After last night’s bizarre go home show for Raw’s “exclusive” Payback PPV we have WWE SmackDown Live 04/25/17. Tonight’s show will also serve as a de facto go home show for Payback since both the WWE Champion and WWE United States Champion (both SmackDown “exclusive”) have matches on this Raw “exclusive” PPV. I wish WWE would plan their drafts and “shake ups” better.
Anyway, tonight’s show is set to focus on the women’s title picture as blue brand newbie Charlotte Flair gets a title shot at Naomi’s strap. The cynic in me sees Charlotte going over and getting yet another title reign. But, this is SmackDown and they really played up the Nattie / Ellsworth / Carmella / Tamina impromptu faction last week that are none too pleased with Charlotte getting a title match out of the gate. Also, advertising for tonight’s show hyped that Nakamura will be “kicking off” the show. But, really, are they going to let him wrestle in 2017 or what? I get his entrance is great, but we have yet to see him do anything else since debuting after WrestleMania. Also, throw into this the build to Mahal facing Orton for the title next month and this could be an interesting show.
WWE SmackDown Live 04/25/17 Recap
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. Cold open on the crowd and someone holding up a “I’m a Conrad Thompson Guy” sign. No SmackDown credits, no pyro, and we’re live from Des Moines. Tom briefly introduces the show and we’re sent to Renee Young in the ring.
Renee introduces Shinsuke Nakamura and he heads to the ring. Renee attempts to ask Nakamura a question when they’re interrupted by Dolph Ziggler’s music. Dolph heads to the ring to a mild “boo” reaction from the crowd. Ziggler demands Renee’s mic, she hands it over, and a relatively awful promo segment ensues.
The gist of things is that Dolph pretends that Shinsuke can’t speak English, disses his dance moves, and claims that Nakamura is actually Michael Jackson. So, typically the absurdity of Ziggler alleging that Michael Jackson is still alive and hiding undercover as a Japanese pro wrestling icon would be something that would pop me. But, the delivery here feels flat and tone-deaf. Nakamura once again is only allowed to say a few words and Ziggler carries the promo which isn’t the best possible decision in retrospect. After berating Nakamura for several minutes, Ziggler is called a “jackass” by Shinsuke and responds with a kick to the gut. Dolph tries for a superkick, but Nakamura counters it and hits a suplex on Dolph. Before Nakamura can hit the Kinshasa, Dolph bails from the ring.
So, can Nakamura wrestle a match already? I get the IWC argument thinking this slow burn is “cool” or whatever, but it does absolutely zero for me. Even on NXT they’d throw him in a random squash match from time to time. But, even so he worked an incredibly light schedule the last three months he was in NXT. This is making it look like they’re covering up an injury or something by making him work so infrequently. It’s likely not that and just annoying booking, but still.
Later tonight? Charlotte Flair challenges Women’s champ Naomi in the main event.
Up next? AJ Styles and Baron Corbin are in a split screen and they’re both… walking!
Back from break, Kevin Owens has joined commentary. He’s great, as always, and I wish he could be a permanent replacement for JBL. AJ enters first, Corbin enters last.
Match #1: AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin
Hate him all you want, but there really is no denying the continued improvement of Baron Corbin. He hangs with AJ Styles in this match tonight. Even though he takes the loss, he makes AJ have to work to get the victory. Of course, Owens intervenes at one point, but it doesn’t lead to the predictable tainted finish. Corbin goes for a powerbomb and AJ is able to counter it into a roll up and get the win. I bet before the end of 2017 we’ll see these two facing off in the main title picture.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – A nice showcase for Corbin as AJ made him look great despite not going over. Owens isn’t directly involved in the finish and Corbin can take the loss here with no real future implications. If he wins the MitB briefcase, Corbin losing to AJ on a forgotten SmackDown episode by roll up won’t really matter.
Post-match, Owens immediately hits the ring and attacks AJ. He and Corbin briefly take turns beating on AJ before they decide to double team him. This causes Zayn to head out and make the save, including delivering a Helluva Kick to Corbin. Owens is able to sneak up behind Zayn and hit him with a pop-up powerbomb – while wearing a suit! My hope that Drew Gulak starts wrestling matches in a suit is still alive!
Meanwhile, Charlotte is backstage preparing for her match. Dasha enters and Charlotte cuts a promo saying that she has gold running through her veins and she’ll be taking the title from Naomi later tonight.
Up next? The Colóns take on American Alpha in the first of two “Beat the Clock” challenge matches to determine the new Number One Contenders for the Tag Titles.
Back from break, American Alpha head out for the “Beat the Clock” match. The Colóns enter next with new ring gear and that lesser version of the Shining Stars theme I complained about last week. Breezango will face the Ascension later on tonight.
Match #2: American Alpha vs. The Colóns (Beat the Clock Match to Determine the Number One Contender for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Typical American Alpha match. The Colóns isolate Gable and go to work. However, the Colóns do a great job of preventing Jordan from getting the hot tag. Just when it appears they’re going to hit their team finisher, American Alpha hit a Grand Amplitude out of nowhere and get the win. Yawn. The time to beat is 5:17.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – All of the good will American Alpha had coming in from their NXT run is gone as far as I’m concerned. It’s totally not their fault, but WWE has dropped the ball with them. From Alpha’s initial title run where they had no matches for over a month, to missing the chance to “shake” them to the brand with Kurt Angle. Just dropped ball after dropped ball to the point I’m more interested in nearly every other team in the division.
Up next? Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan in a No-DQ match!
Up next? Rusev responds!
I’m assuming Rusev responds during the Orton and Rowan match because both can’t be “next” unless they happen at the same time!
Surprise, neither thing happens when we’re back from break. Instead, we get a “New Day is coming” hype video.
Next, we’re sent to some “earlier today” footage of emo Rusev cutting a promo saying how he doesn’t like Daniel Bryan, doesn’t like Shane McMahon, and doesn’t like the “Shake Up”. Rusev says he’ll only return if he’s given a title match at Money in the Bank. I never would have imagined that the Handsome Rusev and Hardbody Mahal break up would culminate in a WWE Championship match at Money in the Bank – but that is a real possibility now. Insanity.
Meanwhile, Orton vs. Rowan still isn’t happening because here’s Becky Lynch literally sliding into an interview with Dasha backstage. Becky is asked about Charlotte and she gives a non-committal answer saying they have a complex relationship but she doesn’t approve of Charlotte’s methods. Generic Heel Faction (aka – Natalya, Carmellsworth, and Tamina) randomly appear and wish to know where Becky stands on the Charlotte situation and tell her to choose wisely.
Finally, Randy Orton enters for the match that was “next” before the previous commercial break and… we go to commercial.
Back from break, Erick Rowan enters.
Match #3: Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan (No DQ Match)
I bet you expect this will be loaded with Bray Wyatt Titantron rants, Luke Harper run-ins, and Mahal and the Singh Bros. causing Orton to lose this random match heading into the House of Horrors on Sunday, right? I mean it makes sense. Harper has issues with both Rowan and Orton now. The Mahal / Singh faction could start playing mind games to set Randy up to head into Backlash taking a loss at Payback. And well, Bray proved last night that he’s down for whatever.
So, yeah, none of that is what happens. Instead we have a garbage match that involves Rowan going through a table, a kendo stick, Rowan running into a chair in the corner, and eventually eating a RKO so Randy can go over clean. Nothing interesting happens here at all.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – A complete waste of time.
Post-match, Orton issues the most fitting line of WWE 2017 that says essentially “I don’t know what a House of Horrors match is, but I’ll find out on Sunday”. Us too, Randy. Us too.
All of this talk about Bray Wyatt infuriates Jinder Mahal and he’s out. Hey man, don’t be mad at Orton – be mad at the boss. I’m sure Randy doesn’t want to have to work this goofy gimmick match on the PPV for the brand he hasn’t been on for over a year now. But, don’t let me stop you from going on your “Americans hate diversity” rant – which, while somewhat awesome, just triggers the crowd to boo diversity and chant USA at a guy from Canada. Before long, Mahal is cutting a promo in Punjabi and winds up in “Vintage Orton” peril. The Singh Bros. (aka – the wrestlers formerly known as the Bollywood Boyz) are out to make the save. Mahal hits a Cobra Clutch slam (his finisher I guess?) on Orton and grabs the title. He and the Singh Bros. leave with the WWE Championship and we’re doing a “stolen title” angle again in 2017. Playin’ the hits I suppose.
Later tonight? Women fight for a title – unless someone else steals the belt and leaves with it.
Up next? Breezango and Ascension try to beat the clock – and each other.
Meanwhile, here’s Lana. She dances. I guess. Whatever.
Back from break, we see Mahal and the Singhs stealing the title again. Now we’re shown some “during the break” footage of them all getting into a stretch limo. The limo takes off and Mahal pops out through the sunroof and holds the WWE Championship aloft and screams. I’m assuming since Orton wasn’t arrested for felony arson, Mahal won’t be charged for theft here either.
Meanwhile, the Ascension are already in the ring. Thus, the big hope is that Breezango can knock them off in under 5:17 because I’d honestly see either of these teams working with the Usos for the title – but especially Breezango.
Match #4: The Ascension vs. Breezango (Beat the Clock Challenge – If Either Team Wins in Under 5:17, They Become the Number One Contender)
Ascension tries to work hot out of the gate on Breeze, but they can’t put him away. After a blown double-team attempt by Ascension, Breeze hits a Supermodel Kick into Fandango’s Falcon Arrow and get the win with 2:37 to spare! By God Breezango have a title match!
Verdict: Thumbs Up – One of the few fleeting moments on this week’s show where it felt like the “pre-Shake Up SmackDown” of just a few weeks ago.
Later tonight? Charlotte vs. Naomi are in the main event.
Back from break, Neville cuts a 205 Live hype promo on Austin Aries and says he’s going to make an example out of Jack Gallagher tonight.
Next, we see a “House of Horrors” hype video.
Meanwhile, Renee Young is at Gorilla with Naomi. According to Naomi, she’s Muhammad Ali and Charlotte is George Forman and Ali is going to prevail tonight. Naomi’s music hits and she enters as we head to break.
Back from break, the Payback Kickoff Show (of all things) is shilled by the announce team. Charlotte enters for the main event.
Match #5: Naomi (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Match)
I had a terrible feeling either one of two things would happen here. My first fear was unfounded. They didn’t jetpack Charlotte into a random title win so quickly after switching brands. However, they did have Generic Heel Faction intervene and have the match thrown out. It was a pity too, because up to the interference DQ, Naomi and Charlotte felt like they were starting to gel in the ring a bit. Last week’s non-title match was basically average, but this one felt significantly better. Anyway, the finish – right after Charlotte goes up for a moonsault (blocked by Naomi’s knees), the Generic Heel Faction are out and start triple teaming on Charlotte.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Charlotte not going over clean to win the title is about the only thing saving this from “Thumbs Down”. A strong match that had an absolutely awful finish.
Post-match, the triple team on Charlotte is so bad that Naomi actually comes to the aid of her opponent. Unfortunately, that aid doesn’t last long and Tamina ends up holding Charlotte so she could eat a Carmella superkick. Notable by her absence during all of this is Becky Lynch. Is she turning heel? Is this part of their “complex relationship”? We may find out unless this is never referenced again.
Generic Heel Faction (which the announcers call “The Welcoming Committee”) pose on the stage as we go of the air.
And I thought Raw was weird and mostly bad this week. Wow. Way to raise the bar, SmackDown Live.