WWE SmackDown Review: AJ Styles Returns To Action

WWE SmackDown took place from the Resch Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is a taped episode of SmackDown. Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick were on commentary. 

They aired a video package focusing on the storyline between Roman Reigns and challengers from Randy Orton, LA Knight and a returning AJ Styles. 

AJ Styles Promo 

AJ Styles came out to a big reaction to start the show. Styles spoke about Randy Orton wanting a match with Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. He spoke about LA Knight also wanting to face Reigns at anytime, anyplace and anywhere. Styles said he doesn’t blame them. Styles said he doesn’t care for either Knight or Orton. Styles said he wants to face Reigns at the Royal Rumble. 

The music played as LA Knight came out to a big reaction. Knight said “Let Me Talk To Ya!” YEAH! Knight said he doesn’t blame Styles for wanting the match. Knight noted Styles can get Reigns after him. Knight said considering what happened last week Styles might be on his list. Styles brought up how Bloodline took him out. Styles mentioned that’s how Knight got his tag match with John Cena and his title match with Reigns at Crown Jewel. 

The crowd cheered as Randy Orton came out to a big reaction. Orton spoke about Bloodline putting him on the shelf for 18 months. Orton spoke about enjoying time at home. Orton noted he was missing his home which is WWE. Knight brought up how Bloodline took both Orton and Styles. Knight noted The Bloodline didn’t take him out. 

SmackDown GM Nick Aldis came out noting everyone deserves a chance. Aldis announced a Triple Threat match between Orton vs. Styles vs. Knight and the winner will face Reigns at Royal Rumble. Styles noted that match was fine. Styles said he would take out either Orton or Knight if they appear ringside for his match with Solo Sikoa. Styles left the ring and walked past Nick Aldis.  

Amin’s Thoughts: Great to see AJ Styles back on WWE TV. I really liked how WWE is really focusing on character development and giving reasons for their actions. Styles explained he’s going after Reigns because what The Bloodline did to him. It was also good how Styles brought up how Knight got his spot after Bloodline took him out. I liked the Triple Threat Match to set up Reigns next challenger. I could still see a multi-man match happen at the Royal Rumble. Good way to see the stage for the first SmackDown of 2024. 

Biana Belair, Shotzi, Zelina Vega & Michin def. Damage CTRL (WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY, Bayley, Asuka & Kairi Sane) (w/Dakota Kai) – Holiday Havoc Match: The babyface all came out in Shotzi’s tank to a great reaction. Damage CTRL came out to a strong heel reaction. The match began with a brawl. Belair and SKY had a fun counter exchange. Belair planted SKY with a suplex but Bayley made the save. Shotzi grabbed a chair. Shotzi got some shine catching Bayley with a flying arm drag. Shotzi leaped off a chair delivering a senton splash to Bayley. Shotzi delivering a tope to Bayley and SKY on the floor. Asuka and Sane whacked Michin and Vega with Candy cane kendo sticks. Belair and Shotzi appeared whacked Asuka and Sane with Candy cane kendo sticks. Belair and Shotzi grabbed a table which got a big reaction. They returned from break with everyone down inside the ring. Vega caught SKY with a DDT on the floor. Asuka rocked Michin with combination strikes. Michin responded planting Asuka with a powerbomb. SKY delivered a springboard dropkick to Michin but Belair made the save. Belair placed a box SKY’S head. Belair placed SKY on her shoulders. Shozi connected with a Doomsday Dropkick to SKY but Asuka made the save. Sane used a trash can lid whacking Shotzi in the face. Vega whacked Sane with a chair. Asuka blew mist into Vega’s face. Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn appeared from inside the crates. Dawn and Fyre laid out Sane on the floor. Bayley went for Bayley-to-Belly but Belair broke free. Belair delivered the KOD to Bayley. SKY delivered a beautiful looking Over The Moonsault onto Belair. Michin caught SKY with Eat Defeat. Michin delivered a flying senton splash sending SKY crashing through a table for the win. Amin’s Thoughts: WWE usually likes doing these Holiday themed match. This was a fun action packed match with everyone worked hard getting a chance to shine. I really liked the layout of the match. Nice to see Dawn and Fyre get back into the mix going after Asuka and Sane. This was a good way to bring more focus to the Women’s Tag Team Division. I usually don’t like seeing champions losing. I thought it worked for this match. Bayley shouldn’t have taken the pin since she just announced last week she’s going to be part of the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Michin pinning SKY should set up a WWE Women’s Championship match.

Progressive Match Flo: The Bloodline taking AJ Styles out of action. 

The Bloodline were show in their locker room. Jimmy Uso was awesome going over plays hyping up Solo Sikoa for his match against AJ Styles. Roman Reigns asked Paul Heyman who’s the GM of SmackDown? Heyman said Nick Aldlis. Reigns told Heyman to bring Aldis to him. Reigns told Heyman to bring Aldis to him. 

Dragon Lee [c] def. Butch – NXT North American Championship: Butch and Dragon Lee received good reactions from the crowd. Dragon Lee caught Butch with a victory roll for a close two count. Butch went for an arm bar. Dragon Lee countered into a rollup for a two count. Butch took control rocking Dragon Lee with a forearm smash. Dragon Lee responded catching Butch with a running hurricanrana. Dragon lee connected with a slingshot corner dropkick. Dragon Lee went for a dive but Butch intercepted him with a sliding knee strike. Butch took control planting Dragon Lee with an X-Plex onto the ring apron. Butch stomped on Dragon Lee’s arm as they retuned from break. Butch went for a flying moonsault but Dragon Lee moved. Dragon Lee responded hitting a hurricanrana sending Butch to the floor. Dragon Lee made a comeback rocking Butch with a corner drop-kick. Dragon Lee went for a powerbomb. Butch countered into a Tiger Driver for a two count. Butch conencted with an enzugiiri. Dragon Lee responded with a knee strike. Butch caught Dragon Lee with a snap German suplex. Dragon Lee responded with his snap German Suplex. Butch no-sold it delivering a double stomp. Butch connected with a roundhouse kick. Butch went for an x-plex but Dragon Lee landed on his feet. Dragon Lee delivered a Liger Bomb for a close two count. The crowd chanted “This Is Awesome!” Butch went to climb the ropes. Dragon Lee caught Butch in a Tree of Woe. Butch caught Dragon Lee as he snapped his fingers. Dragon Lee responded hitting a double stomp. Butch caught Dragon Lee charging rocking him with a popup forearm smash. Butch called for Bitter End but Dragon Lee countered into a Canadian Destroyer. Dragon Lee delivered the Destino to win and retain the title. Amin’s Thoughts: This was a really good action packed match. The action was fantastic especially in the closing sequences with both Butch and Dragon Lee pulling out all their big moves. A great showing from Butch delivering another stellar performance. Another great win for Dragon Lee who just continues to impress since coming over to the main roster. 

Dragon Lee offered a handshake after the match. Butch accepted the handshake but still had a disappointed look. 

They aired a highlight package of Carmelo Hayes and Kevin Owens advancing in the WWE United States Championship tournament. 

Roman Reigns was shown in The Bloodline locker room. Paul Heyman introduced Reigns to Nick Aldis. Reigns asked Heyman to leave. Heyman left. Aldis had a seat on the cough. Reigns asked how does Aldis know he wasn’t talking about him? Aldis noted all due respect, he didn’t care if he was. Reigns asked Aldis if he booked the Triple Threat match and AJ vs. Solo? Aldis noted he did. Reigns liked Aldis ideas. Reigns noted it would have been better if Aldis ran his ideas by him first. Reigns told Aldis he’s the Tribal Chief and Head of the Table. Reigns notes everything goes through him. Reigns told Aldis that Adam Pearce understood that.

Aldis noted Reigns is now just hurting his feelings. Aldis noted he’s an executive who doesn’t have feelings. Aldis called Pearce a middle management type. Aldis noted he’s the GM of SmackDown. He’s said Solo’s a big boy. Aldis noted Solo took take of John Cena not in a way that Reigns did. Aldis noted he’s looking forward to the two matches he made. Aldis noted he’s looking forward to see who faces Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at Royal Rumble. Aldis told Reigns he hopes they can know each other better. Aldis left. Reigns had an angry look.

Amin’s Thoughts: This was a really good. Aldis was tremendous here and was great to see he didn’t backdown to Reigns. The GM position of SmackDown wouldn’t have meant much if Aldis backed down. Aldis not backing down could lead to some more interesting developing storylines down the road. 

They aired an inset promo from Logan Paul who was impressed by Carmelo Hayes win. He noted Kevin Owens shouldn’t be in this match after he cheated last week. Paul asked Owens where is his integrity? 

Kevin Owens def. Carmelo Hayes – WWE United States Championship Tournament Semi-Finals Match: Hayes and Owens both received great reactions from the crowd. Hayes and Owens began with some mat wrestling. Hayes and Owens had great counter exchange. Hayes caught Owens with a dropkick. Hayes then pointed at the screen. Owens responded rocking Hayes with a huge chops. Owens took control hitting a back senton. Hayes quickly responded catching Owens with a springboard lariat. Hayes went for a slingshot but Owens moved. Owens launched Hayes into the ring steps. Hayes caught Owens with a scoop slam as they returned from break. Hayes connected with a scissors kick for a two count. Hayes caught Owens with La Mistica for a two count. Owens responded catching Hayes with a Hangman DDT for a two count. Owens and Hayes exchanged superkicks. Owens caught Hayes with a huge lariat. Owens went Popup Powerbomb but Hayes countered into a Codebreaker. Hayes went for Nothing but Net Owens moved. Owens delivered a Popup Powerbomb but Hayes kicked out at two. Owens delivered a Swanton Bomb. Owens followed hitting a Stunner for the win. Amin’s Thoughts: This was a good action packed match. This was another great performance from Hayes showing he’s ready for the WWE main roster. I expect Hayes to be called up to the WWE main roster after WrestleMania Week when he finishes his program with Trick Williams on NXT. Owens and Paul is the direction they are going in. This was strong showing from Owens who looked great in the win.

Owens helped Hayes to his feet. The crowd cheered as they shook hands. 

AJ Styles was backstage. Michin appeared and gave Styles a hug. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows appeared. Anderson asked Styles if they are good? Styles said “I don’t know. Are we?” and left. 

They aired a Karrion Kross vignette. He spoke about knowing the power of words which leads to actions. He spoke about The Bloodline’s implosion coming after setting the Hourglass on his debut. He spoke about taking away Drew McIntyre’s temperament. He spoke about McIntyre spiralling outta control. He spoke about taking away Rey Mysterio’s patience. He noted this led to Rey attacking Dominik. He said just for fun taking away Shinsuke Nakamura’s honour and look at Nakamura now. He said the greatest proclamation is soon to be forgotten without “authors” Scarlett asked “Do you see the vision?” 

Amin’s Thoughts: They are teasing Authors of Pain are returning and will part of Kross new faction. These vignette’s have been great. Hopefully this leads to Kross getting his rise on the main roster. 

Santos Escobar def. Bobby Lashley (w/The Street Profits) – WWE United States Championship Tournament Semi-Finals Match: Bobby Lashley came out with The Street Profits to a big reaction. Santos Escobar received a strong heel reaction. Lashley took control early rocking Escobar with a running shoulder tackle. Lashley sent Escobar flying with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Escobar battled back catching Lashley against the ropes. Escobar went for a dive but Lashley caught and chuckled him out of the ring. Escobar caught Lashley with a tope as they returned from break. Escobar rocked Lashley with a pair of running knees in the corner. Escobar placed Lashley on the ropes. Escobar went for a super frankenstiner but Lashley showed him off the ropes. Lashley battled back catching Escobar with a flatliner. Lashley called the Hurt Lock.The camera cut as some masked men made their way ringside. Lashley planted Escobar with a huge spinebuster. Two masked men appeared attacking Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford at ringside. Escobar took advantage rocking Lashley with a jumping enzuigiri. Escobar rollup up Lashley grabbing a handful of tights for the win. Amin’s Thoughts: This was a pretty standard match. I actually liked the layout of the finish. They used a distraction finish to keep Lashley strong. Escobar has been really rising since turning heel so it was good to see him make the finals of the tournament. Escobar now has some buddies to set up six-man tags against Rey Mysterio & LWO when he returns. I’m wondering if the Kross vignette before the match was a tease to set up Authors of Pain return to start a new program with Lashley & The Street Profits. 

The masked men took off their masks. It was revealed as Humberto Carillo and Angel Garza. 

Amin’s Thoughts: Nice to see Carrillo and Garza back on the main roster. This looks to be the new Legado Del Fantasma 2.0 with Escobar as the leader with Carillo and Garza by his side.

We saw Butch walking backstage. Cathy Kelly interviewed Butch about his match. Butch noted it didn’t go his way but brought the fight. Butch congratulated Dragon Lee on the win. Pretty Deadly appeared singing the 12 Days of Christmas song. A brawl broke out. WWE officials appeared to pull Butch away from Elton Prince and Kit Wilson. Nick Aldis appeared. Aldis told Butch he could face Pretty Deadly in a tag team match at the SmackDown New Year’s Revolution special if he can find a partner. 

Amin’s Thoughts: Sheamus looks be returning back and will likely be Butch’s partner. 

They aired a Logan Paul vignette. Logan Paul said he thought the United States Champions tournament will offer him the best competition. Paul noted instead the tournament is coming down to Escobar who cried over Rey Mysterio and Kevin Owens who won’t take his shirt off inside a pool. Paul said Escobar wasn’t in his league. He said Owens looks like “If Reddit was a person.” Paul called himself the greatest and most relevant WWE United States Champion. 

AJ Styles def. Solo Sikoa via Disqualification: AJ Styles received a big reaction. Styles began rocking Sikoa with strikes as the match began. Sikoa quickly took control planting Styles wth a scoop slam. Styles responded rocking Sikoa with a sliding knee strike. Styles connected with slingshot Phenomenal Forearm to Sikoa on the floor. Sikoa launched Styles with a huge backdrop as the returned from break. Sikao launched Styles into the ring post. Sikoa followed rocking Styles with head butts. Sikoa rocked Styles with an Umaga Hip Attack. Sikoa went for a Super Splash but Styles moved. Styles made a comeback rocking Sikoa with a sliding forearm. Styles connected with a springboard moonsault for a two count. Styles went for Phenomenal Blitz but Sikoa escaped. Sikoa caught Styles with a popup Samoan Drop for a two count. Styles responded rocking Sikoa with a Pele Kick. Styles called for the Phenomenal Forearm but Sikoa escaped. Sikoa called for the Samoan Spike but Styles moves. Styles caught Sikoa with a rollup for a two count. Styles went for the Styles Clash but Sikoa blocked. Styles caught Sikoa against the ropes. Styles rocked Sikoa with a Phenomenal Forearm. Roman Reigns ran down attacking Styles for the DQ. Amin’s Thoughts: This was a good match. Sikoa has a huge win over John Cena so he shouldn’t be taking clean loses on SmackDown. Nice to see Styles back in action as he looked in great form.

The crowd booed as Reigns attacked Styles after the match. Styles battled back catching Reigns with an enzuigiri. Sikoa returned attacking Styles. The crowd cheered as Randy Orton ran down to make the save. Orton rocked Reigns and Sikoa with strikes. Jimmy Uso ran down to help The Bloodline. The crowd cheered as LA Knight ran down to make the save. Knight rocked Reigns and Sikoa with strikes. The crowd chanted YEAH. The Bloodline left the ring. Styles argued with Orton and Knight after the match. A brawl broke out. Orton tried to pull Knight off Styles. Knight went after Orton. Jimmy and Sikoa tried to get back into the ring. Reigns held them off. Everyone kept brawling as the show ended. 

Amin’s Thoughts: A good show closing to brawl to hype the Triple Threat match for the first SmackDown of 2024. I’m curious to see who the Triple Threat match goes. It does look like they are settling up a Fatal-4-Way match between Reigns vs. Styles vs. Orton vs. Knight for Royal Rumble.

Overall Thoughts

An enjoyable episode of SmackDown. The show opened and closed focusing on the big Royal Rumble title picture. They nicely balanced out of the show with some good wrestling matches. There were also some returns on the show to set up programs for the New Year. Overall, this was a good episode of SmackDown. The focus now turns to the New Year’s Revolution which is a pretty stacked show. WWE is really looking to start 2024 on a hot note as they move towards the Royal Rumble.