If WrestleMania is the most anticipated moment of the year, then the fallout from the Super Bowl of wrestling might take second place.
This year's day-after-Mania Monday Night Raw starting particularly explosively with an anthem of taunting toward Roman Reigns, who stood silently and reveled in the reaction. From there, The Hardy Boyz and Finn Balor returned, Kurt Angle was named as the new general manager and owner/chairman Vince McMahon made his way to the ring to announce some major shakeups are coming next week.
With that, SmackDown Live had a lot to live up to.
Which brings us to the violinist standing on the stage. Enter Shinsuke Nakamura, the uber-popular two-time NXT star, who danced and strutted his way to the ring with "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals blaring in the background amid a rousing ovation.
— WWE (@WWE) April 5, 2017
After falling to Bobby Roode at NXT Takeover: Orlando, there was a consensus Nakamura would be making the leap to one of the two shows this week.
It was a high-energy debut that will augment the SmackDown brand, which was in need of a big splash. In recent weeks, the show's top storylines had begun to fizzle.
Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton (which we'll get to soon) were recycling the same demonic jabs toward each other, while their title bout at WrestleMania failed to meet the anticipation of Raw's championship match. Worse, the actual contest between Orton and Wyatt was a fruitless, head-scratching payoff.
John Cena's latest run in the WWE is also nearing its end, and Dean Ambrose had become the most forgotten champ in the company. Of course, the direction of the show could change drastically after next week's roster shakeup.
There was no confrontation between Nakamura and The Miz, but the way that things unfolded appeared to be an indication that these two stars will begin a feud with each other. Hard to imagine a smarter decision, especially for The Miz. This keeps him in the main-card spotlight.
No matter what the immediate plans are for Nakamura, who is a global brand unto himself, he's coming to the assist of SmackDown (assuming he's on the roster past next week) at a perfect time.
The Orton-Wyatt beef goes on
We haven't seen the end of the Orton-Wyatt fracas. And, if we're being honest, that's too bad.
Their WrestleMania match was a massive disappointment after a seven-month buildup with satanic storylines that challenged both competitors to dig even deeper into their dark sides.
The weird special effects, which three times interrupted their Mania match, had little to do with the bout itself. It ended with Orton winning the title, but more disconcerting was that it seemed most fans were just relieved to see the feud end.
But we're not done yet. Orton opened Tuesday night's show by walking down the aisle, belt in tow, to a loud chorus of jeers. The reaction was a telling 180, as almost all discerning fans believed Wyatt deserved to not only hang on to the title, which he'd won only a few weeks ago, but get his WrestleMania moment.
Another heavyweight title reign does little for Orton, who now has 13 of them, fourth all-time. The crowd recognized this, and there was a very real Roman Reigns-like moment when Orton's music hit.
Still, whatever the reaction, we couldn't help but roll our eyes when Orton and Wyatt (who appeared on the giant screen a few minutes into Orton speaking Tuesday) began their psychological warfare.
Ultimately, Wyatt challenged Orton to a "House of horrors match" to which Orton responded, "I don't know what that is, but I accept."
We'll find out more in the coming weeks, but we can only hope this match compensates for the low payoff of WrestleMania.
But wait! There's a twist
As the Orton-Wyatt segment appeared to be ending, the lights went out in the arena, and yes, Wyatt, who was on the big screen, magically appeared in the ring, and he brought a newly forgotten family member to his aid.
Surprise, surprise. Erick Rowan, who missed close to seven months with a shoulder injury, returned to help Wyatt rough up Orton. Luke Harper ran to the ring to assist Orton, setting up a tag-team match that would later close the show.
The bout had some solid spots, making up for the forgettable rhetoric early in the night. Rowan began the match with a sweet reverse roundhouse on Orton. Later, Harper nailed Rowan with a suicide dive that sent the returning star into the announcers' table.
After some more action-packed moves by all participants, Wyatt's music hit, and the lights went dark. Again, the interlude did little; as soon as the lights turned back on, Orton caught Rowan with an RKO for the pin.
Perhaps moving forward, we'll see a Harper-Rowan feud commence. Both big men showed they have enough in-ring agility to make a potential clash more than a street brawl.
A perfect start for the Perfect 10
Tye Dillinger joined an all-star cast of NXT call-ups as The Perfect 10 immediately answered an open challenge from Curt Hawkins.
Dillinger had been expected to make his singles debut after participating in the Royal Rumble in January. The match didn't last long; Dillinger dominated his opponent, finishing Hawkins off with a Tye-breaker and the pin.
Dillinger won't get the immediate push of Nakamura, but the veteran of NXT will be a solid mid-to-upper card addition to a roster that needs a few more high-end fan favorites. Dillinger could have engaging and energetic feuds with the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Kalisto and eventually The Miz.
Of course, that's pending next week's shakeup.
Hits & misses
Nice to see Naomi back at full strength. Not only does she have one of the top entrances in the business, but she is a high-energy personality and solid in-ring performer. Naomi defended the women's title she won two days earlier with some entertaining spots and compelling storytelling against Alexa Bliss. Bliss worked over Naomi's knee early, but the champ successfully defended her title with a Rear View before forcing Bliss to tap. Naomi deserves an extended run at the top, not only because she's worthy, but to instill some stability back atop the SmackDown women's division.
Enjoyed the backstage interview with Mojo Rawley, who showed deference to his battle royal win at WrestleMania in a strange way to Andre the Giant. The ladies loved Andre, and the Giant would have been killer on the dance floor, according to Mojo. OK then. While neither was likely, Mojo appeared genuinely thrilled with his moment on the big stage. He's no Ultimate Warrior, but Mojo can turn up intensity like no one else in the WWE.
Like Wyatt and Orton, WrestleMania did little to end the Dean Ambrose-Corbin beef. But on SmackDown, they engaged in a street fight littered with tables, chairs and leather straps that was far better executed than their pre-show brawl at World Camping Stadium two days earlier. Each took turns brutally attacking the other, including a tremendous Ambrose elbow drop from the top rope that put Corbin through a table outside the ring. Corbin, though, ended the non-title match with an End of Days. No doubt that this was the top match of the night.
Nice sign of respect from AJ Styles toward Shane McMahon. With the commissioner addressing the upcoming brand shakeup, Styles' music hit and he came down to plead his case that he does not want to leave SmackDown Live -- that he built this show into what it is today. (Which means that Styles is probably headed to Raw.) Styles then shook McMahon's hand in recognition of their incredible fight at WrestleMania.
Can the Miz and Maryse continue to mock Cena and Bella, even if the latter two are taking a hiatus? Please?