Welcome to the special edition of things WWE subtly told us on SmackDown - the very first of 2023. The blue brand has been improving since the summer of 2022, and the promotion started things with a bang.
The Bloodline drama continued and escalated in a big way, while a major heel turn took place as well. The build-up to the 2023 Royal Rumble has officially begun, with the event just a few weeks away.
So what did WWE subtly tell us on the first SmackDown of 2023? Keep reading to find out!
#5. The Usos are not losing the tag team titles until WrestleMania 39
The main event of SmackDown saw The Usos, over 500 days into their title reign, face Drew McIntyre and Sheamus in an epic main event. This was the closest they came to losing the titles in a while, and the false finishes were incredible.
The Usos retained the Undisputed Tag Team Championship in a banger, and it was just a subtle sign that they aren't losing the titles until WrestleMania 39.
The most likely candidates to dethrone them will be Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. Given how the story is unfolding, that looks to be the direction.
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#4. Did Charlotte Flair just outright replace Ronda Rousey on SmackDown?
After over seven months, Charlotte Flair returned last week and simply regained her SmackDown Women's Championship from Ronda Rousey.
There was no Rousey this week, and given that rumors are floating around about how Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 39 is canceled, there is reason to believe that the two-time champion has taken a back seat.
From the look of things, WWE has simply and outright replaced her with Charlotte Flair, who had an awkward match against Sonya Deville this week.
#3. A refresh button on Hit Row
This was the best thing that could have happened to Hit Row. The infamous Top Dolla suicide dive botch from a few weeks back made it onto TV as superstars like Ricochet made fun of him for it.
Ricochet and Top Dolla faced each other in a Royal Rumble qualifier, and Ricochet won before Top Dolla showed him respect. The respect wasn't genuine as Hit Row attacked Ricochet, turning heel.
The heel turn is a breath of fresh air for Hit Row, who has had no momentum since returning to SmackDown last year.
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#2. Karrion Kross and Rey Mysterio's impending SmackDown feud
We're not sure what is dragging it out, but we can only assume that Rey Mysterio is on holiday. This week, Karrion Kross teamed up with Scarlett in the latter's SmackDown debut match to face Riddick Moss and Emma.
It was underwhelming, but Kross got the win with a Kross jacket onto Moss. It was meant to serve as a platform for Scarlett, but she felt like an afterthought.
Either way, the tease of the Kross-Mysterio feud continues on SmackDown.
#1. The change in the dynamic with Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn was undoubtedly the central character of the blue brand this week. Not only from the beginning but even in the end when he was seen celebrating with popcorn being spilled all over as The Usos retained the Undisputed Tag Team Championship.
It was interesting how Roman Reigns was so quick to berate him, but he was also quick to apologize - something he hasn't done since turning heel in 2020.
It was an indication of how truly valuable Roman Reigns finds Sami Zayn, but it was also a big tease of the eventual betrayal that will take place.
Either way, Sami Zayn's constant presence on the show gave him the main character energy.