Welcome to The Nerd Hub’s weekly breakdown of WWE SmackDown Live. This week, we pour out a little liquor for the death of babyface Kevin Owens at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. You knew he’d KO New Day at some point. You were right!
HEADLINE NEWS: GOOD KO GONE BAD
Maybe he didn’t like the pancakes?
The honorary member of New Day said goodbye to Big O and turned back the clock to vintage Kevin Owens. He superkicked Kofi Kingston after the WWE Champion won Tuesday’s main event match by disqualification over Shinsuke Nakamura. Then, KO ratcheted up the heat, tearing off his New Day shirt, grabbing the belt from ringside and holding it aloft as he put his boot on Kingston’s neck. Xavier Woods tried to stop the assault, but ended up falling victim to Owens’ patented powerbomb off the ring apron as the show faded to black.
You knew there’d be hell to pay for making KO wear the unicorn headband, right?
What a perfect way to make Owens important again. The Prizefighter took care of a lack of challengers emerging for the WWE Championship with one kick. This immediately becomes one of the most heated feuds heading into Money in the Bank. KO also provides Kingston a formidable rival for his first pay-per-view title defense.
BEST OF THE REST: EL IDOLO-BALOR II
The return of Andrade to SmackDown Live gifted us with another great match with the Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor. This time, Finn answered the challenge with the title on the line. He took advantage of Zelina Vega distracting her own client to set up a corner dropkick and the Coup De Grace for the pin.
The first match between the two last week whetted our appetite, but the technique looked a little choppy at times. This time around, Andrade and Finn got synced up and turned in a non-stop fight. However, the booking made more sense on RAW. Andrade getting a victory over a nearly-unbeatable opponent recently went a long way in establishing credibility for him. Yet, the definitive loss this week puts us back into 50-50 booking territory. The question of whether WWE will give Andrade a legitimate push remains.
BIG WINNER: LARS SULLIVAN
The WWE Universe online seems to dislike Lars. However, I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank him for saving us from the announced match of Chad Gable versus Jinder Mahal.
Ain’t nobody got no time for that match.
Sullivan continued his reign of terror, but this time picked on guys younger than the age of 40. He turned in his version of the Hulk smash by launching Gable into a ring post. Then, he laid out the poor Singh brothers. As a result, R-Truth ran out to try to stop the carnage. However, Lars made him pay too, with a running sit-out powerbomb. Sullivan-R Truth will not be much of a feud, but it will establish how dangerous The Freak can be. That momentum will propel him going forward with the news WWE plans a monster push for the big man.
BIG LOSER: THE IICONICS
So far, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay have lost all of their singles or tag matches not involving The Brooklyn Belles since winning the women’s tag team belts at WrestleMania 35. This time out, Royce ate an InSane Elbow from Kairi Sane during a singles match. The loss came on the heels of Billie Kay falling to Naomi in singles action on RAW.
Whether their fans like it or not, this booking screams placeholder champions. Champs who lose to everyone else don’t stay champs for long. More importantly, Royce didn’t just lose. She got squashed in a one-sided affair by Sane, just entering her second week on the main roster. By reading the tea leaves, we appear to be just weeks away from celebrating Sane and Asuka as new tag team champs.
1. Charlotte Flair – You knew The Queen wouldn’t stay down for long, right? Flair answered Bayley’s challenge with a victory and earned another title shot at RAW and SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch. This rivalry may have more sequels than Star Wars, but it has a new wrinkle because of the challenge facing Lynch. The champ-champ must make not one, but two title defenses at Money in the Bank. The Man announced she would face both Flair and Lacey Evans in separate matches. This is the eighth major pay-per-view show in the past year to feature Flair and Lynch. Will it start the ninth title reign for The Queen?
2. Bayley – When is the last time you viewed The Hugger as a serious singles title contender? Sure, Bayley lost a hard-fought match to Flair, but it re-introduced her into the title picture. Remember, Bayley is now two years removed from her run as RAW Women’s Champion. It came to an end in her hometown of San Jose in April of 2017 at Payback, thanks to Alexa Bliss. More importantly, this match could serve as an opening salvo for a long-term feud with The Queen. Yet, WWE missed an opportunity to build Bayley up even more. This seemed like a good time to give the fans someone else for Lynch to match up against.
3. Elias – The Drifter maintained heel heat by helping Shane McMahon beat up Roman Reigns in the opening segment. Shane-O-Mac took the hypocritical stance of being outraged at Reigns hitting his father just weeks removed from attacking Miz’s dad. The fact that Elias got included in another high-profile segment is good. However, the announced match between him and Reigns just seems like yet another attempt to get Reigns over as a babyface. In the short-term, this show gave The Drifter a win. However, it’s fair to question if he’ll be hurt in the long run by being involved in an angle with Reigns.
4. Roman Reigns – The Big Dog has made his presence felt on his new brand. As mentioned above, his announced match with Elias seems like WWE positioning him at a run for a championship belt later this summer. As of now, AJ Styles has made a flashier impact on RAW. However, you have to like Reigns’ chances of winning a belt more so than Styles at this point given WWE’s history of booking him so strongly. It doesn’t seem likely that AJ will beat Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank for the Universal Championship. With the current storylines, it appears WWE may try to set up a Kevin Owens-Roman Reigns feud down the line.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura/Rusev – They seemed like an odd pairing as a tag team at first, but are starting to gel in their heel roles. Nakamura put on an excellent main event match with Kingston for the WWE Championship. The Artist gave Kofi fits with his reach and power strikes. However, he failed to hit Kinshasa and fell victim to a jumping double knees-Trouble in Paradise combination. As a result, Rusev attacked Kingston to get the disqualification. With Sheamus injured and Cesaro now on RAW, Nakamura and Rusev get the chance to step up into The Bar’s role. They can become the top heels of the SmackDown tag team division. They looked up to the task on Tuesday.
1. Ember Moon – Since she’s a legitimate title contender, it felt like a lost opportunity for the WWE to not feature Moon on TV. Considering she already spent some time away from the ring for injury, she needs to be out front and center to keep interest in her. Here’s hoping she won’t get lost in the shuffle on SmackDown Live.
2. Heavy Machinery – Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight are impressive athletes for their size. Much like the Viking Raiders, Heavy Machinery can do things you wouldn’t expect from two guys who are 300-plus pounds. However, it seems like WWE creative is intent on banishing these guys to nothing more than a comedy act. Furthermore, these guys don’t even receive the benefit of consistent TV time. They are way more talented than the booking they’ve received to this point.
3. Aleister Black – Maybe it was a product of the last-minute brand swap for Black, but he only made TV as a vignette this week. Like the other mentions on this list, Black is a breakout star in waiting and deserved more than the promo segment he got on the show this week. He could’ve made a great third competitor in the Andrade-Balor match and perhaps played into a finish that didn’t bury anyone.
4. Fire and Desire – Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville seem intent on getting mixed up with former Absolution stablemate Paige and her new tag team. It’s understandable that WWE wants to push Kairi Sane and Asuka. However, an angle bringing up Absolution seems like a reach. It’s not something the fans will buy into much, and it doesn’t make much sense. Wouldn’t Rose and Deville seem more convincing breathing down the necks of The IIconics for a title opportunity?
5. The Hardy Boyz – Matt and Jeff won the belts from The Usos two weeks ago. They haven’t been heard from on TV since Lars Sullivan bulldozed them after that victory. It seems like an odd way to treat the start of a title reign for two legendary ring workers like the Hardys. Here’s hoping we start to get a sense of what their involvement at Money in the Bank looks like next week.