Hey there, guys. It’s time for some SmackDown Live fun and frolics after the Monday night crew put on an absolutely brutal PPV where half the talent bled, Alexa Bliss made at least one person throw up and we had what I think is our third attempted murder this year alone. So if this is the direction wrestling is moving in as an art form, then I am totally on board, if still laughing about Roman Reigns’ attempted vehicular homicide mission.
The show starts with a recap of the battle royal from last week, all part of SmackDown‘s attempt to make the US Championship way cooler than the WWE Championship. And as if to prove that…holy shit, they switched the title on a house show? I thought we’d all but given up on that sort of thing; that’s amazing.
Fuck you, Owens and Rusev
So the live show, of course, starts off with our new US Champ AJ Styles. He heads down to the ring, soaking up the crowd’s love. He says that Battleground came a little early, and says that this isn’t about him or Owens; it’s about the US Championship and what it represents. He references Cena’s United States Title Open Challenge, and Styles brings it back! The US Open Challenge is back and on SmackDown! He tells anyone who wants to bring it that they can bring it right now.
And John Cena’s music hits, because you’re fucking welcome.
Cena comes down to the ring and grabs a microphone. He asks Styles whether he knows what he just said, and checks whether it includes him. AJ says it absolutely includes him, and John Cena accepts. A referee comes down to the ring, and I think we’re actually doing this! The bell rings, the announcer announces, the belt’s lifted and we’re on!
And then Kevin Owens’ music hits, because fuck your dreams and all that you love.
Owens says that nobody wants to see one of the most awesome matches in the world again, and that the only thing anyone should care about is the Championship coming back to its rightful owner. He tells Cena that nobody wants him here, and that he doesn’t deserve being anywhere near his title. John responds by calling him the Michelin Man because he’s Being A Star, and tells Owens that if he wants him to leave then he needs to make him leave.
Suddenly Cena is tackled by Rusev. Styles grabs the Bulgarian and throws him out of the ring, but is then taken out with a Pop-Up Powerbomb from Owens! Rusev kicks Cena in the jaw and then locks him in the Accolade. First time in a long while I’ve actually been pissed off at heels.
But we’re still doing the US Open Challenge in future weeks, right?
During the break, someone performed the ritual to summon the spirit of Teddy Long to make a tag match to pit Cena and Styles against Owens and Rusev.
The Singh Brothers are the sluttiest dressers in wrestling
The Singh Brothers are here with their plunging necklines to announce Jinder Mahal. The weird thing is that Jinder’s totally right about the racism in WWE, because a company that wasn’t shot through with light-to-medium racism wouldn’t use ethnic stereotypes like Jinder Mahal’s current character. Or any such thing as a fucking Punjabi Prison match.
Jinder Mahal is facing Tye Dillinger, and normally I’d be psyched by a relative newbie getting a shot against the World Champ, but everyone knows how this is going to go and it’s going to be Dillinger taking a loss from Jinder to make Jinder look good, but only because Jinder will cheat or use the Singhs which makes Jinder look weak. We could not have this match and we’d all be in roughly the same state.
Tye and Jinder lock up, and Dillinger’s backed into a corner. Mahal breaks clean, then hurls Dillinger across the ring. Tye rallies, hitting a springboard back elbow, but Mahal just beheads him with a clothesline.
Tye gets punished with knees and then a chinlock, before getting choked on the ropes. We go to a break, during which Tye continues to get the boots put to him. Holy shit, that Experian commercial is back and pushing the fear of some criminal mastermind stealing our identities and selling them on the dark web. This is not sane advertising. Anyway, Dillinger got the shit kicked out of him for that whole break so he must be so glad he came.
Tye finally starts firing back, knocking Jinder down and dodging his attacks. Jinder shoves him out of the corner, and then a running knee puts Dillinger on his ass. The Kallas hits, and that is all she wrote.
Well, colour me incorrect: Jinder got it done himself. Sucks to be Tye Dillinger right now, but at least Mahal is being shown as capable here. Decent way to put that across. 2 Stars.
Jinder says that we all still disrespect him, but he brings class, diversity and excellence to the WWE. He mocks us for cheering for Randy Orton, and he has a point considering Orton’s ethical track record compared to Jinder. He promises to bring hell to Randy Orton, because next week he’s bringing the Punjabi Prison. Holy God, no: I’m not ready. I am not ready.
Nobody give anybody a microphone
But for now, don’t you dare be sour. This is a singles match in which Jey Uso will take on Xavier Woods, and at least it’s not a rap battle. Because I would rather be in a Punjabi Prison match than watch another rap battle. Hell, I’d rather watch a Punjabi Prison match than watch another rap battle. We are shown a replay of that horrifying segment, not including the bit when they reference Xavier Woods’ schlong.
Match starts and Woods goes right after Jey Uso, smacking him all around the ring. A right hand knocks Jey the fuck down and Xavier is riding high until Jimmy trips him up. Kofi and Big E protest, and that gets Jimmy, Kofi and Big E ejected from ringside. Aw man, do they have to just stand together awkwardly back there? Can we get a camera back there?
Woods tries to roll Jey up, but the Uso counters. A superkick connects, but Xavier kicks out! Jey goes for the Samoan Splash, but lands across a pair of knees! Woods is sent out onto the apron, but is able to whack an enzuigiri into the side of Jey’s head. He heads up to the top as Jey is hanging off the ropes, and a flying elbow scores Xavier Woods the win!
Barely anything to it, but enjoyable while it lasted. 2 Stars.
Backstage, Shane McMahon is on the phone to Bryan who is apparently just not showing up tonight. Seems like Shane’s a chill guy to work for. Naomi then shows up to ask for a new number one contender because Tamina up and stole her last one. I’m not going to able to fully relax until we see what happened to Lana after she left with Miss Snuka, because I’m seventy percent sure that Tamina killed and ate her.
You don’t want to know what the other thirty percent thinks.
Anyway, Charlotte arrives, acting like a robe with a fucking peacock feather frill is a thing that normal, sane people wear. She starts to demand the title shot, but then Becky, Natalya, Tamina and Lana arrive to make their own demands too. Oh good, Lana is both uneaten and un…the other thing.
Shane makes an elimination match at Battleground featuring anyone who isn’t Carmella or Naomi; the winner will face Naomi for the title at SummerSlam. Charlotte demands to know what wild flight from logic results in Lana being in this match, and Tamina immediately leaps to Lana’s defence. If this ends in Tamina vs. Rusev then I am super on board.
Everyone starts yelling at each other, so Shane makes a tag-team match because that’s what conflict resolution boils down to in a world where you pay people to fight each other. Then Carmella arrives with a petition from her attorney to reinstate James Ellsworth. Shane actually reads it before tearing it up, making him more sensible than every other wrestling figure in the world ever.
In another part of backstage, Renee Young is interviewing Baron Corbin in what, if I was Baron Corbin, I’d be worried was some kind of trap. They watch the footage from last week and Renee says that Shinsuke totally doesn’t seem afraid of Corbin. Baron says that it’s going to be “Sayonara Nakamura”, earning him the judgiest of all judgemental looks from Renee Young.
Make stupid jokes, win stupid prizes
And it’s time for Baron Corbin to back up his fighting words and that one dad joke. Shinsuke Nakamura makes his entrance, followed by Mr Money in the Bank. Shinsuke’s staring pretty intensely at Corbin as he makes his entrance, and then he jumps Baron halfway down the ramp!
Corbin and Nakamura brawl briefly before getting swarmed by security. Corbin looks fucking furious and this is the angriest I’ve ever seen Nakamura too. Shinsuke gets back into the ring and dares Baron to bring it, but Corbin grabs his briefcase and walks away.
Meanwhile, AJ Styles is in the locker room. Cena arrives, advising him to hold off on the US Championship Open Challenge until he’s gone again. Styles laughs it off, saying he’s not forgotten losing to Cena the last time they faced each other. He says holding the Championship makes him the best, and he’s going to be the best for a long time. Wow: not even pretending the WWE title even matters right now.
Cena says that he’s willing to put his desire for another US Championship on hold for tonight. For the tag team match, he’s got AJ Styles’ back.
There’s something about Lana
Time for the Women’s Tag Team match. Becky makes her entrance, followed by Charlotte, and the pair of them wait on Natalya and Tamina. When both heels are in the ring, the bell rings and it’s underway.
Tamina starts things off against Becky, Snuka overpowering her with some strong, heavy blows. Becky’s sent into a corner, but she’s able to boot Tamina squarely in the jaw, dropkick her leg out from under her and drop a leg of her own right on Snuka’s face. Charlotte tags in, dropping a knee of her own. Tamina kicks out at one, and Charlotte immediately applies a front facelock.
Tamina reverses an Irish whip, sending Charlotte into the corner. Charlotte leapfrogs over a charging Tamina, attempts a German suplex but gets put down by the big gal. Tamina tags in Natalya, who slams the back of Charlotte’s head off the mat then walks over her. Charlotte kips up whilst Natalya’s not looking and tries to cave in her chest with a chop.
Becky tags in, coming in hard and fast off the top rope. Natalya takes a Bexploder suplex that sends her rolling out of the ring. Becky doesn’t want to give her time to regroup, and throws herself at Natalya in a baseball slide. Natalya’s saved by Tamina, who drags her out of the way at the last second, and then Neidhart drives Becky right into the steel steps, putting her down as we head into a commercial.
During the break, Natalya and Tamina keep putting a halt to Becky’s attempts to regain control of the match or tag out. When we return, Lynch is in a sleeper hold applied by Nat. Becky almost escapes, but Natalya is able to drive her into the corner and make the tag to Tamina. A rear chinlock is applied and suddenly Lana’s walking her ballgown-wearing ass down to the ring.
Becky rocks Tamina with a knee to the face, but Tamina puts her down with a clothesline and knocks Charlotte off the apron. Charlotte tries to storm the ring, but that only distracts the referee and allows Nat and Tamina to stomp all over Lynch. Becky suddenly fires up, and knocks the pair of them away almost long enough to get the tag. Natalya catches her and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Becky escapes and manages to tag in Charlotte!
Charlotte explodes into the ring, chopping away at Natalya with a vengeance before hitting a running boot to the head. Charlotte hits an exploder suplex but is then distracted as Lana gets up on the apron. She misses the tag made between Natalya and Tamina, and returns to try and apply the Figure Eight to Neidhart. Tamina waits until the exact right moment, and then dashes into the ring and superkicks Charlotte’s face off for the win.
Smart finish from Tamina. It’ll be interesting seeing what happens with her and Lana down the road. Aside from this, this was a good match: almost every Women’s Division match has delivered for a long time. 2.5 Stars.
Maria Kanellis is walking around backstage, heading for the male locker room. She knocks on the door, and Gable answers the door. Some impressive realism from WWE there: when there’s twenty guys in the same room, it would have been a really big coincidence if Sami had answered right off the bat. Should have been Jinder, solely for the comedy factor.
Oh wow, realism upon realism: Zayn’s not even in the locker room. Maria tells Gable to tell Zayn that she’s looking for him.
After the break, Zayn has found Mike and Maria, and it is amazing to me that he even looked. Sami must be a hell of a good guy. Maria immediately acts like the biggest bitch in the whole world, which is objectively the best way to ask for an apology.
Zayn has clearly had enough of this shit, going off on a rant before Maria slaps him in the face and Mike smashes a fucking glass vase over his head. Jesus: that is the exact definition of zero to one hundred. Mike and Maria are fucking terrifying.
And a new episode of the Fashion Files, and because they’re in Texas it’s called Runway Walker Texas Ranger. Whatever they’re paying whoever comes up with these, it is not enough. It will never be enough. On a side note, Tyler Breeze dressed as a cowboy is something I never knew I needed in my life.
They’re trying to interrogate and/or lasso Zack Ryder, who is both charmed and amused by all of what they’re doing. In a world where you can get into a three month feud for bumping into someone or have a fucking vase smashed over your head for not apologising, Breeze and Fandango remain unmolested and unhospitalised. Which is probably a bigger accomplishment than being the WWE Champion.
Mojo Rawley then gets in on this, and Breezango demands to know whether they jumped Tyler way back when. This kicks off an argument between Ryder and Rawley regarding the Independence Day Battle Royal and Mojo eliminating his broski. It was a battle royal, Ryder, you fucking princess.
United States Championship Best Championship
It’s time for the main event. Kevin Owens and Rusev make their way to the ring, followed by AJ Styles and John Cena. Cena and Rusev kick things off, and it’ll be good to see the two of them work again.
Rusev latches on a headlock, gets sent off the ropes and knocks Cena on his ass. He scoots out of the ring to wave his flag around, which is a risky fucking thing to do in a place like Texas. Back in the ring, Cena shoulder tackles Rusev and then sends him into corner after corner before bulldogging him. Rusev tags out, and Cena stays in the ring to take on Kevin Owens.
Owens catches Cena with a kick and stomps him into the mat. Rusev tags back in, putting the boots to Cena before distracting the referee and allowing Owens some shenanigans. A right hand drops Cena to the mat as we go to a break.
When we come back, Cena is in a slugfest with Rusev. He’s making headway, but he runs off the ropes and right into a spinning kick from the Bulgarian. Rusev heads up to the top, but misses the attempted diving headbutt as John rolls out of the way. Styles is calling for the tag and he gets it, coming in with a flurry to take out Rusev. Rusev manages to stagger Styles with a back elbow, but gets caught in the Calf Crusher! Owens breaks it up, and Rusev is able to catch a distracted AJ with a massive kick to the side of the head.
Owens tags in, hitting stomps and a volley of punches to Styles. A back senton gets Owens a two count, and he latches on a sleeper hold immediately following the pin. Styles finally breaks out, rolling Owens up before getting put right the fuck down with a clothesline. Rusev comes back in, hitting a huge kick to the shoulder. He pauses to yell at Cena, then goes back to work on Styles.
Rusev applies a monster bearhug to Styles, which is the cutest wrestling move that ever there was. Styles tries to headbutt his way free, but Rusev’s desire to hug AJ is just too damn strong. Styles rolls out of a back suplex, then lays Rusev out with an enzuigiri! Cena and Owens tag in!
Cena grasps the advantage, shoulder tackling Owens and putting him down with the spin-out powerbomb. Five Knuckle Shuffle connects, but Rusev rushes the ring when Cena hoists Owens up for the Attitude Adjustment. A superkick from Rusev connects to Cena’s jaw, then Rusev’s taken out with a Phenomenal Forearm! Owens tries to clothesline Styles, who ducks the arm and hits Owens with a Pele Kick! Cena hits the AA this time, and that’s the win!
Great match, and a fair consolation prize for the proposed Open Challenge match. I’d forgotten how much I liked Rusev’s style since he’d been gone, and it’s great to see him and Cena back. 3 Stars.
We get a slight staredown between Styles and Cena with some significant glances at the US Championship, but nothing comes of it.
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, jbl, Jinder Mahal, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Lana, naomi, Randy Orton, rusev, sami zayn, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, tamina, The New Day, The Singh Brothers, the usos, Tom Phillips