A loaded episode of WWE SmackDown kicked off Friday night with The Bloodline in the ring. The Usos were scheduled to defend their Undisputed Tag Team Championship in the main event of the show, but all eyes were on Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn during the opening segment.
Ricochet defeated Top Dolla after a competitive match to qualify for the 2023 Royal Rumble match. While it was good to see The One and Only make it to the 30-men elimination match, it was surprising to see Top Dolla get pinned by the former Intercontinental Champion on SmackDown.
Charlotte Flair also came out to address the WWE Universe after her surprise return and championship win on last week's show. She was confronted by Sonya Deville, who failed to win the SmackDown Women's Championship in the impromptu match that followed.
The show had several good matches and segments, especially thanks to Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn.
Take a look at the five things WWE SmackDown got right on this week's show.
#5. Roman Reigns showed signs of cracking under pressure on WWE SmackDown
The Bloodline kicked off the first episode of WWE SmackDown in 2023. Roman Reigns took center stage and allowed Sami Zayn to address the WWE Universe. The Honorary Uce claimed that 2023 would be The Bloodline's year.
The Tribal Chief then spoke about the loss against John Cena and Kevin Owens last week. Reigns said that he wasn't pinned in the match, and only Zayn was pinned, hence only The Honorary Uce lost the match on last week's SmackDown.
The Tribal Chief lost his cool at the Honorary Uce and asked him why he guaranteed a win but could not get the job done before Kevin Owens interrupted them. KO challenged Reigns to a match at the Royal Rumble for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, and The Tribal Chief accepted.
It was a fun way to kick off the first show of 2023. WWE made the right call by having The Bloodline kick off both RAW and SmackDown this week.
The segment made it look like Reigns wasn't happy losing even a single match. It could lead to a bigger storyline in the coming months, especially if he loses another match due to a disqualification.
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#4. Santos Escobar picked up a much-needed win against Kofi Kingston
Santos Escobar took on Kofi Kingston in a singles match on WWE SmackDown. Escobar took control of the contest early and looked to take Kofi out of the ring. He hit double knees in the corner and punished the NXT Tag Team Champion.
Kingston fired back with a dropkick and got the SOS in for a near fall. Legado del Fantasma continued to distract Kingston from outside the ring as the match ticked on.
Kofi hit a stomp and the Boom Drop, but Legado del Fantasma interfered. Xavier Woods was distracted, while Escobar hit Kofi with the Phantom Driver for the win on SmackDown.
It was a big win for Escobar, who needed to stack up a few victories to come across as a threat. Kofi is a former WWE Champion, and it was the right call to hand him a loss on SmackDown as his primary brand is NXT.
Meanwhile, Legado del Fantasma got a boost out of the win. It will be interesting to see whether they get into some meaningful rivalries soon.
#3. Karrion Kross and Scarlett had a successful first outing together
Madcap Moss and Emma teamed up to take on Karrion Kross and Scarlett in a mixed tag team match this week. Kross took control of the contest early and punished Moss before the women were tagged.
Emma took Scarlett down with some good moves and sent her into the turnbuckles. She got her finisher on Scarlett early but could not put her away.
The heel retaliated with a Northern Lights Suplex, and the two women continued to trade some big moves. Emma nearly got the pin, but Kross dragged her aside. The babyface slapped The Herald of Doomsday across the face before Madcap went after him.
Scarlett tossed Emma over the announcers' table and took her out of the equation. Back in the ring, The Herald of Doomsday hit Moss with the Kross Hammer before locking in the Kross Jacket for the win.
After the match, Kross put Rey Mysterio's mask over Madcap's head and choked him out before walking off. It was a decent contest between the two sides that allowed Kross to prove his dominance again.
He was the star of the mixed tag team match, and even the announcer only announced him as the winner at the end. His rivalry with Rey Mysterio will likely keep him busy for some time.
#2. The relationship between Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn got more complicated on WWE SmackDown
Sami Zayn was not allowed into Roman Reigns' locker room after the opening segment on WWE SmackDown. Later in the night, The Tribal Chief asked for Zayn to be brought in during a segment.
The Honorary Uce apologized for disrespecting The Tribal Chief and vowed to make things ring. Instead, Reigns said that he should be the one apologizing since Kevin Owens was right.
The Tribal Chief then changed the mood by telling Sami Zayn to fix the KO problem. He told Paul Heyman to book a match between Zayn and Owens next week on SmackDown.
The entire segment was well scripted and showed that the relationship between Zayn and Reigns is getting tenser. The match next week will likely spell the downfall for The Honorary Uce, especially if he fails to defeat KO.
Will The Prizefighter finally get Zayn on his side following the Royal Rumble to challenge The Usos for the tag team championship at WrestleMania 39?
#1. The Usos retained their Undisputed Tag Team Championship to close the show
The Usos defended their Undisputed Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in the main event of the show. McIntyre took control of the match early and hit Jey Uso with some big strikes before a distraction from Jimmy allowed him to turn the tide.
The match went outside the ring, where Jey sent McIntyre into the barricades. Sheamus got the tag soon after and unloaded with some stiff chops before teaming up with McIntyre to hit tandem White Noise.
McIntyre hit the Claymore on Jey Uso soon after, but Jimmy saved him and broke the pin. Jimmy went on a roll after getting the tag and hit the 1D on Sheamus, but The Scottish Psychopath broke the pin.
Solo Sikoa came out to attack Drew McIntyre before Butch and Ridge Holland took him down. Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick, but the pin was broken again. In the end, The Usos cheated to roll up and pin The Celtic Warrior for the win.
The match was great, and the company could have come up with a better ending. However, it was the right call to keep the titles on The Usos on Friday night.
The Viking Raiders attacked Sheamus and McIntyre after the match. The two sides will likely have a rivalry heading into the Royal Rumble that will keep both men busy for the time being.
What did you make of SmackDown this week? Let us know in the comments section below.
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