By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Des Moines, Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena
The Show began with Renee Young in the ring, and she announced “The artist known as Shinuske Nakamura”. He made his ring entrance to some crowd chants. Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton chimed in on commentary. His shirt seemed to be new and had two swords on it. Before Nakamura could give his interview, Dolph Ziggler interrupted. He walked down and said if Nakamura wanted to play interview, let’s play interview. He asked him who his influences were, and when Shinsuke tried to speak, Ziggler pulled the mic and away and said he didn’t speak Japanese.
Ziggler said his primary influence were of course Dolph Ziggler. He then asked him about what’s going on his wacky mind with his crazy entrance? Nakamura ignored him. Ziggler said he was not who people thought he was. He made several references to Michael Jackson, and said Nakamura was an underprivileged kid from Gary, Indiana who had a famous family, put a Circus in his backyard, and had a monkey named bubbles. He later re-emerged in Japan under the name Shinsuke Nakamura, which translates to talentless freak.
Nakamura finally grabbed the mic and said it was his turn to ask the questions. He asked Ziggler what his problem was, and before he could answer pulled the mic away. He said for those who can’t understand, allow him to translate. He said a few words in japanese, but then very clearly called Ziggler a jackass. Ziggler tried to attack, but Nakamura turned the tables and hit a belly to back suplex. Ziggler ran up the ramp in disgust.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin is next…[c]
My Take: First a first introduction to Nakamura, this wasn’t bad. Most of the awkwardness came from Dolph Ziggler overstretching his references to the Jackson family. Shinsuke was entertaining, but I have to think he’d be more intelligible without the mouthguard.
Kevin Owens joined on commentary for the next match. AJ Styles made his entrance for the opening match. Baron Corbin followed.
1. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin: They went back and forth in the early going before AJ grabbed a side headlock. He held on through several escape attempts, before getting shoved into the corner for a ref break. They fought for leverage in a lock up and AJ grabbed another headlock, but Corbin broke free this time and shoved AJ into the ropes. He got tangled up and saved himself initially, but Corbin quickly followed up with kick that sent him hard to the floor…[c]
Corbin controlled the action during the break and onto a head and arm hold as the show came back. Styles fought to his feed, but got caught with a chokeslam into a backbreaker for a near fall. Corbin placed Styles on the top rope and climbed up for a superplex attempt, but Styles slipped out and hit a pele kick. He then hit a stinger splash followed by a running forearm to a seated Corbin for a near fall of his own.
Styles set up for the Styles Clash, but Corbin blocked it. He then tried for a calf crusher, but got blocked again. He then setup for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens got involved and distracted him. Styles had to bail on the forearm, and Corbin hit him with a knee instead. Corbin picked him up for a powerbomb, but Styles rolled through and got the win.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin at 12:11.
After the match, Corbin and Owens put a beating on Styles. Sami Zayn attempted to make a save, and even hit a Helluva Kick on Corbin, but it wasn’t enough. Owens tossed him out of the ring, and hit a pop up powerbomb on Styles to stand tall.
Backstage, Charlotte was interviewed. She said every superstar has blood going through their veins, but hers runs gold. She accomplished everything there was to accomplish on Raw, and now the Queen needs a new kingdom. She said she would make history tonight, and everyone would acknowledge that she’s the greatest Superstar in WWE History. American Alpha vs. The Colons is next in a beat the clock challenge…[c]
My Take: Not much to be excited about with that match. It flowed a bit differently than their match last week, but it didn’t really reach top gear at any point. It seems they are transitioning Corbin into a feud with Zayn, which is good, but I hope they don’t have him calling Zayn a neurotic loser every week. Charlotte’s promo was fairly boilerplate for her.
American Alpha made their entrances, followed by Primo and Epico.
2. American Alpha vs. The Colons: Gable went for a backslide on Epico to start, but got one. He tagged to Jason Jordan, who hit a dropkick and covered for a two count. Jordan hit a waist lock take over and covered again but only got two. Gable tagged back in, but got hit with a big boot after Primo offered a distraction. Primo then tagged in and actually slowed the pace for some reason. After a realizing his error, he quickly hit some knees and a clothesline. Epico tagged back in and went for a rear chinlock, and this time the announcers chastised him for bad strategy.
Epico hit a slam, and tagged in Primo for a springboard senton for a two count. Primo then applied a submission, but couldn’t get the tap. Gable reached for a tag, but Primo knocked down Jordan from the apron. The Colons set up for their finish, but Jordan knocked Primo out of the ring and hit Grand Amplitude on Epico for the win.
American Alpha defeated The Colons at 5:17.
After the match, The Usos surveyed the results backstage. Rusev was hyped for next…[c]
My Take: None of the strategy from The Colons made sense. Neither team really had the urgency that you would expect for beat the clock after the first minute. I hope they have something interesting planned for Rusev.
Rusev was shown in a video where he said that he didn’t like Shane McMahon or Daniel Bryan. He said he didn’t like the Superstar Shakeup, and if he didn’t get a title match at Money in the Bank he would pack up and go home to Bulgaria. Backstage, Becky Lynch was interviewed about Charlotte, and said she didn’t approve of her methods, but she couldn’t argue with the results. The group of Tamina, Natalya, Carmella, and James Ellsworth walked up and told Becky if she wasn’t with them, she was against them.
In the arena, Randy Orton made his entrance for a No DQ match with Erick Rowan…[c]
My Take: The Rusev promo was about as low energy as humanly possible, like it was a real inconvenience to him. The Women’s division is shaping up for a Charlotte face turn, much like Will Pruett predicted in our podcast last week. I honestly didn’t see them going in that direction this quickly.
Erick Rowan made his entrance.
3. Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan: Orton clotheslined Rowan to the floor and followed him out there. He hit some punches and then shoved him into the ring post. He then threw him into the barricade and slammed him onto the announce table. Rowan fired up and tossed Orton into the ring steps, and brought the action back in the ring. He then hit a dropkick and grabbed a Kendo Stick from under the ring. Rowan wore Orton out with the stick and then grabbed a table from under the ring.
Orton stirred and grabbed the Kendo Stick while Rowan set up the table. Rowan dragged Orton to his feet and tried to suplex Orton onto the table. Orton blocked it and used the Kendo stick to shove Rowan off the apron and through the table at ringside…[c]
Rowan was in control and stomped Orton in the corner. The match went to the outside and Orton got tossed into the announce table twice. He grabbed the kendo stick as he got back in the ring, and got caught with an apron DDT. Orton set up for an RKO, but couldn’t execute. Rowan sent Orton back out to the floor. He then grabbed the ring steps and blasted him with it.
Rowan set up a chair in between the turnbuckles in the corner, and tried to toss Orton into it. Orton stopped short, and Rowan followed him in and ate the chair when Orton moved. Orton then hit an RKO for the win.
Randy Orton defeated Erick Rowan at 13:20.
Orton grabbed a mic after the match and said he didn’t know exactly what a House of Horrors match is, but Sunday he would find out. He said Wyatt told him the match on Monday would be his purgatory, but instead it would be his eternal hell. Jinder Mahal interrupted and the USA chants started immediately. He called out Orton for overlooking him, and said he was the real horror he should be worrying about.
Mahal said he was better educated, had more class, and more talent than everyone in the building. He accused Orton or disrespecting him because he fears diversity and tolerance. He said at Backlash he would take back his Championship for his people. He then addressed “his people” in “his language”, and spoke a bit of punjabi. He tried to go after Orton unexpectedly, but quickly got turned away. Orton set up for an apron DDT, but The Bollywood Boys (nee Singh Brothers) stepped in to give an assist. Mahal then hit a cobra clutch slam and walked out with the WWE Championship. Charlotte vs. Naomi is set for the main event, and The Ascension vs. Breezango is next. We then got another Lana dance promo, which still looks very amateur…[c]
My Take: Mahal needs to calm down a bit, but this wasn’t a bad second effort for him. He’s very 80s in the respect that he’s just yelling his lines as angrily as he can. Rowan put on a very entertaining match with Orton, who he seems to have good chemistry with.
Jinder Mahal was shown leaving the building with Orton’s WWE Championship. Breezango made their entrance in the arena. The Ascension were already in the ring.
4. Breezango vs. The Ascension: Viktor hit a corkscrew uppercut to start the match and covered for a near fall. He pressed the attack and tagged in Konnor, and they hit a double team slam. Konnor covered,but Fandango broke it up. He attempted several more covers, but didn’t get different results. Viktor tagged in and attempted a stinger splash, but Breeze moved and tagged Fandango into the match.
Viktor hit a huge knee on Fandango and covered for a near fall. Rapid tags now from the Ascension, who got quickly confused when Breeze interfered from the outside. Breeze hit Viktor with a Supermodel Kick, and Fandango hit a Falcon Arrow for the win with 2:36 remaining on the clock.
Breezango defeated The Ascension at 2:41.
My Take: Cool to see Breezango get a win. They could have something with them if this is the cut off point for being treated like a joke.
Tom Phillips congratulated Breezango on being #1 Contenders for the Tag Team Championships. He then threw to a promo for the House of Horrors match. Naomi was then interviewed backstage by Renee Young and asked about Charlotte calling herself the greatest superstart in WWE. Naomi asked if she thought she was Muhammad Ali. She said in order to be the greatest, you have to be on top, and from where she sits she’s Ali and Charlotte is Foreman. She said she was ready for a fight and that she would show Charlotte what it means to feel the glow. She then made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: I like Naomi but her promos are very one note. I hope she works on adding some depth to her character beyond feeling the glow. She’s always referencing where she’s from, but she’s never really gotten a chance to show how she grew up. A video package would go a long way in that regard.
Charlotte made her entrance, and the match got full ring announcements.
5. Charlotte vs. Naomi for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi planted Charlotte into the middle turnbuckle, but couldn’t capitalize as Charlotte quickly pulled her to the floor…[c]
Charlotte held onto a front facelock. Naomi punched her way out, but Charlotte just tossed her around by her hair. She then hit some kicks in the corner and a leg drop for a two count. Charlotte hit a big chop, and covered again for two. She got frustrated and hit a series of chops, but Naomi shook them off and hit a jawbreaker. She went for her rapid fire kicks, but Charlotte grabbed her legs and went for a slam.
Naomi slipped out and hit a flying head scissors, followed by a Fireman’s Carry into roundhouse kick for a near fall. She hit rear view a moment later for another near fall. She went for another head scissors, but Charlotte held her up and delivered a powerbomb for another near fall of her own. Charlotte dragged her over to the corner, and then climbed up top and hit a moonsault on Naomi’s knees.
The Trio of Tamina, Carmella, and Natalya then appeared caused a DQ. They set up Charlotte for a Tamina Superkick, and another one from Carmella. Naomi was quickly tossed to the floor by Tamina. A replay of the beat down was shown. Naomi held the Championship and Charlotte looked dejected to close the show.
The match ended in an apparent no contest at 8:49.
My Take: I enjoyed the main event quite a bit. They told a good story of neither woman being able to put the other away before going to the interference finish they have been advertising all night. Overall, while this show didn’t blow my doors off, it at least feels like Smackdown has a creative direction. Raw felt pretty aimless on Monday Night, despite having a network special to promote for Sunday. I’m wondering where Luke Harper was tonight? Is he being repackaged? Erick Rowan could use a bit of that following the Wyatt Family implosion as well, as he continues to live under the radar while having good matches. I’m also happy for Breezango, who are getting some much needed creative attention. What I’d like to see next week is a lot more character work. Smackdown leans on its work rate to great effect, but it leads to people ending up in feuds that feel like they need more definition. I’m hoping that improves going forward.