- Smackdown Live Episode #922 is coming to us from the KFC Yum Center in Louisville, KY. God, these corporate names are ridiculous. Tom Phillips, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and Byron Saxton are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Last week was the Superstar Shake-Up, which included names like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Charlotte, among others, switching to the blue brand, while losing key faces like The Miz, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and Alexa Bliss.
- In Memory of Matthew "Rosey" Anoa'i.
- The show opens with an appearance of Charlotte Flair. I still don't know the time-table where they decided to recognize her last name, instead of making reference without actually using the name. With her on the roster, I don't like Naomi's odds of reigning as Women's Champion for much longer. She's only been on Smackdown Live seven days and has already lost her patience because she hasn't received a title match, yet. She throws in a cheap plug about the Fast & The Furious franchise. Naomi interrupts, On Smackdown Live, they don't have Kings or Queens, but Champions, and Charlotte's looking at one. She's going to give Charlotte what she wants, because she's not scared, and they're going to do it right now. Naomi attacks first, because that's an honorable trait of a babyface, throwing the first punch, mostly unprovoked. Shane McMahon comes out and makes it official, but a Non-Title Match. Charlotte gets a bit of payback, attacking Naomi and tossing her to the floor.
- Natalya is backstage, complaining to Shane McMahon about the preferential treatment for Charlotte. Shane says she had her opportunity at WrestleMania, but in Natalya's defense, that wasn't a fair opportunity. He says all she should do is ask for a title match, just like Charlotte. Carmella and James Ellsworth interrupt and offer more complaints about Charlotte. Tamina (Snuka) interrupts, too, and nobody cares. Natalya has a plan, but that will take place away from this particular camera.
We return from commercial, with two Super-Plexes and Zayn hitting a sunset Powerbomb on Mahal for a near fall. Ziggler fights out of a Blue Thunder Bomb and counters a Helluva Kick with a Super-Kick. Super-Kick to Harper, but Harper bounces back with a Discus Clothesline for two. Rowan plants Harper with a Powerbomb. Mahal with a school boy on Rowan for two. Mojo sends Mahal to the floor with a shoulder tackle, but misses a charge on Zayn and spills to the floor. Harper dumps Zayn, and follows with a tope suicida on Mahal. He gets up and does it again, this time to Mojo and Zayn. Dolph surprises Harper with a dropkick, but runs into a standing spinning heel kick from Rowan for two. Rowan Powerbombs Ziggler onto the pile on the floor, and JBL rightfully calls him out for the move since you must win the match in the ring.
We return from another break, with Ziggler and Mojo alone in the ring. Mojo escapes a neck breaker and comes off the ropes with shoulder tackles and a clothesline. He hits a Stinger Splash, but meets an elbow on the second attempt. Mojo catches a body press and plants Ziggler with a gorilla press drop. He charges into the corner with his forearm, but Mahal dumps him and covers Ziggler for two, broken up by Zayn. Mahal with a running high knee to Zayn. Rowan with a uranage on Mahal for two. Dolph comes back to life with a Zig-Zag on Rowan for two. Harper counters the Famouser with a sit-out Powerbomb for two. Mahal pulls Harper to the floor and sends him to the steps. He meets the post on a failed charge attempt. Zayn hits the ropes and nails Harper with a somersault plancha. Rowan gets bulldozed by Mojo, and Zayn hits Moho with a springboard Asai Moonsault. Back inside, he sends Mahal into the corner with an Exploder. He goes for the Helluva Kick, but the (unnamed) Bollywood Boyz show up at ringside for a distraction, and Mahal hits Zayn with a Full Nelson Slam for three at 11:03 (shown). Seriously, JINDER F'N MAHAL is the #1 Contender to the WWE CHAMPIONSHIP. I don't have words for that one, but I'll give it time to see where it goes before I completely damn WWE for what others are calling a terrible decision. I will say, my first reaction was not positive. ***1/2 Good match despite the questionable choice for the winner.
- Renee Young comes in for a post-match interview, and hey, a crowd BOOING a heel, although it might be X-Pac heat rather than legit heat. Mahal blames his wealth, higher education, and heritage on why the crowd disapproves of him. What is this, 1984? The fans will have no choice but accept Jinder Mahal as the next WWE World Champion. Ha, I bet Vince McMahon wrote that line himself. Before we leave the ring, Randy Orton makes his presence felt. He says Mahal won the Jackpot. His prize won't be the WWE Title, but an RKO. He still has a thorn in his side named Bray Wyatt, and thankfully Payback is the end of that rivalry. If the House of Horrors is anything like the last house he was brought to, he'll burn it down all the same. Bray Wyatt's magic camera interrupts and blah blah blah. Go back to Raw and stay there, Bray.
- The New Day are coming to Smackdown Live... SOON! Kofi Kingston is healing from an ankle injury, so the plan is to hold off their arrival until he's healthy. In the meantime, you can purchase a New Day Championship Belt on WWE Shop for the low price of $399. It's the ugly Penny plate on a New Day style strap. It's so hideously it's awesome, but not for nearly half-a-grand.
- Shinsuke Nakamura hype video. He's made his debut on Smackdown Live two weeks ago, and last week confronted Dolph Ziggler. Here we get a special look at why Shinsuke Nakamura is such a big deal. I'm all for segments like this instead of trotting the guy out there for a repeat of last week or another pointless segment that takes his shine away.
- Renee Young is backstage with A.J. Styles, the #1 Contender to the United States Championship. It doesn't matter who leaves Payback with the U.S. Title, because he has home field advantage and this is the house A.J. Styles built. Baron Corbin interrupts, questioning why Styles gets interviewed and not himself. Styles continues to brag about winning last week, but Corbin points out he didn't get pinned in that match. Styles says he's in the business of winning, and if Corbin wants an encore, he'll be happy to do it again, tonight. Corbin accepts, and reminds Styles that he "asked for this."
- Charlotte is WALKING. Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella try acting like a bunch of bad-asses, but Charlotte doesn't seem too bothered by them. So, we've got heels potentially feuding with other heels? Maybe if two of them weren't considered jokes, and the other didn't job every single match she had against Charlotte in the last two years...
We return from commercial, with Charlotte in control with a Dragon Sleeper. Charlotte with a back suplex for two. Knees across the chest for another two count. Naomi counters a back suplex with a springboard sunset flip, but Charlotte counters that with a knee across the back of the head for two. Naomi rolls away from a knee drop and catches Charlotte with a boot across the side of the head. School boy roll-up only gets one. Naomi with a flurry of forearms and another roundhouse kick. Naomi with a pinning head scissors, clothesline, and modified Stunner. She climbs the ropes and hits a flying body press for two. Charlotte blocks another kick and counters the Rear View with a boot to the back. Natural Selection finishes at 9:34 (shown). **3/4 Charlotte was allowed to completely outclass Naomi, setting up a probable title switch sooner than later. The rematch should be a good chance to make Naomi look like a solid underdog having to overcome a superior opponent. I doubt the title switch is coming next week, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does happen.
- Charlotte is strutting around backstage, and comes across the same gang of mid-card women, who have completely failed to intimidate her.
- Lana offers another dance routine to hype her arrival to Smackdown Live... COMING SOON.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with the Perfect Ten, Tye Dillinger. He praises the WWE Universe for making sure their voices are heard, and he has a special video package to promote himself. Another smart way to utilize a new arrival without throwing him out there and becoming enhancement talent sooner than needed to be.
- WWE United States Champion, Kevin Owens, comes out for the first ever Face of America Challenge. KO-Mania 2 shirts are still available on WWE Shop, by the way. His opponent is a pudgy scrub with ugly tights named "Gary Gandy". Kevin Owens dismisses Greg Hamilton from doing his introduction and makes sure to point out he's from Quebec. Owens attacks at the bell with a flurry of rights and stomps. Whip to the ropes, and the Pop-Up Powerbomb finishes at 0:34. Letting an upper-card worker squash some jabroni with one move? Always a pro in my book, but I'd say introduce a secondary finisher to give the impression guys can win with a move that isn't their designated finisher.
We return from commercial, with Corbin in control with a chin-lock. Styles with elbows to the midsection to escape, but Corbin throws him ribs-first into the post. Corbin follows him to the floor and rams his back into the edge of the ring. Back inside, Styles offers a comeback, but Corbin's one strike is enough to slow him down. Corbin meets a boot in the corner and meets the post on the second failed charge. Styles with the Phenomenal Blitz and a Pele Kick. He dives into the corner with a forearm. He chops Corbin down with a low kick and hits another diving forearm for a two count. He signals for the Styles Clash, but Corbin easily counters and connects with a Choke-Slam into a Back Breaker for two. Styles gets a boot up in the corner and takes Corbin down into the Calf-Crusher, but Corbin grabs the ropes to force the break. Back to their feet, and Corbin hits the Deep-Six for a near fall. Styles pulls the ropes down on a charge, causing Corbin to spill to the floor. Styles with a sliding knee from the apron. He goes for the Styles Clash, again, but Corbin back drops him onto Kevin Owens. Styles counters End of Days with an enzuigiri. He knocks Corbin into the crowd with the Phenomenal Forearm and rolls back in for the Count-Out victory at 9:50 (shown). **1/2 Corbin again shows he's not going to steal the show any time soon, but continues to show signs of improvement, and the cop-out victory keeps both protected since they clearly have big plans for both and don't need to waste a clean finish on an unadvertised match on the weekly TV.
Final Thoughts: Until we get beyond the Raw PPV Payback (featuring two matches with Smackdown Superstars), there seems to be a bit of a delay before we really start putting the pieces together. This week's episode was all about pushing acquired talent from Monday Night Raw, with Charlotte pinning the Women's Champion, Epico and Primo reintroduced as a more serious threat, and last but certainly NOT least, JINDER MAHAL winning a match that grants him the WWE Championship Match at Payback. Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger were kept out of the ring and were given hype videos to fill time, and we continue to get hype for the arrivals of The New Day and Lana, courtesy of the Superstar Shakeup. Not a whole lot to dissect, but this wasn't as bad of a week as I had anticipated.