ONE week after the “superstar shake-up” and the landscape of SmackDown LIVE looks very different.
And the blue brand looked to shake things up even further last night by naming number one contenders for all its top singles titles.
It could mean huge things for SmackDown’s all-new superstars – not to mention Backlash, its next pay-per-view spectacular on May 21.
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Here are seven important things we learned from last night’s SmackDown LIVE.
The Queen reigns supreme
Naomi has been a surprise success of SmackDown, but within minutes of Charlotte Flair’s opening promo it was obvious that Naomi is out of her depth next to Charlotte.
Still, Naomi gave it a good shot – interrupting and attacking Charlotte in an exciting segment.
It set up a non-title match later, which Charlotte dominated and won to earn a shot at Naomi’s gold next week.
The other women looked on the jealousy, knowing full well that The Queen about to rule over them.
The new number one contender is… er, Jinder Mahal?
There’s something no one ever thought they’d read.
But Jinder proved that SmackDown really is the “Land of Opportunity”, going from glorified jobber to title contender in just one week.
He won a six-pack challenge over Sami Zayn, Mojo Rawley, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan to earn the shot.
(With a little help from 205 Live’s Bollywood Boyz – presumably part of a new Indian-themed faction).
Jinder cut a weird promo afterwards, claiming fans didn’t like him because of his heritage, family wealth, and higher education.
WWE is essentially having another crack at the Tiger Ali Singh gimmick.
Twenty years is long enough for everyone to forget, right?
There’s still no clue about what a House of Horrors match is
WWE Champion Randy Orton came out to confront Jinder, saying that all he earned himself was an RKO in their match at the Backlash pay-per-view.
(That’s the one after Payback – any confusion is proof that WWE is juggling too many PPVs.)
But Bray Wyatt appeared on the screen to remind Orton he’s got the House of Horrors match to worry about first, still without any indication of what the match actually entails.
The one thing we do know though – with the Universal Championship already on Raw and Randy Orton’s next challenger lined up – Bray has zero chance of winning the WWE Championship.
PAPE: ‘DON’T PREACH’
Gerard Pique hits out at Cristiano Ronaldo’s offside goal against Bayern – and PAPE SOUARE bizarrely fires back with Chelsea pics
Klopp loves Hart
Joe Hart set for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp signs off £20million swoop for Man City keeper
Roman Reigns brother and former WWE tag-team champion Matthew ‘Rosey’ Anoa’i dead at 47
Eye on the ball
Brazilian footballers have a tough time concentrating as stunning lineswoman officiates in distracting kit that includes a wet T-shirt
Conor McGregor’s Aintree hotel suite left trashed and littered with nitrous oxide canisters after five days of wild partying
Eden to Real
Chelsea star Eden Hazard ‘agrees deal to join Real Madrid with Alvaro Morata moving the other way’
Jurgen Klopp risks wrath of Liverpool fans… by backing bitter rivals Manchester United to win Europa League
Chelsea’s poor performance against Manchester United on Easter Sunday blamed on mystery illness
Man United become first club to appoint a counter-terrorism expert over fears of an attack
A PARTING GIFT?
Alexis Sanchez reveals emotional reason he celebrated so much after Arsenal’s win over Middlesbrough
Injury curse strikes again
Jack Wilshere could miss the start of next season after scans reveal he has broken his leg
‘I love him’
Barcelona star Neymar reveals his three favourite strikers in the world, and Man City fans will be delighted
bye bye captain?
Ashley Young hints at Manchester United exit despite captaining side to 2-0 victory over Chelsea
Uefa’s Spain game
Twitter reacts as Uefa ‘helps’ Real Madrid overcome Bayern Munich in Champions League tie
100 AND WON
Real Madrid 4 Bayern 2 (AET, agg 6-3): Cristiano Ronaldo hits hat-trick on way to 100 Champions League goals to see Real through
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard wants Antoine Griezmann ‘as far away from Manchester as possible’
IPL 2017: Indian Premier League schedule, results and fixtures from the 10th edition of the T20 tournament
PREM STARS’ JAIL THREAT
Ex-Prem pair Michael Essien and Carlton Cole could be jailed for breaking Indonesian migrant law
WORST BAR NONE
They may be two of Prem’s hottest properties right now, but Zlatan and Alexis Sanchez are high up in our list of Barca’s WORST-ever signings
Sami Zayn is already on a losing streak
Just one week after joining, poor Sami is already 0-2 in number one contender’s matches.
Ask any fan and they’ll tell you the “Underdog from the Underground” could be the next Daniel Bryan – not to mention the fact he’s one hell of a wrestler.
But how many times can he lose before fans stop caring?
You could ask the same question about American Alpha, who lost once again this week – pinned by longtime jobber team Primo and Epico.
KO is now an anti-American US Champion
Canadian Kevin Owens – who weirdly feels like the more important champion of SmackDown than Randy Orton – has started calling himself the “Face of America”.
Reminiscent of the Hart Foundation’s anti-American run, it feels like another gimmick revived after 20 years.
It’s cheap heat but KO has the intensity and comic sensibility to make it work.
“Lazy citizens of America, put the hotdogs down, shut up, and listen to me,” he said, after annihilating local jobber Gary Gandy.
And AJ Styles is still on a collision course with KO
Last week Styles became number one contender for the Owens’ US Championship – then last night put that shot up for grabs against Baron Corbin.
It was a decent match-up, spilling to the outside and getting in the face of guest commentator Owens (quite literally when Bazza tossed Styles into KO).
Styles won via count out, which means that once Owens defeats Jericho at Payback – a foregone conclusion at this stage – we’re on track for a dynamite Owens versus Styles feud.
There’s serious talent waiting in the wings
Overall, it was a great episode of SmackDown – solid action, new stars being built, and storylines moving forward.
And that’s without Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger, who only appeared in promo packages this week – a smart play to build intrigue and keep their superstar shine.
In terms of exciting talent and up-and-coming star potential, the WWE roster – especially on SmackDown – hasn’t looked this good since the Attitude Era.
Watch Payback on the WWE Network April 30