Cody Rhodes Attempted to Get Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on the Same Page
What tremendous television. I feel like a broken record saying that about every Bloodline-related segment, but a majority of them have truly been must-see. I loved how Rhodes acknowledged Owens hooking him up with "some friends" (i.e. The Elite) after Rhodes left WWE back in 2016, and Owens feeling as if Zayn was using him to get back at The Bloodline instead of wanting to be his friend was fantastic. Zayn telling Owens he loved him as Owens was leaving the arena afterward was enough to get them back on the same page, as seen at the end of the show. Stellar stuff all around here.
The Judgment Day (Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley) def. Legado del Fantasma (Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega); Rey Mysterio Confronted Dominik Mysterio
Legado have done a lot of losing lately, but I continue to dig their babyface turn and alliance with Rey, assuming it's temporary and Escobar eventually turns on him to set up a feud between them. This was a well-worked match with another victory for Judgment Day. Dominik and Rey had another excellent exchange afterward, and although it looked like Rey would finally accept Dominik's WrestleMania 39 challenge, he walked away once again. I'm surprised they still haven't pulled the trigging on making the match official, and at this point, they might in fact be waiting for the Hall of Fame the night before 'Mania. Either way, this has become one of the best storylines heading into the event, which is extra impressive when you remember that it was one of the worst things on WWE TV at one point last year.
Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez def. Emma and Tegan Nox to Qualify for WrestleMania Showcase
If you're wondering what the hell a "WrestleMania Showcase" is, all we know so far is that there will be two two four-way tag team matches for the men and women at WrestleMania and that qualifying matches will be held in the coming weeks. As of now, nothing is at stake, but hopefully it will be announced that the winners will earn tag title shots to justify both bouts happening in storyline. There wasn't much to this match and the crowd clearly couldn't have cared less.
SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley Brawled
I'm looking forward to Flair vs. Ripley more than most at 'Mania, but even I can admit the build has been fairly lackluster so far. They desperately need something to heat up the program and this segment accomplished that in my opinion. The mic work was good, but their brawl was better. This was well executed and the crowd was into it. That said, they're going to need to do more to convince people that their matchup should be headlining Night 1 of the event.
Xavier Woods def. LA Knight
I know Knight lost to Kofi Kingston a few weeks back and this could have been Knight's way of righting that wrong with Kingston out injured at the moment, but I assumed Knight would continue his losing streak and that's exactly what happened. I'm not saying I'm a fan of this approach, but it's clear they're telling the story of Knight being down on his luck while also demanding a match at 'Mania. It better be leading to something significant, because if not, then this will end up being counterproductive.
Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre in an Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender's Match Ended in a No Contest
McIntyre and Sheamus are practically incapable of having a bad match together. This was no exception as it was an entertaining encounter while it lasted. This wasn't given a ton of time and they didn't go all out, but I'm glad it wasn't more than what it was because they should be holding out for WrestleMania. The execution of the finish was lame (why not just count out the two of them instead?), but it got us where we needed to be: a Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Championship between McIntyre, Sheamus and Gunther at 'Mania. That has the potential to be the best match of the entire weekend.
Kevin Owens Saved Sami Zayn From Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos
The "Kansas City Showdown" with Zayn and Jey Uso was outstanding despite being brief. Jey reiterated that he had to choose his family and that he didn't like Zayn from the get-go in The Bloodline. Zayn then said that Jey chose to side with Roman Reigns and that he was just upset he didn't hit him with the chair first. The angle that followed with The Usos beating down Zayn and Owens making the save was exceptional. It played out exactly as we all expected it to (though I figured they'd save the hug for WrestleMania), but that didn't make it any less amazing because it was what we wanted and needed to see. Flair vs. Ripley should deliver, but this Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship match feels like the real main event of Night 1.
This was a strong show and possibly the best SmackDown of 2023 so far. There was some solid wrestling, but the highlights of the night were the phenomenal promos. Flair/Ripley, Rey/Dominik, and everything with Rhodes/Owens/Zayn/Jey was top-tier and kept me captivated the whole night. The two hours went by quicker than usual as a result and we got more significant WrestleMania progression on multiple fronts. Now let's hope for a hell of a final stretch for the road to WrestleMania from both brands.
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