The John Report: WWE Smackdown 09/15/23 Review

wwe smackdown september 15

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured LA Knight against The Miz in a Payback rematch, John Cena on the Grayson Waller Effect talk show and more.

There were two other matches advertised before the show with Bayley facing Asuka and Finn Balor taking on AJ Styles. The next WWE PLE is Fastlane on October 7th. Going into this show, nothing is official for Fastlane yet.

From the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, this is Smackdown for episode #1256. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

Let’s Hear from Pat McAfee, Austin Theory…and….The Rock!

Pat McAfee made his entrance for a promo wearing a black tank top as usual. Pat said he was in Boulder to cover Colorado football and that’s why he made the trip to Denver to see the greatest show in pro wrestling – Smackdown. Pat welcomed us to Smackdown…and here’s the interruption.

Analysis: Pat did his ESPN/YouTube show in Boulder and he’s part of ESPN College Football on Saturday in Boulder too.

Austin Theory made his entrance also wearing a black tank top like McAfee. Pat’s in good shape, but Theory is in much better shape. Just saying.

Theory said this isn’t Smackdown, this is “Austin Theory Live.” Theory bragged about how great he is. Theory said at 26, there’s nothing he can’t do while telling McAfee when he was at 26 he had a mugshot. Theory trashed Pat for having a private jet and sitting behind a desk talking about football all day. Theory said Pat will go back to his show and sit there injured like Aaron Rodgers.

Pat said he was pumped that Theory dressed like him. Theory said he looked like a Greek God while Pat looks like a guy flipping burgers. Pat said he’s not in the mood to fight since he’s been having fun in Colorado. Pat told Austin this will never be Austin Theory’s show, this will be the People’s Show and do you know what that means? It’s The Rock!

The Rock received a massive ovation from the crowd. He took his time getting into the ring and saluting the fans. The Rock hugged McAfee when he got into the ring. This was a loud, sustained ovation from the crowd because The Rock was not advertised, but there was a rumor that he might be there.

Analysis: The Rock was in Boulder for McAfee’s show earlier on Friday. The Rock will also be on ESPN on College Gameday on Saturday morning (along with McAfee – a co-host on that show), so he was in town just like McAfee was.

When the music stopped, the fans were chanting “holy shit” at the sight of The Rock in the ring. Theory tried to talk saying it was his ring, but Rock interrupted him saying “shut your bitch ass up!” The fans loved that.

The Rock said you clearly don’t know how all this works. The Rock took off his jacket and tossed it into the crowd. The Rock had a Rock tank top on. The Rock: “Finally The Rock has come back to Denver.” Theory said finally the ignorant people get to see The Rock and “Austin” in the ring one last time. Theory said this time it’s a real Austin – a real ass kicker. Theory said he’s going to be so great and the entire Mount Rushmore. The Rock spoke saying “The Rock says” and Theory did “it doesn’t matter what The Rock says.”

The Rock replied to that saying that it actually does matter what The Rock says and what the people say. The Rock said that if The Rock’s boy Steve Austin was there, he would ask the people if they want to see him whip Austin Theory’s candy ass. The Rock reminded Theory that this is The Rock’s show. The Rock pointed out that Theory is from A-Town and he’s an A-Hole. The Rock said one side of the arena is going to chant “You Are” and the other site is going to chant “An Asshole” and the crowd did it on cue. When The Rock said “an asshole” it was muted, but it wasn’t muted when the crowd did it. The Rock said that was amazing. The Rock encouraged the crowd to chant it again except he got the crowd to switch sides. Theory shouted at the crowd to shut up. Pat reminded us that the show is two hours and Rock said they are having fun.

The Rock said he had a theory for Austin Theory. Rock said that the people are the reason why this all happens. Rock said in about three seconds, he’ll whip Theory’s ass all over Denver. When The Rock was counting down, you could see him say “hit me” so Theory did. Theory delivered some punches and Rock came back to hit a spinebuster! The crowd was absolutely on fire. The Rock hit the People’s Elbow to a huge ovation from the crowd. The fans popped huge for it. The Rock encouraged McAfee to do it too, so Pat delivered his own People’s Elbow while Cole was standing up and screaming about it on commentary. The Rock celebrated by posing on the turnbuckles with the Denver crowd popping huge for him. This whole thing took nearly 20 minutes.

Analysis: What a great moment. Throughout the afternoon, there were rumors that The Rock might show up along with McAfee, but it wasn’t a lock, so just seeing it happen like that was pretty awesome. It’s been a long time since we have seen The Rock on a WWE show. It was great to see. The fans were absolutely on fire for everything and it’s easy to see why. That was a lot of fun. I don’t think it hurts Theory to be involved in something like that. Theory did well in the segment and of course, The Rock was awesome as always.

The full segment involving The Rock was posted on WWE’s YouTube channel if you want to see all of it.

The commentary team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick did a rundown of what’s coming up.

Finn Balor, one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, made his entrance with Damian Priest (fellow WWE Tag Team Champion) and NXT North American Champion Dominik Mysterio. They are The Judgment Day without Rhea Ripley by their side.


Finn Balor (w/Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio) vs. AJ Styles

The announcers said no Rhea Ripley with The Judgment Day because she was still feeling the effects of Nia Jax attacking her on Raw. It was pretty even early on with Balor grounding Styles with a side headlock at one point. Styles took control with a dropkick and backbreaker. Balor bailed to the floor leading to a break.


The match continued with Styles and Balor colliding with a double cross body block knocking both guys down. Styles came back with a running forearm. Styles picked up Balor, Dominik distracted the referee, Balor did a blatant eye gouge and Styles hit a sitout slam sending Balor face first/body first into the mat. Styles set up Balor on the turnbuckle, Styles wanted a hurricanrana, but Balor held onto the ropes. Styles got back up to trip Balor. Styles wanted a Styles Clash, but Balor got out of it and Styles hit an Ushigoroshi slam sending Balor into the top of AJ’s knee. Styles jumped over the top with a forearm smash on Balor on the floor. Styles sent Balor into the ring and punched a charging Dominik. Priest grabbed AJ’s leg, the referee Dan Engler saw it and ejected Dominik & Priest to the back. Styles hit Balor with a short forearm. AJ went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Balor avoided it. Styles wanted a Styles Clash, but Jimmy Uso showed up at ringside (Jimmy lost to Styles last week) and Styles punched him. Balor trapped Styles in a crucifix pin for the pinfall win after about nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: *** A good match between two talented veterans that know eachother well. Styles beat Jimmy last week, so Jimmy was getting revenge here. Balor capitalized for the cheap win like a heel should. The finish was cheap, but it does protect Styles due to Jimmy Uso getting involved.

Jimmy Uso was smiling at ringside about costing Styles the match. Styles was furious in the ring. The announcers wondered if Jimmy was trying to impress The Bloodline or maybe trying to impress The Judgment Day as well.

Still to come: John Cena on the Grayson Waller Effect show and LA Knight faces The Miz.


The Rock and Pat McAfee were shown talking backstage. They spoke about how Denver would have gone on for two hours. John Cena walked up to The Rock and shook his hand saying “welcome home.” Cena gave The Rock a big hug.

Analysis: Great moment right there.

Jimmy Uso was shown in another part of the backstage area with Paul Heyman in the distance. Finn Balor walked up with his Raw & Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Jimmy said that they are even now after last week. Balor said that he saw Jimmy’s brother Jey on Monday. Balor said that he spoke to Jey about joining The Judgment Day and he didn’t say no. Balor suggested both of The Usos join The Judgment Day. Jimmy didn’t seem interested. Balor said that there were no leaders in The Judgment Day, which means there was no Roman. Jimmy thought that was interesting as Balor left. Heyman walked up to Jimmy after it ended.

Analysis: I doubt The Judgment Day adds The Usos to their group, but it’s an interesting development at least.

Let’s Hear from Rey Mysterio

Rey Mysterio, the United States Champion, and the LWO were in the ring. Santos Escobar was in the suit, Zelina Vega was there and Del Toro & Wilde were in their wrestling gear. Rey said that a year ago he was devastated and heartbroken. Rey said the LWO reminded him what family truly represents. Rey said now he is the United States Champion and he has a family and is united and stronger than ever.

Santos Escobar said when Austin Theory took him out so he couldn’t compete for the US Title, Rey stepped up. Escobar said he was happy that Rey did it. Escobar said that Rey became the United States Champion like the champion that he is. Escobar said that his career dream has always been to face his idol Rey Mysterio with a title on the line. Escobar asked if Rey would face him for the US Championship? Rey said that Santos is asking for a title opportunity? Santos said he has nothing but love and respect for him. Rey said he accepts the challenge.

Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits made their entrance with Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins in their wrestling gear. Lashley said that taking over is going to be easy for them. The Street Profits mocked Rey for giving out opportunities. Cruz Del Toro & Joaquin Wilde issued a challenge to a match with The Street Profits, so that match was next.

Analysis: It was a promo segment to set up two matches with Rey Mysterio granting his buddy Santos Escobar a US Title match. I think maybe Escobar will turn heel or do something heelish in that match, but maybe I’m overthinking. Lashley and The Street Profits being confident makes them likable even though there have been reports that they might be heels moving forward. It was fine overall in terms of setting up some matches.


The Street Profits – Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins (w/Bobby Lashley) vs. LWO – Joaquin Wilde & The Street Profits (w/Rey Mysterio, Santos Escobar & Zelina Vega)

I just sat down after going to the washroom and The Street Profits hit their spinebuster/neckbreaker combo called The Revelation on Wilde for the pinfall win. It went about one minute.

Winners by pinfall: The Street Profits – Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins

Analysis: 1/2* That was very rushed. I don’t know if it was shortened because the opening segment was so long, but maybe it was. A decisive win for Ford & Dawkins while Wilde & Cruz rarely get wins in tag team matches.

Post match, Lashley told The Street Profits to attack their opponents, so Ford & Dawkins beat them up. Escobar and Rey got in the ring wondering what was going on, so Escobar got beat up too. Rey had a staredown with Lashley, who was about to take off his coat. Dawkins went up to Rey and punched him in the face. Lashley and The Street Profits left.

Analysis: That was some heelish behavior from Lashley and The Street Profits even though the fans cheer for them. It could be start of a rivalry.

It’s The Miz facing off against LA Knight up next.


It was announced earlier this week that the Royal Rumble PLE will be on January 27th at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida. They showed some media coverage of the announcement.

A Progressive Match Flo video aired recapping the rivalry between LA Knight and The Miz. They showed promo clips along with highlights of Knight beat The Miz at Payback earlier this month. Yeah.

LA Knight vs. The Miz

Knight ran over Miz with a shoulder tackle while fans were chanting “tiny balls” at The Miz. Knight went after Miz in the corner and Miz sent Knight into the turnbuckle. Knight came back with chops followed by a powerslam for two. Miz went for a move, Knight held onto the ropes and Knight hit a neckbreaker. Knight hit a slingshot shoulder tackle for a two count. Miz came back with a knee to the ribs. Miz bounced off the ropes and hit a running kick to the face. Miz went for a lifting move, Knight slipped out of it and hit a neckbreaker. Knight hit a bulldog from the second rope and a running kick for two. The Miz came back with his corner clothesline and a reverse legsweep off the ropes for a two count. They went to break there.


The Miz was in full control with a kick to the head followed by a running knee for two. It was a very gentle running knee, but Knight sold it well. Miz delivered a kick to the midsection, then a kick to the chest and Knight came back with a clothesline. Knight hit a legsweep followed by a DDT. Knight stomped on Miz in the corner with the fans chanting “YEAH” repeatedly. Knight hit a running knee against the turnbuckle for two. Knight and Miz fought over pin attempts and got two counts. Miz went for a DDT, but Knight grabbed the middle rope to stop it. Knight was on the apron and Miz kicked him in the face. Miz delivered a knee followed by a double knee Codebreaker off the ropes for two. Knight fought back with punches, Miz kicked Knight in the left knee and Knight sent Miz across the top rope. Knight hit the BFT (Blount Force Trauma) for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: LA Knight

Analysis: ***1/4 A pretty good match like their Payback match was except this was probably better because they didn’t have the story of John Cena as the referee getting the attention. The attention was on the wrestlers here. Knight beating Miz is a good outcome and also a predictable one because Miz doesn’t win that much.

LA Knight did a post match promo saying ever since he joined Smackdown he said he was coming for gold. Knight said he sees all the different options. Knight said it doesn’t matter if it’s Rey Mysterio, GUNTHER, Seth Rollins and it doesn’t matter if it’s Roman Reigns. Knight said he’s easily top two and he’s not number two. Knight ended with his catchphrase saying it’s his game with the fans saying “LA Knight” in response to him.

Analysis: There’s a direct shot from LA Knight mentioning Roman Reigns, so it will be interesting to see if WWE goes with that as a rivalry when Roman is back probably next month to set up matches at Crown Jewel (November 4) and Survivor Series (November 25). A strong promo from Knight as usual.

They showed Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman watching on big screen TV. Solo said he’s going to handle this LA Knight problem. Heyman said that order has to come from Roman Reigns and he hasn’t given that order yet. Heyman talked about Jimmy picking fights with others because he thinks he’s in The Bloodline. Heyman told Solo they can only make moves if Roman Reigns tells them to do it. Solo said he knows what he needs to do and he’s going to finish this…tonight. Solo left. Heyman: “But who gave that order?” Heyman told his phone to call Roman Reigns.

Analysis: That’s an interesting development with Solo wanting to do his own thing while Heyman was frustrated by it.


Pretty Deadly’s Kit Wilson and Elton Prince were in the office with WWE Official Adam Pearce. Prince had his left arm in a sling. Pearce said that Prince’s shoulder is healing and wondered why Prince was in a wheelchair. Wilson said that with the perfect training regime, Prince will be back. They did their “YES BOY” phrase repeatedly and left.

Analysis: I like those guys. They are very over the top and unique characters, but I hope Prince is back in action soon.

Bayley was backstage talking to Dakota Kai with Bayley saying she hopes IYO SKY is ready for Asuka next week. Kai said that Bayley knows that Kai has her back, but the real question is if Bayley is ready for Asuka right now. Bayley said nothing as Asuka’s music hit.

Asuka made her entrance. Asuka faces IYO SKY next Friday on Smackdown for the WWE Women’s Title. The Asuka-Bayley match is up next.


The Judgment Day’s Finn Balor, Damian Priest and Dominik Mysterio were shown talking backstage.

Next week on Smackdown: IYO SKY defends the WWE Women’s Championship against Asuka.

Asuka vs. Bayley (w/Dakota Kai)

Asuka was in control early on with a punch that staggered Bayley followed by a missile dropkick off the top. Bayley avoided a running kick, Bayley tripped up Asuka on the apron and Bayley shoved Asuka into the ring post.


Bayley was in full control with a neckbreaker by the ropes followed by Bayley hitting a running kick for two. Asuka came back with a German Suplex. Asuka delivered a kick followed by a corner splash. Asuka hit a rising knee to the eye and Asuka hit a running kick for two. Bayley tried to stomp on Asuka, but Asuka caught her foot and applied an Ankle Lock on the right foot. Bayley got out of it and Asuka hit a double knee attack like a Codebreaker for a two count. Asuka went for an armbar, but Bayley rolled out of it. Bayley sent Asuka into the apron. Bayley sent Asuka into the barricade. Bayley cleared off the commentary table partially, but then Shotzi appeared in the crowd and scared Bayley to cause Bayley to run into the ring. Asuka recovered back in the ring and did a backslide pin for the victory after about nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Asuka

Analysis: *** It was a pretty good match with another distraction finish like the first match on this show. That match saw Balor win with a crucifix pin and Asuka won this match with a backslide pin, so at least they went for some different types of finishes instead of a rollup. It makes sense for Asuka to win since she gets the WWE Women’s Title match against IYO SKY next week. Bayley did a nice job as usual as the heel in the match. Using the Bayley-Shotzi rivalry to cost Bayley the match is okay because it can build to a match between them.

After the match, Shotzi chased after Bayley and Bayley ran to the back. The referee Jessika Carr ran by, said “ring” to Shotzi and Shotzi went back into the ring. Shotzi touched fists with Asuka, who I guess is a babyface again.

It’s The Grayson Waller Effect with special guest John Cena up next.

This Monday on Raw: Jey Uso faces Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes vs. Dominik Mysterio as well.


Next week:

* IYO SKY defends the WWE Women’s Championship against Asuka. The announcers pushed it as a first time ever match.

* Rey Mysterio & Santos Escobar vs. The Street Profits.

Grayson Waller Effect with John Cena

Grayson Waller was in the ring for his talk show. Waller spoke about having big guests on this show and made a joke about Cena’s thinning hairline. Waller introduced Cena.

John Cena made his entrance to a thunderous ovation as usual. The fans loved him, that’s for sure. Cena spoke into the camera saying that after everything they saw tonight, they still had something left for him too. Cena got into the ring for some posing and the fans chanted “Cena” for him.

Waller said that it must be a real honor for Cena to be on the Grayson Waller Effect. Waller said that he was raised to take off your hat while Cena had his heat on. Waller said that Cena did a poor job hosting at Payback and said he needs to be more like Waller, who lets the stars shine. Waller said that Cena had to make it about himself one more time. Waller said Cena also got into the ring at Payback as a special guest referee. Waller said that Cena lied to the fans because Waller said that Cena didn’t want to be an in-ring competitor any more. Waller said there is no doubt that you are the greatest of all time, but you’re not even close to being the greatest right now. Waller said that he hasn’t been the same since WrestleMania when Waller’s boy Austin Theory beat Cena. John Cena took off his hat and shirt looking ready to talk, but here comes Jimmy Uso with the interruption.

Jimmy Uso got into the ring with Cena while Waller sat on his chair behind the table. Cena had yet to say a word so Jimmy took the microphone.

Jimmy said that nobody wants John Cena there and said that everybody came to see him…Jim Uso. The fans booed. The fans chanted “Cena” in response to that. Jimmy said that if Cena tries to embarrass him again like he did two weeks ago then do it John or get out of the ring.

Solo Sikoa was up next with Paul Heyman. Solo got into the ring with Cena with Solo staring at Cena. Jimmy was jumping around saying it was “two on one” and asked Cena what he was going to do. Solo grabbed Jimmy by the shirt, but then Jimmy turned to Cena and hit him with a superkick. Jimmy joined Solo in attacking Cena. AJ Styles ran out for the save. Cena punched Solo and threw him out of the ring. Styles hit a Pele Kick on Styles. Cena gave Jimmy the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop. Cena wanted to give Jimmy the Attitude Adjustment, but Heyman told Solo to save Jimmy, so Solo did just that. Cena and Styles celebrated in the ring with a handshake/hug. They stared at the heels on the floor. End show.

Analysis: This looks like a tag team match for Fastlane with John Cena teaming up with a former rival AJ Styles against Solo Sikoa & Jimmy Uso. It makes sense because then the part-timer Cena doesn’t have to work a full match and it’s still got a big match feel because of the names involved. It can also lead to Styles getting past The Bloodline guys to set up a possible match with Roman Reigns soon too. Anyway, that was a unique talk show because the host Grayson Waller didn’t let the guest John Cena speak during the whole thing and the interruptions led to the physicality. It was booked well overall assuming it’s going to lead to a tag team match.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. The Rock – Welcome back!
  2. John Cena
  3. Finn Balor/AJ Styles/LA Knight


The Scoreboard

8 out of 10

Last week: 7

2023 Average: 7.24


Final Thoughts

I thought it was a great show this week. There was obviously the big surprise involving The Rock appearing along with Pat McAfee. They weren’t advertised, but both guys were in Boulder Colorado for the college football game on Saturday and with Smackdown in Denver, it was an easy trip to get there. I’m glad it happened. The Rock humiliated Austin Theory and beat him up, which will lead to some people complaining about how it hurt Theory, but not me. Theory will be fine long term. It was great to see The Rock again. That crowd reaction for everything he did and the way the fans were hanging on his every word was incredible to watch.

The matches were solid with LA Knight beating The Miz clean and The Street Profits winning quickly. Finn Balor beat AJ Styles and Asuka beat Bayley with both of those matches having distraction finishes. At least they had Finn win with a cradle while Asuka won with a backslide, so it’s different than the usual ROLUP OF DEATH~! ending. Thanks for being creative with those finishes, you talented veterans.

John Cena’s appearance on the Grayson Waller Effect talk show was unique since Cena didn’t say a word. Waller wouldn’t shut up, then Jimmy Uso showed up and Solo Sikoa as well. Cena was attacked by Solo with AJ Styles making the save. It seems like it will set up Cena & Styles against Solo & Jimmy at Fastlane. A win there could lead to Styles going after Roman Reigns too. Makes sense to me. Anyway, I thought it was a smart ending with Styles saving his old rival Cena and a respectful hug to end it. A well booked show from start to finish.


Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Rams. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport