KofiMania was running wild this past Sunday, as Kofi Kingston managed to dethrone Daniel Bryan as WWE Champion. This episode of SD included all of the fall-out from WM for the blue brand, along with the initiation of storylines to take us into the post-Mania season. That was the assumption, anyway.
Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship Celebration
Those who were expecting (or possibly even hoping) for Kofi’s WWE Title reign to come to an abrupt end only two nights after Mania would be surprised. The new champion was accompanied by Big E and Xavier Woods for this super-positive segment, with Big E again treating us to the splits (as he did on Raw), and Xavier noting how when he first meant Kingston, he felt like he was meeting one of his heroes. Kofi himself thanked his wife and kids at ringside, along with those who believed in him, even during the times when doing so seemed like a lost cause. Though we didn’t get an impromptu title match, we did still get an interruption from The Bar (a thorn in Kofi’s side prior to Mania, and with Shemaus and Cesaro having fought Kofi and Seth Rollins on Raw). A six-man tag was made, with The Bar partnering up with a “friend” from Raw, Drew McIntyre. This was a running theme of both shows this week – cross-brand activity – which seemed to be an extensive teaser for next week’s Superstar Shake-Up. Only problem is, none of these cameos were explained, which only weakens the importance of the brand extension. Still, a nice opening segment for the new champ.
Ali, Ricochet & Aleister Black & Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura & Andrade
This six-man tag seemed to be a farewell bout for several SD stars, even though all of the babyface squad only debuted relatively recently on the main roster (and two of those still don’t have a home brand). The action was pretty good, and at least the chants by the Brooklyn crowd were related to those in the ring, as opposed to ignoring it completely as they did more than once during Raw. Ali got the pin over Andrade here, and I would guess that both men end up on Raw after the Shake-Up. I also think that Nakamura will be switching brands, bringing a sudden end to his ice-cold tag team with Rusev. Afterwards, Randy Orton RKO’d Ali (I think Orton returns to Raw), and he humorously made fun as he walked away of the lights being in the eyes of fans during his WM match with AJ Styles. Kevin Owens also ran in to hit Rusev with a slightly-botched Stunner.
R-Truth and Carmella had a quick chat, with Carmella discussing their extended Dance Break at WM, and also her Women’s Battle Royal victory, while Truth said she “beat Andre The Giant at the Royal Rumble!” This was quickly interrupted by Samoa Joe, who choked out Truth with a Coquina Clutch, only for Braun Strowman (another Raw guy) to come out and powerslam the United States Champion. Braun moving to SD after three years on the red side isn’t a bad thing, and based on this, a Braun-Joe feud seems to be in the immediate future.
Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
The IIconics (C) vs. The Brooklyn Belles
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce bragged about their own title win at WrestleMania, before announcing that they would defend their belts right now against a team that would be generously described as “enhancement talent”. Of course, the heels retained quickly, but not before Corey Graves on commentary said that they had beaten one of the best tag teams in the world, which made me laugh. Afterwards, Paige was interviewed backstage, where she said she would provide a real team to face Kay and Royce next week. Hmmm …
Shane McMahon Promo
Shane somehow defeated The Miz in their Falls Count Anywhere scrap at Mania, despite being suplexed off a camera tower in the process. This was his heel braggart segment, and with Miz not in the arena, McMahon suggested in less kayfabe-breaking terms that their feud was over (I suspect not). Shane used his time to remind us that he really was the Best In The World, before bullying ring announcer Greg Hamilton into repeatedly announcing his name. I liked the running joke last week, but it works better when it has comedic value rather than coming across as unpleasant, and this also took way too long with no pay-off. Still, as I noted, a rematch at Money In The Bank (where Miz finally gets revenge over McMahon, over six months after the storyline first began at Crown Jewel) seems very likely.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (C) vs. The Hardy Boyz
Given the choice, fans would have preferred seeing this at Mania than the four-way tag that we did get (most assumed this was why Matt and Jeff Hardy reunited after all), though the latter was still a hidden gem of the PPV. Anyway, this didn’t get a lot of time, meaning that what we saw was very good, but with suitable minutes allotted to it, we might have witnessed a mini-classic. This episode of SD needed something memorable to occur, and that’s what we got here as the Twist Of Fate/Swanton Bomb combo crowned new champions in The Hardyz, earning them one set of doubles titles that they had yet to capture. Post-match, though, both were pummelled by Lars Sullivan, who also attacked Kurt Angle on Raw. It’s been delayed, but Sullivan looks set to receive a huge push in the coming months. As for The Usos, a move to Raw now seems extremely likely, and this probably means that Naomi switches sides as well.
Becky Lynch Promo
Becky Lynch was up next to discuss her double-title triumph over Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey at Mania. She was popular as ever here, though her entrance pop was a bit subdued. Becky noted how she was ready to defend both titles against anybody who stepped up, suggesting that she would pull double duty whenever required. As Lynch left, though, Lacey Evans popped out and caught her with a Women’s Right, which kept her down for a lot longer than it did on Raw. Becky vs. Lacey should be a good first feud for The Man in her dual-title reign, though I have to say that, despite winning the WrestleMania main event and now being the undisputed top dog in WWE’s female division, Becky seems to have really cooled off from her late 2018/early 2019 peak. This isn’t a great sign for those who believed she would become a truly massive star after triumphing at Mania; hopefully the Evans feud gets her back on track. She’s definitely being booked prominently, but right now the buzz just isn’t there, which is unusual in the aftermath of a WrestleMania.
The New Day vs. The Bar & Drew McIntyre
This wasn’t a particularly strong main event, to be honest. I’d put it down to fatigue for the long Mania weekend, but then again, Big E and Woods hadn’t wrestled until this show, so maybe not. There was a fair bit of sloppiness (a rarity for these performers), and McIntyre, who led us into the final commercial by dominating Woods at ringside, seemed to disappear for the final few minutes. In the end, Kofi pinned Sheamus following Trouble In Paradise, which suggests that far from being a transitional champion, Kingston might just receive the push that his new title warrants. Another celebration with his tag team partners and his family ended the show.
This episode of SmackDown was okay but nothing more, serving as a bridge between WrestleMania Season and the Superstar Shake-Up, the latter of which will set the tone for the next few months in WWE. The only issue was that, with several Raw wrestlers appearing on SD and vice versa the previous evening, the impact of the Shake-Up has been reduced. Maybe it’s to provide major hints as to who will move where, or possibly the likes of Braun and Drew appearing here are deliberate red herrings. Whatever the case, all of this only suggests that WWE (well, Vince) is growing tired of the brand split and are demonstrating signs that the brand extension will soon be a thing of the past, even though the roster right now is bigger than it’s ever before. On the whole, though, this was a decent way to round off a very long weekend of sports-entertainment. The next New Era begins next week, with the Shake-Up happening on both Raw and SmackDown, so we’ll have to wait and see what that brings us.