accident and they’re finally getting rid of distinguishing the two titles by the brand the wrestler holding it belongs to.

That’s objectively good, and outweighs and issues with the design choice (or lack thereof).

In a hilarious turn of events, immediately after the title was introduced and before Pearce could even finish strapping it around Asuka’s waist, Charlotte Flair returned to thrown down a challenge for it.

Naturally, this pissed off Bianca Belair, who wants her own shot at the title, and was promised as much. Pearce, for his part, said he’ll work it out.

A triple threat at Money in the Bank in London sounds fun to me. And whatever your feelings on Charlotte, the women’s division is much better for having her active on TV.

All the rest
  • Santos Escobar defeated Mustafa Ali to qualify for the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match. The match was a bit slow while they worked out their spots but when they hit, they hit pretty damn hard. Ali did a great job putting over Escobar here. LA Knight loomed large on commentary however and it remains clear he’s the guy to win the match in a few weeks.
  • Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre were going to get some time on TV in the form of an interview with Kayla Braxton when Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler showed up to say they want to unify the titles. Rousey & Baszler are the WWE women’s tag team champions while Dawn & Fyre are the NXT women’s tag team champions. It never made sense for this to continue, so they’re finally doing something about it. It’s worth noting that Wade Barrett said Dawn & Fyre “nuked” the women’s tag division in NXT, so it would seem that division is no more.
  • Bayley defeated Michin to qualify for the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. This despite the fact that AJ Styles was out on commentary, though that ended up being because Scarlett was going to blow red smoke in his face before Karrion Kross choked him out. So that issue is continuing, which I’m looking forward to if only to see the kind of matches these two can have.
  • NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes got some shine on a main roster show when he showed up to watch Baron Corbin lose his Money in the Bank qualifying match to BUTCH. They brawled a bit after and set up what Corbin will be doing down in NXT. He also got jumped backstage by Cameron Grimes, who still wants a piece of him. Hell of a night for Corbs!
  • IYO SKY defeated Shotzi to book her ticket to the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match but how they got there was a bit surprising: SKY was dominated for the entire match and only won when Bayley interfered on her behalf, knocking Shotzi off the top rope. These two were headed for a breakup not long ago. Did the Dakota Kai injury change those plans? Or are they going to go back to it when they’re both going after the briefcase?
  • The SmackDown tag team division lit up unexpectedly on this show, with pretty much the entirety of the division demanding a tag team title match. The solution? GAUNTLET MATCH! Hell yes! It happens next week, winner gets a shot at Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn.

This was a fun show that had a LOT going on in every segment.

Grade: B+

Your turn.

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