By Steven Flora
A week removed from the Superstar Shakeup and SmackDown Live begins its new era with a new No. 1 contender for the WWE world championship. An angry Queen and a change in character see SmackDown Live categorically being the land of opportunity.
The era of Mahal is upon us
No. 1 Contender Six-Pack Challenge: Jinder Mahal def. Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper
The biggest story of the night was indeed the shock victory from Jinder Mahal. Everyone breaks off into pairs to start the action and eventually fall out of the ring to leave just Eric Rowan and Luke Harper inside. A faint, “Let’s go Sami,” chant is heard from the crowd as well. Mojo is roughing up Ziggler after the commercial break with a punch to Ziggler’s chin; Mahal throws out Mojo to try to steal the pin but Sami breaks it up and we again get some Harper vs. Rowan moments before Ziggler interrupts them. The closing segment of the match, Sami is in the corner getting ready for the Helluva Kick, but the Bollywood Boyz (WOO) appear from under the ring to hold his feet down and let Jinder get the win. Winner: Jinder Mahal.
Side Note: By far the most shocking victory I’ve seen since Kevin Owens won the Universal title back in August. Mahal has been constantly overlooked and it’s so refreshing to see someone new in the title picture. Also the addition of the Bollywood Boyz from NXT could see Mahal form an Indian stable, something which I would welcome here on SmackDown Live.
The Queen has arrived
Charlotte Flair def. Naomi (c) (non-title match, Charlotte Flair is now No. 1 contender for the SmackDown women's title)
Earlier in the night Charlotte Flair demanded she be given a title match (because she’s a Flair obviously). Naomi responded by stating she was a fighting champion and she wasn’t afraid of a queen. Shane McMahon agreed that these two should definitely fight it out and if Charlotte won, she’d be the No. 1 contender to the SmackDown Live women’s championship. The match itself seemed pretty stagnant as Charlotte was controlling the early part of the bout with a variety of headlocks. The crowd weren’t really into the match even when Naomi broke free and mounted some offense on Charlotte. Charlotte once again cut off Naomi and hit natural selection for the win.
The Colons are back!
The Colons def. American Alpha
It’s now apparent The Shining Stars gimmick is dead and the Colons are now as they should be – themselves. The match with American Alpha was below average as it failed to grab the attention of the Louisville crowd. American Alpha’s Jason Jordan gets the hot tag and clears house. Gable attempts to take out Primo but fails and some smart thinking allows Primo to kick Jordan to allow Epico to get the win for The Colons.
Side Note: Solid match but it does make me worried that a talented team like American Alpha are getting treated like this. Hopefully they can get out of this drought and start recording some wins on the main roster.
The new face of America
Kevin Owens (c) def. Gary Gandy – U.S. Championship Match
Kevin Owens’ first open challenge match is him beating Louisville native, Gary Gandy, in a short and predictable match. Not much else to comment about this.
Other notable moments
Tamina, Natalya and Carmella seem annoyed at how quickly Charlotte has entered the title picture. The unity between the three was pretty evident when Charlotte gave a cheeky wink to the trio as she walked off backstage. It’ll be interesting to see next week how the trio respond to Charlotte’s meteoric rise on SmackDown Live.
AJ Styles faced off against Baron Corbin in a solid main event match. To the surprise of no one Styles starts off the match with taking a crazy-looking bump off the apron and a slide into the ring post hitting his ribs. Baron then recovered and executed a wicked deep six on Styles but only could get a 2 count. This match specifically ending with AJ being dropped onto Owens and Corbin being dropped onto the barricade and getting counted out. A weak end to a solid match. Winner: AJ Styles.
Overall Smackdown Live Rating: C+
Things to look forward to next week
How will Randy Orton respond to the threat of Jinder Mahal?
When will we get to see the King of Strong Style in action? (Same from last week)
The explanation of what a House of Horrors match is. (We still don’t know what this is)
Are the Bollywood Boyz now on SmackDown Live?
Besides Charlotte and Naomi, what’s next for the rest of the women of the Smackdown Live roster?