Smackdown – April 3, 2018

Smackdown
Date: April 3, 2018
Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton

There are two hours of WWE TV left until Wrestlemania XXXIV, meaning this episode of Smackdown Live is a very important night. You can guess a lot of what you’ll be seeing tonight but at the same time there’s always the chance of a curve ball. I wouldn’t be expecting WWE to add in that many surprises but you never know around here. Let’s get to it.

Here’s Daniel Bryan to open the show and shockingly enough, the fans seem into him. He wastes no time in bringing out Shane McMahon for the first time in a few weeks. Shane praises Bryan for having the courage to come back and get in this ring despite everyone telling him it would never happen. He brings up having diverticulitis and a hernia thanks to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn but just like Bryan, he’s medically cleared for Sunday.

Bryan has to apologize to Shane though, because Shane was right about Owens and Zayn all along. Shane says he was a little stubborn over the last six months. Bryan: “YOU? STUBBORN? NO!” Bryan wants a hug but Shane offers a handshake. That’s not working because they shook hands a few minutes ago and the people of Nashville want a HUG. The fans finally get their wish and Shane promises to get rid of Owens and Zayn once and for all.

Charlotte vs. Natalya

Non-title. Charlotte takes it to the mat with a headlock but Natalya reverses into one of her own. A backbreaker gives Charlotte a pair of near falls and the Figure Four neck lock with the face plants has Natalya in more trouble. Charlotte flips her a few times for good measure and Natalya bails to the floor. For some reason Charlotte follows her out and gets posted as we take a break.

Back with an exchange of abdominal stretches (Gorilla Monsoon would be all over Charlotte’s technique) until Charlotte gets two off her kneeling neckbreaker. Natalya jumps on her back for a sleeper but a Backpack Stunner gets Charlotte out of trouble. The moonsault misses though and a double clothesline puts them both down. Cue CARMELLA with the briefcase but Charlotte kicks it away before the match is officially on. That gives us a staredown and Charlotte kicks her….near the face I guess. Natalya tries a sneak attack but gets caught in the Figure Eight for the tap at 13:04.

Rating: C+. Good grief get rid of the briefcase already. She’s not winning the title and there’s no point in wasting our time acting like it’s happening. The briefcase has run its course for years now so just let the cash in happen so she can lose already. They’ve spent forever on the build and it’s getting annoying to wedge the story in before Wrestlemania.

Post match here’s Asuka to say at Wrestlemania, the Queen bows down to the Empress. Charlotte cuts off the catchphrase and says she’s ready, but she’s not sure about Asuka being ready.

AJ Styles is ready for Shinsuke Nakamura and admits that Nakamura may be in his head. That’s nothing new though because AJ is used to being scrappy against the bigger guys. Nakamura is taking him too lightly because we’re far from the Tokyo Dome and AJ is the WWE Champion. This is a dream match, but the reality is AJ is winning on Sunday. Good promo from the champ here.

Long recap of Bryan/McMahon vs. Owens/Zayn, which has quite the long history at this point. Owens and Zayn attacked Shane, resulting in Bryan firing them. They attacked him too, so it was time for Bryan to have a match and beat them up.

Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal

Bobby Roode is on commentary. Aiden English handles the introductions, which are done in rhyme this time around for a change of pace. The threat of an early Accolade sends Mahal to the floor and we take a break. Back with Mahal hitting a running knee to the face to take over and getting two off a neckbreaker and knee drop.

We hit the chinlock and the fans start up with that RUSEV DAY chant all over again. It’s off to a break with another inset ad for Wrestlemania (Lesnar vs. Reigns this time) and come back with Mahal superkicking Rusev for two. Rusev kicks him in the head as well but it’s too early for the Accolade. The jumping superkick gives Rusev the pin at 9:54.

Rating: D+. Rusev should have kicked him even harder as last year should have been Rusev’s spot instead of Mahal’s. Rusev is perfect for the same role but he’s not from the right country. Now he has merchandise sales strong enough to get him a spot in a Wrestlemania title match, even though Mahal leaving with the title wouldn’t surprise me.

Post match it’s an RKO for Rusev but Aiden beats Orton down. Roode shoves English off the top and into an RKO though, leaving Orton and Roode to stare each other down. This match still does nothing for me, which seems to be a rather common consensus.

Nakamura says he takes things very seriously and has wanted to be at Wrestlemania his entire career. He knows AJ very well and knows how emotional AJ is. When Styles makes a mistake, it’ll make Nakamura champion with a knee to the face. As usual with Nakamura’s promos, this was fine.

New Day teaches us how to watch Wrestlemania for free. Before Big E. can pull an XBOX out of Woods’ pants, the Usos come in to say the same thing. The Bludgeon Brothers arrive and scare them away before smashing a camera. I was worried they would be selling me the Network as well.

Baron Corbin/Primo/Mojo Rawley/Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder/Breezango/Tye Dillinger

Everyone is in the battle royal. Mojo and Ryder start things off but all eight come in for the staredown and we take an early break. Back with Ziggler and Tye both down before it’s off to Corbin for right hands in the corner. Mojo comes back in but misses a charge in the corner, allowing the hot tag off to Fandango. Snap jabs have Primo in trouble and the Falcon Arrow gets two as everything breaks down. Various people throw others over the top until Corbin tosses Breeze onto the pile in a crazy power display. Fandango walks into End of Days for the pin at 5:38. Not enough shown to rate but this was just a preview for Sunday.

Wrestlemania rundown.

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable are ready to destroy Nakamura and Styles tonight.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn come through the crowd (with Owens in a KO-MANIA III shirt, thankfully continuing the trend of using the old Wrestlemania logos) onto the announcers’ table. No one is stopping them tonight so they’ve got some apologies of their own. Sami apologizes to Birdie and Brie Danielson for what’s going to happen to Bryan. A YOU DESERVE IT chant started by Sami doesn’t quite catch on but the mic is cut off anyway. Shane and Bryan come out, sending Owens and Zayn bailing into the crowd. Bryan says this is the last time they’ll be on Smackdown and Shane starts the Goodbye Song.

Wrestlemania week rundown.

Shinsuke Nakamura/AJ Styles vs. Shelton Benjamin/Chad Gable

Gable wrestles Nakamura to the mat to start so Shinsuke goes over to AJ and pats him on the head for a tag. Benjamin and Gable are sent to the floor and we take a break. Back with AJ hitting an enziguri on Gable and making the hot tag to Nakamura. House is cleaned in a hurry with the hard strikes until Gable knees him in the head.

The moonsault gets two on Nakamura and we hit the chinlock, plus an inset promo on Asuka vs. Charlotte. Back with Benjamin working on the arm until Nakamura kicks him in the face a few times to get a breather. The hot tag brings in AJ, who glares at Nakamura and finishes Gable with the Phenomenal Forearm at 12:11.

Rating: C. This was a way to have Nakamura and Styles in the same ring before the match on Sunday and that’s fine. It’s not like Benjamin and Gable have anything to lose at this point as they’re likely just going to the battle royal instead of having anything important at Wrestlemania. Styles vs. Nakamura should be good, but could be great.

Post match Nakamura gets beaten down but AJ doesn’t save. Instead Nakamura fights them off on his own and AJ springboards in but pulls up before hitting the forearm. A pat to Nakamura’s head has him annoyed as Styles leaves to end the show.

Overall Rating: C+. This felt more like a traditional go home show and while Smackdown doesn’t have anything that I really want to see, they have some stuff that I’m interested enough in watching. If they get everything right on Sunday, they could put on a heck of a card. As usual though, there’s every chance that they’ll blow it (see last year in some places) but I’m cautiously optimistic right now.

Results

Charlotte b. Natalya – Figure Eight

Rusev b. Jinder Mahal – Jumping superkick

Baron Corbin/Primo/Mojo Rawley/Dolph Ziggler b. Zack Ryder/Breezango/Tye Dillinger – End of Days to Fandango

AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura b. Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin – Phenomenal Forearm to Gable

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