After a wild night of Monday Night Raw, SmackDown LIVE was live from Charlotte, North Carolina with plenty of hype going into the Kofi Kingston / Daniel Bryan contract signing. And while Raw included a big Roman Reigns return and a surprise Batista return, Smackdown LIVE had themselves a grand old time when it comes to something no one expected. Here’s the highlights:
The Hardy Boyz Return
Something that was known going into the show tonight was a matchup between The Bar’s Cesaro and recent NXT call-up, Johnny Gargano. Many fans celebrated the thought that these two in-ring technicians would be able to put on a show on SmackDown LIVE. However, as we cut back from commercial, The Bar was waiting in the ring and Jeff Hardy’s music hit, and with a surprise look on their face as did many fans, but it wasn’t just Jeff Hardy, but this marked the return of Matt Hardy to the WWE and a wrestling ring. It was even speculated that Matt could have been on his way out, as just days ago he said that there was just 11 days left. However, PWInsider would go to report after the show that there was a clause in both Matt and Jeff’s contract that they could extend them for a third year. While it wasn’t Johnny vs Cesaro, it was a cool sight to see The Hardy Boyz back together again when there had been a possibility just last year that Matt Hardy may have had to hang up the boots.
And what was even more delightful was that Matt was in the best shape of his life it seemed. The Hardy’s would hit plenty of their old maneuvers, from a Poetry in Motion over the top rope, to their patented Twist of Fate into the Swanton Bomb on Sheamus for the three count. It remains to be seen what the Hardy’s will be doing come WrestleMania time, but a possibly matchup between two of the best tag teams in WWE history between the Hardy Boyz and The Uso’s could be a fun one to watch. A big time welcome back to the “Woken One”, Matt Hardy.
R-Truth retains in the US Open Challenge
For the first time since winning the United States Championship weeks ago from Shinsuke Nakamura, R-Truth was on SmackDown LIVE, accompanied by co-Mixed Match Challenge winner, Carmella, to follow in his “heroes” footsteps, John Cena, and continue on the legacy that Cena created with the US Championship Open Challenge. However, the challenge would not only be answered by Andrade, but Andrade’s rival Rey Mysterio would also answer the call. R-Truth would go on to say he will take both of them, simply because that’s exactly what John Cena would do. So, it was made official, a triple threat for the United States Championship. And from the word go, this match was all action. Andrade and Rey Mysterio showed the continuous chemistry that they had shown for the past month or two, as it seemed every time one would get an edge in the match, the other would be there to foil it. Truth continued to keep coming back, making sure that he would be apart of the decision no matter the result. Towards the end of the match, Rey had set up Andrade for the 619 but Andrade was able to avoid, and connect with a vicious elbow to get a near fall. At the matches end, Rey would dial it up for the 619 one more time, but it would be both Andrade and Truth this time, and Rey finally connected, but only on Andrade, which allowed R-Truth to escape, roll up Rey, and retain his United States Championship. An enjoyable first defense for Truth as he hopefully can continue his entertaining run as champion.
SmackDown MVP: Kevin Owens
Again, SmackDown LIVE was built around Kofi Kingston and signing his contract to receive his first one-on-one WWE Championship opportunity in his 11-year career. The night started off as hot as possible for Kofi Kingston, as a video of his past accomplishes would be shown and the crowd roared his name through the arena as he made his way to the ring for the signing. And just as Kofi was about to sign his destiny, Vince McMahon’s music hit. With Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon already in the ring leading the contract signing, it was a shock on everyone’s face. Vince would say that he appreciates everything Kofi Kingston would give to the company for the past 11 years, but his job isn’t to allow underdog stories, but to put people in seats with the biggest box office matchups possible. The crowd and Kofi began to realize exactly what Vince was there to say, which would be Kofi Kingston was out of the Fastlane main event and someone would be replacing him. Who would replace him? The returning Kevin Owens. Owens would head straight to the ring, completely ignore Kofi and The New Day, in which you could see pure sadness on their faces and would sign the contract making the WWE Fastlane WWE Championship official.
Owens would go to Stephanie and Shane after this to request that he and Kofi team up, despite him taking his spot, to take on Daniel Bryan and Rowan later in the night. And while they would agree, it is hard to imagine if anyone thought this would go well for Kofi in the end, knowing Owens’ ways in the past. As they got to the match, Kofi Kingston was still getting the loudest reactions of the night, but his attitude was changed, he didn’t have The New Day follow, he didn’t have a smile on his face, but he was there to compete. As the match got started, there was still plenty of tension between the now former contender and the new one, with harsh tags on each other. As the match continued on, Owens would show why “The Kevin Owens Show” was something that many fans needed back in their lives. Towards the end of the match, Kofi and Owens would work better and better together. Owens would hit a sit-down pop-up powerbomb, and the entire crowd expected the three fall, but instead Bryan kicked out at two. As the match came to a close, Kofi would head to the top to take out Rowan on the outside with the trust fall, leaving Owens and Bryan in the ring for the end. Bryan would have Owens set up for the knee, where Owens managed to avoid, connecting with Daniel with the Stunner of all moves to get the victory. It was a sight to not only see Kevin Owens back and wrestling, but Kevin Owens winning with a stunner. As tension would remain, the new and old contender for the WWE Championship ended the night with their hand raised high.
While it is fair to say that this week of WWE television was the best in a long while, it brought plenty of change, surprises, and even disappointment on SmackDown LIVE when Kofi was removed. As the story continues to unfold, next week should bring plenty of more answers for what to see at Fastlane and even WrestleMania.