Ohio State University (or the Ohio State University, as some call it) has seen plenty of great athletes come and go, so it should’ve been thrilled to host this week’s episode of SmackDown.
With Backlash drawing closer, WWE used the Friday night broadcast to pad out that show’s card. Additionally, fans saw a pair of championship matches and a no-disqualification main event between Matt Riddle and Solo Sikoa.
Judging by the 7.00 rating on Cagematch, most fans enjoyed this episode. Knowing that, let’s look at what worked.
What went right on the April 21 episode of SmackDown?
GUNTHER retains the Intercontinental Championship over Xavier Woods
Another week, another impressive Intercontinental Championship defense for GUNTHER. It has almost become boring writing the same compliments about what he’s done for this belt (though it hasn’t been boring to watch). In these matches, “The Ring General” has proven that quality bouts against qualified opponents are the easiest way to maintain/restore a title’s prestige.
GUNTHER’s latest outing against The New Day’s Xavier Woods told a simple story — brute force vs. speed — and showed us why we need to see Woods showcased in more matches like this. Even though everyone knew GUNTHER would win, Woods got a few convincing nearfalls in and matched the champion’s physicality.
We likely won’t know what’s next for GUNTHER until after the draft, but fans will accept whatever path WWE takes with him as long as the good matches continue to happen.
Zelina Vega asks for a SmackDown Women’s Championship match
The SmackDown Women’s ranks are in a holding pattern. Despite Rhea Ripley’s unquestioned status as the top dog in the division, Charlotte Flair’s absence has left her without a credible challenger for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
WWE somewhat solved this problem on this week’s SmackDown when Zelina Vega requested a title match against Ripley at Backlash. Now, WWE has done nothing to build Vega up as a potential contender — when was the last time Vega wrestled in a singles match, let alone won one — but she made a convincing sales pitch to Adam Pearce that established her as an underdog that the fans can rally behind, particularly the ones in Puerto Rico.
Hopefully, WWE will give Vega some wins before Backlash to give her some semblance of legitimacy and put over her signature moves.