WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 1
SmackDown Live hit the USA Network Tuesday with just five days until Backlash on the WWE Network, and the blue brand turned out a broadcast infinitely better at setting the stage for the pay-per-view extravaganza than its Raw counterpart.
From Randy Orton's explosive message to United States champion Jeff Hardy to Shinsuke Nakamura's cowardly attack on WWE champion AJ Styles, the title bouts that will lend Sunday's show credibility were well represented.
Charlotte Flair gained a measure of revenge on Carmella, partnering with Asuka and Becky Lynch to defeat the SmackDown women's champion, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce in a Six-Woman Tag Team match.
Throw in some final hype for Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass, and the show did a fine job of shining a light on the SmackDown contributions to Sunday's card.
Find out everything that went down Tuesday night, how it graded out and why with this recap of the first WWE show of May.
Miz TV with Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin
Days before Backlash, former intercontinental champion The Miz kicked off the show with another edition of Miz TV.
Before introducing this week's guest, he revealed that mortal enemy Daniel Bryan has been barred from the show and cut a brief promo on Seth Rollins ahead of their Backlash match.
Miz introduced Hardy and wasted little time stirring the pot between the United States champion and Randy Orton.
Tension has been building between The Charismatic Enigma and The Viper in recent weeks, and Miz sought to heighten it, introducing the third-generation Superstar to the mix.
Orton pleaded ignorance, claiming he and Hardy are cool. They have no issues whatsoever. If anything, Hardy took advantage of an opportunity, something he would have done, too.
The Viper did vow to take back his title, to which Hardy said he could try.
Shelton Benjamin interrupted the proceedings, took exception to Orton receiving a title opportunity after he beat him last week and triggering a tag team match to start the in-ring portion of the show.
Miz is at his best when he is instigating things, and by poking and prodding Orton and Hardy, he knows he can manipulate them into a fight and perhaps take advantage of an opportunity to win the U.S. title.
Benjamin made a good point, bringing up his victory over Orton and taking exception to him getting a title shot.
The tag team match was predictable, but everything surrounding it was executed well, even if we have seen it numerous times before.
Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton vs. Shelton Benjamin and The Miz
Hardy and Orton frustrated Miz and Benjamin early, using well-timed tags to keep the heels off-guard.
The Miz shoved Hardy off the top rope heading into the break, though, and seized control for his team.
An extended heat section saw Benjamin and Miz take turns working over Hardy as the crowd chanted for the United States champion. After a big clothesline from Hardy, the babyface comeback began. Miz tagged Benjamin into the match while Hardy finally reached Orton.
The Viper exploded into the ring, taking the fight to both Miz and Benjamin. He tried for the draping DDT on Benjamin, but Miz interrupted. He fought him off and delivered a double draping DDT.
The RKO to Benjamin followed and the Swanton Bomb from Hardy after that for the babyface win.
After the match, Hardy found out the hard way that one should never trust a snake, falling prey to the RKO.
Orton stood tall to close the segment, just days before a shot at the U.S. title.
Orton and Hardy defeated Miz and Benjamin
The talent here dictated the match would be good, at the very least, and it did not disappoint.
Benjamin taking the pin was logical since he has no immediate program and is not involved in Sunday's pay-per-view. The real development here was Orton's RKO of Hardy, essentially dismissing his own claims that all was good between them.
Whether the rivalry ultimately channels a heel turn for the third-generation star remains to be seen, but a more focused and calculating Orton chasing after the energetic babyface is a story that fans can sink their teeth into.
Big Cass Sends a Message to Daniel Bryan
Ahead of what should be the most important singles match of his young career, Big Cass hit the ring and cut a promo on his Backlash opponent, Daniel Bryan.
Cass poked fun at Bryan, calling him short. He said the former SmackDown Live general manager was the same size of the WWE Universe.
He called Bryan out, and the popular star's music played. Instead of the former WWE and world champion, a little person disguised as Bryan made his way to the ring.
Cass made unfunny short jokes and introduced the man as a hometown hero.
He then proceeded to deliver a big boot, leaving the fake lying and putting the segment out of its misery.
This was painful to watch.
Cass is not at all good enough or compelling enough to carry a promo segment without someone to play off. He was unconvincing and forced here, and the result was a horrific bit of television that did nothing to make the match with Bryan more, or less, anticipated.
A bad bit of booking that hurt the big man more than it helped.
Shinsuke Nakamura Demands an Apology
Renee Young introduced WWE champion AJ Styles to the fans, drawing a thunderous ovation as The Phenomenal One made his way to the squared circle.
Young asked Styles about Nakamura, and the champion went off on a long rant that concluded with him vowing to retain his title against "the con artist" and "cheap-shot artist." He said if The Artist wants an apology for the assault he perpetrated on him in Saudi Arabia, he can come out and get it.
Instead, Samoa Joe interrupted the proceedings.
The Samoan Submission Machine said Styles should be more concerned with his match against Roman Reigns at Backlash because once he beats The Big Dog and proves him a failure once more, he will set his sights on The Phenomenal One, beat him down and take the WWE Championship.
As Joe was preparing to exit, Nakamura's music played. With all eyes on the entrance, he snuck into the ring and delivered another low blow in a long line of them.
From there, he taunted Styles and, after teasing one Kinshasa, exploded across the ring with his signature maneuver.
Styles was left lying motionless as Nakamura stood tall to close out the segment.
This was an extremely well-executed segment in that it provided the final hype for a showdown between Styles and Nakamura while also foreshadowing a rivalry between the WWE champion and Joe.
That Joe was so eager to confront Nakamura if the opportunity presented itself suggests he may well be next in line for the title opportunity regardless of who leaves Backlash with the top prize in all of WWE.
Nakamura was spectacular, the taunting villain who stands tall when catching Styles off guard or attacking him from behind but cannot dethrone him in a straight-up match. Thankfully, for him at least, he can resort to any underhanded tactics he wants Sunday when he challenges The Phenomenal One in a No Disqualification match.
Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus
The rivalry between The New Day and The Bar manifested itself this week in the form of a singles match between Xavier Woods and Sheamus.
The Celtic Warrior used his size and strength to ground-and-pound Woods, seizing control of the match and holding on to it tightly throughout.
Woods, though, used his speed and elusiveness to fight his way back into the match.
Late, Cesaro attempted to interfere, but Big E cut him off. Woods blasted The Swiss Superstar at ringside, only to fall prey to Sheamus' attack. Back in the ring, Woods scored a cradle from out of nowhere to pick up the upset victory.
Woods defeated Sheamus
The match itself was fine for what it was, and both Sheamus and Woods are underrated at this point in their careers.
Sheamus is bulletproof, thanks to years of strong booking, so a loss to Woods does not hurt his credibility. If anything, it springboards the rivalry forward and sets up a series of matches between the two teams that have the potential to steal any show on which they appear.
Harmless fun, even if the two are likely capable of so much more.
Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Asuka vs. Carmella, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce
Ahead of Charlotte's SmackDown Women's Championship match against Carmella at Backlash, she teamed with Becky Lynch and Asuka to battle The Princess of Long Island and The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) in a massive Six-Woman Tag Team match.
The heels appeared to be rolling early, but Charlotte dove over the top rope and wiped out Kay and Royce heading into the commercial break.
Lynch found herself on the receiving end of a concentrated beatdown at the hands of the heels. A hot tag ignited a babyface comeback from Charlotte, who soon found herself with no backup as her partners were neutralized at ringside.
A fierce competitor, The Queen fought her way out of a few unfavorable predicaments and delivered a massive moonsault from the top rope to the arena floor, laying out all three of her opponents.
Asuka exploded into the match late and ultimately tapped out Royce to the Asuka Lock, securing the victory and gaining a measure of revenge for last week's loss.
The babyfaces celebrated to close out the show while Carmella retreated, her title clutched tightly to her chest.
Charlotte, Lynch and Asuka defeated Royce, Kay and Carmella
The most interesting story heading into the match was not the rivalry between Charlotte and Carmella over the title but rather Lynch's mounting frustration with herself.
She blamed herself for her and Asuka's loss last week and, after not being anywhere in sight for the closing moments of this match, will likely consider herself the weak link again next week.
Whether that is leading to a refocused and re-energized Lynch going forward remains to be seen, but it is an element of this revamped division worth keeping an eye on.
Kay and Royce, in their first opportunity to headline a main roster show, performed up to the moment and gave enough hope that they can thrive under the bright lights on Tuesday nights—even if they are not the prototypical workers Lynch, Asuka and Charlotte are.