WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from September 23
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Undisputed WWE universal champion Roman Reigns returned to Smackdown Friday night, but it was neither The Head of the Table nor the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match between The Usos and The Brawling Brutes that had the attention of fans.
Instead, it was the culmination of the mysterious “White Rabbit” mystery that engulfed the wrestling world in the wake of Monday’s Raw and teased a major reveal on this week’s show.
What did the trip down the rabbit hole amount to, and what does it mean for WWE moving forward?
Find out with this recap of the September 22 Fox broadcast.
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- The return of Roman Reigns
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: Brawling Brutes vs. The Usos (c)
- Braun Strowman vs. Otis
- Down the rabbit hole?
The Bloodline Kicked Off SmackDown
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Friday’s show kicked off with Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and The Bloodline kicking off the broadcast. A standard promo, with typically great mic work from Heyman, gave way to a fantastically tense moment involving The Head of the Table and so-called “honorary Uce,” Sami Zayn.
Zayn stopped The Bloodline from exiting and acknowledged Reigns as his Tribal Chief, to which the top dog in WWE responded by asking why the lovable loser continued to tag along with the faction and why he was wearing a Bloodline shirt.
Despite being a great heel, there is a certain appreciation and equity that Zayn has created with fans and their fear for the suddenly serious, potentially dangerous situation he put himself in manifested itself in a tenseness we do not typically see on WWE programming.
By the time Jey Uso ripped said shirt off the man he has spent the last month despising, it appeared as though Zayn was about to catch a beatdown. Instead, Reigns presented him his own shirt, much to the dismay of the tag team champion, and the group left the ring together to close the segment.
This was great character work and an even better example of why Reigns has been among the most compelling of any performers in wrestling. He is condescending, sarcastic and disingenuous at times but always dangerous and capable of punishing anyone before him. It works so well with Zayn’s “just wants to fit in” persona and the fans ate it up.
They popped for his inclusion, a sign that the storytellers have the audience in the palm of their hands. As long as the story is not drawn out for too long, this is going to be a hell of a payoff and one that makes Zayn as big a star as he has ever been in WWE.
A great television segment to start the show.
- “You don’t boo the wise man,” Paul Heyman said, drawing even more jeers as a result.
- “Now that Drew McIntyre has another bridge to *clears throat* Kross…let’s talk about Solo.” Heyman was on fire to kick off this show.
- “Solo was sent by the elders of the Samoan Dynasty.”
- “Someone had to stop these conspiracies against your Tribal Chief!”
- “The elders may have sent you, but you answer to me now. Acknowledge me,” Reigns demanded of Sikoa.
- “I wanted to, also, publicly acknowledge the Tribal Chief,” Zayn said, interrupting his associates’ exit.
- “You got our shirt on? Why you tagging along? What do you want?” Reigns asked Zayn. “I’ll tell you what I want. I want you to take that shirt off.”
- “You ain’t ever gonna wear it again, because I got you a new one,” Reigns said before tossing Zayn a new, “Honorary Uce” shirt, much to the chagrin of Jey.
Liv Morgan vs. Lacey Evans
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SmackDown Women’s Champion Liv Morgan followed up her challenge to Ronda Rousey for an Extreme Rules Match by battling Lacey Evans in a non-title match.
The former Marine proved a tougher challenge than expected as she dominated the action, putting Morgan on the defensive. The champion, though, proved her resiliency and fought back, finishing Evans with a Codebreaker and ObLIVion.
After the match, Morgan teased that she did not have the so-called “killer instinct” to beat Rousey, only to unload on her opponent with a kendo stick and send her into the guardrail. From there, she laid Evans out on a table, scaled the ropes and jumped off the ring post, driving her opponent through a table with senton.
There was not much to the match itself but everything that happened after it was great.
Morgan needs some edge. The fans need to believe that she stands a chance in hell of beating Rousey on October 8 or the reaction will be similar to that of SummerSlam, where she was the fluky champion who was booed for weeks after the controversial conclusion of that match.
This went a long way in establishing that and it won the crowd over in what felt like the first instance of the WWE fans being fully behind Morgan in months.
Morgan pinned Evans
- Michael Cole put over the idea that Morgan was not nearly extreme enough to warrant her challenge to Rousey for an Extreme Rules match at the upcoming premium live event, citing the intensity and aggression of Evans against the relatively subdued champion.
- “Liv Morgan just risked it all to make a statement to the Baddest Woman on the Planet!” Corey Graves exclaimed.
New Day vs. Maximum Male Models
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The New Day battled Maximum Male Models’ mån.sôör and ma.cé in tag team action next, with Max and Maxxine Dupri watching from ringside.
The match was a basic one that concluded with Maxxine inadvertently distracting ma.cé, allowing New Day to pick up their first victory in what felt like an eternity.
Unfortunately, this was not at all about Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. Instead, it was about the gradual split between Max and the rest of the team as he angrily fought to get his jacket off, then slammed it down.
Hopefully, this leads to the return of LA Knight as the MMM act is not clicking at this point and further wasting the talented and charismatic performer in his role as Max makes little sense.
New Day defeated Maximum Male Models
- Maxxine took a camera from one of the ringside photographers and started snapping photographs, which ultimately led to the finish.
Braun Strowman vs. Otis
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The ring was reinforced for the battle of big men pitting Braun Strowman against Otis.
The Monster Among Monsters and the big hoss of Alpha Academy delivered a physical battle that featured several power-based spots, including Otis narrowly escaping a running powerslam and appearing to have Strowman beaten with a Vader Bomb.
The ode to the 2022 Hall of Famer was not enough to keep his opponent down, though, as Strowman fought back and delivered a jaw-dropping powerbomb for the hard-fought win.
Strowman has looked great since his return and is clearly motivated to prove those who decided to release him wrong. More importantly, fans have embraced him. Strowman is massively over, as evidenced by the reaction from the fans in Salt Lake City, and that bodes very well for his eventual rise back up the ranks in WWE.
Strowman defeated Otis
- Strowman delivered a dropkick, inspiring awe and catching Otis off-guard from the start.
- The former Universal Champion bowled over Otis and Gable at ringside, then sent the latter into the timekeeper’s area.
- Otis scored a near-fall off a powerslam and Vader Bomb.
Drew McIntyre and Karrion Kross Brawl
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Drew McIntyre hit the ring to address Karrion Kross and their recent issues, revealing that the two of them will meet at Extreme Rules in a Strap Match.
Kross attempted a sneak attack and McIntyre answered, beating him down and whipping him with the leather strap. An opportunistic Scarlett provided a distraction and Kross took over, downing the former WWE champion and applying the Kross Jacket submission to put his rival to sleep.
This was a solid segment that earned more heat for Kross and proved how significant a part Scarlett will play in his success. It also exposes him as a false promise, proving that his talks of doomsday are really reliant on her ability to provide a distraction.
McIntyre is such an effective babyface that this has worked very well so far but the feud’s success will be judged by the match at Extreme Rules and the booking that comes from it.
- “I don’t like playing games and if you have a problem with me, meet me in the ring and we’ll figure it out,” McIntyre spoke of his preference in dealing with rivals.
- Kross tried a sneak attack but McIntyre cut him off and whipped him with a strap.
- Scarlett threw a fireball at McIntyre, then delivered a low blow, to stop his momentum.
- “I’ll see you at Extreme Rules!” Kross accepted the challenge while trapping The Scottish Warrior in the Kross Jacket.
Raquel Rodriguez vs. Dakota Kai
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Raquel Rodriguez battled Damage Ctrl’s Dakota Kai in the night’s next match.
Rodriguez unloaded on her former tag team partner, overwhelming her with her strength and size advantage. When it appeared as though Bayley and Iyo Sky may interfere on behalf of Kai, Shotzi hit the ring and unloaded on the former.
The distraction allowed Rodriguez to score the upset victory over Kai. A post-match beatdown from the heels ended when Shotzi entered the squared circle and, with Rodriguez, fended them off.
Damage Ctrl is fighting everyone right now but in this instance, it is somewhat welcome.
Shotzi has long been undervalued and underutilized and if feuding with Bayley and Co. as a babyface gets her on television and earns her more opportunities, then bring it on.
The partnership with Rodriguez is certainly an interesting choice given how many times they wrestled in the months prior to the turn. Letting Shotzi cut a promo that explains herself would help clear up the story inconsistencies and explain her change in attitude.
Rodriguez defeated Kai
- Shotzi ran to the ring to make the save for Rodriguez. She did not ride her tank. Hopefully, that changes sooner rather than later.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Brawling Brutes vs. The Usos
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The Usos sought to continue their historic reign as Undisputed WWE Tag Team champions as they defended against The Brawling Brutes’ Butch and Ridge Holland in the main event.
Jimmy and Jey worked over Butch, seizing control of the match while the obnoxious motor mouth Zayn talked trash from a distance. Despite the beatdown he suffered early and often, Butch exploded back into the match late, wiping out the opposition and scoring a near-fall on Jey that had Zayn gasping at ringside.
As Zayn attempted to interfere late, Sheamus cut him off, only to be attacked by Imperium’s Gunther, Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci. The attack, a precursor to next week’s Intercontinental Championship match between The Celtic Warrior and The Ring General, provided a distraction that allowed The Usos to recover and deliver the 1-D to Butch for the win.
This was a fantastic match with layered storytelling, Butch’s best main roster performance to date and an angle to intensify the heat between Sheamus vs. Gunther II.
The talent involved was off the charts, Zayn and Jey added to their dissension, and the crowd has enough ammunition to question whether The Usos really are the best team in wrestling.
A great match is enough to warrant a high grade. Sprinkle in even better storytelling and you have the top one.
The Usos defeated The Brawling Brutes to retain
- Jey, playing up his disdain for Zayn, ordered him away as he continued to fight The Bruiserweight.
- Zayn argued with Jey, asking if he wanted to get DQ’d as he fought Butch at ringside.
- Butch tried a middle-rope moonsault but The Usos caught him with stereo superkicks, leading to a near-fall that popped the crowd and left Zayn exacerbated at ringside.