Are you ready for a good time? The season premiere of Smackdown on FOX, with it’s lower frames-per-second and kickass new set no longer bares the hallmarks of your traditional B-show. This cinematic and grandiose presentation now defines Smackdown as Raw’s direct rival and the atmosphere is truly electrifying!
Opening segment w/ Becky Lynch, Baron Corbin and the Rock!
The show opens to a raucous pop for the RAW women’s champion (oh dear) Becky Lynch, who addresses the launch of the new season of Smackdown by looking to kick some ass! She is quickly interrupted, however, by the recently crowned King of the Ring, Baron Corbin. Corbin states his right to be the one to launch the new era of Friday nights but both superstars are duly shut up by the return of the Rock.
The trio engage in a bout of verbal sparring which includes some distinctly non-PG language and the crowd pops for the usual of Rock’s soundbites. Throughout the entire exchange, Corbin is clearly asking for an ass-whooping and that’s exactly what he gets at the hands of Lynch and the Rock. Dispatched after a People’s Elbow and Rock Bottom, the Rock and Lynch take this time to celebrate in the ring to kick off this new era.
I must admit, whilst it’s never boring to see the Rock in a WWE ring, this segment went on for about five minutes too long as after we got our usual catchphrases, all we wanted to see was Corbin get his ass handed to him (which we eventually got).
I also perhaps would’ve liked to see Smackdown open with perhaps a bolder segment and maybe someone other than the RAW women’s champion in the ring but it was still an entertaining affair for the most part.
Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair def. Bayley and Sascha Banks
The early proceedings of the match feature Charlotte getting worked over by Bayley and Banks (although you don’t see much of it due to an ad break) and largely keeping Lynch out of the match. Flair eventually makes the hot tag however, and Lynch and Flair combine to clear the ring in order to setup the finish. Flair delivers a vintage top-rope moonsault to the outside to take out the opposition pair before sliding Bayley back into the ring to lock in the Figure-8 for the submission victory.
A match which largely kept the feuding rivals apart until the end and broken up by an ad break didn’t make for the best home viewing but it was very cool to see the first wrestling action of Smackdown’s new era opened by the Four Horsewomen.
Given relatively little time to use, Flair made the most of this period with some entertaining spots and was the one to obtain the clean win so undeniably looks the best going forward.
Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura w/ Sami Zayn & The Firefly Fun House
After Rollins makes his entrance, a surprise episode of The Firefly Funhouse commences on the tiantron. Like the Fiend’s targets, Bray Wyatt’s little friends are beginning to drop like flies as a physical demonstration of what the Fiend will do to Rollins inside Hell in a Cell leads to the untimely death of Rambling Rabbit. Wyatt maniacally cracks up over the cotton wool massacre and warns Seth how history has a nasty habit of repeating itself to close another episode of this puppet-show sensation.
The resulting match between Rollins and Nakamura breaks out to a fast pace and sees some serious offense delivered from both sides. The affair is suddenly over almost as soon as it began however as the lights within the stadium blackout as the Fiend applies the mandible claw to Rollins atop the entrance ramp. The Fiend then proceeds to hurl the Universal Champion off the edge of the stage as the lights once again blackout and the Fiend disappears.
Teased with a match that could’ve been the best of the night, the whole segment is dominated by Bray Wyatt and the Fiend. Another ominous episode of the Firefly Fun House only leaves us salivating for the Fiend’s debut within Hell in a Cell and another successful attack on Rollins leaves the champ reeling from his current nightmare.
Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon – Ladder Match
Kevin Owens is pumped before the match and doesn’t even let McMahon make his entrance, charging his adversary almost as soon as he steps out from the back. The two waste little time introducing the arsenal of ladders to the situation with one ladder propped up on the outside, straddling the apron and surrounding barricade.
The two then joust inside and outside the ring with Shane earning the advantage after utilizing one of the ladders to down his Canadian opponent before setting the injured Owens down on the announce table. Shane then adorns the top rope and delivers his infamous elbow drop to the helpless Owens as both men crash through the announce table.
We’re back from another ad break just in time to witness Kevin Owens deliver a frog splash onto Shane who was prone atop the aforementioned ladder propped up between the ring apron and barricade. The ensuing introduction of a steel chair allows Shane to recover from this setback and set Owens up in the corner, sandwiched between the turnbuckle and another ladder, so the spot monkey can execute an impactful Coast-to-Coast.
Looking to take advantage of this moment in the match, Shane begins to ascend the ladder in the centre of the ring. But before he can make a reach for the hanging briefcase, Owens recovers and powerbombs McMahon off the ladder and onto another ladder laying across the bottom turnbuckle. McMahon is unable to recuperate from this manoeuvre and Owens is afforded the time to climb the ladder and retrieve the briefcase to win the match and banish McMahon from WWE.
This match was a condensed spot-fest which provided welcome, entertaining relief from this otherwise lifeless angle which viewers will surely be delighted to see that it’s over. The predictable but right result was made and we can all move on after the clear peak of this feud.
Heavy Machinery, The Miz & Braun Strowman def. AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode & Dolph Ziggler – 8-man tag-team match
Within two minutes of the match kicking off, almost everyone has hit their signature move and bodies litter the outside of the ring.
Strowman thus took the time afforded to him to banter with the “Gypsy King” Tyson Fury who was sitting at ringside before hurling the defenceless Ziggler into the unsuspecting Fury. Strowman duly proceeds to powerslam Ziggler to earn his side the win as Fury vaults the barricade before him to be met by a wave of security as the two giants stare each other down.
This match’s sole purpose was to setup a potential match between Strowman and Fury.
Grade: Glorified (yet entertaining) Filler
Roman Reigns def. Erick Rowan – Lumberjack Match
The opening stages see both superstars thrown to the outside where the lumberjacks feebly attempt to beat down and manhandle the two participants, yet Rowan is on top of the bout as we go into another mid-match ad break.
Back from the ad break, Reigns begins to fight back and lands a Superman punch to leave both men downed. This is the moment Luke Harper decides to interject and as he makes his way down the ramp, he is met by the majority of lumberjacks as well as Daniel Bryan. During the ensuing brawl, Reigns leaps over the top rope to take out the hoard of superstars for the highlight of the match.
Back in the ring and Reigns has Rowan down from another Superman Punch, but Harper intervenes, he too is soon downed however by Bryan whose distraction allows Reigns to hit the spear on Rowan for the 1…2…3!
Not sure what the point was of having this match in this stipulation or so close to Hell in a Cell as it hardly makes it look like either Rowan or Harper are a threat to Bryan and Reigns.
The crowd also wasn’t really “into” this match until the final moments which speaks volumes on how they feel towards Rowan or this angle in general.
Brock Lesnar def. Kofi Kingston – WWE Title Match
As soon as the bell rings, Kofi leaps atop of Lesnar’s shoulders and the Beast delivers the F-5!
1…2…3 and Kofi’s WWE Title reign is over!
That’s not the end of the drama though! As Lesnar celebrates, Rey Mysterio’s music hits and out from the back step the injured luchador and UFC star, Cain Velasquez! The man who once defeated Lesnar in UFC enters the ring before taking down the new WWE champion, beating on him until Lesnar works the space to escape the ring and the assault. The show closes as Lesnar and Velasquez stare each other down.
A dramatic ending to Smackdown season premiere no doubt! But the way Kofi was booked to lose his title will upset plenty I’m sure. To end Kofi’s inspiring reign without even producing a lick of offense is in very bad taste and to immediately take the opportunity to introduce a new feud with Velasquez already makes Kofi little more than an afterthought.
As a purely stand-alone show, this was a darn good effort from WWE to kick off their time on FOX. The matches were entertaining and action-packed and there was no individual segment that really lowered the standard for the show.
The one hope you’d have however is that WWE haven’t handed FOX too much influence on future shows as the demand for ratings has so far seen WWE lean on guest spots and a range of Superstars as opposed to a defined Smackdown roster. This show was entertaining but also rather manic and had the feeling of a blow-off PPV as opposed to a weekly show.
Needless now to say, I’m eagerly awaiting the draft to see how what direction WWE will take this new-look Smackdown in. The presentation so far has me believing that Smackdown will no longer be treated as the traditional B-show and that can only mean good things for WWE going forward.