WWE SmackDown 11/03/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show that is never, ever pre-taped because the roster is already in Saudi Arabia! Yes, it's the go-home show for Crown Jewel, though Friday's episode spent a comparable amount of time with the wrestlers who aren't booked in Riyadh (Kevin Owens, Charlotte Flair, Pretty Deadly) and the ones who are. We can't cover everything here — you can check out our live coverage/results page for the objective facts of the show — but there were certain things that stood out, in either a positive or a negative light, to the WINC writing and editorial staff this week.

So how did we find WWE's last stop before Crown Jewel? Were we compelled by the final face-offs between LA Knight and Roman Reigns, Logan Paul and Rey Mysterio, and Solo Sikoa and John Cena? Did we take issue with yet another Bianca Belair victory over Bayley in the main event? And most importantly, did we have way too much fun with the Donnybrook Rules match? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 11/3/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: A lame segment to start the (K)night (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

We all know LA Knight is going to lose to Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel on Saturday. And by "we all," I mean 100% of us who cast our prediction votes here at WINC. Thankfully, at least it won't be close to midnight here in the States, so it won't hurt as much for us Knight fans. But it's inevitable, and Friday's show didn't do Knight any favors. Knight and Reigns have been in a war of words for a minute, and this week's installment, compared to last week's pretty great contract signing segment, just fell flat. Reigns "re-introducing" himself to Knight felt awkward and neither man really had anything interesting to say to add to the feud.

Knight does have a point in his frustration with Reigns rarely defending the championship he's held for over three years now, but that's the same frustration every one of Reigns' opponents voices in any feud. We get it; we've heard it — though I suppose there isn't much more you can say about Reigns. I guess we're going to keep going back to that well until Reigns decides he's ready to lose the championship.

While I love Knight and I do actually love Reigns (when he actually shows up for work) this didn't do it for me. There wasn't even another beatdown. It was almost boring, and it certainly didn't start the show off hot. It didn't make me any more excited for Crown Jewel, and it didn't make me believe in Knight at all, which is what was desperately needed. Knight is so white-hot with the fans, I don't think his loss will hurt him in any way, but it's just lame he has to be fed to Reigns to get the champion on the card in Saudi Arabia.

Loved: John Cena destroys Solo Sikoa on the mic (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually enjoyed a John Cena segment for the second week in a row.

Cena found himself toe-to-toe in the ring with Solo Sikoa one night before their Crown Jewel match and got into a back-and-forth exchange on the microphone. Although Sikoa's delivery in demanding that Cena say goodbye to the fans while he still could (on the orders of Roman Reigns) was pretty good, especially when considering how little he normally talks, Cena completely obliterated him in 90 seconds, as he promised he would.

I think it's easy to forget how good Cena actually is on the microphone, given that the majority of the time he cuts typical babyface promos and says essentially the same thing week in and week out. However, Friday night was a good reminder of just how good Cena is on the mic. I think it would be beneficial to see more of this intense version of Cena moving forward and for him to be given more segments like this — promos where it feels as though he has a little more freedom.

Hated: If Charlotte Flair can't be the champion, she's at least going to pin a champion (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

I don't know if this is a Charlotte Flair problem or a WWE problem, but man, they just really refuse to have her doing anything that doesn't involve a title, huh? It's hard to remember the last time she was (a) here, and (b) not feuding for a championship. But after coming up short against IYO SKY, Charlotte isn't in title contention and doesn't have a match at Crown Jewel.

So naturally, she teams up with Shotzi and they immediately beat the women's tag team champions when Charlotte pins Chelsea Green. Because GOD FORBID Flair not be doing something that could lead to title gold.

In theory I can get behind the idea of using Charlotte in the tag division for a while, but there are a few problems. First of all, her and Shotzi is a weird pairing that I find difficult to get behind, conceptually. Second of all, Charlotte has a significantly higher profile than any of the other women in the tag division, so not only does she automatically outshine them, she has to be booked like she's better than them — hence Flair and Shotzi beating the champions clean right out of the gate. If she and Shotzi really do form a regular tag team for a little while, you'd think a title run for them is inevitable. And maybe that's fine — putting Charlotte in a tag team at least keeps her away from the singles titles for a little while — but I really wish she could get a good non-title feud going with someone on her level of stardom, rather than constantly having to chase championships. I think part of the problem with Charlotte is that she doesn't seem to have a character that can exist outside a title feud, and she would really benefit from proving that she can also do meaty character work in a non-title storyline (if indeed she can).

Loved: Good ol' fashioned win for Pretty Deadly (Ruth)

There needed to be some more action on a taped episode of "SmackDown," and the Good Ol' Fashion Donnybrook Rules match is exactly where we got it. From gimmicked glass to shillelaghs, this lengthy contest had it all, and it ended in an unexpected way. Seeing Pretty Deadly's Elton Prince and Kit Wilson in the Brawling Brutes' environment made me laugh out loud, and it just made this show all the more enjoyable.

The fun started right at the beginning. I always laugh when the broadcast turns to slow motion during Pretty Deadly's entrance, and seeing Butch fly at them in a pre-match attack in slo-mo might have been the highlight of the night for me. Prince and Wilson attempting to use the shillelaghs on Ridge Holland and getting sent to the outside of the ring was also gold. In addition to all the comedy and use of weapons, there were some excellent spots as well, like Butch's moonsault off the top rope to the outside and his tornado DDT to Prince.

I absolutely did not expect Pretty Deadly to win, especially after all the great spots by Butch. The ending was also excellent, with Prince and Wilson hitting the Spilt Milk through a table, something I didn't see coming from these guys. I think this feud might continue since Prince and Wilson beat Holland and Butch at their own game, but I don't mind that. I really enjoy Pretty Deadly, so anytime they're on my screen is a good time. If this at least gives us more comedy video vignettes, I'll be very happy.

Hated: The Crown Jewel United States Championship Weigh-In (Quinlan)

I have never been a fan of weigh-ins for professional wrestling matches, but at least they're mostly used as a tool for furthering storylines and usually end in some sort of big pull-apart brawl. In the case of Rey Mysterio and Logan Paul, neither such was the case.

After both men stepped on the scale, Nick Aldis allowed them to confront one another, which presented them with one last opportunity to do what they do best and use the mic to get into one last verbal exchange of words and get into a huge brawl, only to be pulled apart by security. Instead, what ensued was a few verbal jabs that were barely audible and a relatively tame physical altercation.

Despite the build for their United States title match at Crown Jewel only having a little over three weeks behind it, WWE has done a good job within the given time frame. I've liked all of their past encounters they've had with one another thus far –- particularly the first time they came face-to-face -– but this one just didn't land for me, especially with it being the final segment before their match. It just felt like there was a lack of urgency that made the segment completely fell flat.

Loved: A main event with actual Crown Jewel implications (Schneiderman)

Friday night's "SmackDown" was technically the go-home show for Crown Jewel, but in terms of the actual build to Crown Jewel, nothing really happened. Not much really needed to happen — the majority of the card has been set for a while, the stories that needed to be told largely have been, and segments like the Reigns/Knight confrontation, Cena's raspy smoker's promo on Sikoa, and the US title "weigh-in" were mostly just last-minute touches. The exception, as it had to be, was the most recent addition to the card, Bianca Belair vs. IYO SKY for the WWE Women's Championship, and the go-home "SmackDown" main event actually did have big implications for their match at Crown Jewel.

Belair vs. Bayley was a good match, but the outcome was never in doubt — it was Bayley's sixth consecutive loss to Belair, including tag team matches, with her last win over "The EST of WWE" coming in October 2022. The important thing, though, was what happened afterward, with Belair putting Bayley through the announce table with a KOD. It's hard to imagine Bayley making it to ringside for SKY's match at Crown Jewel after that, and with Dakota Kai still on the shelf, SKY will likely be going it alone against Belair. Not only does this change the complexion of Saturday's contest, it gives us some clues that to what the story of that contest will be.

SKY having no backup at Crown Jewel mirrors Bayley having no backup on "SmackDown" thanks to GM Nick Aldis banning Damage CTRL from ringside. Without that backup, Bayley lost, and one outcome of Crown Jewel is "without that backup, IYO loses." This puts the title back on Belair so she can defend against Jade Cargill or Charlotte Flair or whoever, gives her complete revenge on Damage CTRL, and potentially breaks them up, something that was teased yet again on "SmackDown." But if there's one thing that Paul Levesque's creative team clearly loves, it's teasing the defeat/breakup of a heel stable, but then having that stable survive thanks to the addition of a new member, who usually shows up at a time when no other members of the stable are available to help the champion. A scenario like this one would keep the title on SKY, which she deserves, and allow the story of Damage CTRL to play out slowly heading into WrestleMania season. And meanwhile, Belair can still wrestle Jade Cargill or Charlotte Flair or whoever, and the fact that it's not for the title won't make a bit of difference.

And Kairi Sane is expected to return to WWE "imminently," you say? INTERESTING.

No matter what happens at Crown Jewel, the main event segment did a lot to get me interested in Belair vs. SKY, and that's more than I can say for the rest of the card.