By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Result of Superstar Shakeup: There is some general agreement among commentators that the shakeup was poorly planned, and even more poorly executed. Despite that, the result will be beneficial to Smackdown in the long run. Acts like Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, Elias, Ember Moon, Bayley, and Aleister Black feel like they can get a fresh start and make an impact on Smackdown.
Finn Balor vs. Andrade: This was a well worked match, and I hope it turns into a long-term feud over the Intercontinental Championship. I can’t imagine they thought Andrade would be put in a position to have a return match against Balor when they initially put these two together on Raw last week, but the situation changed and I think it made sense to put them back on even footing by having Balor get a win. I can’t emphasize enough how this feud needs to become personal. Balor needs to show some personality, and perhaps a weakness in the process, and Andrade needs to be able to exploit it. It was encouraging to see Andrade and Zelina Vega get mic time, but both acts are fighting against a personality deficit that needs to be rectified.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Bayley promo and Charlotte vs. Bayley: Another very good match, and the promo that led to it was also encouraging for the Smackdown women’s division. Bayley has needed a revamp and a more serious approach to her character for ages, and this felt like a step in that direction. Becky also got to show some fire in her promo, rightfully complaining about the company continually making opportunities for Charlotte that are not given to others. Bayley also got to show some fire during the match and looked strong despite the defeat. Charlotte might have been the weakest link here, as the company continues to put her in a position to earn opportunities that they fail to justify via her promos or on-screen storytelling.
Kofi Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and the Kevin Owens heel turn: I think everyone saw this coming eventually, but I wouldn’t have predicted it to come so soon. Owens was Daniel Bryan’s planned opponent for WrestleMania before Kofi took off, so perhaps we’ll see Owens play up his jealousy of being left off WrestleMania because of this. Owens attacking Xavier Woods was also interesting, as it may mean we see Kofi by himself in his first title defense. The match between Kofi and Nakamura was also above my expectations. If they can get Nakamura out of cruise control and back into a motivated position, he could make for an interesting villain of the month for a babyface champion down the road.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Opening Segment: Shane McMahon didn’t give his best performance on the microphone in this segment. He flubbed Mount Rushmore as Rount Mushmore, and then it seemed like he lost the majority of his confidence. The confrontation and subsequent beat down of Roman Reigns by Shane and Elias also felt a bit basic and underwhelming. I don’t think people buy Elias in this position quite yet, and the fact that he and Shane spent the rest of the show running away from Reigns doesn’t help. Hopefully in the coming weeks, we’ll see Elias become more of a threat.
Becky Lynch post-match promo: After Charlotte had beaten Bayley, Becky was asked for a response backstage, and essentially blew off both of her Money in the Bank opponents. I understand the desire to have her character exude confidence after winning both belts at WrestleMania, but they’ve been writing her in a way that makes her seem aloof and one dimensional ever since the Royal Rumble back in December. That isn’t what endeared her to the fans in the first place, and it’s not what is going to sell people on watching her title defenses.
Women’s Tag Division: The IIconics have lost every match since WrestleMania and have struggled to get any reaction for their promos in front of live crowds. The fact that they are losing quickly on television also adds to the perception that the champions and the championships they hold are a joke. Perhaps Sasha and Bayley were right to object to not being given a longer opportunity to add prestige to those titles before having them ripped away.
Men’s Tag Division: Where is it, exactly?
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