This week’s edition of Smackdown Live will feature Shinsuke Nakamura opening the show, Naomi defending the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair, Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan, a tag team Beat The Clock Challenge and AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin in a rematch from last week’s main event that ended with Styles winning by countout. They advertised all that while Raw only advertised a Dumpster Match. Funny how that works.
Live from Des Moines, Iowa this is Smackdown Live for episode #923. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top with the color edit on Nakamura’s gear.
The show began with a shot of the live crowd and announcer Tom Phillips welcoming us to the show. Renee Young (Ambrose) was in the ring and she introduced “the artist known as Shinsuke Nakamura.”
Shinsuke Nakamura Interview
Shinsuke Nakamura made his incredible entrance. It’s an entrance that will never get old and especially cool when you’re in the arena. Nakamura stood in the ring with Renee, but Dolph Ziggler’s music hit to cut her off. Ziggler walked down to the ring. Ziggler took the microphone from Renee and she left the ring.
Ziggler did a mock interview and took the microphone away before Nakamura could say anything. Ziggler said that Nakamura’s favorite WWE superstar is Dolph Ziggler, who should be a Hall of Famer while he’s still an active superstar. Ziggler asked about his entrance. Nakamura didn’t even try to answer him. Ziggler explained it as Nakamura being intimidated by his “hero.”
Ziggler said that Nakamura’s name is really Michael and he grew up in Gary, Indiana. He talked about Latoya, Tito, Janet…and he was really talking about Michael Jackson. He spoke about some of the other things Jackson did in his life even noting that his best friend was a monkey named Bubbles. Ziggler called him a petty, pathetic, overrated freak.
Nakamura took the microphone to say it’s his turn to ask a question: “Dolph, what is your problem?” Nakamura took the microphone away before Ziggler could reply. Nakamura translated what Ziggler said by speaking in Japanese and ended it with “jackass.” That drew a lot of cheers.
Ziggler kicked Nakamura in the ribs. Ziggler went for another kick, but Nakamura caught him and gave him an overhead suplex. Ziggler left the ring before Nakamura could do more. The segment ended with Nakamura’s music playing while Ziggler went up the ramp.
Analysis: It was an okay segment to continue the slow build for these two. Some of Ziggler’s promo didn’t draw much of a reaction from the crowd because it dragged a bit, but they popped for Nakamura calling him a jackass. I think that was the whole point – Ziggler was there to be annoying while Nakamura said the one word to get the crowd to cheer. Could it have been better? Sure. It wasn’t great. It was fine in terms of continuing this story at a slow pace. It’s probably going to lead to a match at Smackdown’s Backlash PPV next month, so that’s why they are doing a slow build to it. I doubt Nakamura has a televised match before that.
Coming up: Naomi vs. Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Title and Styles vs. Corbin is up next. Styles and Corbin were both shown walking backstage on a split screen.
A commercial aired for WWE Payback this Sunday on WWE Network.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield and Byron Saxton were joined by the US Champion Kevin Owens for the next match. Owens was dressed in a suit.
AJ Styles made his entrance to a big ovation. He’s the number one contender to the US Title because of a match he won two weeks ago. Baron Corbin was up next to some boos, but he also doesn’t generate that much of a reaction.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin
The crowd chanted “AJ Styles” while Owens said he can’t stand Styles. Corbin shoved down Styles early on to show his power. Owens called Saxton an idiot for asking him to explain his preparation for his US Title match on Sunday. Styles grounded Corbin with a headlock. Corbin got free, hit a shoulder block and a kick that sent Styles to the floor as the show went to break three minutes into the match.
Back from break, Corbin had Styles locked into an armbar. Heels usually have control when a match comes back from break. Corbin sent Styles back first into the turnbuckle and came back with a backbreaker for a two count. Corbin wanted a superplex, Styles slipped out of it and tripped him up followed by a Pele Kick by Styles. Owens told Saxton that his stupid questions almost make him miss Michael Cole – that’s how bad he is. Owens is great. Styles nailed a flurry of punches of kicks to work on Corbin some more. Styles went for a Calf Crusher, but Corbin overpowered it and hit him with a forearm to the back. Styles hit boots to the face of Corbin. Owens got up from commentary to yell at Styles, so Styles kicked him in the face. Styles went for a springboard attack, but Corbin moved. Styles countered a Powerbomb attempt into a sunset flip pin for the victory at 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: *** It was a fun match with a bit of a surprising finish because Corbin losing clean is pretty rare. They protected him a bit because it was a sunset flip into a pin instead of Styles beating him with a finisher. It could have been a better match if they got more time, built to some exciting pinfall sequences and stuff like that, but it was good enough for the time given.
Post match, Owens and Corbin attacked Styles. The heels also bickered about it. Sami Zayn made the save. Zayn attacked both Owens and Corbin. Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Corbin. Owens got back in the ring, knocked Zayn out of the ring and hit a Popup Powerbomb on Styles. Owens held up his US Title to end it as his music played.
Analysis: It’s nice to see Zayn getting involved with these guys. Owens standing tall is fine with me because Styles was just in a tough match, so it makes sense for Owens to have the advantage over him. I assume it will be Owens vs. Styles for the US Title at Backlash and Corbin vs. Zayn is likely at Backlash as well with Corbin getting the win there.
Charlotte Flair was interviewed in the locker room by Dasha Fuentes. She talked about how gold runs through her veins because she wins titles. Charlotte talked about how she doesn’t just want the SD Women’s Title, she needs it. She said she is already the greatest superstar in WWE history.
Analysis: I enjoy Charlotte a lot as a heel. I don’t think her face promos were that good when she was a face. She’s much more comfortable as a heel. That’s not to say a face turn would necessarily be bad. I’m merely saying that I like her work a lot as a heel.
American Alpha vs. The Colons is up next in a Beat the Clock Challenge match.
A commercial aired about WWE’s charity work with Make A Wish.
American Alpha made their entrance as part of the #1 Contender Beat the Clock challenge for the tag team division.
The cousin team of Primo and Epico Colon are officially being billed as “The Colons,” which is a smart move because the Shining Stars name wasn’t working for them.
Beat The Clock: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) vs. Primo & Epico Colon
There’s a clock in the bottom corner of the screen to show the time of the match because there’s another tag match later. Jordan hit a dropkick on Epico followed by a waistlock takedown. The Usos were shown watching on a monitor backstage. Gable whipped Epico into the corner. Primo pulled Epico out of the way, which led to Gable hitting Primo off the apron and Epico hit a boot to the face of Gable to take control. Primo hit a running attack to the back of Gable. Primo with an armbar on Gable in the center of the ring. Epico tagged in with a knee lift followed by a clothesline on Gable. Chinlock city time by Epico on Gable. Epico hit a backbreaker on Gable for a two count. Primo tagged in with a senton splash onto Gable for a two count. Primo with a Russian Legsweep into a head/arm submission briefly. Gable tried to tag in his partner, but Primo knocked Jordan off the apron and hit a dropkick. Jordan went into the ring to save his partner by knocking one of the Colons out of the ring and AA hit Grand Amplitude with Gable covering for the win with 5:17 on the clock.
Winners by pinfall: American Alpha
The other Beat the Clock tag match later in the show is Breezango vs. The Ascension.
Analysis: ** It was a decent tag match. Weird to see a tag match without a hot tag in there. Normally Jordan gets the hot tag leading into the finish, but they just had him go into the ring, clean house and then do the finish that way. That made it feel a bit different from what we’re used to seeing in an AA tag match. I’m not surprised by who won. I just thought it would be a shorter match. The Colons did a bunch of submissions to drag it out a bit. This is one of those instances where if they had a shorter match it may have been better.
Up next is Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan in a No Disqualification match.
“Rusev Responds” is up next as well because Rusev has something to say.
PLUG TIME: I wrote an exclusive column for The Comeback where I talked about WWE relating to sports, fictional television and brought it home by pointing out how WWE isn’t doing a good job in terms of capturing the details in their storylines. I used three examples. I really enjoyed writing this piece. Check it out and let me know what you think if you do. Thanks.
A video aired about The New Day coming to Smackdown Live soon. Kofi Kingston’s still recovering from ankle surgery, so that’s why there’s a bit of a delay.
Rusev did a promo talking to a camera in a facility that looked like a gym. He said he didn’t like Daniel Bryan or Shane McMahon. Rusev said the only way he’ll wrestle for Smackdown Live is if they give him a championship match at Money in the Bank. Otherwise, he’ll pack his bags and go back to Bulgaria. That ended it.
Analysis: The real reason Rusev is gone is because of a shoulder injury. He was expected to miss two or three months. Money in the Bank is in June, so they probably had him do the promo to make it seem like he’s holding out until he gets what he wants. He didn’t specify what title, so perhaps he’ll challenge for the US Title if AJ Styles beats Kevin Owens for it. Just a guess on my part.
Becky Lynch was interviewed by Dasha Fuentes backstage. She said she didn’t like Charlotte’s methods, but she can appreciate the results. The heel grouping of Natalya, Tamina Snuka, Carmella and James Ellsworth showed up to talk to Lynch. They said either Lynch is with them or against them and they told her to choose wisely. The heels left.
Analysis: A quick segment to get a lot of the women on the show. The SD women’s division isn’t very deep. Lynch is the only face on there with Naomi, so she’s probably going to remain a face.
Randy Orton, the WWE Champion, made his entrance to a nice ovation from the crowd. On Sunday at Payback, Orton will face Bray Wyatt in a House of Horrors where Orton isn’t going to put the WWE Title on the line apparently. Orton’s match with Erick Rowan is up next.
Erick Rowan made his entrance at the top of hour two.
No Disqualification: Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan
This is not for Orton’s WWE Title.
Orton hit a clothesline that sent Rowan over the top to the floor. Orton shoved Rowan into the ring post. Orton sent Rowan into the barricade at ringside followed by a back suplex onto the barricade that sent Rowan spine first into it. Orton sent Rowan face first onto the announce table followed by a quick back suplex onto the announce table, which didn’t break. It was noted that Orton made his WWE debut 15 years ago today. I saw Orton mention it on Twitter and JBL just said it. Rowan took control by sending Orton shoulder first into the steps at ringside. They went back into the ring as Rowan hit a splash in the corner followed by a dropkick for a two count. Rowan grabbed a kendo stick from under the ring and hit Orton with it a few times leading to a nearfall. Rowan set up a table on the floor. Orton fought off a suplex, stunned Rowan by draping his neck across the top rope and Orton hit Rowan with three kendo stick shots that sent Rowan through the table on the floor. They went to break five minutes into it.
Back from break, Orton was in control as he stomped away on Orton in the corner. Rowan sent Orton face first into the announce table two times. Rowan rolled Orton back in and grabbed the kendo stick. Orton waited for him and hit the Draping DDT to take control again. Rowan shoved off Orton to avoid the RKO and Rowan hit him with a kendo stick to the ribs. They were outside the ring as Rowan picked up the top half of the steel steps and hit Orton in the head with them. Rowan brought a chair into the ring. Rowan wedged the chair between the top and middle rope. Orton avoided the chair, Rowan charged in, Orton moved and Rowan hit the chair. Orton followed up with a RKO for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton
Analysis: *** Good match and an obvious win for Orton to set him up for Sunday’s PPV with some momentum. It was a competitive match with Rowan putting up a fight. I liked seeing that because they could have had Orton beat him in a five minute match and it would have been boring. Giving Rowan a chance to show what he can do helped a lot. It didn’t hurt Orton to have to deal with a bigger wrestler like him. I liked the way they used a table before the break and the chair usage for the finish worked as well. The crowd was into all of it as well.
Post match, Orton had the microphone in the ring. Orton said he doesn’t know what a House of Horrors match is, but on Sunday he’ll find out. He said the House of Horrors match will be the eternal hell of Bray Wyatt.
Jinder Mahal’s music hit as he entered the arena wearing a suit and turban. Mahal said that he is the true horror that Orton should be worried about. Mahal said that he has more wealth, more talent, more class and more culture than anybody in the arena including Randy. Jinder said that Randy disrespects him because he looks different. Jinder said that people disrespect him because of their arrogance and lack of tolerance. Jinder took off the turban. Jinder went into the ring to tell Orton he’s going to bring respect to the WWE Championship. Jinder spoke in Punjabi as the fans chanted “RKO” to try to shut him up. When Mahal went for a punch, Orton blocked it and punched him. Orton went for a draping DDT, but the Singh Brothers (former Bollywood Boyz) showed up. They grabbed Orton by his feet to trip him up. Mahal picked up Orton and dropped him with a Cobra Clutch Slam. Mahal held the WWE Title in his hands. Mahal left with the WWE Title while the announcers pointed out that Mahal stole the title for people that couldn’t figure it out.
Analysis: Well done by Mahal. I know that some WWE fans don’t like Mahal in that spot, but they presented him in a good way in this segment. He spoke well, he carried himself with confidence and got some heat especially when he spoke in Punjabi. Orton was going to drop him with the DDT, but the Singh Bros were there to stop him. I like that Mahal isn’t alone because it’s a cheap way for him to get the advantage with the tag team there to help him. The Cobra Clutch Slam looked good too. I am warming up to Jinder in this role. It would have been nice if he won matches in the weeks leading up to this, but he’s done well so far.
Still to come: Naomi vs. Charlotte Flair for the SD Women’s Title.
Breezango vs. The Ascension in a Beat the Clock challenge match is up next.
A video aired about Lana dancing again. She was wearing a dress while dancing around a chair. She is coming soon to Smackdown Live.
There was a replay of Mahal’s attack on Orton.
Mahal and the Singh Brothers were shown leaving in a limo with Mahal holding up the WWE Title.
Analysis: Stealing a title is an easy way to get more cheap heel heat. They are using all the tricks to get Mahal over more as a heel.
Beat the Clock: Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor)
The clock is counting down from 5:17 for this match because that was the time of American Alpha’s win earlier.
This may be difficult with two heel teams unless Breezango are going face. Viktor hit a corkscrew uppercut on Breeze for a two count as soon as the bell rang. Double team slam by The Ascension on Breeze for a two count. Breeze hit a jumping kick on Konnor to create some space. Viktor missed a corner splash and Breeze tagged in Fandango. Fandango with clotheslines on Viktor, but Viktor came back with a high knee for a two count. Another high knee from Viktor earned a two count for Konnor. Breeze avoided an attack from Konnor, Breeze hit a supermodel kick on Viktor and Fandango hit a Falcon Arrow on Viktor for the pinfall win after about three minutes. The crowd
The clock had 2:36 left, so Breezango wins the Beat the Clock challenge and get a title shot at The Usos.
Winners by pinfall: Breezango
Analysis: * A quick match to put over Breezango as title contenders. Viktor sure likes those high knees huh? He did a few of them. This will likely be the start of Breezango’s push as a face team. They weren’t being used that much anyway and SD needs face teams, so it’s an easy transition for them. They should do well in that role. It’s just a matter of giving them more time.
Still to come: Naomi vs. Charlotte Flair for SD Women’s Title in the main event.
This week’s Talking Smack is being hosted by Renee Young and John Bradshaw Layfield with Sami Zayn, Becky Lynch and Breezango as the guests.
Analysis: I assume no Daniel Bryan there because wife Brie Bella is due to have their first child – a girl – any day now. No Shane McMahon because he’s rich and doesn’t work every week. It’s a nice gig being the son of the boss.
Neville did his angry man promo hyping up a match against Jack Gallagher for 205 Live on WWE Network after Smackdown.
A video package aired about Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton to set up their House of Horrors match at Payback on Sunday.
Naomi was interviewed backstage by Renee Young. She complained about Charlotte thinking she’s the best. Naomi said she’s going to prove why she’s the Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Naomi made her “Feel the Glow” entrance to a nice ovation from the crowd because it’s cool to see.
The announcers shilled the WWE Payback pay-per-view Kickoff Show matches.
Charlotte Flair made her entrance as the crowd let out “Woo” chants like usual.
Ring announcer Greg Hamilton did the in-ring intros for Charlotte first followed by the champion Naomi. The match started at 9:48pmET, so they should get around ten minutes before the end of the show.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Charlotte Flair
They battled on the apron and Charlotte pulled her off to send Naomi crashing on her back on the floor outside the ring. The show went to break one minute into it.
Back from break, Charlotte had Naomi grounded with a headlock. When Naomi tried a comeback, Charlotte stopped her and remained in control. Hard chop to the chest by Charlotte earned a two count. Charlotte hit Naomi with more chops. Naomi broke free with a kick to the face followed by a jawbreaker. Naomi kicked the legs of Charlotte followed by a headscissors, back elbow and a stunner like move from Naomi to continue the momentum. Naomi hit a kick to the head to stun Charlotte again. Naomi picked her up on her shoulders, put her on her feet and Naomi nailed her with a kick to the head for a two count. The crowd was really getting into it at this point. Naomi hit the Rear View aka the Flying Ass attack for a two count. Charlotte came back with a pinfall attempt for two. Naomi went for a headscissors, but Charlotte countered it with a Powerbomb for a two count. That was a great counter into a believable nearfall. Nice job by Charlotte selling how close it was with a shocked look on her face. Charlotte went up top with a moonsault, but Naomi countered by getting her knees up to block it. Natalya, Carmella (with Ellsworth) and Tamina showed up at ringside to attack both women. The match ended as a No Contest after 10 minutes.
Match Result: No Contest
Analysis: **3/4 They were on their way to having a very good match when the finish came out of nowhere. I didn’t think it was going to happen that way, so at least WWE deserves credit for surprising us. When the pace picked up in the last few months the crowd really got into it. That headscissors into a Powerbomb spot was excellent with a good nearfall that the crowd bought into. Naomi almost won with the Rear View as well. It was a competitive match for a title with a screwy ending to piss of the fans. Old school booking right there.
The heel trio attacked both women with Natalya knocking Naomi down with a discus clothesline while Tamina nailed Charlotte with a superkick. Carmella hit a superkick on Charlotte as well.
Natalya’s music played as replays aired of the attack by the three heels that led to the no contest finish.
The show ended with Natalya, Tamina, Carmella and Ellsworth standing on the stage together as Charlotte was down in the ring while Naomi was outside the ring holding her title. The show went off the air right at 10pmET as usual.
Analysis: I think the plan here is to turn Charlotte face, which I understand because she’s popular. I guess it’s numbers thing more than anything because Naomi and Becky are the only face women on the show at the moment, so turning Charlotte makes sense. Charlotte is a much better performer as a heel, so that’s why I would keep her heel. I’m sure she could do better as a face today compared to 2015 because she’s more experienced. Time will tell if it’s the right call.
I think the heel trio of Natalya, Tamina and Carmella can do well if they are booked like winners. The problem has been inconsistency. If WWE truly gets behind them then the fans will buy in and they will do well with more of an opportunity.
On a Talking Smack note, Baron Corbin attacked Sami Zayn on the set, so they are definitely going in the direction of Corbin vs. Zayn at Backlash like I mentioned earlier.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Randy Orton
2. AJ Styles
3. (tie) Erick Rowan
3. (tie) Baron Corbin
7 out of 10
Last week: 6
2017 Average: 7.18
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.75 – Raw is at 5.8
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 8.5, 8, 7, 7
2017 High: 8.5 (April 11)
2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10, Feb. 21, April 18)
It gets a 7 out of 10.
I thought it was a pretty good show this week even though that 7 out of 10 score is below the 2016 average for this show. Smackdown has slipped a bit from its peak earlier in the year, but I still like it.
There was nothing that was outstanding by any means, but nothing that was that bad either. Three matches got a decent amount of time and were all around the three star range.
I think something that has been lacking for a few weeks is there aren’t the high-quality promos that we got from the likes of Cena and Miz in the last few months. Without those moments, it’s just about the in-ring action for the most part. That’s fine, but once in a while we want to see some different things too.
The noticeable changes on Smackdown have been interesting as well. Jinder Mahal is now a top heel while Breezango are tag title contenders. I think they’re all talented, so it’s nice to see them in a bigger role. I feel like I’ve written that a lot this week.
Here’s what we know for Smackdown’s WWE Backlash PPV on May 21 in Chicago.
WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
United States Championship: Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles (It will likely be Owens.)
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. Breezango
That’s it for official matches at this point. Some other likely matches are Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn as well.
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org