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SmackDown recap & reactions (July 14, 2023): Championship focus

Poor Asuka.

WWE didn’t even try to hide the fact that she is not even the focus of the women’s championship program at the start of this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown. She is the champion.

Bianca Belair cut a passionate promo saying she’s tired of waiting and being patient and she wants to win the title she feels is hers. She was interrupted by Charlotte Flair confidently proclaiming Belair would win tonight and she hopes that happens because then they can wrestle each other. Belair told her she could have the match at SummerSlam, and they literally shook hands over it.

Again, Asuka is the champion.

Her only appearance in the segment was a brief shot of her shaking her head backstage while watching the two bigger stars set up a major match at the next pay-per-view. And this is before she would defend her title in the main event of the evening.

Later, Flair was about to leave the arena to let the match play out how she believed it would when Bayley and Iyo Sky showed up to remind everyone of the latter’s Money in the Bank contract. Flair, naturally, decided to stick around.

Which is why it’s so baffling that when they got to the match, they made a big show of Bayley, Sky, and Flair showing up ringside with tickets they purchased. This makes no sense, considering we never got a segment with Pearce barring them from the arena to create a need for them to buy tickets. They were all already at the show working.

They’re usually pretty good about addressing details like that lately, so it was a bit disappointing they failed to do so here.

It also makes no sense to do because they were always going to get involved in the match and this means they have to jump the barricade to do it. If they’re just ticket buyers and not talent, doesn’t that mean security should stop them?

Anyway, they did indeed get involved, leading to a disqualification and yet another failed cash-in attempt from Sky. That’s her second now, and let’s hope that doesn’t continue because she’s going to start looking worse and worse for it moving forward.

Add it all up and we have a story where there are three women chasing after the championship and the actual champion is the least relevant part of the story. If she didn’t have the title, she wouldn’t be here at all.

Not great!

This Bloodline story didn’t need any more depth, or should I say Jey Uso challenging Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal championship at SummerSlam didn’t, but they gave it that this week.

Jimmy Uso, we learned, is out indefinitely with “ruptured rib cartilage” following Reigns & Solo Sikoa’s attack last week. Jey, then, showed up good and pissed off about it this week.

“When my brother hurts, I hurt.”

And now he’s going to go scorched Earth on those responsible for it, even though it means putting the boots to his own family.

Naturally, Paul Heyman showed up to muddy the waters, claiming Jey is already acting a bit like a Tribal Chief. But also it’s his fault that Jimmy is in the hospital right now.

And no one is ever going to forgive him for what he’s done, and continuing to do. To drive it home, Sikoa took the mic himself and spoke clear as day. “I’ll never forgive you either.”


It was a great setup for the fight that kicked off right after, one that included Jey finally getting to superkick Heyman in the mouth. He sent both Heyman and Sikoa packing tending to the wounds he left them with.

Reigns returns next week to “go over the rules of engagement” for their match.

They continue to surprise me with how well they pace these things and how each segment can have as much impact as it still does. They’ve really got me going again, even though I know where this is headed. I’m going to be upset again all the same.

God, I love it.

The LA Knight section of the show:

Listen to the reception that man gets. It doesn’t matter where WWE travels, the audience responds with pure glee when he shows up, and they absolutely love playing along when he’s speaking.

I’m not going to act like he’s anywhere near the level of Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock, and I absolutely understand anyone claiming he’s a ripoff of the two. But I don’t give one single solitary damn about it because he’s just that good.

One way it’s absolutely fair to compare him is in just how eager fans are to go along with him with the catchphrases. I can remember being younger and wanting to go to shows just so I could give Stone Cold his “HELL YEAH.” Now I want to be one of the everybody saying...

Never underestimate how powerful a draw it is to have someone in a prominent position at a show so fans can do his gimmick with him. It’s pro wrestling, man, it’s supposed to be fun. And LA Knight gives you exactly that.


All the rest
  • Pretty Deadly exposed a turnbuckle to cheat to defeat the Brawling Brutes after a decent match. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Brutes, who consistently look good but can’t stop taking losses, no matter how they’re taking them.
  • Grayson Waller very publicly got into it with The Rock on social media, so of course WWE made sure to have him call attention to it on this show. Then again, he also made sure to talk about Rock coming to find him if he has a problem with him. It wasn’t long ago that the big boss of the company wouldn’t go for saying things like that if it wasn’t going somewhere. Maybe I’m just being hopeful this means Rock will finally come back around to verbally smack down Waller before maybe bumping into the family again…
  • Bayley defeated Zelina Vega in a straight up singles match. It was fine for what it was, which was a way to lead into a pre-taped promo from Shotzi, who said she’s the one in control, not Bayley, and she showed that by shaving her head and calling herself weird. This is finally a bit of direction for Shotzi beyond throwing her in a random tag team, at least.
  • The first of two Fatal 4-Way matches to determine Austin Theory’s next challenger for the United States championship saw Santos Escobar emerge victorious after an incredibly fun match. Whoever laid this out deserves a ton of credit, and Escobar, AJ Styles, Grayson Waller, and BUTCH did a hell of a job in the execution. Waller, despite WWE seeing so much in him, took the pin. Hey, he’s a heel, he can be beaten quite a bit before it really starts to hurt. This is also probably good for next week’s winner, considering who is in the field for that one (cough, LA Knight).
  • Hey, Bobby Lashley showed up! And he came in style, showing up in a limo to take The Street Profits off somewhere so they could talk. The birth of a new Hurt Business, perhaps?

Really fun show overall but the main event was a bit of a mess.

Grade: B-

Your turn.

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