WWE SmackDown recap & reactions (April 28, 2023): The Draft
This week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown was largely built around the start of the WWE Draft, which is always kind of fun in the sense that change is coming and we get to learn exactly what that change will be. But it’s also a bit of a ball and chain.
After all, they have to interrupt their show to announce draft picks while still sorting through the stories they’re currently telling (and are about to be forced to wrap up sooner rather than later).
That’s part of the awkwardness of it all. They only made certain wrestlers eligible for the first night so they could avoid obvious issues like not having to instantly trade champions. But then that just makes it seem as though we’re all but getting a spoiler for the second day.
GUNTHER moved to Raw, so Austin Theory is surely headed to SmackDown, yeah?
They also had other obvious issues. For example, they had “war rooms” featuring what we were told were “the brain trust of Raw and SmackDown” fighting over who they would pick for their respective brands. But really they were just two doors with a Raw and SmackDown logo on them. We were never told who exactly those people are. They didn’t even bother to let us know if it was USA Network and FOX folks, in a battle of the networks.
In fact, the only time those doors opened is when a presenter was coming out with a card to deliver picks. To be fair, it was a good distraction, having the likes of Rob Van Dam and Teddy Long and Shawn Michaels show up to get a pop and read off some names. It just didn’t really mean anything.
That’s maybe the biggest issue of all — none of this really feels like it’s nearly as important as it’s supposed to. It doesn’t help that they just spent the past few months completely ignoring the brand split and having wrestlers from each brand appear on any show. Hell, Rhea Ripley is still a Raw wrestler and she’s been SmackDown women’s champion for a month now.
At least we’re halfway through!
Outside of the Draft, the one show long story was about The Usos challenging Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn for the Undisputed WWE tag team championship. Early on, they cut promos on each other. Nothing to write home about there.
But later, during a backstage chat, Jimmy & Jey were hyped up by Heyman while they were sitting in front of him, facing the other direction. When he was finished hyping them, he did the thing again — speaking like he was talking to The Usos but actually directing his words to Solo Sikoa, who was given some tape and told that tonight is the night this ends.
Whatever could that mean?!?
Then it came time for the match and it was moving along as expected — which is to say, they were having yet another good match — when they cut to backstage where Sikoa was watching with Heyman. A call came through, and Heyman delivered the news.
“That was the call. This is your night.”
And with that Solo took off to the ring.
Again, whatever could that mean?!?
Before Solo could get to the ring, he was chased off by Matt Riddle, who still has beef. They fought backstage and it seemed he was completely out of the picture.
Back in the ring, The Usos were getting the better of Owens before he managed to recover enough to get Zayn back involved. A Stunner was followed by a Helluva Kick and the pinfall came right after.
So what did it mean?
Well, we can’t know now. But the underlying message is that quite literally everyone in the family let Reigns down and even if the idea was for Sikoa to take care of business, he may need The Usos just as much as he needs Solo.
Either way, the tag team titles aren’t going anywhere just yet.
All the rest
- The “SmackDown LowDown” last week set up the first match of the evening, as LA Knight kicked up trouble with The Brawling Brutes and found himself in a singles match against BUTCH. They had a fine TV match that saw Knight go over clean, something the fine folks in Corpus Christi rewarded with cheers. Despite his booking, LA remains over as hell and he deserves the push he should have coming.
- The Street Profits were drafted to the blue brand and then instantly won a triple threat tag team match, defeating Ricochet & Braun Strowman and the LWO. Strowman, for his part, looks to be in damn good shape after reportedly suffering a concussion recently.
- Zelina Vega defeated Sonya Deville in a warm up for her match against SmackDown Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley at Backlash. It wasn’t much of a match but the big angle was Ripley returning to television and attacking her immediately after she won. That got a pretty solid pop, as did Ripley head butting Deville and scaring off Chelsea Green. Vega did lay her out before escaping to the back, showing that she can at least get one up on the champ. Does that mean she has a shot in the actual match? That’s what they want us to feel. They really drove it home by having Santos Escobar and Rey Mysterio give her a pep talk.
- AJ Styles is back! Actually, the entirety of The O.C. is back, as Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows also finally appeared on TV in a meaningful capacity for the first time in quite a while. Michin was also with them, and they also got to knock the rust off by putting the boots to The Viking Raiders & Valhalla.
- Shinsuke Nakamura got drafted to Raw but Karrion Kross was still sure to get a shot in on him backstage during an interview. Hey, at least they stayed up to date with the story they were starting to tell. They’ll finish that up in a match next week.
They managed to make this a decent enough show, despite the limitations of the Draft interrupting everything.