The John Report: WWE Smackdown 09/01/23 Review

wwe smackdown september 1

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured the return of John Cena taking place one night before Payback.

The month of September is here as we enter the final third of 2023. It’s the last Smackdown episode before WWE Payback takes place this Saturday. They have promoted John Cena’s return heavily along with a Jimmy Uso promo and a Rey Mysterio/Santos Escobar vs. Austin Theory/Grayson Waller tag team match. Our TJRWrestling team preview for WWE Payback is here, so check that out as well.

From The Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, this is Smackdown for episode #1254. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

The opening video package took us back to three weeks ago when Jey Uso “quit” WWE after taking out his frustration on Roman Reigns, Solo Sikoa and twin brother Jimmy Uso.

It was Michael Cole on commentary with Kevin Patrick and Corey Graves as some familiar music hit…it’s John Cena.

Let’s Hear from John Cena

John Cena made his entrance to a HUGE ovation from the crowd. Cena was rocking a brand new t-shirt that’s light blue and orange along with the trademark hat, jorts and sneakers. Never give up, kids. That pop for Cena was massive! Cena blew a kiss to somebody in the front row – perhaps his wife.

Cena welcomed us to Smackdown from a sold out Hershey, PA. Cena said the fans have given him 20 years of moments running down and sliding into this ring. Cena said it never gets old because every single time it gets better. Cena said every time he gets in this ring he’s going to say thank you. Cena thanked the fans for their support and for welcoming back not just for tonight, but for months as well. Cena spoke about getting the opportunity to wrestle in India for the first time.

Cena announced that he will be the host of Payback. Cena said for all that you have given him, he will do his best to give back to us. Cena told the fans that they are giving us an epic Smackdown. Cena said you’re going to get answers to questions you have had for weeks.

Jimmy Uso made his entrance wearing a black t-shirt and he’s got a new theme song. The fans gave a lukewarm reaction to Jimmy along with a “We Want Jey” chant. Cena said it was a vocal bunch talking about what they would want.

Jimmy asked Cena what is he doing here? Jimmy said that these people came to see him, a top star – Jimmy Uso. Jimmy said he did what he did to save his brother. Jimmy said he didn’t want Jey to be corrupted like Roman Reigns and corrupted like John Cena. Jimmy mocked Cena’s outfit with Cena saying you should “never give up” on his fashion sense.

Jimmy said that Cena and Reigns are exactly alike. The fans booed. Jimmy said that just like Reigns, Cena takes and takes, but the only difference is he does it with a smile.

Cena told Jimmy he’s had a lot on his mind and he’s thinking about a lot of things. Cena told Jimmy that “the wrong Uso quit” and the fans let out an “ohhh” reaction to that. Jimmy tried to hit Cena with a superkick, but Cena caught the foot and Cena hit an Attitude Adjustment! Jimmy sold it well while bumping out of the ring to the floor. Cena removed his shirt and left to cheers from the crowd.

Analysis: It was an interesting segment to build to a potential match between Cena and Jimmy. I don’t know if that’s going to happen on Smackdown or the next PLE in October. It all depends on how many matches Cena wants to have during this two month return that he is advertised for. It’s cool to see Jimmy having his own music for this heel run that he is on now. That was needed rather than having him enter to The Usos song. Anyway, I thought Cena did a great job with his babyface promo as usual and it’s easy to like a guy like him, especially at this stage in his career as a WWE Legend. I’m intrigued to see where this goes. It’s also a nice thing to have Cena at Payback as well because it might make fans more interested in the show.

Austin Theory and Grayson Waller were interviewed by Kayla Braxton. They laughed about John Cena hosting Payback. Waller said Theory will get back his US Title and Waller will ask tough questions to Cody Rhodes. Theory claimed they were the best tag team of all time and said they will beat Rey & Santos up next.

Rey Mysterio, the United States Champion, and Santos Escobar entered along with the rest of the LWO’s Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro & Zelina Vega. That tag team match is next.


A frustrated Jimmy Uso was shown backstage looking angry about what happened to him.

The cocky heel team of Grayson Waller and Austin Theory made their entrance.

Austin Theory & Grayson Waller vs. Rey Mysterio & Santos Escobar (w/Zelina Vega)

Escobar hit a dropkick on Waller for a two count. Rey tagged in with a kick to the arm. Waller wrenched on Rey’s left arm. Rey sent Waller out of the ring, Theory into the ring illegally and Rey sent Theory out of the ring. Escobar launched Rey over the top onto both opponents on the floor.


The heels were in control with Theory hitting a running clothesline. Waller tripped up Escobar on the apron so that Theory and Waller could stomp on Rey in the corner. Waller with knees to Rey’s face. Theory held Rey, Waller threw a forearm, Rey ducked and Waller hit Theory by accident. Waller stopped Rey from tagging out, but Rey hit a DDT. Escobar tagged in with a cross body block on Waller for two. Escobar hit running knees, a jumping kick and a top rope hurricanrana (Frankensteiner) for two because Theory made the save. Rey sent Theory out of the ring. Escobar kicked Waller off the apron. Theory was back in and hit a shoulder block to the left knee of Escobar. Rey sent Theory out of the ring. Waller jumped back into the ring with a rolling Stunner for the pinfall win on Escobar. It went about nine minutes.

The replay showed that Escobar pushed Rey out of the way, which led to Theory hitting the shoulder tackle to Escobar’s injured left knee like a chop block.

Winners by pinfall: Austin Theory & Grayson Waller

Analysis: *** It was a pretty good match. I know the story was about the Rey/Santos miscommunication, but I’m also happy that Grayson Waller finally got a big win. It seems like Waller has lost most of his matches on the main roster, so at least there’s a meaningful win here.

Waller & Theory celebrated the win while Rey was checking on Escobar’s injured left knee.

Jimmy Uso went into WWE Official Adam Pearce’s office while Michin was talking to Pearce. Since Jimmy interrupted, Pearce told Jimmy he didn’t like him being rude to everybody. Jimmy asked if that was it, Pearce said yeah and Jimmy left.

Bobby Lashley made his entrance in a suit. The fans popped for the former WWE Champion, “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley. Promo time up next.


There was a backstage scene with Michin complaining to The OC’s AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows about Jimmy Uso interrupting her. Karl & Luke didn’t think it was a big deal, but Styles thought it was a big deal. Styles said he’ll handle it and he left.

Let’s Hear from Bobby Lashley

Bobby Lashley said that he has been asked by everybody including his kids about what’s going on with him and The Street Profits. Lashley said that real recognizes real and great recognizes great, so that led to Lashley introducing The Street Profits. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins aka The Street Profits made their entrance wearing suits. Ford has always been a good dresser, but Dawkins was not a suit guy before this. The Profits joined Lashley in the ring.

Lashley spoke about how The Street Profits are a great time while adding that they are more aggressive than they have ever been. Ford said it’s about what Lashley has given them. Dawkins said that Lashley has helped them see the bigger picture. Dawkins said that they stepped over from what was to what is. Ford said “is” and “was” a bunch of times. Ford said they had two words for Lashley: “Thank you.”

Lashley said they had a message for the WWE Universe – they are putting everybody on notice. Lashley said they are coming for power, control and championship gold. Lashley said they are coming for it all. That was it.

Analysis: I liked the promo. Lashley has helped them a lot, The Street Profits are grateful for it and Lashley said they are focused on winning championships among other things. There is still no name for this group. I guess they aren’t going to be The Hurt Business while they still have yet to tell us what their name is. Maybe a name isn’t necessary at all. I don’t know. It’s just a talented trio for now.

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, the WWE Tag Team Champions, made their entrance while Lashley and The Street Profits were in the aisle. They had a bit of a staredown as Sami & KO made their way down to the ring.

Analysis: I think it’s certainly possible that The Street Profits are the team that takes the titles from Owens & Zayn. I wouldn’t mind that at all.


Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. LWO – Joaquin Wilde & Cruz Del Toro (w/Zelina Vega)

This is not a title match. Zayn with shoulder tackle on Wilde. Wilde hit an elbow smash followed by an elbow drop. Zayn came back with a clothesline. Owens tagged in and hit a Swanton Bomb off the top on Wilde. Nice dropkick by Wilde to counter Owens. Cruz tagged in with chops, then a forearm to Owens and Cruz hit a backflip kick on Owens. Cruz charged, Owens caught him and hit a Popup Powerbomb. Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Wilde on the apron and Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Cruz. Owens tagged in with a KO Stunner on Cruz for the pinfall win. It went about three minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

Analysis: *3/4 An easy win to put over the champions KO & Sami. It doesn’t always have to be a long, competitive match. Sometimes you should put champions over strong. I’m fine with this kind of booking.

Sami Zayn did a promo for The Judgment Day saying tomorrow at Payback, it won’t be fun and it won’t be pretty. Zayn said tomorrow night will be the fight of your life.

Analysis: I picked Zayn & Owens to win, but it wouldn’t shock me if JD McDonagh helps Balor & Priest win that match.

Jimmy Uso was shown with his bag looking like he was leaving. AJ Styles walked up to Jimmy for getting in Michin’s face. Jimmy asked what AJ is going to do, Jimmy shoved AJ, then Styles shoved Jimmy down and Solo Sikoa arrived to knock down Styles with a forearm. Solo told Jimmy he was still in The Bloodline because he’s still in unless they tell him him he’s not in it. Jimmy said nobody can tell him what to do. Jimmy left.

Analysis: That will set up a match. Jimmy is a lone wolf at this point or at least that’s how it appears at this point.


There was a replay of what happened before the break.

AJ Styles was interviewed by Cathy Kelley. Styles said that The Bloodline thinks they run WWE, but they don’t run it. Styles said he wants to face Solo Sikoa tonight. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows were there with Michin. Karl didn’t want to get involved in The Bloodline’s business, but AJ insisted because this is the house that AJ Styles built.

Analysis: There’s the obvious match after what happened before the break. It’s a fresh matchup.

Let’s Hear from The Miz…and LA Knight

The Miz entered in a suit for a promo. We saw a replay of The Miz doing his impression of LA Knight on Raw.

The Miz said that his match with LA Knight at Payback is the biggest match of Knight’s life. Miz said Knight is not on his level and he isn’t on Miz’s level from ten years ago.

LA Knight made his entrance to a huge ovation from the crowd. Knight joined Miz in the ring mentioning that Miz has done cosplay imitations of The Rock, John Cena and LA Knight. That led to Knight saying those are three guys that Miz wants to be, but he can’t be those guys. Knight said he worked every dirty job he could, he slept in his car and did it all to get where he is. Knight said Miz wouldn’t last a day in his boots. Knight said he’s above and beyond Miz, so Miz isn’t on his level.

The Miz said that Knight was on a reality show called The Hero and he failed. The Miz said it took him three years to get there while Miz talked about his accomplishments as usual. Knight said that The Miz isn’t even the star of Miz & Mrs. because his wife is the star of the show. Knight mentioned his “giblets” so that led to “tiny balls” chants for Miz. Knight said when Knight takes care of Miz at Payback, his wife Maryse will be empty inside, but one call to Knight will fix that.

The Miz said that these people love Knight. Miz said it’s because they are failures. Miz said they try, they fail and they settle for mediocrity. Miz said that Knight has had setbacks, but he has never given up. Miz told Knight that unfortunately for him, Miz crushes hopes & dreams of superstars all the time. Miz said we should look at his past to see that. Miz said when Knight loses his popularity and loses his job, Knight will go back to cutting promos in a mirror just like it was in 2003.

Knight said that the only thing Miz said that was right was that Knight didn’t quit. Knight said he doesn’t know how to quit. Knight said that Miz can live in the past. Knight said that Miz’s present is trash and his future will get worse. Knight said that Miz will get stomped out and he will learn whose game this is with everybody saying…the crowd said “LA Knight” on cue. Miz went for a cheap shot, Knight avoided it, Knight grabbed Miz’s jacket and Miz did a forearm to the throat. Miz dropped Knight with a Skull Crushing Finale. Miz said if you want to talk about your future…that’s your future.

The Miz left confidently. Knight rolled out of the ring and he went after Miz with punches. Miz ran away while WWE Officials showed up and held Knight back. That was the end of the segment.

Analysis: I thought they did a nice job of getting their points across well. The Miz continues to do the usual thing about bragging about the past while Knight puts over the fact that he’s a grinder who worked really hard to get where he is in WWE today. It’s easy to like Knight while Miz is one of the more hateable guys in all of WWE. That’s why this feud works for this point in Knight’s rise to the top because Knight beating a guy like Miz will elevate Knight a bit. I say that knowing that Miz barely wins matches in 2023, but it’s still going to be a significant win for Knight should get the victory at Payback. I think Knight should win.

A replay was shown from two weeks ago when Damage CTRL attacked Bianca Belair backstage. IYO SKY hit Belair’s left knee with a steel chair. Belair is not really hurt. Belair was just given some time off by WWE.

Damage CTRL’s Bayley, WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY and Dakota Kai entered for a match. It was Bayley in singles action.


It’s confirmed for the main event: AJ Styles faces Solo Sikoa.

Shotzi vs. Bayley (w/IYO SKY & Dakota Kai)

Shotzi made her entrance on a tank. Shotzi has short, spiky hair now. Shotzi hit a couple of clotheslines. Bayley charged, Shotzi hit a boot to the face and Shotzi did a leg scissors against the ropes. Back in the ring, Bayley kicked Shotzi and Bayley kicked the leg to knock Shotzi down. Shotzi came back with a step up enziguri kick. Shotzi grabbed Bayley’s hair and slammed her down on the floor. Shotzi hit a cannonball attack off the apron onto Bayley on the floor.


Bayley was in control with a chinlock. Shotzi did a jawbreaker to get out of that, but Bayley knocked Shotzi down and Bayley hit an elbow drop to the back. Bayley went for an elbow off the middle rope, but Shotzi got her knees up. Shotzi knocked Bayley down off the apron. Shotzi hit a suicide dive cross body block onto Bayley on the floor. Shotzi hit a facebuster into the mat. Shotzi went for a bulldog, but Bayley blocked that and Shotzi was tied up against the ropes. Bayley hit an elbow drop off the bottom rope for two. Shotzi hit a suplex into the turnbuckle. Shotzi with a cannonball splash in the corner. Shotzi went up top, Sky was yelling at her and Bayley tripped up Shotzi. Bayley wanted the Women’s Title to use as a weapon, but Charlotte Flair’s music hit. Flair went after Sky and Flair kicked Sky. Flair sent Sky into the barricade. Kai was going after Shotzi, the referee Charles Robinson saw it and Flair punched Bayley. The referee never saw it. Shotzi hit a neckbreaker slam for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Shotzi

Analysis: **1/2 It felt like an average match. The cheap finish worked against the heels this time with Charlotte Flair knocking down Iyo Sky easily, then she punched Bayley and Shotzi capitalized for the cheap win. Even though there was a storyline going into this match with Bayley humiliating Shotzi in the past with the haircut, the fans just didn’t seem to care about Shotzi very much. Shotzi getting the win was some nice revenge for her against Bayley the mean girl. I just didn’t think it was that interesting in terms of the finish.

Post match, Flair went into the ring and raised Shotzi’s hand as the winner.

AJ Styles vs. Solo Sikoa is still to come. So if they didn’t announce that match 20 minutes ago, what was going on in the main event spot? I know. I’m not allowed to ask logical questions.


There was a Progressive Match Flo video featuring Seth “Freakin” Rollins as the World Heavyweight Championship. They showed clips of Rollins in action while airing comments from him saying that wrestling has given him a life. The video led to Shinsuke Nakamura attacking Rollins and saying he knows that Rollins has had a broken back for many years. That will lead us into Payback with Rollins facing Nakamura.

There was a rundown of the Payback card with Cole saying that Rollins-Nakamura was the main event.

* World Heavyweight Championship: Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

* Steel City Street Fight for the WWE Tag Team Championships: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. Damian Priest & Finn Balor

* Women’s World Heavyweight Championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez

* Grayson Waller Effect talk show with Cody Rhodes as the guest

They didn’t mention the other three matches, but here they are:

* Steel Cage Match: Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus

* United States Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory

* LA Knight vs. The Miz

A replay aired of John Cena exchanging words with Jimmy Uso in the ring. Cena said that the wrong Uso quit, Jimmy tried a superkick and Cena caught the kick leading to the Attitude Adjustment.

Solo Sikoa made his entrance for the main event.

The new Kurt Angle documentary premieres on Peacock this Saturday. I don’t have Peacock in Canada, but I’ll find a way to check it out.


Next week on Smackdown in Boston:

* Charlotte Flair & Shotzi vs. IYO SKY & Bayley.

AJ Styles made his entrance for the main event. Cole said that Roman Reigns reached three years as the champion. It was specifically the Universal Title. Cole said it has been 1097 days for Reigns now.

Solo Sikoa vs. AJ Styles

Solo was in control early with some power moves, but Styles kicked Solo and hit a knee drop. Styles did a leapfrog over a charging Solo followed by a dropkick. Styles hit a running forearm on Solo in the corner. Styles saw Paul Heyman walking down the aisle, so Solo hit Styles with a forearm to the back. Solo charged, but Styles sent him out of the ring. Styles hit a sliding knee to knock Solo down. Styles hit a forearm on Solo on the floor leading to a break.


Styles tried a leaping attack off the ropes, but Solo punched him in the jaw. Solo sent Styles crashing ribs first into the ring post. Solo rammed AJ’s head into the hood of the commentary table a few times. Solo hit a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Patrick called it a Spinning Solo, so Graves corrected the name of the move. Solo did a back body drop. Styles came back with a kick along with an enziguri kick to the head. Styles hit a Pele Kick to the head. Styles with some punches, then a dropkick to the knee and a running forearm. Styles hit a corner clothesline. They fought over some moves, Styles with strikes and Solo hit a lifting Samoan Drop for two. Solo with a headbutt that sent Styles to the corner. Solo charged with a running attack, but Styles moved and Styles hit a clothesline. Styles hit a Lionsault off the middle ropes for two. Styles went for a lift, Solo powered out of it and put Styles on the apron. Styles hit Solo with a forearm. Styles went for a move, but Jimmy Uso arrived out of nowhere to trip up Styles on the top rope. The referee was looking at Solo, so he never saw it. Solo hit the Samoan Spike to Styles for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Solo Sikoa

Analysis: *** I liked the match. Lots of back and forth action. Styles looks great as usual while Solo had a lot of cool counter moves while showing off his power as well. They had chemistry together with some of the moves they did. Jimmy getting involved didn’t surprise me based on his interaction with Styles earlier in the show and wanting to get payback against Styles.

Post match, Jimmy Uso went into the ring and hugged his brother Solo. Solo reacted by choking Jimmy, but then Paul Heyman told Solo to stop. Solo let go of Jimmy. Solo left with Heyman.

Jimmy hit a superkick on Styles. Jimmy went up top and hit an Uso Splash on Styles. Jimmy held up one finger in the air like when he was in The Bloodline. Cole pushed the story that it looks like Jimmy wants back in The Bloodline. Heyman was calling Roman Reigns on his phone. The show ended with Jimmy holding his finger in the air.

Analysis: It’s an interesting story with Jimmy trying to prove his loyalty to The Bloodline again. Will they trust him or will they turn him? That’s an angle that can keep people tuned in. Plus, we get the addition of AJ Styles being a part of this now since Jimmy cost Styles the match and did the cheap attack after the match. It should lead to a Styles-Jimmy rivalry in the weeks ahead. I’m hoping it can lead to Styles getting into a rivalry with Roman Reigns too, but that could be months away from now considering how slow this story tends to progress.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. John Cena
  2. Jimmy Uso
  3. Solo Sikoa/AJ Styles


The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: No rating for the tribute show

2023 Average: 7.23


Final Thoughts

It was a pretty good show for the most part. I wouldn’t call it must-see. If you missed it, you’re fine to watch Payback because there was nothing major on this show. They didn’t really add or change anything to Payback other than to say John Cena will be hosting the show as if Payback needs a host. There were three longer matches on the show and two of them had interference finishes in the second hour. Jimmy Uso helping Solo Sikoa beat AJ Styles was an interesting development as Jimmy tries to get back on the good side of The Bloodline group. Perhaps this will lead to a Styles-Roman Reigns match down the road too.

The promo battle between The Miz & LA Knight was interesting once again. Both guys made their points well. Knight comes across as cocky, yet very likable. Knight should win at Payback over Miz. Lastly, I really liked the Austin Theory-Grayson Waller cocky heel alliance. It would be good to see them remain as allies on screen.

I thought John Cena’s opening promo was good as usual. He thanked the WWE fans for being so good to him and the fans treated him like a big deal as usual. Jimmy Uso interrupting Cena was an interesting choice. It led to Cena saying “the wrong Uso quit.” When Jimmy tried a superkick, Cena blocked it and hit an Attitude Adjustment to stand tall. Perhaps it could lead to a match if Cena decides to wrestle a few times during this two month comeback run. Lots of Jimmy Uso on this show. I thought he did a great job.

Here’s the lineup for the WWE Payback PLE lineup for September 2 in Pittsburgh:

* World Heavyweight Championship: Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

* Women’s World Heavyweight Championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez

* Steel City Street Fight for the WWE Tag Team Championships: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. Damian Priest & Finn Balor

* Steel Cage Match: Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus

* United States Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory

* LA Knight vs. The Miz

* Grayson Waller Effect talk show with Cody Rhodes as the guest

You can watch WWE Payback on Saturday, September 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. Go Toronto Blue Jays. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport