Jinder Mahal becomes the No. 1 contender on SmackDown

Jinder Mahal became the No. 1 contender with a victory on SmackDown Live Courtesy @WWE

When Monday Night Raw concluded, we were left with the incredible image of Braun Strowman suplexing the Big Show off the top rope with so much force that the ring collapsed. The Big Show was out, the ref went flying onto the floor and the fans had lost their collective mind.

This amazing scene came on the heels of a much-anticipated roster shakeup a week earlier that left us with new, exciting feuds and fresh storylines. The post-WrestleMania momentum showed no signs of letting up.

Until Tuesday night on SmackDown Live.

Jinder Mahal was the star of the night, and that alone should tell us everything we need to know. There's little doubt that Mahal, who won a six-pack challenge to become the No. 1 contender for Randy Orton's WWE championship, has the look to one day become a main-event star, but his booking has suggested little other than glorified jobber.

In recent weeks, Mahal has been smoked by Mojo Rawley, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns and Cesaro. If it weren't for Curtis Axel, Mahal would be winless in televised singles performances this year. But here he is, with an instant about-face and in line for a shot at the top title on SmackDown Live.

The match itself Tuesday was high-energy and featured entertaining spots. Each participant -- Mahal, Sami Zayn, Dolph Zigger, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and Rawley -- had opportunity to shine. Ziggler led loose a few nasty superkicks to Zayn and Harper, respectively, while Rowan's power was on full display, including a moment in which he tossed Ziggler over the top rope, taking out the rest of the competition.

During the match, Harper successfully converted consecutive headfirst running dives through the ropes, only to be caught by a Ziggler foot moments later. As for Rawley, aside from a superplex early and a nasty right hand to the head of Ziggler, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner was mostly quiet.

The bout belonged to Mahal, who had some assistance. After Zayn hit Rawley with an Arabian Press Moonsault, the former Raw star was held in the corner by the sudden emergence of the Bollywood Boyz, giving Mahal an opening to land a full-nelson slam and the pin.

So this is what we have: Once Orton and Bray Wyatt end their running feud in a couple of weeks, it looks like the Viper will begin a new storyline with Mahal, who, aside from holding a tag-team title in an independent circuit three years ago, is relatively green in this business.

The truth is that SmackDown lacks a robust field of star-studded names, and their two most recognizable performers, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens, look to be on their way to an expended fiasco with each other.

Mahal is only 30 years old and has a physique that could land him on the cover of any bodybuilding magazine. Whether this is just a temporary build or the beginning of a push to make him a staple in meaningful matches is to be determined.

Whatever it is, Mahal has a long way to go before he can come close to the popularity of the other title contenders in the WWE.

Top two to tango

While Mahal was a surprise winner Tuesday, the main event of the night was more predictable. Styles took out Baron Corbin with an array of physicality, athleticism and attitude that has made the Phenomenal One of the most praised wrestlers today. The match showcased the strengths and, ultimately, the weaknesses that SmackDown might have in the coming months.

Styles and Owens are in a league of their own. Both were long-reigning world champions on their respective shows in 2016 (and part of 2017) and consistently the top two names atop ESPN.com's power rankings. After that, there's a pretty notable drop-off in star power. Corbin, while still considered a future big-time player, isn't there yet, especially when you consider he was relegated to WrestleMania's preshow earlier this month.

Newly acquired Rusev has taken a huge hit in terms of his booking, and Shinsuke Nakamura still has to build his way to the top, though he, more than anyone (yes, even you, Mahal!) has the chops to be a main-event staple.

Still, SmackDown is largely counting on Owens and Styles to carry its brand in the hopes the show doesn't get completely buried by a much stronger Raw brand.

As for Tuesday night, Styles and Corbin fought fiercely for a chance to compete for the U.S. title -- with Owens sitting ringside and spewing bitter words every chance he had.

Corbin converted a nasty backbreaker, followed by a powerful deep six on Styles, then nearly caught his opponent with an End of Days outside the ring.

But it was Styles with a phenomenal forearm that knocked Corbin through the barricade and earned him the count-out win.

Styles-Owens has the potential to be the rivalry of the year. Let's just see whether SmackDown can leverage any of its other performers as worthy and viable candidates who can compete with these two.

The Queen and the others

SmackDown opened Tuesday night with the most accomplished wrestler of the past two years, Charlotte, griping about why she has not yet been given a chance to battle for the women's title -- even though she's only a week into her new platform.

The audacity of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, the show's top authorities, not to have put this atop their priority list. What were they doing, Charlotte asked in her mean-spirited manner -- "Watching 'Fast and Furious' while I am getting furious?"

Current champ Naomi eventually made her way to the ring, explaining to Charlotte that begging is not so becoming, so they should just fight. McMahon's music hit and told Charlotte that despite her pedigree and resume, she has to earn her shot. If Charlotte could beat Naomi later in the night, the four-time Raw champ would have her first opportunity to take the SmackDown title.

The match itself was worked methodically throughout and finished predictably when Charlotte won it with a natural selection.

The more glaring takeaway here was the juxtaposition between Charlotte and her curious, if not jealous, onlookers in Natalya, Carmella (with, yes, James Ellsworth) and Tamina. Clearly, SmackDown is hoping to build some chemistry with the new dynamic, but for Charlotte to come from a show where she long feuded with top-tier women in Bayley, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax to a group of mid-carders on Tuesday nights seems like a demotion for the queen.

More so, it looked like a band of awestruck school girls finally getting a glimpse of a top celebrity for the first time. Where this eventually goes is questionable. Perhaps when Becky Lynch returns to the matrix, it will add some cachet, but for now, the women's field is Charlotte and the others, and that includes the champ Naomi.

Hits and Misses

  • Aside from an 11-word backstage statement from Tye Dillinger and a video package of Nakamura, SmackDown's top two call-ups were not featured Tuesday night. It was an interesting decision considering the amount of longtime mid-carders who found face time.

  • Welcome to the big leagues, Gary Gandy. The local jobber fell in about 30 seconds or so to Owens, who moments later did his best Rick Rude impersonation by telling the "lazy" crowd to put their "hot dogs down" and listen while he explains why he, a Canadian holding the U.S. title, is the new face of America. It looks as though Owens has found a new jingoistic shtick to anger fans. It's come out of the blue, but based on the crowd's collective booing, it looks like it's working.

  • Apparently Epico and Primo have lost their Shining Stars moniker, but have regained some momentum in the tag-team landscape by upending former champs American Alpha in a very quick match. It certainly seemed like a case of SmackDown scrambling to build up its tag-team pool, which isn't overflowing with high-end talent at the moment. In the coming weeks we should see the return of The New Day -- even with Kofi Kingston out with an injury -- to the fold on a consistent basis, but the reality is that as it stands, SmackDown doesn't many duos who can instantly grab our attention.

  • Mahal's career day in the WWE was foiled by first Randy Orton coming down to the ring to confront Mahal, only for both to be interrupted by Wyatt on the giant screen heaving more nonsensical fighting words toward the Viper. Orton and Wyatt will clash in the upcoming Payback pay-per-view in a "House of Horrors" match, which to date no one, including Orton fully understands. We can only say that based on their recent run-ins and their disappointingly strange WrestleMania match that this beef needs to end, and soon.