The John Report: WWE SmackDown 12/01/23 Review

wwe smackdown december 1

This week’s WWE Smackdown saw Randy Orton return to the blue brand, Logan Paul is back, Kevin Owens taking on Grayson Waller, Bobby Lashley in action and more.

It’s the first Smackdown since Survivor Series from last Saturday. The next WWE PLE on the main roster is the Royal Rumble, which will have two months of build up since it’s on January 27th. The month of December is here so I need to start working on my annual WWE Johnny Awards column at the end of the month. That’s always fun for me to do.

From the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, this is Smackdown for episode #1267. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

The commentary team was Michael Cole, Kevin Patrick & Corey Graves.

Bianca Belair made her entrance for a show opening promo. They aired a video replaying the Women’s WarGames match with Belair’s team also consisting of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Shotzi picked up the win over Damage CTRL. They had a great match.

Let’s Hear from Bianca Belair

Bianca Belair said it was so cool to be in Brooklyn. Belair said that her team did what needed to be done against Damage CTRL. Belair gave a shoutout to Becky Lynch, Shotzi and Charlotte Flair for their work in that match. Belair said she is still coming for Damage CTRL and IYO SKY because she wants her title back.

IYO SKY of Damage CTRL made her entrance with Dakota Kai, Asuka and Kairi Sane. Kai spoke for the group saying it was great how Belair could get these people to cheer for her. Kai said that Sky said that it smelled there and wondered who wanted to live in Brooklyn. Kai was on the apron saying if Belair wanted another title shot then she had to go through all of Damage CTRL.

Charlotte Flair and Shotzi interrupted the promo wearing some unique leather outfits. Flair said that Bianca wasn’t the only one coming for Sky and said that she would love to go through all of Damage CTRL. Shotzi said there’s enough Damage CTRL To go around. The six women got into a brawl (Kai is not cleared yet). Belair went after Sky with kicks and punches. The ring was cleared so that the champion Sky was in the ring with Belair and Belair hit a spinebuster on Sky. The announcers wondered where Bayley was.

Analysis: This was a very basic opening segment. Belair said she wanted Damage CTRL, so did Flair & Asuka and it led to a quick brawl with the faces clearing the ring. There wasn’t much to it. I think the whole point was to make fans wonder what happened to Bayley.

The announcers did a rundown of what’s coming up. Butch made his entrance for a singles match.

Next Friday in the spot of Smackdown it’s the annual Tribute to the Troops show.


It was announced that Bianca Belair will face Kairi Sane later on Smackdown.

Damage CTRL walked up to Bayley backstage with Bayley saying nobody told her that they were going to come out there. Dakota Kai said Kairi Sane faces Belair and Bayley has faced Belair more than anybody, so Kai wanted Bayley to help Sane in that match. Bayley said okay.

Analysis: I think there will be a slow build to kick Bayley out of the group she created. It has felt like that for a few weeks anyway.

Bobby Lashley (w/Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) vs. Butch

Bobby Lashley was greeted by “Bobby” chants. Lashley warned Butch that he will break him into pieces and he asked if Butch was ready, so Butch slapped Lashley.

Butch went after Lashley, who caught him and suplexed Butch over his head. Lashley hit a running corner attack followed by a hard whip that sent Butch into the middle turnbuckle. The fans were chanting “Let’s Go Bobby” for Lashley as Butch was sent to the middle turnbuckle. Butch managed to get a strike followed by a dropkick that sent Lashley out of the ring. Butch hit a moonsault off the apron onto Lashley on the floor. Butch went to the middle turnbuckle and hit a moonsault onto a standing Lashley on the floor. Nice flurry of offense by Butch leading to a break.


Lashley took over with a suplex. Butch broke free from a move, but Lashley got a hold of him and hit a huge spinebuster. Lashley sent Butch under the bottom rope to the floor. Lashley put Butch on his shoulders leading to Butch getting rammed into the ring post. Back in the ring, Lashley went for a Spear, Butch moved and Lashley went running right shoulder-first into the ring post. Butch hit two enziguri kicks along with more kicks. Butch hit a double foot stomp to the left arm. Butch stomped on Lashley’s arm and we could hear that, which was Butch slapping his leg. Butch hit a neckbreaker for two. Lashley was back up and he hit a running powerslam for two. Butch with a slap to the face, so Lashley hit a clothesline. Lashley tried a lift, Butch hit a kick and Lashley had enough of that leading to a Spear for the pinfall win after eight minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bobby Lashley

Analysis: **3/4 It was an entertaining match for the time given. Butch was given enough offense to look competitive, but Lashley getting the win was the result that most of us expected. I’d be all in favor of a Butch push or seeing him go back to the name Pete Dunne. I just don’t know if that’s realistic for him. Lashley could use a meaningful feud at some point.

There was a video package about the Men’s WarGames Match. Randy Orton was the fifth man for the Cody Rhodes team and when Orton got in there, that team decimated everybody. Cody hit Cross Rhodes on Damian Priest for the pinfall win.

Paul Heyman was shown in the office of Smackdown GM Nick Aldis. Heyman asked Aldis if he invited Randy Orton to Smackdown tonight. Aldis said he did and he intends to sign Orton to an exclusive Smackdown contract tonight. Aldis spoke about how he was told that he had to communicate with Heyman regarding anything Roman Reigns so that’s what Aldis was doing. Aldis said that he intends to sign Orton tonight and if he has to give up the entire Bloodline to do it then he will. Aldis asked Heyman what he was going to do about it, so Heyman left with his phone so we are left to assume that he would call Roman Reigns.

Analysis: That’s a good segment because it tells the audience that Randy Orton is coming up later and he might join Smackdown full time in the same segment.


Butch was shown backstage where Kayla Braxton asked why Ridge Holland walked out on their match. Butch said that he was there on Smackdown to fight and he will fight anyone. Pretty Deadly walked up to Butch telling him it should be a learning opportunity. They mocked and laughed at Butch, so Butch punched them. Pretty Deadly fought back by throwing Butch into an equipment case. That sounded painful.

Analysis: Poor Butch. I think if they want to end his Butch run and go back to calling him Pete Dunne then perhaps they can bring him back as Pete Dunne after this.

A video package aired about Santos Escobar’s recent heel turn that involved injuring Rey Mysterio’s knee. Escobar injured Carlito last week on Smackdown.

Santos Escobar was interviewed by Cathy Kelley backstage. Escobar said that Rey Mysterio turned his back on the LWO a long time ago when he chose Carlito over Santos. Escobar said he’s going to put Joaquin Wilde on the shelf right now.

Santos Escobar entered for a singles match up next.

This Monday on Raw: Seth “Freakin” Rollins defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Jey Uso, plus Cody Rhodes addresses Shinsuke Nakamura. They didn’t mention anything with CM Punk, but I assume he will be there too.


Joaquin Wilde vs. Santos Escobar

Wilde was wrestling in an LWO shirt. Wilde hit a dropkick to start the match. Escobar bailed to the floor, so Wilde hit a slingshot cross body bock onto Escobar on the floor. Wilde hit an impressive springboard somersault off the top rope onto Escobar on the floor. Back in the ring, Wilde went up top, but Escobar tripped him up. Escobar set up Wilde upside down against the turnbuckle leading to Escobar hitting a dropkick. Escobar ripped off Wilde’s LWO shirt. Wilde sent Escobar into the top turnbuckle followed by Wilde hitting a running dropkick into the knee. Escobar hit a running knee. Wilde hit an impressive rolling DDT for two. Wilde charged right at Escobar, who superkicked Escobar. Escobar hit the Phantom Driver for the pinfall win after three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar

Analysis: ** They did their best to have a good match in three minutes with Wilde going on a flurry of offense before Escobar finished him with two moves. Escobar is getting pushed, so of course he was going to win.

After the match, Santos Escobar punched Wilde repeatedly. Dragon Lee ran out for the save and Escobar left the ring. Escobar went back in, Lee was ready for it and Lee hit an impressive hurricanrana. Lee kicked Escobar in the leg followed by a dropkick. Lee hit a running dropkick to knock Escobar out of the ring.

Analysis: Santos Escobar already beat Dragon Lee at Survivor Series, so this should lead to another match.

Nick Aldis, the Smackdown GM, was backstage shaking hands with Logan Paul. The US Champion Logan Paul is up next.


Nick Aldis was backstage looking at a contract. Adam Pearce, the Raw GM, walked in wondering if the rumor was true that Nick wanted to sign Randy Orton to Smackdown. Nick said that Randy’s a free agent. Pearce had a Raw contract in his hands saying he’ll try to sign Randy tonight too.

Let’s Hear from Logan Paul

Logan Paul made his entrance as the United States Champion. They showed how Logan won the title four weeks ago from Rey Mysterio at Crown Jewel. Logan has been off for the month since then.

Logan was booed shouting out friends who stabbed him in the back and to every hater who prayed for his downfall, where are you now? Logan said that the more that you hope that he’ll fail, the harder he will work and the more he will win. Logan bragged about being the fastest rising star in WWE history while saying that the US Title has been on his junk, just like everybody has been since he got here. Logan said that since Rey Mysterio got injured, he couldn’t give him the rematch he was excited for.

Logan announced that he talked to GM Aldis and they have set up a tournament to determine his next challenger with eight superstars: Santos Escobar, Dragon Lee, Karrion Kross, Bobby Lashley, Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, Kevin Owens and an NXT Superstar. Logan said that whoever wins this tournament will have a nightmare trying to take this title from him.

Kevin Owens made his entrance in his blue KO tank top with the fans cheering for him. Owens got into the ring with Logan. Owens said that Logan being in that ring was a nightmare. Owens said that he first saw Logan ten years ago on Vine and he could tell he was an unbearable jackass. Owens mocked Logan’s drink that he sells. Owens warned Logan that he will take the US Title from him. Logan bragged about being in the ring with the greatest boxer referencing Floyd Mayweather and he’s going to take him out. Owens said that was another world. They got face to face when an interruption took place.

Grayson Waller and Austin Theory interrupted the promo. Waller said that they have a lot in common with Logan. Theory said that Owens loves punching people in the face and Logan Paul is a man that knocks people out just like that. Theory said that maybe KO’s days of punching people in the face are over, so Owens punched Theory in the jaw to knock him out of the ring. Owens had a staredown with Logan to end it. KO’s match with Waller was up next.

Analysis: That was a good segment with Kevin Owens standing up to Logan Paul, who the fans don’t like at all. Paul is a natural heel that’s easy to hate. I like the eight-man tournament idea because it also keeps the spotlight on the US Title while Paul will probably off TV for most of the next month. It gives those eight wrestlers something to fight for even though I doubt any of them will beat Paul for the title. I think it will be Kevin Owens who wins the tournament My prediction is that Paul holds the US Title until WrestleMania where he faces LA Knight. That’s just my guess at this point.


Kevin Owens vs. Grayson Waller (w/Austin Theory)

Logan Paul was on commentary. Waller tried to run away, but Owens got a hold of him on the floor. Back in the ring, Owens hit a back elbow along with a senton splash. Owens charged, Waller got a foot up and Waller hit a jumping side kick. Waller hit an elbow drop off the middle rope for two. Owens suplexed Theory. Owens teased a chop, Waller blocked it and Owens did an eye poke. Waller bailed to the floor where Owens went after him and Waller hit a forearm to the face. Owens avoided a clothesline on the floor followed by Owens hitting his own clothesline. Owens hit a Frog Splash off the apron onto Waller on the floor. Waller shoved Owens into the steel steps. The referee was looking at Waller, so Theory stomped on KO’s right hand against the steel steps. Waller rammed KO’s right hand into the ring post as the show went to break.


Owens hit a Frog Splash off the top as the show returned from break and Owens was selling a right hand injury. Waller came back with a flatliner. Waller applied a gentle armbar on KO’s right arm. Waller grabbed the arm against the rope (after grabbing the left at first), but Owens came back with an atomic drop. Owens delivered a headbutt along with chops with the left hand. Owens hit a superkick. Owens hit a cannonball splash against the turnbuckle. Owens hit a Swanton Bomb off the top for a two count. Waller took down Owens by the right arm leading to an armbar. Owens got to the ropes. Waller put KO’s hand against the bottom turnbuckle and tried to kick it, but Owens moved out of the way. Owens did a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! using his left arm for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Kevin Owens

Analysis: *** They had a good match with Owens selling the right-hand injury throughout the match and then Owens used his left hand to do the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! for the win. Waller is a solid performer, but he’s not being pushed so obviously Owens was going to win. The three matches so far were very predictable.

There was a graphic saying that CM Punk’s return to WWE drew 95 million views across all social media platforms. Cole called it the biggest return in WWE history.

A video package aired about CM Punk’s return at the end of Survivor Series. They showed some fan reactions along with media coverage. They also showed some of CM Punk’s promo on Raw.

It was announced that CM Punk will be on SmackDown next week.

Analysis: That’s big to have CM Punk on Smackdown next week on the Tribute to the Troops show.

Bianca Belair made her entrance with Charlotte Flair and Shotzi there to support Belair.


Damage CTRL was shown backstage with Bayley looking apprehensive about it. IYO SKY told Bayley stay here tonight. Kairi Sane was joined by WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY, Asuka and Dakota Kai.

Bianca Belair (w/Charlotte Flair & Shotzi) vs. Kairi Sane (w/IYO SKY, Asuka & Dakota Kai)

This was Sane’s first singles match in WWE since July 2020, so that’s over three years. Sane used her speed to avoid a move, then she held onto the leg and Belair told her to let go leading to Belair knocking down Sane. Belair did a cartwheel to counter a move leading to Belair hitting a dropkick. Belair nailed Sane with a forearm. Belair went off the ropes, Asuka tripped up Belair (the referee never saw it) and Sane hit Belair with a forearm. Flair tripped up Sane, but the referee saw it. The referee Ryan Tran tossed Charlotte & Shotzi to the back. Asuka was in the ring, so referee Tran sent all of Sane’s friends to the back too. Belair dropkicked Asuka out of the ring.


Sane was in control going for a modified Boston Crab, but Belair got out of it. Belair charged and Sane sent her into the turnbuckle. Sane grounded Belair while pulling back on the arms. Belair came back with two body slams. Belair punched Sane ten times against the turnbuckle, but it’s really Belair punching the turnbuckle. Belair hit a spinebuster followed by a bounce off the ropes leading to a standing moonsault for two. They did a spot where Belair caught Sane in her arms and then Belair tossed her down. I think Belair just kind of dropped her because they messed it up. Sane was back up with a spinning back fist. Sane hit a sliding knee. Sane went up top and hit a forearm smash. Belair went for a slam, but Sane managed to roll through to send Belair out of the ring. Sane went after Belair on the floor, but Belair picked up Sane and slammed Sane into the barricade. Bayley arrived at ringside and pulled on Belair’s hair to send her onto the apron. The referee never saw that. Bayley gave Sane a high five. Sane went up top, Belair punched Sane and Belair hit a KOD (Kiss of Death) for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bianca Belair

Analysis: **3/4 There were a few sloppy moments where it looked like they miscommunicated a bit, but then they got through it fine. Belair winning was really obvious since she’s the bigger star on a path to get a title shot. Sane is a great athlete that just doesn’t have a lot of heat right now. Bayley tried to help Sane and she actually did until Belair made the comeback for the win.

The GMs Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce were shown walking backstage with contracts in hand for Randy Orton’s segment up next.


Next week on SmackDown on the Tribute of the Troops episode:

* US Title Contender’s Tournament Match: Santos Escobar vs. Dragon Lee

* US Title Contender’s Tournament Match: Bobby Lashley vs. Karrion Kross

* Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka

* CM Punk returns to Smackdown.

Analysis: That’s a pretty good lineup for next week. Sometimes Tribute to the Troops shows are just about having babyfaces beat heels, but it looks like an actual show with storylines next week.

Randy Orton Returns To SmackDown

The Smackdown GM Nick Aldis was in the ring along with the Raw GM Adam Pearce. They each had contracts in their hands. There was a black carpet in the ring as well.

Randy Orton made his entrance to a good ovation from the crowd. Orton did his signature posing on the apron as usual. Orton was fired up as the fans did some “Randy” chants and they chanted “RKO” as well.

Pearce told Orton that he was a Monday Night legend who belongs on Raw. Pearce told Orton if he signs the contract he’ll give Orton the winner of Seth Rollins-Jey Uso for the World Title. Nick Aldis said if Orton signs with Smackdown then he can give Randy the guys that took him out.

Paul Heyman interrupted the promo with his cell phone in hand. Heyman reminds us that he serves as the Wise Man for the reigning and defending, Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Heyman: “Well look who’s back after 18 months on the shelf thanks to Roman Reigns and The Bloodline, Randy Orton comes home looking for revenge.”

Heyman stated there will be no RKOs this evening. Heyman said that there would be no decision made by Randy Orton because The Bloodline would make Orton’s decision for him.

Solo Sikoa made his entrance with his brother Jimmy Uso. The GMs left the ring. Jimmy & Solo went after Orton in the ring with the brothers punches and stomping on Orton. LA Knight’s music hit as Knight ran out for the save. Knight took out Jimmy with punches and sent Solo out of the ring. Knight sent Solo into the barricade and they went fighting to the back. Orton grabbed Jimmy leading to a draping DDT with Cole calling it “Vintage Orton” as usual. Orton dropped Jey with an RKO.

Orton asked for both of those contracts. Orton looked at each contract and then he looked at the fans. Orton tossed the Raw contract down and Orton signed the Smackdown contract.

Orton told Paul Heyman to call Roman Reigns and you can tell him: “Daddy’s back.” Orton dropped his microphone.

The happy Smackdown GM Aldis raised Orton’s hand, so Orton hit him with an RKO because that’s what Orton does. Orton looked like he regretted it, but then he celebrated as Orton’s music played some more. Heyman was shown telling his phone to call Roman Reigns. Orton continued to celebrate his decision to sign with SmackDown. That was the end of the show.

Analysis: I figured Orton would be a Smackdown guy since he made it clear on Raw that he was coming after Roman Reigns and The Bloodline. It makes sense for Orton to be Roman’s next PPV opponent in a match at the Royal Rumble as well. They have two months to set that up, so it should be good when it takes place. LA Knight having Randy Orton’s back was cool to see because Knight has had past issues with The Bloodline, so it was a logical save by Knight. It’s not a surprise that Solo Sikoa was kept strong while Jimmy Uso took the RKO because we know WWE wants Solo to be strong all the time. I thought this was booked well in terms of making the fans happy by having Orton clean house and choose Smackdown.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. Randy Orton
  2. Kevin Owens
  3. Bobby Lashley


The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: 7.25

2023 Average: 7.22


Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown

This show was good for most of the way, but not the most exciting episode or anything like that. Randy Orton’s return was saved for the main event leading to Orton deciding to sign with Smackdown instead of Raw because Orton wants to go after The Bloodline. That should set up Orton against Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble, but there’s no rush because they have two months to set it up. That whole segment was done well with some good lines by Orton, Paul Heyman and even an Orton RKO to SD GM Aldis.

There were four matches on the show and they were all predictable. I don’t mind it sometimes, but it was probably too predictable this week with bigger stars beating people who didn’t have much chance. I think sometimes Smackdown lacks great matches compared to Raw most weeks and that’s what happened this week. I like the US Title Contender’s Tournament that was to keep the US Title mentioned even without Logan Paul defending it.

As for the women’s division, they are doing a slow burn with the Bayley story where the other women in Damage CTRL do things without her. This will probably lead to Bayley getting kicked out of the group she created, but I like that it is not being rushed. CM Punk is on Smackdown next week for the Tribute to the Troops show, so that will be cool to see.


Thanks for reading. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport