WWE SmackDown 10/13/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s suddenly 100% fightier weekly review of "WWE SmackDown!" This week's episode saw some big changes on the brand, not least of which was the return of Roman Reigns after a two-month absence and the official elevation of LA Knight as his #1 challenger as we head toward Crown Jewel and Survivor Series. Did WINC's writing and editorial staff have feelings about any of that? No, of course not. We had feelings about other things, and you're about to read them!

As always, if all you want from us is the bare bones facts of Friday night's offering from the blue brand, our live coverage/results page is always available. But if you want our opinions about all things Nick Aldis, Kevin Owens, Pretty Deadly, and Charlotte Flair, this is the place to be. Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 10/13/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: Complaining about Charlotte Flair will continue until morale improves (MIles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

Charlotte Flair is getting another WWE Women's Championship match? Next week? Why?

Just to break it down: This will be Flair's fourth title match in four months. Since she's not champion, she obviously hasn't won any of those matches. She fought Asuka to a no contest in June after Bianca Belair interfered, then lost to Belair in the subsequent triple threat match between the three of them at SummerSlam. Then she lost another triple threat title match at Fastlane, and this time she was the one pinned. That was also her most recent match, so she's done nothing whatsoever to earn another shot at the belt. Chad Gable is over on "Raw" having to take on Bronson Reed for his fourth shot at GUNTHER, but Charlotte just gets gifted a fourth title match for walking in the door.

I'm also curious as to where we're going with this. What they probably should do is give IYO SKY a singles win over Flair to help establish her as a major player in the division, but that seems unlikely in a world where SKY even getting a non-clean win over Flair in the Fastlane triple threat felt miraculous. They could give SKY another non-clean win, of course, or a disqualification/no contest due to interference, but what are we setting up with that, another feud between Flair and Bayley? And of course, Flair winning the belt is never off the table, especially with this week's "SmackDown" teasing the prospect of Flair vs. Jade Cargill. But if that's what we're doing, why not have SKY lose the title at Fastlane? Why drag it out for two weeks?

I don't know, it just feels like even with an exciting, dynamic wrestler like SKY as champion, the "SmackDown" women's division has gotten pretty boring recently. Is it unreasonably easy to blame Charlotte for that? Probably, yeah. Am I blaming her anyway because I'm tired of seeing her in title matches? Also yes.

Loved: The Comedic Genius Of Elton Prince and Kit Wilson (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

Kit Wilson and Elton Prince are two comedic geniuses, and they did nothing but prove that point even more tonight.

I won't lie, I laughed out loud so hard when Prince came to the ring in a wheelchair –- lest we forget, for a separated shoulder –- before miraculously standing up and healing instantaneously. And having Prince pretend to suffer a knee injury and using the fake injury angle to their advantage in their match against The Brawling Brutes to pick up a win was a great move. It created a memorable ending to a match that was otherwise pretty forgettable in my book.

WWE has always been known for their prop comedy, and I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan when they use this within their storylines. However, with Pretty Deadly, it works for me, and I think it's all down to Wilson and Prince's commitment to their characters. They know what they are and they work with it rather than against it, something that makes them stand out from many of the other acts on the roster who attempt to do similar things.

Hated: Aldis Debut Misses the Mark (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

The announcement that Triple H was going to make a major announcement on "SmackDown" tonight held water from the start if only because it doesn't happen very often anymore, and as a result I think the masses were hoping for more than appointing a pair of authority figures in Adam Pearce to "Raw" and Nick Aldis to "SmackDown" as each brand's respective general manager.

To be fair, I thought that the fact that Pearce was already in the ring as Mr. Helmsley came in to announce that he was being promoted thanks to all his hard work over the course of the last several years was setting Aldis up to be a big new debut. And aside from that, good on Pearce for the recognition, because I bet this was far more than an on-screen thing. He took the reins of a difficult gig and crushed it on both shows for longer than most have.

The problem, for me, lies with the less-than debut for Aldis, who has been working part-time as a producer with WWE for a while now, but deserved some sort of buildup for this not-so-shocking debut. Aldis' resume is known the (wrestling nerd) world over, but maybe not for the average WWE fan. In fact, my 15-year-old kid had a few questions for me, and I think, sometimes, that's the only measuring stick we really need. "Why should I care about this guy when he just showed up out of nowhere, no music, no HHH rundown of his career accomplishments or pedigree, nothing," would be a fair thought for any and all.

Later, Aldis' presence was felt again as he interfered with a Cody Rhodes/Roman Reigns staredown, so obviously, he's gonna have some pull on as a week-to-week character. But we could have done a lot better here. His history with Cody, for one? We can't even dance around that? His marriage to Mickie James? Nary a mention? (It's not like that's off limits these days!) Nothing else? Come on!

Nick Aldis is a pro's pro and I bet he takes this job and runs with it. Hell, I bet he ends up competing in a WWE ring at some point. But the beginning could have been so much more. Give the guy some music at least, for the love of ... you know, music.

Loved: Smack, Owens, Smack (Schneiderman)

As someone with a long history as a Kevin Owens fan, I had mixed feelings upon seeing that the reports were true: Owens was drafted to "SmackDown" in exchange for "Raw" acquiring Jey Uso. On the one hand, not only are they splitting up the tag team of Owens and Sami Zayn, which we've only had for six or seven months, but they're also making Adam Pearce the official "Raw" GM and bringing in Nick Aldis to be the "SmackDown" GM, which suggests the brand split might be taken more seriously going forward than it has been since the draft. So basically we may have just cut Owens off from Zayn completely for a while, and that makes me sad. I love the two of them together, they clearly love working together, and it's a real shame their run as an actual tag team didn't result in more.

That said, the run did do one thing: It firmly established both Zayn and Owens as TV main-eventers, and that's something "SmackDown" could really use right now. And while it would have been really nice to see WWE produce more creatively for Zayn and Owens as a tag team, it didn't seem like WWE was particularly interested in doing that, so why keep the team together if they're not going to be used to their full potential? Considering the proclivities WWE have displayed thus far in 2023, it might actually be the best creative decision to have Zayn and Owens part ways again. Zayn can stay on "Raw" and interact with Jey Uso, which is what most of us want him doing anyway, which is potentially a lot juicier now that Zayn's best friend has been traded for Jey, who is also a tag team champion again, and Owens can lock down a main event level singles spot on "SmackDown" and hopefully raise the quality level on that show, which tends to drop dramatically whenever Roman Reigns isn't around.

The more I think about it, the more i think it's a smart move. If nothing else, it represents a major change to a product that had gotten pretty stagnant lately, and I can't be mad about that. Even if it means the winners of the first-ever tag team WrestleMania main event didn't even last until the end of 2023.

Hated: IYO SKY and The Women's Division Feel Like An Afterthought (Quinlan)

Okay, okay, look. I know that WWE Fastlane wasn't that long ago and it's a bit of a quick turnaround for IYO SKY to already have a new challenger for her WWE Women's Championship. That being said, both the Crown Jewel and Survivor Series cards are starting to take shape, with Seth Rollins' defense of the World Heavyweight Championship against Drew McIntyre already being announced for the former, the men's WarGames match already starting to take shape over on "WWE Raw" for the latter, and future Undisputed WWE Universal Championship matches for Cody Rhodes and LA Knight being heavily teased tonight.

This feeling wasn't helped at all by the women's match on tonight's show. With Bayley being the one to face Zelina Vega instead of SKY, it just felt like SKY was more of an afterthought than a central point of the "SmackDown" women's division, which is something she really should be as title holder. Given that the set-up for the match was a backstage confrontation whilst LWO was checking on an injured Carlito, it wouldn't have been hard to have SKY intervene on Bayley's part (especially now that the previously teased Damage CTRL split seems to at the very least on pause for the time being).

Loved: The Cody/Roman Staredown (Jordan)

Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso as the WWE Undisputed Tag Team Champions is an odd couple story that throws itself right into the front lines in terms of getting picked apart and criticized, but with a little foresight, you had to know that all roads lead to Cody and Roman Reigns once more at Wrestlemania 40, and this was all going to have to start to get tied together.

That eventuality came to a head tonight when, after Rhodes and Uso (Team Yeet?) successfully defended their titles against Grayson Waller and Austin Theory and exited the ring, Reigns' music hit. Both Uso's and Rhodes' jaws dropped in reaction as Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa confronted the pair atop the entrance ramp. I dug Jimmy's look as he approached his twin brother, face-to-face for the first time since Jey's "WWE Raw" arrival, half "let's go" and half "oh, look what we have here." But as for the other partner, just as Rhodes was engaging eye-to-eye with Sikoa, his attention was diverted thanks to the arrival of Reigns with "The Wise Man" Paul Heyman at his shotgun.

The staredown was fantastic, with nary an eye blink on either side. And the insertion of newly-anointed "SmackDown" GM Nick Aldis between the two, saying, "Not here, not tonight, guys," was perfect. One, it gets the new guy some meaningful screen time, and two, it tells us what we've been needing to hear for a while now: Cody vs. Roman 2 is indeed coming. I mean, at this point, it has to. And yeah, LA Knight is a thing now, and that was addressed earlier in the evening, which will end up being great for some relatively throwaway PLE match on the way to WrestleMania, but we've known for a while now that the whole "Finishing the Story" thing is, well, still a thing. It has to be. Without, this whole Cody run was pointless.

So I dig where this is going. And for the side players, there's so much meat to pick from the bone. Jimmy and Jey, Solo and Cody, Knight and Roman, and on and on and on. And if The Rock shows up again somewhere along the way, even better still. In that sense, he's always going to be a good problem to have, and a creative mind worth its salt will always figure out how to solve that situation anyway. Lucky for us, we can just sit back and enjoy.