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SmackDown recap & reactions (June 23, 2023): The redirect

I want to start by saying the video package WWE put together recapping The Usos breaking free of The Bloodline at the start of this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown was absolutely fantastic. Just a brilliant piece of business that really gave proper weight to the story they’ve spent all this time telling.

It really does feel monumentally big.

As if to showcase exactly that, Jimmy & Jey’s music hit to welcome us to the live portion of the show and the roof blew off the damn building. This is what great storytelling does for the wrestlers playing these characters. They’ve always been over, sure, but this is something different.

You can feel this.

They did a hell of a job continuing that story on this show too. Jey made clear right away just how much this entire situation hurts. They’re about to fight their own family, and you aren’t supposed to fight your family. You’re supposed to lift them up, not tear them down. But that’s what Roman Reigns did, it’s what he’s been doing for far too long, and that means it’s time to deal with it.

But they still love him.

He’s still the Tribal Chief.

Forgiveness can be had.

But that only extends to the family. And The Bloodline has a member who is not family and that forgiveness will not be extended to — Paul Heyman.

He was made a central issue here, the guy who has poisoned the well they’re all drinking from. He is a snake in the grass and he has been creating many of these problems.

That leaves an interesting out for both Reigns and Sikoa down the line. And adds intrigue to Heyman’s status in both the long and short term.

Later, when they showed Solo Sikoa walking with Heyman backstage, he bumped into Ridge Holland, who got just lippy enough for Solo to rock him with a Spike because “I’m not in the mood.” Sheamus, enraged by this, demanded a match and that gave us the main event for this show.

Said main event was a fine match, one that ended via stoppage when Sikoa knocked Sheamus out through a barricade on the outside. Then he went after officials who had come down to stop him from doing any more damage, which is what brought The Usos out.

The show ended with Jimmy and Jey putting Sikoa down with superkicks and again making clear Heyman is an outcast and is not welcome. The finish didn’t have the same impact as the open, but the point was made.

All the rest
  • Although WWE initially announced a triple threat match pitting LA Knight vs. Santos Escobar vs. BUTCH, that was changed to Knight vs. Rey Mysterio in a singles match. They had one hell of a back-and-forth battle, especially considering it was the first match of the night on a random episode of TV in June. Knight, despite working heel again, was getting a lot of cheers. And then, I’ll be damned, he hit his finish and pinned Mysterio clean right there in that ring. Again, he was cheered for this. Despite that, he attempted a post-match attack but was run off by Escobar.
  • Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler defeated Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn to unify the WWE and NXT women’s tag team titles in a match that looked about the way you would think. What was noteworthy was the fact that the moment Fyre & Dawn were defeated they were moved out of the picture, with Raquel Rodriguez being called into the ring to set up the return of Liv Morgan. They’ll be challenging for the titles next. I suppose it makes sense to do this, especially if they want to add another title match to Money in the Bank in London. But it felt like they more or less discarded Fyre & Dawn in the process. Ouch.
  • Grayson Waller did yet another episode of “The Grayson Waller Effect,” with Pretty Deadly as his guests. Kit & Elton cut a promo on Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, who they’ll challenge for the tag team titles in London next week. They took a long time to say very little, namely that they beat a lot of teams to become top contenders. To be fair to them, they were getting boos, and Waller is pretty great just reacting to his guests, but I wasn’t feeling this. Mercifully, The Street Profits interrupted to set up a match between the two. During said match, Wade Barrett popped me by saying folks from the UK are the prettiest, and consider how pretty the guys from Pretty Deadly must be if they won an award for as much over him. They did their best to have a good match, one that saw the heels use the ropes to score a pinfall victory.
  • Charlotte Flair had an absolute blast beating up Lacey Evans, smiling the whole way through what was ultimately a glorified squash match. I’m not sure Evans got a bit of offense in, and Flair was clearly having a ton of fun with it. That fun ended when Asuka showed up and attacked her, furiously throwing punches while still wearing the belt. Quite the visual. After the segment, they had Adam Pearce bar Bianca Belair from ringside for their title match next week but he promised she would get to challenge the winner. She doesn’t trust him, of course, seeing as how that played out last time. Anti-hero Bianca is inching closer and closer.

This felt like a strange show. It wasn’t bad, and had a few noteworthy segments, but it absolutely felt like it wasn’t the show it was originally supposed to be. They cut a big match in Bayley vs. Shotzi and never once mentioned it. Very strange stuff indeed.

Grade: C-

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