By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Montreal, Quebec at Bell Centre
The show began with a recap of the Superstars that ended up on Raw last night. Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton joined in on commentary. Kevin Owens then made his way out for the Kevin Owens Show. He got an incredible reaction, as you would expect in his hometown of Montreal. The crowd continued cheering as Owens paused. He welcomed everyone to the show in French, and continued to say several sentences in French that I could not decipher. It sure sounded like he was upset at being left off WrestleMania.
Owens then switched to English, and said there were many surprises on store in the Superstar Shakeup, and said Vince McMahon would be out later to announce the biggest acquisition in Smackdown history. He said the biggest star on Smackdown is already out there, because it’s him. The crowd cheered loudly, and Owens asked them to stop in fairness to his guest. He then introduced Kofi Kingston, and made sure to mention that Kofi was deserving of his respect.
Kofi made his entrance with Xavier Woods. The crowd reacted strongly for him as well. Owens welcomed them to Montreal, and said it was great to have him there. Ole chants started in the crowd. Owens called what Kofi did at WrestleMania something nobody would ever forget. He said he won the WWE Championship against incredible odds, and wanted to offer him a personal congratulation on behalf of himself and the entire crowd.
Kofi grabbed the mic and said they had done something special at WrestleMania, and he was glad he got to celebrate with his family, and his brothers, and the fans. He then screamed that he was the champion in French, and the crowd erupted. After they all sat down again, Owens mentioned Big E’s injury, and Woods said he was injured last week in their match. He then lamented Raw taking 80% of his UpUpDownDown Youtube crew.
Owens said they have a tag match later with Nakamura and Rusev. He then mentioned that since Big E was out, and they were used to being a trio, they should enlist the help of one…..Big K. He then stopped himself, and said Big O was funnier. They asked him if he wanted to be an honorary member of the New Day, and he said hell yeah he did. Woods asked him if he was able to move his groin with his recent injury, which prompted the “Big O” to get up and start swiveling his hips. Kofi and Woods made it official, and gave Big O a crop top and a headband to celebrate his new membership.
Nakamura and Rusev were shown backstage. Cesaro then approached, and offered to even the odds with the trio gyrating in the ring. Finn Balor then made his entrance in the arena, signaling his arrival on Smackdown Live…[c]
My Take: Big O as a good humored babyface will be fun for a bit, but I’m not sure how long it could last. It’s one of those stories that could end tonight or go on for 6 months, and I’m not sure which yet. Finn Balor is a guy I’ve wanted to see on Smackdown for a long time. He was drowning on Raw, and he will fit very nicely in the babyface pecking order on Smackdown. He needs a fresh start, and something to say.
Finn Balor was in the ring. New Day and Owens vs. Cesaro, Nakamura, and Rusev was confirmed for later. Ali then made his ring entrance.
1. Ali vs. Finn Balor: Both guys moved quickly out of the gate. Balor hit a nice shoulder tackle, and Ali returned fire with a dropkick. After a long headlock by Ali, Balor broke free and hit him with a running forearm. Ali recovered and sent Balor to the outside with a headscissors…[c]
The action remained back and forth during the break. That trend continued as Balor hit a driving elbow, and Ali returned with a superkick a moment later. Ali went for a tornado DDT from the second rope, Balor avoided it and hit a double stomp to the chest. Balor climbed to the top, but Ali crotched him on the ropes with a dropkick. Ali followed him to the top rope and hit a top rope headscissors for a near fall.
Ali tried to follow up with a 450, but Balor avoided it and hit a running dropkick that sent Ali into the corner. He then hit the Coup de Grace for the win.
Finn Balor defeated Ali at 10:33
Backstage, Woods and Kofi approached Big O about his initiation into the New Day. They said he had to eat an entire plate of pancake faster than Big E. Owens agreed, but said he had never eaten a pancake in his life. They started a timer, and Owens complained about the cold dry pancakes, but kept stuffing them in his face. R-Truth and Carmella made their entrance. She will face Charlotte next…[c]
My Take: Balor and Ali had a good, but not great match. I bet if they start tightening their matches up on the house shows, they could have one twice as good in few weeks. The pancake bit with New Day didn’t really land for me, but they rarely do.
Owens apparently finished the pancakes, and was trying to avoid vomiting. I’m guessing that may happen in his match later. In the arena, Charlotte made her entrance.
2. Charlotte vs. Carmella: Charlotte shoved Carmella down and shouted at the crowd that she hates Canada. Carmella surprised her with a superkick and a near fall. The match spilled outside, and Carmella was thrown into the barricade. She was able to recover and climb the barricade to splash Charlotte on the floor a moment alter. She tossed Charlotte into the ring and tossed her into the corner. She then hit a bronco buster.
Charlotte charged back by sending Carmella to the apron, and then hitting a big boot to send her to the floor…[c]
Charlotte kipped up as the show returned. She taunted the crowd, and picked up Carmella for a slam. This slam was reversed, and Charlotte was pulled down by her hair. The match spilled outside again, and Charlotte whipped Carmella into the barricade. Charlotte climbed to the top of the barricade, but Carmella pulled her down and hit a superkick. Afterword, Carmella sold the knee that Charlotte has been working on throughout the match. Charlotte hit a chop block on the apron, and then pulled Carmella in the ring for the Figure Eight and the submission victory.
Charlotte defeated Carmella at 9:04
After the match, Carmella was nursing her knee. Truth was with her in the ring, and Lars Sullivan’s music hit. He entered and confronted Truth, who got in a few shots before being leveled by slam. Lars looked at Carmella, who Charles Robinson assisted out of the ring. Lars then hit a running sitout powerbomb on Truth. The announcers one again hyped Mr. McMahon for later. Becky Lynch is next…[c]
My Take: So far Raw has gotten the better end of the Superstar Shakeup. We will see what the next hour brings, but tables have tilted in the favor of Raw in comparison to last year. Smackdown seemingly did more with less in 2016 into 2017, so let’s hope for a repeat performance. That is, if the brand split is enforced in the same way it used to be come September when the show moves to Fox.
Becky Lynch made her entrance to another impressive reaction. Footage was shown of the WrestleMania main event. Becky repeated herself from last night, and said she did exactly what she said she was going to do at WrestleMania. She said she has challengers prowling around on both Raw and Smackdown Live, and it reminded her exactly of what her job was. She said her shiny belts are her passport to pick a fights with anyone she wants, just because she can.
Ember Moon then made her entrance, and said people better get used to seeing her, because she’s now on Smackdown Live. Becky said it she was a talent, but she better not interrupt the man again. Ember said she wasn’t there for advice, she was there to make a name for herself by confronting the person who beat Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. Before Becky could respond, Bayley interrupted.
Bayley got some boos. She said she was on Smackdown Live as a singles competitor, and said she had her eyes on two other belts. Once again, before Becky could respond, the Iconics interrupted. They walked out said they also had two belts, but they think Becky and Ember were out there because they have zero belts. They told Becky that their belts were better, because they were Iconic.
Paige then interrupted everyone and said she was there on Smackdown live. She thinks everyone would like The Iconics belts would be better if they defended them. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose walked out and said that Smackdown Live has waited too long for the reunion of Absolution. Paige told them that they’d have to wait longer, because she wasn’t there for them. She said the first woman on her team was Asuka, and her teammate was Kairi Sane. The Iconics made an unpleasant face.
Paige sent her team to the ring to make an impact, and Becky slowly backed her way out of the ring avoiding the conflict. Bayley, Ember, Kairi, and Asuka stood tall…[c]
My Take: That segment was a bit convoluted, but Smackdown has gotten several women that will make an impact on the show. Kairi Sane is a nice ad, and it will be important for WWE to quickly reinvent the characters of Bayley and Ember Moon. Bayley seemed a bit flustered by the negative crowd reaction, but it would be a huge improvement for her to use this moment to discard the childish nature of her character. What stuck out to me most in this segment is that there are a lot of quality workers in the Women’s Division, but Paige and Becky stand out in a big way with their ability to lead and manipulate the crowd with their promos.
3. The Iconics and Fire and Desire vs. Bayley, Ember Moon, Asuka and Kairi Sane: Bayley and Asuka took it to Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose early on. Kairi and Asuka showed off some impressive double team offense on Mandy. Bayley dove on both Mandy and Sonya on the outside. The Iconics walked over to help them up, but then Ember splashed them from the top rope to the floor…[c]
Deville hit a running knee to Bayley. Mandy was the legal partner, so she covered for a near fall. Peyton tagged in and continued to work over Bayley in the corner. She attempted a wheel kick, but Bayley moved. Peyton knocked Ember off the apron to prevent a tag, but Bayley reached Asuka instead. She entered the match and knocked the rest of the heels off the apron with a hip attack. She then hit several kicks on Peyton and covered, but Mandy broke it up.
The match broke down here with everyone hitting some signature offense. Kairi and Asuka hit backfists on Peyton. Asuka hit a reverse DDT on Peyton, and tagged in Kairi for the Insane Elbow for the win.
Kairi Sane, Asuka, Ember, and Bayley defeated The Iconics & Fire and Desire at 8:49
After the match, the babyfaces celebrated as the heels licked their wounds. The announce team plugged Vince’s announcement, and a graphic was shown of Kairi Sane, Ember Moon, Finn Balor, Lars Sullivan, and Bayley coming to Smackdown. Footage was then show of Lars destroying Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, The Hardys and R-Truth.
Backstage, The Hardy Boyz had a backstage promo. They said they reminded everyone of the greatness of the Hardy Boyz last week, and said they were the greatest team of all space and time. Elsewhere, Kevin Owens was doing the New Day Greeting, and had to be stopped a few times in order to get it right. Eventually, Woods and Kofi were impressed with the Big O. They all made their entrance for the 6 man tag next…[c]
My Take: That felt like a house show 8-man tag match, but it was nice to see the insane elbow, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team of Asuka and Kairi are portrayed going forward. The Iconics are in a weird spot at this point, because they are heels without much heat. The team of Kairi and Asuka could easily be slotted in a position to get boos, particularly with Paige on the microphone.
Buddy Murphy showed up on the Tron, and introduced himself. He said he’s been destroying the competition on 205 Live for months, and soon the best kept secret will be coming to Smackdown Live. Rusev, Cesaro, and Nakamura were already in the ring.
4. New Day with The Big O vs. Rusev, Nakamura, and Cesaro: Kofi and Woods took it to Rusev early on, but he was able to escape and tag in Nakamura. Kofi hit a double stomp on Nakamura and tossed him into the corner. They all tagged in and did the Unicorn Stampede. Woods then threw Owens into the corner for cannonball like a fastball special. Woods and Cesaro tagged in, and the heels took over when Woods was sent to the floor. Nakamura sent Woods into the barricade…[c]
Nakamura hit an impressive sliding German Suplex under the ropes. Rusev then tagged in and covered for a near fall. The heels continued to work over Woods and deny him a tag. He then avoided a knee from Nakamura in the corner, and then climbed up to the top. Nakamura followed him up there, and they battled on the ropes. Woods knocked Nakamura down, and then hit a missile dropkick.
Kofi Kingston got the hot tag and took out Cesaro with some high flying punches. Kofi fired up for Trouble in Paradise, but Rusev distracted him. He was able to hit SOS a moment later for a near fall. Cesaro caught him in a swing, and then placed him in the Sharpshooter. Owens entered the ring and hit a superkick on Cesaro. Things broke down as the heels cleared Woods and Owens from the ring.
Owens climbed on the apron and Kofi tagged him in. He then vaulted Kofi over the ropes onto the heels. Kofi then hit Trouble in Paradise on Rusev in the ring, and Owens finished him off with the Stunner. Owens covered for the 3 count.
New Day defeated Cesaro, Nakamura, and Rusev at 12:32
After the match, Vince was shown observing a television backstage. His announcement is next…[c]
My Take: A fun match, but not a technically spectacular one. Big E posted a grumpy face on Twitter during the match, so consider this the beginning of a story. We’ll see how long Owens plays the role of replacement, but so far it’s been some decent comedy.
The bizarre rocking chair Sister Abigail vignette was shown. In the arena, Vince McMahon made his entrance for his major announcement. Vince said it was nice to be back in Montreal, and he was very happy about that. Vince said it wasn’t very often that he puts his seal of approval on a superstar. Vince said he’s not only the future of Smackdown, he’s the future of the entire WWE. He said he exudes charisma and is without a doubt the biggest acquisition in Smackdown history. He then introduced Elias, who entered to a chorus of boos.
The crowd chanted at him in French, which he said he doesn’t understand. He thanked Vince McMahon, and said he has questioned his decisions in the past, but without a doubt he can recognize a good vision when he sees one. Elias told the crowd to silence their phones for his performance, and was then immediately interrupted by Roman Reigns.
Reigns entered the ring and immediately punked Elias with a superman punch as he stared down Vince McMahon. They had a stare down in the middle of the ring, and Vince spoke angrily and pointed at him. Roman then hit a Superman Punch on Vince McMahon, and grabbed a microphone. He said he didn’t care what he said, Smackdown is his yard now.
Reigns started to walk up the ramp, but turned around and hit a spear on Elias in the middle of the ring. Reigns celebrated on the stage to close the show.
My Take: Reigns was the favorite heading to the show, so that wasn’t a surprise, but I enjoyed the Elias headfake. They are both welcome editions to Smackdown, and hopefully we’ll see Elias break out of the relentless interruptions shtick at some point and further develop his character. Reigns is in a weird place, as Smackdown doesn’t have a ton of heels ready built for him to face immediately, and the show already has a popular champion. We’ll see where this goes from here.