The Best And Worst Of WWE Smackdown Live 4/11/17: Shake Shake Shake

Smackdown 4_11_17

Hey, Blue Team!

I loved this week’s Smackdown Live … and not just because David Otunga is gone. But that may have a lot to do with it. I loved this week’s Smackdown less for what it was and more for what it looks like Smackdown is becoming. Turns out the Superstar Shake-up really shook things in our favor. Smackdown Live is left with a heck of a roster that has me salivating with the possibilities. We got a lot of new arrivals that we were expecting, and few we weren’t. Plus the return of an Artiste and another Gronk sighting.

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 11th, 2017.

Best: The Future Is Bright, Even If They Can’t Remember The Past

The opening segment of this week’s Smackdown Live is great, as long as you don’t think too much about the mechanics behind the Superstar Shake-up and just enjoy its results. Smackdown opens with Kevin Owens making his not-so-surprised return to the Blue Brand, followed by his little buddy, Sami Zayn. Because you can’t have one without the other.

Owens walks out into the arena on his way to being a new man. He looks great, wearing a suit with his beard trimmed tight, his hair freshly cut. And his promo was perfect. It did a fantastic job making Owens and the US Title look great, while at the same time establishing who this version of Kevin Owens is. This is a different Kevin Owens than the one who spent so much time with Chris Jericho. One more match and that will be behind him. This truly feels like a fresh start for Owens, and in my opinion couldn’t come at a better time for him.

Owens was soon joined by Baron Corbin, who cut a solid promo. And then Sami Zayn’s music hits, and out he comes to join the brand that always sort of felt like his rightful place all along. Then out comes AJ Styles who is another step closer this week to full-fledged face.

Seeing these men in the ring together makes a real statement about the future of Smackdown Live. I immediately feel less shaken by the Superstar Shake-up seeing the male roster that Smackdown now has. These four guys with Nakamura, Ziggler, Rusev, and Harper? Those all the guys I fantasy book with, all on one brand. This has so much potential.

After Owens, Corbin, Zayn, and Styles all got a little mic time, Daniel Bryan comes out to join them and make tonight’s main event. It’s going to be a triple threat between Baron, Sami, and AJ – the winner gets to face the winner of Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho at Payback for the US Title at some point in the future. Because Kevin Owens isn’t really on the Smackdown roster, and maybe won’t be. It could be Jericho instead.

Wait … what is happening?

Smackdown Bryan

I’m starting to worry about Daniel Bryan’s mental health. Maybe the stress of juggling a pregnancy and the Smackdown General Manager position is starting to get to him. I love Daniel Bryan, that’s why I find his uncharacteristic behavior in this week’s Superstar Shake-up disturbing. Bryan let Dean Ambrose go to Raw and take with him the Intercontinental Championship, something the Daniel Bryan I know would never do.

Let’s go back a few years, to the spring of 2015. Two years ago in real life, but about 386 years ago in WWE time. Bryan had just returned to WWE, and upon knowing he was no longer in the World Title picture, decided to set his sights on the Intercontinental Championship. It was a belt that meant a lot to Bryan. It had been held by some of his favorite WWE Superstars and was once known as the belt that was worn by whoever was the best in the company.

Bryan won the belt at WrestleMania 31 and had grand plans to rebuild the IC Title’s reputation by defending it every week on TV against the best wrestlers in the company. That idea ended up becoming John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge, and due to injuries, Bryan was forced to retire in one of the most devastating moments in sports entertainment history. He would eventually return to become the General Manager of Smackdown Live, and even though he could no longer compete, he still had the same goal. To return the Intercontinental Championship to greatness. Even if that meant he had to draft the person in the world he hates the most to Smackdown in order to get the belt.

Yet this past Monday night, Dean Ambrose jumped to Raw, taking the Intercontinental Championship with him like it was no big deal. How did this happen? Did Bryan want Kevin Owens so bad that he would lose his beloved IC Title to get him? Was Bryan so sick of Dean Ambrose’s rubber chickens and big foam rubber cowboy hats that he had to get rid of him even if it meant losing the IC Title? At least he got Kevin Owens in the trade.

Nope. Smackdown didn’t get Owens. They just got the belt. And they’ll either get Owens OR Jericho, whoever wins at Payback. So does that mean that Bryan traded the Intercontinental Championship for the US Title and the winner of that match? That was the deal? Is that even how the Superstar Shake-up worked? Did the General Manager make trades? They were able to guarantee that some people were staying, but they never really talked about who they getting or sending. Was this all the work of the omnipotent Vince McMahon? Did he move these Superstars around at his whim? Did the General Managers negotiate with Vince?

How did this work? What is happening? Is Daniel Bryan ok?

Worst: Lost In The Shuffle

The first match on this week’s show was Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan, and it’s exactly what you think that match would be. Randy dominates until Bray Wyatt interferes via video screen. Bray isn’t even on the brand anymore, yet this is still how the match had to play out. I just have to get through the next few weeks and this thing will finally be all over. But where will that leave Orton? What is next for him?

It probably wasn’t the best idea to have this match follow the opening segment. The U.S. Title had only been on Smackdown for ten minutes at this point and it already felt more important than Randy’s title. Owens’ belt has some of the best wrestlers in the world (like AJ Styles and Sami Zayn) after it. The WWE Championship seems kind of like an afterthought in the Bray Wyatt/ Randy Orton feud. I hope that whoever Randy goes on to work with next, their storyline has something to do with wanting the belt and Randy being champion. But who could that be?

The future looks even more uncertain for Erick Rowan. He just got back and rejoined the Family last week. Now Bray is on Raw and he is left alone again on Smackdown. Still part of the Wyatt Family, but on a different brand. Why would you not just move Rowan to Raw to be with Bray? Is this just so they can keep the Orton/Wyatt feud going on Smackdown up until Payback without Bray having to physically show-up? Where does this leave Rowan after Payback? We already went down the Rowan solo road before, and it didn’t turn out great. Nothing against Erick Rowan, but if they can’t figure out what to do with Luke Harper, I don’t have much faith in a Rowan singles run. They will probably just end up feuding Harper and Rowan with each other.

Best: Once A Month When The Tag Teams Are On

The Smackdown Live Tag Team Division returns this week with a Championship match between The Usos and American Alpha. Both teams looked great in what was good match between them. It felt like either team could win, but ultimately The Usos got the clean victory after using their veteran wits to outsmart the younger team. They made a tag behind Chad Gables’ back, leaving Gable unsure of who was the legal man. This allowed them to double team him and get the pin.

That’s the perfect ending for both teams, playing right into how they’ve been booked the last few months. American Alpha are the super athletic young guys with all the potential in the world, but still have a lot to learn. Where The Usos are veterans in the ring who have recently put the pieces together to be the best Usos they can be. It looks like this is the end of the Uso/Alpha feud for now; The Colons attacked American Alpha after the match.

I think that’s a shame. Each Uso/Alpha match has been better than the last. But without a lot of TV time, their recent feud felt like it never really got a chance to take off. There’s still a lot of potential there that looks like it’s going to get wasted. Still, Gable and Jordan should have great matches with the Shining Stars. That’s a great team for them to be working with at this point in their careers. As for The Usos? I think we have a pretty good idea of what their future holds.

Now, unless they’re going to be hosting Smackdown Live, my guess is New Day is going after The Usos. That should be great. Yes, we’ve seen The Usos vs. New Day a million times, but neither teams were in their final form, so this has potential. I’m sad to see the original lineup of Smackdown Live Tag Teams come to an end. Heath Slater and Rhyno went to Raw in the shake-up, and the Vaudevillains returned to their own time. Talk about potential … too bad it was never reached. I’m confident that the arrival of New Day at least means a more consistent TV presence for tag team wrestling on Smackdown Live.

Best: The Word Gronk

Like ships passing in the night, as one member of 3MB leaves Smackdown Live, another one shows up. Jinder Mahal shook his way over to Smackdown Live and it seems like the main reason is so he can continue his feud with Mojo Rawley’s friend. This segment was pretty much exactly the same thing that went down during the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, but in the form of a match. Since I have a healthy disdain for legitimate sports and the individuals who participate in them, another appearance of The Gronk does nothing for me.

But I do like saying the word “gronk.” Try it. Say it out loud. Gronk. Gronk. Gronk. It’s fun!

Best: The Perfect Amount Of Shake-up

Yet another well-done Superstar Shake-up, with Shane McMahon resetting the Smackdown Live Women’s Division. Shane brought out the entire Smackdown Live Women’s roster to the ring, and then introduced it’s two new additions – Tamina and Charlotte. Just like that, the division feels completely different. Charlotte didn’t even have to say anything. She just showed up on the stage and twirled around, yet her impact was already felt. The fact that she’s here says enough.

It’s interesting how such a relatively small change can make things feel so different, but just adding two new people to each brand has drastically changed the feel of both Raw and Smackdown’s Women’s Divisions. They feel a lot more even now. A lot of people thought Sasha was coming over to the Blue Brand too, but I think it’s best that she didn’t. Sasha would have gotten overshadowed by Charlotte, plus she still has a lot to do on Raw. The Women’s Shake-up looks like it’s going to work out great for Smackdown. And once things start feeling stale again, they still have Asuka waiting in the wings to be called up.

Later in the show, we would find out that a third woman is joining Smackdown, and by the looks of things, her character is getting a bit of a shake-up.

Lana is now a cross between Emmalina and someone who would have been paired with Fandango before he met Tyler Breeze. Someone took dance lessons growing up. My question is, did the Shake-up shake the horrible accent out of her? I kind of hope so.

Best: They Dropped A 2013 NXT Dark Match In The Middle Of This Show

I had a lot of faith in The Vaudevillains. But I also knew in the back of my mind that even if the naysayers were right and they couldn’t make it on the main roster, that Aiden English would still have a chance. Right before you started watching NXT, Aiden English was The Artiste, a pretty solid gimmick that I loved. You got a taste of it if you watched this week’s Smackdown Live.

Aiden put over Tye Dillinger in a match that did exactly what it was supposed to do. There’s a lot of potential in English that I hope doesn’t get wasted in two minute matches with guys like Mojo. He’s over six feet tall, under thirty years old, and a Guerrero by marriage.

As much as I loved seeing him this week, maybe they should pull him off TV and do the complete repackage. Shoot some vignettes to introduce The Artiste to a larger audience. C’mon WWE, don’t waste him like you did The Vaudevillains.

Best: So Far So Good

I guess it wasn’t just the weirdos in last week’s post-WrestleMania crowd that loved Shinsuke Nakamura, because Boston went nuts for him this week as well. Nakamura made his second main roster appearance, interrupting Dolph Ziggler as he was cutting an in-ring promo about how he’s staying put on Smackdown.

They once again did a very good job of handling Nakamura, giving the wider audience a little more of him this week by having him talk, but still not get physical (keeping the mystery alive). The live crowd also did a great job in helping keep up his aura by chanting Nakamura’s name and singing his theme song. Even though I’m disappointed that we’re not getting Nak and The Miz right away, Ziggler is a pretty great first feud for him.

Best: Winter Pays For The Summer

This week’s Smackdown Live main event was a Triple Threat match between Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and AJ Styles. Leading up to the match, each man got a video package explaining a bit about who they are. That’s a very good idea. You never know which casual fans have stuck around after Mania. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to every now and then give people a reminder of who these characters are. It was especially helpful for Sami. Did you know that Sami Zayn is more than a geek with an anxiety disorder? You may not if your only exposure to him was this past year on Raw.

The match itself was good. There was a bit of a lull in the middle where it seemed to lose a little focus, but they caught it and it got better in the second half. It’s heartwarming to see Styles and Sami go one-on-one, and when all three of them were in the ring at the same time, it led to some fun and interesting spots. I can’t imagine ever not enjoying a match that has both AJ Styles and Sami Zayn in it. If I had to sit through months of Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton’s spooky fog machines and arsons to get a year of Styles/Zayn matches, then it was all worth it.

AJ wins, so that means he’ll presumably face Kevin Owens somewhere down the line. And that’s great news too! You could eventually do a triple threat with Owens, Zayn, and AJ … then throw Nakamura in with these guys at some point. That would be nuts. It feels like Smackdown Live may be back on its way to being “the wrestling show” once again.

Thanks, Superstar Shake-up! Even I’m not entirely sure what you were.

Until next time, I’m Justin Donaldson and it’ll be nice to have Jerry Lawler back behind the commentating booth in a few weeks.