WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 23
After a few final moves, a brand-new roster for SmackDown Live has been set. Major stars, including AJ Styles and The Miz, are leaving while fresh faces have arrived on the brand ready to change how fans perceive the show.
No addition was bigger than Roman Reigns, who came to SmackDown for the first time since the brand split. He made an impact quickly by ruining Elias' arrival and punching Vince McMahon in the face, setting him up for a rough road in the coming months.
Becky Lynch continues to travel between both brands as Raw and SmackDown women's champion, and this week she was set to face Charlotte Flair for the first time since they fought in the main event of WrestleMania 35.
WWE champion Kofi Kingston also promised to appear in a big singles match, fighting Shinsuke Nakamura for the very first time one-on-one. Kevin Owens and Xavier Woods were in his corner, while Rusev and Lana backed up The Artist.
Though it was not clear it would be a huge night going in, there was enough promise in the April 23 edition of SmackDown Live for fans to get excited about with Money in the Bank on the horizon.
Shane McMahon and Elias Teach Roman Reigns a Lesson for Attacking Mr. McMahon
Shane McMahon called out Reigns, demanding he come out to face the consequences for his actions against Shane's father. The Big Dog took the challenge and came out to fight Shane-O-Mac, but Elias helped in a two-on-one beatdown of Reigns.
The Drifter hit Drift Away, leaving The Guy lying on the mat as Shane headed up the ramp. Later in the night, Elias laid down the challenge to Reigns at Money in the Bank, with The Big Dog accepting.
This was a fine but bland opening segment. While it is funny to have Shane play the hypocrite by denouncing Reigns for attacking his father after he did the same to Miz's father, there's no real heat. Even if the crowd is invested, this feels like the same tired attempt to make The Big Dog a babyface.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, fans are meant to believe that he is not a favorite of The McMahons while Elias is.
Reigns vs. Elias can only go one way given The Drifter's lack of big-match success, and Reigns vs. Shane sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Neither pairing makes SmackDown's depth look great.
Finn Balor vs. Andrade
Zelina Vega and Andrade cut a quick promo ahead of this match about coming back to SmackDown to get El Idolo his rightful title shot.
However, the two heels were not on the same page in the match with Vega interfering and distracting Andrade to set up a corner dropkick and the Coup de Grace.
Balor def. Andrade by pinfall
The first match between Balor and Andrade was good, but the two felt uneven working together. They were clearly far more in sync this time around, and it made for a much better match, as the two pulled out their best work in a nonstop fight.
It was odd to have Andrade lose so definitively here, though. It takes away from his first victory over the champion who no one else has been able to get close to defeating recently. It would have made more sense to continue developing this as a genuine feud.
Peyton Royce vs. Kairi Sane
The IIconics made fun of Paige's new team of Asuka and Kairi Sane as they headed to the ring. Peyton Royce promised she was ready this time for The Pirate Princess. However, the former NXT women's champion easily dispatched Royce thanks to an Insane Elbow.
Afterward, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville arrived to mock the winner, giving a slow clap to Sane.
Sane def. Royce by pinfall
The IIconics may be champions now, but that has not changed how they have been booked. They cannot seem to beat anyone. Sane didn't just defeat Royce. She completely squashed her in a one-sided fight.
It would not be surprising if the champions did not make it past their first real challengers for their titles. Sane and Asuka look to be on an inevitable path to the top of the tag team division and will be feuding more directly with the former members of Absolution.
Lars Sullivan Never Lets Chad Gable vs. Jinder Mahal Begin
As Chad Gable headed to the ring for his match with Jinder Mahal, Lars Sullivan took him out and knocked him into the steel post. The Freak then laid out The Singh Brothers before R-Truth ran to the ring only to get planted with a running sit-out powerbomb for his effort.
This was a far better option than Gable vs. Mahal. Sullivan's wake of destruction continues, as he now has gone beyond just destroying old men. It was also good to see someone attempt to step up to Sullivan rather than just forgetting they got laid out.
Truth vs. Sullivan won't be much of feud, but it should help establish just how lethal The Freak can be when not just laying out exhausted talent.
Charlotte Flair and Bayley Demand Shots at Becky Lynch; Charlotte vs. Bayley
Charlotte demanded her title match against The Man, but Lynch would not take it, making clear The Queen would have to earn her next shot rather than getting handed that opportunity. Bayley arrived, challenging for that same title shot.
While The Hugger gave The Nature Girl the fight of her life, Charlotte still emerged victorious with a Spear. The Irish Lass Kicker then stated backstage that she would defend her titles against Lacey Evans and Charlotte at Money in the Bank and defeat them both.
Charlotte def. Bayley by pinfall to become the No. 1 contender to the SmackDown women's champion
This segment felt like the potential start of Bayley rising back up the ranks. Though a solid match, it did not accomplish that at all by the end. The two friends could not get on the same page in a few key spots, and ultimately The Queen prevailed again.
It was certainly the right decision to have Lynch pull double-duty while she is a double champion, but it would have been far more interesting for her to fight just about anyone except Charlotte for the eighth major pay-per-view in the past year.
Kofi Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
With Big O and X cheering him on from their own personal announce table, Kofi struggled at times to overcome the reach and striking ability of The Artist. However, the WWE champion caught him with jumping double knees and Trouble in Paradise as he went for the Kinshasa.
Rusev saved his partner from the pinfall, causing a disqualification. The heels took out Woods, leaving Kofi and KO alone with The Prizefighter turning on the champion and laying him out. When Woods came to Kofi's aid, Owens hit him with an apron powerbomb.
Kofi def. Nakamura by disqualification
A strong match led to a fantastic follow-up. This was a great way to finally make Owens feel important again. It is a shame he never got a chance to truly shine as a babyface, but he's always been best at playing the heel.
With no one truly standing out as a challenger to the WWE Championship, KO just immediately rocketed up the list. This is suddenly the most heated rivalry going into Money in the Bank and a great first challenge for The New Day leader.