WWE Thursday Night SmackDown – April 23rd, 2015
The fed’s blue brand comes to us live from Providence, Rhode Island. It is the last smacking of the down before Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View on Sunday in Chicago… I guess we should make some predictions…
Tonight’s episode features some strange combinations of superstars and feuds, as many key players were absent from the card. The Shield members come back together in the ring, Neville speaks, and the audience plays a few rounds of “Who Do We Cheer For?” as heels play face for the confused crowd.
- Seth Rollins opens the show, talks RKO, Randy Orton and Kane. Kane comes down, intimidates Rollins, set up match to follow.
- Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins: Luke Harper interferes before bell, Roman Reigns comes to help. Tag match is set for main event.
- Dolph Ziggler & Neville vs Shaemus & Bad News Barrett: Barrett hit with Zig Zag, then Neville lands Red Arrow for the pin.
- Bray Wyatt promo.
- Naomi vs Natalya: Rearview lands for the pin.
- Prime Time Players promo.
- Rusev vs Ryback: Rusev attacks with the chain, gets himself disqualified.
- Rollins and J&J find Harper in the bowels of the arena to talk strategy.
- Kofi Kingston vs Cesaro: Trouble in Paradise kick lands, Kofi pins the tag team champ.
- Big Show pre-taped backstage promo.
- Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns vs Luke Harper & Seth Rollins: Reigns hits spear on Rollins, gets the three-count.
- Seth Rollins and Kane continue their conflict which increases in both intensity and complexity. It is strange and, I have to admit, heart-warming to hear Kane getting pops from the crowd, seeing as how for the last year he has been death warmed over. The segment threatened to drag out a bit, but bringing out Dean Ambrose saved it. Rollins and Ambrose was the hottest feud of the last year, and teasing a match between the two evoked an instant pop, but it was somewhat dampened by Luke Harper’s immediate injection. Good move teaming Reigns with Ambrose. They did this at the Rumble, and it’s nice they play up the old Shield friendship. It works, since they never had a formal falling out, and I’m sure Reigns appreciates the help.
- Ziggler puts over Neville in a pre-recorded promo, and Neville gives his first promo – a few brief words – on main roster television. Nice action from everyone, despite the consummate rest spots which seem to be popular in Neville matches. Barrett and Shaemus work well together as opponents, but they also fit as tag partners. Despite Ziggler getting the assist, Neville hits the Red Arrow and pins the former multi-time Intercontinental champion, Bad News Barrett. The incredible booking for the rookie continues. At this rate, Neville will be World Heavyweight Champion by the fall and retire by this time next year.
- Bray Wyatt, you would assume at this point, after weeks and weeks of vague speeches, would do as he did with Undertaker and start dropping big time hints as to whom he is addressing. What clues do we have to work with this episode: “What happens to a butterfly when you take its wings?” I give up, Bray. I just give up.
- Naomi and Natalya had a good match, but you couldn’t tell from the crowd, who were eerily silent. I believe it was because of a trend of heel/face confusion that has been running rampant lately. Natalya is the valet for the tag team champions, who are heels. She has been pushing Usos off the top rope and beating up El Torito for months, and suddenly for no reason whatsoever she is booked as a smiling face in this match to get over Naomi very recent heel turn. No wonder the crowd was confused. So was I. Are there really no faces in the Divas division except for Paige? On the heels of that question comes another: when did the Divas Championship match at Extreme Rules change?
- Prime Time Players continue to make me laugh. I don’t know why they aren’t wrestling matches, because we desperately need more tag teams, especially with The Usos out of commission.
- A chant of “We want Cena!”/”Cena Sucks!” begins while the two heavyweights slug each other, but Ryback is able to work his various catch phrases and chants to get the people back on his side. This match went longer than I thought it would. I’ve always thought these two could have a good program together, and you can the bookers are keeping it as an option by the safe way they end their contests with DQs or count-outs. Rusev, it seems, has lost a bit of intimidation factor since losing to Cena. He resorts to a lot more sneaky, under-handed heel moves and retreating from getting battered. Despite the attack after the bell, I felt this match hurt Rusev more than it helped him, making him look desperate instead of formidable. Not a good way to go into your rematch with the face of the whole company.
- Harper was awesome in his brief backstage speaking spot. He comes across as a genuine sadist.
- The Cesaro/Kingston match was more too short and made the tag champs look like pushovers. Obviously, this is indicating a successful title defense on the Pay-Per-View, at least I hope, but it still doesn’t sit right to have the champs jobbing out before a big title match. If you want to build up New Day, put them in with another tag team and have them pull off a fancy squash instead. By the way, this was another match in which the fans were at a loss as to whom to cheer for, with the heel champs on one side and the loathed ‘tweener faces turning heel on the other.
- Big Show gets across that he’s fought long and hard for everything he’s had in the company and doesn’t appreciate a young upstart like Roman Reigns coming in “like he’s the crown prince” and getting stuff like title shots and commercials. Where was this angle before? Why hasn’t Show been saying this stuff all the way through the feud? That would have been interesting. Up until now Big Show’s acted like nothing but an enforcer for the Authority doing his duty, but now we get a scathing shoot promo out of the blue. Well, better late than never.
- The main event tag match was solid, and it wasn’t a surprise considering the massive amount of cumulative talent present. Harper was definitely the odd man out, but his energy added an element of chaos to the mix. There were good moments, and a couple of really nice spots including Ambrose’s dog-pile dive onto the heels which got a chant of “This is awesome!” Luke Harper’s character has suffered from inconsistency during his brief feud with Ambrose. Twice now he has run away from fighting a fired up Ambrose, making him seem either cowardly or uninterested in a scrap – neither of which fit with his reckless, sadistic shtick. Similarly, he claims to be bent on causing pain to the faces, but yet tags out far too quickly, having inflicted almost no real punishment. My last complaint of the night: the WWE World Heavyweight Champion jobbing to Roman Reigns on SmackDown, when they’re not even in a program together. Enough said.