WWE SmackDown Recap: Bucking trends with entertaining go-home to Money in the Bank

The Usos, Breezango and The New Day opened up SmackDown with an entertaining exchange and followed it with a lengthy (but entertaining) 8-man tag team match. Provided by WWE (@WWE)

When The New Day made their spirited entrance into New Orleans' Smoothie King Center with a high-octane jazz band, little did we know that this wasn't just about getting an already rowdy crowd even more riled up for this trio, but a precursor for the rest of the night.

By now, we know that these dreaded "go-home" shows can be a painful waste with predictable melees and an all-around lack of advancement in any of the storylines. But Tuesday night on SmackDown Live was different. It we didn't know one of the most popular and exciting pay-per-views of the year, Money in the Bank, was only days away, we would have looked at it in a vacuum as an energetic, tight, action-packed show.

Now, of course, the first thing we'll tell you is that the New Day and Breezango teamed up to take on (and beat) The Usos and The Colons, and that match lasted just short of 30 minutes. So yes, perhaps the "tight" characterization is a bit of a stretch, but c'mon, this was the New Day teaming with Breezango. How fun is that?

From start to finish, SmackDown delivered a collective performance that should have Monday night's creative team wondering how Tuesday night almost always seems to intrigue us with something new, even as the star power occasionally feels like it's lacking by comparison.

The majority of SmackDown's star power was concentrated into the main event in an intense six-man tag team to close out the show. Sami Zayn continued to impress -- early with old rival Kevin Owens, and later against Baron Corbin, whom Zayn nearly decapitated with a clothesline that echoed throughout the arena and finished off with a Helluva Kick for the win.

Afterward, the chaos between all the competitors, while not a new stunt just days before a pay-per-view, sowed serious doubt as to who is actually is going to win the coveted briefcase and a free shot at the WWE championship. The show went off the air with Shinsuke Nakamura holding the briefcase aloft at the top of the ladder.

A few weeks ago, when the participants were announced, we made the argument that Corbin was the favorite because, well, his time should be coming up any time now.

Is that still the case? Things haven't gone exactly swimmingly for the Lone Wolf, given he can't pick up a W to save his life against the much smaller Zayn. Does that matter? Momentum and history mean very little, if anything, and a few losses can eventually be revealed as subterfuge. Look no further than current champ Jinder Mahal if you disagree.

But as the weeks have gone on, it's become clear there's just something a bit too blasé about Corbin, something lacking in his charisma that makes us wonder if his carrying that carrot back and forth to the ring for weeks or months before making a splash and cashing in the briefcase would be anticlimactic.

Which brings us to AJ Styles. While he's still a popular figure on SmackDown, his overall value to the brand has diminished, if only glacially, since he lost the WWE championship to John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Styles' character has gone through a tacit change in approach for some time, as he's now a babyface. But there wasn't a "wow" moment as his presentation changed. Styles has showed up week after week doing his thing, but without a clear, concise narrative.

SmackDown needs to avoid a situation in which Styles goes down a similar path to Seth Rollins' on Raw. On multiple occasions since coming back from a knee injury, Rollins had an opportunity for a major character change, but the creative team failed to capitalize on it, instead opting for him to slowly morph into a less-edgy character who ultimately doesn't have the same sense of appeal, good or bad. Yes, he was once the No. 1 draft pick in the 2016 brand split, and yes, he is still very much part of the upper-echelon matrix, but Rollins is no longer the go-to guy on Raw, and hasn't been for quite a while.

Styles' lack of a streamlined storyline has a similar feel, but granting him a win at Money in the Bank would at least allow him to be part of the championship conversation, even if he's not in the direct mix for some time. Let Mahal duke it out with Randy Orton, or Cena thereafter. Let Mahal get his shot to hold the belt and build himself as a top player -- but also allow Styles every opportunity to hang on to his status as SmackDown's top attraction, not just because of his pedigree, but because of what he can do for the brand moving forward.

That briefcase is a good start.

Hits and misses

-- Speaking of Mahal, this was by far his best performance since becoming champ. He spent less time lambasting the crowd because they don't understand him, and instead focused on his Monday in the Bank foe Orton. Mahal's mic work was superb and believable. More so, the vocal, visceral reaction from the New Orleans crowd suggested they're fully on board with hating the modern-day Maharaja. His trash-talking promo only made Orton's RKO on Mahal that much more explosive. For the first time since Backlash, I'm looking forward to more Mahal-Orton.

-- This narrative is nothing new, but more than anything Sunday night, the women's division is in need of a major swerve at MITB. The disparity between the two factions, Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Becky Lynch on one side, and the members of the Welcoming Committee on the other, is becoming greater by the week. Booking Natalya and Tamina Snuka to lose Tuesday in separate matches eliminated any momentum they had built up, and placed less credence into the idea that SmackDown has a deep women's field. Even if Natalya or Snuka won the briefcase, would we really believe in them?

Flair and her recent teammates would be better off feuding with each other. But more so, there needs to be inherent contempt between at least two of them if SmackDown has any plans to help us get re-engaged with this division.

-- Did anything look more incongruous Tuesday night than Kevin Owens the peacemaker? In a backstage segment, he tried to reason with Corbin and Dolph Ziggler to work together as allies. His reasoning was understandable, and ultimately he had an agenda -- that if they could find a way to beat the stuffing out of Styles, Zayn and Nakamura, then they would have a much better chance battling it out amongst the three of them. But still -- Owens, the diplomat?

-- It looks like Mojo Rawley might have the very ingredient to get his, well, mojo back. His tag team partner, Zack Ryder, appeared on television for the first time since mid-December. If Rawley and Ryder can leverage their return in the coming weeks, SmackDown is going to have a ridiculously strong tag-team depth that can keep multiple intriguing feuds going at once. Maybe American Alpha can get in on the action?

-- The Fashion Files' "Sweet Victory" was more must-see TV. Even if the spoof ended right after Fandango flexed his own pecs, saying, "I can't wait to show them off to my man Breezy," it would have been a great segment. But in a nearby room, a beaten-down Breeze's description of who the culprits were who laid him out and left him slumped against a fallen table was plain silly fun: monsters with greasy hair and dry skin, and one arm, he said. No, two arms! His portrayal was spot on; look no further than the sketch of stick figures Fandango drew as proof.

Move of the night

Move over, Rusev. Lana might be the new top Russian/Easter European in the biz. Who knew she had this in her repertoire?!?!