WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 17

Erik BeastonMarch 17, 2023

WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 17

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    Sheamus and Drew McIntyre battled for a shot at the IC title in Friday's main event.
    Sheamus and Drew McIntyre battled for a shot at the IC title in Friday's main event.Credit: WWE.com

    There was no better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day Friday night than with The Celtic Warrior, Sheamus, who battled friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend Drew McIntyre for a shot at Intercontinental champion Gunther at WrestleMania 39.

    That match headlined a broadcast that also featured a confrontation between Sami Zayn and Jey Uso, a mixed tag team match and an appearance by 2023 Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes.

    What went down, who cashed their ticket to The Showcase of the Immortals, and what did it mean on this Road to WrestleMania?

    Find out with this recap of the March 17 episode of WWE SmackDown.

Match Card

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    Announced in advance for Friday's show were:

    • No. 1 Contender's Match for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship: Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus
    • Mixed Tag Team Match: Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega vs. Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley
    • Cody Rhodes appearance
    • Sami Zayn and Jey Uso confrontation  

Cody Rhodes Kicked Off The Show

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Cody Rhodes attempted to be the mediator between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens Friday night, bringing them together in their battle against The Bloodline as WrestleMania 39 approaches.

    It did not work.

    Despite his and Zayn's best efforts to sway Owens, The Prizefighter questioned why he would want to align himself with someone who does not want to be his friend, then walked out.

    This was another excellent bit of storytelling as Owens has had his feelings hurt but, more importantly, is clearly seeking to rekindle his friendship with Zayn.

    Something that Sami has repeatedly suggested may not be in the cards, stating "we don't have to be friends to take down The Bloodline."

    It feels like a lack of communication between the two and what their real feelings are, something the audience can invest in because it permeates their everyday lives. Miscommunication is something that has ruined relationships, ended friendships and left many asking "what if," as is the case here.

    Add in stubbornness on the part of both men and you have a friendship that is going to take work to repair.

    WWE @WWE

    "We're not just friends, we're brothers." 😭<a href="https://twitter.com/FightOwensFight?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FightOwensFight</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/SamiZayn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SamiZayn</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SmackDown</a> <a href="https://t.co/GVz0GivnaQ">pic.twitter.com/GVz0GivnaQ</a>

    Work that began after the commercial break, when Zayn approached Owens backstage and told him they are friends and that he loves him, to which a visibly affected KO responded by driving away from the arena but not before repeatedly looking over his shoulder at his buddy.



    Top Moments

    • "I do want to point out that I have the utmost respect for my opponent, Roman Reigns," Rhodes said to kick off his promo.
    • Rhodes called out Owens, then Zayn, looking to play mediator between the two friends.
    • "I have an incredible love and respect for you, Kevin Owens," Rhodes said before explaining KO's role in bettering his livelihood after he left WWE in 2016.
    • "If there is something you need to get off your chest, tell it to me!" Zayn implored Owens.
    • "Every single one of these people wants to see you guys back on the same page!" Rhodes said, and the fans supported that assertion.
    • "We can be the ones that bring down The Ones," Zayn told Owens.
    • "We don't even have to do this as friends. We just need to do this together," he continued.
    • "Why would I fight for someone who doesn't even want to be my friend? Cody, thank you for putting this together, but I'm all set," Owens said before walking out on The American Nightmare and Zayn.

Mixed Tag Match: Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega vs. Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Perhaps it was overconfidence or, maybe, Legado del Fantasma was simply that good, but Dominik Mysterio and Rhea Ripley came within seconds from being upset by Santos Escobar and Zelina Vega in a Mixed Tag Team Match.

    Vega, in particular, was great as she raced around the ring, using her speed advantage and flying ability to keep her opponents off-guard. At one point, she laid Ripley out with a tornado DDT and added a hurricanrana to Mysterio.

    It was that last move, though, that spelled her downfall, as Ripley took advantage of the momentary distraction and delivered Riptide for the pinfall victory. It was a harder-fought victory that saw The Judgment Day go over on their road to WrestleMania but also really put Legado del Fantasma over as a threat on Friday nights.

    Vega looked great, had the fans on her side as she battled the bigger Ripley, and the teases of an upset were fantastic. It was a strong enough performance that those in power should consider giving the former Queen of the Ring more in-ring opportunities.


    Mysterio and Ripley defeated Vega and Escobar



    Top Moments

    • Escobar and Vega rolled into the commercial, the latter delivering a big moonsault that wiped Ripley out on the floor.
    • Ripley sold the hell out of a tornado DDT by Vega.
    • Mysterio generated great heat by breaking up a pinfall attempt by Vega.
    • Ripley obliterated Vega with a nasty Riptide.
    • "Great...he's got a mic," Michael Cole said on commentary, his disgust for Mysterio becoming more apparent, and hilarious, with every passing week.

Rey and Dominik Mysterio Promo

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Will he or won't he?

    It is a question that has been asked of Rey Mysterio in relation to a potential match with his son, Dominik. Per the Hall of Famer himself Friday night, the answer is a resounding, "no."

    Rey refused the match with Dominik, despite firing up at one point and admitting that if any other spoiled brat stepped to him for a match at Mania, he would have gladly beat his ass. But, he said, Dom is his son, and the disgrace of a father striking his son is not worth it.

    It was a great in-ring promo segment from these two, maybe the best of their build to WrestleMania so far. We finally saw the emotion out of the 2023 Hall of Famer, a hint that his son is pushing him closer and closer to the match he is so desperately trying to avoid.

    We will eventually get there, and the pop for the announcement will be enormous. For now, this is a story that feels as though it still has another segment or two in it before we get to the endgame and can officially look toward the anticipated showdown.



    Top Moments

    • "I made sacrifices so you, your mom and your sister could have the life I could only dream of," Rey told his son.
    • "What happened when you got in trouble? Oh, yeah, the Mysterio name would bail you out." 
    • "I'm being inducted into the Hall of Fame. This hurts, it really hurts. I would love nothing more than to have you standing by my side on that stage," a tearful Rey said as chants of "you deserve it" broke out in the arena.
    • "My biggest regret is what you've become."
    • "If someone like you...a punk-ass kid...called me out at WrestleMania, I would gladly beat their ass. Unfortunately, you're my son, and fighting you would be the greatest disgrace as a father," an impassioned Rey said.
    • "I'm not going to fight you now, I'm not going to fight you (ever), and I'm not going to fight you at WrestleMania," Rey said definitively. 

Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez vs. Tegan Nox and Emma

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Prior to the match, Wade Barrett announced two WrestleMania Showcase matches, one men's and one women's, with qualifiers beginning Friday. Up first, Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez squared off with Tegan Nox and Emma.

    On paper, the winner appeared obvious. It played out that way in execution, too.

    Morgan and Rodriguez overcame a solid effort by Emma and Nox to secure the win, with the former SmackDown Women's champion pinning her Aussie opponent following ObLIVion.

    This would have meant substantially more had Emma or Nox been presented as threats in the women's division at all prior to the contest. They were outmatched from a star-power perspective, and the fans in attendance hardly believed they would score the upset.

    It's an issue that faces so many of these qualifying matches that are meant to be high-stakes but are, ultimately, more predictable than not thanks to booking trends.

    Expect more of the same as WWE fills the three remaining women's spots and all four men's in the coming week or so.

    On a positive note, props to Morgan, who worked her ass off to get better, become champion and one of the most popular stars in the division, and now she has a well-earned spot on the WrestleMania card.


    Morgan and Rodriguez defeated Nox and Emma



    Top Moments

    • "She's been written off several times, but she never wrote back," Wade Barrett said of Nox on commentary, putting her and her many trials and tribulations over in a way that WWE Creative has not to this point in her comeback.
    • Rodriguez powered out of a tilt-a-whirl and delivered the Tejada Bomb.

Charlotte Flair Promo

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    Credit: WWE.com

    A rivalry that has been waged primarily on the mic turned physical Friday night as Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley threw down in a chaotic brawl that could not be contained.

    The promo material was more of the same, with Ripley vowing to not only take The Queen's title but strike fear in her, too. Dominik Mysterio talked trash, Ripley dealt a cheap shot to her WrestleMania 39 opponent and the fight was on.

    This feud needed this brawl.

    The match is going to be great, but from a creative standpoint, it felt way colder than it should have given the participants. Much like the Raw title match between Bianca Belair and Asuka, the match felt like it merely existed rather than being a legitimate, main event-worthy contest.

    This was a step in the right direction, and with two weeks of television left, there is still plenty of time for Flair and Ripley to pull the story up to their level.



    Top Moments

    • "The more things change, the more they stay the same. When I was a kid...wrestling was built on Rhodes as a challenger and Flair as a champion," The Queen said, pointing out the similarities between now and then.
    • "I am dangerous, I am bloody good at what I do, and everyone fears me. Except for you," Ripley said.
    • "You're staring me down without a hint of fear in your eyes, and to be quite frank with you, that pisses me off."
    • "After WrestleMania, you're going to learn to call me champion, and you're going to learn to fear me," Ripley said.
    • Ripley leveled Flair with a cheap shot, and a brawl ensued, spilling to the floor before agents and security attempted to break it up. They failed.  

Xavier Woods vs. LA Knight

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The rivalry between New Day and LA Knight continued this week with Xavier Woods going it alone without his injured tag team partner, Kofi Kingston, against the braggadocios heel.

    A competitive match concluded in a somewhat surprising fashion with the Up Up, Down Down host defeating Knight with the Back Woods.

    Knight is a guy who has appeared across brands, and based on the reaction of the audience, he is winning over fans. He is cocky, confident and has charisma for miles. He is a guy who could step into a feud at any level right now and get over as either a babyface or heel.

    Why he has been so inconsistently utilized, losing matches like this, is a question for which there may be no logical answer except for, maybe, one: Woods is the company's resident video game guru and hugely successful host, and he went over on the day WWE 2K23 was released.

    It feels strategic more than creative, which still does Knight no favors.


    Woods defeated Knight



    Top Moments

    • Backstage, a frustrated Knight blew off an interview with Kayla Braxton and confronted Rey Mysterio. He offered to fight Dominik Mysterio for him. "You can call me LA Mysterio. I'll be a deadbeat dad, too." It did not end well for him. 

No. 1 Contender's Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus

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    Credit: WWE.com

    With an opportunity to challenge Gunther for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania at stake, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus rekindled their two-decade-plus rivalry in the in-ring main event of Friday's show.

    The typically strong, hard-hitting matchup was as-advertised, with both former WWE champions pummeling each other before sprinting across the ring with their trademark finishers. Sheamus went for a Brogue Kick, McIntyre countered with a Claymore, and the result was...a double countout?

    Gunther, who was joined by Imperium at ringside, entered the squared circle and demanded answers. Then, after a few cheap shots, he got one: at WrestleMania, he defends in a Triple Threat Match against both men.

    It was an outcome we all knew was coming and by no stretch of the imagination needed to include this match. Was it good? Sure, but the outcome could have been achieved with last week's tie and saved all of us this match.

    Sometimes, matches do not need to exist solely for the sake of existing, and this was certainly one of those cases. Just make the match last week and move forward.

    At least the match in question was another banger.


    Sheamus and McIntyre fought to a double countout



    Top Moments

    • Gunther scolded Barrett for asking him unprepared questions on commentary.
    • McIntyre and Sheamus attempted the Claymore and Brogue Kick at the same time, wiping each other out.
    • A frustrated Gunther entered the ring and demanded answers, only for Adam Pearce to announce that at WrestleMania, the Intercontinental champion will defend against Sheamus and McIntyre in a Triple Threat match.

Sami Zayn and Jey Uso Face-to-Face

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    Credit: WWE.com

    For the first time since Jey Uso's stunning betrayal of him, Sami Zayn came face-to-face with a man he once considered a brother in The Bloodline.

    A fired-up Uso admitted he never trusted Zayn initially, but he let his guard down, then was proved right.

    Zayn took exception, telling Uso he had the choice to stop taking Roman Reigns' abuse and be his own man. He claimed that Jey was not mad at him for hitting The Tribal Chief with the steel chair but, rather, because Uso did not get to do it first.

    Ultimately, Uso attacked, and he was soon joined by brother Jimmy as the numbers game threatened to leave Zayn unconscious yet again.

    Then, Kevin Owens returned to the arena and unleashed hell on the tag team champions, clearing them out of the ring and embracing Zayn in the moment that weeks of television had built to.

    It was a magical moment that the fans in attendance reacted to accordingly, the best story in recent WWE history writing another satisfying chapter as Cody Rhodes watched from the locker room, a smile a mile-wide on his face.

    This was extraordinary pro wrestling storytelling, and the match between Zayn, Owens and The Usos at WrestleMania absolutely should be the main event. The story is there, the in-ring will be, too, and the crowd will be molten hot.

    Resist the urge to put something else ahead of it on the card, WWE, because nothing will top it.


    A++++++++ (probably not enough pluses)

    Top Moments

    • "From day one, I didn't trust you. I didn't want you around my family at all. Then, week by week, they started to like you," Uso said of his Bloodline teammates amid his continued distrust of Zayn.
    •  "As a boy, I thought it was my job to protect my family."
    • "You are what I always thought you were: a fake ass Uce!"
    • "You choose to take Roman Reigns' abuse over and over again. It was your choice!" Zayn exclaimed.
    • "You're not mad that I hit Roman Reigns with that steel chair, you're just mad that you didn't get to do it first."
    • "You always have a choice."
    • Owens popped up behind The Usos and proceeded to whup that ass, clearing them from the ring before embracing Zayn in a phenomenal moment.