With the Superstar Shake-Up now complete, aside from one or two late moves, we are officially into the new season of WWE, and the pathway to Money In The Bank is now the primary focus.
Shane McMahon Promo
Shane O Mac kicked things off to discuss Roman Reigns’ attack on Vince McMahon and Elias last week. Shane suggested possible punishments for The Big Dog before ordering him to come to the ring. As it turned out, Reigns had nothing to say, throwing his microphone down to hint that he wanted a fight. Shane did the same, but then Elias ran down to distract Reigns’ attention enough that both Shane and Elias were able to orchestrate a two-on-one beating to Roman, culminating with a Drift Away. Later, Elias (while talking to Shane) challenged Roman to a match at Money In The Bank, an offer that Reigns accepted. Presumably, we’re building to Roman vs. Shane, but does this man that Shane won’t be resolving his feud with The Miz over on Raw?
Finn Balor vs. Andrade
So, Balor is the Intercontinental Champion and had been on Raw prior to the Shake-Up, while Andrade (and Zelina Vega) were on SmackDown. Last week, Andrade and Zelina came to Raw, where he pinned Balor in a non-title match, but Finn then moved to SD. However, plans changed, and so Andrade and Vega were back here on SD, to once again face Finn. Got all that? Confusion aside, this was another good match, and while Vega helped her man to win last week, this time her interference didn’t change the outcome; if anything, it expedited the reverse, as Finn drop-kicked Andrade into the turnbuckles for a match-winning Coup De Grace. Hopefully, we’re getting an IC Title feud between these two, though it may have to wait until after MITB to start properly, since both men are strong contenders to be in the men’s Ladder match on May 19.
Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce
This match didn’t last that long; as a matter of fact, The IIconics’ pre-match promo lasted almost as long as the bout did. Indeed, this was over and done with in little over 90 seconds, following an In-Sane Elbow by Kairi. The IIconics are on a losing streak across both brands despite being champions, and in short matches to boot. Post-match, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville stared down Asuka, Paige and Kairi, which hints at a future bout (though surely Paige’s squad want The IIconics’ titles first?).
After a backstage promo from Aleister Black, the planned Jinder Mahal (back on SD, and finally off Main Event) vs. Chad Gable (also a SD returnee) match didn’t happen, as Lars Sullivan ran down to assault Gable. Jinder wisely retreated, and humorously left The Singhs to take a beating from Lars. R-Truth ran down as well to get revenge from last week, and he too suffered a second consecutive attack from Sullivan. Lars is being built up very strongly, which means WWE has massive plans for him.
Charlotte Flair Promo
This was advertised as Charlotte and Becky Lynch facing off for the first time since WrestleMania, which some took as an announced match. Though that didn’t happen, Flair made it clear that, because she wasn’t the one who lost the fall at WrestleMania, she should get an opportunity to regain her SmackDown Women’s Championship. Charlotte also accurately noted that she is still in Becky’s head because she can’t stop tweeting and talking about her, even after Mania. Lynch came out and noted how Flair knew the rules of the three-way, meaning that somebody had to lose without technically being beaten, and she said how Charlotte was standing in the way of other potential challengers such as Bayley. The Hugger herself came out and agreed, but noted that Becky has never beaten her. In the midst of all this, a match was agreed upon between Charlotte and Bayley, right now, with the winner earning a title opportunity against Becky Two Belts.
#1 Contender’s Match
Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
And it was a really good match. Bayley, having been teaming with Sasha Banks for so long, reminded people here of just how damn good she can be in the ring when competing alone, while Flair also brought the goods. Indeed, with the exception of a dodgy landing off a missed moonsault (with Flair partially standing on Bayley’s knee afterwards), this was a thrilling battle, and a PPV-quality showdown. Bayley had several close near-falls, which raised hopes that she might get the nod, but in the end, she succumbed to the Figure-Eight. Becky vs. Charlotte for the SD Title is on for Money In The Bank, on the same night that Lynch defends her Raw gold against Lacey Evans. She later noted how she won’t back down from any challengers, and after MITB, she’ll still be Becky Two-Belts.
Kofi Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
After a repeat of Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House video (which is worth checking out online), we had this off-shoot of last week’s six-man tag, as Kofi had his first singles bout on SmackDown since becoming WWE Champion. Because Cesaro was shipped off to Raw, it was Rusev and Lana managing Shin here, while Kevin Owens remained an honorary New Day member, sitting at New Day’s personal pancake-covered orange announcer’s table with Xavier Woods (who Tom Phillips described as “X”). This was a decent main event, with Kofi grafting and helping to bring the best out of Nakamura more often than we have seen in recent times. A DQ finish came when Rusev interfered, which led to The Big O and Woods getting involved. Nakamura laid out Woods at ringside with a Kinshasa, and Kofi pushed Owens aside to hit Rusev with Trouble In Paradise, only to taste a vicious superkick from the heel-turning Owens. KO pounded Kofi and teased an apron powerbomb, but Xavier batted him away, but it left himself open to taste that killer move from Kevin. Owens is a heartless villain once again, and he has his sights set on the WWE Championship.
Kevin Owens’ heel turn and Charlotte vs. Bayley were the highlights of this edition of SmackDown. Becky vs. Charlotte happening yet again aside, it’s a fresh time to be a fan of SmackDown, and with some new (or returning) faces leading to unseen matches for all of the brand’s titles it’ll be intriguing to see what happens on the blue side over the coming weeks and months.