1. The Face of SmackDown
His voice dripping with disdain, Kevin Owens introduced himself on Tuesday’s SmackDown before bashing his foe with right hands. The United States champ told the audience to put their hot dogs down and shut up, then proclaimed to be the face of America.
This is the Kevin Owens that WWE has long needed to give its fans.
In just two weeks in his new home on SmackDown, KO has marched toward the ideal version of himself. He has been the blue brand’s best heel, a compelling braggart and calculating bully. The move to SmackDown has him poised to reach his full potential.
Despite being the universal champion on Raw, that wasn’t the case on that show.
The previous incarnation of Owens’ character was more of a wisecracker. He was a slippery coward who fell to Goldberg in mere seconds. The writers handled The Prizefighter clumsily.
So far, SmackDown has seen him grow more aggressive and vindictive as he’s morphed into an America-hating villain in a suit and tie. And Owens looks refreshed as a result.
Jason Namako of Wrestle View noted that it may be the best example of a gimmick adjustment this year:
Jason Namako @Jason_Namako
Clean-shaven, New Face of America Kevin Owens might be the best tweak to a character in 2017. #SDLive
4/19/2017, 1:34:32 AM
That character change and the move to SmackDown will lead to big dividends for Owens. As we saw with The Miz in recent months, the blue brand is happy to spotlight its midcard champ, putting them in the main event and providing them with high-quality stories.
Right out of the gate, Owens is on a collision course with the best in-ring performer on the roster today in AJ Styles.
And SmackDown has positioned him as a marquee star, even over the WWE champ. Last Tuesday’s main event saw Styles, Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn battle for the right to face Owens. The latest episode’s final match featured Styles and Corbin go at it while Owens observed from the announce desk.
Canadian insight is coming to the commentary table for #SDLive’s main event courtesy of @FightOwensFight! https://t.co/xmupgQxXR2
4/19/2017, 1:37:50 AM
This prominence is bound to continue as the Styles-Owens feud increases his temperature and as KO gains momentum with his “face of America” act.
The U.S. champ is poised to take over The Miz’s spot as the heart and soul of Talking Smack, too.
His first appearance on the post-SmackDown show spoke to that. Owens’ presence radiated on the screen. He thrived in the looser environment, wielding his verbal skills like a saber.
As Sean Rueter of Cageside Seats pointed out, Owens added to Talking Smack right away:
It’s clear Owens will be a major part of SmackDown. After never getting the chance to shift into a high gear on Raw, KO is set to barrel down the road for the blue brand.
2. Mahal’s Resume
Jinder Mahal is the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship. What a surreal sentence to write.
The longtime midcarder won a Six-Pack Challenge on Tuesday’s SmackDown to earn a world title match at Backlash on May 21.
It’s such a surprising move because of Mahal’s lack of previous success. He’s been treated like fish food until very recently.
Per CageMatch.net, Mahal is 0-6 in pay-per-view bouts in his entire career. His Backlash bout will be only his second one-on-one PPV match and his first PPV contest for a championship of any kind.
He currently owns a .333 winning percentage.
None of that screams contender. WWE, though, is looking rewrite Mahal’s story in a hurry.
3. Throwback Video of the Week: Matt Anoa’i
In heartbreaking news, Matt Anoa’i, better known as Rosey, died at only 47 years old, as WWE.com announced.
Roman Reigns’ older brother and the son of Hall of Famer Sika, Matt was a successful wrestler himself. As Rosey, he and The Hurricane captured the WWE tag team titles. He also won gold in Japan and Puerto Rico.
Before he donned a superhero costume for WWE, he was a wrecking ball battling alongside his cousin, the late Umaga. The two steamrolled over their flashy opponents at a World Xtreme Wrestling event in 2002:
It’s hard to watch those two powerhouses with so much promise knowing that both of them died young.
Condolences to the Anoa’i family. They’ve dealt with more than their share of loss.
4. New Crop of Monsters
Dylan Miley’s emergence on last week’s NXT made it clear—the next generation of talent won’t be lacking in monsters.
The intimidating behemoth looked to be an endangered species recently. Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane were all on their way out with no obvious heirs to their thrones.
WWE, though, has continued to find big men to fill that role.
Braun Strowman is currently tearing it up on Raw. NXT recently added Killian Dain from Northern Ireland. NXT tag team champs The Authors of Pain are raw but improving. And now the developmental brand boasts the 284-pound Miley.
He showed in his NXT debut that he’s not only an imposing figure, but he has the kind of footwork required to thrive in the squared circle.
The tradition of massive men roaming WWE rings is clearly far from dead. Not all of those leviathans may pan out, but the company has clearly worked to restock its cabinet of monstrosities.
5. Everybody Wants the Gold
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson aren’t the only ones after The Hardys’ Raw tag team championship. Anderson posted a photo of his five-year-old kid trying to grab the prize for himself:
Karl Anderson @KarlAndersonWWE
My 5 year old trying to steal the tag title back from @MATTHARDYBRAND ..
“I’ll get it Daddy since you couldn’t reach it on the ladder” https://t.co/kSBHmERT6Z
4/17/2017, 5:24:37 PM
Little Anderson didn’t succeed in his theft attempt, but he at least got closer to the title than The Golden Truth will.
6. A Spear Out of Nowhere
The Easter Bunny nailed “Teddy Roosevelt” with a pro wrestling move at a recent baseball game. The Washington Nationals Twitter account shared video of the collision of mascots:
Washington Nationals @Nationals
BAH GAWD HE’S BROKEN IN HALF! https://t.co/MVgQzfkvbT
4/16/2017, 7:09:06 PM
The rabbit has decent form. He’s not quite on Goldberg’s level, but it sure beats Bo Dallas’ version of the spear.
7. How Fast Things Change
It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Daniel Bryan’s last match. Concussions have pushed the former WWE champ out of the ring since.
Bryan acknowledged the somber milestone on Twitter:
Daniel Bryan @WWEDanielBryan
The the two year anniversary of my last @WWE match makes me sad but I couldn’t be happier it was with @JohnCena, @WWECesaro and @TJWilson! https://t.co/AXfR0ICFsj
4/14/2017, 8:17:07 PM
Looking back at the lineup for that edition of SmackDown, as seen on the Internet Wrestling Database, is proof of how much the roster turns over.
Tyson Kidd, who teamed with Bryan in that swan song, is now inactive after suffering a scary spinal injury in 2015. WWE has since released Adam Rose, Cameron, El Torito and Bad News Barrett.
Two years from now, there’s a good chance that many Superstars from the current roster will be competing elsewhere. That’s just the nature of the WWE machine.
8. What You’re Missing on 205 Live
205 Live isn’t getting the love it deserves.
According to Dave Meltzer of Figure Four Online (h/t NoDQ.com), the cruiserweight show has struggled to bring in viewers. It isn’t doing well compared to the other WWE Network offerings.
Neville and the athletic dynamos chasing his championship, however, have produced many a thrilling match.
If you’re not watching 205 Live regularly, check out these clips some of the best it has had to offer so far:
205 Live hasn’t delivered in terms of storylines and moments, but it’s a go-to source for artistry in the ring. Not enough fans may realize that in time before WWE pulls the plug on the show.
9. Heels Needed
Shortly after storming onto the Raw, The Revival won’t be around. As first reported by Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet, Dash Wilder suffered a jaw injury and will be out until July possibly.
The smashmouth duo’s absence hurts. It leaves Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows as the only villains left in the Raw tag team division.
WWE has to either bring in another heel team or turn one of its babyface squads. Cesaro and Sheamus have teased a coming change. That’s one of the most logical moves on the table.
Raw’s tag team scene will still lack depth with The Revival gone and The New Day now on SmackDown, though. We may be in for a cycle of the same matches over and over.
10. Ranallo on Piper
Announcer Mauro Ranallo was once a young man with a head full of dreams. Hall of Famer Roddy Piper gave him a motivational push that he remembers to this day.
On April 17, which would have been Hot Rod’s 63rd birthday, Ranallo recalled that moment:
Mauro Ranallo @mauroranallo
Roddy Piper told a 16 year old kid to never stop chasing his dreams. I never did. Happy Birthday & thank you for everything! #RIP 😔🙏
4/18/2017, 2:38:46 AM
That’s a reminder that you never know what power your words might have on someone. Piper probably didn’t think twice about his encouragement, but Ranallo seemed to have held onto it like an amulet for years.