Featuring a match for the Intercontinental Title, this April 23th episode hosts the return of a WWE Superstar.
We kick off the show with an appearance from Cesaro. Before he can even say anything, Seth Rollins interrupts the Swiss Cyborg. Rollins says Cesaro finally fulfilled his potential, because he was in the ring with Rollins. He says Cesaro doesn’t get to move on yet, because nothing is over until Rollins says so. He also says that Cesaro would’ve never beaten him if the rain delay hadn’t thrown Rollins off his game. Cesaro offers Rollins a chance to beat him, and Rollins goes to enter the ring, but Jey Uso interrupts him.
Jey says he’s still got a lesson to teach Cesaro from last week, and he and Rollins team up and move to attack Cesaro. Before they can, Daniel Bryan comes out to help Cesaro. He grabs a mic and tells them that he’s here to make sure Cesaro gets his title shot, because Cesaro has worked harder than everyone his whole career. Bryan considers the possibility that Roman Reigns may come out and tip the odds, but he says that there’s nobody he’d rather fight beside than Cesaro. Reigns comes out and throws jabs at Bryan and Cesaro. He says Bryan is a main event loser, but Cesaro is like a casino loser, a loser with bad luck.
Daniel Bryan and Cesaro VS Seth Rollins and Jey Uso
The four brawl in the ring, attacking each other and not allowing the match to begin. The ref separates them, and the match begins. Bryan strikes with a butterfly suplex and tags in Cesaro, and they deliver a double team slam for 2. Cesaro suplexes Jey with one hand for 2, but Jey is able to tag in Rollins. Cesaro takes control of the match early, but Rollins stops him cold with a slingblade for 2. Rollins stomps Cesaro down and tags in Jey, who delivers a hip attack.
Cesaro tries to rally, but Jey stops him with a punch, and tags in Rollins, who locks in a submission. The Swiss Cyborg fights his way out of it to deliver a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, before tagging in Bryan. The Leader of the Yes! Movement delivers a missile dropkick to Rollins before delivering the Yes! Kicks. Rollins ducks the last kick and goes for a Pelé kick, but Bryan reverses it into an ankle lock. He switches into a German Suplex for 2 and looks for the running knee, but Rollins catches him, tags in Jey, and delivers the buckle bomb, and Jey delivers the Uso Splash. Cesaro breaks up the pin, and Jey and Rollins beat the Swiss Cyborg down and suplex him on the outside as we go to commercial.
When we come back, Rollins is delivering a running boot to the side of Bryan’s head for 2. He stares down Cesaro before delivering a neckbreaker to Bryan for 2. He tags in Jey, who starts stomping down on Bryan’s abdomen and trash talking the Leader of the Yes! Movement. Bryan tries to get his second wind, but Jey cuts his momentum with a Samoan Drop for 2. He tags in Rollins, and Cesaro starts a Yes! Chant while Rollins beats down Bryan and yells in his face. Bryan backflips over a corner attack from Rollins, and the two collide in the middle of the ring. Both wrestlers tag in their partners, and Cesaro explodes with a series of uppercuts and a discus clothesline for 2.
Cesaro looks for the Swing, but Jey fights away from it and hits an enziguri. Cesaro fights back with a springboard corkscrew uppercut. He goes for the Neutralizer, and Jey escapes it, but Cesaro hits the Very European Uppercut. Rollins breaks up the pin, and Bryan comes in to toss him over the top rope and deliver a suicide dive. Jey tosses Cesaro out of the ring and looks for a dive of his own, but Cesaro hits him with an uppercut. The Swiss Cyborg goes to the top rope and looks for a flying attack, but Jey catches him with a superkick as we go to commercial.
When we come back, Cesaro is going for the swing on Rollins, but Rollins rolls him up for 2. Cesaro locks in the Sharpshooter, but Jey superkicks him and tags himself in. He goes to the top rope, but Cesaro hits him with an uppercut. Rollins leaves, saying “I don’t need this, I’m Seth Freakin’ Rollins!” Cesaro delivers a suplex to Jey and tags in Bryan, who delivers the running knee to get the win.
Winners via pinfall: Daniel Bryan and Cesaro
Match Rating: 4/5
After the match, Bryan grabs a mic and calls out Roman Reigns once more. Jey tries to attack Cesaro from behind, but he gets a Swing and an uppercut. Bryan asks one more time if Roman’s going to come out, but he obviously doesn’t. Bryan tells Cesaro to swing Jey some more, because maybe he’ll come out because he cares about his cousin. Cesaro swings Jey while Bryan sits on the top turnbuckle, taunting Roman. It’s hilarious stuff. Bryan comes to the conclusion that Roman is scared of Cesaro, because he knows that if he faces Cesaro one-on-one, there’ll be a new Universal Champion.
Backstage, Sonya Deville and Adam Pearce’s conversation is interrupted by Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez. Apollo is furious that he has to defend his title tonight against Big E. Pearce says he isn’t defending against Big E, he’s defending against Kevin Owens. Crews is equally displeased with this.
Nia Jax (w/ Shayna Baszler and Reginald) VS Tamina (w/ Natalya)
Nia Jax uses her power early, tossing Tamina from corner to corner and delivering an avalanche. Nia taunts Tamina, which obviously isn’t a great idea, as Tamina delivers a Thesz Press and rains punches on Jax. She tries to slam her, but Shayna grabs her leg and prevents her from doing so. Nia rolls to the outside, and Tamina follows her outside and slams her into the barricade. She brings Nia back into the ring, but Reggie distracts her.
Tamina aims a kick at Reggie, but Shayna gets hit instead. Nia attacks Tamina from behind, but her attention is drawn by Shayna getting angry at Reggie on the outside. Tamina uses the distraction to superkick and roll up Nia to get the win. The tag champs seem a little rocky. Reggie tends to split teams apart, it seems.
Winner via pinfall: Tamina
Match Rating: 2.5/5
Kayla Braxton interviews Kevin Owens, who says he’s delighted to face Apollo tonight. Big E interrupts him and says that he’s jumped the line once again. Owens tells him to deal with it, because he’s going to go out and win.
Bryan meets with Pearce backstage to ask if Cesaro will be getting a title shot. Pearce says he’s going to try, and Bryan tells him to do more than try.
Kevin Owens VS Intercontinental Champion Apollo Crews (w/ Commander Azeez) for the Intercontinental Championship
Owens starts off using some grappling techniques, grounding the champ. He taunts Crews, and when Crews reverses his hold into a pin, Owens kicks out and goes right back to the hold. Crews fights out once more, and Owens delivers a dropkick and some chops. Crews locks in his own headlock, but Owens gets out and delivers a shoulder tackle and a senton. Owens sends Crews to the outside and looks to dive onto him, but Azeez stands in front of him, allowing Crews to pull Owens’ legs out from under him.
Crews delivers a suplex for 2, and stomps Owens down in the corner. Crews sends Owens to the outside and looks to deliver a moonsault off the apron, but Owens hits him with a superkick and brings him back into the ring for a Swanton for 2. Sami Zayn makes his entrance as we go to commercial.
When we come back, Sami Zayn is on commentary, and Owens is looking for a superplex. The champ fights back with a headbutt and jumps over Owens, but gets caught with a superkick from K.O. for 2. Crews hangs Owens up on the top rope and delivers a brutal suplex. Crews looks for a German suplex, but Owens fights away from it. Crews fights right back with an enziguri and a series of German suplexes for a close 2.
Apollo goes for an attack in the corner, but Owens dodges it and delivers a German suplex of his own, before delivering a few cannonballs for 2 count. K.O. goes for the Stunner, but Crews dodges it. He gets a superkick and a Pop-Up Powerbomb for his troubles, and Owens gets a two count. Owens climbs to the top rope, and when Crews rolls to the outside, Owens dives onto him out there. He rolls Crews back into the ring, but Azeez distracts him, allowing Crews to roll K.O. up from behind to pick up the win.
Winner via pinfall and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Apollo Crews
Match Rating: 3/5
After the match, Owens delivers a Stunner to Crews, but Azeez gives him a Nigerian Nail. Owens sells it like it’s the end of the world, with gobs of spit dribbling out of his mouth. Sami goes into the ring and dances over Owens’ prone body, which is aggressive, but I respect it.
Kayla Braxton interviews Paul Heyman, who says that Roman Reigns will give his verdict as to whether he’ll face Cesaro for the Universal Championship.
Megan Morant interviews Apollo Crews, who’s filled with victory-fueled euphoria. He tells people to beware him and his Commander, but Big E doesn’t get the message, and attacks him viciously. Big E is moved away by the backstage crew and poor Azeez comes out of the locker room too late to help Apollo. He stares angrily in Big E’s direction.
Aleister Black (!) appears and tells us a story from a book titled Tales of the Dark Father. He says that the WWE fans are vile, and we should be scorched from the earth. A bit mean, frankly, but I’m super happy to see him back sans eye patch, so I’ll let it slide.
Kayla Braxton interviews Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, who are asked who’s next to face them for the tag titles. The Street Profits appear and get in their faces, but Bayley appears and defuses the situation.
Bayley continues to talk about Bianca Belair, who she’ll face at Backlash. She calls Belair ungrateful, because Bayley helped her get her start in the wrestling business. Montez Ford comes in with Belair on the phone, and the champ says she’ll be right over. Belair shows right up, and Bayley refuses to say what she said while Belair wasn’t there to her face. She disingenuously congratulates Belair on her WrestleMania moment, and walks away laughing.
The Mysterios VS The Alpha Academy
Chad starts off against Dominik, but Otis gets himself in and runs over Dominik. He goes for a splash, but Dominik moves and delivers some punches. Otis fights right back with a brutal clothesline before slamming Dominik while staring Rey right in the eyes. Otis goes for a splash, but Rey pulls his son to the outside. Otis and Chad go outside and attack the Mysterios, and Otis brings Dominik back into the ring as we go to commercial.
When we come back, Chad is delivering the most picture perfect Tiger Suplex I’ve ever seen in my 17 years on this planet. Man, he’s good. He tags in Otis and opens Dominik up for some gut punches from the big man. Otis delivers a scoop slam and an elbow drop, before trading in and out with Chad to deliver some spears and an avalanche. At the end of the series of quick tags, Chad is the legal man, and the former Olympian locks in a submission.
Dominik fights out, but Chad delivers a succession of belly-to-belly suplexes. However, when he goes for another Tiger Suplex, Dominik lands on his feet, delivers a Stun Gun, and tags in his dad, who goes ballistic on Chad with headscissors and a Code Blue. Chad goes for a spear in the corner, but Rey moves out of the way and delivers a hurricanrana for 2. Rey tags in his son and sends Chad to the outside, and Dominik delivers a sunset flip powerbomb into the barricade. They bring him back in and Dominik tags in Rey, sets Chad up for the 619, and goes outside to toss Otis over the announce table. Rey delivers the 619 and climbs the ropes to deliver the Frog Splash to get the win.
Winners via pinfall: The Mysterios
Match Rating: 4/5
Daniel Bryan and Cesaro go to the ring and wait for Roman Reigns to come deliver his answer. Roman doesn’t show, and Cesaro reminds him that they can also just go backstage and get an answer. Roman finally comes out. He gets right in Cesaro’s face, telling him he hasn’t earned a shot at the Universal Championship, and he never will, because Cesaro isn’t on his level. Roman instead says that Daniel Bryan will get a title shot next week on SmackDown. Cesaro tells him that he has to take it, but Roman adds a stipulation: that if Bryan loses, he has to leave SmackDown. Bryan accepts the challenge.
SmackDown April 23
This was one of the best SmackDowns in recent history. The matches were fast paced and exciting, Aleister Black is back, and frankly, it wasn’t until the match was over that I realized Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Jey Uso carried the first 40 minutes of the show. Just a great display of talent all around. As usual, I’d love to see more women’s division content, but at least the women’s segments and match (singular) in this show were part of a grander story, and not just throwaway stuff.