The last WWE program before Payback on Saturday was this week’s SmackDown. The Friday program was created to set up the high-profile live event, from John Cena declaring that he would host to various angles revealing the storylines’ penultimate chapters before they eventually came to a close. On Friday, Grayson Waller and Austin Theory caused the LWO some problems, while Jimmy Uso was roaming around in a foul mood.
Loser: Cena’s Opening Promo
Although it was nice to see John Cena back on television and he received a lot of cheers for it, not many things that transpired here made sense. Cena praised the audience for giving him the chance to return for a few months as he revealed that he would serve as the special host at Payback. The subsequent back-and-forth felt less like two people trying to get the last word in and more like two guys trying to advance the Bloodline plot as Jimmy Uso intervened and demanded to know why Cena was there.
Then then, this was Cena’s first appearance following his comeback. There shouldn’t be an excessive amount of pressure to use him as a pawn before Payback. However, it is unlikely that he will be involved in The Bloodline, and it seemed like he was only there to irritate Jimmy. There may have been more effective methods to utilize Cena and launch his comeback.
Winner/Loser: LWO Loses to Theory and Waller
The evening’s opening competition was a tag match. Grayson Waller and Austin Theory, two singles wrestlers that seem to do well together, defeated Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar. Mysterio was the target of Theory and Waller’s attacks in the opening moments of the bout, which prompted Escobar to step in and defend Mysterio. The pivotal moment occurred when Escobar moved Mysterio out of the way and executed the move when Theory was going for a chop block. Escobar appeared to re-injure his knee, and Waller successfully executed the “Rolling Thunder from Down Under” to earn an unexpected victory.
This bout did a good job of raising interest in the forthcoming matchup between Mysterio and Theory at Payback. Additionally, it hinted at potential conflict between Escobar and Mysterio because Escobar gave his life and cost their team the game. As The Aussie Icon prepares for his interview at Payback on Saturday, WWE seems to be on his side.
Backstage, AJ Styles and Jimmy Uso got into a fight, and as things got physical, Solo Sikoa stepped in and killed Styles. Jimmy responded that no one could tell him what to do after he said that Jimmy couldn’t choose his fate in The Bloodline. Styles then issued a challenge to Solo for a later-in-the-evening match.
Winner: Lashley Officially Introduces His Few Faction
Bobby Lashley came out The Street Profits and introduced them as a tag team that was now under his direction even though the group didn’t yet have a name. He warned everyone in the WWE locker room that they were coming for everything.
There is still much that needs to be done with this organization, but now that they are recognized by WWE, it will be interesting to watch where they go with it.
Winner/Loser: LWO Loses To Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro would have the opportunity to compete against the tag team champions in a non-title match because the LWO made another appearance. They fought well up until Owens and Zayn appeared to tire of playing around, at which point they gave up. The match had a predetermined outcome once the champs turned up the switch. The LWO had a difficult night because they did poorly in the win column.
The LWO didn’t put on a strong performance, and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens didn’t really need a match less than a day before their fight against Finn Balor and Damien Priest. The in-ring action was decent, but it wasn’t a strong showing for the LWO. In summary, there didn’t seem to be much of a reason for this fight.
Winner: LA Knight Promo With The Miz
Before Payback, LA Knight and The Miz engaged in a verbal duel that was advertised as a face-to-face. When things became physical, The Miz prevailed. Knight attacked him in the entranceway when he attempted to leave, and WWE officials had to break them up. The discussion was heated, and Knight successfully argued that he had earned his way up the WWE ladder. The Miz threatened to take Knight back to the year 2003, when he was preparing his WWE commercials in a rat-infested apartment.
There was a little bit of everything in this exchange, including a vicious fight that heightened the hostility between these two. Few people would likely select Saturday’s game as the game of the evening, so igniting the rivalry a bit makes a lot of sense.
Winner/Loser: Shotzi Defeats Bayley
Weeks of anticipation for Shotzi to exact her retribution on Bayley reportedly resulted in a SmackDown bout where the victor would be overshadowed by Damage CTRL’s interference and Charlotte Flair’s assistance. Even though Shotzi won, it’s hard for me to complain because it felt more like a “how do we finish this off?” type of match. The match itself was good, albeit Shotzi’s DDT on Bayley at the finish was a little stiff.
Winner: Solo Sikoa Picks Up Win Over AJ Styles
Sikoa defeated The Phenomenal One in the show’s main event with ease thanks to some unanticipated assistance from Jimmy Uso, who earlier in the night seemed to leave the venue. Even Sikoa seems astonished to get Jimmy’s assistance. He was so angry that after the game, he attempted to attack his older brother but was stopped by Paul Heyman, who wanted to maintain order. After the match, Jimmy superkicked Styles and scored a top rope splash. The show concluded with Jimmy raising a single finger in recognition of Roman Reigns or as a message to Jey.
This final section has a lot going on. The contest was excellent and well worthy of the main event. However, what was Jimmy up to? What message does he want to convey?