By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Vince McMahon replaces Kofi Kingston with Kevin Owens in the WWE Championship match at Fastlane: A fun and unexpected twist with the surprise return of KO. Are they pushing Kingston’s title match back to WrestleMania or will this lead to a Triple Threat at Fastlane? Kofi will obviously get his shot eventually, so my only concern with the segment lies with the Vince McMahon character once again blindsiding his children with a major ruling. Hopefully they are simply playing up Vince as a wildcard, but my fear is that we’re on the verge of a McMahon family feud. By the way, Vince is really good at playing the out of touch leader of WWE. It’s as if he’s had a lot of practice.
Kevin Owens and Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan: A compelling tag team main event. There was no telling what the Owens character was going to do. So even though he played it straight, the match more than held my attention. The only negative was seeing Bryan take yet another loss on television. The losses are explainable, though, in that they had to scramble to make Kingston once Mustafa Ali was injured, and now they are trying to establish Kevin Owens as a threat on short notice.
Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus and Cesaro: Broken Matt was deleted and replaced by a version of Matt that looked like he stepped out of a time machine. Matt returned in great shape and it was fun to see the Hardys together again, especially in their home state. The duo are a nice addition to the Smackdown tag division. That said, I hope the Hardys’ run on Smackdown is brief, as I would really like to see them moved to Raw in the Superstar Shakeup to chase The Revival for the tag titles. And if it’s not too much to ask, perhaps the Revival could actually win a television match before then?
R-Truth vs. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio for the U.S. Championship: It always feels a little too convenient that one person is right there waiting for the open title matches, so it was fun to see more than one person make a play to be Truth’s open challenger. The match was fine and the nice thing about Truth as the champion is the feeling that he could lose the title whenever he puts it on the line in a television match.
Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev: A well worked match with the NXT newcomers getting another win. These teams worked well together. I’m still not crazy about the idea of WWE skipping the build of Black as a brooding loner, but there’s no denying that he and Ricochet work well together.
Charlotte Flair: A minor Hit for a well delivered promo. It felt like a missed opportunity that the broadcast team didn’t go after her for being so self absorbed that she didn’t even mention the attack on her father. And while I like the rare attempt at synergy between the shows by having Charlotte hype her appearance on Raw, it also felt clunky that she said she would wait until Monday to have Vince McMahon crown her the new Raw Women’s Champion when he’d appeared on this show less than an hour earlier. Update: A reader let me know that Byron Saxton did take Charlotte to task for not addressing her father’s situation. My apologies for missing that.
WWE Smackdown Misses
None: A strong two-hour show. Nothing felt like filler, the Vince McMahon appearance was newsworthy, and the returns of Kevin Owens and Matt Hardy made for good television. The only real negative of the night was that we didn’t get the advertised Johnny Gargano vs. Cesaro match, which looked like a gem on paper.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and former WWE Smackdown lead writer Alex Greenfield discussing the NXT call-ups, Stephanie McMahon’s past contributions to WWE creative, the growth of MLW, and much more.