WWE SmackDown Review: Randy Orton Strikes

WWE SmackDown

December 1, 2023 | Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY 

Micheal Cole, Kevin Patrick and Corey Graves welcomed us to SmackDown. They hyped Randy Orton will appear on the show.

Bianca Belair Promo 

Bianca Belair came out to a great reaction. They showed highlights from the Women’s WarGames match at Survivor Series. Huge chants of “EST” from the crowd. She spoke about being excited to be in Brooklyn. She thanked Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Shotzi for helping her team win WarGames. She said her war with Damage CTRL isn’t over. Belair wanted a WWE Women’s Championship match.

WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky came out with Asuka, Kairi Sane and Dakota Kai. Bayley wasn’t out with Damage CTRL. Kai mentioned Sky beat Belair twice. Kai noted Belair would have to go through all of Damage CTRL to get a WWE Women’s Title match.

Charlotte Flair came out with Shotzi. Charlotte mentioned Belair wasn’t the only one who’s coming for Damage CTRL. Shotzi mentioned there’s plenty of Damage CTRL to go around. A brawl broke out between both teams. Belair gave Sky a Spinebuster. The babyface stood stall. Belair’s music played.

Amin’s Thoughts: This was mostly a standard opening segment with someone getting interrupted leading to a brawl. The good thing about the babyface winning WarGames opens the door for title matches and that’s what it seems like they are setting up. Bayley’s absence from Damage CTRL was the big takeaway coming here. They are taking time but you can see Bayley’s split from Damage CTRL is coming. 

Damage CTRL saw Bayley backstage. Sky wondered why Bayley wasn’t ringside with Damage CTRL? Bayley wondered why nobody told her Damage CTRL would be at ringside. Kai mentioned Kairi Sane has a match with Belair and would like Bayley to be ringside. Sane spoke in Japanese. Bayley agreed. Damage CTRL left without Bayley who had a concern look.

Butch vs. Bobby Lashley (w/The Street Profits) 

Bobby Lashley came out a big reaction. Lashley took the mic before the match. Lashley told Butch to not try and make a name from himself from Lashley. Huge “Bobby” chants from the crowd. Lashley said he would break Butch into pieces. Lashley asked Butch if he’s ready for that? Butch slapped Lashley across the face. The match got underway as Lashley rocked Butch with strikes in the corner. Butch battled back rocking Lashley with a flying knee strike to the floor. Butch followed hitting a pair of Flying Moonsaults to the floor. Lashley rocked Butch with a running shoulder tackle as they returned from break. Lashley planted Butch with a huge Spinebuster. Butch moved as Lashley charged into the ring post. Butch battled back rocking Lashley with a pair of enzuigiri’s. Butch connected with sliced bread for a near fall. Lashley responded catching Butch with a running powerslam for a two count. Lashley rocked Butch with a spear for the win. 

WINNER: Bobby Lashley 
Amin’s Thoughts: This was a good match. Butch had a strong showing here getting a chance to get some shine against Lashley. Nice to see Butch getting more single matches on WWE TV. Interested to see what’s the next steps with Butch. I’m guessing they are waiting for Sheamus return before Butch goes on his babyface run. The crowd here was completely behind Lashley as they took him like a huge babyface star. They still have a run with Lashley & Street Profits as heels. You can see from this match the crowd wants to see Lashley & Street Profits as babyface. A great showing from Lashley who looked strong in the win. 

Progressive Match Flo: Randy Orton returning to help Cody Rhodes team win the Men’s WarGames match. 

Paul Heyman approached SmackDown GM Nick Aldis was inside his office. Heyman wondered why Aldis invited Orton to SmackDown? Aldis mentioned he’s going to sign Orton to SmackDown. Heyman asked if Aldis is he spoke to Roman Reigns about this? Aldis said everything that goes to Reigns must be communicated through Heyman. Aldis said this was his way of communication. Aldis noted he would offer all members of The Bloodline to sign Orton to SmackDown. Aldis asked Heyman what he was going to do about it? Heyman said “Anything it takes.” 

Kayla Braxton interviewed Butch backstage. Butch said he doesn’t care that Ridge Holland walked out on him. Butch said he needed to focus on himself. Pretty Deadly appeared. They told Butch that Holland leaving him could be a learning opportunity. They said Butch could find his own path. They mocked Butch. A brawl broke out. Elton Prince and Kit Wilson rammed Butch into an equipment crate. 

They showed a highlight package of Santos Escobar turning heel attacking Rey Mysterio and members of the LWO. 

Cathy Kelly interviewed Escobar backstage. Escobar told Cathy he’s just trying to finish what Rey started. Escobar said Rey turned him back on the LWO he chose Carlito over him. Escobar spoke about Cruz del Toro and Joaquin Wilde being blinded by their hero. Escobar spoke about Toro being out of action for standing up to Rey. Escobar said he would put Wilde on the shelf as well if he can’t see the truth. 

Santos Escobar vs. Joaquin Wilde

Santos Escobar came out to huge boos from the crowd. Wilde shined early delivering a cannonball senton to Escobar on the floor. Escobar responded yanking Wilde off the ropes. Escobar took the lead hitting a running dropkick in the corner. Wilde responded catching Escobar with a basement dropkick. Wilde planted Escobar with a rolling DDT for a two count. Escobar caught Wilde charging with a Superkick. Escobar delivered the Phantom Driver for the win. 

WINNER: Santos Escobar
Amin’s Thoughts: This was a fun match for the time given. Wilde and Toro haven’t really done much since coming to the main roster. Nice to see Wilde get a chance to shine against his former stablemate. The rise of Escobar continues picking up another strong win. The long game is Escobar vs. Rey which they could save for WrestleMania. Right now, they are doing a good job giving Escobar strong wins presenting him like a top level star. 

The crowd booed as Escobar attacked Wilde after the match. The crowd cheered as Dragon Lee ran down to make the save. Escobar left the ring. Escobar went for a cheap shot but Dragon Lee saw it coming. Dragon Lee delivered a Hurricanrana to Escobar. Dragon Lee connected with a Slingshot Corner Dropkick. Dragon Lee rocked Escobar with a running corner dropkick. 

Amin’s Thoughts: This was good to see Dragon Lee getting some momentum back after losing clean to Escobar at Survivor Series. The crowd reacting and getting behind Dragon Lee as a babyface star on the rise was nice to see. 

Nick Aldis met with WWE United States Champion Logan Paul backstage. 

Nick Aldis was in his room. RAW GM Adam Pearce appeared. Pearce asked Aldis if he was going to sign Orton. Aldis said yes. Pearce had a Raw contract and will try to sign Orton as well. 

Logan Paul Promo 

WWE United States Champion Logan Paul came out to boos from the crowd. They showed clips of Paul beating Rey at WWE Crown Jewel to win the United States Title. Paul asked his friends who betrayed him and his haters “where are you now” while holding up the United States Title. Paul said he works harder when people want to see him fail. The crowd began chanting “What” Paul screamed in excitement. Paul mentioned the WWE Superstars are jealous backstage because he climbed the ladder quicker. Paul asked if they wanted the United States Title? Paul said the title was on his “junk” like they’ve all been since he got here. Paul said the champion is only as good his challengers. Paul mocked Rey’s injury saying he can’t give him a rematch. Paul mentioned he spoke to Nick Aldis and they’ve created a tournament to find a challenger for the United States Title. The tournament starts next week and will feature eight WWE Superstars. The superstars include Santos Escobar, Bobby Lashley, Karrion Kross, Dragon Lee, Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, someone from NXT and Kevin Owens who he saved for last. Paul said whoever wins the tournament will have nightmare. 

Kevin Owens came out to a big reaction. Huge chants of “KO” from the crowd. Owens called Paul standing inside the ring a nightmare, Owens spoke seeing Paul first 10 years ago on Vine. Owens called Paul a Jack*ss. Owens called Paul’s PRIME energy drink junk. Owens said he’s in the tournament and said Paul’s days as United States Champion are numbered. Paul spoke about being inside the ring with the greatest boxer. Paul said he would only need one second to KO Owens. The crowd booed. Owens called Paul clever. He called WWE his world. Owens and Paul went back-and-forth. 

Grayson Waller and Austin Theory came out next. Waller told Paul to not engage with Owens. Waller said he and Theory have lots in common with Paul. Theory spoke about Owens loves punching people. Theory said Paul knocks people out. Theory said after Paul punches people in the face. Theory’s said Owens days of punching people in the face are over. Owens punched Theory right across the face. Paul was taken by surprise. Owens told Paul to come get some. Owens music played. 

Amin’s Thoughts: Logan Paul just continues to impress every time he steps inside the WWE ring. Paul just looks so comfortable on the mic and always presents himself like a star. The idea of having a tournament is a good way to spread out matches and gives more people on the roster a chance to wrestle. I’m interested to see who will be the NXT star as it could lead to a main roster call up. Side note, they made Theory look like such a geek. They really need to think about a character change because Theory being Waller’s sidekick isn’t doing anything for him at all. The interaction between Owens and Paul was short but enjoyable. They teased Owens would be the one to win the tournament. Owens and Paul at the Royal Rumble feels like a big match for the show. 

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

Paul joined commentary for the match. Owens slammed Waller onto the announcers table. Owens connected with a back senton. Waller caught Owens charging with a leg lariat. Waller connected with a flying elbow drop for a two count. Owens responded planting Waller with a suplex. Owens went for a cannonball but Waller rolled out of the ring. Owens rocked Waller with a lariat on the floor. Owens connected with a Frog Splash from the ring apron to the floor. Huge “KO” chants from the crowd. Waller responded running Owens into the ring steps. Theory stomped on Owens hand onto the ring steps with the referee distracted. Waller took advantage swinging Owens arm into the ring post. Waller planted Owens with an arm breaker as they returned from break. Owens responded catching Waller with a DDT. Owens battled back rocking Waller with a Superkick. Owens connected with a Swanton Bomb for a two count. Owens went for a Stunner but Waller grabbed on his arm. Waller applied a Fujiwara Armbar but Owens grabbed the ropes. Owens moved as Waller kicked the turnbuckle. Owens applied a rollup for the win. 

WINNER: Kevin Owens
Amin’s Thoughts: Paul did good on commentary as he took jabs but said it in a calm way which didn’t take attention away from the match. A pretty good match. Waller was good here doing solid heel work by focusing on Owens injured arm. Owens selling his arm was top notch stuff. Was nice to see Owens getting the clean win after his interaction with Paul. Owens and Paul looks to be the Royal Rumble match. They also left an opening wondering if Owens arm injury will come later into play and cost him the tournament.

They showed highlights of CM Punk returning to WWE. They showed highlight from Punk’s promo on Raw. They announced CM Punk will appear on SmackDown next week.

Amin’s Thoughts: It’s cool they are having CM Punk make appearances on both Raw and SmackDown. An interaction between Heyman and Punk would be awesome to see.

We see Damage CTRL backstage. The camera cut to Bayley who looked concerned. Kai asked Bayley if she’s fine. Bayley mentioned she’s fine and cheered Sane on. Iyo Sky told Bayley to stay backstage. 

Amin’s Thoughts: They are doing a really good job making you care for Bayley as she’s going to become a huge babyface star once Damage CTRL turns on her. 

Bianca Belair (w/Charlotte Flair & Shotzi) vs. Kairi Sane (w/Damage CTRL) 

Belair came out with Charlotte and Shotzi to a great reaction. Sane came out with Damage CTRL but no Bayley. Sane went for a head scissors but Belair landed on her feet. Belair went for a scoop slam but Sane pulled on her ponytail. Asuka yanked Belair to the mat with the referee distracted. Charlotte yanked Sane to the mat. The crowd booed as Charlotte and Shotzi were sent to the back. Asuka entered the ring. The crowd cheered as the referee sent Damage CTRL to the back. Sane placed Belair in the Anchor as they returned from break. Belair battled back planting Sane with a pair of scoop slams. Belair rocked Sane with corner punches. Belair connected with a Spinebuster. Belair followed with a Handstand Moonsault for a two count. There might have been some miscommunication as Belair caught Sane off the ropes and dropped her to the mat. Sane battled back rocking Belair with a spinning back fist. Sane connected with a flying forearm for a two count. The action moved to the floor as Belair caught Sane and dropped her onto the barricade. Bayley appeared yanking Belair to the mat. Sane gave Bayley a high five. Sane called for her InSane Elbow Drop. Belair caught Sane delivering the KOD for the win. 

WINNER: Bianca Belair 
Amin’s Thoughts This was a good match but also had some clunky momentums. That’s the only bummer because both Belair and Sane are great wrestlers. The overall picture of the match worked setting up two things. Belair got a win over Sane which should get her closer to a title match with Sky. The bigger story was Bayley appearing ringside. Bayley didn’t directly cost Sane the match but was told by Sky to stay backstage. They are doing great making you feel bad for Bayley who’s trying her best to help Damage CTRL win. Bayley’s babyface turn when it happens is going to feel like a really big moment. I’m hoping this leads to Bayley getting a big match with Sky for the WWE Women’s Title at WrestleMania. 

Bayley had a concerned look after the match.

Randy Orton Segment 

Adam Pearce and Nick Aldis were both backstage with Raw and SmackDown contracts for Orton to sign. Adam Pearce and Nick Aldis were inside the ring. Aldis called out Randy Orton who received a huge reaction. Huge chants of “Randy” from the crowd. Huge chants of “RKO” followed. Aldis and Pearce began arguing with each other. Pearce said he would give Orton a World Title shot against the winner of Seth Rollins and Jey Uso. Aldis said he would give Orton the people who took them out.

The crowd popped as Paul Heyman came out. Heyman did his usual introduction. Heyman spoke about Orton being on the shelf for 18 months thanks to Reigns and The Bloodline. Heyman noted Orton is here looking for revenge. Heyman said there will be no RKO. Heyman said Orton won’t be making a decision. Heyman said Bloodline will make Orton’s decision for him. Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso came out.

A brawl broke out. Jimmy and Sikoa had the number’s advantage. The crowd cheered as LA Knight came out to a huge reaction. Knight brawled with Sikoa to the back. The crowd cheered as Orton gave Jimmy a Draping DDT. The crowd went wild as Orton called for the RKO. Orton gave Jimmy the RKO which got a huge reaction.

Orton asked both Aldis and Pearce to give the Raw and SmackDown contracts. Orton looked at both of them. Orton tossed the Raw one away. Orton signed the SmackDown contract and placed it on Jimmy. Orton grabbed the mic. Orton told Heyman to tell Reigns “Daddy’s Back.” Aldis entered the ring. Aldis held Orton’s hand. Orton gave Aldis an RKO. Aldis took an awesome bump. Heyman grabbed his phone. Heyman said “Call Roman Reigns” Orton posed as the show closed. 

Amin’s Thoughts: Randy Orton came off as the biggest star on the show. They made Orton signing with SmackDown feel special. Orton being on SmackDown makes all the sense after Bloodline took him out last May. Orton being on SmackDown is also a great way to heat The Bloodline story back up. Looks like they are teasing Orton and Reigns for Royal Rumble which feels like a really big match. LA Knight making the save for Orton was interesting to see. I wonder if this leading to a possible multi-man match with Reigns at the Royal Rumble. AJ Styles was also taken out by The Bloodline. They could go in the direction of Reigns vs. Orton vs. Styles vs. Knight at Royal Rumble. Orton giving Aldis an RKO was an interesting twist. This could lead to Aldis giving Orton a bigger challenger before he gets his match with Reigns. Overall, a great closing angle to SmackDown. 

Overall Thoughts

They are already setting stuff in place for the Royal Rumble. It will just take time for everything to come together because there’s still so much time before the show. There was still lots of good stuff on the show. They announced a tournament to determine Logan Paul’s next challenger. They did good building more tension within Damage CTRL after Bayley took the pin for the team in the Women’s WarGames match. The big news was Randy Orton being part of SmackDown which they made feel like a big deal. CM Punk will be on SmackDown next week so that will also add more buzz to the show. Overall, a solid episode of SmackDown. Nice to see WWE starting to heat stuff up as they build towards the Royal Rumble.