This week’s edition of WWE Smackdown Live continued the theme of the last few weeks as the show continues to put the spotlight on different performers. Some of the names that stepped up this week include Jinder Mahal, Tyler Breeze and Fandango.
All three of them were not seen as major players a month ago, yet now they are. It’s proof that anybody can take that next step at any time if they are given a chance.
Here’s a closer look at two of the big stories from this week’s show.
Jinder Mahal stole the WWE Title after Randy Orton’s victory over Erick Rowan
Randy Orton had a competitive No Disqualification match against Erick Rowan at the top of hour two. The reason they did this match is because it ended in a disqualification two weeks earlier following a distraction from Bray Wyatt.
I thought the match the was good because they utilized weapons such as a table (Orton sent Rowan through it), a kendo stick designed to weaken each man and a steel chair factored into the finish. This is the kind of match that could have gone five minutes with Orton winning easily while nobody watching at home would have been surprised by that. Instead, Rowan was given a lot of offense. There wasn’t a point in the match where I thought Rowan was going to win, but at least it was competitive.
The finish saw Orton avoid a Rowan charge into the corner, which led to Rowan hitting the steel chair that he wedged between the top and middle turnbuckle. That stunned Rowan enough that when he turned around, Orton dropped him with a RKO to win the match after about 12 minutes.
After the match was over, Orton did a promo about how the House of Horrors match at Payback will be an eternal hell for his opponent Bray Wyatt. Jinder Mahal’s music cut him off.
Mahal, who became the No. 1 Contender to the WWE Title last week on Smackdown, talked about how he has more wealth, more talent, more class and more culture than anybody who was there, including Orton. He claimed that people disrespected him because he looks different. Mahal spoke in Punjabi to upset the fans even more, so the fans replied with “RKO” chants. Mahal threw a punch, Orton blocked it and took control. Orton went for the draping DDT of his, but the Singh Brothers showed up and grabbed Orton’s legs. The three heels worked over Orton and Mahal hit a Cobra Clutch Slam to put Orton down.
Mahal left with the WWE Title belt while the announcers complained about it because the title belonged to Orton. There was also a scene in the parking lot where Mahal and the Singh Brothers left together in a limo with Mahal holding the WWE Title in the air. Remember, WWE likes to tell us that Mahal is rich, so of course he has a limo.
— WWE (@WWE) April 26, 2017
I thought the segment was well done. Could WWE have built up Mahal better in the weeks and months leading up to this push? Of course they could have. I covered that in an article earlier in the week. However, if you can forget about that long enough to just focused on the segment, you can hear the crowd hating everything Mahal is doing and giving him genuine heel heat that not a lot of wrestlers get.
The key point in the whole thing is Mahal stealing the WWE Title. That’s a classic heel move done to get the fans upset at him. The fans who take wrestling too seriously are going to be mad that he stole something which isn’t his. It’s classic wrestling booking designed to get a guy serious heel heat. This week’s angle was a good follow-up to Mahal’s win last week.
Naomi and Charlotte’s Smackdown Women’s Title match ended in controversy
The main event for this week’s show featured the Women’s Title match between Naomi and Charlotte Flair. They did the title match because Charlotte beat Naomi in a non-title match last week. Each woman did a promo before the match to show how confident they were going into it.
It was a good back-and-forth title match between two women who haven’t worked together that much. I thought last week’s match was disappointing, but they picked up the pace here. Better use of big moves, the timing was there and the moves looked crisp. I liked some of the near-falls with Naomi hitting her Rear View (jumping ass attack) to nearly get the victory. Charlotte came back by hitting an awesome Powerbomb counter and getting a two-count out of it. Her stunned reaction to it was perfect. When Charlotte went for a moonsault, Naomi got her knees up to counter it. That led to the interference finish after about 10 minutes of action.
The heel women trio of Natalya, Tamina Snuka and Carmella (along with James Ellsworth) made their way to ringside to attack both women. It led to a no-contest finish as they destroyed both Charlotte and Naomi with clotheslines and kicks. The crowd hated it because it was an exciting title match, so in that sense the interference worked because that was the reaction the heels were going for. The show ended with Natalya, Tamina and Carmella standing on the stage while Charlotte was down in the ring and Naomi was holding her title on the floor.
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) April 26, 2017
I assume that was done to start a face turn for Charlotte. I’m not sure if it’s the right time for it because Charlotte is one of the best heels in the company. Why go against a good thing like that? It will be good for the likes of Natalya, Tamina and Carmella because the spotlight will be on them more. I just worry a bit because if you have Charlotte, Naomi and Becky Lynch as faces then you have three really good faces who are arguably better than the heel counterparts. I hope it works out, but I do have a bit of concern simply because of how awesome Charlotte is at being evil.
As a side note, it’s nice to see the women in a main event again. It’s happened enough times in the last year that people don’t see it as a huge thing anymore. It feels normal. That’s a great thing for the evolution of WWE’s women’s division.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
Here is the rest of the action from Tuesday’s show.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin
This was a rematch from last week after Styles beat Corbin by countout. Kevin Owens was on commentary since he is likely going to defend the US Title against Styles at Backlash on May 21 — assuming Owens gets by Jericho at Payback on Sunday, which seems like a lock.
The match was fine, but I liked what they did last week better. This felt like they were stuck in second gear. They didn’t really do a bunch of believable near-falls or big moments like last week. Instead, it was wrestled at a slower pace. Corbin went for a Powerbomb, Styles countered with a sunset flip into a roll-up and got the win at 11 minutes with Corbin kicking out after the fall to show how close it was.
Post-match, Owens and Corbin attacked Styles. Sami Zayn made the save. He cleaned up by taking care of the heels and hit Corbin with a Helluva Kick to knock him out of the ring. Owens knocked Zayn out of there easily. Owens also hit Styles with a Popup Powerbomb to end the segment. That was a good angle after the match to advance two storylines. Zayn had another altercation with Corbin, which I’ll get to later.
American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) beat Primo & Epico Colon in a Beat the Clock Challenge Match
The Beat the Clock Challenge was done to determine the No. 1 contenders to Smackdown’s Tag Team Titles. American Alpha got the win at the 5:17 mark. I thought it went on a little too long because the Colons applied submission holds in the middle portion to drag it out. There was no hot tag sequence, which was weird as well. Chad Gable was the legal man in the match, Primo hit Jordan while he was on the apron and Jordan just went into the ring to clean house. American Alpha hit the Grand Amplitude to get the win.
Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze) beat The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) in a Beat the Clock Challenge Match
I thought this was a weird match in theory because both teams are heels. However, by the end of it, you could tell it was designed to turn Breezango into faces. Breezango got the win at 2:55 after Breeze hit a supermodel kick on Viktor and Fandango pinned Viktor after a Falcon Arrow slam. The crowd cheered the win for Breezango, who now get a Smackdown Tag Team Title match against the Usos at Backlash.
There are a lack of face teams on Smackdown right now other than American Alpha. It was a necessary turn for Breezango, who have been stuck in midcard land as a comedy heel team. Breeze dressing up as Nikki Bella repeatedly was not a good thing for his career. It’s nice to see them with a Tag Title match against The Usos at Backlash. While I don’t expect Breezango to get the win, this is another example of Smackdown trying something different.
Three weeks ago if you would have told me that Jinder Mahal and Breezango would be PPV title contenders I wouldn’t have believed you. Now it’s happening. Good booking or a mistake? Time will tell.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. Nakamura called Ziggler a jackass after an awkward Ziggler promo
The opening segment of the show featured Shinsuke Nakamura being interviewed by Renee Young. Before he could answer her question, Dolph Ziggler interrupted, took Renee’s microphone and she left.
Ziggler’s promo was weird. It started off as an arrogant heel thing where he didn’t let Nakamura talk, which was fine. Ziggler also did a bit talking about various things from Michael Jackson’s life to compare him to Nakamura since Nakamura is an eccentric guy. It didn’t come off that well with the crowd barely reacting to it. Nakamura finally got the microphone, spoke in Japanese and called Ziggler a “jackass.” That drew cheers and laugh, so at least that part was a success.
Ziggler kicked Nakamura in the stomach. Ziggler went for another kick, but Nakamura avoided it and gave him an overhead suplex. Ziggler left before Nakamura could do more damage.
The slow build for Nakamura continues. It’s obvious that WWE is saving his first main roster match for PPV, which most likely means a win over Ziggler at Backlash on May 21. This segment didn’t come off that well, but at least the “jackass” part and the physical action was good. The rest of it was a bit awkward.
2. Rusev delivered a message about his Smackdown debut
Rusev did a quick promo while talking in a building that looked like a gym just based on his attire. Rusev said he didn’t like Smackdown’s GM Daniel Bryan or Commissioner Shane McMahon. He said the only way he’ll wrestle on Smackdown is if he gets a championship match at Money in the Bank in June. If he doesn’t, he claimed he’ll go back to Bulgaria.
The reason WWE had him do this promo is because he had shoulder surgery last month. The recovery time was in the 2-3 month range. Money in the Bank is on June 18, so he should be ready go by that point. I assume the championship match will be the US Title assuming AJ Styles win it from Kevin Owens. If not, it’s possible he gets a WWE Title shot at Randy Orton if he’s still the champion.
I’m all for a strong push for Rusev. He’s a very good talent who was booked poorly in the last year. A reboot for him on Smackdown is something to look forward to.
3. Baron Corbin attacked Sami Zayn on Talking Smack
Sami Zayn was a guest on the Talking Smack show that airs on WWE Network after 205 Live. Zayn was on there talking about how Corbin was similar to what Sami had to deal with from Braun Strowman on Raw as a bigger angry guy. Corbin showed up and attacked Zayn on the Talking Smack at the end of the show. Part of the attack also featured Corbin shoving down a referee and he looked mad that he did it.
It was a good segment that should lead to a Corbin vs. Zayn match at Backlash next month. That will probably lead to a Corbin win. Of course I’d rather have Zayn win, but I doubt that’s going to happen.
Looking Ahead to WWE Backlash
The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Backlash in Chicago on Sunday, May 21. Here’s the announced lineup so far.
WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
United States Championship: Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles – The champion will be whomever wins the Owens/Jericho match at Sunday’s Payback event. It should be Owens.
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango)
Other likely matches are Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler. I’m not sure what the women’s match will be at this point. It could be a tag or a match featuring multiple women.
It was a good show that I liked a lot more than Raw. While it’s not as good as what Smackdown was earlier in the year when they would have a strong mix of great promos and matches, it was still enjoyable. I wasn’t bored by anything that took place.
I know that some of the critical fans out there might not find it as appealing because the names like Mahal, Breeze and Fandango were not pushed for years, yet here they are in prominent roles. That’s a good thing, though. We want to see changes and different people in the spotlight. Let’s see how they do before ripping on it for being a mistake. I’m optimistic about it because of how talented and deep WWE’s roster is.
I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of WWE Payback, which takes place this Sunday night.