KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 3, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Philips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
Check out Wade Keller’s Pro Wrestling Post-show covering this episode HERE.
-They opened with Daniel Bryan’s ring entrance. He got a huge ovation. A “Daniel Bryan” chant rang throughout the arena. Bryan stood and smiled, then introduced Shane McMahon. McMahon came out to his “Here comes the money!” theme. He danced as if there was nothing wrong with him. As he slapped hands on his way to the ring, they went to the announcers. Phillips talked about the hernia, diverticulitis, and infection and being discharged from the hospital a week ago. They talked about how amazing it is he is even there.
Fans chanted “Shane-o-Mac.” He asked, “What’s up, Nashville?” He congratulated Bryan on being medically cleared to do what he loves and they love to watch him do. Bryan was all smiles. Shane said what he’s been through didn’t last as long as what Bryan has been through, but he went through a lot in the last two weeks, “but I have also been medically cleared.” Scattered cheers. He said this Sunday they’ll give it all they’ve got.
Bryan said there’s one thing he needs to address as a man and as the G.M. of Smackdown. He said he’s made a lot of mistakes over the last six months, especially when it comes to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. He said he let their long friendship influence his reaction to their actions and to ignore Shane’s warnings. He said Shane was right and he “truly, deeply apologizes.” Shane said there’s no reason to apologize. Shane said he’s been doing some reflecting, too. He said he can be hot-headed and stubborn himself. Bryan sarcastically growled, “A McMahon, stubborn, no!” Bryan laughed. Shane forgot his next line and Bryan and Shane stared at each other awkwardly. Shane pretended to be adjusting his microphone. The awkward silence lasted about ten or eleven seconds. Bryan waited and then broke in.
He said if they are going to resolve their differences, when tag team partners have differences, there is only one way to resolve it. He suggested they hug it out. Shane, presumably, jumped back to his forgotten line. He said he apologized to Bryan because ever since KO attacked his dad and since Sami Zayn took his revenge away from him, he’s been hot-headed. He offered a handshake. Bryan felt like his hug was rejected. Boos from the crowd. Bryan said, “I just shook your hand two minutes ago! Nashville doesn’t want to see us shake hands, do you?” The fans chanted “No!” He asked if Nashville wants to see them hug it out. A “Yes” chant broke out. Shane said he’s not much of a hugger. Boos. “Hug it out!” chanted the crowd. Bryan egged them on. They hugged. Shane said that actually kind of worked because they’re on the same page now.
Bryan said they’re going to get their payback against KO and Sami. Shane thanked him for reinstated KO and Sami. He said he is looking forward to teaming with him and ridding themselves of those two cancers and “after WrestleMania, they will never be seen in a Smackdown Live ring again.” Bryan asked if the fans were ready to see them beat the holy hell out of KO and Sami at WrestleMania. “Yes!” Bryan’s music played.
(Keller’s Analysis: That covered a lot of bases that needed to be covered including Bryan and Shane both admitting some of their faults in recent months. It seemed to clean up the ambiguity over whether fans should even consider Bryan is on the side of KO and Sami. This is set up in a way where it just seems like a straight-up heel duo vs. face duo match. Bryan seems so much more engaged and ebullient now that he’s cleared. It’s fun to see. Shane forgetting his lines again was uncomfortable to watch. Not sure if he’s got memory issues or just isn’t really dedicating himself to memorizing and practicing the script. It’d be understandable with what he’s been through if he’s just mentally fatigued, but that said, he looked totally spry. In fact, he was less red-faced and intensely-sweaty than he had been on TV in recent months. That said, looking healthy and actually being healthy are two different things, and hopefully he doesn’t do anything stupid to try to live up to his rep and the McMahon rep for pushing through for the sake of making the date.)
-Charlotte made her ring entrance. They cut to a WrestleMania promotional video during the entrance. Then Natalya came out to her music. Then they cut to an actual commercial. [c]
(1) CHARLOTTE vs. NATALYA
The announcers questioned Charlotte wrestling Natalya this close to WrestleMania. They also plugged the Mixed Match Challenge finale. Then they shifted to talking about Natalya participating in the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal. Natalya bailed out to ringside and regroup and then yell at fans, to shut up. Charlotte went for a slidekick, but Natalya moved. Charlotte chopped Natalya at ringside. Natalya shoved Charlotte into the ringpost. They cut to a break as Natalya relished the moment. [c]
They stuck with the match on split screen. Natalya had Charlotte in a chinlock the first half. Charlotte fought back, but Natalya persevered. Eventually at ringside Natalya again threw Charlotte into the ringside barricade and then back into the ring. Charlotte eventually made a comeback and managed to get a two count on Natalya. She was slow to get up, though, still selling the long-term beatdown by Natalya. Natalya came back with a sleeper, but Charlotte dropped down hard to break the hold. Charlotte went for a moonsault, but Natalya lifted her knees. The impact didn’t look great, but Charlotte sold it like her midsection rather than her feet hitting the mat took the majority of the impact.
Carmella ran out and assessed the situation. As she was about to cash in, Charlotte stood and kicked the briefcase out of her hands. Charlotte kicked her. Natalya then rolled up Charlotte from behind and scored a two count. Charlotte quickly put Natalya in the Figure-Eight for the win.
WINNER: Charlotte in 13:00.
-Afterward, Asuka’s music played. Asuka walked out on the stage and headed to the ring. Saxton said this is a preview of WrestleMania because “the next time these two ladies are in the same ring, it will be this Sunday at WrestleMania.” Graves yelled at Saxton and said it’ll be in two hours on Mixed Match Challenge. Saxton sheepishly said, “One on one.” Graves said, “Derelict.” Asuka awkwardly over-enunciated and growled that at WrestleMania “the Queen will bow down to the Empress because…” Charlotte yanked the mic away from her. She said, out of breath from the match, she is ready, but the question is whether Asuka is ready. There was an awkward pause and then they both turned to the WrestleMania sign. They smiled and stared at each other. Then finally Charlotte’s music played. That felt, well, awkward. The word of the night is “awkward” so far.
(Keller’s Analysis: Asuka is quirky but in a way that undercuts her credibility as a top level personality. The continued teases of Carmella and the MITB briefcase indicates that is likely to come into play on Sunday, which is unfortunate.)
-A sit-down promo aired with A.J. Styles who said Shinsuke Nakamura patting him on his head last week was attempting to mess with his head, but it won’t work. He said it’s true he is hot-headed, but his emotions got him to where he is today. He said his emotions aren’t his weakness, they are his strength. He said if Nakamura takes him lightly, he’ll lose. He said they are at WrestleMania, far from the Tokyo Dome. He said this match isn’t a dream, it’s reality, and the reality is he’s going to beat Nakamura.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good, straight-forward promo. The closing line about this not being a dream, but reality, was almost too clever, but Styles pulled it off and made it sound like something he’d actually say. I like the last couple weeks introducing a personal dynamic between these two that can work into the way the match plays out and how they interact.) [c]
-They showed scenes on the streets of Nashville and inside a bar with live music.
-They went to the announcers. Graves said if Saxton had a social life, he’d have a great time on that street. Saxton said they should go out after the show, but Graves cut him off and said, “Absolutely not.” Phillips then plugged the 30 day free trial for WrestleMania. He threw to a video package on the Bryan/Shane saga.
-Bobby Roode joined the announcers at ringside. Then Samil Singh introduced Jinder Mahal who predicted he’d crush his opponents at WrestleMania like a cockroach. Roode talked about this being his first WrestleMania.
(2) RUSEV vs. JINDER MAHAL (w/Samil Singh)
They showed Randy Orton backstage watching the match. He watched straight on, so we saw him but the back of the TV set. How do we know what he was watching?!?! (Just kidding.) After a brief test of strength, Jinder punched away at Rusev. Rusev dropped him with a drop toe hold. He set up an early Accolade, so Jinder slid under the bottom rope to regroup.
NOTE: If you have questions or a reaction to tonight’s Smackdown, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for the Mailbag Segment of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-show (#WKPWP) taped tonight and available a couple hours after Smackdown ends. Call (347) 215-8558 to converse with Wade Keller and guest cohost Jonny Fairplay from Survivor, “Survival of the Fairest,” and TNA fame. You can stream the caller portion of the show live after Smackdown HERE.
Roode said Sunday is the biggest night of his career and he won’t let it slip by without victory. During the match, they cut to a highlight package of the Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar hype on Raw. Rusev got a clean win with the Machka Kick after a distraction by Singh didn’t help.
-As Rusev celebrated, Orton hit him with an RKO Out of Nowhere. Aiden English made the save and was set to leap off the second rope, but Roode got up and shoved English at Orton who then gave him an RKO out of mid-air. Roode entered the ring and looked at Orton. He picked up the U.S. Title belt and handed it back to Orton, but held on and wouldn’t let him take it at first. They both looked up at the WrestleMania sign as fans chanted “Rusev Day.”
(Keller’s Analysis: There’s a lot of paint-by-numbers booking, but when you have personalities fans care about and the wrestlers cast and lined up in the roles they’re a good fit for, it works. In this U.S. Title situation, it’s okay but not great in that regard. It was about time Rusev was set up against a heel where fans could outright cheer him, but then that sort of got taken away when Orton came out. Roode still is just there without anything compelling about his personality or character, so I still hold out hope for a heel role where he is better.)
-They went to Nakamura in a sit-down setting. He said Styles thinks he’s playing games, and he’s right, but he takes this game very seriously. He said he has proved it his entire life and he came to America for one reason – WrestleMania. He said he does not take Styles lightly. He said he knows Styles very well and he knows Styles is very emotional. He said those emotions will cause him to make a mistake and then he’ll become WWE Champion after a knee to face. He smiled.
(Keller’s Analysis: It wasn’t much, but it was enough – and for weeks it’s seemed obviously to have Nakamura and Styles address, at least tangentially, their Japan backgrounds. Nakamura did it there by talking about his journey from Japan to America and why he came and what he wants and how he plans to get it. Bingo. It’s enough when the right players are faced off and something is at stake fans are invested in.) [c]
-Backstage New Day chanted “Free! Free! Free!” They said WresteMania is 100 percent free for new subscribers. Big E pulled out a bag of Voody O’s, new Booty O’s that are based on Boogeyman. Big E reached down the front of his pants and found a tablet. He then grabbed a laptop out of Kingston’s sweat pants. Kofi asked Big E to grab an Xbox out of Xavier’s pants. Xavier pulled his waistband out and as Big E was about to reach down for the prize, in walked the Usos. They talked about WrestleMania being free to new subscribers, but said New Day and the Bludgeon Brothers will have a price to pay. New Day laughed hysterically at the notion that the Usos think they’ll win. The Bludgeon Brothers walked in. New Day and the Usos fled. The Bludgeon Brothers bashed their sledgehammers down and then screen went black.
(Keller’s Analysis: That felt like a scripted commercial and just too orchestrated. The Bludgeon Brothers type of act just doesn’t work in today’s WWE the way Vince McMahon presents the product. New Day moving away from Booty O’s and no pancakes this week could indicate some cleansing of their act, but still with the “I can’t believe they just did that” aspect of their interactions.)
(3) BARON CORBIN & PRIMO COLON & MOJO RAWLEY & DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. FANDANGO & TYLER BREEZE & TYE DILLINGER & ZACK RYDER
This was a teaser of competitors who are in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal representing Smackdown. They cut to an early break. [c]
They stayed with the action during the break on split screen. Back from the break, Mojo was working over Tye. Tye side-stepped him. Anytime someone went over the top rope, Phillips noted that it would be an elimination on Sunday. There was a rapid fire sequence of wrestlers throwing each other over the top rope. Breeze and Corbin were the last two in the ring. Corbin threw Breeze onto a group of wrestlers at ringside. Fandango schoolboyed Corbin. Corbin kicked out and hit End of Days for the win.
WINNER: Corbin & Promo & Mojo & Ziggler in 5:00.
-The announcers ran down the entire WrestleMania line-up. Then a brief plug aired for HBO’s Andre documentary.
-Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable cut a promo with WORDS ON THE SCREEN as they talked about facing Nakamura and Styles later. They said when they’re done with them tonight, Styles vs. Nakamura will be a watered down version on Sunday because they’ll send them limping to WrestleMania.
-Back to ringside, KO and Sami showed up through the crowd and stood on the announce desk. KO said it’s still the Sami & Kevin Show. He said nothing and nobody will stop them from speaking their minds tonight. Sami said they saw the Shane and Bryan “apology session” and they’re going to apologize, too. Sami said Bryan’s daughter won’t grow up with fond memories of his WrestleMania comeback. He said all of Brie Bella’s love and support won’t be enough to put him back together. Sami said their dream is to obliterate Shane. Owens said that will be their WrestleMania Moment. Sami said, “We deserve it.” He tried to start that chant. They cut backstage to Shane watching on a monitor. Bryan walked in. Shane said they deserve a whole lot more than that. They headed to the ring. KO said Shane can cry in his dad’s lap at WWE headquarters and see the scar up close that he put on his dad’s head. Security came out and ordered KO and Sami away. They fled up the steps. Shane and Bryan came out next. Bryan told them to stop. He asked for cameras to show them. He told everyone to turn on their cell phones and point their cameras at them. He said this is the very last time they will see Sami and Owens on Smackdown. [c]
(4) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & A.J. STYLES vs. CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMIN
Early on, when Styles reached for a tag to enter the ring, Nakamura teased a tag, but then pet him on his head again. Styles entered the ring and angrily yapped at Nakamura. Shelton and Gable jumped both of them. Graves said Styles’s emotions got the best of him and that could be a sign of what’s to come on Sunday. They cut to an early break. [c]
As Gable had Nakamura in an armbar, they aired a video on split screen promoting Charlotte vs. Asuka and pushed that WrestleMania is free for new subscribers. Styles showed off his Phenomenal Forearm by launching from right next to Nakamura and scored a clean pin on Gable.
WINNERS: Styles & Nakamura.
-Styles and Nakamura exchanged tense looks afterward. Styles left the ring. Shelton attacked Nakamura. Styles watched and then returned to the ring to maybe help. Nakamura, though, cleared the ring of Shelton on his own. Styles then launched at Nakamura with a tease of a Phenomenal Forearm, but stopped short. Nakamura flinched and cowered, then looked up and smiled. Styles patted him on his head. Nakamura got up and looked upset as Styles left the ring, holding up his IC Title belt.
(Keller’s Analysis: That worked. The right match got the final segment.)
Check out Wade Keller’s Pro Wrestling Post-show covering this episode HERE.