WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 17
The WWE Superstar Shake-up continued for a second night, bringing a plethora of new talent to SmackDown Live and giving fans a taste of the rivalries and stories that will fuel the brand for the foreseeable future.
United States champion Jeff Hardy, former NXT champion Andrade "Cien" Almas and associate Zelina Vega, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Asuka, Samoa Joe, R-Truth and The Bar are among the Superstars to make the jump to the blue show, but it was Big Cass who made the loudest statement Tuesday.
The big man leveled Daniel Bryan and instigated a rivalry that will serve as the second-most significant program on the show.
The continued battle between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura over the WWE Championship, which took center stage at the end of the broadcast.
Relive the explosive broadcast now with this recap of the April 17 show.
AJ Styles vs. Rusev
WWE champion AJ Styles joined announcer Greg Hamilton in the squared circle to kick off the night's broadcast.
A frustrated Styles said Shinsuke Nakamura has shown his true colors the last few weeks, attacking him at WrestleMania 34 and costing fans a dream match between him and Daniel Bryan.
Styles tried to call Nakamura out, but the newly minted heel did not answer the call. Instead, Rusev and Aiden English interrupted, and a match between The Phenomenal One and The Bulgarian Brute kicked off the show.
Before the action could really get underway, Styles trapped Rusev in his Calf Crusher submission. English broke up the hold, and a double-team ensued. Daniel Bryan hit the ring, making the save and setting up a tag team match for later in the show.
Styles defeated Rusev via disqualification
This felt a bit too forced to be truly effective.
Was it great to see Rusev get some shine early in the show, as part of a segment with Styles and Bryan? Absolutely, but nothing about his recent spot on the show suggests he is anything but a foil for the popular babyface team and a distraction until Nakamura shows up in the main event.
As he inevitably will.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin
Just 24 hours after his tag team partner Chad Gable was sent to Raw, Shelton Benjamin addressed the WWE Universe, telling it he never needed the former Olympian. He vowed to remind fans of how dangerous and threatening he is to the SmackDown locker room.
After revealing he told Paige to send prime competition his way, Randy Orton's music played. As The Viper made his way to the ring, United States champion Jeff Hardy rushed past him and into the ring, signifying his arrival on Tuesday nights.
Hardy and Benjamin did battle in singles competition.
The former NCAA wrestling champion controlled the majority of the match, proving himself Hardy's equal between the ropes. It was not enough, though, as Hardy fought his way back into the match, delivered the Twist of Fate and executed a Swanton Bomb to score the impressive come-from-behind win.
Jeff Hardy defeated Shelton Benjamin
It should be interesting to see if Hardy's interruption of Orton's entrance was a not-so-subtle hint that the two may do battle over the secondary title.
Their star power alone would help elevate the value of the title while giving SmackDown a midcard program that would properly accentuate the rest of the card.
Benjamin looked really strong here, too, and he has the potential to be a serious player in the singles division of SmackDown.
An immensely talented professional wrestler, his style should mesh with the others on the show. A match between him and Daniel Bryan could be stellar.
Jey Uso vs. Harper
The rivalry between The Usos and The Bludgeon Brothers over the SmackDown Tag Team Championships manifested itself in a singles bout pitting Jey Uso against Harper.
Harper took the fight to Jey, but as much attention was paid to Jimmy Uso and Rowan at ringside as it was to the Superstars in the match.
Ultimately, a distraction caused by Rowan allowed Harper to take advantage of a preoccupied Uso and score the win.
After the match, The Bludgeon Brothers targeted Jimmy until Naomi rushed to ringside and pleaded for mercy. She tended to her husband as the heels backed off.
Harper defeated Jey Uso
The matches between The Usos and The Bludgeon Brothers are almost certain to deliver between the ropes, especially if their previous bouts are any indication.
With that said, the storyline feels flat, even with the introduction of Naomi to the proceedings.
Hopefully, WWE Creative can come up with something fans can invest themselves in before they tune out.
Sin Cara vs. Samoa Joe
Sin Cara made his return to television this week.
Unfortunately for him, he ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Samoa Joe, making his debut on the blue brand.
Cara never really presented much in the way of competition, and after enduring tremendously stiff strikes at the hands of The Samoan Submission Machine, he tapped to the Coquina Clutch.
After the match, Joe vowed to win the Intercontinental Championship in Saudi Arabia and defeat Roman Reigns at Backlash. And he will do it all while changing the coddled and protected nature of SmackDown Live.
Samoa Joe defeated Sin Cara
It is interesting that WWE Creative would shift Joe to SmackDown given his ongoing rivalry with Reigns, but it is a brand that fits him, especially given the style of the competitors there.
Dream matches with fellow Ring of Honor alumni AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan await, while the rekindling of his rivalry with Shinsuke Nakamura is another option.
And who can forget a brand-new rivalry with Randy Orton, which could provide some seriously cerebral matches?
Carmella hit the ring to celebrate her monumental Money in the Bank cash-in that netted her the SmackDown Women's Championship just one week ago.
She bragged about her title victory and called herself the Princess of SmackDown. A video package aired, hyping her "all about me" attitude.
Afterward, she continued her braggadocios ways until Charlotte Flair interrupted. The former champion congratulated Carmella on her victory but said she had something that was hers.
The IIconics showed up, interrupting Charlotte and leading to a brawl between the women. Becky Lynch made the save for Charlotte as the show headed to the break.
It remains to be seen if Carmella, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce can carry their end of the deal between the ropes on a consistent basis, but one thing is for sure: the SmackDown women's division feels fresher than it has in quite some time.
Character-based work and stronger promos inject life into the division.
Fresh matchups, such as the Charlotte-Kay bout this segment would give way to after the break, only help matters.
Charlotte Flair vs. Billie Kay
In the wake of The IIconics interrupting Charlotte and taunting her one week after The Queen lost the SmackDown Women's Championship to Carmella, one half of the Aussie duo was in action, as Billie Kay battled the second-generation star in singles competition.
Kay controlled the match, working over her more established and experienced opponent with an armbar.
As expected, Charlotte fought her way back into the match and scored the win with the Figure-Eight.
After the match, the heels beat down Charlotte and Lynch, the numbers game too much for the babyfaces. That is, until Asuka's music played and The Empress of Tomorrow officially made the jump to the blue brand.
The heels retreated, and the trio of popular Superstars stood tall to close out the segment.
Charlotte defeated Kay
The match itself was nothing special, but the aftermath set up the future of the division nicely. With Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose still to make their presences felt, it should be interesting to see how everything, and everyone, meshes together.
Asuka's arrival was understandably met with a thunderous ovation. While she naturally is a babyface and will work well alongside Charlotte and Lynch, she will totally want revenge, repaying Charlotte for the historic loss at WrestleMania.
The road to that moment will be a fun one, for sure.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan vs. Rusev and Aiden English
The product of the night's opening segment, the main event of Tuesday's show saw Daniel Bryan and WWE champion AJ Styles battle Rusev and Aiden English in tag team competition.
The Bulgarian Brute and his sinister songster tag partner beat down and isolated Styles throughout the match, frustrating the babyfaces.
A hot tag to Bryan late in the bout created raw energy and had the popular tandem rolling. Bryan tried for the YES Lock, but English broke it up. With English deposited at ringside, Bryan took Rusev down with a leg whip and unloaded with a series of YES Kicks.
He exploded across the ring with a running knee to Rusev, but attention switched to Nakamura, who delivered a low blow to Styles. The distraction allowed Big Cass to sneak into the squared circle and deliver a big boot to Bryan that drew the disqualification.
Cass stood tall to close out the broadcast, his message sent to Bryan loudly and clearly.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan defeated Rusev and Aiden English via disqualification
Big Cass and Shinsuke Nakamura making their presences felt here was some strong booking that set up two top programs for SmackDown Live going forward.
There will be some who balk at the idea of Cass being Bryan's next big program, but truth be told, if there is anyone who can help bring Cass along and develop him into a main event worker, it is Bryan.
Throw in some tremendous heel facial expressions and antics from Nakamura that served as the continuation of his rivalry with Styles, and you have a segment that not only set those matches up but also managed to protect Rusev at the same time.
A strong conclusion to a newsworthy episode of SmackDown Live.