VANCOUVER, BC — Vancouver fans had to wait almost three years in between WWE televised events and a sell-out crowd of over 13,000 at Rogers Arena on Friday, January 5 for Smackdown reaffirmed that wrestling fans continue to be ravenous on the west coast.

Smackdown also played to a sell-out crowd at Rogers Arena back on February 14, 2020.

The main event angle saw The Bloodline lay waste to Randy Orton, LA Knight and AJ Styles and see a match that was supposed to determine a new number one contender be ruled a no-contest.

Fans were treated to one dark match before the show proper began, as Cedric Alexander took on Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson.
Steveson pinned Alexander after a power bomb in about six minutes. This marks the first time that Steveson has competed in front of a WWE crowd, as all his previous matches were at NXT events.

Match 1: Kevin Owens vs. Santos Escobar

Hot opener and Owens is someone beloved in Vancouver for his friendship with former Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau.

U.S. champion Logan Paul was also in Vancouver doing commentary. A funny moment occurred when Owens grabbed Paul’s Prime drink bottle and tossed it into the crowd.

The LWO chased out Angel Garza and Humberto Carillo and a great back and forth match followed.

Highlights included Owens hitting an avalanche fisherman’s buster and Escobar responding with a top-rope hurricanrana and a frog splash but Owens kicked out.

Owens finished with a pop-up powerbomb and then a stunner to win in 16:45.

Paul got on the mic after the match and made fun of Owens and the Canucks to major heat. Owens laid him out to end the segment.

Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits then arrived and spoke about their goals for 2024. The lights went out and when they were turned back on, a group consisting of Karrion Kross, Scarlett, the returning Authors of Pain and Paul Ellering appear and take out Lashley and the Profits.

It was a homecoming of sorts for AOP’s Akam, who wrestled collegiately at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University and went to high school in Abbotsford.

Michin's wardrobe issue is dealt with at ringside at WWE Friday Night Smackdown at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, on January 5, 2024. Photo by Ben Lypka

Michin’s wardrobe issue is dealt with at ringside at WWE Friday Night Smackdown at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, on January 5, 2024. Photo by Ben Lypka   MORE PHOTOS IN OUR SMACKDOWN VANCOUVER GALLERY

Match 2: Iyo Sky vs. Michin

There was a little bit of awkwardness early on and after a suicide dive onto the floor, Michin had a wardrobe malfunction for several minutes that she needed help with from the ref. Sky was forced to sell on the floor. That delay killed the crowd a bit, but Sky and Michin got them back as the match continued. An avalanche Styles Clash was a great false finish and eventually Sky won with the moonsault at 10:22. Some rough patches, but good match.

Match 3: Pretty Deadly vs. Butch and Tyler Bate

Bate was the mystery partner, but the problem was that it didn’t seem as though many fans were familiar with him. He did win them over and another solid match followed. Bate pinned Kitt Wilson at 7:49 for the win.

Match 4: Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles vs. LA Knight

All three guys got great reactions, but Orton was the most over. Orton has a history of receiving large reactions in Vancouver and has been consistently popular here for years. Styles was somewhat working as the heel, but the fans were solidly behind Orton for most of the match. As mentioned earlier, the Bloodline hit the ring at 15:45 and the match was a no-contest. Overall a very good match with a lot of heat. Disappointing to have that kind of finish, but it makes sense for the story they’re trying to tell (fatal four-way at the Royal Rumble).

There were three additional non-televised matches after the telecast ended.

Victoria’s Chelsea Green (wearing Canucks-inspired gear) took on Bianca Belair. Green got on the mic before the match and buried the Canucks. She also said her new home is in Florida and badmouthed Vancouver. Unfortunately, her work on the mic, while good, didn’t really get much of a reaction because it felt like fans wanted to cheer her. She got a great pop when they announced her as from British Columbia.
Belair won in just under eight minutes. Good action from both.

The second bonus match saw Rhea Ripley take on Ivy Nile. This match was a shortened version of their match on RAW and Ripley won in about eight minutes. Ripley was extremely over and came off as a massive star. She got cheered more than Nile, who has potential but needs more reps.

The final match featured Drew McIntyre vs. Ricochet. Great chemistry between these two and McIntyre won in about eight minutes. The Scottish superstar was very popular in Vancouver. McIntyre put over the Vancouver fans and said they treated him better than other recent crowds. He then put over Ricochet and handed him the mic to close the show. Ricochet thanked the fans for coming out and allowing wrestlers to live their dreams.

Overall, a fun night and a very successful return to Vancouver for WWE.

Most over:
1. Randy Orton
2. Rhea Ripley
3. Kevin Owens

Most heat:
1. Roman Reigns
2. Logan Paul
3. Santos Escobar

Match of the night:
1. Kevin Owens vs. Santos Escobar

TOP PHOTO: The returning Authors of Pain with Killer Kross at WWE Friday Night Smackdown at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, on January 5, 2024. Photo by Ben Lypka


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