This week’s Smackdown Live is the second straight night of WWE’s Superstar Shake-up following last night’s Raw, which you can read about here. There have been a lot of rumors all week, so let’s see what happens together.

Live from Boston, Massachusetts this is Smackdown Live for episode #921. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

There was a live shot of the capacity crowd as Tom Phillips welcomed us to Smackdown live and then some music hit…it was Kevin Owens.

Owens made his entrance to a big ovation because the crowd reacted to Owens moving from Smackdown to Raw. He was in a suit and had the US Title on his shoulder. The announce team of Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield and Byron Saxton (traded for David Otunga) were shown on camera.

Kevin Owens, the United States Champion, was in the ring wearing a suit and looks like he shaved. Owens welcomed us to the “brand new” Kevin Owens Show because he’s there now. Owens: “Canada is much better than the United States.” True. I’m also Canadian. Don’t boo me. Owens mentioned the Montreal Canadiens beating the Boston Bruins, which led to more boos from the crowd. Owens spoke in French to get more heat. Owens talked about how he could beat the hell out of anybody in the locker room and now that he’s on Smackdown Live that’s what he is going to do. Owens said he was there to be the new face of America.

Analysis: Great heel promo by Owens. When he was doing the comedic stuff before he would get cheered occasionally. That was a promo designed to get booed heavily and it worked. That’s the way it has been with him since the Jericho friendship ended.

Baron Corbin interrupted Owens. Corbin walked out with a microphone to say that he’s sure that Owens can beat up most of the people in the arena, most of the people in the locker room, but Owens can’t beat up Corbin. It led to Corbin saying that he beat Ambrose last week while Ambrose beat Owens easily on Raw. That led to Corbin saying technically he is owed a championship match. Owens told Corbin he doesn’t deserve a title match.

Sami Zayn’s music hit and the crowd cheered wildly as Zayn made his entrance. Owens was mad about it saying Zayn can’t be here. Crowd chanted “Sami” repeatedly for Zayn. It led to Zayn saying that he is finally on Smackdown Live. Corbin told Zayn that nobody cares that he is there. AJ Styles’ music hit.

Styles made his entrance to a big ovation from the crowd. Lots of cheers for him. The crowd chanted “AJ Styles” for about 30 seconds as Styles waited it out. Styles said this isn’t the Kevin Owens Show, this is Smackdown Live. Styles said this isn’t about Zayn or the Lone Wolf, it’s about him. Styles said this is about the house that AJ Styles built on Smackdown Live and he’s still here.

Daniel Bryan, the Smackdown GM, showed up to a loud ovation. He was greeted by “yes” chants. Bryan said that Owens is facing Chris Jericho for the US Title match at Payback (on April 30) and whoever wins that match will be a part of Smackdown Live. Bryan said that title won’t be defended on the show before Payback.

Bryan set up a number one contender’s triple threat match for a future shot at US Title: Styles vs. Corbin vs. Zayn. The crowd loved it as the segment ended.

Analysis: I thought it was going to be tag match, but they went triple threat instead. At least they explained why Owens can’t defend the title right away because they have to wait until after Payback. Explanations are a good thing. There was a lot of energy in the arena during this segment too, so that’s another great sign.

Later: Usos vs. American Alpha and Shane McMahon addresses the SD Live Women’s Division.

The WWE Champion Randy Orton was shown walking backstage and he’s up next.

(Commercial)

Erick Rowan was in the ring wearing his updated sheep mask.

Randy Orton made his entrance as well. He defends the WWE Title against Bray Wyatt at Raw’s Payback PPV on April 30 because Wyatt is on Raw now.

Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan

This is not for Orton’s WWE Title.

They brawled a bit early on. Orton hit a snap powerslam. Rowan escaped to the floor, Orton followed, Rowan missed a charge and Rowan went crashing into the steps. They went back into the ring with Orton hit a draping DDT. Orton set up for the RKO, but Bray Wyatt appeared on the video wall as the lights were out in the arena. Wyatt told Orton he’ll see him again very soon in the House of Horrors. Wyatt laughed maniacally. The video ended, the lights went back on and when Orton left the ring, Rowan hit Orton with steel stairs. The ref called for the disqualification due to the use of a weapon. It went about five minutes.

Winner by disqualification: Randy Orton

When they went back into the ring, Rowan hit a Full Nelson Slam on Orton. Rowan’s music hit to end it.

Analysis: *1/2 It was going to be a clean win for Orton until the Wyatt appearance on the video screen, which led to the disqualification ending. Orton winning would have been fine, but they went the distraction route instead. I’m not a fan of that video appearance by Wyatt. I know it’s done to build the storyline, but it takes away from the match too much. They will probably do Orton vs. Rowan again next week with Orton getting the win.

Later in the show: Styles vs. Zayn vs. Corbin. Also, Usos vs. American Alpha is up next.

(Commercial)

The Usos were in the ring as the show returned from break. American Alpha made their entrance to a good ovation. They had a great match on Smackdown a few weeks ago. Let’s see if they can do it again.

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs. American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable)

Jordan took down Jey with a slam early on. Double team suplex by AA leading to a two count for Gable. Jordan made a blind tag leading to a double dropkick on Jimmy, who was legal. Jimmy was tossed over the top by AA as the show went to break two minutes into it.

(Commercial)

When they returned from break, Jordan was isolated from his partner. He tried to fight his way out of the corner and managed to do so as Gable got the hot tag. Gable with a German Suplex on Jimmy and a second one. Gable hit an Exploder Suplex on both Usos. Gable hit a picture perfect moonsault on Jimmy for a two count. Gable hit a clothesline that sent Jimmy out of the ring. Gable applied an armbar on Jey using the ropes as an assist, but Jimmy broke that up with a superkick. Jimmy went for a top rope splash and Gable got an inside cradle for a two count to counter. Jordan got the tag, put Jimmy on his shoulders and Gable hit a bulldog off the top for a two count as Jey made the save. Jey dumped Gable out of the ring. Jordan also got sent out of the ring. The Usos went for a double suicide dives, but AA caught them and hit belly to belly suplexes on the floor. Jordan wit ha shoulder tackle on Jimmy, but Jey was in there with a superkick. Jey made the blind tag, sent Gable into the turnbuckle, superkick by Jimmy and Jey hit a top rope Superfly Splash for the pinfall win in 10 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Usos

Analysis: ***1/2 That was an awesome tag match. There was a fast pace to it, everything went smoothly and there were several moments where it could have been over. The champs retained because they managed to outsmart them in the end. I like the way it was built up in terms of the hot tag, the counters outside the ring and the finish. The Usos have been fantastic as heels and American Alpha continue to impress. They seem to get better every time. This felt like the blowoff of their rivalry at least for now.

After the match, Primo and Epico showed up out of nowhere. They shoved Jordan into the ring post. Then  they went into the ring and hit a double team Powerbomb into a Backstabber. They made angry faces as the segment ended.

Analysis: It’s a way to try give The Shining Stars a reboot. They looked better in one minute on Smackdown than they have on Raw for many months. Will they get booked better going forward? I have my doubts, but at least they didn’t look like idiots right away. It might be time for them to ditch the travel brochures to make them feel more legit as a team.

Up next is Mojo Rawley vs. Jinder Mahal.

Analysis: That means Jinder Mahal got moved to Smackdown Live. I don’t know many fans that would get excited about advertising that match.

(Commercial)

A commercial aired for Total Divas. It’s shocking how WWE can continue without Eva Marie as a part of it. Shocking, I say. (Sometimes I like sarcasm.)

Mojo Rawley made his entrance. Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots was at ringside. They are in Boston, which is the home of the Patriots, so there was a big pop for Gronkowski. Jinder Mahal made his entrance as images were shown of Gronk hitting Mahal with a shoulder tackle at WrestleMania after Mahal spilled his beer.

Mojo Rawley vs. Jinder Mahal

The announcers talked about Mahal’s physique because that’s what they love to do. Mojo hit a clothesline as the fans chanted “We Want Gronk.” Mahal hit a running knee strike followed by a knee drop. Mojo came back with a corner splash, Mahal got a boot to the face and sent Mojo face first into the turnbuckle. Mahal left the ring and yelled at Gronk, who was at ringside. Mahal leaned over the guard rail, so Gronk threw his drink at him. Back in the ring, Mojo with a running forearm to the face for the win after three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Mojo Rawley

Analysis: * It was a basic match to put over Mojo. Mahal is there to put people over just like he did on Raw. The finisher that Mojo uses does look impressive at least. I’m not that impressed with him otherwise, but he does have a lot of energy.

After the match, Mojo jumped the guard rail and celebrated with Gronk and friends at ringside. Mojo even put on JBL’s hat to celebrate.

Analysis: Nobody is benefitting from a celebrity friendship more than Mojo these days. Gronk will probably wrestle for WWE after he retires in a few years and he could be good at it. Doubt he wrestles until after retirement, though.

Shane McMahon is up next to address the SD Live Women’s Division.

(Commercial)

Shane McMahon Addresses the Smackdown Live Women’s Division

Shane McMahon, the Smackdown Commissioner, made his entrance as we neared the top of hour two.

The crowd greeted Shane with “Shane O Mac” chants. He said nobody does it better than what they do on Smackdown Live. He said thanks to the Smackdown Live superstars that have moved on to day one because they showed that SD Live is the land of opportunity. Shane talked about how they have seized an opportunity with the women’s division. He asked the entire Smackdown Live women’s division to make their entrance.

The women made their entrance: Smackdown Live Women’s Champion Naomi, Natalya, Carmella with James Ellsworth and Becky Lynch. That’s it for now as they stood in the ring with Shane.

Shane congratulated  Naomi on being the new Women’s Champion. Ellsworth grabbed the microphone to say Naomi is a horrible champion and claimed the only reason people tuned into Smackdown is to tune in to see Carmella and himself aka Carmellsworth. Naomi threatened Ellsworth with a quick promo. She asked Shane to tell them who is joining Smackdown.

Shane introduced the second-generation superstar whose father is one of the greatest of all-time and a Hall of Famer. Fans chanted “Woo” thinking it was Charlotte, but Shane introduced us to Tamina.

Tamina made her entrance. There wasn’t much of a reaction to her since she’s usually a heel. The crowd chanted “We Want Sasha” while Natalya had her ears covered. That was funny by her.

Shane said they have another acquisition and it’s Charlotte Flair. Charlotte was in her ring gear with the peacock robe and just stood on the ramp as the segment ended. There was a big reaction for her from the crowd with a lot of “Woo” chants of course.

Analysis: Charlotte was the most likely name that was going to be moved when they announced the Superstar Shake-up, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. She had done all there is to do on Raw and now she can make a big impact on Smackdown as the best women’s wrestler in the company. It would have been nice to have her cut a quick promo or interact with the other women in some way, but they kept it brief. I think we can pencil her in for a feud with Naomi very soon.

Sami Zayn was shown getting ready for his match in the locker room.

(Commercial)

The announcers mentioned some other names going to Smackdown as well: Sin Cara and Rusev with no mention of Lana.

Analysis: Rusev is out with an injury and should be back soon. Rusev should do a good job on Smackdown and could be a breakout star. They mentioned Lana later. As for Sin Cara, he’s there to put people over and is unlikely to receive much of a push.

Aiden English was alone in the ring. He said he is left without any company, but now the spotlight is solely on him. He sang about how he was the greatest thing, but he was cut off by Tye Dillinger’s music.

Analysis: Don’t ruin the singing! Aiden does a good job of that. It was his old shtick when he was in NXT before starting The Vaudevillains team with Simon Gotch, who was released last week.

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

These two guys were both in NXT together for a while. Dillinger led the crowd in “ten” chants as usual. English stomped away on Dillinger in the corner followed by a hard whip into the corner. Running back splash in the corner by English. It led to English singing as a taunt. That also led to Dillinger avoiding a knee drop followed by a running forearm smash. Dillinger pounded away in the corner. Dillinger hit the Tyebreaker for the pinfall win after two minutes as the crowd chanted “ten, ten, ten” while the ref counted the fall.

Winner by pinfall: Tye Dillinger

Analysis: *1/4 A basic match to put over Dillinger as a newcomer on Smackdown Live. I would like to see English used a bit better than that, but at least he got to do his singing gimmick at the start of the match. That’s something that can make him stick out. The crowd loves Dillinger because of his skill in the ring as well as the simple “Ten” chant. We love simple chants in wrestling.

A video package aired about AJ Styles putting over how great he is. Damn right. Best wrestler in WWE. Styles was shown getting ready backstage.

(Commercial)

There was a video package about Lana doing some dance routine around a chair. It noted that she is coming soon to Smackdown.

Analysis: It could be the start of her being a wrestler, but most likely is just more of a new look for her with her husband Rusev. She looked fantastic in the video as usual.

Dolph Ziggler was in the ring for a promo. He talked about how he’s staying there on Smackdown. He spoke about how the new toys and superstars will be exciting at first, but then it will get less exciting. Ziggler said he’ll still be there proving why he’s the best in the business…and he was cut off by Shinsuke Nakamura.

The crowd went wild as Nakamura’s music hit. The crowd hummed along with the song as the Japanese sensation made his full entrance. Nakamura earned a huge ovation from the crowd followed by a “Nakamura” chant.

Ziggler: “Can I help you?” Nakamura smiled at him. Ziggler said he didn’t know who he was and asked him who he was. The fans chanted “Nakamura” to answer him. The fans chanted Nakamura’s song even though it wasn’t playing.

Nakamura grabbed the microphone: “You wanna know who I am?” He smiled. “I am Shinsuke Nakamura.” The fans chanted “Nakamura” for him again. Ziggler went for a superkick, but Nakamura caught his foot and shoved him down. Nakamura told him to bring it, but Ziggler bailed like the heel that he is. The crowd booed that. Nakamura did a bow as the segment ended with Nakamura’s music playing.

Analysis: That was done well with the crowd showing they are very interested in Nakamura. They are keeping it simple with Nakamura. He’s not the guy that is going to do long promos, so it was all about him soaking up the moment and letting the hot Boston crowd to chant for him. Ziggler acting like he didn’t know who he was is kinda silly, but that’s what heels do. They do things to be jerks, so don’t get upset about that part of it. That’s just a heel being a heel. Slow build up to a match between them is the right way to go. The next Smackdown PPV is on May 21, so there’s plenty of time to build it up.

A video package aired for Corbin talking about how he doesn’t give a damn. Corbin was shown backstage getting ready.

Main event is next: Styles vs. Zayn vs. Corbin.

(Commercial)

The guests on Talking Smack this week are Kevin Owens, Jinder Mahal and Dolph Ziggler.

It was also announced that The New Day trio of Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston are coming to Smackdown Live. It said they are “coming soon.”

Analysis: That was an expected move as well. I’m happy for them because they have wrestled everybody on Raw more than enough and can certainly add a lot to Smackdown.

A video package aired about Sami Zayn talking about how he loves the business and how the fans are in it with him.

Sami Zayn made his entrance first for the main event.  Baron Corbin was next out for the main event. AJ Styles was the last man out and the show went to break.

(Commercial)

There was a promo from TJ Perkins promoting 205 Live on WWE Network after Smackdown.

The match began after the break at 9:42pmET, so they should have plenty of time.

Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin

The winner gets a future US Title shot at whoever the US Champion is after Raw’s Payback PPV on April 30.

I’m surprised Owens isn’t on commentary for this match. Zayn and Styles worked together on Corbin for a bit, but Corbin hit a double suplex on them. Corbin hit Styles with a hard clothesline that sent him over the top to the floor. Zayn used his speed to knock down Corbin. Styles got back in the ring and hit a double clothesline with Zayn to knock Corbin out of the ring. There was a staredown by Styles and Zayn. Corbin got back into the mix as they battled on the floor. Corbin decked Styles with a punch. Zayn got back into the picture with a springboard moonsault using the top rope and jumping onto both guys as they went to break five minutes into it.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Corbin was in control as he stomped on Styles in the corner and did a hard whip that sent Zayn crashing into the corner. Styles got back to his feet and was met with a big boot to the face by Corbin. Styles tried to come back with strikes, but Corbin decked him with a punch. Zayn capitalized with a clothesline that knocked down Corbin. Zayn with a back body drop on Styles that sent him over the top to the floor. Zayn hit Corbin with an Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckle. Styles back into the ring with the Ushigoroshi on Zayn. When Styles turned around, Corbin decked him with a clothesline. All three men were down in the ring. When they got back to their feet, Zayn sent Corbin out of the ring and Styles hit a running knee strike on Corbin to knock him down on the floor. Zayn hit the Blue Thunder Bomb on Styles for a two count. That’s the best nearfall in the business.

Zayn went for a superplex on Styles, Corbin put Zayn on his shoulders and Styles missed a jumping attack them. Zayn got a rollup on Corbin for a two count. Zayn got his boot up to stagger Corbin, but Corbin came back with the Deep Six slam for a two count as Styles made the save. Corbin missed a shoulder tackle as Styles moved and Corbin hit the ring post. Styles hit a Springboard 450 Splash on Corbin for a two count as Zayn made the save. The crowd chanted “This is Awesome” for them and it was well deserved. Zayn and Styles went after eachother with strikes. Styles hit a forearm on both guys on separate turnbuckles and Corbin came back with clotheslines on both guys. Zayn nailed both guys with boots to the face. Styles hit a Pele Kick on Zayn. Styles teased a Styles Clash, but Zayn backed out of it. Zayn with a Helluva Kick while Corbin was on the apron. When Zayn turned around, Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Zayn for the pinfall win after 17 minutes. The crowd was happy with that.

Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles

Analysis: **** That was an outstanding match that was four stars out of five. The story was built around Corbin in the first half with the bigger man dominating most of the action. Once the other guys made their comebacks, the match kept getting better. I loved the nearfalls throughout with Zayn coming close with his Blue Thunder Bomb (like usual) and Styles also doing the Springboard 450 for a nearfall. It was a lot of fun to watch while listening to the crowd react to everything in a big way. That’s what WWE fans want. Give us quality main event matches like that on a regular basis and we are going to show our love for the talent. I thought Zayn might get the win, but have no problem with Styles getting the victory.

The victory means that Styles will challenge Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho for the US Title after their Payback match on April 30. It will probably be Owens, but that won’t be official for a few weeks.

The show ended with Styles celebrating the win and went off the air right at 10pmET as usual.

Analysis: If you’re wondering if Styles is a face now, I think the answer is a definite yes. He was fun as a heel, but this is the role he should be in.

The list of Raw wrestlers that joined Smackdown from Raw:

Kevin Owens

Sami Zayn

Shining Stars (Primo & Epico)

Jinder Mahal

Tamina (she was injured and returned to TV this week)

Charlotte Flair

Sin Cara

Rusev & Lana

The New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)

Analysis: That’s a total of 13 people including Tamina, who really wasn’t a part of Raw. They moved 11 to Raw on Monday, so Smackdown got more people because of The New Day being a three man group. I will write more about the roster changes in another article or two later in the week. I promise.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. AJ Styles

2. Sami Zayn

3. Baron Corbin

It’s tough to pick only three when I was impressed by The Usos and American Alpha as well.

 

The Scoreboard

8.5 out of 10

Last week: 8

2017 Average: 7.27

Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.76 – Raw is at 5.82

Last 5 Weeks: 8, 7, 7, 6.5, 7

2017 High: 8.5 (April 11)

2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10, Feb. 21)

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 8.5 out of 10.

That’s my high score of the year. It was a great show from top to bottom.

The main event triple threat and Tag Title match were outstanding. That’s been the strength of Smackdown since last summer. Quality matches happen on a regular basis. When you can have two of them that were that good on the same show that’s a huge positive and helps a lot.

There wasn’t a lot of talking and backstage segments were kept to a minimum. It was mostly about the action in the ring. It’s an easy show to watch that didn’t feel boring at all except when Mojo Rawley and Jinder Mahal were out there. Everything else was really good.

Big thumbs up for Smackdown this week.

That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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