- Smackdown Live Episode #923 is live from the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA. Tom Phillips, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and Byron Saxton are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. We have a "loaded" show tonight, with the following promised: Naomi defending the Women's Title against Charlotte, Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan in a Non-Title No DQ Match, and a "Tag Team Beat The Clock" with American Alpha, Breezango, The Ascension, and The Colons, to determine the challengers for the Usos at Backlash (which is still five weeks away).
- Renee Young is in the ring for a special interview with Shinsuke Nakamura. Almost immediately, Dolph Ziggler interrupts. Ziggler decides to conduct the interview himself, and does the classic "heel pulls the microphone away before the face can answer" routine, blaming Nakamura not speaking English for his decision making. Ziggler says he's really an American named Michael from Dairy, IN, and basically references him to be a member of the Jackson family. How DARE he makes fun of the episode of the Simpsons with John J. Smith! Nakamura decides to have a little fun himself, flipping the script, and "interviewing" Ziggler in the same manner. At least they got that part of his character right, so far, but damn Ziggler's lines were ridiculous. Ziggler gives him a cheap shot, but a Super-Kick is countered with a reverse Exploder. Shinsuke sets up for a Kinshasa, but Ziggler bails quicker than Bryce Harper is going to bail on Washington once his contract is up. I wanted to make a LeBron joke, but the ditching Cleveland joke is nearing a decade old. Not the best segment, but they need to find a way to pad another month without giving this match away on TV.
We return from commercial, with Corbin in control with his chicken-wing chin-lock. Styles with strikes to the midsection. Corbin rolls under the boots in the corner, does his quick in-and-out, and hits Styles with a choke-slam back breaker for two. He sets Styles up across the top turnbuckle. Styles slips between the legs to escape the Super-Plex, sweeps Corbin off the ropes, and connects with the Pele Kick. Styles hits a diving clothesline in the corner, followed by part of the Phenomenal Blitz and a sliding forearm for two. Corbin easily counters the Styles Clash and holds the ropes to block being rolled into the Calf-Crusher. Styles gets boots up in the corner, but before he can go for the Forearm, Owens leaves the table for a distraction. Corbin goes for a Powerbomb, but Styles counters with a sunset flip for three at 7:06 (shown). Post-match, Owens and Corbin take their frustrations out on Styles until Sami Zayn makes the save. Owens bails, but Corbin stays to fight. Corbin meets the post on a charge and Zayn nails him with the Helluva Kick. Owens attacks Zayn from behind immediately after to send him out of the ring, and plants Styles with a Pop-Up Powerbomb. **1/4 Another so-so match, which is what we've come to expect out of Corbin, but a decent post-match angle that probably sets up a short-term Corbin/Zayn program.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with Charlotte Flair for comments on her upcoming Women's Championship Match. She says she's done everything she could accomplish on Raw, including four reigns as their Women's Champion, and needed a new Kingdom to rule over.
- The New Day are still coming to Smackdown Live! Dammit Kofi, get the ankle healed up quicker to save this tag team division.
- Another WWE Superstar is coming to Smackdown courtesy of the Superstar Shakeup... Rusev, but he doesn't want to be on Smackdown until he gets the respect he deserves: a Championship opportunity at Money in the Bank. Until he gets that Championship Match, he isn't going to show up on Smackdown Live.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with Becky Lynch. She asks Becky about Charlotte's arrival to Smackdown and the "welcoming committee" last week, and where Becky stands. She doesn't approve of Charlotte's methods, but she can't argue the results as she's already earned a Championship Match. The rag-tag group of misfits (Natalya, Carmellsworth, and Tamina) want to know if Becky is with them or against them on the Charlotte situation. To be continued!
We return from commercial, and Rowan has not only survived his fall, but regained control. Maybe he had his Booty O's that morning. Rowan dumps Orton to the floor and gives him a taste of the announcer's table. He wastes time grabbing the kendo stick, allowing Orton to surprise him with the draping DDT. Rowan somehow avoids the RKO and sends Orton to the floor, again. He grabs his old friend, the steel steps, and rams Orton with it like a battering ram. Rowan brings a chair into the ring and wedges it between the turnbuckles. Orton puts the breaks on before contact. Rowan meets the chair on a missed charge, and the RKO finishes at 8:50 (shown). *1/2 This was classic Attitude Era brawling... a lack of direction and random weapon shots.
Post-match, #1 Contender Jinder Mahal interrupts Orton's celebration, feeling snubbed that Orton isn't at all concerned about him and is only focusing his energy on Bray Wyatt. The crowd instantly greets him with a "USA" chant. He says he has more class, culture, wealth, and talent than anyone in the arena, including Randy Orton. At Backlash, he will take back his respect in the form of the WWE Championship, and take it back to "his people" (Canadians?). Mahal decides to cut the rest of his promo in Punjabi. He goes for a cheap shot, but Orton saw it coming. The Bollywood Boys save Mahal from a draping DDT (also called the Singh Brothers). The 3-on-1 allows Mahal to give Orton a Half-Nelson Slam and STEALS the WWE Championship! WWE Champion Jinder Mahal has a nice ring to it, am I right?
- Lana is dancing again. She's coming soon to Smackdown Live, too.
- Hype video for the House of Horrors Match at Payback. Spoilers: I don't really care and am looking forward to the end of the Orton/Wyatt saga.
- Renee Young is backstage with Naomi, who makes dated references about George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Somehow, I doubt a mid-20's female would make such a reference on her own, but I'm not the 70-year old who makes constant script-changes that only appeals to himself.
We return from commercial, with Charlotte in control with a chin-lock. Naomi tries to fight free, but gets thrown across the ring. Charlotte with a kick across the back, followed by a knee drop, for two. Whip to the corner and a chop for two. They mess up a spot, leading to Naomi hitting a split-leg jaw buster. Naomi with kicks, but Charlotte thankfully counters the stupid jumping in place. Naomi with a hurricanrana and modified Stunner. Charlotte rolls through a sunset flip, but gets caught with the world's worst and slowest GTS for a near fall. Rear View gets two. Charlotte blocks another hurricanrana with a sit-out Powerbomb for two. Charlotte comes off the top, but the moonsault meets knees. Suddenly, Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella run in for the No-Contest at 6:43, with James Ellsworth cheerleading at ringside. The three of them pick apart both Charlotte and Naomi, with more focus on Charlotte. Crowd chants for Becky to make the save, but that's not happening, at least not this week. ** Match was OK before the abrupt finish. Naomi on offense most of the match hurt the quality, with a lot of pauses and obvious spot calls, not to mention the lack of smoothness in execution.
Final Thoughts: Even if it's for the short term, things are coming together quickly for Smackdown Live, with a lot of the Backlash card apparently set, save for the preliminary filler. The wheels are in motion to promote Mahal as a serious #1 contender for Randy Orton, and giving him lackeys is supposed to make up for his lack of credibility, I guess. Kevin Owens vs. A.J. Styles for the US Title seems to be treated as more of an important situation, and also feels short-term. Breezango challenging the Usos is even more clear of a short-term fix, with the New Day's arrival coming sooner than later. Dolph Ziggler being fed to Shinsuke Nakamura is a good way to not over-expose Nakamura too soon, but segments like what opened the show need to be scripted better. We've got a hoopla in the Women's Division with uncertain, but intriguing, direction, and hey, maybe Sami Zayn can put over Baron Corbin, considering he laid down for Jinder F'N Mahal last week. What will come out of Rusev holding out for a WWE Title Match? What about Lana?! Lots of stuff happening, some good, some not so good, and things should improve.