Hey, Blue Team!
I absolutely loved this year’s WrestleMania and had a great time watching it from start to finish. It’s been a great week for WWE, and this week’s Smackdown Live continues that trend. Though not exactly as exciting as Raw, and not as eventful or surprising as I had hoped, it was still a very good show and featured three big main roster debuts: Tye Dillinger, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Shinsuke Nakamura’s violinist.
As good as the show was, I’m extremely disappointed that the tag team division has once again disappeared from Smackdown Live. I thought that since they didn’t make it onto the Mania card (other than participating in the Rob Gronkowski Battle Royal), they would have a featured match on this week’s Smackdown Live. But no. The only appearance of any tag team all night was The Usos showing up at the very end of Talking Smack to complain about the same thing I’m complaining about.
Other than that, it’s a good show and I guess begins a tradition of the Smackdown after WrestleMania being a thing. And now since it’s all I’ve been thinking about since Friday night’s Hall of Fame, here are the top five people/teams I’d like to see them bring Jim Cornette back to manage:
- The Revival
- Baron Corbin
- Bobby Roode
- Braun Strowman
- Sheamus and Cesaro
We’re getting into that time of year where WWE is really fun and interesting for a while, so why not take a moment to give The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live a share on your favorite social media platform. While you’re at it, follow With Spandex on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for April 4th, 2017.
Best: Who Was That Sheep-Masked Man?
Day five of WrestleMania starts off with JBL warning us that the fans in the arena may be off brand. They’ve been in Orlando for close to a week, surviving on funnel cakes and churros. They’re malnourished and exhausted and may not cheer for Mojo Rawley when they’re told to. It’s all about passion. Now that you’ve been warned about the crowd, out comes Randy Orton to talk about winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. This is a moment so special to Randy that he put on pants for it. Randy gets on the mic and gloats about his win for a bit, until he’s interrupted by Bray Wyatt in video form.
Video Bray reminds Orton that he has a rematch owed to him, and challenges Randy to something he likes to call a House of Horrors Match, time and place: TBA.
Orton says that he doesn’t know what that is, but accepts anyway and invites Bray down to the ring. The lights go off and when they come back on … oh no Randy, he’s behind you! Bray Wyatt is in the ring. They quickly brawl until Erick Rowan (now 3 percent steampunk) makes his return, pulling Orton out of the ring. Out comes Luke Harper to save Orton and “Holla holla,” we now have a main event for this show.
The minute Orton’s music hit, I was prepared to hate this. After driving me crazy for the better part of a year, this feud crescendoed Sunday night with their match being the low point of an otherwise fantastic WrestleMania. But I ended up liking this for a few reasons. First of all, it had energy to it. Both men’s promos felt way more urgent than normal. They didn’t drone on endlessly about the supernatural or their complicated plans to deceive and destroy each other. They kept it short and sweet and both men had a spring in their step while doing it, but never got too big or overly dramatic.
They kept the energy up once they were facing each other in the ring too. The few seconds they were brawling felt more alive than anything in their WrestleMania match (other than the maggots).
No one knows what a House of Horrors match is, but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m a sucker for convoluted gimmick matches, and the name House of Horrors gets my imagination running wild. I want this to be absolutely Dungeon of Doom ridiculous. I hope this is something Dusty came up with and secretly told Bray about before he died.
Erick Rowan’s back, that’s great! I always like Wyatt better when he has a few family members by his side. I like his new Broken Erick Rowan mask too. But my favorite part of Rowan’s return was David Otunga asking, “who is that?” upon first seeing him. Erick Rowan is easily mistakable with his six foot eight frame, foot long red beard, and sheep mask. Otunga was on fire this week, as we would later find out that his favorite part of every Smackdown Live is when Naomi dances.
Best: The Beach Ball Revolution
In what David Otunga referred to as a WrestleMania rematch, Naomi defended her newly won Smackdown Women’s Championship against former champion Alexa Bliss. It was one of the better women’s matches on Smackdown in recent memory. Yes, Naomi could have sold the leg injury a little more, but it’s been a long week so I’ll cut her some slack. The match was good enough to keep most of the audience’s attention, even though a beach ball appeared in the crowd at one point during it. That’s pretty impressive. This one-on-one match was better than the six pack challenge at Mania, and probably should have been in its place.
I was pleasently surprised to see a clean ending; it’s a great way to establish Naomi as a strong champion, getting her title reign off on the right foot. I also loved that Alexa once again lost because she attempted to cheat. I could see Alexa going to Raw in next week’s shake-up. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Naomi/Bliss matches, see what they could do with a slightly more complicated match. But it’s probably time for Alexa to move onto Mondays, and it’s definitely time for new blood in the Smackdown Women’s Division.
Best: A Perfect 10 (What The F*** Else Would I Call This?)
Whoever Tye Dillinger pissed off must have been fired, because after first signing with the company eleven years ago, he is finally on the main roster. They probably should have called him up at the ten year mark. In those eleven years, Tye experienced every one of WWE’s non-roster brands and forms of developmental. From OVW to FCW to NXT. He even had a stint in WWE’s ECW before being released from the company in 2009. It took him a long time to get here, so thankfully Tye Dillinger’s Smackdown Live debut was handled perfectly.
After issuing an open challenge, Curt Hawkins gives whoever’s going to answer him to the count of ten. Out comes Dillinger, and what followed was the ideal first match for someone like Tye. This match should be the template for future call-ups. A one sided but still slightly competitive squash, where the person debuting gets to show off what he can do to the uninitiated. Great job by Dillinger and by Hawkins. I’m happy for Tye and the Smackdown midcard sorely needs him. But I can’t help being a little sad for NXT. It sort of feels like the end of an era.
Best: The Best Smackdown Ending To Ever Take Place In The Middle Of The Show
The Miz and Maryse parodying John Cena and Nikki Bella as well as Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance, all in one segment! What’s not to love? Nakamura made his main roster debut on Smackdown Live, and they did an excellent job with it. The segment starts with a fake out that John Cena is about to enter the arena. His music plays, but it’s The Miz and Maryse who make their way out instead. Decked out in full Cena and Bella garbs like we’ve seen in their Total Bellas parodies, they cut a pretty good promo with all the greatest hits of Robo John and Plastic Nikki.
Earlier in the night, they actually had a much better promo backstage, talking about how they are responsible for John and Nikki getting married because they backed Cena into a corner. But their in-ring promo did a great job of getting the crowd going and setting the stage for Nakamura.
Right when you assume for the second time that Cena is about to make an appearance, out comes a violinist.
No match. No face-off with The Miz. Just Nakamura doing his entrance. It was great. You didn’t need him to do any more. If this was your first time seeing Nakamura, they did an excellent job of showing why he is so special while still leaving a lot of mystery. I wouldn’t even have him wrestle next week. I’d stretch it out, maybe wait and have his first televised main roster match happen on pay-per-view, or whatever it is we call those things now (can we come to a consensus on that soon?).
Nakamura’s entrance was all the crowd needed too. They were going nuts, singing along to his theme song all the way into the commercial break. It was a very nice moment. Too bad that audience is a bunch of whackos that we shouldn’t be listening to. I guess if I’m in the live crowd next week, I should boo Nakamura and Tye Dillinger since this week’s Smackdown took place on Opposite Day.
My only problem with this segment is why in the world did it not close the show? It would have been the perfect way to end not only Smackdown Live, but all of WrestleMania week. It would leave you wanting more instead of feeling burned out. Instead, they oddly put it in the middle of the show and limped off the air with the most generic Smackdown match they could have booked.
JBL really summed it up best. As the segment was coming to an end, they cut from Nakamura to a graphic showing the participants of the main event. Layfield says something along the lines of, “Like anything could top that. Coming up is Harper and Orton vs. The Wyatt Family.” And that wasn’t the end of his praise. JBL continued to talk about how great seeing Nakamura was into the next match.
If The Miz really is going to be Nakamura’s first main roster feud, then thank you WWE. I can’t think of a better one. I’ve heard a lot of people say how they want to see Nakamura against AJ Styles or Brock Lesnar. But it’s the tried and true WWE guys like The Miz that I’ve been dying to see him in the ring with. That’s the fun of Nakamura coming to WWE; the matches we thought we’d never see.
Nakamura/Miz, Nakamura/Cena, Nakamura/Triple H.
Best: Better Late Than Never
In another match that should have happened at WrestleMania, Dean Ambrose takes on Baron Corbin in a street fight. It ends up being the exact match they should have had on Sunday. I’m guessing the thought behind having the street fight on Tuesday instead probably has something to do with it being a little too similar to the unsanctioned match Triple H and Rollins had. But that match was roughly five hours after Ambrose and Corbin, so I think you could have done them both.
This was a good match. Night and day compared to Mania. There was a really fun bit where the ring was empty before the commercial break, but when they come back it’s littered with weapons. That was followed by an excellent table bump from Ambrose before Dean put Corbin through a table on the outside with an elbow drop. Fun stuff! It would have been great on Sunday. Corbin picks up the non-title win with End of Days after hitting Ambrose with a chair. I could write a paragraph here about the IC Champion losing a non-title match, but it’s been a long WrestleMania week for me too.
Best: The Smackdown Code Of Honor
As good as the debuts of Nakamura and Tye Dillinger were, and as cool as it was to see The Hardys and Finn Balor return to Raw, I liked this moment between AJ Styles and Shane McMahon more than any of them. It was my second favorite post-Mania segment, just behind the debut of The Revival. It was simple, but very impactful. Shane comes out to the ring to talk about next week’s shake-up and out comes AJ. Styles says that Smackdown Live is the house that he built and tells Shane that he doesn’t want to go anywhere. AJ then says that he owes Shane something, and extends his hand to Shane for a shake.
It’s a great moment, the kind I wish WWE did more often. I hope this is the beginning of a face turn for AJ. He has done great heel work this past year, but who doesn’t want to cheer on AJ Styles?
Worst: The Status Quo
And just like that, it’s over. The wonderful magical time when anything can happen that we call WrestleMania week closes out with the most typical run of the mill Smackdown match possible. Randy Orton and Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan is a solid Smackdown Live main event. Just not for this episode of Smackdown Live. It would have been a perfectly good match for any other point in this show, but it was so anticlimactic that it had no business ending it.
Nothing happened. Harper didn’t turn and rejoin The Wyatts. Rowan didn’t turn and form a new family with Harper controlled by Orton. Nothing. It ends with Orton hitting an RKO on Rowan and pinning him. Orton and Wyatt managed not only to be the low point of WrestleMania, but the low point of the post-Mania Smackdown Live too. I don’t want to lose any of these guys to Raw in next week’s shake-up, but I also want them as far away from each other as possible.
Until next time, I’m Justin Donaldson and … hey, where are you going? You can’t leave Orlando yet. There’s still an NXT taping tonight. WrestleMania Day 6 starts now!