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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (Apr. 3, 2018): Finishing Touches

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WWE SmackDown Live returned to us last night (Apr. 3) from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find all the results in the best live blog ever right here.

Turnabout

The main event was Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles teaming against Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable.

AJ decided to play some mind games of his own in response to months of Shinsuke messing with him. At the end of the match, Styles stared at Nakamura in the corner, but instead of tagging his partner in, he climbed out of the ring to deliver a Phenomenal Forearm to Gable for the win as Shinsuke watched.

Post-match, Shelton attacked Nakamura. Styles hesitated on the ramp prior to turning around and trying to help his WrestleMania opponent. However by the time he got to the ring apron, the King of Strong Style had taken care of the problem himself.

The champ took this chance to psych out his opponent. He feigned a Phenomenal Forearm to Nakamura and pulled up short, giving Shin a taste of his own medicine after the fake out Kinshasa last week. Nakamura seemed to appreciate it at first, until Styles pat him on the head. Then Shinsuke seemed to get angry.

This maintained the “nothing big but good small bits” build these guys have had. This is the first time that Nakamura looked shaken at all. It slightly shifts the upper hand back to Styles. It’s uncommon to see Shinsuke mad. If AJ can get him out of his comfort zone, that’s a big deal.

This match should be good no matter what and it’s certainly meant for the fans that know their history. The small additions they added help spice that up a bit, but this feud was pretty much set when it was announced.


Same Page

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon are finally on the same page.

They opened the show and apologized to each other. In the end, they were both right about the other. Shane was right that Daniel Bryan’s judgment was being clouded by his history with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Bryan was right that Shane’s temper was getting the best of him.

They acknowledged this and hugged it out. That hug was super over.

Later in the night, Owens and Zayn came through the crowd, climbed up on the announce desk, and cut a promo on the SmackDown bosses. Sami apologized to Brie for the man they are going to send back home to her. It had implications of some cruelty that resonated rather well. Kevin told Shane that he’ll send him back to Titan Tower, where he can stare at the scar on his father’s forehead that KO put there.

Shane and Daniel responded, telling the fans this is the last time they’ll see KO and Zayn on SmackDown Live. Then McMahon led the crowd in a rendition of “Na Na Hey Hey.”

While Kevin and Sami hit on their promo, Daniel and Shane were a bit too flippant for my tastes. These two men played them for months, wreaked havoc on their show, and then tried to seriously injure both of them. This felt like a time for them to be a bit more angry than flippant.

Nonetheless, Daniel Bryan is wrestling on Sunday so it’s tough not to get pumped for that.


Don’t Need Much

Charlotte rematched Natalya this week after she lost to her two weeks ago, when Carmella’s attempted cash-in distracted the champ.

It played the same way except for the finish. After battling for a while, Carmella ran out mid-match to try to cash in her title shot. This time, as she was handing the briefcase to the referee, Charlotte straight up punted the thing out of the ring. Impressive.

Natalya went for the roll up again, but didn’t pick up the win with it this time around. Instead, Charlotte kicked out and locked in the Figure Eight for the submission win.

After her victory, Asuka’s music played and she danced her way to the ring. She told the champ that at WrestleMania, the Queen will bow down to the Empress. Charlotte ripped the microphone from her hands and told her that maybe Asuka isn’t ready for her.

It wasn’t a lot. Much like the men’s title scene, it’s more subtle mind games. Asuka danced her way to the ring after Charlotte just had to endure both Nattie and Carmella. Then they had a quick moment in the ring.

But honestly, they don’t need much of a build. The set up isn’t in what they did after they announced the match. It’s in what they did prior. And that’s build the two top women in the division, keep them away from each other until the biggest show of the year, and then book them to fight for the title. Sometimes, that’s all a build needs.


Rusev Day Every Day

Rusev and Jinder Mahal worked one on one prior to the Fatal 4-way US title match at WrestleMania.

When Sunil Singh introduced Jinder, he sang his intro as a way to mock Aiden English. And Sunil was an outright terrible singer, which is exactly what he should have been there. That gave English an even bigger pop when he did his Rusev Day song.

This was a rare occasion that Rusev worked full babyface, something he’ll probably be doing a lot in the near future. Even though the crowds have been super hot for him, overall he’s been heel in his matches. But he was the one who was on the defensive most of the match and then fired up at the end. And when he fired up, the crowd was there with him.

Rusev picked up the win with a Machka kick.

After the match, Orton hit an RKO outta nowhere to the victorious Rusev. Aiden English attacked Orton and then climbed the ropes for a final attack when Bobby Roode, who was on commentary, pushed him off the top into an RKO.

Orton and Roode had a moment in the ring while the crowd chanted for Rusev Day, which is usually how it works.


Other bits:

  • The triple threat tag team match was represented by a backstage WWE Network ad. It was surely a disappointing way to get a pretty hot feud represented on the go-home show. The Bludgeon Brothers came off cheesy in it, which is obviously not what they should do before the big match.
  • There was an 8-man tag to get some Andre participants some time. It was rather inconsequential. Baron Corbin was the man to pick up the pin. The women’s battle royal wasn’t represented on the show.

This was a decent show, but for a go-home show, it didn’t really add to Sunday.

Grade: B-

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