WWE SmackDown is kickstarting its road to WWE PayBack 2023, which already has a plethora of rumored blockbuster matches. On this week’s episode of WWE SmackDown, Karrion Kross will battle AJ Styles in another rematch and Austin Theory will defend his United States Championship against Santos Escobar. In terms of segments, Iyo Sky will celebrate her championship victory and The Bloodline will continue storyline, especially after Jimmy Uso shockingly betrayed his brother, Jey Uso, in his SummerSlam main event title match against The Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns.
In other news regarding WWE SmackDown, there’s a lot of talk about Carlito signing with WWE and awaiting his big return to the ring. Conveniently, it also appears that WWE wants a Latino babyface champion. Since Santos Escobar is now the number one contender for the U.S. Title, it makes all the sense in the world for him to dethrone Austin Theory, become the next U.S. Champion, and elevate the LWO. However, Escobar might be a red herring because Carlito could do to Austin Theory what he did to John Cena when he first debuted in WWE.
With that being said, the following will focus on the scheduled title match between Austin Theory and Santos Escobar as well as the idea of Carlito returning to replace Santos Escobar and dethrone Austin Theory on the road to WWE PayBack 2023.
WWE SmackDown is scheduled to take place on August 11, 2023, live on FOX, and Carlito will replace Santos Escobar en route to WWE PayBack 2023.
Austin Theory (c) vs. Santos Escobar [United States Title]
Since there is this rumor about WWE wanting a Latino babyface champion, Santos Escobar would fit the bill for this description, especially after he won an entire fatal four way tournament and defeated the legendary Rey Mysterio to get to this spot. However, the crowd is not exactly behind Escobar in a way that screams “next U.S. Champion.” Since Theory lost to Escobar in a non-title match a few weeks ago, he will likely attack Escobar backstage as a nefarious revenge tactic to assure he does not have to defend his title against a major threat.
However, Carlito, who returned to WWE at BackLash to help LWO, actually signed with WWE and will make an epic return to replace Escobar and dethrone Austin Theory for the U.S. Championship just like he did to John Cena when he debuted in 2004.
AJ Styles vs. Karrion Kross [Grudge Match]
Karrion Kross will defeat AJ Styles here because it seems WWE is trying to push Kross on a redemptive path, and winning here will assure that they have not given up on him just yet. It is quite unknown where he goes from here, but a mid card U.S. Title run could be in his future. If a babyface Latino champion is truly crowned tonight, he will have to watch out for Kross because Kross is a monster heel ready for gold this fall. Styles is at that point of his career where he is at veteran status, so it makes more sense for him to put over Kross, who needs the win more.
Prediction: Karrion Kross
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