By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from New Orleans, Louisiana at Smoothie King Center
[Hour One] Shane McMahon made his entrance to open the show. The broadcast team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton checked in on commentary from ringside. Shane welcomed viewers to the show and said it’s the final exclamation point on WrestleMania week. Shane thanked fans in the building and those at home for making the event a huge success. There was a brief “thank you, Shane” chant.
Shane said this WrestleMania was extra special due to the return of Daniel Bryan. He said that because of his toughness, passion, and resolve to never let anyone take his dream away, they not only competed but they won. Shane said Bryan has truly transformed back over to becoming a wrestler. Shane announced that he accepted Bryan’s resignation as a general manager.
Paige was introduced as the new general manager of Smackdown. She walked out to a big ovation while Graves recapped Paige announcing her retirement from the ring the night before. She delivered the “I’m back” line and the fans responded with a Yes chant. Paige said she delivered he retirement speech on Raw and then Shane was the first person waiting for her backstage and he thanked her for that. The fans chanted “this is your house” again.
Paige said she knows the Superstar Shakeup is next week. She said she wanted to make her first act as general manager making this show a truly special night for the fans. She mentioned Daniel Bryan and said he hasn’t competed in a match on television in over three years. Paige teased who Bryan would wrestle. The fans chanted “Rusev Day” and then “AJ Styles.” Paige announced Bryan vs. AJ Styles and then dropped the mic. The fans chanted Yes to end the segment…
The broadcast team noted the “non-traditional” crowd and gave the same idiotic speech that the Raw crew gave the night before. A still shot of Shinsuke Nakamura low-blowing AJ Styles was shown and they said they were hoping to get word from Nakamura. They also hyped Charlotte addressing her win over Asuka, and The Usos vs. New Day with the winners earning a title shot against Bludgeon Brothers at the Greatest Royal Rumble event… [C]
Powell’s POV: It’s great that Paige was moved into the GM spot. I guess that explains why WWE PR didn’t respond to my request for an update on her status with the company. It will be interesting to see if Styles vs. Bryan has a finish or if this is a setup for Nakamura doing something heelish. It could also be a case of them burning through the match if one of those guys is headed to Raw via the Shakeup. Also, I’m filling in for Jake Barnett tonight and next week, but he will be by with the Smackdown Hit List tomorrow. Finally, Becky Lynch defeated Ruby Riott in the dark match opener, and Dot Net reader Matt H also noted that half the upperdeck is tarped off, but the crowd has a lot of WrestleMania weekend holdovers.
1. Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Big E and Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston) for a Smackdown Tag Title shot at the Greatest Royal Rumble. The Usos worked over Woods to start. However, New Day ended up isolating one of the Usos for a stretch. They cut to a split screen commercial break. [C]
Coming out of the break, Jimmy had a run of offense and got a two count on Woods off a Samoan Drop. Graves teased the possibility of this being the last time these teams work as tag teams because they could be split up via the Shakeup. In the end, Jimmy superkicked Woods, then tagged Jey, who performed a top rope splash for the win. Afterward, the Bludgeon Brothers walked out for a staredown from the stage with the Usos…
The Usos defeated New Day in 10:30 to earn a Smackdown Tag Title shot at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
The broadcast team set up the John Cena PSA with Make-A-Wish and then encouraged viewers to donate to the cause… Philips hyped Styles vs. Bryan… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good tag match. It didn’t get enough time to be the epic showdown these teams deserve if this turns out to be the final match of their rivalry, but they made the most of the time they had. By the way, there’s no mention of the WWE Championship being at stake in the Styles vs. Bryan match.
WrestleMania still shots aired… They aired footage from earlier in the day of Naomi “basking in the glow of her victory” while she looked at the trophy. An interviewer showed up, but then Natalya crashed the party and complained about Naomi winning, which led to a challenge for a match…
2. Naomi vs. Natalya. With Natalya hung up in the ropes, Naomi performed a slingshot legdrop heading into a break. [C] Naomi won the match with a moonsault…
Naomi defeated Natalya in 7:30.
Powell’s POV: Poor Naomi has to have the bad women’s reproductive system trophy at ringside. Hopefully that doesn’t last as long as Baron Corbin had to pose next to the Andre the Giant trophy. Speaking of Andre, the HBO documentary airs tonight right after Smackdown. I saw a screener and enjoyed it.
Backstage, Renee Young asked Shinsuke Nakamura why he gave Styles a low blow after their match. He said he doesn’t know what came over him. He said maybe he got too emotional and said he was very, very sorry for what he did to Styles. Fans laughed. Young noted that he was being disingenuous and asked the question again. “Sorry, no speak English,” Nakamura replied before walking away…
The broadcast team hyped Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev in a Triple Threat for a shot at Jinder Mahal’s U.S. Championship at WWE Backlash… Charlotte was shown walking backstage and they said she’s up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: Nakamura’s promo was highly entertaining. There was no heat there, but I assume that comes later tonight when he ruins the Styles vs. Bryan dream match.
Charlotte Flair made her entrance. Phillips said Charlotte and Asuka were basically equals, but only one woman could emerge victorious and Asuka finally met her match. Once in the ring, Charlotte said Asuka was the toughest challenge in her career.
[Hour Two] Charlotte thanked Asuka for making her dig deeper and work harder than she ever thought was possible. She looked into the camera and told Asuka that they left every ounce of emotion in the ring. She said it was special and magical. She said the question now is who she will make magic with next.
“The Iconic Duo” Peyton Royce and Billie Kay interrupted Charlotte’s promo. The fans chanted NXT. Kay said Charlotte’s match at WrestleMania was “good” and then Royce said it just wasn’t “iconic”. They entered the ring and mocked Charlotte for all the people she thanks. Kay said Charlotte was looking at the future. “It’s out with the old and in with iconic,” she said.
Kay started to circle behind Charlotte, who elbowed her. Royce and Kay double teamed Charlotte. She came back and cleared Royce from the ring, but Kay caught her with a boot. They took her to ringside and tossed her over the broadcast table, then went behind it and tossed her over the opposite way. They picked her up and ran her face first into the ring post. Charlotte got to her feet and they ran her into the ring steps.
Royce and Kay picked her up again, put her on their shoulders, and performed a double powerbomb. They rolled Charlotte back inside the ring and stood over her. Four referees ran out and took turns pointing in the direction of the stage. The Iconic duo left and started to back up the ramp when Carmella’s music played.
Carmella raced to the ring with the Money in the Bank briefcase. She handed it to the referee, who took forever and asked her repeatedly if she wanted to cash in. The fans booed how long the referee took. Ring announcer Greg Hamilton announced that Carmella was cashing in her MITB briefcase.
3. Charlotte vs. Carmella for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Carmella delivered a big boot to Charlotte and pinned her…
Carmella pinned Charlotte Flair in 0:06 to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Carmella celebrated and the fans were accepting. Charlotte was shown sitting up and looking angry. Carmella walked back to ringside from the stage and mocked Charlotte, who smiled at her. Carmella stood on the apron, but two referees blocked her path and did more pointing… [C]
Powell’s POV: Was the title change done to free up Charlotte to move to Raw. She would not be able to get her revenge on the Iconic Duo or Carmella if they took that approach. Then again, we don’t know if the NXT call-ups are officially on the brands they have debuted on over the last two nights or if they are eligible for the Shakeup too. It’s great to see Royce and Kay called up. I’m optimistic that creative will do good things with them. Then again, I was also optimistic about Riott Squad and Absolution and it’s not like creative has done anything special with either faction, though Paige’s injury likely derailed some plans on the Raw side.
4. Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev (w/Aiden English) in a Triple Threat for a U.S. Title match at WWE Backlash. Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh were at ringside for the match. They cut to a split-screen commercial break as the match got underway. [C] Rusev performed a side supelx on Orton onto the broadcast table and then worked over Roode inside the ring.
The fans chanted “Rusev Day” and he played to them before hitting a Machka Kick on Roode. Rusev put Roode in the Accolade, but Orton returned to break it up with a kick. Orton threw Rusev between the ropes and into the post. Roode rolled up Orton for two. Orton stood up and hit the RKO on Roode and pinned him. Orton stared down at Mahal afterward…
Randy Orton defeated Bobby Roode and Rusev in a Triple Threat to earn a U.S. Title match at WWE Backlash.
Phillips hyped Styles vs. Bryan for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The crowd was pro-Rusev and there were some boos for the finish, but they didn’t last long. Another Mahal vs. Orton match? It doesn’t do anything for me, but I guess they want the current champion to face the last champion since Orton wasn’t pinned when the title changed hands.
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviewed Carmella, who said when a queen overstays her welcome there is always a princess there to take her place. She boasted that she was patient for 287 days and waited for the perfect time to cash in. She started acting like she was going to cry as she said there was someone she wanted to thank. “I just want to say thank you…to me!” Fuentes asked about Royce and Kay. “Who?” she responded. ‘Mella is money and now ‘Mella has the gold”…
Backstage Young approached Styles to get his take on Nakamura’s comments. He said maybe he’ll put his fist down his throat, but that’s not his focus. He said he never thought he’d be standing across from Daniel Bryan in a WWE ring. He said Bryan is great and probably one of the greatest, but he’s not phenomenal…
Ring entrances for the main event took place. They hyped the Shakeup and said this could be the last night for Bryan on Smackdown. Graves said he would love to have Bryan on Monday nights. The match was described as a “fantasy match” by Phillips… [C]
Powell’s POV: I guess they don’t want to go with “dream match” after spending weeks using that description for the Styles vs. Nakamura match at WrestleMania.
5. WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan in a non-title match. Bryan used his feet to wrench the arm of Styles and then threw several kicks at him during the opening minute. Styles came back with a nice dropkick. Bryan rolled to ringside. Styles performed a slingshot into a flying forearm while Phillips once again asked who would win the fantasy match. [C]
Bryan hit a running dropkick and then threw a series of kicks. Styles blocked the big one and performed a dragon screw leg whip. Styles applied a Calf Crusher at 8:40. Bryan escaped. Styles ducked a kick and hit Bryan with a Pele Kick. Styles caught Bryan with a clothesline and covered him for two.
Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Bryan caught him with a kick. Bryan followed up with a kick to the head and then led the crowd in Yes chants while waiting for Styles to get up. Once Styles was up, Bryan charged, by Styles rolled him over in a Calf Crusher attempt. Bryan avoided that and went for the Yes Lock, but Styles reached the ropes.
Bryan tied up Bryan in the tree of woe and threw several kicks at him. Bryan went for a move from the top rope, but Styles pivoted and landed on Bryan’s head. Nakamura hit the ring and delivered a Kinshasa to the back of Bryan’s head for the DQ.
AJ Styles fought Daniel Bryan to an apparent no-contest in 11:45.
With Bryan at ringside, Nakamura hit Styles with a Kinshasa and was booed. Nakamura picked up Styles and gave him a low blow just as he did at WrestleMania. Nakamura left the ring and laughed as he walked up the ramp…
Powell’s POV: It was easy to see coming, but it was still smart and effective booking. Nakamura took out the two most popular guys on the brand with his finisher and interrupted the, um, fantasy match. The same crowd that was laughing at Nakamura earlier was booing him at the end, which speaks to the success of the angle. Overall, Smackdown didn’t have the shock and awe of last night’s newsworthy Raw moments, but it was still a good and newsworthy show with a new GM, a title change, an NXT act called up, and a notable main event. I will be by with members’ exclusive audio review later tonight.