Liam Hoofe breaks down this week’s edition of SmackDown…
Heel Shinsuke and the Main Event
Who would have thought that a heel Shinsuke Nakamura was just what we needed on Tuesday nights? Shinsuke has been excellent as a heel so far, and his low-blow on AJ during this week’s main event, and his subsequent claim that he doesn’t speak English were excellent. AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and Shinsuke Nakamura are an excellent main event trio, chuck Samoa Joe into that mix and you have something really quite special.
The main event match itself was also good fun, with AJ and Bryan taking on Aiden English and Rusev. With the SmackDown mid-card well and truly shaken, Rusev may be able to ascend up the roster a little easier in the new landscape.Big Cass’ arrival at the end of the bout sets up a potential feud between him and Bryan, which I’m totally fine with – Bryan getting a title shot should be something we have to wait for a little bit, and this feud will also help Cass get over more on SmackDown.
Jeff Hardy Vs Shelton Benjamin
Predictably, Jeff Hardy made his way to SmackDown Live last night, bringing his newly won US title belt back to the brand after a one-day hiatus. Hardy made his debut by interrupting Shelton Benjamin, who had been cutting a promo about breaking out as a singles star now that Chad Gable had left to go to Raw. Benjamin’s promo was initially interrupted by Randy Orton, but before Orton cut even make his way to the ring, Hardy’s music hit and he confronted Benjamin instead.
Benjamin and Hardy rolled back the years for a solid match, one which Hardy eventually won. Benjamin didn’t look to weak in defeat, however, and hopefully, he can get himself involved in the US title picture now that Gable has gone. Orton Vs Jeff should be an interesting feud as well, and one that could finally drag something interesting out of Randy Orton.
The Mellabration was a bit of a mixed bag in general. Carmella is an excellent heel character and she is so easy to hate. Her promo work here was really fun, and with Kay and Royce now on SmackDown, the heel division is going to pretty entertaining to watch.
The issue I had with this though, was the typical lazy booking. The whole segment just existed to make a 6-woman tag match for next week, and I’m tired of seeing Becky Lynch playing second fiddle to Charlotte. Asuka’s debut is great, and it’s the best move for her, but it just forces Becky Lynch further down the pecking order.
Samoa Joe made his move to SmackDown last night with an emphatic victory over Sin Cara. Joe then proceeded to cut a promo, where he said that SmackDown is the land of handouts. He then talked about how he would take out every major SmackDown superstar, and how he would defeat Roman Reigns and bring the Universal title to SmackDown. This was awesome from Joe, who should excel on Tuesday nights.
The Bludgeon Brothers keep on Bludgeoning
This wasn’t bad as such, it just didn’t really do much for me. Jey Uso was squashed by Harper in less than a minute and then The Bludgeons proceeded to beat down The Usos. This led to Naomi running out screaming to protect her husband. Did we really need this? It made The Usos look pretty weak before their title shot, and it doesn’t add anything to the feud at all. The two teams have a match next week, and so far, The Usos have not been able to gather any some sort of momentum against their opponents.
So, the shake-up is done with for this year, so let’s have a quick look at each superstar who moved to SmackDown last night:
Samoa Joe: This is an excellent move. Joe will excel against the likes of Bryan, Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, and has a much more realistic chance of winning gold on Tuesday nights. Joe is one of the best things on WWE television right now.
The Miz: The Miz has only been away from SmackDown for a year, but his return makes a lot of sense. The company has a ready-made money match in The Miz Vs Bryan, and the former WWE champion can make a good feud out of anything. It’s a shame the Miztourage didn’t join him, as I don’t see them succeeding on their own, but this is still a good move.
Big Cass: Cass finally returned from injury last night, and giving him a new home after so long away is a smart move. Cass will likely feud with Bryan for a few months before slotting nicely into the upper mid-card on SmackDown. There is also the option of playing off his real-life relationship with Carmella now.
Jeff Hardy: Getting Jeff away from the Woken Universe and working as a singles star again is a good move. Hardy was one of the most over singles acts back in the late 2000’s, and while he may be older now, he can still be a draw.
Asuka: Asuka has worked her way through the entire women’s division on Raw, and the prospect of a rematch with Charlotte later in the year is mouth-watering.
The Bar: As we saw from their ridiculous WrestleMania program, The Bar have beaten everyone on the Raw roster, so moving them over to SmackDown makes a lot of sense. They have plenty of great potential match-ups with the likes of The Usos and The New Day to look forward to, and there is also the possibility to break away as single stars again if they are needed.
Gallows and Anderson: Gallows and Anderson needed a change of scenery, it’s just a shame that they didn’t bring Finn Balor with them. They will no doubt play off their past with AJ Styles again at some point. Though, I would love to see them teamed with Shinsuke Nakamura against AJ.
Absolution: This one makes a lot of sense, considering The Riott Squad have gone to Raw, and the fact that Paige is the SmackDown GM.
R-Truth: Well, every brand needs a jobber I guess,and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy his segment with The New Day and Dillinger this week.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas : Other than Samoa Joe, this is the best acquisition of the whole shake-up for Smackdown. Almas has been excellent in NXT over the last 6 months, and he and Vega should have no problem rising up the ranks of SmackDown Live. It’s a shame he didn’t get to make his debut in the ring, but the prospect of Almas working in the already incredible SmackDown main event scene is almost too much to handle. If the WWE book him right, Almas will be one of the biggest stars on SmackDown before the end of 2018.
— WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2018
Sanity : Sanity should be great on SmackDown, and it’s good that they didn’t get down the lazy route of just pitting them against Wyatt and Hardy on Raw. The group have a unique act, which should connect with the WWE audience. It’s a shame that they have left Nikki Cross in NXT, but she will no doubt get her call-up soon. Killian Dain has been on great form as of late, and there is every chance he will break out from the group fairly quickly.
Verdict: Last night’s SmackDown was a really fun episode. While the brand may have lost more than it has gained in terms of superstars, this really is a case of quantity over quality. SmackDown has cleared out a lot of the deadwood, and its smaller roster will allow many of the superstars to flourish. The additions of Samoa Joe and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas are particularly exciting and the future is looking very bright for SmackDown.