Post-WrestleMania week continues on WWE television, meaning more thought is put into this episode of SmackDown as new number one contender AJ Styles teams up with Cesaro to take on Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens in the main event, plus Zack Ryder attempts to win back his Intercontinental Championship against the man who defeated him on Monday, The Miz. Your hosts this week as usual are Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler, and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
The WWE World Heavyweight Champion opens the show to a mixed reaction. Reigns is a three-time champion, all three won in a span of about six months. That's some Attitude Era stuff right there. Reigns reiterates the same thing he said on Monday, that he's not a good or bad guy but the guy, and now he's going to beat AJ Styles. Naturally that brings Styles out to counter. Styles says he's been all around the world and has beaten some of the best and if he has to beat the guy to win the championship then so be it. Reigns then seriously just reiterates this by saying Styles will have to beat theguy to win the championship like we didn't just hear that two seconds ago. Reigns concludes by saying Styles has beaten the best but hasn't beaten him and never will, then drops the mic and gives Styles a condescending pat on the shoulder. I'm definitely all in on this being a main event to a PPV/Network special/whatever the kids are calling it these days but these two are not very good on the mic so the promo work leading up to it is not going to be great. Lowering my expectations now.
Lucha Dragons vs. The Vaudevillains
Vaudevillains are making their main roster debut against a team they've faced many times in NXT. The team is comprised of Aiden English, who had a good thing going as a singles competitor doing a singing gimmick, and Simon Gotch who looks straight out of the early-20th century. They're fun but it's a goofy gimmick and I'm not entirely sure how well that's going to translate on the main roster. The NXT crowd is all about it but that's a less mainstream group. Anyway the match is competitive enough but The Vaudevillains end up taking it by hitting Kalisto, the United States Champion mind you, with their finisher The Whirling Dervish. Why Sin Cara couldn't take the pin given he doesn't have a singles championship to defend is beyond me. Decent enough match though and a solid debut for The Vaudevillains. (4:00)
Final Rating: **1/4
Natalya vs. Summer Rae
WWE Women's Champion Charlotte is ringside to do commentary and her father Ric Flair is there to just sort of...hang out, I guess. As Natalya makes her entrance Ranallo mentions that this week marks her 8th year as part of the main WWE roster which is pretty impressive. Anyway the match is essentially a squash as Charlotte does her boastful thing on commentary, the fact that she already beat Natalya at Roadblock thankfully being briefly brought up, and Natalya gets the submission victory with the Sharpshooter while staring daggers at the champion. Okay then. (2:54)
Final Rating: N/R
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Zack Ryder
24 hours after surprising the world and winning the championship at WrestleMania 32 Ryder was defeated for the strap by The Miz, thanks to a distraction from his wife, and former WWE Diva (can I still say that at this point? Eh whatever) Maryse. That wasn't a one-time thing thankfully as Maryse does the “personal ring announcer” duties for Miz, announcing him as 'Da Miz' which reminds me of 'Da Mountie' and now it may be hard to concentrate on this one. Ranallo mentions that Ryder's reign as Intercontinental Champion wasn't the shortest as Dean Douglas only held the championship for eleven minutes back in 1995. Lawler acts like he's never heard of that person in his life, and the whole 'Ranallo says intelligent stuff while Lawler drools and pretends to have the brain of a five year old' schtick continues.
Onto the match itself, I guess. Ryder tries to put it away early with a series of roll-ups but can't seem to do it so he sends Miz to the floor and belts him with a dropkick off the apron to try and actually weaken his opponent first. It doesn't do enough and when we get back from commercial Miz is in control, hitting Ryder right in his domepiece (thank you Enzo Amore) for a two-count. Ryder counters a suplex with a neckbreaker and tries to mount a comeback but his missile dropkick from the middle turnbuckle is countered with a sitout powerbomb. Nice. Ryder eventually rebounds and catches Miz with a Broski Boot on the floor then rolls him and hits the ElBRO Drop for the 1...2...nah. Maryse removes the bottom turnbuckle and throws it in the ring, distracting both the ref and Ryder. Ryder turns around and gets a thumb to the eye then Miz finishes him off with a Skull Crushing Finale. An enjoyable enough match with Ryder once again losing due to interference to try and snuff out the fact that his big WrestleMania moment is amounting to a giant fluke. (8:54 shown)
Final Rating: **3/4
The Social Outcasts are shown hanging out on the apron. One of them needs to face Apollo Crews so they decide via rock, paper, scissors. Curtis Axel has paper while everyone else has scissors but he turns it into an 'ax' and then rolls into the ring proclaiming victory. Alright then.
Apollo Crews vs. Curtis Axel
Axel leads a Bo Train for spirit's sake to start but then gets knocked right out to the floor with one shot by Crews. Axel gets momentary advantage thanks to a distraction by Heath Slater but it's short-lived and Crews survives the damn numbers game and wins with a spinning sit-out powerbomb. Axel got more offense than Tyler Breeze on Monday. Poor Tyler Breeze. (2:15)
Final Rating: N/R
Baron Corbin is supposed to be interviewed backstage, likely about his destruction of Dolph Ziggler on Monday, but doesn't have time for nonsense like that so he gets right to the point: the End of Days aren't coming, they're already here.
Renee Young is standing by with Becky Lynch, who's still bruised and stitched up from her WrestleMania match. Lynch puts over the importance of the Women's Championship and vows to be back in contention but then Emma walks in to interrupt. They get into a war of words and Lynch threatens to give Emma the same black eye she has. Emma, not worried, tells Lynch that she'll 'keep an eye out' for her. Ha. Heel Emma is great, but those gloves she wears drive me nuts. Either cover the whole hand or don't, come on.
Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze
This is Ambrose's first appearance since he loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 and he's all fury, steamrolling through Breeze and picking up the win with Dirty Deeds in short order. Poor Tyler Breeze. (1:03)
Final Rating: N/R
Before Ambrose can leave Chris Jericho makes his way out for the main event. Ambrose eyeballs him as he walks by, signaling the start of a feud. Not necessarily hyped for the matches themselves but it should be entertaining promo-wise.
We go backstage where Goldust is on the phone trying to get 'Shattered Dreams Productions 2' off the ground, like the first one was a movie or something. R-Truth barges in with a camera and tells Goldust he can get him an audition with a big Hollywood producer when RAW is in Los Angeles this Monday. Goldust playing the straight man in a comedy tag team duo is weird but I welcome the change. I'd actually welcome if this wasn't happening at all but at least it's not taking up a ton of TV time.
AJ Styles & Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
The faces are in charge before the break, causing Jericho to angrily bail to the floor. Owens is mock angry too and lackadaisically pushes over the ring steps to show he's also upset. I don't know if I've mentioned this yet but Kevin Owens is the best. Back from commercial Cesaro peppers Jericho and Owens with an Uppercut Train but both men manage to escape a Cesaro Swing and Jericho clotheslines him out to the floor. They double team Cesaro in the corner and Owens hits a short-arm clothesline, then stops to call himself 'Phenomenal' to dig at Styles. Jericho tags in and slaps Cesaro in the back of the head repeatedly but ends up eating a pop-up European uppercut. Cesaro tries to make the tag but Jericho pulls Styles off the apron, then makes a mock diving tag to Owens in what is now my favorite moment of the night. I'm not much for Jericho nowadays but he and Owens work tremendously well together as a pair of smarmy heels. Owens misses a Cannonball and Styles gets the tag this time, taking out both Owens and Jericho. Owens dodges a springboard moonsault and superkicks Styles in the head but his pinfall attempt is interrupted by Cesaro. Cesaro and Jericho end up on the floor and Cesaro ends up pelting Jericho with a running European uppercut that sends him flying into the timekeeper's area. Owens gets ready to put the finishing touches on Styles but out comes Sami Zayn, arm bandaged and officials trying desperately to hold him back. This distracts Owens long enough for Styles to roll him up for the victory and that's a lame WWE ending to an otherwise great match. I highly recommend this one; Jericho and Owens do some fun stuff as a thrown-together heel team here and it almost felt like they were just dicking around house show-style. I can respect that. (9:33 shown)
Final Rating: ***
Owens and Zayn immediately start brawling once the bell sounds, as the officials continue to have an issue controlling either man. Owens tosses Zayn into the ring steps bad arm-first and he's the one that ends up being dragged to the back as this week's episode concludes.
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens. His 'me too' angry push of the ring steps plus his banter made him a joy to watch in this one. He's so good. So so so so so good. I'm a broken record and I don't care.
Least Entertaining: Goldust & R-Truth. I just couldn't care any less than I already do about their skits.
Match of the Night: AJ Styles & Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
Summary: With WrestleMania in the rear view it's time for WWE to start pushing towards the future and they did that this week. Reigns and Styles got a chance to have some brief banter en route to their eventual match, Ambrose teased a potential feud with Jericho, and most importantly the Owens/Zayn saga continued. It may not be for any championships but Zayn and Owens have the best feud going currently and their constant brawling never gets old. WWE is actually in a decent enough place to pull off at least their next event and I hope it stays this way going forward. As for this week's episode of SmackDown itself I definitely enjoyed it. Ranallo killed it on commentary as usual and the main event was super fun. It just flew by and it's one of the more interesting SmackDown episodes in recent months. I know that SmackDown will settle back into filler territory soon but at least this week it made for a worthwhile companion to RAW. Seriously though poor Tyler Breeze.