The John Report: WWE Smackdown 03/24/23 Review

wwe smackdown march 24

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn talking in the main event, Rey Mysterio facing LA Knight and a contract signing too.

This week’s show took place just eight days before WrestleMania 39 Night One. Bring it on!

From the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, this is Smackdown for episode #1231. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

The show started with a recap of the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn reunion from last week’s Smackdown. That led to Monday’s Raw when Owens/Zayn challenged The Usos to the WWE Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania 39 and that’s official now.

The Smackdown introduction video aired.

There’s adrenaline in our soul to start Smackdown this week because Cody Rhodes was up first. The commentary team was Michael Cole and Wade Barrett as usual. Ludwig Kaiser was already in the ring as Cody’s opponent.

Cody Rhodes vs. Ludwig Kaiser (w/Giovanni Vinci)

It was Cody’s first match on Smackdown since April 2016 when he was known as Stardust, according to Cole. Kaiser drove Cody to the turnbuckle leading to a punch to the gut. Cody with a front suplex sending Kaiser to the mat. Paul Heyman appeared by the entrance as Cody hit a knee on Kaiser, who left the ring. The show went to a break there.


This Monday on Raw in Phoenix: Brock Lesnar-Omos have a weigh in, plus The Miz welcomes Becky Lynch, Lita and Trish Stratus to Miz TV.

Kaiser was in control of Cody with punches along with an elbow smash to the top of the head. Cody came back with some chops and punches while on the floor. Back in the ring, Kaiser stopped a Cody Cutter attempt with a trip by the ropes and Kaiser kicked Cody in the chest. Kaiser distracted the referee leading to Vinci doing a cheap punch on Cody to knock him down. Kaiser hit a sliding uppercut for two. Kaiser with a jawbreaker. While Kaiser was on the apron, Cody hit a Disaster Kick and Cody was teasing a Pedigree, but then Solo Sikoa walked down to the ring with Heyman. Kaiser with a chop block to Cody’s left knee. Cody left the ring leading to Kaiser sending Cody into the steel steps. That led to another break.


It continued with Cody and Kaiser hitting a double clothesline to knock eachother down. They exchanged punches, Cody with a forearm, punch and a powerslam as Solo/Heyman looked on from ringside. Kaiser and Vinci did a clothesline/sweep combo while the referee wasn’t looking. Kaiser with a suplex. Kaiser jumped off the ropes, Cody blocked and Kaiser got a rollup for two. Cody came back with the Cody Cutter off the ropes. Cody hit Cross Rhodes on Kaiser for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Cody Rhodes

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a good match with Cody obviously picking up the win. Kaiser is a good technical wrestler that is very skilled technical wrestler that got more offense than I thought going into it. I figured this might be a more decisive win for Cody. Instead, he was selling a lot before making the big comeback to win. Perhaps it went longer because WWE wanted Cody on for a longer portion of the show. It only took a few moves for Cody to put Kaiser away, which isn’t a surprise.

Paul Heyman went into the ring while Solo Sikoa was on the apron. Heyman said that the ring announcer did a lousy announcement, so Heyman did his own announcement about Cody as the winner. Heyman talked about how this Monday on Raw, Cody has a big pothole in front of him on the Road to WrestleMania when Cody goes one-on-one with Solo Sikoa. Heyman said that Reigns will be on Smackdown next Friday to see Cody face to face one more time.

Cody Rhodes said that Heyman interrupted the fans singing the song. Cody said that he probably should say no to facing Solo, but he still beat Seth Rollins with his arm hanging off. Cody said as good as Solo is, he’s not ready. The fans chanted “you’re not ready” after that. Cody said that Roman Reigns, the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, is not ready either. Cody tossed the microphone at Heyman to end it.

Analysis: A lot of confidence from Cody Rhodes as usual. They really are putting Cody to work on the Road to WrestleMania with a lot of house show matches as well as TV matches as well. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns gets plenty of rest. Anyway, I like how Cody has been booked as a guy that thinks other people aren’t ready to face him when he’s like this.

It was announced by Michael Cole that John Cena’s match against Austin Theory will be the opening match at WrestleMania 39 next Saturday.

Charlotte Flair was shown walking backstage for some promo time up next.


They showed highlights of Charlotte Flair brawling with Rhea Ripley last week on Smackdown.

Let’s Hear from Charlotte Flair

Charlotte Flair made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion in some red attire that is non-wrestling gear. Charlotte mentioned we are just eight days from WrestleMania. Charlotte mentioned she’s a 14-time World Champion (that’s main roster, it’s 16 if you count NXT) and that was not built on fear, insecurities or nepotism. Charlotte said that those things have been used against her by everyone. Charlotte said that fear is a lack of understanding and it’s ignorance while saying this business was built on respect. Charlotte claimed she didn’t fear Rhea Ripley, but she respected her. Charlotte said she respected Nikki & Brie, Sasha (I remember her), Becky, Bayley, Trish, Ronda, Asuka and Nattie. Charlotte said she has insecurities, the fans chanted “what” and she asked if they were really doing that? Charlotte said she built this house on every brick that you have thrown at her over the last seven years. It’s been nearly eight years for her on the main roster.

Charlotte mentioned nepotism while saying that she loves her dad leading to “WOO” chants. Charlotte said that she will never apologize for continuing the greatest legacy in sports entertainment. Charlotte said you better learn to love it because diamonds are forever and so is Charlotte Flair…woo!

Analysis: It was okay for a five-minute monologue promo. It was the usual Charlotte promo showing she is confident going into WrestleMania. It wasn’t bad or anything like that. Nothing special, though.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were shown hanging out backstage ahead of their talk segment later.

Rey Mysterio made his entrance to a good pop as the WWE Hall of Famer was greeted by fans all around ringside. Rey’s wife and daughter were at ringside.


They showed a celebrity Piff The Magic Dragon at ringside, who has a residency show in Las Vegas. Sure. I don’t know him.

LA Knight made his entrance. They replayed last week when Rey and Knight argued, so that set up this match. Knight got a good reaction.

Rey Mysterio vs. LA Knight

Rey with a dropkick, Knight blocked a monkey flip attempt and then Rey hit a monkey flip. Rey worked over Knight with punches, Rey ran off the ropes and Knight slammed Rey into the mat. Knight put his foot against Rey’s throat while against the turnbuckle. Knight hit a neckbreaker for two. Rey made the comeback with a headscissors takedown. Rey dropkicked Knight while he was on the floor. Rey slid under the bottom rope onto Knight with a splash on the floor. Rey sent Knight back in the ring, Rey kicked Knight in the head and then Dominik Mysterio made his entrance with his music to distract Rey. When Rey was on the top rope, Knight tripped up Rey, who bumped to the mat.


Knight was in control until Rey got a brief rollup. Rey charged and Knight hit him with a running boot to the head for a two count. Good spot. Knight hit a belly-to-back suplex. Rey charged, Knight caught him and hit a powerslam. Knight missed an elbow drop when Rey moved. Rey jumped off the ropes leading to a bulldog. Rey with a seated senton off the ropes followed by a springboard cross body block for two. Knight came back with a nearfall of his own. Rey reversed a move leading to a DDT and dropkick into the ropes. Knight caught Rey going for a 619, but Rey did a headscissors into the ropes. Rey ran the ropes, Dominik tripped his dad while the referee wasn’t looking and Knight did the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: LA Knight

Analysis: *** A good match between two veterans with Rey failing to win due to Dominik’s presence at ringside. It gives Knight a win over a Hall of Famer as well, so that’s something Knight can brag about even though it was a cheap win. Heels like to brag, so that’s what matters. I would have rather had Knight win with something else other than the ROLLUP OF DEATH~!, which is very overdone, but it’s the go to move when there’s a distraction finish.

Knight celebrated the win with Wade Barrett putting it over as a big deal by beating Rey while saying Knight should be on the WrestleMania card.

Dominik Mysterio went into the ring to tell Rey to give him what he wants and face him at WrestleMania. Dominik shoved Rey, so Rey backed out of the ring and walked toward the back. Dominik asked his own mother what it’s like to be married to a loser like Rey. Dominik asked his mother Angie if she knows she married a deadbeat? Dominik said that Rey abandoned her and that doesn’t make her better, so she’s a “deadbeat mom.” Aalyah – Rey’s daughter – got in Dominik’s face with Dom telling his sister to sit down. Dominik told his sister she is too stupid to understand. Angie tried to speak, so Dom to shouted back: “Mom, shut up!” Dominik told them to sit down because at the end of the day, they support him (Rey). That led to Rey walking over to Dominik and punching him the face! Finally! Huge pop for that. The fans chanted “yes” for it.

Rey told Dominik: “You made me hit you. You don’t disrespect your mother like that. That’s my wife. You wanted a fight at WrestleMania? (Pause). You’re on!” Huge pop! “I’ll see you at WrestleMania, son.” The fans popped as Dominik left up the aisle while Rey hugged his family at ringside.

Analysis: That was done perfectly. I really liked it. What a pop for that punch by Rey. It was simple, but it worked so well in terms of getting a big reaction because Rey restrained himself from punching his son for so many weeks. However, Dominik telling his mom to shut up was going too far, which led to Rey having enough of it and punching his ungrateful son. The fans reacted in a big way because they can relate to a story. You don’t disrespect your family the way Dominik has done. They told the story very well in the months leading up to this. From a performance standpoint, Rey & Dominik both did a tremendous job.

Still to come: The Kevin Owens Show with Sami Zayn as the guest.


The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony is next Friday after Smackdown on Peacock/WWE Network. Andy Kaufman is the celebrity inductee joining Rey Mysterio and The Great Muta. WWE certainly is taking their time in announcing the full class with a week to go. We know Stacy Keibler is likely being announced very soon as well.

Natalya & Shotzi vs. Lacey Evans & Xia Li

The winners get added to the Women’s 4-Way Tag Team Match at WrestleMania 39. Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez are at ringside watching the match since they are already in that tag team match.

Evans sent Shotzi into the corner followed by a shoulder tackle. Li tagged in with a running knee and a punch. Li hit an overhead suplex across the ring for two. Evans was back in with a splash on Shotzi against the turnbuckle. Evans tripped up Shotzi and punched Natalya off the apron to stop a tag. Shotzi hit an enziguri kick. Evans came back with a running forearm for two. Li was back in, Shotzi wit ha kick, a jawbreaker and Evans did a Woman’s Right punch, but Shotzi moved and Lacey punched Li. Natalya kicked Evans down and Shotzi hit a suicide dive on Lacey on the floor. Back in the ring, Natalya finally got the tag as she picked up Li and Natalya/Shotzi hit a Hart Attack double clothesline. Natalya applied the Sharpshooter on Li, who tapped out. Natalya and Shotzi got the win. It went about four minutes.

Winners by submission: Natalya & Shotzi

Analysis: ** It was fine for a random match with no story going in other than the winners get the reward of being in the WrestleMania 4-way tag team match. I liked how Shotzi sold for a few minutes, made the comeback and Natalya just hit two moves to get the win. Evans is a solid heel that isn’t featured enough while Li doesn’t get much TV time these days.

After the match, Natalya & Shotzi pointed at the WrestleMania sign like everybody does this time of year while Raquel & Liv were on the apron.

Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler showed up with Rousey having her left arm bandaged up due to her injury. Baszler talked about how all of them want to get revenge against Rousey & Baszler. Rousey kept Baszler back from fighting. Rousey asked how many times have they sold out this arena and town while asking how many times the fans appreciated them? Rousey said they gave Vegas more than they deserve. Baszler said that we got added to the 4-way tag team match at WrestleMania. There was a mild reaction.

That means the Women’s 4-Way Tag Team Match at WrestleMania 39 looks like this: Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan vs. Ronda Rousey & Shotzi vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. one more team. I assume we find out the fourth team on Raw. It could be Chelsea Green & Carmella as rumored or maybe Piper Niven in Carmella’s spot.

Analysis: It was expected that Ronda and Shayna would be part of the 4-Way match at WrestleMania. I am glad that they are on the show, but WWE could have done a bit more to make us care about that 4-Way match and the men’s match. Tell us there’s a title shot on the line or something along those lines. Anyway, Ronda is usually in bigger matches at WrestleMania, but injuries and plans changing has put her in one of the weakest matches at WrestleMania. That’s what happens in WWE land sometimes.

A replay was shown of last week when Drew McIntyre and Sheamus had a competitive match that ended in a No Contest when Gunther and his Imperium buddies attacking both guys. That led to the obvious triple threat match at WrestleMania 39 for Gunther’s Intercontinental Title against Drew & Sheamus.

Drew McIntyre made his entrance for the contract signing segment.


There was a replay shown of Rey Mysterio telling his son Dominik that he was on for WrestleMania. The graphic was shown to confirm it.

Intercontinental Championship Match Contract Signing

Adam Pearce was in the ring to moderate the contract signing while Drew McIntyre was already seated in the ring. Sheamus was next with Butch & Ridge Holland joining him. Sheamus talked about working 15 years of his life trying to achieve a goal and having his best friend try to steal that from him. Sheamus said he let Drew sleep on his couch and brought him to his first training session in wrestling. Sheamus called Drew a backstabber and Drew told him to shut up for a second.

Drew said that Sheamus tries to give Drew a guilt trip. Drew said what Sheamus is doing is embarrassing. Drew said that they beat the hell out of eachother and afterwards they should have been in the bar laughing about it. Drew said that Sheamus has such a temper that he can’t separate what was personal and what was business. Drew said that the facts are he’s beaten Sheamus, he knows he can beat GUNTHER and history has shown that Sheamus can’t (beat GUNTHER). Pearce stopped them from fighting while saying he needs the contract signed. Drew signed the contract and Sheamus signed the contract.

GUNTHER, the Intercontinental Champion, made his entrance alone. He has held the title for 287 days. GUNTHER made his way down to the ring and threw the chair down. GUNTHER told Pearce to justify the decision of being in a match where Sheamus and Drew can pin eachother, yet GUNTHER can lose his title. Pearce didn’t say anything to justify it. Gunther signed the contract and said he’ll do whatever he has to do. Gunther said he’s going to beat Drew and Sheamus. Crazy man Butch went after Butch with an attack, so that was quickly broken up. Gunther told Pearce to make the match now.

Analysis: I think the triple threat story works for these guys. There really was nothing else for Drew and Sheamus as far as major storylines go. Gunther’s point about possibly losing the IC Title without being pinned is valid. The IC Title reign for Gunther has been great, so you have two former World Champions that are best friends trying to take a prestigious title from Gunther. In Sheamus’ case, he has never won the IC Title while winning everything else in WWE, so that’s a goal for him. Plus, it’s going to be an outstanding match. I think it should be one of the best matches at WrestleMania in what will be Gunther’s first match at a WrestleMania.


GUNTHER vs. Butch (w/Sheamus & Ridge Holland)

This was not for Gunther’s IC Title. Butch has wrestled Gunther before when he was Pete Dunne and Gunther was Walter, but it’s a different world now. There is a belief that Butch will go back to the Dunne name soon.

Gunther with a boot to the face followed by a body slam. Gunther hooked Butch’s arms leading to a double underhook suplex. Gunther worked over Butch with some hard chops to the chest. Butch tried for a submission while trying to snap fingers, but Gunther got out of it with a Boston Crab submission. Gunther with a hard chop to the chest again. Butch with an enziguri kick and Gunther came back with a German Suplex that saw Butch land on his chest after a moonsault bump. Gunther sent Butch out of the ring leading to a break.


Gunther tried to do the forearms to the chest, but Butch stopped that and snapped the fingers. Butch delivered a kick to the ear followed by a double foot stomp on Gunther’s left arm. Gunther applied a sleeper, Butch got out of that, Butch landed on his feet after a suplex and Butch kicked Gunther in the back of the neck. Gunther to the floor, Butch tried a move off the apron, Gunther moved and Gunther chopped Butch. When Gunther tried a leap off the table, Gunther moved and Butch hit Drew. Sheamus grabbed Drew on the floor, so Drew hit Sheamus with a headbutt. Drew sent Ridge into the ring post. Sheamus with a knee on Drew. Back in the ring, Gunther recovered with a clothesline on a charging Butch. Gunther hit the Last Symphony slam on Butch for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: GUNTHER

Analysis: **3/4 A decisive win by GUNTHER as you might expect in a match like that. Gunther got most of the offense while they managed to involved Sheamus & Drew on the floor as well. I would love to see Butch get pushed as Pete Dunne some day. It just wasn’t the right kind of situation for him to pick up a win.

After the match, Sheamus and Gunther had a staredown with some staring at the WrestleMania sign. Drew McIntyre was back in the ring and hit a Claymore Kick on Gunther because Sheamus moved out of the way. Drew and Sheamus had a staredown.

Analysis: It was fine for a quick angle. I think Sheamus will win at WrestleMania to finally get the IC Title for the first time in his career. I like that as a story. Then again, I am picking a lot of babyface wins at WrestleMania, maybe I’ll change that one. I don’t know right now.

The Street Profits were backstage talking about their Fatal 4-Way match at WrestleMania against Braun Strowman & Ricochet, Alpha Academy and Viking Raiders. The Street Profits made jokes about Braun & Ricochet being bald, so then Braun & Ricochet arrived saying they want the smoke. That was it.

Analysis: There is not much of a story going into that tag team match, so at least a quick backstage interaction is something to try to advance it a bit.

Kevin Owens made his entrance for his main event talk show segment.


Next Monday on Raw: Cody Rhodes faces Solo Sikoa.

Next Friday on Smackdown:

* Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes meet face to face

* Drew McIntyre & Sheamus vs. Imperium

* Andre The Giant Battle Royal featuring male wrestlers. Some of the names pictured are Bobby Lashley, Karrion Kross, LA Knight, Bronson Reed, Xavier Woods and more.

KO Show with Sami Zayn as the guest

Kevin Owens welcomed us to the Kevin Owens show with the black carpet in the ring and the leather chairs. Owens introduced his tag team partner, his friend and his brother, the one & only Sami Zayn! The fans popped big for Zayn’s entrance. The graphic was shown to remind us about KO & Sami challenging The Usos for the WWE Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania 39. Barrett questioned how much you much stock you can put in this friendship while Cole didn’t agree with that. Loud “Sami” chants from the crowd.

Owens said that he did it the way Zayn wanted. Zayn said he was the guest on his show. Owens suggested they could come out together and Owens said that Zayn wanted his own pop. Owens said that his fans loved him, so it’s all good. Zayn asked if there was any more backstage stuff they need to talk about here. Zayn mentioned to Owens what they are on the verge of doing. Zayn said that after starting together in Montreal all those years ago, they are about to challenge for the WWE Tag Team Titles at this year’s WrestleMania. Zayn claimed that WrestleMania feels different this year.

Owens said it does feel different. Owens said he had something for Zayn. Owens talked about how, after a few months ago when Roman Reigns gave him an Honorary Uce shirt, Owens got Zayn a new shirt. Owens showed a KO-Mania shirt. Owens said this year there’s only one person that caught WWE by storm and said that guy has been the MVP of WWE for the past 12 months and that person is Sami. The fans chanted “MVP” for Zayn. Owens said that “KO-Mania” is on the back of the shirt and tossed the shirt to Sami. Zayn looked at the front of the shirt that said: “Wrestle-Zayn-Ia” on it. Zayn shouted “Wrestle-Zayn-Ia!” Owens took off his sweatshirt to reveal shirt. The fans chanted Wrestle-Zayn-Ia for it and Zayn wanted a hug. Owens said you get one hug a year, but then Owens did hug Sami.

Here come The Usos! The Usos attacked Sami and Kevin while they hugged. Huge boos for that. The Usos punched both guys. Double superkick by The Usos on Owens. The Usos hit 1D on Zayn as the fans booed the cheap attack. Owens was back in with a chair, but The Usos left the ring. Cole mentioned 614 days for The Usos as (Smackdown) Tag Team Champions. The Usos and Zayn-Owens had a long distance staredown. End show.

Analysis: Last week it was all about Owens & Zayn being back together and looking strong. This week The Usos got some payback with a cheap attack to get some heat while also reminding us that they are the dominant Tag Team Champions that won’t be easy to beat. I thought the promo segment with Owens-Zayn was good as you would expect. Owens did have a bit of jealousy toward Zayn by talking about how Zayn wanted to come out separately and get his own pop after his own music played, so that was an interesting element that could suggest an Owens heel turn. It doesn’t have to be soon, but maybe down the road, you tell that story with Owens being jealous. However, I like seeing Owens & Zayn together again. The “Wrestle-Zayn-Ia” shirt is a bit cheesy, but it works for a face and I think it will be a big merchandise seller going into WrestleMania week.

As for who wins The Usos title defense against Owens & Zayn? I’ll go with Owens & Zayn. They absolutely should be the next WWE Tag Team Champions.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio
  2. Cody Rhodes
  3. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

The Scoreboard

7.25 out of 10

Last week: 8

2023 Average: 7.14

Final Thoughts

It was a solid show. I rate last week’s show higher in terms of more great stories throughout, but they advanced a lot this week too. In terms of matches, Cody Rhodes beading Ludwig Kaiser was good while Rey Mysterio-LA Knight had a solid match and Gunther-Butch was fine too. Nothing stood out that much. It was more about the stories going into WrestleMania as it should be this time of year.

The Rey & Dominik Mysterio story was done perfectly on the show. Dominik cost Rey the match against LA Knight, but Rey still wouldn’t agree to fight his son. That’s when Dom pushed it further by telling his own mother she was a deadbeat like Rey and telling her to shut up, so that led to Rey finally punching his son. Really well done. I liked the patience shown in this story because the fans popped huge for that moment since it took so long to get to that point. Rey vs. Dom is on for WrestleMania as we could tell six months ago, but you have to have patience and tell the story the right way. It should be an emotional match.

I liked the Cody Rhodes promo with Paul Heyman that set up Cody facing Solo Sikoa next Monday on Raw. Cody continues to be a babyface that is likable because he keeps fighting while not backing down. The Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn promo was fine with Owens a bit jealous of Zayn’s pop, but they are on the same page with the “Wrestle-Zayn-Ia” shirt for Sami. The Usos attacked to give them some revenge this week. That match at WM39 is going to be amazing.

Here’s the WrestleMania 39 lineup so far taking place on April 1st and April 2nd:

wwe wrestlemania 39 2023 poster main

* Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cody Rhodes

* Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships: The Usos – Jimmy & Jey Uso (c) vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens

* Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Rhea Ripley

* United States Championship: Austin Theory (c) vs. John Cena

* Raw Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Asuka

* Hell in a Cell Match: Edge vs. Finn Balor

* Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. Logan Paul

* Intercontinental Championship: GUNTHER (c) vs. Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre

* Damage CTRL – Bayley, IYO SKY & Dakota Kai vs. Trish Stratus, Becky Lynch & Lita

* Brock Lesnar vs. Omos

* Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio

* Men’s Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match – The Street Profits vs. Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. Alpha Academy vs. Viking Raiders

* Women’s Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match – Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan vs. Ronda Rousey & Shotzi vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. one more team

The Miz will host WrestleMania.

WrestleMania goes Hollywood for a special two-night Premium Live Event, Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, streaming live on Peacock in the United States and on WWE Network everywhere else.


Thanks for reading. Please check out my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order. Go Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.

John Canton


Twitter @johnreport