WWE SmackDown 7/28/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Rllegends's weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the upstart, opinionated Jey Uso to our "SmackDown" live coverage's calculating veteran Roman Reigns! The actual wrestler versions of these two are set to clash at WWE SummerSlam next Saturday, and while neither were advertised, it was almost inevitable that both would show their faces Friday night. The only things advertised were the finals of the United States Championship Invitational Tournament between Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar, and a singles match between Karl Anderson and Karrion Kross, and boy, we were in for a surprise in terms of which of those matches we enjoyed more!

When going over the highs and lows of an honestly pretty lackluster show for the blue brand, we'll get into the latest Bloodline drama, the latest thermometer reading on LA Knight, and of course, possibly kayfabe injuries. These are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 7/28/23 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: Concussion watch

We had some stuff written down for Rey Mysterio vs. Santos Escobar, because the match was going really well headed into its second commercial break. Unfortunately, none of that really matters anymore, because Mysterio suffered what sure looked like a legitimate injury after taking a suicide dive from Escobar and seemingly hitting his head on the ramp outside the ring.

Could the injury be part of a storyline? It's always possible, but it didn't seem that way to us. Impressing the TV audience with a big move right before a commercial break, then coming back from commercial with Rey already being examined to see if he could continue — not WWE's style. We highly doubt it would have been produced like that if it was a storyline. The likeliest explanation is that Mysterio hit his head taking the dive, tried to continue, and wasn't allowed to for his own safety. The best evidence for the injury being a work was Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp tweeting as much shortly afterward, but then he deleted the tweet after hearing something different from a second source and later reported via Fightful Select that it actually wasn't a storyline after all. Great job, everyone.

So yeah, assuming that's true, that sucks. Hopefully Rey isn't badly hurt and isn't gone long, but if he's concussed, we hope he takes as long as he needs, and kudos to WWE's team for stopping the match when they did.

Loved: Karl Anderson's inert corpse will never be hunted, it is the hunter

Hang on. Just one second. Did we ... enjoy a Karrion Kross match? Believe it or not, we did. And no, not just because it was short, though that's the obvious joke. No, we liked this week's Karrion Kross match because it was short and funny.

So last week, Kross was shown backstage having beaten up the OC, continuing his feud with AJ Styles. This prompted OC member Karl Anderson to go on "The SmackDown Lowdown" and talk about he was "almost excited" about Kross' actions, "because that's opened up something inside of me that I haven't felt in a long time." He also said "When you mess with Karl Anderson, you're messing with the OC, and you're messing with the best. The OC will never be hunted, we are the hunters." And prior to his match with Kross this week, Anderson told the rest of the OC to stay backstage, because this was something he had to himself.

Then he came out and got wrecked. It was hilarious. He even got derailed by Scarlett at one point specifically because he had told his stablemates to stay in the back. Amazing. 10/10. This was far from being enough to make us start enjoying Kross as an overall act, but if we're ever going to get there, squash matches like this will be helpful. For now, he had a match and we didn't hate it, and that's something.

Also, we assume Kross' new finisher is called the More Complicated F-5. We are temporarily withholding judgment.

Hated: LA Knight finally gets a win

There you go, #YEAHMovement! Your boy got a win! We're legitimately very happy for you, even though your reactions if he'd lost would have been the stuff of legend.

Knight's promo segment with Hit Row and subsequent match with Ashante "Thee" Adonis immediately followed the Mysterio/Escobar match, so it's distinctly possible that Knight was winging his promo a little bit since he didn't expect to be cutting one, or at least not one quite that long. It's also been a while since Hit Row appeared on TV at all, so maybe the entire thing was a last minute time-filler. It's also distinctly possible that we still just don't see what the big deal is about Knight, because we weren't feeling this promo and we're not really feeling anything about this wrestler other than "It's cool that he's so popular." The fun novelty of him leaning into the Rock/Austin comparisons is already starting to wear off, since he's still just doing the two moves, and we don't really need to listen to the guy tell B-Fab or any other woman that she's clearly hot for him. Is it just the catchphrases, then? Is that the main reason he's taking off? Because it wouldn't be the first time that happened in wrestling history.

Anyway, none of this was for us, but it really is good to see Knight get a win on TV, and in our opinion, it's fine that he's starting with Hit Row squashes, officially beginning his journey as a babyface. We'd expect him to be in the running to win this SummerSlam Battle Royal thing as well, but as previously mentioned, it will still be entertaining for us if he doesn't.

Loved: Fashion recruiting

We're still not completely thrilled with the slow-moving nature of this Bobby Lashley thing, but at least it's advancing every week, even if just by incremental amounts. We also get segments like the one that aired this week, in which both Lashley and Montez Ford jump at the opportunity to improve Angelo Dawkins' fashion choices. We also seem to be making progress, based on Lashley's comments, towards a stable that includes Lashley, the Street Profits, Trick Williams, and Carmelo Hayes, which we mostly love the idea of (cowards, have Bianca join the group too, cowards).

So yeah, fun little segment. As previously mentioned, it wasn't the best episode of "SmackDown" overall, so we had to call this brief segment out for getting us excited for the future. We will be very interested to see what happens on this weekend's Great American Bash PLE, and whether Hayes loses his "NXT" Championship to Ilja Dragunov, presumably in preparation for a main roster call.

Hated: What match are we building to again?

The WWE women's division content this week was weird, to say the least. They're supposed to be building to Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair at SummerSlam, but it seemed to us that there are suddenly two stories happening here instead of one (and maybe there always were).

One the one hand, there's Flair and Belair, who ended up as tag team partners this week for extremely dubious reasons, and of course their opponents were the women's tag team champions, Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville, because why would WWE want to make the new champions look strong after their title win and also it's not like there are any other women's tag teams anyway, since Kayden Carter and Katana Chance have apparently vanished into the ether. Of course the match turns into a game of "Anything you can do, I can do better" between the singles competitors, and of course the drama in the match is not which team will win, but which member of the winning steam will score the victory. That can be compelling enough in some cases, but not here, when Flair and Belair are involved in a three-way feud for a championship neither of them holds.

The other member of that feud is Asuka, who had a backstage segment not with either of her SummerSlam opponents, but with IYO SKY, holder of the women's Money in the Bank briefcase. Obviously we won't know this until SummerSlam itself, and probably after, but this episode felt like the women's division was slightly jumping the gun, laying groundwork for singles feuds between Flair and Belair and Asuka and SKY. Not the worst idea in and of itself, but strange to see right before the triple threat championship match.

Speaking of which, if we had to guess at this point, we'd say Charlotte and Bianca cost each other the title, Asuka retains, and then IYO cashes in. Lord knows we can't imagine a Flair/Belair WrestleMania match that doesn't involve gold, but if we're already kicking things off in August, they can let the other two have some time in the sun first.

Loved: The Tribal Chief's last stand?

You know it's kind of a rough episode of "SmackDown" when we didn't get super into the Bloodline storyline this week. The opening Jey Uso/Roman Reigns segment was fine, but all over the place, mostly just recap for anyone who hasn't been keeping up. WWE does this sometimes, especially when the feud has already reached its boiling point and there's really nothing left to do but have the match, but there's still another episode of TV left beforehand (we know, there's technically two episodes of "SmackDown" left before SummerSlam, but we'd assume next week is basically a SummerSlam pre-show episode headlined by Austin Theory vs. Santos Escobar or something). Even then, though, you're a fool if you think we didn't pop for "Main Event Jey Uso is now in your city!"

Living up to his nickname, Jey also main-evented "SmackDown" this week in a match against Grayson Waller. This was probably the best match of the night, but it's not like there was stiff competition, and we'd probably slap it with the "fine" label — it was a perfectly well-executed basic wrestling formula match where the heel is in control for a long time and the babyface pulls of the comeback, and with Reigns, Sikoa, and Heyman all coming down to ringside, it wasn't really a match that had anything to do with Waller narratively, and that showed.

Still, it was good to see Jey win a "SmackDown" main event headed into SummerSlam. We also largely enjoyed the post-match fighting, even though we're confused as to why Roman held Solo back last week only to deliver not one, but two Spike/Spear combinations seven days later. We liked how it looked like Jey was going to come out on top, but there was still too much time left and he was still outnumbered, and eventually he got leveled. Defection or no defection, without Jimmy around, Roman still has the numbers advantage, which has long been the thing he needs to not have if he's losing the championship. The Bloodline still hasn't fallen completely.

Does that happen at SummerSlam? The main reason we loved these Bloodline segments this week is because they made us feel like there's a real chance Jey wins that big gold belt. Maybe Solo turns on Reigns mid-match, maybe Jimmy comes back, maybe Sami Zayn gets involved, who knows. But all the stuff about Roman still being Roman without the title and Jey being nothing if he loses makes me feel like he's winning, and WWE does historically love to show the eventually winner of a match getting laid out the week before. Even though every cell in my brain is screaming at me that WWE is going to screw this up, these segments did a great job of giving me hope.

Which means it'll hurt even more when they do screw it up, of course, but hey — that's pro wrestling for you.

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