By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Montreal, Quebec at Bell Centre
Video was shown of Shane McMahon getting thrown through the announce table at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Paige was then shown and said that Shane will not be there tonight. She also announced that due to their actions in Saudi Arabia, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura would meet in a No Disqualification match.
The Miz stood in the ring and welcomed everyone to MizTV. He said his guest last week no showed, which he called and outrage and an unforgivable offense. He said until further notice, Daniel Bryan is banned from MizTV. Miz then took a shot at Seth Rollins, and said he couldn’t hide behind Samoa Joe and Finn Balor when they meet on Sunday at Backlash. He said an A-Lister would be back as the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday. He then introduced his guest, US Champion Jeff Hardy. Orton vs. Hardy was confirmed for Backlash by the announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton.
Miz said he would shake his hand, but he just high fived all those nasty people in the front row. Miz asked Jeff if he was a better IC Champion than Seth Rollins. Jeff asked if that was really why he brought him out there, and Miz said yep. They argued back and forth a bit about what makes for a good champion, before Miz brought out Randy Orton as a surprise.
Miz complained that Orton interrupted his introduction of him, and Randy blew him off. He tried to incite more drama between Orton and Hardy by bringing up how they had interrupted each other’s matches over the past few weeks, and Orton wouldn’t take the bait. He said they were cool as far as he’s concerned. Miz then tried another angle, and brought up the Smackdown Top Ten List and that Orton was 9th. Orton said nobody cares about the Top Ten List.
Miz then brought up that Hardy’s issue with Jinder Mahal became Orton’s problem last week, and it cost him a win. He said Hardy should have an RKO with his name on it. Orton warned Miz that nobody tells him when to strike. He then turned to Hardy and told him he earned his rematch, and that on Sunday he would take his title back. Hardy said he was welcome to try. Miz was upset that they weren’t more angry at each other.
Shelton Benjamin interrupted and said that if anyone deserved a title shot, it was him. Orton kicked Shelton as he got into the ring, and went for a draping DDT. Miz broke it up, but Hardy pulled him away and hit a Whisper in the Wind on him. Hardy and Orton stood tall to close the segment…[c]
My Take: I’m not super excited about this feud, but this was a quality segment. Hardy was a bit of a weak link on the microphone, but he was passable. Orton’s current babyface run is getting a little long in the tooth. He either needs a hot heel to feud with, or he needs to turn himself to feud with Hardy and maybe AJ or Daniel Bryan down the road. He’s at a bit of a crossroads as a character.
1. Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz and Shelton Benjamin: The match was joined in progress. The announce team said Paige made the match during the break. Benjamin hit a hard right hand and covered Orton for a two count. He then tagged The Miz and they attempted to cut off the ring as the crowd clowned around with Ole chants. Orton hit a nice clothesline and made a tag to Hardy. He cleaned house for a moment, but Benjamin and Miz were able to use a ref distraction to knock Jeff Hardy from the top rope out to the floor to end his offensive streak.
We got a PIP commercial break, where Hardy recovered and beat a count back to the ring, but got isolated near the heel corner. Miz shut down several tag attempts with holds and a hair pull. Benjamin then tagged in and held Hardy upside down so Miz could kick him in the ribs. Miz tagged in and hit a DDT for a near fall. Hardy broke free from Shelton Benjamin with a kick a moment later, but was able to tag in Miz before Hardy could tag out. Miz hit some dropkicks on Hardy in the corner, but Hardy shot out of the corner for a jumping clothesline and made a hot tag.
Orton entered and cleaned house. He then hit a back suplex on Miz onto the announce table, and then hit a double draping DDT on Miz and Shelton. Orton fired up for an RKO on Benjamin. He then tagged Hardy, who hit a Swanton on Benjamin for the win.
Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy defeated Shelton Benjamin and The Miz at 12:39.
After Hardy got to his feet after the pinfall, Orton drilled him with an RKO. He then stood over Hardy before the cameras cut away to backstage. Renee Young interviewed the IIconics, who ripped her and her accent. Renee called the imitation a Minnesota accent, but Peyton said it didn’t matter because they were both garbage. The IIconics sent away Renee, and brought in Carmella. They celebrated their recent success and said they would defeat Charlotte, Becky, and Asuka because they were the future…[c]
My Take: The Tag Match was a very typical crowd pleasing babyface TV match, as you’d expect when they had to make both Hardy and Orton look strong heading into Sunday. The RKO was also predictable, but not in a bad way. I hope Orton and Hardy can work a satisfying pace on Sunday. Hardy is a few steps slower than he used to be, and Orton is one of the slowest workers in WWE. The IIconics continue to miss the mark for me. They have the charisma, but they have been written some real clunkers for promos.
The announce team said Daniel Bryan wasn’t cleared for tonight for fear of an infection on his chest. Backstage, The Bar ran into New Day, where they bantered about pancakes. The New Day introduced a butler called Bootyward, who brought a tray of pancakes. The Bar accused them of being laced with laxatives and tossed them into the air. Sheamus asked for a proper welcome in the form of a match. Big E got in his face and told him he’s got it. Sheamus said he was actually talking to Woods, who accepted and said he would steal Sheamus’s soul.
Elsewhere, Aiden English and Rusev were chatting backstage when Lana approach. She’s apparently not Russian anymore, as she spoke without a detectable accent. She asked for some privacy with Rusev, and told him that Rusev Day is bigger than ever, but he keeps coming up short. She told him that something is holding him back, indicating it was Aiden English. Rusev didn’t immediately react to the implication.
In the arena, Big Cass made his ring entrance…[c]
My Take: Lana rejoining Rusev could be good news, but that’s a big question mark. I’m not big on the pancakes obsession continuing for New Day, but Sheamus and Woods should make for a hard hitting match.
Big Cass started talking about New York, and said he lives with a lot of the stereotypes of people who are from there. He admitted that some of them are true. He doesn’t like people who aren’t from there, and he’s better than everybody else. He then belittled Daniel Bryan for being weak and small, and said he wouldn’t have a 5 star match on Sunday, it would be a 5 second match. He said he didn’t need wristlocks or Yes Locks or whatever Bryan calls it, he doesn’t even need to prepare. He then said he would knock Bryan’s teeth down his throat right now.
He then demanded Bryan come down to the ring, and it was a little person. Cass mocked Bryan via the the little person with height jokes before ending the “scene”. He then had the man bow and plead for crowd reactions before hitting him with a boot to the face. He then hit some rapid fire punches, and posed for the crowd in a chorus of boos. The Six Woman match was plugged for later, and Shinsuke Nakamura is next…[c]
My Take: Cass tried really hard to make that material work, but it started bad and got worse. The crowd was on him from the word go, and he had to shout over them for a solid minute before they settled down. They then just heckled him in spurts. The little person shtick felt like an attitude era throwback angle, with none of the nostalgia and all of the stupidity.
Renee Young was in the ring and brought out AJ Styles. The crowd changed for AJ and prevented Renee from getting started initially. She asked him if the No DQ stipulation helped him or hurt him on Sunday. He asked if we were talking about the con artist or the cheap shot artist in Shinsuke Nakamura. He said Shin seemed more interested in his jewels than the WWE Championship. Renee told AJ that Shinsuke demanded an apology from Styles, to which Styles responded that he should have left him in the Arabian Desert.
Styles said he ruined his WrestleMania, took Styles vs. Bryan away from the WWE Universe, and tried to take out one of his friends. Styles said he can break the rules too, and it’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth as far as he’s concerned. He said you’ll be able to find pieces of Shinsuke in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Renee asked if he was going to make an apology, and Styles said if Shinsuke wants one, he can come and get it himself.
Samoa Joe walked out instead and told AJ that he was losing focus. He said he should be looking at what happens between himself and Roman Reigns on Sunday. Joe got sidetracked for a second and talked about Roman Reigns and how Brock Lesnar was the Universal Champion. He said he would prove Roman Reigns is a failure, and then whether it was Shinsuke or AJ, after Sunday he was was coming to take the WWE Championship. Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hit and Joe swiveled to look behind him, but he hit another low blow on AJ instead. Nakamura faked out AJ with a knee attempt from behind, and instead hit him straight on with a Kinshasa. Nakamura then talked some trash and posed over a fallen Styles.
Backstage, Becky Lynch was apologizing to Asuka for costing her their match last week. Asuka told her to forget it, because they needed to focus on later tonight. Charlotte walked up and said that she would win back her Championship on Sunday, but tonight she needed to teach Carmella some respect. Becky told her not to be a hero, because they all needed to have each others backs because Carmella and the IIconics were shady. Asuka nerded out and called them the Avengers with The Empress, The Queen, and Straight Fire…[c]
My Take: I really like Samoa Joe immediately entering the title picture. I don’t know if I’d put the title on him over Shinsuke, but having these three being in the mix is nothing but good news on the chemistry front. I have a feeling we could be seeing a lot more three way feuds over titles in the coming future due to dual brand PPV’s, and you could do a lot worse than these three. Shinsuke continues to be far better as a heel than a babyface, though he could use a bit more viciousness for my tastes.
New Day made their entrance for Xavier Woods match with Sheamus.
2. Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus: Woods hit a low dropkick early, followed by a rolling elbow and a dropkick that sent Sheamus to the floor. He then followed up with a dive to the outside, but a distraction from Cesaro allowed Sheamus to hit a knee to the jaw. Sheamus hit some clubbing blows. He tossed Woods, and he collided with the ropes…[c]
Sheamus controlled the match during the break with holds and strikes. He hit an Irish Curse backbreaker and talked trash. Woods hit some strikes to start a comeback, and chopped down Sheamus with some kicks and knees. Sheamus took a hard charge at Woods in the corner and hit the post. Woods hit a corkscrew leg drop for a near fall.
Woods went back up top, but had to jump to avoid Sheamus. He hit a shining wizard and went back up top, but Cesaro caused some interference. Woods went outside to take out Cesaro, and Sheamus followed to toss him into the barricade. Kofi caused a distraction of his own as Sheamus re-entered the ring, and Woods rolled him up for the win.
Xavier Woods defeated Sheamus at 8:23
The announcers threw to a WWE.com promo where Absolution mocked Becky Lynch for costing Asuka her debut match. Backstage, they approached Paige and wanted her to roll out the special treatment. They wanted title matches right way, but Paige notified them that they had to earn their keep, and that absolution is dead. She said Mandy would face Becky Lynch next week…[c]
My Take: The Bar and New Day will be a fun feud, but I have to wonder if it will end up being on the pre-show unless they manage to break back into the title picture. The dual brand PPV’s will end up costing people PPV spots, and I have to image secondary tag feuds will end up in that mix unless they really heat up and connect with crowds.
We got a Andrade “Cien” “El Idolo” Almas selfie promo as the show returned. They said they wouldn’t say when they’d arrive on Smackdown, but when they did it would change forever. The announce team then ran down the Backlash PPV card. Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Asuka made their ring entrances…[c]
The IIconics made their ring entrance, followed by Carmella.
3. Carmella and The IIconics vs. Charlotte, Asuka, and Becky Lynch: Mella started the match with Charlotte, but ran away and tagged in Peyton. Becky wanted into the match, and things finally got started with Peyton and Becky. Peyton avoided Becky’s offense for the most part, and tagged in Billie. Becky got Billie in an arm twist and tagged in Asuka. Billie slapped Asuka, who hit a hip attack and tagged in Charlotte.
Charlotte went for a pinfall attempt right way, but only got two. She ran at Billie in the corner, but she evaded and Charlotte hit the turnbuckles. Carmella wanted into the match, but ran away from Charlotte as soon as she recovered. Charlotte attempted a Figure Four, but Carmella scrambled for the ropes and the IIconics pulled her out of the ring. Charlotte jumped on the IIconics over the ropes, but Carmella bailed out of the way…[c]
Becky Lynch fought off the IIconics and Carmella to crawl towards the corner for a tag to Asuka, but the IIconics pulled her off the apron. Carmella tried to pull Becky away from Charlotte returning to the apron, but failed. Charlotte entered and chopped down Carmella, and then hit suplexes on the IIconics. Carmella got to her feet, but got Suplexed back down. After a distraction by Billie, Carmella pulled Charlotte off the top turnbuckle and into the post. The heel time isolated Charlotte with Becky and Asuka off the apron on the floor.
The IIconics placed Charlotte on the top rope, and then Carmella pulled her down with a head scissors. Carmella screamed in frustration at being unable to put Charlotte away. Peyton tagged back in and ragdolled Charlotte with a chinlock. Charlotte looked trapped with no one in her corner, but Asuka fired up and jumped back on the apron to make a tag. Billie and Carmella tried to save Peyton from Asuka, but she hit them with a hip attack. Peyton rolled up Asuka for a near fall, but Asuka quickly put her down with a kick.
Billie Kay broke up the pinfall attempt, but Becky cleared her with a dropkick. Carmella hit Becky with a superkick, but Charlotte speared her. Charlotte then hit a moonsault on Carmella and Billie on the floor. Asuka was left alone with Peyton, who she tapped with the Asuka lock almost immediately.
Asuka, Charlotte, and Becky defeated The IIconics and Carmella at 13:56
After the match, Charlotte stared down Carmella, who had retreated up the walkway clinging to her Championship.
My Take: It was nice to see the women featured in the Main Event of this show after they were unable to have any presence in Saudi Arabia this past weekend. I don’t think now is the time to move the Championship back to Charlotte, but the feud with Carmella has been enjoyable, if only for Carmella’s wild swings between overconfidence and absolute panic. The IIconics are much more interesting as a heel team in the ring than they are as characters right now. They just haven’t been written well. If they really wanted to shake up the division, having Becky turn heel to lead a reformed Absolution would be an interesting plot twist. Corey Graves made a point to single her out on commentary as someone who needs to step up and make changes, and went as far as saying her friendship with Charlotte was holding her back. We’ll have to see if that was seed planting or just more idle chatter that goes nowhere.
There was something wrongfully entertaining about watching a seven foot beat up a little person, but it’s not a bad thing because Vince McMahan said it’s okay.
I agree with you, Jake- Randy Orton’s beyond stale as a babyface. Of course creative is either oblivious, or doesn’t seem to care.
And why break up Rusev Day? They’re selling merch, and it could be a huge babyface act. Once again, of course they’re either oblivious, or don’t care- because they stubbornly want him to be a heel.
And why, why, why are they planting seeds for a Becky turn!? She’s the most natural female babyface they’ve got. So what do they do? Pigeon-hole Charlotte, who’s a natural heel, into that role of course.
Why doesn’t the WWE creative team actually understand characters? It’s not that hard. The crowds tell you what they want.