SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
JEFF HARDY IS THE NEW US CHAMPION…
Recap: The show began with Kurt Angle in the ring. Before he could reveal the first wrestler to change brands during the Superstar Shakeup, Sunil Singh came to the ramp to announce Jinder Mahal as having come to Raw.
Jinder complained to Kurt about being transported to the arena in an SUV rather than a limousine. He also stated that he expected all the same perks as Brock Lesnar, and that he was already the best competitor on Raw. Kurt became frustrated at Jinder’s demands, and told him that if he was the best, he needed to prove it in the ring. Kurt then set a US Title defense for Jinder, making it an open challenge.
Jeff Hardy’s music then hit, indicating he had accepted the challenge. The match began immediately. The two had a solid television match that ended with Jeff pinning Jinder after a Twist of Fate into a Swanton Bomb.
Later in a backstage interview with Renee, Jinder blamed Kurt Angle for his loss and invoked his rematch clause for The Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia. No Way Jose then appeared and told Jinder to lighten up before dancing away with Renee.
Evaluation: I like moving Jinder Mahal to Raw. Between the WWE and US Title angles, it feels like he has been feuding with Randy Orton and/or Bobby Roode forever. Things had become extremely stale for him over on SmackDown. Later in the night Bobby Roode was also revealed as coming to SmackDown; hopefully those two stay away from each other for a while.
I figured that Jeff Hardy would win the title when the segment began. Announcing Jinder Mahal as the very first wrestler to move in the Shakeup would normally be a disappointment to the fans, so I had figured they’d use the title change to make up for it.
Jeff Hardy is old, coming off injury, and carrying a lot of baggage. His DWI was only weeks ago, so clearly his substance abuse problems aren’t totally a thing of the past. The combination of those factors would indicate he can’t be relied upon in a main event role, so the US Title is a fine spot for him. I hope that he at least occasionally continues to participate in the Woken Universe.
Forecast: With the US Title coming to Raw, the Intercontinental Title is almost certainly headed to SmackDown. I would assume this means Seth Rollins moves with the title, but I suppose it’s possible that the title instead moves to SmackDown via a title change at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
SAMI ZAYN AND KEVIN OWENS HEAD TO RAW; MIZ TO SMACKDOWN…
Recap: During the Miz TV segment, Miz announced his guests as the newest editions to Raw. He then revealed said guests as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They entered the ring embracing and celebrating with Miz and the Miztourage. Miz announced the combined group as bigger than the NWO, the 1992 Dream Team, and the Avengers. He then said they would dominate raw without interference from the egotistical Shane McMahon and “wannabe movie star” Paige.
Michael Cole was baffled as to how Owens and Zayn could be a part of the Shakeup since they did not have WWE contracts. His concerns were soon answered. Kurt Angle came to the ring, stating that he had not signed Owens or Zayn. Sami Zayn then revealed an email from Stephanie McMahon overriding Kurt Angle’s decision from last week and signing both of them to Raw.
Kurt stated that he was surprise Stephanie had time for an email with her round the clock physical therapy after the damage Ronda did to her arm. He also told the Miz not to be too excited, as he was headed to SmackDown. Daniel Bryan apparently specifically asked for the Miz to be traded there. The Miztourage would not be joining him, as they will be staying on Raw.
In the main event, Miz, the Miztourage, Owens, and Zayn faced Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, and a debuting Bobby Roode. The match ended with the Miztourage betraying the Miz. They both refused to tag in, stranding him in the ring with Braun Strowman who hit the Running Powerslam for the pin.
Evaluation: It takes something away from “Loser Leaves Town” matches when we know the loser will simply re-debut on the opposing brand in short order. I’m not arguing for keeping Owens and Zayn off of television for an extended period, but we need less matches with that stipulation.
When Miz began insulting Shane McMahon and Paige, it became pretty obvious that Kurt Angle would appear to announce his trade to SmackDown.
Forecast: Miz’s first SmackDown feud will now be against Daniel Bryan. Since the Talking Smack angle fans have been waiting for a confrontation between the two for over a year, so that will likely be a good matchup.
With Samoa Joe seeming to be the first Universal Title feud for Roman Reigns after Saudi Arabia, I think we could see Owens and/or Zayn in the US Title picture for the immediate future. Feuds with Lashley and Finn Balor would be other possible options.
REIGNS IS BOOED WORSE THAN EVER…
Recap: At the top of the third hour, Roman Reigns came to the ring for a promo. He gain emphasized his full time status, and promised to return the Universal Title to a full-timer in Saudi Arabia. His promo was overwhelmed by nonstop boos. He was then interrupted by Samoa Joe.
Joe reminded Reigns that while Reigns does always show up to work, he also always fails to get the job done. He told Reigns that he’d be there to put Reigns out of his misery after he loses again to Lesnar. He then showed a package of Lesnar beating up Reigns over the years.
Reigns responded by saying that Joe only showed what Brock had done, not Joe. He then challenged Joe’s “lazy fat ass” to come to the ring. Joe declined the invite and left.
Evaluation: This was really bad. Reigns’ reaction had been improving slightly going into WrestleMania. The portrayal of Brock as a part-timer for heel heat was working at least to some extent.
After WrestleMania, however, it appears Reigns’ push is in worse shape than ever.
Forecast: As I discussed on Wrestling Night in America last night, I went into WrestleMania of the opinion that WWE had a shot of getting at least a mixed reaction if Reigns won the title. My caveat was that it would’ve required everything breaking just right that night. The apathy caused by the match being in hour seven, however, doomed the match from the start. After the past two episodes of Raw, it appears that not only did the WrestleMania reaction ruin the WrestleMania match itself, but the way things went down seems to have poisoned the fans against Reigns even further and has undone any goodwill toward him built up over the past month.
WWE is stubborn, so I would assume they will still put the title on Reigns in Saudi Arabia. However, if there was any level of negative reaction that could’ve possibly caused a change in course, they got it tonight.
Drew McIntire and Dolph Ziggler is not a pairing I would’ve expected. Dolph is a talented guy, but is not booked that way. Hopefully Dolph’s booking doesn’t end up dragging down McIntire….
I did not like Authors of Pain being booked in a competitive match tonight. The goal right now should be establishing them as a dominating force to those fans unfamiliar with their NXT work….
Hopefully the Riott Squad’s interruption of the Bayley-Sasha match doesn’t mean that WWE is abruptly ending the Bayley-Sasha angle without resolution….
The extended music video with singing wrestlers promoting dual-branded pay per views was bizarre. If fit more in 1988 than 2018….
Despite the announcement that Chris Jericho had replaced Rusev in the Casket Match with the Undertaker in Saudi Arabia, WWE still ran a promotional video tonight billing the match as Undertaker vs. Rusev….
Corey Graves’ accidental callout of Bullet Club instead of Balor Club was awkward. Everyone immediately went silent as they realized the mistake before Cole finally corrected the “error”, likely due to in-ear instructions from Vince McMahon….