Roman Reigns has appeared occasionally on WWE SmackDown in 2023. The Tribal Chief last showed up on the blue brand in the lead-up to Crown Jewel. He went on to retain his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship against LA Knight at November 4th premium live event.
Reigns has been the top star on the blue brand for the past three years. His impressive undefeated run, and the entire Bloodline storyline is arguably the best part of the show. That said, SmackDown has undergone several major changes during his absence.
Let’s take a look at them (in chronological order):
#5. Jey Uso joined RAW
Jey Uso’s rise to the top is considered one of WWE’s best storylines of the modern era. The slow transition from Roman Reigns’ Right Hand Man to Main Event Jey rightfully positioned him as one of the most popular stars on the WWE roster.
The Tribal Chief was right in the middle of the ring when his cousin quit The Bloodline, SmackDown, and WWE. The decision, however, didn’t last very long as Jey found himself on WWE RAW right after Payback 2023.
#4. Judgment Day formed alliance with The Bloodline
Judgment Day and The Bloodline are the top factions on RAW and WWE SmackDown respectively. The two groups have ran roughshod on their opponents for as long as they’ve been around. They briefly entered into alliance earlier this year, but the partnership quickly faded.
Judgment Day and The Bloodline once again formed an alliance in October 2023. It is worth mentioning that Roman Reigns wasn’t around to witness the unholy union between the two factions on both occasions. The partnership did lead to some surprising outcomes.
#3. Asuka turned heel
Asuka spent the latter half of 2023 chasing after the WWE Women’s Championship. The Empress of Tomorrow collided with Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, and IYO SKY in her quest to reclaim the title she was awarded on WWE SmackDown.
Asuka would turn heel in one of the major moments during Roman Reigns’ absence from the blue brand. The former multi-time champion joined Damage CTRL days before Survivor Series: WarGames 2023.
#2. Rey Mysterio was put on the shelf
Rey Mysterio lost his United States Championship the same night Roman Reigns retained his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. The WWE Hall of Famer dropped the title to Logan Paul at Crown Jewel. He received another shocker on the November 10, 2023, episode of WWE SmackDown.
The former multi-time champion was betrayed by Santos Escobar on an episode that didn’t feature the Tribal Chief. Escobar turned heel on his mentor, and injured his leg by crushing it between the steel steps on the blue brand.
#1. Randy Orton returned to WWE SmackDown
Randy Orton lost 18 months of his career due to The Bloodline’s heinous assault. The Viper was brutally attacked by Roman Reigns and The Usos on the May 20, 2022, episode of the blue brand. He has since made a full recovery, and returned bigger than ever at Survivor Series: WarGames 2023.
WWE SmackDown General Manager Nick Aldis outbid his RAW counterpart Adam Pearce to bring The Viper to his former brand. Orton signed the contract to become exclusive to the Friday show, showing he isn’t done with the Tribal Chief and The Bloodline yet.