This week’s Smackdown was the first episode since last week’s Superstar Shake-up that saw a lot of talented performers move over from Raw. Names like Kevin Owens, Charlotte Flair and Sami Zayn got people excited to see what they might do on the blue brand.
Yet here we are one week later with Jinder Mahal as the biggest topic of discussion. Really? Jinder Mahal? Yep. I’ll get to that shortly but first, let’s look at the main event.
AJ Styles earned a shot at the United States Title during last week’s Smackdown when he beat Zayn and Baron Corbin in the main event. On this week’s show, Styles was being interviewed backstage when Corbin interrupted and said Styles beat Zayn in that match, not him. Styles suggested they have a match later, which Corbin agreed to.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin by countout
They had a competitive match in the main event with Kevin Owens – the “Face of America” – joining the commentary team for the match since he will have to defend the US Title against Styles at a later date (probably Backlash next month). Owens is one of the best wrestlers to sit in on commentary because he’s able to build the story so well. He’s one of the smartest guys in WWE.
There were a few cool sequences in the match such as when Styles took Corbin down and applied the Calf Crusher submission, but he got to the ropes. Corbin made a big comeback as he hit his Deep Six slam for a two-count, which is what that move usually gets. I like how it looks and how it always generates a reaction, though.
The action spilled to the floor as they battled in front of Owens on commentary. Styles teased doing a move on Corbin outside the ring when Corbin gave Styles a back body drop onto Owens. It drew a big reaction from the crowd. Styles came back with a kick to Corbin’s head followed by a Phenomenal Forearm that sent Corbin over the barricade and into the crowd. Great sell by Corbin going over the barricade like that. Styles rolled back into the ring to win the match by countout after about 13 minutes.
Why would they do the countout finish? It’s probably because they don’t want to have Corbin lose a match for the second week in a row since he is expected to get a big push at some point this year. It’s also a case of WWE likely wanting to do the match again down the road, so this gives them another chance to make it a TV main event after Corbin asks for another match with Styles. I’m okay with countout finishes once in a while. They are done to further a story rather than end it.
Styles is in the right role as a top face on Smackdown. While I enjoyed his heel run a lot, it’s impossible to ignore how much the crowd loves him, so I’m glad WWE is embracing it now. Styles is the best wrestler in WWE and he’s going to have great matches with everybody including Corbin and Owens.
Jinder Mahal won a Six Pack Challenge to earn a WWE Title shot
That’s a bolded headline that I didn’t expect to write. Jinder Mahal has been a loser for much of his WWE run. If I had to guess, I would say he lost about 95 percent of his matches during his run on Raw and Smackdown over the last six years, yet here he is positioned as the No. 1 contender to Randy Orton’s WWE Title.
There was a Six Pack challenge with Mahal, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and Mojo Rawley. Since Smackdown is called the “Land of Opportunity” repeatedly, this was WWE’s way of giving guys a shot that may not normally be in this position. I understand the logic behind it, but what they didn’t explain is why the likes of AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tye Dillinger and others aren’t in the match. You’re telling me that Rowan deserves to be one match away from the WWE Title instead of all of those other names? It’s silly.
That’s an issue with WWE’s creative team. They don’t care about the little things that help make the story. It’s the same way they don’t tell us which wrestlers got traded for each other in the Superstar Shake-up last week. Maybe it’s my fault for watching a lot of television dramas like Designated Survivor, Prison Break, 24: Legacy, Better Call Saul, Fargo and others with great writing that explains things well. Pro wrestling is different in the sense that it’s a live television show, but they could still do a better job of explaining things.
The match was entertaining as all six guys got a chance to show what they can do while many of them had believable near-falls. The standouts in the match were clearly Zayn, Ziggler and Harper, who are the best workers in that group and the guys who bumped the most to make the others look good.
It looked like Zayn was going to finish off Mahal when suddenly two guys grabbed Zayn’s legs to prevent him from attacking. Those were the Bollywood Boyz, a signed WWE tag team that competed in last summer’s Cruiserweight Classic. Zayn was distracted by it, which led to Mahal hitting a Cobra Clutch Slam for the pinfall win after 19 minutes of action.
— WWE (@WWE) April 19, 2017
After the match was over, Mahal said the fans hated him because he wasn’t a typical All-American, his family had wealth, he had a higher education and he spoke two languages. Randy Orton congratulated him on the win, but also said that Mahal’s prize will be a RKO. Orton moved on to talk about Bray Wyatt since he is facing him at Payback on April 30.
Why did Jinder win? I think WWE realized they don’t have enough great heels on the Smackdown brand and they needed to elevate somebody into that spot. It reminds me of 2004 when Bradshaw went from being a tag team wrestler to JBL, who became a main event talent that had a long WWE Title reign as well. While I don’t think Mahal is going to win the WWE Title, it might happen because it’s an easy way for WWE to try to get people to believe in the guy.
Plus, give him credit for getting in the best shape of his career. I know people think he’s using steroids or something, but keep in mind that WWE stars are tested regularly and as Jinder noted recently, he’s never failed a test. Remember that Roman Reigns was suspended by WWE last summer, yet he still main evented WrestleMania. Jinder hasn’t failed anything, so fans can speculate all they want.
Another reason why Jinder got the win is because WWE wants to grow the product in India. It’s common sense, my friends. There are over 1 billion people in India (second biggest in the world to China) and they are airing more WWE programming than ever before. Mahal is from Calgary in Canada, but his family is from India. The Bollywood Boyz are from Vancouver in Canada, but they also have origins in India. These three men can be a stable while using the tag wrestlers to help Mahal win matches in a cheap way just like they did on this show.
If it was up to me, I would have had Zayn or Ziggler win the match. They could have told the story of Zayn coming very close to beating Orton, but he came up short. Ziggler is a credible wrestler who has been to the top before, so putting him over cold have been easy. I get why WWE went this route, though. They want to see what they can get out of Jinder and if he’s got the Bollywood Boyz working with him, he can get some cheap wins to try to build him up as a credible opponent to Orton.
The Mahal win has generated a lot of chatter on social media. I was bombarded with tweets about it. Some fans think it’s a great move because it’s somebody different, while others don’t like it because of how poorly Jinder has been booked for most of his career.
I’m cautiously optimistic about it because I give Jinder credit for getting back to WWE, getting in the best shape of his career and making the most of the opportunity. He’s a solid performer, so let’s see what he can do. If it fails, then so what? He can go back to the midcard. It’s worth a try.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
Here are the rest of the matches from Tuesday night.
Charlotte Flair defeated Naomi in a non-title match
The match was set up when Charlotte started the show demanding a title match. Naomi stood up to her and told her she won’t back down. Shane McMahon, the Commissioner of Smackdown, told them they would have a match this week non-title and if Charlotte won, then she gets another title match.
Their match was disappointing because they didn’t have much chemistry. It was as if they were told to not show off their athleticism because instead of doing the cool aerial moves they are both capable of, they stayed grounded for much of it. Charlotte won after 13 minutes by kicking Naomi in the back and then hitting the Natural Selection for the clean pin.
Since she won the match, Charlotte gets a Smackdown Women’s Title match on next week’s show. I’m not a fan of a champion losing non-title to build up a challenger. They do it too often and it makes the champions look bad. It’s better to make the champions look strong, so that when they do lose it’s a big deal. Anyway, the rematch for the title is on for next week.
Primo & Epico Colon defeated American Alpha
The “Shining Stars” name is gone for Primo & Epico. That’s a good idea since they were jokes on Raw while selling time shares for a resort in Puerto Rico. Might as well get rid of that dumb gimmick.
They were only given about three minutes with the crafty Colon cousins getting the win after Primo hit a kick to the head of Jordan with the ref not seeing it. Epico rolled up Jordan to win.
It was similar to Jinder Mahal earlier in the show. A new brand means a new opportunity even for long-term losers like these guys. Will it last a long time for them? Probably not. I think American Alpha will get their win back pretty soon, but at least this is better than using the Colons as a joke team because they are good in the ring.
Kevin Owens defeated Gary Gandy
Easy win for Owens in about 30 seconds. He did a bit calling himself the “Face of America” before the match while noting he’s from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which drew a lot of boos from the American crowd. Owens beat the “local wrestler” Gandy easily with the Popup Powerbomb. After the match, Owens sat in on commentary for the main event.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. Bray Wyatt Had Another Message For Randy Orton
(I know the thumbnail has Orton and Mahal on it, but trust me there’s a Wyatt promo there.)
Bray Wyatt did another promo for Randy Orton similar to last week’s Smackdown and Monday’s Raw as well. It was about building to the Wyatt vs. Orton “House of Horrors” match at Raw’s Payback pay-per-view on April 30.
This feud has lost a lot of the steam it had going into WrestleMania. Their match at WrestleMania was disappointing because it only went about 10 minutes and they didn’t get much of a reaction. Now they are on different shows, so they can only build to the rematch with promos on a video wall or in the ring. It’s a shame because I liked the story early on. It has suffered a lot since then.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura was given video package treatment
Shinsuke Nakamura debuted on Smackdown two weeks ago. Last week, he confronted Dolph Ziggler. This week, he didn’t appear in the ring. Instead, they just aired a video about him that you can see above.
There was also a brief interview and video package for Tye Dillinger as well.
The videos are fine because they help introduce the former NXT stars to the main roster and fans who may not watch NXT. I just think it’s a bit of a mistake to not have Nakamura on the show. He did wrestle in the dark match after the show for the fans in Louisville as he beat Dolph Ziggler.
3. Former WWE Superstar Rosey Passes Away
— WWE (@WWE) April 19, 2017
There was sad news this week because former WWE superstar Rosey (real name Matt Anoi’a) passed away late Monday night. He was 47 years old and a father of two boys and a girl. He is the older brother of Roman Reigns, who was home on Monday from Raw as part of a storyline. Their dad is former WWE superstar Sika. The cause of death is an apparent heart attack, but it’s not confirmed yet.
Rosey was best known for his run in the Three Minute Warning tag team with a guy named Jamal, who later became more well known as Umaga. He passed away in 2009 when he was 36. Rosey later became known as a “Super-Hero In Training,” aka “S-H-I-T,” along with The Hurricane as they formed a comedic tag team that was popular with the crowd.
He was well-liked and a lot of people in wrestling had nice things to say about him. I saw some instances on Twitter yesterday where some fans had nasty things to say to Roman about it. It’s disgusting that people would do that when Roman lost his brother, yet fans can’t separate a television performer from real life. Show some respect, please.
Looking Ahead to WWE Backlash
The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Backlash in Chicago on Sunday, May 21.
The only announced match for the show is Randy Orton defending the WWE Title against Jinder Mahal.
It’s also likely that Kevin Owens will defend the US Title against AJ Styles at that show, but it depends on Owens retaining against Chris Jericho at Backlash on April 30. Owens should win that match.
This week’s show felt like a bit of a step back from last week’s awesome effort, but it wasn’t that bad. The women’s match seemed off a bit, Jinder Mahal becoming No. 1 contender for the WWE Title was a shocking result to a lot of people and the main event was fine, but it was just a countout finish too.
It feels like Smackdown is in a bit of a rebuilding period these days while also featuring top-tier talent as well. I’m going to remain optimistic about things as usual, but I expect a bit more of a bumpy road going forward instead of the great shows week after week.
Next week on Smackdown: Naomi defends the Smackdown Women’s Title against Charlotte Flair. I’ll be back next week for a review of that and the rest of the show.