WWE SmackDown Live returns tonight (Apr. 23) from the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is first episode after the Superstar Shake-up, at least the beginning of the Shake-up. It may go the entire year.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston is facing Shinsuke Nakamura tonight. You know… unless they change it last minute. So, 50% chance that Kofi Kingston is facing Shinsuke Nakamura tonight.
Nakamura will have his tag team partner Rusev, along with Lana, in his corner. Kofi will have his New Day brother Xavier Woods and other New Day member… Big O?… in his.
Last week, Kevin Owens, calling himself Big O, stepped in for an injured Big E in a 6-man tag. This week, temporary New Day member Big O will be in Kofi’s corner for his singles match. This is what a Kevin Owen babyface run looks like early on, but will it last?
Last week, when it was announced that KO was going to team with Kofi and Woods, the first thing Geno Mrosko said in the Cageside offices was “Kevin is turning heel tonight.” And he wasn’t alone in that thought. It was one of my first thoughts too. When this match was announced for tonight, some of the first few comments in our post about it were predicting an Owens heel turn.
And can you blame us? Betraying people is what Kevin Owens does. His first day in the company consisted of him powerbombing his friend Sami Zayn onto the ring apron. And who can forget the Festival of Friendship? Owens was already a heel at that time but he still broke our hearts when he stabbed Chris Jericho in the back.
Kevin Owens’ standard is as a heel, and he’s very good at it. But that doesn’t mean a babyface run isn’t a possibility.
Even when he’s a heel, KO has a natural charisma that’s easy to like. When he’s whining about something or insulting someone, he’s often very funny. He’s talented in the ring. Those are all boxes to check when looking at a good babyface.
So while turning Kevin Owens heel and feuding him with Kofi for the title seems like the easy option, there’s no need to pull the plug on his babyface run just yet. It’s been going well early on, and it should play out a bit. Let’s give it a few months and see if there’s some possibilities to explore before going back. Plus, it’s something different, and that’s always a good thing.
The Title Scene:
SmackDown (and Raw) Women’s champion Becky Lynch will go face to face with Charlotte tonight. The idea of Becky Two Belts still feuding with the Queen has some fans thinking of a CM Punk gif, even though their in-ring chemistry is very good. Hopefully the direction isn’t another one one match. There’s a new Horsewoman in town, so perhaps Bayley will join the fray.
When Intercontinental champion Finn Bálor lost clean to Andrade on Raw last week, it was Finn putting over a very talented man on his way out of the territory. They were going to be on different brands so that was that. But now it looks like Andrade is back on SmackDown Live and that win looms larger. Usually beating the champ means getting a title shot. That should be coming out way.
The Hardy Boyz are the SmackDown tag team champions but there aren’t many teams for them to feud with. The Usos are gone. The Bar are broken up. Big E is injured. The Good Brothers could be riding out their contract. Unless the Revival are moved to the blue brand since this Shake-up isn’t over, get ready for a Hardyz/Heavy Machinery best of seven.
The IIconics are the Women’s tag team champions. There’s a new team to challenge them on Tuesdays in the somewhat odd pairing of Asuka and Kairi Sane managed by Paige. It feels like the only thing Asuka and Kairi have in common is they’re both Japanese. Despite a roller coaster year, Asuka is an accomplished single’s star and this random tag team feels beneath her. Kairi Sane is a newcomer on the main roster and left a more natural partner down in NXT in Io Shirai. Paige’s personality doesn’t seem to mesh with either of them. Hopefully, some time together will allow this team to feel natural before they get a title shot.
Other Stuff to Keep an Eye on:
– Is Roman Reigns getting fired for punching Vince McMahon? Nah.
– We haven’t seen Daniel Bryan since losing the title to Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania. There’s rumor that he’s got a “closely guarded” injury, which obviously puts worry in the minds of fans. Hopefully we see him on our TVs soon.
SmackDown looks to turn the corner after the Shake-up tonight in Nebraska. What will you be watching for?