This week’s WWE Smackdown featured GUNTHER putting the Intercontinental Title on the line against Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens facing Sami Zayn yet again and more!
I know the big story this week is all about the potential sale of WWE, Vince McMahon back as the Executive Chairman and Stephanie McMahon resigning, but it’s nice to know that Triple H is still running the creative team. I feel like our news team at TJRWrestling has done a tremendous of bringing the news to you as best we can, as fast as we can and I think we do it as well as any wrestling site. We got some record numbers this week in terms of page views, so we appreciate your support.
With all that said, my favorite part about this hobby that turned into a career is that I get to review these shows to the best of my ability and be a fan of the product. All of the behind-the-scenes stuff is cool to learn about, but what matters is what happens on the shows. Don’t lose sight of that. I’m very excited for the upcoming Royal Rumble to see what the show will look like under the guidance of Triple H and especially two Rumble matches.
The Smackdown introduction video aired to start the show followed by an impressive pyro display.
Braun Strowman was up first as the challenger in the Intercontinental Title match. It was noted by Cole that Strowman lives about an hour and a half away from Green Bay. Braun was wearing sneakers in the Green Bay Packers colors in tribute to a child that died in a scary incident during a parade in 2021. The commentary team was Michael Cole and Wade Barrett. I don’t know when Pat McAfee will be back since the college football season ended, so maybe he won’t be back at all.
GUNTHER was next as the Intercontinental Champion with his Imperium buddies by his side, but Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser went to the back. Samantha Irvin, who is now engaged to Ricochet, did a great job with the introductions. Cole mentioned the boy named Jordan that passed away who Strowman was honoring and the boots will be auctioned off after the match.
Intercontinental Championship: GUNTHER vs. Braun Strowman
Gunther went after Strowman’s arm to start the match, but Strowman sent Gunther out of the ring easily. Strowman beat up Gunther on the floor a bit followed by a running shoulder tackle that knocked Gunther down on the floor.
The match continued with Gunther in control as slammed Strowman’s left arm/shoulder into the steel steps along with the ring apron. Gunther applied an armbar on the left arm, Strowman got out of it and Gunther hit him with some chops. Gunther kicked Strowman’s left arm, then another armbar and he punched the ribs to knock Strowman down. Gunther hit a knee drop for a one count. When Braun went for a lift, he collapsed due to the arm pain he was selling. Gunther hit a shoulder block to the left arm/shoulder. Gunther with a chop, Strowman with forearms and a big clothesline. Strowman with a back body drop, but Kaiser and Vinci showed up. Kaiser grabbed Braun’s arm against the ropes leading to Vinci hitting a dropkick. Strowman knocked them both down with the refereeing Jessika Carr seeing that part, but she missed the initial interference. Gunther with strikes to Braun and Strowman hit a Monster Slam (a powerslam) for a two count.
The match continued with Gunther applying an armbar on the left arm on the mat, but Strowman managed to get back up and slam Gunther down. They exchanged strikes, Gunther hit a boot to the face, bounced off the ropes and Strowman hit a spinebuster for two. Gunther with another strike, but Strowman hit a clothesline. Strowman charged, Gunther moved, dropkick by Gunther and a running clothesline got a two count. Gunther went up top and jumped off with a splash for a two count. The fans were cheering for Strowman as you would expect. Gunther went up top, Strowman with an uppercut punch and Gunther wrenched on the left arm again. Gunther with a chop, then he wrenched on Braun’s arm again and Gunther hit a Powerbomb out of the corner for the pinfall win after 18 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: GUNTHER
Analysis: ***3/4 This was a great match between two big guys that worked together well. Gunther worked on the left arm throughout the match, Strowman sold it very well and got some good nearfalls as well. I thought a title change was possible, but Gunther winning is certainly fine with me. This was Strowman’s best match in several years. He had some good matches with Roman Reigns and some others in the past, but Braun isn’t normally the guy that has great matches. That’s the benefit of working with Gunther, who is outstanding.
A Progressive Match Flo replay aired showing some recent Bloodline drama from last week’s Smackdown. Roman Reigns essentially set up the match between Sami Zayn and Roman’s Royal Rumble opponent Kevin Owens during Smackdown this week.
Sami Zayn was shown walking backstage as he knocked on The Bloodline’s dressing room. Sami wanted to talk strategy, but Paul Heyman walked out of the room saying he was the only one there. Heyman talked about how, out of love, the Tribal Chief Roman Reigns wants Sami to do this all by himself. Zayn told Heyman to tell Roman that he (Roman) made the right call. Zayn said that he’ll solve this problem tonight while adding that it’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler. Zayn left with Heyman looking
Analysis: Congrats to the rest of The Bloodline for having the week off. This is not going to end well for Sami.
Let’s Hear from Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio made his entrance in street clothes with the fans cheering him as usual. They showed a graphic of the six men that have already been announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble match.
Rey spoke about how the holidays are always special to him especially because he’s always been on the road, so you cherish the time with family. Rey said he didn’t have a very, Merry Christmas. Rey said his son Dominik tried to ruin things again and now he’s walking around like he’s some hardened criminal. Rey said that as a father, that breaks his heart. Rey said as a man: “I’m pretty fed up with his bullshit.” They edited the swear word. Rey said he won’t let Dominik provoke him on Smackdown because this is his fresh start. Rey said he knows how to get back on track and that is by entering and winning the Royal Rumble match.
Analysis: Good promo by Rey talking about his issues with Dominik while also looking focused on the Royal Rumble match. I assume the plan is Rey vs. Dominik at WrestleMania, but they need to do something to make Rey want to wrestle his son. Maybe we’ll see some angle in the Rumble match itself.
Karrion Kross made his entrance with the lovely Scarlett by his side. Kross got in the ring with Rey while Scarlett stayed on the floor.
Kross said he was in the back listening to Rey talking about goals and he needs goals because otherwise, he doesn’t know how Rey gets his “broken ass” out of bed. Kross mentioned Rey winning the Royal Rumble 17 years ago (2006). The fans cheered, so Kross pointed out it was 17 years ago and told them to relax. Kross mentioned that was a special moment for Rey, but also special for his son Dominik. Kross said Rey didn’t know if it was special for Dominik since Rey was never really around. Kross asked Rey who he hates more – Dominik for not being Rey or does Rey hate himself for raising his son to not be like Rey? That led to Rey attacking Kross with punches followed by Rey sending Kross into the ropes. Rey ran off the ropes, but Kross tripped up Rey and Kross put Rey in the Kross Jacket submission. Kross said he was waiting over ten years to get Rey. Scarlett held up a Rey “tarot card” as Kross let Rey go and the red light filled the building. Kross left with Scarlett while Rey was down.
Analysis: I liked the promo from Kross. It came across as being mean by taking personal shots at Rey for being older while also questioning Rey’s ability as a father. It made the promo feel personal because of what Kross was talking about. Kross got the upper hand thanks to Scarlett. Nobody tried to help Rey while he was getting choked out by a bigger guy. Poor Rey.
They showed Liv Morgan, Emma and Maxxine Dupri talking in the locker room about Morgan wanting to enter the Royal Rumble match first with the other women doubting her. Raquel Rodriguez walked in saying the best strategy would be to enter the match last. Morgan said that she got her palm read and she slapped Raquel in the face. Morgan wanted a match tonight. Raquel said she’s sick and tired of everybody forgetting she’s the biggest and strongest. Raquel told Liv she’s on. Liv smiled and left.
Analysis: It continued the story that Liv is very confident while Raquel wants to keep proving herself.
Xia Li entered for singles action.
Tegan Nox vs. Xia Li
These two women don’t get a lot of TV time, so it may be a tough spot for them. Nox was aggressive with some punches followed by a front suplex and a cannonball attack in the corner. Nox went up top, Li stopped her and slammed Nox off the top. Li applied a chinlock, Nox fought out of it and Li delivered a forearm to the throat. Li with a pump kick along with a forearm to the back. Li hit an overhead suplex on Nox across the ring. Li went for a spinning kick. Nox moved and Nox hit the Shining Wizard knee for the pinfall win after three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Tegan Nox
Analysis: *1/2 A short match to give Nox a win. It was pretty simple with Nox avoiding a big kick and hitting her running knee for the win. That gives Nox some momentum going into the Royal Rumble.
A replay was shown from last week when The Usos defeated Drew McIntyre & Sheamus to retain the Tag Team Titles. It was a cheap win. After the math, the Viking Raiders attacked Drew McIntyre & Sheamus.
They showed a promo featuring The Viking Raiders with Valhalla. They spoke briefly by saying that suffering awaits.
Drew McIntyre & Sheamus were shown in Adam Pearce’s office asking for a match against The Viking Raiders. Sheamus said he wanted to face The Usos. Drew and Sheamus were chopping eachother as they talked about the strategy. Pearce said that next week he’s starting a Tag Team Tournament where The Usos get to challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Pearce said in their first round match next week, they have the Viking Raiders. They smacked Pearce in the back and said “banger after banger after banger” repeatedly.
Analysis: It was specified that it was just the Smackdown Tag Team Titles on the line in this tournament. That’s because the Raw Tag Team Titles are only on Raw. I like how WWE has split up the titles so The Usos can lose one set of titles while keeping the others. I think The Judgment Day will win the Raw Tag Team Titles from The Usos soon while Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn will be the team to beat The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania. That’s my logical guess at this point.
Bray Wyatt is next.
Let’s Hear from Bray Wyatt
It was the top of hour two as Bray Wyatt made his entrance with the lantern while the arena was dark except for the light from the crowd. Wyatt took a long time to the ring as usual. Wyatt wasn’t on Smackdown last week after Uncle Howdy dropped him with a Sister Abigail neckbreaker two weeks ago. Wyatt faces LA Knight in a Pitch Black Match at the Royal Rumble in two weeks.
Bray Wyatt sat in a rocking chair in the ring with a spotlight on him. Bray: “Green Bay, we’re here.” Bray said that sometimes we forget who we are and what made us in the first place. Bray said all you have to do is revel what you are. Wyatt said that he remembers he is the color red in a world of black and white. Wyatt said that he is the Eater of Worlds, Uncle Howdy and “I am him.” Bray said he is everything and he is Bray Wyatt. Bray wondered who are you? Wyatt said that the Royal Rumble will be his rebirth – a baptism in the dark. Wyatt told LA Knight that when the lights go out, you should run. That was it.
Analysis: A simple promo from Wyatt. I think the entrance was longer than the speech. Wyatt used some phrases that he has used in the past, so that was good to hear. I think Wyatt saying that he was Uncle Howdy was a bit strange since he got attacked by Uncle Howdy two weeks ago. Maybe the idea is that moment “woke him up” so to speak. Wyatt should beat Knight at the Royal Rumble.
#BrayWyatt is HIM. 👀
— WWE (@WWE) January 14, 2023
Kevin Owens was about to be interviewed by Kayla Braxton, but Sami Zayn interrupted. Sami said that Kevin couldn’t just leave him alone because Owens should be on Raw. Owens said The Bloodline comes to Raw, so he decided to take out The Bloodline. Owens said he didn’t ask for the match tonight or the tag team match with Cena. Owens told Zayn that Reigns is using him so Reigns doesn’t have to come to work. Zayn asked how many times do you have to see Zayn hugged in the ring and Zayn said this is a family. Zayn said he’ll handle business tonight. Owens said good for him. Zayn said he’ll see him out there.
Analysis: It was a valid point by Owens that Zayn was being used by Reigns while also pointing out that Reigns is the one that set up these matches. Zayn isn’t going to see it that way because he is loyal to The Bloodline, but Owens is also right. The slow burn to this story has been terrific.
Liv Morgan entered for her match.
This Monday on Raw: Bobby Lashley is back and he’s got unfinished business. They showed Lashley attacking Austin Theory on Raw. That was it.
The Imperium trio of GUNTHER, Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci were interviewed by Kayla Braxton were in the trainer’s room. Gunther talked about his successful win over his biggest challenge yet and said he’s going to be in the Men’s Royal Rumble match. Gunther said he’ll win that to go on to the main event of WrestleMania.
Analysis: There’s a rumor of Gunther facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, so maybe they do something to set that up in the Rumble match. I don’t know for sure if Lesnar is a part of it or if the match is for sure going to happen at WrestleMania. I just think that if it does happen at WrestleMania then using the Rumble match is a smart thing to do.
Raquel Rodriguez vs. Liv Morgan
Raquel kicked Morgan to knock her down. Raquel tossed Morgan over the top to the floor like a Royal Rumble elimination. Morgan with a headscissors, then a corner splash and Raquel came back with a lefty clothesline. Raquel went for a kick, Morgan tried to dump her over the top, but Raquel blocked that and hit a back elbow. Morgan fired herself up by headbutting the turnbuckle, then Morgan hit a running knee and a jumping double knee attack. Morgan gave Raquel a clothesline over the top to the floor just like we see in Royal Rumble matches. Raquel got a hold of Liv on the floor, but Liv sent Raquel into the ring post. Liv sent Raquel into the steel steps. Morgan grabbed a table from under the ring and set it up on the floor. Morgan broke the referee’s count, then back out and she set up the table on the floor. Raquel had to lay there for about a minute selling. Morgan put Raquel on the table, Morgan went up top and Raquel went back into the ring. Morgan jumped off the top, Raquel got her hands up to block and Raquel hit a Texana Bomb for the pinfall win after six minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Raquel Rodriguez
Analysis: **1/2 A decent match with Morgan showing a lot of heart, but her strategy was bad because she took out a table that she wasn’t able to use. Even if Morgan could use the table, she would have been disqualified. It made Morgan look foolish more than anything. Raquel got the easy win after swatting Morgan out of the air followed by her finisher.
A replay was shown of how Charlotte Flair beat Sonya Deville last week on Smackdown.
They showed Sonya complaining to Adam Pearce in his office. Deville wanted another match against Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Title, but Pearce said you can’t just get a title match. Sonya said maybe he wants her to go in the Royal Rumble to try to earn a title match. Pearce said yeah. Deville said she was going to get that match against Flair.
It’s Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn still to come.
There was a backstage scene shown with Sonya Deville fighting with Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, who had a pink outfit on. They got into a brawl, it looked like Flair had the advantage and Deville kept on coming for more. They were separated by officials and security.
Analysis: This could lead to another Flair vs. Deville match that should lead to Flair getting the win again.
They showed the Cody Rhodes video talking about his WWE return. This is the same video that aired on Monday’s Raw as well. It was about Cody’s incredible Hell in a Cell match with Seth “Freakin” Rollins that was my choice for WWE Match of the Year. Cody said he can’t watch the match back. They also showed getting surgery for the torn pectoral muscle. Cody was shown going into his gym to train. To be continued.
Analysis: Cody should be ready to go by the Royal Rumble, but WWE hasn’t announced his participation in that match yet. He will be a popular pick to win the Royal Rumble match.
It was main event time with Sami Zayn making his entrance all alone. That match was next.
It was announced that Rey Mysterio will face Karrion Kross on Smackdown in two weeks.
Next week on Smackdown: Roman Reigns will have a contract signing with Kevin Owens, plus Sheamus & Drew McIntyre face The Viking Raiders in the first round in the Tag Team Title tournament.
Kevin Owens made his entrance for the main event with the crowd cheering for KO as usual.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
Owens wanted a handshake, Zayn refused it and kicked the hand. Owens got a shoulder tackle, Zayn with a slap to the face and Owens tripped up Zayn followed by punches. Zayn left the ring, so Owens ran him over with a clothesline on the floor. Owens sent Zayn back into the ring leading to Zayn stomping on Owens a bit. While Owens was on the floor, Zayn ran off the ropes leading to a somersault dive over the top onto Owens. They battled on the floor with Owens sending Zayn into the barricade. Owens was on the apron, Zayn punched him there and Zayn hit a brainbuster on the apron. Ouch. They went to break there.
Zayn was in control with an elbow smash off the middle rope. Zayn put his boot against KO’s throat. Zayn tackled Owens into the turnbuckle followed by Zayn setting up Owens on the top rope. Zayn wanted a superplex, Owens blocked that, Owens with a headbutt and Owens hit a Frog Splash off the top for two. Zayn avoided a Popup Powerbomb leading to Zayn hitting a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count as usual for that move. They got into a slugfest with the fans cheering, Zayn with a kick to the face and Zayn hooked the arms leading to an overhead suplex, but Owens got back up quickly with a clothesline. They were both down selling as the show went a break.
A commercial aired about the 30th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw with clips of the show’s history in anticipation of the special episode airing on January 23rd from Philadelphia.
The match returned with Owens going up top and he jumped off with a Swanton Bomb, but Zayn got the knees up to block that. They showed a replay from the commercial when Zayn hit a Tornado DDT off the ropes. The fans chanted “this is awesome” as Zayn set up Owens on the turnbuckle, but Owens countered a move with the cradle suplex off the turnbuckle. Owens has done that many times against Zayn and many opponents, but it always looks great. That got a two count for Owens. They were on their knees exchanging punches, then back up to their feet exchanging punches and Zayn hit two Tiger Suplexes hooking his arms with rough landings for Owens. Zayn set up in the corner, but The Usos showed up to stomp on Owens in the corner. Zayn was wondering what they were doing there as Solo Sikoa joined the attack with punches. It went about 15 minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***1/2 It was the usual great match between Owens and Zayn since they know eachother so well. We saw a lot of familiar moves that they have done in their past matches. I thought Owens was going to win clean, but instead, they opted to go with the DQ finish to further the story of The Bloodline wanting to weaken Owens while Zayn was clearly left in the dark because he had a shocked reaction to it.
The Usos hit Owens with the 1D double team move. Zayn was shocked by all of this because he wanted to win the match. The Usos cleared off the commentary table and The Usos told Zayn to join them. Owens tried to fight back, but Solo punched Owens and a kick. Solo with a Samoan Spike again. The Usos told Zayn that this is for him. Jimmy did his handshake with Zayn while Jey told Zayn that he did well. Solo ran across the barricade and jumped off with a splash to put Owens through the table. Zayn looked on with a bit of a surprised look on his face. The Usos and Solo stood tall over Owens while Zayn joined them with his hand up in the air. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: I like how The Usos encouraged Zayn by saying he did a great job, but Zayn was left to look like a fool because he didn’t know that The Bloodline would show up to attack Owens. That shows that Owens was right earlier in the show while saying that The Bloodline was just using him and that’s what this was too. They used Zayn to try to weaken Owens without telling Zayn what the plan was. That’s why Zayn acted like he was unsure about celebrating with the group since they didn’t like him enough to tell him the plan. Anyway, it was an effective angle to further the story. Lastly, I thought Solo’s splash through the table was well done.
Three Stars of the Show
- Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn
- Braun Strowman
7 out of 10
Last week: 7
2023 Average: 7
I thought it was a good show for the most part thanks to the two long matches that opened and main evented show. GUNTHER beat Braun Strowman to keep the Intercontinental Title in Braun’s best match in years while Gunther reminded us how great he is. I really enjoyed the Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn match in the main event too. It had a surprising result with The Usos and Solo Sikoa attacking Owens, much to the dismay of Zayn, who wanted to win the match. The Bloodline stood tall after attacking Owens even though Zayn wasn’t thrilled about it mainly because Zayn had no idea it was coming. It furthers The Bloodline’s story, so I like it a lot.
The two women’s matches on the show were nothing special. Clearly, Raw has a far superior women’s division. At least they are trying to set up matches like Raquel beating Liv was set up in a backstage segment. I just think Raw has more established women, so that hurts Smackdown.
There were non-wrestling segments with Karrion Kross choking out Rey Mysterio to set up their match in two weeks. Bray Wyatt’s promo was solid too with references to things from his past. The build to Royal Rumble has been okay. The Rumble matches sell themselves while Reigns-Owens has been booked well and Wyatt-Knight is okay.
The next WWE Premium Live Event is the Royal Rumble on January 28th in San Antonio. Here’s the lineup so far.
* 30-Man Royal Rumble Match
* 30-Woman Royal Rumble Match
* Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
* Pitch Black Match: Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight
You can watch the Royal Rumble on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 8 ET/5 PT, streaming live exclusively on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else!
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