WWE SmackDown 11/10/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show where respect and friendship mean nothing and anyone could betray you at any time! We have a lot to talk about this week, as two major heel turns bookended the program — Santos Escobar turned on Rey Mysterio after the opening match, and Asuka betrayed her teammates and joined Damage CTRL during the main event. Obviously those big events will be our focus, but in a change of pace, we're actually going to touch at least touch on pretty much everything that happened on the blue brand this week in this column, though that shouldn't prevent you from checking out our live coverage/results page for all the details.

So what did we think about the respective turns of Asuka and Escobar? Did we appreciate Kevin Owens on commentary in place of Corey Graves? And most importantly, was this the week that Miles finally came around on LA Knight? (Spoiler: No.) Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 11/10/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Loved: The snapping of Santos (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

When Legado del Fantasma debuted on the WWE main roster, I was skeptical as to how well they'd be positioned. When Rey Mysterio aligned himself with the group, re-establishing the LWO and setting the Fantasma name aside, all of that changed. The move gave instant credibility to Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Cruz del Toro, as well as Zelina Vega, who reached career heights she hadn't seen previously, representing the group, and all of Puerto Rico, at Backlash earlier this year in San Juan.

The lack of intrafaction tension to this point within the LWO has been telling, especially with the amount of matches the group, and its individuals, has lost in the time since their "NXT" graduation. So it made far more sense for an OG like Carlito to come out and question the way Escobar went about his "protection" of Mysterio at Crown Jewel. Next thing we know, we get Santos going full bad guy, stomping Mysterio and saying, "You were my hero. It was supposed to be us."

So many things come out of this now — Escobar/Mysterio first and foremost, but also, do Cruz and del Toro question the actions of their former leader? Does Vega take exception, ultimately drawing out a female voice from the other side? Does Dominik Mysterio get involved here at any point? To the latter query there, I'd say it makes a lot of sense, if one were to argue that Rey has now failed his son and an adopted son (or sons!) within the span of one year.

There's a lot to play out here still, but the way they've sketched it to this point gives us every reason for optimism, and so many options.

Loved: Kevin Owens on commentary (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

Kevin Owens does it again.

I have to say that I thought tonight's episode of "SmackDown" was overall pretty good, but Owens made it that much better being at the commentary desk. He had me entertained throughout the entire show and even made me laugh, especially with his telestrations involving Grayson Waller and Austin Theory.

I also have to say that I appreciate the fact that Owens being at the desk actually had payoff, especially with him taking over Corey Graves' position at the last minute (congratulations to him and Carmella on becoming new parents, by the way). Having an angered Waller and Theory confront him about the telestrations, only for him to attack them despite General Manager Nick Aldis being very specific about not getting him physically involved in anything tonight, moves their storyline forward while also providing a fill-in for Graves.

A quick message to WWE: Please have Owens do more commentary in the future, for the sake of my ears. Even if he's getting over a cold.

Hated: The Huh Movement (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

Hey look, LA Knight was the worst part of an otherwise pretty good "SmackDown" this week. Surprise, surprise.

Sorry, but I still can't with this guy. His promos are getting worse every week, and for whatever reason WWE keeps putting him in there with guys who can actually talk, so he comes off even worse in comparison. He has resting "wait, what are my lines again" face. He still can't get through a promo without tripping over his own tongue at some point, and now he has another SUPER creative catchphrase to add to his repertoire. From the creator of "Yeah!" and "Nah-nah!" comes a new catchphrase that's just like those, but less assertive: "Huh?" That's right, he says "huh" now, apparently. Did it twice in this segment. I really don't know how he comes up with all these brilliant ideas.

When not unveiling his latest invention in the field of clever wordplay, Knight spent his (significant) promo time whining about how he would have won the title at Crown Jewel if not for Jimmy Uso — he literally said "I got robbed" as if there's any excuse whatsoever at this point to fail to game plan for Bloodline interference in a Roman Reigns title match — and telling Grayson Waller he looks like a pedophile. Cool. Isn't this guy supposed to be a babyface now? He's like if the "I'm your scumbag" version of MJF lacked both mic skills and self-awareness. And no, "The Grayson Waller Effect" doesn't sound like an STD, bro, what are you talking about?

Oh, Knight and Waller had a match too. It sucked, because Knight sucks. And next week he gets Jimmy Uso. CAN'T WAIT.

Hated: Cedric Alexander takes another L (Jordan)

Let's just throw this out there: Cedric Alexander is a phenomenal talent. From his debut in the Cruiserweight Classic during which the fans literally demanded his signing, to his time on "205 Live," to the Hurt Business (the original version and the almost, sort of, kind of, maybe-we're-gonna-do-it-again tease that died a slow death upon Shelton Benjamin's release), his work has always shined and has had fans clamoring for more. But his win/loss record (which, okay, it's wrestling, but still) has just s*** all over that.

Alexander hasn't won a match since March, when he beat Dante Chen on "Main Event," and hasn't won on main roster television since a tag win alongside Benjamin over Alpha Academy in February. At some point, if he's ever going to realize any on-screen potential, that trend has to change. Dropping his second consecutive match to Dragon Lee Friday night (with no buildup, mind you), Alexander fell to a rushed "NXT" call-up whose pedigree is just fine but whose equity is minimal, to say the least.

Look, in my opinion, there's not a lot to complain about in the Triple H Era of WWE, and there's not an unlimited number of spots for main event or even midcard title-level talent. But someone like Alexander, with as much as he brings to the table from both talent and charisma perspectives, can deliver so much more if given the chance, and at the very least, he shouldn't just lose and lose and lose and lose forever. I think he's primed for a reset in "NXT," myself. Mustafa Ali has now come and gone, but he was doing great work down there in the North American Championship mix alongside the Lees (Dragon and Wes), Dominik Mysterio, and others. Think what Alexander could do in the same mix. That's what has to happen, if you're asking this guy. Give him the shot, and you'll see what you need to see.

Hated: It's too early for Asuka to join Damage CTRL (Quinlan)

Okay, this may be one of the more controversial opinions on this list, but hear me out on this one. I am all for Asuka as a heel, but I felt like her turning Friday night to join Damage CTRL was a little random and out of nowhere.

I will be the first to admit, I enjoyed the way Asuka turned her back on Charlotte Flair and Bianca Belair. Spitting the mist into Belair's face, hugging Damage CTRL, and the five of them laying out Flair, Belair, and Shotzi — super fun to watch play out, and this would've definitely been a "love" for me if it had come at a later time. But Kairi Sane just joined the group at Crown Jewel, and I think it's just a little too soon for them to already gain another member. All that being said, and with it looking like the group will be expanding as they gear up to out Bayley as the leader, I'm excited to see where this storyline goes.

Loved: The Warriors come out to play (Schneiderman)

Okay, so I completely get what is Olivia is saying and I think her opinion is extremely valid. That said, I personally loved Asuka turning heel again and joining Damage CTRL. For one thing, Asuka is just better as a heel, period, and I was a little disappointed when she turned babyface again after losing the WWE Women's Championship at Summerslam. I thought there was way more juice left in 2023 Heel Asuka, and I'm glad to see her back.

For another thing, while I understand the charge that the turn came out of nowhere, I think it still makes a degree of sense. Asuka has a far stronger connection to Kairi Sane, who she tagged with for more than two years as the Kabuki Warriors, than she did to Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair, who were her hated rivals as recently as like three months ago. She also used to team with IYO SKY as part of Triple Tails in STARDOM, and SKY and Sane were informally known as the Sky Pirates in "NXT" for a little while, so there's a whole tag team triangle going on there. I enjoyed the surprise of the turn, but I didn't think it was cheap considering the depth of Asuka's relationships in the new Damage CTRL.

And then there's the new Damage CTRL, which ostensible leader Bayley seems to be rapidly losing control over. Bringing in Kairi and Asuka strengthens SKY's position within the group, setting them up to potentially turn on Bayley down the road while also boosting their numbers for what I have to assume is the women's WarGames match at Survivor Series. And that's hardly the only potential direction; there are a lot of interesting ways the story could go, and I appreciate this move for the possibilities it opens up — as well as for the fact that a heel stable with Asuka, IYO, and Kairi is pretty bad-ass.

Of course, they're going to get their asses handed to them on plates at Survivor Series, but we'll hate that bridge when we come to it.