Wrestling Review: WWE SmackDown, May 21 2019

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This past Tuesday, SmackDown rolled in to Providence, Rhode Island, in the delightfully-monikered Dunkin’ Donuts Center, looking to build on a couple of feel-good moments from Sunday’s Money In The Bank PPV. The blue brand now has the Hugger as Mrs Money in the Bank and Kofi was fresh off an aggressive, gutsy title defence to Kevin Owens. But it’s also fair to say that WWE creative hasn’t been the most dynamic of late when it comes to storylines and programmes, so there were also a few unanswered questions going into Tuesday’s show.

Will the new, farcical 24/7 title, debuted on Raw the night before, change hands multiple times in the two hour slot? Will part-time attraction Brock Lesnar (who clinched the men’s briefcase at MITB, thus depriving an up-and-coming superstar such as Ali, Andrade or Ricochet of the rub it would give their careers had they cashed in) taunt Kingston in anticipation of an inevitable cash in down the line? And will anybody ever decipher the confusion of the interchangeable superstars in the Wildcard stipulation? Hopefully SD would answer these questions and start the build towards the feuds that will shape the important summer months …

New Day Reunites

It was great to see Big E reunited with his New Day stablemates after a stint out through injury. But the WWE Universe had to wait, as an imposter infiltrated the trio purporting to be E. The real deal did appear eventually though, to a thunderous reception. Kingston may need the presence of the group’s powerhouse to stave off any potential cash-in attempts from Lesnar in the coming months. The New Day always give value for money with their humorous musings, and are one of the most over factions in recent WWE history. It was a joyful celebration as the three men hit the ring, with Big E straight back on top form as the group’s comedic mouthpiece.

They were still getting into the swing of things when Kevin Owens interrupted the pancake party, clearly still smarting from his loss the previous night. Sami Zayn’s music hit before the Prize Fighter could speak, and the Underdog from the Underground went on a bitter rant, a trademark of his latest heel run. Zayn was magnificent, Kofi was focused and steely in his rebuttal, and Big E outrageously hilarious, but this segment did little more than hype the pre-announced match later in the night between Kingston and Zayn.

Ali vs. Andrade

Two of Sunday night’s Ladder match competitors laced their boots for what promised to be a top match between two of SD’s most exciting performers. The two traded blows before Andrade turned Ali inside out with a thunderous clothesline. Ali countered with a stunning inverted Frankensteiner, but couldn’t build on the momentum when he was caught mid-air with a drop kick. The athleticism on show was breathtaking at times and continued with a couple of suicide dives from Ali. Andrade caught his breath by tossing Ali into the barricade a couple of times and nearly won the contest via count-out.

Andrade wasted little time in doling out a proper beating to Ali, smashing him into the ring post and flinging him into the timekeeper’s area. Andrade was showing he is going to be a real threat to Finn Balor’s IC title credentials, but Ali showed heart and refused to lay down, again beating the count. Just as Andrade was plotting his next move, he paused momentarily and allowed Ali to score the win with a small package. This was a sprint of a match, with aggression and athleticism showcased in equal measure, and it certainly whet the appetite for what these two super-talented stars could do given a strong storyline and a bigger stage. Andrade suffering the loss ahead of his forthcoming showdown with Balor may be questionable, but he looked mightily strong in defeat. Ali’s determination and will to escape with the victory may have just moved him into the IC title picture, too.

Mandy Rose vs. Carmella

The seeds to a potential feud between these two were planted the previous night at MITB. An interesting sub-plot here was the dynamic between Rose and Sonya Deville, who accompanied her to the squared circle. It appears to be a one-sided friendship at the moment and it will be interesting to see how long it will be before Deville tires of bailing her buddy out and turns on Rose.

A not-so-interesting subplot was the newly crowned 24/7 R-Truth (accompanying Carmella) disguised as a woman to ward off any potential suitors to his title. Truth is usually comedy gold, but this ridiculous gimmick look to be the precursor for some of the nonsense that’s going to follow with this title. Sure enough, shortly after the bell, Carmella got in a couple of superkicks before the match was abandoned and a group of jobbers rushed Truth from backstage, chasing him out of the arena with Carmella on his back. Enough said!

Kofi Kingston vs. Sami Zayn

Big E was found beat up backstage, claiming Owens attacked him. This appeared to fire up Kingston, who took the fight to Zayn. The action spilled to the arena floor, where Zayn threw Kofi into the steps and then back into the ring where he laid into Kingston with a series of kicks. Kingston turned the tide with a flying drop kick off the top turnbuckle before falling to an impressive superplex from Zayn for the two count. Zayn set-up with the Helluva Kick, but was stopped in his tracks by an intense Kingston. A Trouble in Paradise followed for another impressive victory for the veteran superstar.

Paul Heyman appeared, teasing a potential cash in, but unsurprisingly the Beast Incarnate was nowhere to be seen. As Kofi was distracted, Dolph Ziggler appeared and laid him out, and proceeded to inflict a vicious beatdown on Kingston, that took in ring posts, steel chairs and announce tables. Kingston was motionless as The Show-Off made his way to the back and Kofi refused to be carried to the back by the attending medical team, again showing the intestinal fortitude which has become a staple of his title run.

The post-match beatdown was the highlight of this segment. Ziggler and Kingston go way back in the company and have feuded in the past, so it will be interesting to see Ziggler’s motives for the attack. He is, even in the twilight of his career, a safe bet to produce quality both on the mic and between the ropes, but if a feud with Kingston over the strap is forthcoming, it will likely just be as a placeholder until Kofi moves on.

Bayley & Becky Lynch vs. Lacey Evans & Charlotte Flair

The heels definitely came across as the more cohesive pairing of the two teams, as evidenced by their double-team work and quick tags at the start of the match. On the other hand, there was a little tension pre-match between The Man and The Hugger, who both made their intentions clear to be dual champion. Classic heel tag work from Evans and Flair saw them wear down Bayley in the corner and cut off the threat of Lynch. Bayley eventually made the hot tag and exploded off the apron into Flair and then off the turnbuckle for a drop kick.

Lynch hit the Bexploder but got distracted by Evans as Flair hit the big boot. Evans stopped the Disarm Her with a Woman’s Right to Lynch, who tagged in Bayley. The SD champ reversed the Figure Four by Flair with an inside cradle and pinned the Queen for the second time in three nights. There are a couple of interesting feuds here going forward, with Evans and Lynch and Bayley and Flair. But the one to watch in the coming weeks may very well be between Lynch and Bayley, who formed an uneasy alliance here and clearly each covet the prize round the others waist.

Dolph Ziggler Promo

Ziggler cut a promo the way only Ziggler can and gave an impassioned speech about how he was jealous of Kingston’s recent push. He always delivers on the mic, but this was a refreshing take on what motivated him to attack the champ, which may get him another shot at the main event scene in the coming weeks, though he will likely fall short in what would be an enjoyable encounter nonetheless.

Roman Reigns vs. Elias

Shane McMahon, for some reason, introduced Elias, who got set to exact revenge after getting squashed by The Big Dog two days previously. Reigns looked back to his best in the early exchanges and delivered a couple of strong right hands before hitting Elias with a Drive By. McMahon goaded Reigns outside the ring and distracted him enough for Elias to gain the advantage, throwing him shoulder first into the post and continuing the beating on the outside. Reigns replied with a robust clothesline and a big boot, thus regaining control of the match, all while Shane O’ Mac stalked the apron outside the ring. Reigns fed off the WWE Universe who seem to be more receptive to him since his return earlier this year. Reigns set up a Superman Punch but McMahon distracted him again, stopping The Big Dog in his tracks. It wasn’t enough though, as he survived a powerbomb from Elias and produced a Superman Punch. He was denied the win by an interfering McMahon, who placed Elias’ leg on the bottom rope to halt the count.

Elias sensed an opportunity and pounced, sending Reigns into the unforgiving steel of the ringpost and the stairs. He went up top for a Macho Man-esque elbow drop and very nearly sprung a surprise, to the despair of a watching McMahon. Desperate, Elias distracted the ref while Shane handed him the guitar, and then attempted to smash it over Reigns’ head, who responded in kind with a spear for the victory. McMahon failed in his attempt at a post-match beatdown of Reigns and ate a Superman Punch for his troubles. Drew McIntyre appeared and hit Reigns with a Claymore Kick as him and Shane closed out the show.

This was a decent match to end the show, and it was only right that Elias got more time to shine tonight after Sunday’s showing. He is one of the most over heels in the company and looked strong in defeat. Furthermore, he has his detractors, but Reigns rarely has a poor match and was impressive here again. The overriding problem at the moment, though, is that the narrative of the feuds involving Reigns and McMahon is messy. Reigns is feuding with Shane and McIntyre, who has somewhat inexplicably aligned himself with McMahon, who himself seems to have unfinished business with The Miz. As soon as all these issues are resolved, hopefully by the time Super Showdown has been wrapped up, the talent involved can move on to more meaningful programmes.