SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
PAIGE IS ANNOUNCED AS SMACKDOWN GM…
Recap: The show began with Shane McMahon in the ring thanking the fans for their part in WrestleMania weekend. He looked out of breath or in pain at times. Shane then announced that Daniel Bryan will be a “full time performer” and has resigned as GM.
To the crowd’s surprise, Paige was then introduced as the new SmackDown GM to a huge pop.
Apparently Shane approached her and offered her the job backstage immediately after her speech last night. As her first act as GM, she set a match for Daniel Bryan, but wavered on naming his opponent to keep the crowd in suspense. The crowd initially wanted for Rusev, as loud Rusev Day chants began. She kept holding out until the chants changed to AJ Styles, at which point she announced AJ as Bryan’s opponent.
Evaluation: When presented with a choice of who they wanted to see wrestle Daniel Bryan in his first singles match, the crowd overwhelmingly chose Rusev. That is a testament to how over he is. It makes Orton’s win over Rusev and Bobby Roode to become number one contender for the US Title later in the night even more disappointing.
WWE did a good job of faking us out last night. Based on the tone of Paige’s speech, I truly believed they were parting ways with her. This was a fun surprise.
Forecast: I’m a bit torn, because while Paige is very talented, I tend to prefer a less active on-air GM (similar to Joe Koff’s role in ROH). That said, I definitely am willing to give this a chance. Considering the backstory and speech last night, I would expect her to be a face authority figure at least for a while. Hopefully she isn’t portrayed as bumbling like Kurt Angle on Raw.
CARMELLA IS THE NEW WOMEN’S CHAMPION…
Recap: Charlotte came to the ring and delivered an emotional promo regarding her WrestleMania win. She said it was special, but that she was looking for future special moments. She was then interrupted by the debut of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay (now called “The Iconics” rather than the Iconic Duo).
Royce and Kay mocked Charlotte’s promo as overly saccharine, at one point doing a corny impression of her thanking her second grade teacher. They then proceeded to put a double team beating on her. They took her outside the ring and slammed her into the ring post. After continuing the beating, they dragged her limp body into the ring, at which point several referees broke up the encounter.
During the entire beating, the crowd was chanting for Carmella. As Billie and Peyton proceeded up the ramp, Carmella did in fact appear to cash in her briefcase, to a big pop. Inexplicably, the referee seemed confused as to what to do with the briefcase. He eventually figured it out, and called for the bell as Charlotte staggered to her feet. Carmella then landed a kick to Charlotte and pinned her to win the title.
In a later backstage interview, Carmella got choked up and said there was someone she wanted to thank: herself. She referenced winning the Money in the Bank briefcase all on her own (ignoring Ellsworth) and the title all on her own (ignoring the Iconics’ role).
Evaluation: Tonight’s crowd was more of a traditional “Raw after WrestleMania Crowd”, and they showed it by popping big for Carmella. The Iconics also received a positive reaction, as essentially all NXT callups do.
While WWE too often has heels do “fake face turn promos”, I did like this one from Carmella because of the callback to her tainted Money in the Bank win. Even if you hate that angle, it did happen so it may as well be used for heat.
Forecast: With Carmella as a heel champion, turning Charlotte heel likely won’t happen for the time being. I would like to see a pursuit of Carmella by Charlotte, where when Charlotte finally succeeds in recapturing the title she turns on the fans and lets her natural heel personality shine.
DANIEL BRYAN RETURNS TO SINGLES ACTION AGAINST AJ (AND SHINSUKE)…
Recap: Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles had a very solid SmackDown main event match. It started off with strikes, then moved to a slower pace as Bryan worked AJ’s arm. After a commercial break, the pace again quickened. Bryan went up and over AJ with a moonsault attempt, landing on his feet but tweaking his knee. That allowed AJ to hit his Stylin’ DDT.
Bryan later landed an armbar, but AJ escaped. A running knee attempt by Bryan was countered into a Calf Crusher.
Late in the match, Shinsuke Nakamura jumped into the ring and knocked out Bryan with the Kinshasa. He then landed a low blow on AJ, followed by a Kinshasa, followed by a second low blow before leaving the ring. The referee called for a DQ.
Evaluation: Daniel Bryan looked solid. There didn’t seem to be much ring rust at all.
In an earlier promo, Shinsuke was cheered when he dodged Renee’s questions by claiming not to speak English. By breaking up the main event, however, he seemed to get some real heat and left the ring to jeers.
Forecast: Before the match, the announcers explicitly stated that Bryan was subject to the Superstar Shakeup and could end up on Raw next week. That statement, combined with giving away a singles match against AJ Styles with no buildup makes me think he will be headed to Raw on Monday.
So far so good with the Shinsuke heel turn. He seems to be enjoying it, so we should see more passionate performances from him than we saw in his first year on the main roster.
I always hate the rapid fire kicks spot Naomi does. It looks fake and the kicks look very soft. I enjoyed that when she attempted it tonight, Natalya simply shoved her out of the way….
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 4/3: Bryan and Shane hug it out, Styles and Nakamura toy with each other, Rusev gets to be a babyface