WWE SmackDown 9/08/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc's weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show that was almost entirely unaffected by the results of WWE Payback! Instead of anything Payback-related, what we knew going into this one was that Charlotte Flair and Shotzi were wrestling Bayley and IYO SKY, because last week's singles match with interference leads to this week's tag match, and AJ Styles was wrestling Jimmy Uso, whose bizarre desire to return to The Bloodline appears to still be a thing that's happening for some reason. "SmackDown" feels like a smaller, less important show without Jey Uso and Roman Reigns, and as a result it was difficult at times to pull out things we had strong feelings about one way or another.

But of course, we managed! If you just want the results of the show, check out our live coverage, you won't find any annoying opinions over there. This analysis is less comprehensive, but if you want annoying opinions, the Wrestling Inc. staff is here for you with three things we hated and three things we loved about the 9/8/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Loved: A-Town Down Under is Officially A Team (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

There's not a lot to love about Austin Theory and Grayson Waller on the "SmackDown" roster separately, but put together in this new tag team, now known as "A-Town Down Under," which is absolutely wonderful, they just make sense. Theory was floundering after no longer being Vince McMahon's pet project, and despite his high-profile encounters, it didn't seem like there was much direction for Waller on the main roster after he was called up in May. But Theory and Waller teamed together last week and even scored a win against Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar, and many of us here at Wrestling Inc. were wondering if that's all we would see of the smarmy, trash-talking pair.

That thankfully didn't turn out to be the case, with the newly-minted tag team coming out to cut a promo on LA Knight before Theory's match against him. Knight ran them down with various insults, but both Theory and Waller held their own against a formidable opponent. Their heel work just meshes so well together, and as Waller mentioned in the promo, they are the only undefeated tag team in WWE right now! In a company where many teams are just thrown together for no reason, these two young heels with no direction being paired together actually does make a ton of sense to me. They just seem so similar. They vibe well, as the kids say these days.

With the knowledge that John Cena plans to stay around "SmackDown" for a few months as the Hollywood writers' strike trudges on, and with Cena endorsing Knight after being the special guest referee in his match against The Miz at Payback, it's possible we might see a Theory and Waller vs. Knight and Cena match, which I don't necessarily hate at all. Do I think Theory and Waller will win tag team gold? Absolutely not. But I do I think they can be a really fun heel tag team with some great segments, and be the guys we love to hate for awhile on the blue brand.

Hated: Disrespecting the dream match (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor))

Damage CTRL vs. Charlotte Flair and Shotzi was a fine match, but despite Shotzi notching her second consecutive pin on Bayley, the match was really just backdrop for our next WWE Women's Championship feud, which turned out to be IYO SKY VS. ASUKA. HOSE ME DOWN.

For those who aren't aware, SKY and Asuka were part of a team called the Triple Tails about a decade ago in Japan, working several different promotions as a joint act and even running their own shows. They've known each other a long time, and yet, aside from a random untelevised WWE house show match in 2022, I can't find any evidence that they've faced each other in a singles contest, ever. That means this is functionally a never-before-seen dream match that also has years of history behind it. When do you ever luck into that?

Originally, I was going to write about how it was a shame that the first-ever meeting between SKY and Asuka was going to get blown on a nothingburger WWE PLE like Fastlane on October 7, because that would be the logical assumption. Then Asuka cut her promo backstage, and it turns out the match isn't even getting PLE treatment. They're just running it on "SmackDown" in two weeks. It probably won't even main event. THE DISRESPECT.

Look, this match is going to rule no matter when or where it happens, but it would rule so much harder if they actually built to it (these days we call this The Tony Khan Paradox). And while it's at least somewhat likely that this first match is just the start of a longer feud between them, it still sucks that the very first broadcast singles match between Io Shirai and Most Dangerous Kana is happening on a random "SmackDown" in the middle of September, instead of, I don't know, the main event of WrestleMania or something. I'm not usually a fan of AEW-style dream match booking, but it has its benefits, and in this case, I'm disappointed that I'm getting WWE-style booking instead.

Loved: Pretty Deadly Is Back On My TV (Matthew Carlins, WINC News Editor)

It wasn't much, just a couple of cutaways to them watching a backstage monitor during the match between The Brawling Brutes' Ridge Holland and Butch and the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions Damian Priest and Finn Balor. Still, Pretty Deadly returned to WWE TV Friday night, and it's enough to get me excited about their eventual return to action. Notably, Elton Prince was sitting in a wholly unnecessary wheelchair with his arm in a sling. Prince has not wrestled since the July 14 episode of "SmackDown," when he reportedly suffered a separated shoulder. Everyone inside WWE has stayed quiet on the exact nature and severity of the injury, so we never got a recovery timeline, but it now seems to be likely approaching.

The last time we saw Pretty Deadly on TV, they were wrapped up with the Brutes, while also providing backup for Austin Theory. With the tag titles on the devious duo of Balor and Priest and Theory recently finding a new buddy in Grayson Waller, it's hard to predict where Pretty Deadly will fit in on "SmackDown," but I'm expecting it to be good, because this is one of the most entertaining tag team acts in the company.

HATED: Judgment Day and The Brawling Brutes Had ... A Conversation (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

For a "SmackDown" that overall felt very mediocre and didn't accomplish much of anything storyline-wise, this segment did nothing but contribute to that feeling.

Although Rhea Ripley was absent, Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and Dominik Mysterio babbled on about not much of anything, saying almost verbatim what they said this past Monday on "Raw". I can understand the logic behind talking up your accomplishments as a heel stable, but if you're going to do it, then do it right and change it up at least a little bit.

... and then The Brawling Brutes came out. While I thought it was nice to hear Butch speak for the first time in a while (granted it was only one line), Holland's delivery did not work at all for me. Instead of speaking about himself and Butch as a tag team unit, he acted like they were individual competitors. An odd choice that — although it was not entirely on him — wasn't helped by his conveyance.

This segment just fell really flat for me; it felt like it was added at the last minute to eat up some of the remaining time in the show, especially to set up a match that seems to be a one-time thing. It was just unnecessary given that it accomplished nothing and was simply a needless precursor to what I thought was a solid match that could have easily stood on its own.

LOVED: Don't judge their suits (Liam O'Loughlin, WINC news writer)

The Judgment Day are officially pulling double-duty, with the powerhouse faction making their presence felt on "WWE Smackdown" on Friday night — and they continued their momentum despite the noted absence of Rhea Ripley. With the leader of the dominant group defending her championship at Superstar Spectacle in India, the boys had to stand up and fly their flag on the blue brand, keeping the ball rolling after a successful performance at WWE Payback last weekend.

Despite a hilarious slip-up by announcer Mike Rome, the trio of Damian Priest, Finn Balor, and Dominik Mysterio remained as over as ever, with the latter receiving his usual vitriol from the fans in attendance at the famous TD Garden. The newly-crowned tag team champions, Balor and Priest, would emerge victorious against The Brawling Brutes in a surprisingly back-and-forth bout, cementing themselves as a credible threat on "SmackDown" right off the bat.

But just as The Judgment Day were celebrating their latest triumph, the powerhouse pairing of Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits made their way down to the ring to confront them. Lashley would claim his new associates were coming for the gold, before going nose-to-nose with Mr. Money in the Bank, leading to an air of excitement from the Boston audience at the potential of the two factions coming to blows. After a directionless period for Lashley, Montez Ford, and Angelo Dawkins, a long-term program with one of WWE's hottest acts should be the shot in the arm "SmackDown" requires to make up for Roman Reigns being on an indefinite break.

While their work on "Raw" over the past few months has been strong, the constant Judgment Day tussles with the likes of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and *insert top singles babyface here* was beginning to wear out its welcome and become far too predictable. Their introduction as a force to be reckoned with on "SmackDown" and putting them in the ring with some fresh faces will only continue their growth within the company, while the shots from Priest at Reigns and The Bloodline will keep the intrigue surrounding a potential cash-in at the front of fan's minds in the coming months (though it remains to be seen where WWE is going with the cryptic and somewhat confusing ending of "SmackDown" this week).

Hated: SmackDown needs that Jey Uso compensation, stat (Schneiderman)

On Thursday, PWI reported that LA Knight is in line for a potential "top babyface on SmackDown" push, and that sounds impressive until you realize there isn't that much in the way of competition. With Jey Uso on "Raw" now and Roman Reigns off doing Roman Reigns things until it's time to build to a PLE that actually matters, things have gotten pretty bleak, pretty quickly.

In Reigns' absence, the only singles titleholder on "SmackDown" is Rey Mysterio, who's probably Knight's biggest competition for that top babyface spot at the moment. AJ Styles is kind of there, and it's clear WWE thinks they can reheat Styles as a main event level guy whenever they want to, but the dude just got done with a Karrion Kross feud. Bianca Belair is taking time off. Lashley hasn't wrestled in months. Sheamus has been MIA for three weeks now after losing to Edge, who you might have heard may have wrestled his last match for WWE. I get that Cena is in India, but his return is (presumably) just a short-term thing. And when you take those folks out of the equation, what you're left with turns out to be a bunch of tag teams and the suddenly illogical and uninteresting Bloodline Saga, which should have just ended at SummerSlam and now only has Jey's quest for redemption on the red brand going for it. The Judgment Day has very much taken its place as the WWE heel stable of note, and it should be noted that they were all over this episode, both in my favorite match of the night (Balor and Priest vs. Butch and Ridge Holland) and in the main event segment.

And no, I have no idea what was going on at the end of that segment, it doesn't matter; the important thing is that even without Rhea Ripley, "SmackDown" needed JD desperately. If Styles vs. Jimmy Uso is supposed to be the standard for "SmackDown" main events going forward, I'm not interested in living that life. We need some more talent on this show and we need it now, because otherwise we might as well just paint the WWE logo purple and black.