SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN TV REPORT
MARCH 24, 2023
LAS VEGAS, NV AT MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA
AIRED ON FOX
REPORT BY ALEX McDONALD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Michael Cole, Wade Barrett
-The show opened with a video recap of the interactions between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens last week on Smackdown. The video then shifted to their promo on Monday and their challenge to the Usos for Wrestlemania.
-The Smackdown video intro played.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Can someone explain to me why Hit Row is in the video intro? Everyone else makes sense, but they stick out like a sore thumb here. Maybe move them out in favor of L.A. Knight.)
-The camera focused on the Wrestlemania sign then panned the crowd as Michael Cole introduced the show.
-Cody Rhodes’ music played and he made his entrance to a loud ovation. Rhodes removed his weight belt, kissed it, then handed it to a young fan near the ramp. During his entrance, they showed a graphic for the Kevin Owens show with Sami Zayn. Cole hyped the segment for later in the night. They then showed a graphic for L.A. Knight against Rey Mysterio. Wade Barrett hyped the match. Cole then hyped the contract signing with Gunther, Sheamus, and Drew McIntyre for later in the night.
-Ludwig Kaiser was already in the ring with Giovanni Vinci. He was introduced to the crowd.
-They showed a graphic for Rhodes’ Wrestlemania match against Roman Reigns. Cole hyped the match.
(1) LUDWIG KAISER (w/ Giovanni Vinci) vs. CODY RHODES
Rhodes and Kaiser circled each other. Cole mentioned that Rhodes hasn’t wrestled on Smackdown in seven years. The crowd chanted for Rhodes. They locked up and Rhodes took Kaiser to the corner but Kaiser reversed. Rhodes countered a whip attempt and hit a stalling front suplex on Kaiser. Paul Heyman appeared on the ramp and Rhodes stared him down. Kaiser attacked Rhodes from behind but Rhodes recovered and hit Kaiser with a knee that sent him to the outside. Rhodes stared down Heyman again. [c]
Kaiser was down. Rhodes played to the crowd. Heyman looked on from the stage. Kaiser recovered and took Rhodes down. He made the cover for a two count. Kaiser mounted Rhodes and hit a series of punches. Kaiser stayed on the attack on Rhodes. Kaiser dropped to the outside and went for Rhodes’ legs. Rhodes pulled away and followed Kaiser out. Rhodes beat on Kaiser on the announce table then tossed him back in the ring. Rhodes went for a springboard but Kaiser attacked Rhodes from behind and knocked him off the ropes. Kaiser hit a big knee and covered Rhodes for a near fall. Kaiser went for a punch but Rhodes blocked it and answered with punches of his own. Kaiser landed a big punch to the throat then choked Rhodes with the middle rope. The ref pulled Kaiser away and Vinci landed a cheap shot on Rhodes. Kaiser made the cover for a near fall. Kaiser then put on a headlock. Rhodes made it to his feet but Kaiser threw him down. Kaiser mounted Rhodes again and landed more punches. Kaiser hit a big stomp then a sliding uppercut. Kaiser made another cover for another near fall. Kaiser kicked at Rhodes’ arm. Kaiser landed a big right and Rhodes answered with a series of strikes. Kaiser hit a jawbreaker then took Rhodes to the corner. Kaiser hit a knee to the gut then sent Rhodes to the other corner. Kaiser charged and Rhodes lifted Kaiser to the apron. Rhodes hit a springboard kick on Kaiser and Kaiser fell to the apron then back into the ring. Rhodes set up Cross Rhodes but Solo Sikoa appeared on the stage. Rhodes dropped Kaiser. Rhodes stared at Sikoa and Kaiser attacked him from behind. Rhodes dropped to the outside as Sikoa and Heyman walked toward the ring. Kaiser attacked Rhodes from behind and sent him into the steps. Rhodes was down as they cut to break. [c]
Kaiser ran the ropes. Rhodes got to his feet and they met each other with stereo clotheslines. Both men were down in the ring as Heyman and Sikoa looked on from ringside. Both men got to their feet and traded punches. Kaiser hit a low kick and went for a whip but Rhodes reversed then took Kaiser down. Rhodes hit a drop down punch followed by a snap powerslam. Rhodes made the cover for a near fall. Kaiser hit a big clothesline and covered Rhodes for a near fall. Kaiser hit a running uppercut on Rhodes in the corner followed by a kick and a suplex. Kaiser went to the middle rope and dove but Rhodes caught him. Rhodes went for Cross Rhodes but Kaiser reversed into a small package. Rhodes got out and hit a Cody Cutter followed by Cross Rhodes for the win.
WINNER: Cody Rhodes in 17:00
-Kaiser left the ring and retreated with Vinci. Rhodes was in the ring. Heyman and Sikoa got on the apron. Heyman took the mic and said that Rhodes was owed an apology and he’s the one who would deliver it. Heyman said that “she” did a lousy job with the announcement. Heyman then announced Rhodes as the winner of the match and still the challenger for Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. The crowd popped. Heyman then said it’s the same Rhodes that sees his road to Wrestlemania with a giant pothole in front of him when he goes one on one with Solo Sikoa. Heyman said if Rhodes can survive against Sikoa, then it’s not the road to Wrestlemania, all roads lead to Roman Reigns who will be on Smackdown next week to see Rhodes face to face one final time. Rhodes took the mic and asked if Heyman was moving the goal post. He then said Heyman interrupted the crowd when they were signing the song. Rhodes said he should probably say no, but he shouldn’t have wrestled against Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell, but he did, and he won. Rhodes said that Sikoa isn’t ready. The crowd chanted at Sikoa. Rhodes then said that after Sikoa finds out he’s not ready, Reigns will find out the same thing. Rhodes tossed the mic and exited the ring.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Match was really solid. Kaiser got a lot of offense and looked pretty good. He never wins, and no one expected him to here, but at least he didn’t get squashed. The promo afterwards was short and sweet with Rhodes’ confidence being the defining factor. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to harp on it here. They need to stop having Sikoa face everyone right now. Sikoa is going to be a major player and he’s already had singles matches on TV against Owens, McIntyre, Sheamus, and Zayn. Now they’re adding Rhodes to that mix. It’s a mistake and will hurt Sikoa down the road when he faces these same opponents on bigger stages with bigger stakes. They’re burning too much out with him too soon. On top of that, I really hope Rhodes doesn’t beat Sikoa and hand him his first loss. I assume it will be a non-finish, and in this instance, that might be the right thing. There’s also the possibility that they have Cody win clean to show he has the Bloodline’s number heading into Mania. We’ll see, but there’s a ton about this that bothers me.)
-They showed the graphic for the match between Rhodes and Reigns at Wrestlemania. Cole said that Reigns has been champion for 936 days and he asked if that would change.
-Cole and Barrett were at ringside. Cole announced that John Cena and Austin Theory would be the first match at Wrestlemania. They showed a graphic for the match. Barrett hyped the match.
-Charlotte Flair was in the back walking toward the arena. Cole hyped her appearance for after the break. [c]
-They showed a recap of the segment with Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair from last week on Smackdown. After the video, Charlotte made her entrance in the arena. Charlotte posed on the ramp as pyro exploded behind her. They showed a graphic for Charlotte’s match against Ripley at Wrestlemania. Cole hyped the match.
-Charlotte entered the ring and grabbed a mic. She posed in the center of the ring. Charlotte then said it’s only eight days until Wrestlemania. She then said that she’s been champion fourteen times. Charlotte said it wasn’t build on fear, insecurities, or nepotism. She said all of those things have been used against her since day one. She said that fear is ignorance and the business wasn’t built on fear, it was built on respect. Charlotte said she respects Ripley. The crowd started a “what” chant. Charlotte cut them off and said what she’s saying is important. Charlotte ran down a list of her former opponents and said she respected all of them. Charlotte then said that she has insecurities and she’s built the house with every brick the crowd has thrown at her. Charlotte mentioned her third point, nepotism. Charlotte then said that she loves her dad and she won’t apologize for continuing the greatest legacy in sports entertainment. She then said that if you like it, or if you don’t, you better learn to love it, because diamonds are forever and so is Charlotte Flair.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Well that was certainly interesting. Charlotte seemed to come out of that with a slight heel side after the crowd reaction. I thought she handled it well, but ultimately, may have leaned to far in that direction in response. Charlotte has done some really good promo work during this feud and this was good, but it strayed a bit from her recent character and dipped a little too much into the old bag of tricks. Hopefully, that was a consequence of the circumstance more than anything else. She seems focused on her match ahead and the match seems like a big deal. That’s a win for WWE.)
-They showed a graphic for the K.O. Show with Owens and Zayn. Cole hyped the segment. Owens and Zayn were shown in the back goofing around before their segment.
-Rey Mysterio’s music played and he made his entrance in the arena. Mysterio walked up to his wife and daughter at ringside and hugged them. They showed a graphic for Mysterio against L.A. Knight. Cole hyped the match for after the break. [c]
-They showed post card shots of Las Vegas. They then showed Piff the Magic Dragon at ringside.
-They showed a graphic for the Intercontinental Championship Match Contract Signing for later in the evening. Barrett hyped the segment.
-Knight made his entrance. Cole threw to a video recap of the altercation between Knight and Mysterio last week that led to this match. The crowd popped big for Knight as he posed on the corner.
(2) REY MYSTERIO vs. L.A. KNIGHT
Mysterio dodged Knight and punched at him in the corner. Mysterio went for a monkey flip but Knight held onto the ropes and Mysterio fell to the mat. Knight went for an elbow drop and Mysterio moved. Mysterio took control and rained down ten punches in the corner. Mysterio ran the ropes and Knight countered him with a flapjack. Knight stomped at Mysterio. Knight tossed Mysterio into the corner and punched at him. Knight choked Mysterio with his foot. Knight hit a big neckbreaker and played to the crowd before he covered Mysterio for a one count. Knight stayed on Mysterio and took him to the corner. The crowd cheered Mysterio on. Fans countered with a Knight chant. Mysterio hit a hurricanrana that sent Knight to the outside. Mysterio hit a baseball slide to Knight’s face. Knight was down on the outside. Mysterio slid under the bottom rope and hit a splash on Knight. Mysterio hit Knight and tossed him back into the ring. Mysterio went to the apron and hit a kick. Mysterio went to the top rope. Dominik Mysterio’s music played and distracted Mysterio. Knight hit Mysterio and knocked him off the top rope. Dominik walked toward the ring slowly. [c]
Mysterio fought back against Knight. Mysterio went for a roll-up but Knight kicked out. Mysterio came off the ropes and Knight hit a big boot. Knight made the cover for a near fall. Knight hit a back suplex and played to the crowd. Knight stalked Mysterio then picked him up off the mat. Dominik looked on from ringside. Knight sent Mysterio off the ropes. Mysterio went for a crossbody but Knight caught Mysterio and dropped him with a slam. Knight went for an elbow drop but Mysterio moved. Mysterio came off the ropes and hit a springboard bulldog. Mysterio climbed to the top rope and hit Knight with a senton. Mysterio then hit a springboard crossbody for a near fall. Knight hit a kick to the gut then went for a suplex but Mysterio landed on his feet. Knight recovered and hit a modified neckbreaker for a near fall. Knight went for a slam but Mysterio countered into a DDT. Mysterio then went for a 619 but Knight caught him. Knight went for a slam but Mysterio countered and set up Knight again. Mysterio ran the ropes and Dominik grabbed Mysterio’s foot. Mysterio was distracted and Knight rolled him up for the win.
WINNER: L.A. Knight in 13:00
-Dominik got in the ring. He asked if Mysterio would give him what he wants. He asked if Mysterio was going to be a man and face him at Wrestlemania. Mysterio motioned “no” with his finger, then dropped out of the ring. Dominik told Mysterio to walk away like he always does. Dominik turned to his mom and asked her how it felt to be married to a pathetic loser who can’t stand up to his own son. Dominik introduced his mom and sister to the crowd. Dominik walked up to them. He said that his mom stood there and watched what Mysterio did, which makes her a deadbeat mom. Aliyah got in Dominik’s face and he told her she was too stupid to do anything about it. Dominik’s mom grabbed the mic and started to speak but Dominik told her to shut up. Mysterio came around the corner and hit Dominik with a big right hand. Mysterio took the mic and told Dominik that he pushed him to do this. He told Dominik not to disrespect his mother. Mysterio then accepted Dominik’s challenge for Wrestlemania. Dominik retreated up the ramp as Mysterio consoled his family at ringside.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Finally a win for Knight! I’m just kidding, that’s not the story here. It is funny that he can beat Mysterio but not Xavier Woods though, with how everyone is portrayed. Anyway, this was good stuff. Rey was finally pushed to the edge when Dominik got in the face of his mother. I was kind of hoping it would go a little further to push Rey there, but this was a logical move. This is much better than waiting until the actual Hall of Fame ceremony as some have suggested. I hope over the next week Dominik weasels in a stipulation where Mysterio has to retire. Hell, maybe they can do a ladder match for “custody” of Rey’s career. That would be a fun callback for Dominik. The moment that Rey finally hit Dominik wasn’t a letdown, but it wasn’t really a beatdown either, which is kind of a shame. Dominik cowered in fear and had some great acting there. It was almost like he realized what he did in the moment. He doesn’t have remorse, but I don’t think he ever expected Rey to accept the match. Now that he has, Dominik is scared. Good stuff.)
-They showed a graphic for the K.O. Show. Cole hyped the segment for later in the show. [c]
-Cole announced Andy Kaufman for the Hall of Fame as some graphics were shown. Cole then hyped the ceremony for next week after Smackdown on Peacock.
-Xia Li and Lacey Evans made their entrance. Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez were at ringside.
-Shotzi and Natalya made their entrance.
(3) LACEY EVANS & XIA LI vs. SHOTZI & NATALYA – Wrestlemania Showcase Qualifying Match
Shotzi started with Evans. Evans threw Shotzi down. Evans sent Shotzi to the corner and tagged in Li. They attacked Shotzi in the corner. Li hit a running knee then planted Shotzi with a suplex. Li made the cover for a near fall. The crowd cheered on Shotzi with help from Natalya. Evans tagged back in and hit a headstand dropkick on Shotzi in the corner. Evans then slammed Shotzi’s head into the mat and covered her for a near fall. Evans knocked Natalya off the apron. Shotzi rolled up Evans for a near fall. Shotzi kicked away at Evans then charged but Evans took her down and made another cover for another near fall. Li tagged in. Evans and Li shot Shotzi off the ropes but Shotzi hit a kick to Li and a facebuster to Evans. Evans went for a Woman’s Right but Shotzi moved and Evans took out Li. Natalya got back to the apron and Shotzi took out Evans with a suicide dive on the outside. Natalya and Shotzi hit a modified Hart Attack. Natalya then put the Sharpshooter on Li for the win.
WINNER: SHOTZI & NATALYA in 4:00
-Morgan and Rodriguez got on the apron and jawed with Shotzi and Natalya. Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey made their entrance. Baszler said that everyone in the ring wants revenge on them. She then ran down the injuries they dealt to the women in the ring. They started toward the ring. Rousey stopped then asked how many times they sold out this arena and town. Rousey said they never appreciated her and they won’t give them more tonight. Baszler said that Rousey is right and they’ve been added to the match at Wrestlemania.
(McDonald’s Analysis: This match for Mania is such a waste of time and the way they’ve handled the qualifying matches on Smackdown show that the match doesn’t matter at all. They made it even worse when Rousey and Baszler just announced that they’re in the match when everyone else has to qualify. It’s just dumb. On top of that, remember that time when Rousey main evented a Mania? Doesn’t that seem like decades ago with where she is now?)
-Cole and Barrett were at ringside. Cole mentioned that more seats have gone on sale for Wrestlemania. He then threw to a recap of the match with Sheamus and Drew McIntyre last week on Smackdown.
-Drew McIntyre made his entrance. Cole and Barrett hyped the contract signing for after the break. [c]
-They showed a graphic for the K.O. Show. Cole hyped the segment for later in the show. He then threw to a recap of the segment with Dominik and Rey Mysterio earlier in the night. After that, they showed the offical graphic for Dominik against Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania. They then showed the graphic for the Women’s Wrestlemania Showcase with three of the four teams confirmed.
-Adam Pearce was in the ring with Drew McIntyre. Pearce welcomed the crowd to the contract signing. He started to announce McIntyre but Sheamus’ music cut him off as Sheamus made his entrance with Butch and Ridge Holland. Sheamus asked what the crack was. He said everyone’s been asking him why he’s so mad with McIntyre. He said imagine telling your best friend about your goal, then your friend tries to steal the goal. Sheamus said he let McIntyre live on his couch. Sheamus and the Brutes got on the apron. Sheamus called McIntyre a backstabber. McIntyre told Sheamus to shut up. McIntyre said that Sheamus has been trying to make him feel bad. McIntyre said that last week they reminded everyone why they’re the most physical wrestlers in WWE. He said they should have been in the bar afterwards, but Sheamus can’t separate what’s personal and what’s business. McIntyre said he’s beaten Sheamus and he knows he can beat Gunther, but history shows that Sheamus can’t. Pearce interjected and asked both men to sign. McIntyre signed then slammed the contract down. Sheamus signed as well. McIntyre tossed his pen into the crowd then jawed with Sheamus.
-Gunther made his entrance. Gunther entered the ring and got in Pearce’s face. He told Pearce to justify his decision. He asked why he’s in a match where if the other guys pin each other, he loses his title. Gunther signed the contract. He asked Pearce if he was happy now. Gunther said whatever he has to do at Mania to defend his title will be justified. He looked at Sheamus and McIntyre and told them he’d beat them. Butch went after Gunther. Gunther shoved him back and Holland held Butch back. Gunther yelled at Pearce to make the match now. [c]
(McDonald’s Analysis: Gunther got a solid reaction there. I don’t know why anyone would dislike the guy. He just said what Wade Keller has been saying for years about the stupidity of Triple Threats, then he signed the contract and told both guys he’ll beat them. He also said he’s going to use the stupid rules to his advantage by mentioning that he’ll do whatever is necessary. I don’t get how he’s a heel. He’s just the most respectful real wrestler on the roster. Anyway, the petty stuff with McIntyre and Sheamus is silly and doesn’t need to be involved here. I think the idea is to make Sheamus kind of a heel, but no one wants to boo him at this point. Plus, even the announcers have acknowledged his dream of being IC champion, so it makes McIntyre look like an asshole more than anything else. This match is going to be really good. Can’t wait to see it.)
(4) GUNTHER vs. BUTCH (w/ Sheamus & Ridge Holland)
Gunther was in control of Butch. Butch fought back. Gunther took him down with a big kick. Gunther then slammed Butch. Butch fought to his feet and went after Gunther’s arm. Gunther punched at Butch and transitioned into a butterfly suplex. Gunther kicked at Butch. Gunther stared down Sheamus and Holland at ringside. Butch fought back with strikes but Gunther took him down with a chop. Gunther lifted Butch by his arm and landed another chop that took Butch down. Gunther held on to Butch’s arm then chopped him down again. Gunther kicked at Butch and taunted Sheamus. Butch recovered and went for an armbar. Gunther chopped Butch and transitioned into a Boston Crab. Gunther moved to the middle of the ring and transitioned into a crossface. Gunther hit another chop on Butch. Butch answered with a couple of kicks but Gunther swatted away the third attempt. Gunther then hit a German suplex. He then put Butch on the top rope and chopped him. Gunther tied Butch up in the ropes then let him go. Butch fell off the top and hit the stairs on the way down. Butch was down on the outside as Gunther posed in the ring. [c]
Back from break, Gunther set up Butch for Ten Beats. Butch grabbed Gunther’s hand and pulled at his fingers. Gunther writhed in pain and Butch hit a big kick in the corner. Butch then came off the top rope with another kick. Gunther countered and put on a sleeper. Butch got to the ropes and Gunther went for a German suplex but Butch landed on his feet and landed a big kick. Gunther dropped to the outside. Butch went for a moonsault from the apron but Gunther moved. Butch landed on his feet and Gunther chopped him onto the announce table. Gunther stared down Sheamus and McIntyre. Butch came off the table and took out McIntyre. McIntyre recovered and got on the apron. Sheamus pulled him down. McIntyre took Sheamus down with a Glasgow’s Kiss. Holland came around the corner and went after McIntyre but McIntyre took him out. Sheamus recovered and took Sheamus down with a big knee. Butch looked on. Gunther hit a clothesline on Butch in the ring. Gunther then hit the Last Symphony and made the cover for the win.
WINNER: Gunther in 10:00
-Sheamus entered the ring and stared down Gunther. McIntyre charged Sheamus but Sheamus moved and McIntyre took out Gunther with a Claymore. Sheamus and McIntyre stared each other down.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Well, that wasn’t really what I had in mind when I said I wanted to see Gunther against Butch, but it was fine for what it was. It’s a shame that the roster is so crowded and Butch can’t really get a proper shine. He shows in glimpses what he could do if given the chance. A full-fledged back and forth IC title match with Gunther and Butch could be really good. Anyway, solid set-up for Mania here. Nothing great, but it will get us there. This is more about the match then anything else anyway.)
-The Street Profits were in the back. Montez Ford said their match is going to be a banger. They then talked about their Wrestlemania Showcase Match. They called their opponents smooth operators. Braun Strowman and Ricochet appeared and asked if they had a problem with bald guys. Ricochet said that they’re going to show them in the Showcase Match.
-Kevin Owens made his entrance. They showed a graphic for the K.O. Show with guest Sami Zayn. Cole and Barrett hyped it for after the break. [c]
-Cole and Barrett were ringside. They announced Solo Sikoa against Cody Rhodes for Raw. They then announced McIntyre and Sheamus against Imperium on next week’s Smackdown. They also announced the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal for next week.
-Owens was in the ring. He welcomed the crowd to the Kevin Owens show. He then welcomed Sami Zayn. Zayn made his entrance. The crowd chanted for Zayn. Owens asked Zayn if everything worked out. Zayn looked confused. Owens said Zayn got his big introduction. Owens said he wanted to come out together but Zayn wanted his own pop. Zayn said it wasn’t like that. Owens said it’s ok because the crowd loves him. The crowd cheered for Zayn. Zayn asked if they could talk about Mania. Zayn said that he’s been talking about taking down the Bloodline, but he just realized they’re on the verge of winning the Tag Team titles together at Wrestlemania. Zayn said Mania feels different this year. Owens said he does realize it and he said Mania is different. Owens said he had something for Zayn. Owens asked if Zayn remembered when Reigns gave him the shirt. Owens said he got Zayn a new shirt. Owens held up a K.O. Mania shirt. Owens said that was the back. He said only one person took WWE by storm this year and only one person was the MVP for the last year, and it was Zayn. The crowd chanted MVP. Owens said it’s about what’s on the front. Zayn looked at the shirt and turned it around for the crowd. He screamed WrestleZaynia to the crowd. Zayn held up the shirt for everyone then put it on. Zayn asked for a hug and Owens protested, then hugged Zayn. The Usos hit the ring and attacked them. They hit a double superkick on Owens then a One and Done on Zayn. Owens hit the ring with a chair but the Usos escaped. The Usos stood tall on the ramp and taunted Zayn and Owens. Owens slammed the chair in the ring.
-They showed a graphic for Owens and Zayn against the Usos. Cole said the Usos put their 614 day title reign on the line. The Usos posed with their ones to the sky as Owens was frustrated in the ring.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Solid ending segment. Owens and Zayn had the fun moment with the shirts before the inevitable attack by the Usos. This may not matter to people, but this isn’t on the high end of previous K.O. Mania shirts. I was expecting something much better for Zayn on the front with the build up. Oh well. Nothing special here, but their match at Mania should be good and they’ve done about all the build they can for this one at this point.)