SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN TV REPORT
DECEMBER 8, 2023
PROVIDENCE, RI AT AMICA MUTUAL PAVILION
AIRED ON FOX
REPORT BY ALEX McDONALD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Michael Cole, Kevin Patrick, Corey Graves
-The camera panned the crowd as they chanted “U.S.A.” Kevin Patrick welcomed the audience to the show and mentioned the Tribute to the Troops theme. Mike Rome introduced The War and Treaty to sing God Bless America. Pyro exploded on the stage after the song. Service men and women were shown in the crowd.
-The announcers sat ringside. Michael Cole said it is the most important show they will do all year. He introduced guest commentator John “Bradshaw” Layfield. The announcers ran down tonight’s card as graphics were shown on the screen. Patrick also hyped the return of CM Punk to Smackdown.
-Santos Escobar made his entrance. Patrick threw to a video recap of Escobar beating down Joaquin Wilde on last week’s Smackdown. The video then showed Dragon Lee making the save.
-Dragon Lee made his entrance. Patrick said that Escobar and Lee left us wanting more after Survivor Series, and tonight, we’re going to get it. Cole threw to a graphic of the United States Championship Tournament brackets. Cole said that the winner of this match will face the winner of tonight’s other match, Bobby Lashley against Karrion Kross.
-Dominik Mysterio made his entrance. He sat near the announce desk.
(1) SANTOS ESCOBAR vs. DRAGON LEE – United States Championship Tournament First Round Match
Lee sent Escobar to the outside. Escobar told Dominik he was right about Rey Mysterio. Escobar got back in the ring and Lee knocked him back to the outside. Lee executed a dive on Escobar. Back in the ring, Lee was in control and landed a superkick. Lee made the cover for a two count. Lee kicked at Escobar as he held his hand. Lee ran the ropes but Escobar chopped him down to the apron. Escobar landed a DDT through the ropes and pinned Lee for a two count. Escobar took Lee to the corner and talked trash before he landed a headbutt. Escobar backed off and charged. Lee lifted Escobar to the apron. Lee ran and attempted a hurricanrana but Escobar blocked it and powerbombed Lee on the apron. [c]
Back from break, Lee blocked a punch and landed a series of shots. Lee came off the ropes and took Escobar down with a forearm. Lee propped Escobar up on the top rope to deliver a superkick. Escobar slumped into the corner. Lee charged and landed a big dropkick. Lee made the cover for a two count. Lee measured Escobar and charged but Escobar countered and hit an elbow. Lee recovered and took Escobar down. Lee ran the ropes but Escobar caught him with a superkick. Escobar made the cover for a two count. Escobar lifted Lee to his shoulders but Lee countered into a roll up for a two count. Lee hit a sit out powerbomb and made the cover for another two count. Lee hit a running knee that sent Escobar to the outside in front of Dominik. Lee lifted Escobar and tossed him into the ring. Lee confronted Dominik then went back to Escobar. Lee landed a kick and climbed to the top rope. Escobar crotched Lee and then hit a Phantom Driver for the win.
WINNER: Santos Escobar in 9:00
-They showed the updated brackets with Escobar moving to the second round.
-Dominik entered the ring and held the North American title over Lee. He kicked at Lee then left the ring. The crowd booed Dominik as he walked up the stage.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Surprised that Dominik didn’t get involved to cost Lee the match. The finish seemed to come out of nowhere and it was clean as could be. I like the push that Escobar is getting, but I don’t know if two straight losses for Lee is the right way to go. I was fine with the match at Survivor Series, but this felt a little too definitive. I guess it’s possible that Lee will beat Dominik and head back to NXT for a little while. If that’s the case, then this makes perfect sense. Otherwise, it feels like it defines Lee down a little more than they wanted to. The winner will likely lose to Bobby Lashley next week anyway, but it is interesting they decided to go this direction.)
-Patrick threw to a video package on Randy Orton’s segment with Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce last week on Smackdown. The video also highlighted the involvement of the Bloodline and L.A. Knight, which led to tonight’s match.
-Nick Aldis was in the back. Randy Orton approached and handed Aldis a check. Orton asked why he was in the tag team match tonight. Aldis said that Knight made the save for him last week. Orton said no one needed to save him and he didn’t know who Knight was until last week. Orton questioned whether or not he could trust Knight. Aldis said that both Orton and Knight want the Bloodline, so this is their chance. Aldis said he and the fans want to see the match. Aldis looked at the check. He said the fine for Orton was only $50,000 but the check was for $100,000. Orton said the extra was for next time. [c]
-They showed still images from past Tribute to the Troops events.
-They showed a graphic for Asuka against Charlotte Flair. Patrick promoted the match.
-Cody Rhodes made his entrance.
-Rhodes entered the ring and got a mic from ringside. He stood mid-ring and the crowd cheered. Rhodes addressed the crowd and asked them what they wanted to talk about. Rhodes said it’s a special night and that’s why he asked to be there. He said it was Tribute to the Troops. Rhodes said he’s proud to be part of the team carrying on the tradition. He said he wanted to say thank you to the service men and women on behalf of WWE. Rhodes threw to a video package on Tribute to the Troops. After the video, Rhodes introduced a drill team to do a demonstration.
-The announce team sat ringside. Cole welcomed Brad Nessler.
-Bobby Lashley made his entrance. Lashley was introduced as a former U.S. Army Sergeant.
-They showed a graphic for Lashley against Karrion Kross. Patrick promoted the match for after the break. Cole mentioned that Nessler would call the match with them. [c]
-Cole threw to a message from Montez Ford, a former U.S. Marine.
-They showed a graphic for CM Punk. Patrick hyped his appearance for later in the show.
-Karrion Kross made his entrance.
(2) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. KARRION KROSS – United States Championship Tournament First Round Match
Kross charged Lashley and splashed him in the corner. Kross landed some shots before Lashley fought back. Kross backed Lashley into the corner. Kross took Lashley to the opposite corner but Lashley got free and went for the Hurt Lock. Kross fought Lashley off and landed a big right hand that sent Lashley to the outside. Kross whipped Lashley into the steps but Lashley jumped over them. Lashley took down Kross with a clothesline. Lashley took Kross back into the ring and hit him with a belly to belly suplex. Lashley tossed Kross back to the outside as the show cut to break. [c]
Back from break, Kross fought out of the corner and reversed Lashley. Kross charged and hit a clothesline in the corner on Lashley. Kross suplexed Lashley and made the cover for a two count. Lashley blocked a punch and landed some of his own. Kross took Lashley down with a superkick and made the cover for another two count. Kross measured Lashley. Lashley caught Kross coming in and took him down face first. Kross charged Lashley in the corner and Lashley moved. Lashley took down Kross with a clothesline then splashed him in the corner. Lashley followed up with a swinging neckbreaker. Lashley hit a vertical suplex. Kross got free from a powerslam attempt. Kross retreated to the corner and Lashley charged but Kross got his knee up. Kross charged but Lashley caught him with a slam. Lashley measured Kross and took him down with a spear for the win.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 7:00
-They showed the updated bracket with Lashley taking on Escobar in the second round.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Kross actually looked pretty solid here, but the outcome was never in doubt. I can’t tell if it’s a pivot, or a consequence of the circumstances, but Lashley was a total face here. He’s positioned that way in the next round of the tournament as well. Lashley came out of this looking like a force, so, mission accomplished. Overall, this is a pretty bad sign for Kross. He hasn’t been on TV in months, the announcers acknowledged it, and he lost in seven minutes, clean. I don’t think they have any plans for him any time soon.)
-The announce team sat ringside and thanked Brad Nessler. Patrick threw to a video recap of last week’s match between Bianca Belair and Kairi Sane. The video highlighted Bayley’s involvement and Belair’s win.
-Asuka warmed up in the back with Damage Ctrl. She gave a half-hearted high-five to Bayley. Bayley explained her actions last week and volunteered to stay in the back tonight. She said Charlotte isn’t ready for Asuka and Asuka has it. Dakota Kai said the rest of them will still be ringside and Bayley shouldn’t worry.
-They showed a graphic for CM Punk. Cole asked what brand he was going to join and we may get a hint tonight. Cole said Punk will be on after the break. [c]
-They showed more still shots of previous Tribute to the Troops events.
-CM Punk made his entrance.
-Punk stood mid-ring as the crowd chanted his name. Punk said he has good news. He said he’s not at the end of the show, so he won’t get his time cut. He said if the fans want to chant, they can. The crowd chanted his name again. Punk said that Pearce is trying to sign him to Raw. The crowd booed. Punk said he thinks they were louder on Raw. The crowd booed again. Punk said that everyone is asking where he’ll sign. He said he’s going to leave it partly up to the crowd. Punk asked if the fans want him to be on Raw. The crowd booed. Punk asked if the fans want him to be on Smackdown. The crowd cheered. Punk asked if the crowd wants him to win the Royal Rumble and point at a sign and main event Wrestlemania. The crowd cheered. Punk said that an old friend of his likes to come out and ask the crowd what they want to talk about. He said he’s heard that a lot of people don’t like the happy CM Punk that’s happy to be home. Punk said he’s going to turn it up to eleven and be the spicy Punk everyone loves. Punk asked the crowd who they want him to talk about. Punk asked about Rhodes and said he could tell stories. Punk asked if they want him to talk about someone who’s never here. Punk said Roman Reigns. Punk said he acknowledges Reigns and congratulated him on his success. Punk said that he was the original Paul Heyman guy and he was Punk’s Wise Man first. Punk said Reigns isn’t here, but his cousins are. Punk said he doesn’t know Solo Sikoa, but he does know Jimmy Uso. Punk gave a shout out to Jey Uso. Punk said he has to weigh whether or not he wants to hang out with Jey on Raw or fight with Jimmy on Smackdown. Punk said he would need back up to tussle with Jimmy. Punk asked if he could trust Randy Orton. He said that L.A. Knight would want to team with him. Punk brought up Kevin Owens. He said he could fight Owens or tag with him. Punk said that Owens is a little prickly and they’re somewhat alike. Punk said that he doesn’t know if he could tag with someone who randomly punches people backstage. He said it’s 2023 and you just can’t do things like that. Punk said everyone is happy to see him, even J.B.L. He said everyone is happy to see him except for one guy. Punk said he won’t put any stock into anything he has to say because he’s not even the man in his own household. The crowd sang Seth Rollins’ song. Punk said that’s all Rollins has. Punk said he’s glad to be back home and everyone will find out where he’ll sign on Raw. Punk said he’ll hear from Aldis, Shawn Michaels, and Pearce before he makes his decision. Punk said that every man he mentioned has one thing in common. He said that he’s back and he’ll be the monkey wrench in their plans. Punk said that on Monday, he’ll put pen to paper and start his journey to finish his story. Punk said he wants to main event Wrestlemania.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Really good promo. I like mission statements and I like that Punk brought up a number of names people want to see him wrestle. I didn’t care for some of the insider stuff, but it’s kind of baked in with Punk, so it doesn’t feel out of place, or forced. It’s just who Punk is. This was a strong promo. I don’t think there’s much doubt as to where Punk will sign, but he made a solid case to be on both shows with the names he brought up. Truthfully, I would get behind Punk working with any of those names. People have asked what he is and what he will be. I think he’s firmly a face at this point, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It will be interesting to see how they handle his feud with Rollins from that standpoint, but it may not be about who’s a heel and who’s a face in the end. This was much better than Punk’s promo on Raw and did a nice job setting the table for what he has coming up down the road. Definite thumbs up.)
-Cole thanked Hardy for the theme song for Tribute to the Troops.
-Charlotte Flair made her entrance. They showed a graphic for Charlotte against Asuka and hyped the match for after the break. [c]
-CM Punk was in the back. He looked at the Bloodline locker room. Kevin Owens appeared. Punk asked if Owens had seen Aldis’ locker room. Owens said nope. Punk snorted and walked away.
-Asuka made her entrance with Damage Ctrl. Zelina Vega and Michin appeared and attacked Kairi Sane and Iyo Sky. Shotzi and Belair appeared at the top of the stage and helped with the beat down.
(3) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. ASUKA (w/ Dakota Kai, Iyo Sky, & Kairi Sane)
The match started nineteen minutes into the hour. Asuka came off the ropes and looked for a hip attack but Charlotte caught her and landed a slam. Charlotte flipped into a clothesline and covered Asuka for a two count. Asuka rolled to the outside and Charlotte hit a baseball slide. Asuka recovered and slammed Charlotte into the ring post. Asuka charged Charlotte but Charlotte caught her and hit her with a back suplex onto the barricade. Charlotte climbed to the top rope and came off with a moonsault onto Asuka. Charlotte posed on the outside as the show cut to break. [c]
Both women were down in the ring as they came back from break. Asuka made a cover for a two count. Asuka landed a series of kicks. Charlotte retreated to the corner and Asuka charged. Charlotte caught Asuka coming in with a modified backbreaker. Cole mentioned that Charlotte came off the ropes in a dangerous way during the break. Charlotte put Asuka in the Figure Eight. Bayley appeared and broke the hold when the ref’s back was turned. Asuka went for Charlotte but Charlotte moved. Asuka stopped short of hitting Bayley. Charlotte tried to attack Asuka from behind but Asuka moved and Charlotte knocked Bayley off the apron. Asuka rolled up Charlotte for the win.
WINNER: Asuka in 7:00
-Bayley celebrated her involvement and helping Asuka.
(McDonald’s Analysis: Another nothing match in this feud. We don’t know how bad the botch was because it took place during the commercial break. That’s probably for the best. Anyway, Bayley got some of her mojo back with her interference helping Asuka win. With that said, this whole story is just stuck in neutral and everything we saw tonight was just a remade, slightly different version of what we saw last week. It’s just not interesting. Either break them up, or don’t.)
-Aldis and Punk were in the back. Aldis gave Punk a contract and told him to look it over. Aldis walked off and Rhodes appeared. Rhodes said he heard what Punk said. He said that in order for Punk to finish his story, he’d have to win the Rumble. Rhodes said that was interesting. Rhodes extended his hand and told Punk it was good to have him back. Punk accepted.
-Cole threw to another video package on Tribute to the Troops. [c]
-The announce team sat ringside. J.B.L. called Smackdown “awesome”. Patrick threw to a video recap of Logan Paul’s appearance on Smackdown last week and his altercation with Kevin Owens.
-Randy Orton warmed up in the back. L.A. Knight appeared. Punk appeared. Punk wished them luck and walked off. Orton asked Knight if he was ready for tonight. Knight said “yeah” and walked off.
-Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso made their entrance. They showed a graphic for the main event. Patrick hyped the match. Cole said it’s going to be a good one and it will be next. [c]
-Patrick announced Roman Reigns’ return next week. Cole and Patrick then promoted the second round of the United States Championship Tournament next week.
-L.A. Knight made his entrance. J.B.L. said it’s been fun to watch the rise of Knight and it’s all been organic.
-Randy Orton made his entrance.
(4) SOLO SIKOA & JIMMY USO vs. RANDY ORTON & L.A. KNIGHT
Orton started with Jimmy. The crowd chanted for Orton. Orton landed some punches on Jimmy. Jimmy collapsed in the corner and Orton stomped away at him. Orton choked Jimmy with his boot then took him to the corner. Knight tagged in. Knight stayed on the attack and took Jimmy down with an elbow. Orton tagged back in. Jimmy retreated and tagged in Sikoa. Sikoa stared down Orton and entered the ring. Orton and Sikoa circled each other. Jimmy attacked Orton from behind. Sikoa stood over Orton. Sikoa looked at Jimmy as the ref told Jimmy to leave the ring. [c]
Jimmy had Orton in a headlock. Orton got to his feet and delivered a back suplex to break the hold. Orton and Jimmy were both down in the ring. Knight and Sikoa tagged in. Knight hit Sikoa with a series of punches followed by a swinging neckbreaker. Knight stomped on Sikoa in the corner. Knight backed off and charged to hit Sikoa with a running knee. Knight knocked Jimmy off the apron. Sikoa took Knight down with a belly to belly suplex. Sikoa punched Knight then pulled on his face against the middle rope. Jimmy landed a punch from the outside. Sikoa took Knight down with a suplex. Sikoa made the cover for a two count. Sikoa stomped on Knight. Knight fought back with punches but Sikoa answered with one of his own. Knight collapsed in the corner. Sikoa charged with a running butt bump to Knight. Sikoa posed and tagged in Jimmy. Jimmy mocked Knight. Jimmy lifted Knight to his feet and landed a chop. Sikoa tagged back in. They whipped Knight into the corner hard. Sikoa motioned and charged Knight in the corner again. Knight moved. Sikoa recovered and stopped Knight from making the tag. Knight was able to escape and hit a bulldog from the second rope. Orton tagged in and so did Jimmy. Orton took Jimmy down then knocked Sikoa off the apron. Knight hit a snap slam on Jimmy. Jimmy tried to escape but Orton caught him. Jimmy recovered and tried to slam Orton into the announce table. Orton blocked. Orton back suplexed Jimmy into the announce table. Orton tossed Jimmy into the ring. Orton set up for the hanging DDT and delivered. Orton motioned to the crowd and stalked Jimmy. Sikoa attacked Orton from behind. Sikoa motioned for the Spike but Knight took him out from behind and hit a DDT. Knight set up for a BFT but Orton snatched Jimmy into an RKO for the win.
WINNER: Randy Orton & L.A. Knight in 11:00
(McDonald’s Analysis: Solid match, but nothing special. They have TV time to fill and this is a worthy TV main event. Orton looked good again and he actually seems to be interested in what he’s doing. That’s a good sign as we prepare for Reigns’ return next week. The interaction with Knight and Orton was interesting, especially at the end. I don’t know if it will lead to anything, but it’s cool to plant the seed in case they want to do something with it later. I want to see more developments with Orton and Reigns and I also want to see more with Reigns and his now loser of a cousin, Jimmy Uso. Reigns can’t be happy with all the losses Jimmy has taken recently. I hope they play that dynamic out more. Anyway, solid episode overall. The highlight was the Punk promo. Everything else was fine, but for the most part was just there. I give them credit for going with clean finishes almost across the board.)