The cold open shows Jinder Mahal, his stolen belt, and his terrible acting in a photo shoot. Shane McMahon sidles up and tells him “Around here titles are earned”. He takes the belt back and informs him (and us) that Mahal will be facing Sami Zayn on tonight’s show. The camera does the usual soap opera slow zoom in as the segment ends.
I’ll be fascinated to see how far WWE pushes Jinder after his title match. Smackdown is loaded with talent and only has two hours to fill. Perhaps he’s a fill-in for Rusev until his return as a top heel?
Shane McMahon and Chris Jericho Promo
Shane-O-Mac (crowd’s words, not mine), introduces the newest member of Smackdown live after he surprisingly beat Kevin Owens for the US Championship at Payback, moving him off Raw.
The crowd seems quieter than Raw’s, but could be the sound production.
Jericho yells “you guys are loud in here toni-i-i-i-i-ight!” like he’s practicing for his Fozzy tour.
Shane tells Jericho he’ll be facing Owens tonight, but first, AJ Styles’ music hits and he joins the segment.
He talks about their Y2AJ shirts, and says nothing would make him happier than taking away the title at the next PPV, IF he’s still champion.
Jericho says he made “K.O. T.O”, declaring himself the new Face of America. He then asks AJ ‘if he knows what happens?’. But before he can finish that thought, Owens interrupts.
He insults the trio and tells AJ to get the hell out of ‘his’ ring. AJ obliges, but runs straight to Ownes at the ramp and they brawl to end the segment.
The three most entertaining wrestlers on the roster are battling over the secondary title while Randy Boreton and a former enhancement talent begin a feud that Hogan and the Iron Shiek finished a few decades ago.
I like that Styles got out of the ring and immediately took it to Owens. The pair will have a few more great matches, elevating the belt even further and hopefully propelling one of them to the heavyweight level after.
Sami Zayn vs Jinder Mahal
We see a recap of Zayn suffering a sneak attack from Baron Corbin on the set of Talking Smack. The broadcast team mentions Corbin was fined and suspended for the week.
Mahal and Zayn start strong with a back and forth telling a classic powerful heel vs the athletic underdog story. Of course WWE goes to commercial after the first few minutes of actual wrestling on the wrestling show.
Mahal looks intimidating and moves pretty well for a big guy, even springboarding off the ropes for sky-high knee drops. The elbow he throws to Zayn’s head looks a bit scary though.
The Smackdown production is fantastic. An above rope camera catches great angles that showcases Zayn’s speed and a brutal looking knee by Mahal.
Zayn sets up for the Helluva kick but Samil Singh drags Mahal to safety while Sunil prevents a Zayn suicide dive by grabbing his leg. This distraction allows Mahal to sneak up behind for his cobra-clutch slam, grabbing the victory.
Mahal looks the part and worked a great match. He’s a great fit for terrorizing smaller babyfaces, so it’ll be interesting to see how he works with the slightly larger Orton. Mahal was given a flat character to play, but if he can put some work into the mic-side of things, he could do well moving forward.
Becky confronts the Mean Girls
Natty says she heard Becky call them snakes but reminds Lynch she was the first female pick to Smackdown and should take her rightful place above Charlotte, with their help of course.
Becky seems to consider it.
Lynch is such a natural face, but with WWE apparently turning Flair face and losing Bliss to RAW, there’s room for another top heel.
Dolph Ziggler backstage insulting the Nakamura video package
Ziggler is pissed that Nakamura is getting too much attention from Daniel Bryan and Shane without wrestling on Smackdown. Shane hears this but doesn’t seem too angry. Ziggler decalres he’ll make an example of Sin Cara in the ring tonight.
Aidan English vs Tye Dillinger
English sings a bit before Dillinger’s music hits.
The crowd is really into Dillinger’s shtick but I don’t really get it. Luckily for me, he’s great in the ring, squashing English. After Dillinger leaves the ring, the camera focuses on English having a breakdown. Makes sense, but what do they have planned here?
Dillinger is getting a big push and the crowd loves him. I’d like to see him in the next level feuding with Owens or Styles.
Jericho consoles English backstage
Jericho tells English there’s no crying on Smackdown, especially since English can sing and has hair on his chest. The chest hair can’t save him from the list however. Reneé Young gets on the list as well.
JBL says ‘ronnie made the list’ and that he wants to see Byron on the list, to watch him cry. After a few weeks of an extremely bland JBL, the WWE seems to be allowing his usual heelish personality to shine through again.
Charlotte talks about destiny until Carmella, Tamina, and Natty give her a gang beating.
Charlotte is so good as a heel and this character still has legs, but suffering a beatdown from three heels screams face turn.
Naomi and Charlotte vs Carmella and Natalya
Charlotte misses her entrance due to the beatdown and the ref tells Naomi it’ll be two-on-one, using his fingers so we can tell at home.
Carmella and Naomi square off and Carmella’s current gimmick is to annoyingly scream ‘REALLY!?’ over and over. It’s horrible.
JBL calls Naomi one of the best athletes in the world today while Phillips talks up Natty: WHAT IS WRONG WITH BROADCASTING TODAY!
Carmella comes back and screams some more, pressing the advantage.
After Natty and Naomi knock each other out with a double-cross-body, Flair’s music hits to a big face pop. She hobbles down to the ring and hits the hot tag, nailing Carmella off the apron with a beautiful strike and pounding Natty with chops and a big boot.
Naomi’s turn for the hot tag is impressive as she leap frogs to an impressive height and hits a great series of moves heading towards the finish.
Natty and Elsworth distract the ref and Naomi respectively, allowing Carmella to sneak in the roll-up pin for the victory.
The heels come in for another group attack but are interrupted by Becky’s music. Will she join them like Hogan dropping a leg drop at Bash of the Beach ’96? She shakes the mean girls’ hands and hugs Natty to big boos. She swerves the baddies by faking a hug to Ellsworth and tossing him into the women. She clears the ring and stomps an Austin-sized mudhole into Carmella until Tamina makes the save. The Welcoming Committee pound on Becky again and stand tall.
Flair’s first face run was boring because she made the common mistake of being nice and bland. Now that she’s developed an insanely effective heel character, hopefully she can inject that edge into an engaging face run.
The heel stable looks good and has a nice variety to their lineup. I’d like to see Natty get more to do and this seems like a good fit for her.
Dolph Ziggler vs Sin Cara
Ziggler is dressed like Shawn Michaels…in space.
I assumed this would be a squash for Ziggler to hype up his match with Nakamura, but Sin Cara gets a ton of offense and wins the crowd over. His impressive pick-up powerbomb with a one-handed finish audibly wows the crowd and even the broadcast team. Ziggler eventually gets the win after countering a moonsault and hitting a superkick.
Ziggler didn’t do enough to properly hype the PPV match with Nakamura. I was left much more impressed with Sin Cara.
The Fashion Files
We get an episode of the Fashion Police. Tyler Breeze is typing with one-finger as Fandango and he talk in their best gruff voices, sounding like they’re on South Park.
They charge the Usos with enough fashion offenses to make an arrest, but we’ll have to wait for the PPV to see the bust.
This duo is great in the ring and can pull off comedy. Smackdown could use another top team and the WWE appears to be giving them a shot.
Jericho vs Owens (AJ Styles banned from ringside)
We all assumed there was no way in hell Jericho would win Owens’ belt so close to the end of his current run, but here we are. I wonder if Jericho influenced the booking to swerve the fans?
I didn’t think I’d be excited to see yet another match, but the storyline of Owens tapping out and his finger injury suggested a passionate match.
An intense back and forth led to Jericho attempting to crush Owens’ finger in the steel steps.
Several Walls of Jericho finishes were teased, but KO avoided the T.O. while the frenzied crowd enjoyed every minute.
The setup of the finish came when Owens DDT’d Jericho outside the ring, injuring the Manitoban’s head. Owens picked up the win and continued to viciously beat his former best friend after the bell. Owens closed the show by putting a steel chair around Jericho’s head and slamming him into the steel post. It looked brutal.
This was their best match yet, feeling personal and intense. Jericho is effectively written off the show while Owens symbolically shed the light-hearted image he had as Jericho’s friend to get back to his bad-ass roots.
Solid-to-great matches and definitive direction with storytelling made for an enjoyable show as we draw closer to the May 21 PPV.
I’m left wondering how: Orton/Mahal play out, if Style’s will remain in the mid-card, and what the Women’s division will do with its three strongest competitors as faces.