WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 16
Night 2 of the 2019 Superstar Shake-up engulfed SmackDown Live on Tuesday as the blue brand learned which competitors it would receive from Raw in exchange for the many it lost Monday.
With the tease from WWE.com that chairman Vince McMahon would announce the biggest acquisition in the brand's history just in time for the jump to Fox this October, all eyes were on the USA Network broadcast.
Would it be Roman Reigns who joined SmackDown Live exclusively for the first time in his career, or perhaps the previously undraftable Brock Lesnar would become exclusive property of the show.
Fans found out the answer to that question and which other competitors would make up the roster for the next year on an explosive episode of the Tuesday night staple.
'The Kevin Owens Show' with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods
The Bell Centre in Montreal welcomed Kevin Owens home with open arms, raining down on him a thunderous ovation as The Prizefighter kicked off Tuesday's show with the latest edition of "The Kevin Owens Show."
He spoke to his hometown fans in his native French, drawing an even larger reaction from those in attendance.
Owens talked about the Superstar Shake-up before introducing his guest, WWE champion Kofi Kingston.
The host congratulated Kingston on his win, drawing a huge ovation from the fans. The titleholder thanked Owens and discussed what the moment meant to him. The crowd again erupted as KO shifted his attention to Big E's absence.
After a rant from Xavier Woods, Owens announced a tag team match between The New Day and the duo of Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev.
Owens pitched an idea to be the newest member of the group, his new nickname "Big O." The hometown boy impressed with a pelvic thrust, to which Kingston responded by naming him to the team.
The three celebrated to close out the segment, with Owens sporting a unicorn horn and New Day shirt to a big pop.
This was so awesomely fun and wholly unexpected that it is almost sure to end in a heel turn by Owens that no one asked for.
It would make sense within the context of the story being told to this point, though.
Owens came back and saw his championship program with Daniel Bryan shoved to the side in favor of Kingston's improbable rise. It would be completely logical for KO to seek vengeance and do it by betraying the New Day member.
In fact, it makes so much sense that suggesting it is the most likely outcome may be giving WWE Creative too much credit.
Finn Balor vs. Ali
The first Superstar to make the jump from Raw to SmackDown was revealed Tuesday when intercontinental champion Finn Balor squared off with Ali in a non-title match.
Ali controlled the bout with an armbar heading into the break, but Balor fired off a low dropkick and a running chop to seize the initiative. He showed a more aggressive side of himself as he fired off some stomps about the body of his opponent.
Ali mounted a comeback coming out of the break, delivered a slingshot DDT and consecutive running chops of his own.
Balor answered with the Sling Blade but ran right into a superkick from the former cruiserweight contender. He delivered a dropkick and tried for the Coup de Grace, but Ali caught him up top. A top-rope headscissors nearly delivered Ali the win, but the Irishman shot his shoulder off the mat at two.
Ali tried to follow up with a 450 splash, but Balor rolled out of the way, delivered the corner dropkick and finished the aerial artist with the Coup de Grace.
Balor defeated Ali
The match was very good but was hurt by the commercial break. The Superstars' chemistry did not kick in until afterward, giving fans a hotly contested second half of the bout that was a great taste of things to come.
Ali looked every bit of Balor's equal, while the IC champion showcased how immensely talented a ring worker he is when he is not bumping around for larger Superstars such as Drew McIntyre, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley.
Despite the break, this was still an expertly wrestled match that served as a great welcome for Balor.
Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair
This time last year, Carmella was riding high having just cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase and defeated Charlotte Flair to win the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Tuesday night, the pair rekindled their rivalry, as The Queen returned to the squared circle for the first time since WrestleMania 35.
Flair talked trash to the fans and toyed with her opponent, apparently taking The Princess of Staten Island lightly.
Carmella dodged a big boot from Flair and delivered a side kick for a two-count. She continued to frustrate the opposition, delivering a bronco buster. The Queen regained control heading into the break.
She continued to dominate the action, working over Carmella at ringside. Flair scaled the guardrail and tried for a moonsault, but her opponent pulled her off and delivered a superkick. Hobbled by her knee injury, though, she fell prey to a chop block and the Figure-Eight by The Queen for the win.
After the match, R-Truth checked on Carmella when Lars Sullivan's music played. The Freak stalked toward the squared circle and came face-to-face with the former United States champion.
Truth's attempt at an attack was laughed off by Sullivan, who delivered his Freak Ending finisher before standing over his prey.
Flair defeated Carmella via submission
The match between Flair and Carmella was better than expected, thanks in large part to a reversal of roles from their program last year.
Carmella is much better in the role of underdog babyface than she was as a heel, at least from an in-ring perspective. Flair gave her just enough to provide a glimmer of hope that she may win before snuffing out any attempt at a comeback with her Figure Eight.
Sullivan's beatdown, which concluded with a hellish powerbomb to Truth after threatening the safety of Carmella, was perfectly executed and continued his path of destruction across WWE.
Brand extension be damned.
Becky 2 Belts Addresses the WWE Universe
Raw and SmackDown women's champion Becky Lynch hit the ring to a thunderous ovation, ready to address the WWE Universe and the ongoing Superstar Shake-up.
The Man said watching all of the women vie for a championship opportunity reminded her of two goals: first, run through Lacey Evans, and second, battle anyone in her path as she sought to retain titles and smack new heads.
Ember Moon made her SmackDown Live debut as part of the Superstar Shake-up and wasted little time attempting to make a name for herself—by stepping up to the woman who main-evented WrestleMania 35.
Bayley interrupted, announcing her SmackDown debut in the process. She emphasized that she's on the blue brand as a singles competitor and has her eye on two other titles. Before she could announce her intentions to challenge Lynch, The IIconics interrupted.
The women's tag team champions, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, laughed off Moon and Bayley having no titles and made light of the entire ordeal before Paige became the latest to interrupt the proceedings.
She was about to introduce her new tag team when Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville appeared. They teased it was an Absolution reunion, but Paige revealed it was Asuka and Kairi Sane.
The new team drew a big ovation from the fans as SmackDown's women's division added even more talent to its already-jam-packed roster. The babyfaces cleared the ring of the heels and stood tall to end the segment.
This ran a tad bit long, but it did introduce the new, improved and revamped women's roster, which may be one of the most talented and stacked in WWE history.
Bayley drawing boos says more about the horrendous job WWE has done of portraying her on the main roster than anything she has done, while Ember Moon remains a source of tremendous untapped potential.
Asuka and Sane have the potential to be an all-time great tag team, especially if they can build momentum on SmackDown. Momentum, though, has been tough for The Empress of Tomorrow to find on the main roster.
Of course, this whole ordeal feels like an excuse to book an eight-woman tag team match.
Eight-Woman Tag Team Match
And...here it is.
Asuka, Kairi Sane, Bayley and Ember Moon battled Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay after the break.
The babyfaces controlled the action, with The Empress of Tomorrow and The Pirate Princess showcasing some of their tag team chemistry by downing Rose.
Moon wiped out the heels at ringside with a cross-body block heading into the break.
During the break, the heels isolated Bayley and seized control of the match.
A hot tag to Asuka sparked the babyface comeback as she fired off a flurry of offense on Royce. A running kick to the face grounded the Aussie, but Rose broke up a pin attempt. Moon wiped out The Golden Goddess, but Deville took down The Shenom.
The action continued to break down until Sane delivered the Insane Elbow and scored the pinfall victory on Royce.
Sane, Moon, Asuka and Bayley defeated Rose, Deville, Royce and Kay
The action was nonstop here, but from a structural and storytelling perspective, there was little to this.
Each of the newcomers had the opportunity to star, and Sane looked phenomenal, so there is that.
The one problem facing the SmackDown division—and on full display here—is it's so babyface-heavy that the lack of credible heels could devalue everyone by proxy.
At some point, the blue brand will have to develop heels beyond Charlotte Flair, or all the quality babyfaces on the planet will not matter. After all, a hero is only as great as their villain.
Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro, Rusev and Nakamura
The New Day's Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, and honorary teammate "The Big O" Kevin Owens, battled Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev and Cesaro in six-man tag team competition Tuesday night.
The babyfaces teed off on Nakamura and Rusev early, stomping away at the competition to the delight of the fans. The heels took control of the match, downing Woods ahead of the break and continuing their attack on the UpUpDownDown host.
A missile dropkick allowed Woods to create separation and make the hot tag to Kingston. The WWE champion unloaded on the competition but found himself on the receiving end of Cesaro's big swing. The Swiss Superman applied the Sharpshooter, but Owens interjected himself and broke up the hold.
Kingston made the tag, officially, to Owens, who entered to a huge ovation.
The Prizefighter sent Kingston flying into the opposition and then dropped Rusev with a stunner for the pinfall victory.
The New Day and Owens defeated Rusev, Nakamura and Cesaro
This was a fun sprint of a match that let both Kingston and Owens shine while Woods was his steady excellent self as the babyface-in-peril.
The heels were really just there and could have been interchanged with any other threesome of bad guys on the roster, which is more of an indictment of WWE Creative than any of the performers themselves.
All six worked hard and appeared to have fun, and the outcome popped the fans. You cannot ask for more from a match designed to do just that.
Vince McMahon Announces SmackDown's Greatest Acquisition Ever
Vince McMahon took to the squared circle and announced the biggest, most charismatic acquisition in SmackDown history: Elias.
The fans groaned. The musician made his way to the squared circle as the fans became very vocal in their disdain for the announcement. Elias responded by admitting he was not happy to be in Montreal. He said without AJ Styles, SmackDown will become "The Temple of Elias."
As Elias began to play, Roman Reigns' music came on, and The Big Dog made his SmackDown debut.
He delivered a Superman Punch to Elias before McMahon came face-to-face with his biggest star. Reigns answered, dropping The Chairman of the Board with his own Superman Punch.
"I don't care what he says. SmackDown Live is my yard now!" the former universal and WWE champion exclaimed to close out the show.
With one segment, Reigns assumed leadership of the SmackDown brand and reignited his rivalry with the McMahon family (if WWE Creative takes that route), while Elias established himself a contender for the brand's lead villain.
This was excellent and ended the show with a bang, potentially setting up weeks of television in the process.
Reigns is the right star to guide SmackDown through its transition to Fox in October. For the first time since 2008, when Triple H jumped to the blue brand, it is home to wrestling's biggest star.
Whether that makes SmackDown must-see television going forward is the biggest question WWE will face in the coming months.