WWE SmackDown 9/22/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s consistently spectacular weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show where nobody has any friends to defend them against two-on-one beatdowns! Not to brag, but here at WINC, we have each other's back, as demonstrated by this column's transition to being a collaborative effort, so ... be more like us, wrestlers! Anyway, the big match announced ahead of time was a WWE Women's title match between IYO SKY and Asuka, but if you thought anything in the known universe would prevent a John Cena vs. The Bloodline segment from being in the main event spot, you have not been paying attention.


Of course, lots of other stuff happened on this show, not all of which we'll get to here. You know the drill by now. If you want the comprehensive breakdown, check out our live coverage. For the completely subjective and often horrifically wrong opinions of the WINC staff on various happenings of the evening, this is the place to be. Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 9/22/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Loved: Tough Love From Bobby Lashley (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

The popularity of the Street Profits, from their time in "WWE NXT" throughout their run on the main roster, is inarguable. I mean, who doesn't like dancing, throwing their hands in the air, and Solo cups (what in the hell is in those damn cups?!?!?) But all good things come to an end, and the key in wrestling (and in life, I'd argue) is to recognize when it's time to move on. The party, as my father once told me, can't go on forever.


In pairing Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford with Bobby Lashley, WWE seemed to show their recognition of it being time to move on for two individuals who really elevated themselves to a new level as a tag team in the last few years. Ford, as has often been said, has "star" written all over him, while Dawkins is as steady as they get, tremendously underrated, and I've long leaned into the idea that if they ever split, he won't be anybody's Jannetty. Far from it. Now, we'll see if that split ever happens, but I always thought a heel turn might precede it. Until tonight, however, the alignment with Lashley hadn't really made much sense, and I realized I wasn't at all sure where it was going.

In fact, when the Profits' song hit, complete with the Solo cup graphics and Ford carrying his and the whole nine yards, I actually grumbled, because this is supposed to be a heel turn? Worse, there's Lashley right there with them, smiling and having a grand old time. Boring at best, nonsensical at worst. But wait, I said I loved this segment, right?



Following a disappointing loss to Legado del Whatever We're Doing Here With the LWO, both Dawkins and Ford looked a bit downtrodden, but Lashley's displeasure was clear as day. And then commentary chimed in, noting that the Profits hadn't quite embraced any sort of "new attitude" under Lashley's direction. Aha! Promise! Hope!

In a backstage segment to follow, Lashley would chastise his new minions, stating that he wanted his suits, his swag, and everything else back that he'd given them, and if they don't start getting the job done, he'd go and find someone who can. Now sure, this could be the tracks being laid for WWE to walk all of this back entirely (hi there, Vince!) but I'm gonna be optimistic, loving this as I do, and say that real, real soon, the party will be over, the Solo cups shelved, the music replaced, and a new attitude for Montez and Angelo in place just in time for a dastardly run that just maybe takes us closer to this generation's Barbershop window moment, after all.

HATED: WWE Fastlane feels like a complete afterthought (Liam O'Loughlin, WINC news writer)

WWE has always placed importance on their pay-per-view or premium live events, but the upcoming Fastlane show, which takes place in two weeks, feels like a complete afterthought. The latest edition of "WWE SmackDown" did very little to excite fans for the October 7 show in Indianapolis, with the only match announced at this stage being a tag team clash between Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso against John Cena and a likely mystery partner — that's right, it's the only match announced, and we don't even know who's in it.


IYO SKY and Asuka's battle for the WWE Women's Championship was a barn-burner on Friday night, but with the constraints of live television and advertisement breaks, it's easy to believe the bout would have been better suited at Fastlane, with no interruptions and a potentially hotter crowd than what we witnessed in Arizona. The same can be said for next week's United States Championship clash between Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar; the two LWO members have built a strong story together in recent months and will finally square off in singles action — on free television, as opposed to on pay-per-view.

Making the weekly programming must-see is definitely important, but the whole purpose of that programming is to build towards major monthly shows, and right now, WWE is failing miserably in that department. Even the aforementioned Bloodline angle with Cena, which led to a prolonged closing segment and more questions than answers, was initially touted for "SmackDown" before Uso and Sikoa denied the challenge from the 16-time champion. In a subsequent backstage segment, Paul Heyman even questioned why The Bloodline would be forced to compete at Fastlane, completely degrading the importance of the show.


For all the criticism AEW gets for lack of build for their major events, the same can be said for WWE. Both companies tend to deliver on the night from an in-ring perspective, but the lead-up often leaves plenty to be desired, and this one has been about as bad as it gets.

LOVED: IYO SKY vs. Asuka for the WWE Women's Championship Did Not Disappoint (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

I expected the in-ring chemistry between these two competitors to be off the charts, and boy, was I absolutely correct.

I will be the first to admit that the ending of the match was not my favorite — that being Charlotte Flair getting involved after Bayley put IYO SKY's foot on the bottom rope to help her escape the Asuka Lock. Apart from that, there was nothing about this match I didn't like. Both Asuka and SKY brought their "A" games to this WWE Women's Championship match and made sure to keep the energy up throughout the back-and-forth brawl. Asuka's technical, more mat-based style meshed perfectly with SKY's high flying abilities and made sure there was a little something for everyone to enjoy.


I often have an issue with WWE not providing the time for superstars to put on the fantastic matches they're capable of (granted they are only afforded a certain amount of television time each week), but this was not the case here. Although there wasn't a lengthy amount of build heading in, Asuka and SKY have a storied history with one another dating back to their days of teaming together in Japan as part of Triple Tails, and they were able to tell a good story here because they were given the time to do so. Needless to say, I was a fan of the match and am already impatiently counting down the days until they go head-to-head once again.

Hated: Theory Brings Waller Down (Jordan)

Austin Theory ain't it. Sorry. They put golden boy status on this kid out the gate ,but it's reeked of force-feeding all the while. The Vince McMahon affiliation, a failed Money In the Bank cash-in, doing nothing for the US title during multiple runs, special attraction interactions from everyone from Pat McAfee and Stone Cold Steve Austin to Tyson Fury and The Rock; none of it's worked for me. He's an athletic talent with plenty of potential and all, but I think we're in need of a restart here. So while we seek out whatever that might be (starting with a new haircut and some personality, please), can we get him away from the greatness that is Grayson Waller as quickly as possible?


For starters, we don't need any more mashup tag team names, ever, so for the love of ShowMiz, JeriShow, ShowMama or whatever else, if we can't break these two up immediately, let's at least not make "A-Town Down Under" a thing. But this goes far deeper than a garbage team name. Waller's got charisma, while Theory's got ... meh. This association can only suck that charisma out of "The Aussie Icon." and we must protect him at all costs. While Waller's giving the rub, Theory's giving the runs. Theory's A-Town Down is to Waller's Rolling Thunder Stunner as a thimble is to a rocket launcher. If Waller does a shoey, Theory sips a Capri-Sun. You get the point. One of these things is not like the other.


But hey, even in the throes of hate, I can accept hope springing eternal. After all, I did officially love where I think things are now going with Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits, and shortly after Theory and Waller beat The Brawling Brutes, it was announced that Lashley would be a guest on The Grayson Waller Effect next week. Maybe we can start the wheels in motion to turn both of these situations around in one fell swoop? My optimistic brain tells me a Profits vs. Waller and the other guy match is probably what's coming out of this, and hey, with a more aggressive and bloodthirsty Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford (presumably), maybe that inspires Lashley to rekindle his hatred toward Theory from those bunk US title matches from a while back and, I don't know, smash him through a table and into obscurity until he can figure out how to come back and actually matter.

You're taking up my TV time, young sir, and this isn't "Raw." Time is precious. Please go away. And Waller, you keep doing you, mate. Big fan. Shoeys up!

Loved: The curse is canon (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

Oh my god, y'all, they did it. They finally did it. On "SmackDown," WWE acknowledged the Curse of the Women's Tag Team Championship, and BEST OF ALL, they did it by having Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn — the last "NXT" women's tag champs, whose whole thing is that they are witches who cast spells — take credit for cursing the titles. Amazing. 12 out of 10. This is already the best idea WWE has had since Sami Zayn first walked in The Bloodline's locker room.


For those who don't know, the idea that the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship is cursed goes back at least two years, because it's been more than two years since the titles were successfully defended three times in a row. To put it another way: It's been almost exactly two years since the belts were won by Nikki A.S.H. (now back to being Nikki Cross) and Rhea Ripley; of the subsequent 12 title reigns since that night, only two have been longer than the 101 days the titles were left vacant when Sasha Banks and Naomi walked out of the company last year. And then they were vacated again a year later when Liv Morgan and Dakota Kai were both injured in the same title match. And then Sonya Deville tore her ACL immediately after she and Green won the belts, and WWE was tired of vacating them, so they just threw Piper Niven in there and hand-waved it away. And then Piper Niven started having medical issues. I can't really express how bad it's been with these titles. They haven't been defended in two months, and they haven't been successfully defended since June — incidentally, when Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey unified the main roster women's tag titles with the "NXT" women's tag titles by defeating ... Fyre and Dawn. Which was their last appearance, by the way, before Friday's episode.


I'm excited to see Fyre and Dawn again, and hopefully they can get some more women's tag team wrestling on WWE programming. Mainly though, I just really love seeing their spooky "No, really, we are literally witches" video packages on main roster TV, and it's both horrible and utterly amazing that the curse has gotten so bad by this point that even WWE itself was like "Okay, we have to acknowledge this. Don't we have some witches or something?"

HATED: Cena Left Lying After Knight Tests Positive (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

I'm not sure what John Cena did to deserve the brutal beating he took at the hands of Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa at the end of "SmackDown." Despite the entire segment running a little too long for my taste (they really didn't want to give Asuka and IYO SKY a little more time to cook?!) and AJ Styles getting taken out being a little predictable, it's more just the fact you bring your number one main attraction for the last two decades back to appear on your show, and just... everybody hates him? Or so it seems.


I had read the reports about LA Knight coming to help Cena after Styles was taken out. As I was writing this, I saw the news that Knight actually tested positive for COVID and had to leave the building, but was planned for the main event segment. That sucks. A lot. I really hope Knight gets better soon, and of course, none of this was his fault. I remain the president of the "LA Knight Girlies" here at WINC. But that's beside the point.

As I was watching Cena get hit with the Samoan Spike, I started to think to myself, "Well now, this is weird. Is nobody coming out? Really?" And the beatdown continued. Why, at that point, would anyone come down to help Cena and sign the contract for a match at a premium live event to tag with a wounded partner? Now that I know Knight wasn't medically able to make the save, I really believe an audible should have been called to find someone else to do it. Who would I have put there? No idea, but it could have been any babyface with nothing to do, really.


Now what? Does Knight come out next Friday on "SmackDown" and offer his assistance? Because that would be pretty silly. What's he going to say? "Hey, sorry, John! Wish I could've been there!" I guess that makes sense, and life (and the match) will go on as planned, but it just made this week's ending seem ... blah. Will I forget about it next week when I'm presumably writing about how much I love Knight's appearance and the fact he gets to team with Cena? Probably. But for now, I'm just a little disappointed.