WWE SMACKDOWN RESULTS (12/8): Keller’s report on CM Punk’s promo, Orton & Knight vs. Sikoa & Jimmy Uso, Dragon Lee vs. Santos Escobar in U.S. Title Tournament match

By Wade Keller, editor


DECEMBER 8, 2023

Commentators: Kevin Patrick, Michael Cole, JBL


-Kevin Patrick introduced the show and said it was a special episode since it was the 21st annual Tribute to the Troops. They showed troops in uniform applauding from the stage.

-“The War & Treaty” performed “America the Beautiful” live on the stage.

-They went to ringside. Michael Cole said JBL was joining them and that he had been part of every Tribute to the Troops. JBL talked about performing in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. Patrick said one of JBL’s former roommates is joining them tonight – C.M. Punk. He said it’s his first Smackdown appearance in nearly a decade. Cole said Randy Orton would be teaming with L.A. Knight against Solo Sikoa & Jimmy Uso. Patrick hyped Santos Escobar vs. Dragon Lee in the first round of the U.S. Title Tournament.

(1) DRAGON LEE vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR – U.S. Title Tournament match

After ring entrances, Dominik Mysterio made his way to ringside. Cole said he might be there to scout for his defense of the North American Title at NXT Deadline on Saturday night. The bell rang 8 minutes into the hour. Dragon Lee clotheslined Santos over the top rope in the opening seconds. Escobar ended up right near Dominik, and they spoke a few words to each other. Fans loudly chanted “Dom, you suck!” As soon as Escobar returned to the ring, Lee head-scissored him to ringside on the other side of the ring and then flip dove onto him. They showed Dom feigning a yawn.

JBL said they’ve known forever what a deadbeat dad Rey Mysterio was and Dom is lucky he turned out so well. He compared Dom to historic heroes who have spent time in prison such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Escobar made a comeback after shoving Lee off the top rope. They cut to a break at 3:00. When JBL said Rey is the greatest masked wrestler of all time, Cole told Dom that he wasn’t talking about him. Cole said Dom was supposed to face Wes Lee at Deadline, but Wes needs back surgery, so instead he’ll be facing Dragon Lee. Escobar knocked Lee off balance on the top rope and then hit a Phantom Driver for the win.

WINNER: Escobar in 9:00.

-Cole discussed the brackets. Lee will face the winner of Karrion Kross vs. Bobby Lashley. The other bracket features Grayson Waller vs. “an NXT Superstar” and Austin Theory vs. Kevin Owens.

-Back to the ring, Dom entered the ring and dangled the belt over Lee, who was still on his back in the mat. Cole said Dom is a low-life who didn’t take any of the advice his father gave him.

-A sponsored Highlight of the Night aired recapping Orton choosing to sign with Smackdown over Raw last week.

-Orton approached Nick Aldis. Orton said he found out on his way to the arena tonight that Aldis booked him with Knight. He said he didn’t know who Knight was until last week. He said he doesn’t know him or trust him. Aldis said Knight saved him. Orton said he didn’t need saving. Aldis said they both want The Bloodline and he wants to see the match. Orton sighed. Aldis then looked at a check Orton gave him and said, “The fine was 50 thousand. This check is 100 thousand.” Orton said, “Oh, that’s for next time.”

(Keller’s Analysis: So the follow-up to a wrestler giving an RKO to his boss unprovoked is a comedic exchange where Orton makes light of the fine and Aldis doesn’t seem the least bit upset? That said, Orton pre-paying a fine for his next RKO of Aldis fits Orton’s personna well.)

-Cody Rhodes made his ring entrance. Patrick said Cody’s brother-in-law in in the military and he was thrilled to be part of the show. Cody stood center-ring and said, “So, Providence, what do you want to talk about?” He said he knows. He said tonight is a special night. He threw to a video package on the history of Tribute to the Troops focused on John Cena with narration by Cena speaking about the troops being essential to protecting the way of life in the United States which he said included “freedom and democracy.” Back live, Cody introduced three members of the United States Army Drill Team.

-Brad Nessler from CBS Sports joined the announcers at ringside, noting that he’d be calling the Army-Navy football game. Nessler said they’ve become the B0b Hope of this generation. He joked that viewers would have to look it up. Cole said JBL is his age so he knows.

-As Bobby Lashley made his entrance, a soundbite aired with Lashley saying his father served in the Army for 26 years and he followed his footsteps and “learned about discipline and respect and what it means to fight for something bigger than yourself.” [c]

-A segment aired with Montez Ford who spoke about his time in the Marines from 2008-2012.

(2) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. KARRION KROSS (w/Scarlett)U.S. Title Tournament match

Kross and Scarlett made their entrance after the break. Patrick said Kross has been “waiting for his opportunity to pounce.” Cole mentioned to Nessler that one of the things that WWE has that college football doesn’t “is these incredible entrances.” The bell rang 46 minutes into the hour.

Kross jumped Lashley at the bell and pummeled him in the corner with knees. Lashley caught him with an elbow and then went for an early Hurt Lock. Kross fired back with a right punch. Kross whipped Lashley toward the ringside steps, but Lashley avoided them and then leaped off of them into Kross, taking him down. Back in the ring, Lashley clotheslined Kross over the top rope to the floor. As Lashley paraded around the ring with his arms raised, they cut to a break at 2:00. [c]

Nessler said he hadn’t seen Kross since he lost to A.J. Styles in August. Kross controlled the action for a couple minutes after the break, but Lashley rallied and hit a spear for the clean win. Cole thanked Nessler for being there and said he crossed something off his bucket list.

WINNER: Lashley in 7:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: Did Nessler get fed the line about Kross or is he a weekly viewer who remembers the last Kross match on TV? It’s so tough for Lashley to gain any momentum as a heel. He’s being cheered by fans no matter what he does, and he plays into those cheers. On this special, he’s touting his Army background. And then you have Montez talking about his time serving in the Marines. It’s going to take work for the fans to boo these guys, and babyfaces who face them have a headwind to get cheered. Kross is about where I actually thought he’d land on the main roster as, despite the elaborate ring entrance, he’s just not good enough in the ring and he’s not big enough to get away with just doing power moves and no-selling for opponents. This return match after months away being a clean loss is indicative that he’s not in for a significant push anytime soon.)

-A clip aired of last week’s win by Bianca Belair over Kairi Sane.

-Backstage Asuka was giving enthusiastic high-fives to Kairi, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai. Bayley walked up to them and the mood changed. Bayley said she learned her lesson last week and wanted to apologize. She volunteered that she will stay in the back this week. She said everyone should stay back because Asuka’s got Charlotte where she wants her without anyone’s help. Dakota said it’s a good idea for her to hang back, but the rest of them will be at ringside.”Don’t worry, it’s cool,” she said.

-Cole plugged C.M. Punk was up next. [c]


-A photo collage aired of WWE wrestlers visiting the troops over the years including Cena, Charlotte Flair, Steve Austin, Becky Lynch, Triple H, and Roman Reigns.

-Punk made his ring entrance. He wore the “Hell Froze Over” t-shirt. The crowd chanted for him enthusiastically. He said he’s starting his talking at the top of the hour so, unlike on Raw, they can’t run out of time for him to say what he wants to say so they can chant all they want.

Punk asked fans if they understand that Raw G.M. Adam Pearce was trying to sign him to Raw. He said the fans were a little louder on Raw. He said everyone wants to know which show he’s going to sign with. He said he’s glad he can go on this journey with the fans. He said he’d like the fans help decide. He asked if they want him to sign with Raw. Fans booed. He said he can’t hear them. He asked if they want him to be Smackdown exclusive. He then asked if they want to see him throw out 29 other wrestlers and point at the sign and headline WrestleMania. Fans cheered and again loudly chanted “C.M. Punk!” Punk smiled.

He said an old friend of his that welcomed him back home with open arms famously likes to ask “what do you guys want to talk about.” He said he’s famous for talking. He said there are a few people who don’t like the “happy go lucky C.M. Punk.” He said they don’t like the Punk who says, “Hey, I love you guys. I’m home and I’m glad to be home.” He said he hears them and understands that, “so allow me to turn this up to 11 and allow me to be the spicy C.M. Punk you all know and love.”

He said he’s kicking his feet up on the couch and getting comfortable. “And my feet got a lot of mud all over them, ladies and gentleman.” He said it’s not what he’s going to talk about, but who do you want him to talk about. He cupped his ear and listened as fans shouted names at him.

He said he could tell them some stories about Cody. He said he could talk about somebody who’s not there, “and from the sounds of it, somebody who’s never here.” He said Roman Reigns. Fans popped. He said he acknowledges the Tribal Chief and congratulated him on his success. “Don’t forget who the O.G. Paul Heyman Guy is. Don’t forget that he was my wise man first.” He said he doesn’t know Solo, but he is familiar with Jimmy. He gave a shout-out to Jey over on Raw. He said he has to wrestle with this. He could go to Raw and hang out with Jey or stay on Smackdown and scrap with Jimmy. He said if he scraps with Jimmy, he’s got a lot of cousins.

He questioned whether he will get along with Orton or could trust him. He brought up Knight and said he is pretty positive he wouldn’t tag with him. Fans chanted, “L.A. Knight, yeah!” Punk said someone brought up Kevin Owens. He said maybe could tag with or fight Owens. He said KO is “a little bit prickly.” He said they are probably too much alike. “I don’t know who would feel comfortable working with somebody who randomly just punches people in the face backstage,” he said, referring to Punk’s AEW conduct and also, within WWE cannon, KO punching Austin Theory and Grayson Waller. He said it’s 2023 “and that’s just insane.”

He said he was glad to see JBL. He said everyone was welcoming him with open arms. He said there is that one exception. He said he won’t put stock in anything he says, but not because of his whiny voice, but because “he’s not even the man in his own household.” Fans began singing Seth Rollin’s song. Punk said, “All he’s got is that song, so keep it up.” The song continued. Punk led it with his arms briefly and nodded. He said he’s so glad to be back home on this journey with the fans. He said they will find out where he’s going to sign on Monday. He said he has a call scheduled with Shawn Michaels over the weekend about NXT. He said Monday he’ll hear what Pearce has to say. He said he’ll make his decision that night.

He said all of the men he mentioned share one thing in common. “I am the monkey wrench in their future plans and their future goals,” he said. He said he’s back to finish what he started. He said on Monday night he’ll put pen to paper and begin his journey of finishing his story. “And that means one thing – main eventing WrestleMania.” Cole said he just put everyone on notice. JBL said that is a mic drop moment that people will be talking about for the next decade. Cole said they’ll find out Monday night where Punk is going to sign.

(Keller’s Analysis: Strong performance for Punk, and very on brand. That’s pretty much the promo fans would’ve wanted to hear in his first AEW appearance. He mentioned a list of major names with a tinge of insider references along with establishing storyline reasons he’d want to face them or team with them. The announcers hard sold that in a way that went a bit too far and felt heavy-handed. “Mic drop moment” is the new “Pipe bomb throwing Superstar,” where it feels like viewers are being told how to feel about that promo. It was clever to link Owens’ punching people randomly backstage with a wink about his backstage fights in AEW. The dig about Seth’s song being all he has was a good line.)

-Cole thanked Hardy for “Red,” the official theme song of Tribute to the Troops.

-Charlotte Flair made her ring entrance. [c]

-They showed Punk walking backstage. He stopped at the locker room door for The Bloodline and looked. Kevin Owens walked up to him and asked if he knows where Aldis’s “locker room” is. KO said he didn’t know. Punk sarcastically said, “Thanks for the help.” KO said, “You’re welcome.”

(3) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. ASUKA (w/Dakota Kai, Kairi Sane, Iyo Sky)

Zelina Vega and Michin attacked Kairi and Sky at ringside before the match. The announcers noted that last week, as Charlotte and Becky were trying to recuit them to be their partners, Damage CTRL attacked them so they have a score to settle. When Kairi and Sky tried to retreat up the aisle, Belair and Shotzi cut them off. That left Asuka alone. The ref Charles Robinson called for the bell 19 minutes into the hour.

JBL said Charlotte is fortunate to have Asuka as a rival just as Ali was fortunate to have Frasier to help him show how great he is. Asuka rallied at ringside until Charlotte backdropped her onto the ringside barricade. Next, Charlotte leaped off the top rope and overshot the moonsault by at least a foot. Asuka sold it anyway. Cole said she didn’t get all of it, but she got enough.

(Keller’s Analysis: Charlotte should just stop doing that move. It just never looks good and rarely even decent and this was the worst. She can just do that move and land on her feet as a way to celebrate, but it shouldn’t be portrayed as an actual damaging move.) [c]

Asuka was in control after the break. Cole said right before they returned from the break Asuka dropped Charlotte on the back of her head and it was a scary moment. The ref was checking on her. JBL said Asuka slipped and Charlotte fell in a dangerous way. (There was no replay.) Asuka scored a two count.

Charlotte stood and couldn’t put weight on one of her legs. She applied a figure-four and bridged into the Figure-Eight, although it was clearly a struggle for her to do so. Bayley yanked Charlotte off of the hold. Charlotte stood and yelled at Bayley, but was still wincing in pain. Charlotte shoved Asuka at Bayley, but Asuka stopped before colliding. Charlotte then knocked Bayley off the ring apron with a forearm. Asuka rolled her up from behind for a three count. Immediately, the ref checked on Charlotte who appeared to be in a lot of pain and continued to favor her leg. An elated Bayley said, “I did that! I did that!”

WINNER: Asuka in 7:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: I assume they went to the finish sooner than planned. It’s a good thing they didn’t have that match scheduled to go on last or they’d have more time to fill.) [c]

-Backstage, Cody told Punk that it sounds like for Punk to finish his story, he’d need to win the Royal Rumble. “That’s interesting,” he said. Punk said it is. Cody offered a handshake and said it’s good to have him back.

-They went to the announcers at ringside. Cole talked about the Medal of Honor and said they’re honoring one of the recipients from 2015. A video aired of President Obama giving him the Medal of Honor. [c]

-More photos aired of Tribute to the Troops over the years including Seth Rollins, The Rock, The Miz, Trish Stratus, Xavier Woods, Eddie Guerrero, Jimmy Uso, Kevin Nash, and Cena.

-They showed “War and Treaty” standing and applauding in the front row. Cole touted their performance of “America the Beautiful” earlier and encouraged viewers to seek it out on social media because it was incredible.

-They went to the announcers on camera. Patrick threw to a sponsored video package on the happenings last week with Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, Logan Paul, and Kevin Owens.

-Knight walked up to Orton backstage as he was warming up with stretch bands. Punk walked up to them and said, “Good luck, boys.” He smiled, turned, and walked away. Orton and Knight gave him stern looks. Orton asked Knight if he was ready. Knight said, “Yeah.”

-Ring entrances took place for Solo and Jimmy. No Paul Heyman. [c]

-The announcers hyped the return of Roman Reigns next week. Also, Waller vs. an NXT Superstar and Owens vs. Theory. Cole said Shawn Michaels will hand-pick the NXT competitor. Patrick said KO will be competing despite a broken hand.


Knight came out next. Then Orton. JBL said if you built “a sports entertainer” from the ground up, it’d be Orton. JBL said Bob Orton told him in the early ’90s that his son Randy was going to be special. JBL said he was right. Cole said Orton is tied at 14 world titles reigns with Triple H and only behind Cena and Ric Flair. The bell rang 45 minutes into the hour. Knight didn’t seem thrilled Orton insisted on starting the match. Orton took it to Jimmy early. When Jimmy shoved Orton into Orton’s corner, Knight tagged himself in. Orton shot him a look and then tagged himself back in seconds later. Knight had some words for Orton before he returned to their corner. Jimmy tagged Solo in. Fans chanted “RKO!” Jimmy hit Orton from behind before he engaged with Sikoa. They cut to a break at 1:00. [c]

Back live, Cole noted that Knight wasn’t happy that Orton tagged himself in and that Jimmy wasn’t happy that Solo tagged himself in. (Jimmy actually slapped Solo’s chest as he tagged out, so I’m not sure what Cole was referring to.) Knight and Solo each tagged in at 6:00. The announcers talked about Solo’s similarities to his uncle, Umaga.

Solo took control of Knight for an extended period. Cole said Solo is “definitely a future world champion, no doubt about that.” Knight crawled toward Orton, but Solo stopped him. Knight kicked Solo and then delivered a bulldog off the second rope. He went back to crawling to tag Orton. JBL said the arena will come unglued if Orton gets the tag. Orton tagged in and went after Jimmy and Solo.

Knight charged at Solo who was standing at ringside and came up short on a wrecking ball kick when Solo was too far away. It looked like he hit his back on the edge of the ring as he crashed to the floor. Orton, meanwhile, snap powerslammed Jimmy. Jimmy yanked Orton to the floor and tried to ram him into the announce desk, but Orton blocked it and rammed Jimmy into it instead. Fans chanted, “Randy! Randy!” as he set up Jimmy for the DDT off the middle rope.

Orton played to the crowd and signaled for an RKO. Solo attacked Orton. Boos rang out. Solo set up a Samoan Spike, but Knight gave him a DDT. Knight set up Blunt Force Trauma on Jimmy, but Orton intervened and gave Jimmy an RKO for the three count. Orton looked up at Knight for a tense second or two before they smiled and nodded at each other. Orton raised Knight’s arm as Orton’s music played. Patrick said it was a moment of respect between Knight and Orton. As Knight and Orton celebrated, Cole plugged one last time that Reigns would be back next week.

WINNERS: Orton & Knight in 12:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: Solid formulaic crowd-pleasing tag match. Teasing tension between two big egos in Knight and Orton is smarter than having them be best pals instantly, but the smile and mutual celebration indicated they established some trust in each other.)

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