Welcome to the Wrestlepurists’ coverage of Smackdown for the August 25th, 2023.
The wrestling world lost legendary wrestler Terry Funk on Wednesday, and we send all our love to the family and friends of the Funker. To make this week even tougher, Windham “Bray Wyatt” Rotunda passed away yesterday. His passing sent shock-waves throughout the wrestling world, and tonight’s Smackdown will no doubt be a wonderful tribute to a great wrestler, and an even better man. We love you Terry and Windham.
TEN BELL SALUTE AND MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR TERRY FUNK & BRAY WYATT
The entire stage is filled with superstars as Michael Cole welcomes us to Smackdown. Cole says tonight we will honor both Terry Funk and Bray Wyatt. We have the ten bell salute and the moment of silence. Erick Rowan is in the front with Triple H. Man…we see an incredible video package for Bray that just made it all the more real. Please go out and watch this if you didn’t catch it live. The crowd sings “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and I have goosebumps The lights fade and we spotlight on Bray’s rocking chair. We love you so much Bray.
CELEBRATING TERRY FUNK
We see some photos of Terry Funk spliced in with tweets from wrestlers of the past and present. Really glad they are showing love to Terry as well.
Rey MYSTERIO DEFEATS GRAYSON WALLER
Michael Cole says the superstars are here to entertain us, and I’m glad they are. This is already a really hard show to watch-but I know I’ll be glad to have watched it. Rey Mysterio is kicking things off, and if there is a wrestler that can put some smiles on our faces tonight its Rey. His opponent is Grayson Waller, who last week was trying to stir the pot between Rey and Santos Escobar. The Grayson Waller Effect is announced for Payback with his guest Cody Rhodes. Wow, good for Grayson! I wonder what the set up will be there. Rey mocks Grayson’s dance and I’m not sure how Rey’s knee’s held up there lol. Tribute shows usually go with a solid amount of pure heel versus pure face matches, and Rey and Grayson are doing a good job here. Back from break and it’s all Grayson, using his size and age advantage to work over the United States champion. Grayson pulls Rey up for a powerbomb but Rey fights it off and hurricanrana’s Grayson into the post. Rey goes off the top rope into a seated senton, followed by a springboard crossbody. Grayson tries to reverse but Rey turns that tilt-a-whirl slam attempt into a tornado DDT for a two count. Grayson hits a float over Killswitch, just awesome stuff from the young upstart. Rey hits a clothesline that takes Grayson off his feet, followed by a running senton ala Bray Wyatt!! Rey sets Grayson into the 619 position but “A-Town Down” plays and the number one contender for the United States championship Austin Theory is out. Grayson rolls up Rey but only gets two. Santos runs down to the ring to brawl with Theory, but Theory attacks Santos’ knee to take him out. Rey hits a baseball slide to down Theory, but Grayson goes outside to take out both faces. After some jostling for position, Grayson goes for his finish, but Rey reverses into the 619. Rey drops the dime with the leg drop and wins.
I’m really looking forward to what I assume will be a Santos/Rey feud down the line. But for now, this is been a fun respite for the United States Championship.
BRAY WYATT BEST MOMENTS
We see a snippet of the Wyatt’s families first promo. There is a QR code on the screen that takes you to the full video. A great idea and also a fun reference to the popular QR codes during Bray’s White Rabbit run. We will see different videos throughout the rest of the night including the debut of the Fiend and Bray’s first World Championship victory.
CELEBRATING BRAY WYATT
Just like the Terry Funk one before, we see a bunch of great pictures of Bray spliced with tweets from some of the past and present stars. This continues throughout the night and doesn’t get any easier to see.
INTERVIEW WITH DAMAGE CTRL
Kayla Braxton is backstage with all three members of Damage CTRL. Kayla asks Iyo Sky about losing to Zelina Vega on multiple occasions. Balyely answers and says Zelina got lucky with her victories and that Iyo is a once in a generation talent. Bayley says we are in Iyo’s era, and for everyone to buckle up and enjoy the ride.
IYO SKY (c.) DEFEATS ZELINA VEGA (WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)
I do love that they’ve had Zelina pick up multiple victories over Iyo before getting a title shot. Too often in the women’s division they just give a wrestler a title shot because they’ve run out of wrestlers to be proper challengers. Iyo hits a powerslam early in the match that gets a two count. I love when a wrestler who is normally the “weaker” of the two uses their power game when they have the edge in that particular match-up. Zelina hits a hammerlock DDT on Iyo, but she forgoes the cover attempt and hits a Meteora clean for the close two count. Zelina follows up with another pinfall attempt, before her momentum is stopped with a beautiful springboard dropkick from Iyo. The champion goes for another powerslam, but Zelina reverses it into a DDT. Zelina tries for the Code Red, but she can’t hit it. Iyo catches Zelina with a powerbomb, but Zelina is able to recover in time to hit the Code Red. Iyo rolls out of the ring or we might have had a new champion. Zelina rolls out to retrieve Iyo, but Iyo throws Zelina straight into the steel steps. Iyo hits double knees into the corner onto Zelina. One moonsault later and Iyo Sky retains the WWE Women’s Championship. Really solid match, I love that Iyo didn’t wrestle her match and that it almost cost her. Iyo rolling to the outside after the Code Red and using the steel steps was just enough to put Zelina away.
CODY RHODES PAYS TRIBUTE TO TERRY FUNK
Cody Rhodes says he knows what he wants to talk about tonight. He tells a story of when he was with his father at eleven years old and they were waiting at the airport. Cody says he hears a man call his father an “Egg sucking dog.” Cody thought it was some crazy man ready for a fight. But when he looked, it was none other than Terry Funk. Cody says they get to call themselves WWE Superstars. Over the years they’ve been called a lot of other things: wrestlers, artists, even carnies. But there are very few who have earned the right to be called cowboys. Both Terry Funk and Bray Wyatt were cowboys in the best of the ways. Cody says Terry Funk has been a constant in wrestling for fifty years. And for fifty years, he has been constantly changing. Cody explains “the rub” and says that unlike most wrestlers who give the rub to a few stars, Funk did that for an entire company and revolution. I’m assuming he is speaking about ECW. Cody throws to a video package highlighting Funk’s career. Back from the video, Cody says Funk was extremely passionate. Cody announces that in Funk’s honor, this next match is a Terry Funk Hardcore Tag Team match!
THE STREET PROFITS DEFEAT The BRAWLING BRUTES
I LOVE that they booked a Hardcore tag team match in Funk’s honor. Butch and Ridge Holland are out first followed by the newly “dapper and deadly” Street Profits. I’m really happy to see a renewed focus on Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford, but for tonight this is just going to be a fun one. These two teams waste no time brawling, as all four men immediately head to the outside. We are thirty seconds into this match and Butch is trying to rip the ear off of Ford. The Funker would be proud! Butch hits two picture perfect dropkicks to take down each member of the Street Profits. Michael Cole tells an awesome story about growing up only being familiar with the WWWF territory so Terry Funk was mythical to him as he only read about him in magazines. Then when Funk came to the WWF, Cole was buying tickets left and right to see Funk in action. Love hearing that, that’s how Bryan Danielson was for me as a kid. Ford and Dawkins have a short lived two on one advantage over Ridge, but Butch moonsaults off the top to take out both. Ridge picks up Butch and uses Butch like Funk used to use a ladder to take out the Profits. Big pop from me here! It’s nonstop action from these four, with Ford laying out everyone with a big dive. Bobby Lashley’s music hits as the Street Profits try and recover and we head to break. Back from break and Lashley is just observing from outside. Both Butch and Ridge hit Sheamus’s Ten Beats of Bodhran on Ford and Dawkins respectively. Butch dives outside but Dawkins moves back to avoid it and then just runs right through Butch. Now it’s two on one in the ring with Dawkins hitting his patented spinning corner splash while adding in a spin kick after. Dawkins lifts Ridge up on his shoulders and Ford hits a Blockbuster that would have had a three count but not for Butch saving things at the last second. All four men exchange strikes and lay each other out. Dawkins climbs to the top and Ridge meets him there and hits a superplex. Ford hits the Frogsplash on a downed Ridge that Butch once again breaks up for the three count. Butch grabs a table from underneath the ring but accidentally bumps into Lashley. The All-Mighty stares down Butch, but doesn’t interfere. That moment of distraction does allow Ford to gain the upperhand as he sets the table up to his liking. Ford tries for a uranage on Ridge. But Ridge lifts Ford up and hits a move on both Ford and Dawkins at the same time. Butch snaps one of Dawkin’s fingers and goes up top but Lashley pushes Butch off the ropse. Lashley hits one hell of a spear onto Butch. Back in the ring the Street Profits hit their new finisher on Ridge through the table for the win!
Great, great fight. Some might complain that the Terry Funk Hardcore tag match didn’t have that many weapons, but it definitely didn’t lack in these four men beating the hell out of each other.
LA KNIGHT PROMO
We see a recap from Raw when LA Knight helped Akira Tozawa defeat the Miz. We then see a TMZ Sports video of them asking the Miz about LA Knight. Miz says Knight is a fad just like Napster, and if he keeps getting involved in the Miz’s business he won’t be making it to Wrestlemania in Philly. YEAH! Here comes the Megastar LA Knight, Bray Wyatt’s last ever opponent. It’s crazy to look back at just how big that feud was for Knight, who got to showcase just how talented he is to a mainstream audience. Knight has a microphone and says he will get to the Miz in a second, but tonight is about Bray Wyatt. Knight says sometimes your greatest foes can be your greatest helpers. He says him and Bray went through hell together, but what Bray was doing was getting Knight ready for anything. Knight says his heart breaks for Bray’s family. But when he looks around the arena and sees all the fireflies in the arena tonight, he can feel the spirit of Bray Wyatt in this building. Knight says he isn’t going to act like Bray and him were best friends, but he agrees “Thank you Bray.” Now onto the Miz, he says if LA Knight is just a fad that’s okay- because Miz is a never was. Even when the Miz had a stunt double, the Miz was in the background. Knight says if you’re looking for the end of LA Knight, forever is a long time (awesome line) and then challenges the Miz to a fight anytime. Knight ends the promo by saying “a wise man once told me…the next time you see me, run!” A nice tribute from LA Knight here, still allowing him to move his story along with the Miz.
LA KNIGHT DEFEATS FINN BALOR
LA Knight (Bray’s last opponent) is taking on Finn Balor who was Bray’s first opponent as the Fiend character. A really cool and fitting match up to honor Bray. As Balor and Knight start off, we learn that the Miz and LA Knight has been made official for Payback. That card is starting to really take shape, should be a fun show. Knight is on the middle rope, but Balor yanks Knight off by the feet and Knight’s head hits the top turnbuckle. Great spot as we head into break. They’ve been showing these Bray highlights all night, but it seems like the last one is the heartfelt promo Bray cut on Smackdown after his return at Extreme Rules. It ends with Bray telling the fans “thank you.” Back to the match, Balor hits a slingblade but Knight cuts him off before he can follow up. After a few nasty stomps, Finn is able to hit the shotgun dropkick into the corner. Balor goes up for the Coup De Grace but Knight rolls out. He scoops Balor up for the powerslam and then its “L A KNIGHT YEAH!” and the elbow drop for a two count. Knight goes for the BFT but Balor slips out and rolls up Knight for a two count. Balor takes down Knight and goes up again for the Coup De Grace. Knight however crotches Balor, knowing that if Balor hit that it would be over. Knight tries for the superplex but Balor fights him off. Knight jumps up to the top rope (still impressive every time he does it) and hits the superplex. Knight hits Balor with the BFT and gets the win. HUGE win for Knight over a former world champion in Balor, as he points to the sky in tribute to Bray.
THANK YOU BRAY WYATT
The lights start to go off Fiend style and we see Bray’s lantern in the middle of the ring. All the fireflies are out as we see a picture of Bray with wings on tron. The crowd is chanting “Thank you Bray.” We zoom into the lantern as we fade to black. Indeed, thank you Bray.
A postscript to this review if you will all bear with me. I vividly remember when Eddie Guerrero died, I was fourteen. I hadn’t lost any close family members yet, and finding out someone who I watched on television every week for so many years had passed was devastating. Eddie’s passing and subsequent tribute show forced me to grow up and confront death at a different level. Sure, heroes of mine had died before. But Eddie Guerrero was a giant. He wasn’t an average wrestler. He elicited emotion from his fans that very few wrestlers before him or since have done. That’s similarly how I look at Bray Wyatt’s passing. Bray Wyatt was, and god it’s hard to type was, a giant. His creative genius was must see television. Whether you loved the direction of his characters or not, it didn’t matter. You knew that Windham Rotunda would give his everything to his work. People always talk about the “it” factor, but there is never one good definition for it. Especially in wrestling, it’s often something you can point out in a performer after watching them awhile. Bray Wyatt had the it factor. He lit up every screen he was ever on. The Firefly Funhouse match is one of the most inventive and wonderful matches I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine what his family and friends are going through. I’m just a fan. But being a wrestling fan isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. So I just wanted to say I love you all. Anyone that stumbles upon this and reads it, I love you. I’m so glad you’re here and I hope you got to enjoy some wonderful moments from Bray’s career tonight. Bray Wyatt was a giant, and he will live forever in all of us.