SmackDown recap & reactions (April 21, 2023): The WWE Draft looms large

This was an interesting episode of Friday Night SmackDown if only because, well, there was no real narrative flow to it. It was very much just a series of matches with a couple of backstage segments thrown in.

There was only one in-ring promo the entire evening — though you could argue there were two, if you count the few words The Complaint Department said before they challenged for the tag team titles. The Usos were the ones (I’m sorry) who got that time, vowing to defeat Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn to win their titles back next week.

That was also the lead-in to the main event, Matt Riddle taking on Solo Sikoa in a No Disqualification match that had maybe the most obvious ending in the history of television. It was a No DQ match, The Usos were in the building, but Owens and Zayn were not.

Gee, I wonder how that would play out.

Sure enough, Jimmy & Jey interfered, Riddle was pinned, and then The Bloodline put him through a table, standing tall to end the last episode for the blue brand before we head into the Draft.

The match was fine. It was all fine.

But that doesn’t mean Roman Reigns’ presence isn’t sorely missed. I quite like Sikoa and think he’s got a bright future as a singles star apart from The Bloodline but there’s only so much story they can tell without The Tribal Chief around.

I guess that’s why they just went back to beating Riddle again.

All the rest

  • This show opened with the LWO and The Judgment Day continuing their issues in the form of a tag team match pitting Rey Mysterio & Santos Escobar against Damian Priest & Finn Balor. It was both an incredibly fun match and a great opportunity for commentary to promote the ever loving shit out of Bad Bunny appearing on Monday Night Raw next week. With apologies to Escobar, it was also an easy way to get Judgment Day a win without having to pin Mysterio. Oh, also, did you remember Bad Bunny will be on Raw? If you didn’t, Priest got on the mic and made sure to mention it before going to the back. After, they cut to the announce table and wouldn’t you know it, Michael Cole and Wade Barrett also made sure to immediately mention that, hey, guess, what, Bad Bunny is coming to Raw next week. Nobody is better at driving home a message than WWE.
  • Zelina Vega made an impassioned plea to Adam Pearce to get a title shot against Rhea Ripley at Backlash. She’s the only Puerto Rican wrestler in the women’s division, and the LWO has been having issues with Judgment Day. She’s also an underdog who badly wants to prove herself. Why not? Pearce made like he needs to talk to upper management — not to mention the champ — but it was made official later in the show and this makes an awful lot of sense for a B-show title defense for Ripley.
  • Shinsuke Nakamura got a nifty little video package that bled right into one from the man he will be feuding with next, Karrion Kross. The pre-tape was maybe a little cheesy but you can always see why Triple H likes Kross so much — he’s got a certain charisma to him where it seems obvious he has such potential if he’s given a good story to work with. I don’t know if that’s what this Nakamura thing will be, but I’m certainly hopeful. The story Kross started telling here is that you can’t know someone’s identity until something is taken from them. He took Drew McIntyre’s temperament, he took Madcap (who he called Riddick, for what it’s worth) Moss’ joy, he took Rey Mysterio’s patience, and now he plans to take Nakamura’s honor.
  • Hey, just real quick, did you guys know Bad Bunny is coming to Raw next Monday?
  • The Viking Raiders launched a surprise attack on Braun Strowman & Ricochet and that resulted in a match between the two this week. I wasn’t expecting much while they were making their entrances and I’m not even sure why because they tore the house down. In the end, Ricochet pinned Ivar after an elevated Swanton Bomb from Strowman’s shoulders.
  • I’m not entirely sure why I feel this way but Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez, despite being the champions, still feel like a thrown together team to me. Meanwhile, Sonya Deville & Chelsea Green, who are also a thrown together team, feel like a legitimate duo. That’s probably just a testament to how good they both are. Despite this, they came up short in their quest to win the titles, in part because the babyfaces cheated. Cole claimed it was fine because the heels deserved it. I guess.
  • GUNTHER successfully defended the Intercontinental championship in his match against Xavier Woods, who was outstanding as the babyface underdog giving it his all. They were up against it, considering no one on Earth really believed Woods was ever going to win this match, but they managed to pull off a couple of good near falls anyway. In the end, GUNTHER submitted Woods and it was simply yet another good TV match.

This show felt like Triple H through and through. Good matches and not much else. It feels a bit like treading water — kind of amazing, considering there were two title matches, but still — until the Draft next week, which looms large over every show now.

Grade: B-

Your turn.

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