After a surprisingly solid edition of Raw this past Monday night, WWE hit some uneven notes for SmackDown on Friday night before hitting the mark with a pair of excellent matches to close out the show. In the main event from the empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Big E scored a big win over The Miz and Jey Uso in a triple threat match to capture the SmackDown tag team championship, making New Day now eight-time tag team champions in WWE.
The surprise ending to the show came on the heels of another excellent bit of televised wrestling with Daniel Bryan outlasting a game Cesaro in a qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match. News regarding this year's Money in the Bank may be the other big note coming out of the show, with WWE announcing that this year would be a battle to "climb the corporate ladder." This year's ladder matches will being on the ground floor of WWE's corporate headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, with the Money in the Bank briefcase suspended above the roof of the building.
In the other match to determine a Money in the Bank qualifier, Dana Brooke scored an upset victory over Naomi to claim her spot at the pay-per-view event set to take place on Sunday, May 10.
Let's take a look at everything that went down on WWE SmackDown this week.
WWE SmackDown recap, grades
Women's tag champs Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross opened the show hosting Braun Strowman on A "Moment of Bliss," and it was immediately confirmed that Strowman will defend the universal championship against Bray Wyatt at Money in the Bank. Strowman said he knows Wyatt better than anybody, but his time in the Wyatt Family is something he's trying to forget. "I know Bray Wyatt," Strowman said. "I know how he thinks and I know how he works. He is a manipulator. ... I'm not playing those games." A present then appeared in the ring, which Strowman, in an unconvincing bit of acting, assumed was a gift from Bliss, calling back to Team Little Big. Instead, the present was a black sheep's mask, a different callback again to Strowman's time in the Wyatt Family. The stiff, poorly-executed segment ended with Wyatt's echoing laughter. Grade: C-
Tamina def. Sasha Banks via pinfall after a superkick. Banks, accompanied by Bayley, attempted to give Tamina a size small t-shirt before the match, which Tamina loudly rejected because she wears an extra large. Bayley would later throw the same shirt at Tamina as a distraction, and that brought Lacey Evans out to take out Bayley at ringside to even the odds. This all allowed Tamina to get Banks alone in the ring, hitting the superkick and scoring the win to earn a future shot at Bayley's SmackDown women's championship. Grade: C
Sheamus def. Denzel Dejournette via pinfall after a Brogue Kick. Your standard squash match got Sheamus back on TV as he took out the NXT upstart with a series of elbows to the head, knees to the face before the Brogue Kick. After the match, Sheamus took exception with Michael Cole trying to throw to a video package about Jeff Hardy after his win for the second week in a row. Grade: C+
It was announced that this year's Money in the Bank ladder matches are "climb the corporate ladder" matches, with the bouts taking place at WWE corporate headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. The matches will start on the ground floor, with the coveted briefcases being placed on the rooftop.
Dana Brooke def. Naomi via pinfall with a sunset flip in a Money in the Bank qualifying match. Brooke pulled off the big upset after surviving a Rear View from Naomi. After Naomi missed a split-legged moonsault, Brooke was able to hit a sunset flip to score the win and qualify for Money in the Bank. It wasn't a great match, but Brooke getting the win was a bit of a stunner on the road to one of the biggest matches of the year. Grade: C
Sonya Deville came to the ring to beg Mandy Rose to talk to her. Rose answered, coming to the ring as Deville begged her to let her say what she has been trying to say for weeks. Deville then called Rose the most selfish person she had ever met and that she believed Rose was ready to ditch Deville the second she got interested in Otis. Deville said she's tired of being in Rose's shadow before telling her she has no talent and said the real champion of Fire & Desire was her, an actual fighter. Before the two could throw down, Dolph Ziggler interrupted and told Rose he made a huge mistake and wanted to fix everything. Ziggler told Rose to look him in the eye and say she doesn't feel anything for him. As Rose said not to touch her, Deville blindsided her with a right hand, drawing out Otis to help Rose clear house. Ziggler tried to attack Otis from behind but was taken down and hit with a Caterpillar elbow. Deville showed off some really great mic work in the segment, helping lift it up beyond a standard bit of melodrama. Grade: B
A video package aired honoring legendary announcer Howard Finkel, who died this week at the age of 69.
Daniel Bryan def. Cesaro via submission with the Lebell Lock in a Money in the Bank qualifying match. Shortly after the match started, the feed was interrupted by the hooded figure who has plagued recent editions of SmackDown with hacks. As videos of tag teams flashed on the screen, he hinted that some keep their friends close while others keep their enemies closer. Bryan focused his attack on Cesaro's arm, landing strikes and armbars repeatedly through the match in an attempt to negate the power game of Cesaro. In a nice touch, Cesaro switched the arm with which he threw his European uppercuts, but an attempt to catch a Bryan moonsault allowed Bryan to slap on the Lebell Lock. Drew Gulak cut off a Shinsuke Nakamura interference attempt, allowing Bryan to get the tap to end an extremely good television match. Grade: B+
King Corbin attacked Elias as the latter was making his way to the ring for a "special musical performance." Corbin called Elias a nobody while attacking him in a storage area of the building, eventually smashing Elias' arm between two crates. Corbin continued to attack Elias' arm before beating him with his scepter. Corbin finished by telling Elias he is the king, not a joke and hitting him one final time with Elias' guitar.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- Big E def. Jey Uso and The Miz (c) via pinfall to win the titles after hitting Miz with the Big Ending. Big E cleared off the announce table early in the match but ended up getting put through it by an Uso and Miz double team for his troubles. Uso kicked out of a Skull-Crushing Finale for the first convincing near fall of the match, but was quickly placed in a figure-four by Miz. Big E picked Miz up from the hold and hit the Big Ending to score the win and capture the championship. They cut to separate feeds of Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods celebrating the victory in their homes. The New Day are now eight-time tag team champions, one title reign away from catching up to the WWE record held by the Dudley Boyz. On top of the surprising title change, this was a good, fast-paced television main event. Grade: B+