By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Fresno, California at Save Mart Center
Jinder Mahal was shown taking a photo op with the WWE Championship when Shane McMahon told him that Championships are earned. Mahal said at Backlash he would take the his championship from Randy for himself and his country. Shane said they’d talk about that, but he’d have to earn it.
In the arena, Shane made his entrance and got a huge reaction. He thanked Fresno for the welcome, and brought Chris Jericho out as the newest member of Smackdown Live. The announce team of Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton hyped up Jericho as a great acquisition due to his title victory. The crowd gave him a huge reaction, and he said Smackdown is the new Show of Jericho, Smack it down maaaaaaaaan. Shane said it was an honor to have him on Smackdown live, and the roster was full of great matches for him, but his first match would be against former US Champion Kevin Owens.
He was then interrupted by AJ Styles. Styles said a lot had changed since they were on the same show together. He informed Jericho that Smackdown was the House that AJ Styles built, and reminded him that they once had Y2AJ shirts, and nothing would please him more than taking his US Championship away from him at Backlash if he makes it there. Jericho said that he made Owens tap out at Payback, and he would have no problem doing it again tonight. He called himself the new face of America, and threatened to put Styles on the list for doubting him, but Owens interrupted before he could follow through.
Owens was fired up and said if Jericho thought the Festival of Friendship or WrestleMania was bad, he had no idea what was coming to him. He told AJ Styles to get out of his ring because this has nothing to do with him. Owens tried to move on to Jericho, but Styles refused to take any shit and walked up the ramp to brawl with him. The refs had to pull AJ off Owens. Naomi and Charlotte vs. Carmella and Natalya was announced for later. Jinder Mahal in next…[c]
My Take: An interesting open to the show. Jericho made a good impression and the intensity between AJ and Owens was encouraging. Let’s see if they can hold onto it all the way until Backlash.
The result of the brawl is that AJ Styles is banned from ringside later for Owens vs. Jericho. Sami Zayn made his entrance, followed by Jinder Mahal. Footage was shown of Baron Corbin assaulting both Sami Zayn and a referee on Talking Smack. The announce team mentioned he was suspended and fined for this week.
1. Sami Zayn vs. Jinder Mahal: Mahal controlled the early going and worked over Sami’s arm, but Zayn came back with a headscissors and a dropkick. Mahal retreated to the floor and regrouped…[c]
Jinder turned things around with some help from a Singh Brothers distraction, and hit a powerslam for a two count. He then grabbed a rear chinlock. Mahal placed Sami on the turnbuckle for a superplex, but got shoved off. Sami set up for a top rope maneuver, but Jinder shut him down and hit a running knee for a near fall. Zayn recovered and hit some clotheslines, followed by a top rope cross body for a two count. A Singh brother jumped up on the apron to cause a distraction, and Jinder used it to get a roll up. Sami was able to reverse and get a two count of his own. He then went for a Blue Thunder Bomb, but it was blocked.
Sami hit a some strikes and set up for a Helluva Kick in the corner, but one Singh brother pulled Jinder out of the ring while the other pulled Sami’s leg. Sami turned his attention towards the interference and got planted by a Cobra Clutch Slam from Jinder for the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated Sami Zayn at 12:19.
Backstage, Becky Lynch walked up to Natalya and her band of misfits. They made the case that they had her back, and that Charlotte had turned her back on them too many times before. They told her that she should be getting title shots rather than Charlotte, because she was the first ever draft pick to Smackdown, and Charlotte had never had her back when it counted. They told her they would have her back. She said she hadn’t thought about it that way, and that she would think about it….[c]
My Take: The Singh Brothers and Zayn had to work pretty hard there to make Jinder look mediocre. I like that they are trying to be a bit more thoughtful about how the Singh brothers interfere, as they seem to have better thought out tactics. I like the idea of Becky putting some thought into her friendships. We’ll see where this goes.
Backstage, Dolph Ziggler talked trash about Nakamura to some observers watching the Nakamura backlash promo on a monitor. He said Nakamura hasn’t proven himself, and wasn’t even there tonight. He then mocked Shane McMahon, who was standing right behind him, about how he built a PPV around his match even though he’s never had a match on Smackdown yet.
Aiden English sang a bit in the ring and got some boos, before Tye Dillinger made his entrance.
2. Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger: English got the jump on Tye when he had his back turned. Tye quickly turned things around with a forearm and a clothesline. He then followed up with a firearms carry into a knee to the face. The announcers didn’t give it a name. Dillinger covered for the win….[c]
Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English at 2:01.
My Take: Another easy win for Tye. When will they have enough confidence to put him into a full time feud? Maybe when Ziggler is free? Speaking of Ziggler, his promos are still exasperating in how much he comes across as a tryhard.
Jericho noticed Aiden English being dramatic and crying backstage. He told him he’s a good looking guy and could sing, so he didn’t have to be sad. He then put him on the list for being a crybaby, and put Renee Young on the list for good measure. Tom Phillips threw to footage of last week’s Women’s Championship match, which he said feature Naomi vs. Naomi in a bit of a funny screw up.
Backstage, Charlotte was interviewed about last week, and said that the “Welcoming Committee” just delayed the inevitable. She called the Championship her destiny, before being assaulted by Tamina, Natalya, and Carmella. They said they’d see her out in the ring, and Welcome to Smackdown Live. Naomi made her entrance in the arena for the tag match…[c]
My Take: Charlotte isn’t going out of her way to get sympathy, despite the attacks. It’s kind of an odd dynamic at the moment.
Natalya walked out with her Welcoming Committee, and at that moment it would appear Naomi has a handicap match.
3. Naomi vs. Carmella & Natalya: Naomi gave Carmella two swift kicks to the ass, and she sassed back. Naomi hit some rapid fire kicks, and it looked like Carmella was laughing. I’m not sure if she made herself laugh or what. Nattie tagged in and taunted Naomi, but couldn’t follow it up. She got caught with a sunset flip, and then a head scissors before she retreated to the floor. Naomi tried a baseball slide, and Nattie caugth her and slammed her head into the stairs.
Back in the ring, Carmella tagged in and they wishboned Naomi, followed by a two count. Naomi showed some life, but Carmella shut her down with a hair pull into a sit out slam. Nattie tagged back in and she and Naomi both went for a crossbody and had a mid ring collision.
Charlotte made her ring entrance at this point and joined the match with a limp.
Naomi made a tag into Charlotte, who kicked Carmella off the apron and laid in some chops on Natalya. She hit a boot and then went for a figure four, but Carmella interrupted it. Natalya dumped Charlotte out onto the apron, and Charlotte had to fend off both Carmella and Natalya. She was able to knock Carmella away, but ate a discus clothesline from Nattie and went down on the apron…[c]
Carmella whiffed on a Bronco Buster in the corner, and Charlotte tagged out to Naomi. She cleared the heels and hit a jawbreaker, followed by the rear view. She went for a cover, but the official was distracted by Natalya. Naomi kicked him off the apron, but Ellsworth provided another distraction that led to a Carmella roll up with the tights for the win.
Carmella and Natalya defeated Naomi and Charlotte at 13:38.
The heels went after Naomi and Charlotte after the bell, which led to Becky Lynch making an appearance. She teased joining the heels, but when she was about to hug Ellsworth, she tossed him into Tamina and went after Natalya and Carmella. She got the best of both of them before getting blasted by a Tamina superkick. Carmella hit another one for good measure while Tamina held her. The heels celebrated to end the segment.
My Take: I think they could have held off on Becky making up her mind for another week. Their are a lot of moving parts here, and they have some time until the go home show, so I think they went though this too quickly for it to have any impact. It wasn’t the big heat grabbing moment they probably hoped it would be, based on the crowd reaction.
Sin Cara was already in the ring as Dolph Ziggler made his entrance.
4. Sin Cara vs. Dolph Ziggler: They went back and forth a bit until Sin Cara hit a loud chop and a back elbow. He followed up with a springboard moonsault for a two count. He dumped Dolph to the apron and hit a superkick, followed by a suicide dive through the second rope. Dolph hit a neckbreaker off the middle rope as they got back in the ring, and covered for a near fall. He then hit a jumping elbow and got two.
Ziggler hit a dropkick and went for a fameasser, but Sin Cara avoided it and hit a powerbomb for a near fall. He then went for another moonsault, but Ziggler got the knees up. Dolph then hit a superkick and got the win.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Sin Cara at 6:23.
Dolph celebrated after the bell. Jericho vs. Owens is next…[c]
My Take: Nice showing for Sin Cara. I don’t think it will amount to much, but he generally performs well when given the opportunity. Ziggler’s a trainwreck of a character right now, but he will deliver in big match situations, so I look forward to his match with Nakamura.
We got a vignette spoofing Law and Order that featured the Fashion Police. Breeze and Fandango sat in a faux police offers and went through the file of “The Uggo’s”. They ran down all of the various fashion and personality offenses of the Uso’s, and said they would bust them in Chicago at “Back Rash”. In the Arena, Chris Jericho made his entrance for the main event, followed by KO…[c]
My Take: That Law and Order sketch was tough for me. It wasn’t nearly clever or flamboyant enough for the “Fashion Police”.
Full Ring announcements were made for the main event.
5. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship: Jericho stomped on Kevin’s bad hand early on, and slammed it into the steps on the outside. He tried to smash it between the ring and the steps again, but Owens got free. Back in the ring, Owens hit a kick to the face and a running senton for a two count. He then hit some chops, but Jericho fired back with a drop kick. Jericho lit up Owens with some chops of his own. He then went for a Stinger Splash in the corner, but Owens moved and Jericho flew out to the floor. Owens rolled to the floor and hit a cannonball. He then hauled Jericho back in the ring for a cover.
Jericho came of the ropes into a fist to the gust. He recovered and hit a kick, and then went for a lionsault, but Owens got the knees up. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho and failed, but was able to apply it a second time. Owens reached the ropes fairly quickly. Owens responded with a forearm and a superkick that got a two count. Owens went for a pop up powerbomb, but Jericho reversed into a headscissors and applied the Walls of Jericho one more time. Owens had to struggle for even longer to reach the ropes this time.
Jericho went for a baseball slide, but Owens moved and hit a superkick on the floor. He followed up with a DDT on the unprotected ramp. Owens hit another superkick in the ring, and covered for a near fall. Owens picked up Jericho, who rolled him up for a near fall. He then hit a pop up powerbomb, and covered Jericho for the win.
Kevin Owens defeated Chris Jericho at 14:24.
Refs were waved down to the ring and paramedics checked on Jericho. Owens climbed back into the ring and hit another pop up powerbomb. He then saluted the crowd with the US Championship before refs forced him to leave. Jericho had to be helped to the back and did his best dead to the world impression. As they got Jericho near the ramp, Owens attacked again. This time, he grabbed a chair and wrapped it around Jericho’s head. He then slammed Jericho and the chair into the ring post. Jericho looked like he busted his lip. He was tended to by officials as the show ended.
My Take: An effective beat down and write off for Jericho to close the show. It’s been a poorly kept secret that he’s leaving to tour with his band, but this was a convincing exit angle for him, and it got Owens over as a ruthless heel willing to put people out in order to get them out of his way. There is one week of television left before they go home for Backlash, so we’ll need to see some matches announced next week to fill out the card. Owens vs. Styles is shaping up to be an incredible Main Event for the first Smackdown Only show since WrestleMania.