By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Louisville, Kentucky at the KFC YUM Center
A Matt “Rosey” Anoa’i memorial image started the show. A video package ran down the results of last week’s Superstar Shake-up and the new stars that are coming to Smackdown. It questioned what it meant for the rest of the show. Charlotte made her way to the ring to start the show. Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary.
She said 7 days ago she came to Smackdown Live. She said 7 days and she’s already getting impatient. She asked if Bryan and Shane were on vacation, and wonder how a star of her caliber had not been granted a Title opportunity yet. She said she would only ask one more time; what is taking so long? Naomi made her entrance with her Smackdown Women’s championship and a microphone.
She said she’s not sure where Charlotte thinks she’s at, because this is Smackdown Live, and they don’t have Kings or Queens. They do have champions, and she was one of them. She said it was sad to see Charlotte beg like this, so she would give her what she wanted right here and right now. Naomi set down the belt and blasted Charlotte with a forearm. Charlotte quickly escaped the ring and took off her robe. A ref kept her from getting back in the ring, and Naomi snuck in one more baseball slide from inside the ring.
Shane McMahon walked out and said that on Smackdown, Championship opportunities are earned, not given based on resume and pedigree. He made a non-title match, and said that if Charlotte can pin Naomi, she would be the number one contender. He said if she wins, her title opportunity would be next week. Charlotte entered the ring and brawled with Naomi, and tossed her out. Naomi then entered and tossed Charlotte out of the ring. She stood tall to finish the segment. Coming up next, a six pack challenge between Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Mojo Rawley, Dolph Ziggler, and Jinder Mahal to determine the number one contender for the WWE Championship.
My Take: Mojo Rawley and Jinder Mahal being in this match seems odd, but it keeps AJ Styles and Nakamura away from one another, and that’s a positive in my book for the time being. I’m hoping Luke Harper gets the win here. Charlotte came across like a big star in the opening segment, and Naomi more than held her own.
Backstage, Natalya was furious that Charlotte was getting an opportunity over her. She told Shane that she was the best there is, was, and ever will be, and he should know that. Carmella walked up and agreed with Nattie that Charlotte getting the red carpet was unfair. Ellsworth spoke up and said Carmella should be champ. Tamina walked up and asked for her opportunity. Natalya asked that they all stop bickering, and said they should all blame Charlotte. She said she had a plan, and asked them to join her.
In the arena, the participants in the Six Pack Challenge made their entrances.
1. Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan vs Jinder Mahal vs Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler vs Sami Zayn: Everybody broke off into groups of three and brawled. Everyone ended up on the outside aside from Harper and Dolph, and Harper hit a big boot and covered for a two count. Ziggler rolled outside and Rowan entered to take a clothesline and a somersault senton. Harper continued his assault with a michinoku driver on Sami Zayn for another two count…[c]
As the show game back, we got a double superplex and a sunset flip powerbomb out of three different corners. Zayn covered Jinder on the powerbomb and got a two count. Ziggler superkicked Zayn, Harper discus clotheslined Ziggler, Rowan Powerbombed Harper, and both Rowan and Jinder hit a double clothesline to end the sequence. Mahal got dumped to the floor by Mojo, who then got dumped by Luke Harper.
Harper hit two suicide dives, and looked to get back in the ring, but was dropkicked by Ziggler. Rowan hit a wheel kick on Ziggler, and then powerbombed him to the outside onto the other wrestlers. Zayn got back in the ring and got slammed for a near fall. Rowan appeared dominant as Harper got back in the ring…[c]
Mojo and Ziggler were in the ring, and Mojo hit his running haymaker to KO Dolph. Jinder Mahal dumped Mojo out of the ring and tried to steal a cover, but Zayn broke it up. Mahal dumped Sami back to the outside, and Rowan and Harper re-entered. Rowan crotched Harper in the corner, and Ziggler hit a ZigZag on Rowan from behind for a near fall. Harper recovered and hit a sit out powerbomb on Ziggler, but got a near fall of his own. Zayn got on a hot streak and hit some offense on Harper and Mojo. He hit a suicide dive onto Harper and a springboard moonsault onto Rawley.
In the ring, Zayn hit an exploder suplex on Mahal in the corner and set up for the Heluva Kick. The Bollywood Boys grabbed Sami’s legs from the apron, and that allowed Mahal to hit a Cobra Clutch Slam for the win.
Jinder Mahal became number one contender at 19:38.
Mahal got booed heavily as he was interviewed after the match by Renee Young. He asked if he was booed because he doesn’t look like an American? Or because of his family’s wealth? Or his higher education? He then said American’s won’t accept diversity, but they’ll have no choice at Backlash when he becomes the next WWE Champion.
Randy Orton then came out and said congratulations were in order. He won the jackpot, but the prize won’t be his title. He said the only prize he’s awarded himself was an RKO. Orton then awkwardly shifted to Bray Wyatt with Mahal standing in front of him. He said if the House of Horrors is anything like the last house he brought him to, he would burn it down. A Bray Wyatt promo video then played where he talked about his suffering orchestrated at Orton’s hand. He said none of these things will compare to the terror Orton would feel in his house of horrors. He said Orton may walk into the house of horrors as The Viper, but he would never walk out. Shinsuke Nakamura is up next…[c]
My Take: Interesting that we saw the Bollywood boys here. I guess we’re going to see a heel group from between them and Mahal. The six man match was very entertaining, but it seemed more focused on being a spectacle than telling a story, which was kind of unfortunate. Mahal just kind of got the win out of nowhere. I don’t hate it necessarily, but the way Orton just changed subjects with Mahal just standing there was a bit odd. Why would a heel take that kind of disrespect and not act on it?
A video package that introduced Shinsuke Nakamura was shown. After the video, AJ Styles was interviewed backstage and asked if he would prefer to face Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho. Styles said it didn’t really matter, because he has the home field advantage, as this was the house that AJ Styles built. Baron Corbin walked up and interjected. He told Styles he didn’t pin him last week, and he was man enough to go out and confront Kevin Owens one on one, unlike him or that neurotic loser Sami Zayn. Styles offered to give him an encore and beat him again tonight. Corbin accepted and reminded him that he asked for it.
Elsewhere, Charlotte walked past Carmella, Natalya, and Tamina trying to intimidate her. She walked past them and Natalya laid in her shoulder. Charlotte rolled her eyes and headed towards the ring…[c]
My Take: It’s good that Nakamura is getting a proper introduction before spending a lot of time wrestling on TV. He’s not going to be doing a lot of talking, so this is a good use of their production talents. I like Styles and Corbin having a match, but I’m expecting a dirty finish as neither of them can really need a clean loss at this point.
Charlotte made her entrance, followed by Naomi.
2. Charlotte vs. Naomi: Charlotte dominated the early going with a forearm shot and some kicks in the corner, followed by a hair toss. Naomi grabbed a backslide, but Charlotte slipped out and got to her feet quickly. Charlotte locked in a head triangle with her legs and hit some somersault slams. She then kipped up and continued the assault on Naomi in the corner.
Naomi surprised Charlotte with a roll up for a two count. Naomi then hit a headscissors and a leg drop for a near fall. Charlotte hit chops and Naomi responded with leg kicks. Naomi hit some rapid fire kicks followed by a roundhouse for a two count. She then hit another headscissors, this time sending both of them to the floor…[c]
Charlotte dropped some knees on Naomi and covered for a two count. Naomi fired back with a sunset flip attempt, but Charlotte dropped her knees and covered for another two count. She went for another knee, but Naomi avoided it. Naomi started to fire back with punches and kicks. She hit a headscissors and a top rope cross body for a near fall. Naomi picked up Charlotte in a fireman’s carry and went for a kick, but Charlotte caught it. Naomi went for a Rear View, but Charlotte avoided it and hit Natural Selection for the win.
Charlotte defeated Naomi at 13:55.
Charlotte celebrated after the match. American Alpha is set for next…[c]
My Take: Parts of this match were great, and other portions were a bit mistimed and came across poorly. I’ll chalk that up to developing a chemistry. Charlotte has been set up as a step above the entire division in the early going here. We’ll see how the rest of the division responds as time goes on.
Backstage, Charlotte wooed as she passed Tamina, Natalya, and Carmella. Primo and Epico were already in the ring for the next match. American Alpha made their entrance.
3. American Alpha vs. Primo and Epico: Primo started off with Gable, and got slammed immediately. Gable hit some forearms and tagged in Jordan. He hit Primo with a pancake and tagged again. Gable hit a pretty Northern Lights Suplex, but Epico created a distraction to break up the pin. Epico tagged in and hit a gutbuster on Gable. He then hit a clothesline and then set Gable up on the top turnbuckle. Gable grabbed an armbar over the top rope and made a tag to Jordan. He hit an overhead belly to belly and a spear in the corner. He then covered, but Epico broke it up. Epico tagged in went for a sunset flip. Primo got involved and kicked Jordan while the ref was distracted, leading to a pin.
Primo and Epico defeated American Alpha at 5:11.
After the match, a recap of Jinder Mahal’s victory and his promo was shown. Kevin Owen’s face of America Open Challenge is next…[c]
My Take: The finish was pretty weak. I think Primo intended to have a high impact kick lead to the pin, but he flubbed it and forgot to slap his leg, so it came off like crap on TV. Hopefully both teams get back on track next week.
Backstage, Tye Dillinger was interviewed and was asked about debuting on Smackdown. He said a few words and then threw to a video package, which he said would explain him better than he ever could. He was smiling after the video package, and said that’s why people call him the Perfect 10. In the arena, Kevin Owens made his entrance with his face plastered on the flood and the tron. He introduced himself as the United States of America Champion from Monteal, Quebec, Canada. He then introduced his jobber opponent Gary Gandy.
4. Kevin Owens vs. Gary Gandy: Owens hit a few shots and then a pop-up powerbomb for the win.
Kevin Owens pinned Gary Gandy at 0:31.
After the match, Owens told all the lazy citizens to put down their hot dogs and listen. He said neither Chris Jericho or AJ Styles could take that away from him. He then spoke some french and said he would join on commentary for the main event. Baron Corbin made his ring entrance…[c]
My Take: Owens seems above the cheap heat “face of America” gimmick, but maybe that’s just me.
AJ Styles made his ring entrance for the main event.
5. AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin: Corbin got an early advantage and sent Styles out to the floor. They had a series of reversals and dodges that led to Corbin catching Styles in a fireman’s carry and dropping him on the apron…[c]
Corbin continued to dominate, tossing Styles under the bottom rope and into the ringpost. He then rammed him into the ring apron on the outside. Styles crawled back in the ring, where Corbin stomped on him in the corner. Styles tried to punch his way back into the match, but he got shut down immediately. Styles hit a pele kick, but Corbin quickly shut him down with a chokeslam into a backbreaker. After a bit of back and forth, Styles locked in a calf crusher.
Corbin reached the ropes and caught a charging Styles with a deep six a moment later. He covered for a near fall. The action spilled outside, where Corbin tossed Styles into Kevin Owens. Styles fired back and hit a phenomenal forearm from the apron to the floor, where he sent Corbin into the crowd. Styles made it back into the ring, and Corbin was counted out. Kevin Owens looked enraged.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin via Countout at 14:28.
AJ Styles celebrated after the match as the show went off the air.
My Take: I enjoyed the main event, and the finish makes sense despite being a bit of a cop out. Neither guy needed a clean loss, and Corbin dominated most of the match before losing in a count out. Overall, this was a solid show, but without live appearances by New Day, Nakamura, or Daniel Bryan, it felt a little low on star power. Hopefully that changes next week. It’s hard to gauge the direction of the show based on the first week, but I’m sure making Jinder Mahal the #1 Contender will be a big point of conversation all over the place coming out of this show. I can’t say I’m in love with the move, but I’m willing to watch it play out before I make any harsh judgements.