By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Manchester, New Hampshire at SNHU Arena
AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal was advertised for later in the show. Kevin Owens was already in the ring, stealing the Highlight Reel from Chris Jericho. He welcomed everyone to the new and improved Highlight Reel, and introduced himself as the new face of America and the US Champion. He said that the original host will never, eeeever be seen again. Footage then aired of Owens putting Chris Jericho out a few weeks ago. Owens said Jericho was obsessed with scarves, gifts, and lists, but the only list he’ll be seeing. He said the way he beat Chris Jericho two weeks ago is exactly what he would do to AJ Styles on SUnday.
Owens said he would introduce his guest in French, just because he can. He started speaking French before being interrupted by AJ Styles. AJ said he had seen Owen stealing Jericho’s thunder for over a year, but never expected him to steal his show. Owens told Styles that he can do everything better than Jericho, and that includes beating Styles. Styles responded that he was going to say something in English, because he can, and said he would bring the US Championship back to American on Sunday, but they didn’t have to wait.
Jinder Mahal interrupted and asked Styles what he was doing out there, because he was supposed to be the guest on Owen’s highlight reel. Owens said he was supposed to discuss his WWE Championship on Sunday. Mahal introduced some footage of him pinning Randy Orton last week, and said that Styles would suffer the same fate tonight that awaited Orton on Sunday. Jinder then quoted Ghandi and said that if you want to find yourself, you have to lose yourself. He told Styles that he would find himself in agony in their match.
Owens told Styles he was in for a rough week. He would lose to Jinder tonight, and then to Owens on Sunday. Styles got in the ring and Owens cleared out. Styles told Jinder to head down the ramp so they could start AJ Styles’ highlight reel.
My Take: Jinder was better here, but has yet to turn in a really impactful performance on the microphone. Styles and Owens are very good at banter, but there’s still something missing from this feud. It doesn’t feel like either one of them are out for blood.
1. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton: Jinder controlled the early going with strikes. He hit a thust to the throat and then tossed Styles into the corner. He followed up with stomps and then choked Styles with a knee. The crowd chanted for Styles, and Jinder continued the assault with knee strikes and stomps. Jinder went for a suplex, but Styles blocked it and hit a springboard forearm to turn the tables.
Styles hit some kicks to the chest and then hit a spinning backfist. He went to hit the ropes, but the Singh Brothers were there to make him pause. He turned around into a running knee strike from Jinder…[c]
The announcers talked about Jinder’s chances on Sunday while Jinder methodically took apart Styles. He hit strikes and stomps, and placed Styles on the top rope. He set up for a superplex, but Styles slipped out. He turned around and ran back and Jinder, but got a boot to the face. Jinder jumped off the second rope at him, but Styles popped up and hit a dropkick. He then hit a low dropkick and followed it up with a seated forearm. Jinder killed his comeback with a big boot, and covered for a near fall. He then called for the Cobra Clutch Slam, but Styles hit a pele kick. He followed up with a corner clothesline and an Ushigoroshi for a near fall.
Jinder rolled to the outside and Styles hit him with a baseball slide. He then threw him back in the ring, and charged at him in the corner. He set up for the Phenomenal Forearm, but due to a distraction by the Singh Brothers and a timely shot to the knee with the title belt from Kevin Owens, Styles went down on the apron. Jinder then hit the Cobra Clutch Slam for the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated AJ Styles at 14:29.
Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin was plugged for later. The entire women’s division will have their contract signing later as well…[c]
My Take: Mahal needs marquee victories, and they are doing their absolute best to ensure he gets every opportunity to gain momentum. Styles has some cover due to the shot to the knee, and he sold it like he couldn’t walk. All that being said, Jinder has yet to have a signature performance, despite getting in the ring with some of the best in the world. Hopefully he proves to be worth the significant investment they’ve put into him.
We got a Lana vignette followed by another episode of the Fashion Files. They talked about Fashion Felonies, making fun Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, and The Usos for their bad clothes. They talked about capturing the Smackdown Tag Team Championships on Sunday, and then did a freeze frame bit to close the segment. Breezango will face Primo and Epico next. Backstage, Randy Orton got interviewed by Renee Young. He said people don’t dislike Jinder because they are afraid of diversity, they hate him because he’s an ass. Breezango made their entrance in the arena….[c]
My Take: The Fashion files aren’t nearly weird or energetic enough. It feels like a half measure for them.
2. Breezango vs. The Colons: Epico sent Breeze into the post, and tagged in Primo, who continue to isolate Breeze with strikes. They worked through a few more tags before Breeze hit Primo with a wheel kick and crawled over to make a tag. He cleaned house and hit Epico with a spinning heel kick. He then knocked Primo to the outside and hit a Falcon Arrow on Epico for the win.
Breezango defeated The Colons at 3:55.
After the Match, the Usos came out to cut a promo. They asked Breezango if they liked to play cops and robbers. They welcomed them to the Usos’ penetentery, and said they would read them their rights. They had the right to remain silent, or they would be shut up. They reserved the right to put them on a gurney, and if they can’t afford one, it would not be provided. Jimmy then said that they probably had goosebumps on the back of their neck, and felt like someone was behind them. It wasn’t paranoia, it was the Usos.
Backstage, the Women’s division was up next…[c]
My Take: The Usos promos are so fun it’s hard to hate them. I know what they are going for, but it’s just going to get them cheered because they have a lot of charisma and style. Hopefully they find a mean streak, or really do some dastardly things in the ring, otherwise they will be babyfaces again before long.
Shane threw to Natalya, who said it was funny to see them pretending to be BFF’s. She talked about beating them all down, and said there was no reason to believe it would be any different on Sunday. She said after Sunday, they would all know who was the best there is, was, or ever will be.
Becky Lynch grabbed the mic and said finally on Sunday they would face even numbers. She said there was no chance in hell she would join their goon squad, and she looked forward to slapping each one of them in the face. She signed the contract. Naomi said they should all contract their hairdresser, because she was going to snatch them bald. Charlotte said she was going to solve her welcoming committee problem in Chicago, and then the queen was coming for her crowd.
James Ellsworth decided to speak up, and told Becky Lynch and Charlotte they had no chance with him. He then told Naomi that Carmella would steal her title and her glow. Naom went after Ellsworth, and Shane made Carmella vs Naomi for next…[c]
My Take: A rather underwhelming segment. I guess I don’t know what I expected. It seems like the entire division is in a holding pattern while they get this story out of the way.
3. Naomi vs. Carmella: All the other players remained at ringside, so shenanigans are in full play. Carmella mostly ran away from Naomi in the early going. Naomi hit a corner clothesline and a bulldog. She then hit a seated dropkick and covered for a two count. Naomi grabbed a headlock until Carmella punched free and kicked Naomi in the back of the knees. Naomi setup for rear view, but Ellsworth pulled her out of the ring. The ref then threw him out…[c]
Naomi did some twerking and dabbing for some reason in the corner. Carmella fired a few leg kicks at her, which Naomi replied with a dropkick that sent Carmella out to the floor. Naomi followed, but Carmella popped up and hit a superkick. Naomi got back in the ring at an eight count, and Carmella covered for a two count. She then hit a bronco buster in the corner for a near fall.
Naomi hit rapid fire kicks and a jawbreaker, followed by a forearm shiver. Naomi climbed the top rope, and Nattie and Tamina tried to interfere. The ref tossed them out as well, which resulted in a brawl between the two teams. Naomi blasted Tamina from behind to help her team, but that gave Carmella an opening to roll her up for a pin.
Carmella defeated Naomi at 11:49.
The announce team ran through this weekend’s events on the WWE Network. Randy Orton vs Baron Corbin was hyped for later…[c]
My Take: A longer match than I expected, but they kept up a decent pace and everybody on the outside added enough intrigue to keep things interesting. The only downside was the Champion taking a loss for no reason, but they seem to be protecting Becky and Charlotte for something more important at the moment.
Dolph Ziggler cut a promo backstage, and said that he had done his research on Shinsuke Nakamura. He cut to a video reel that he said showed all the remarkable things that Shinsuke Nakamura has done in WWE. It showed nothing. Dolph said Shinsuke has accomplished nothing, but he has done everything, and aired a video of his own accomplishments. He said of all his accomplishments, nothing will satisfy him more than spitting in the face of everyone that turned his back on him, and Nakamura is where it begins.
Elsewhere backstage, Sami Zayn was interviewed and said he has been granted his match with Baron Corbin at Backlash. He said he has been targeted by Corbin since got to Smackdown, and he wasn’t sure why. He said he figured out that it’s because he won’t stay down, and to an alpha male, that’s dangerous to his ego. Corbin assaulted Sami from behind as he continued his explanation. Corbin told him that he should learn to stay down, and if he doesn’t, he’ll put him down permanently on Sunday.
Randy Orton made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Sami Zayn continues to be more irritating than inspiring, and I’m not sure why they chose that direction for him. It feels like he represents the kind of fan that WWE loves to hate. Ziggler showed some decent intensity in his promo, but his character seems destined for a short shelf life, because he talks about the fans abandoning him, but my recollection is that he simply never connected with them.
Baron Corbin made his entrance in the arena.
4. Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin: They had a shoving match to start, until Orton tried for an RKO and got blocked. Corbin hit a thrust to the throat and hit a hard right hand, but Orton fired back with a clothesline. Orton hit a axe handle smash from the second rope, and then tossed Corbin towards the corner. He slid underneath the ropes and back into the ring to hit Orton with a clothesline…[c]
Corbin stomped Orton in the corner until Orton got some ref separation. Corbin grabbed control with a headlock, and then hit a big boot for a near fall. Corbin talked trash to Orton and then hit a big right hand punch. He then taunted the crowd and told Orton he was a nobody. Orton tried to punch his way back to his feet, but got shut down with a right hand. Corbin grabbed Orton like he was setting up for a Uranage, but Orton elbowed out and hit a snap powerslam. He then hit a hanging DDT and fired up the crowd.
Orton setup for an RKO, but Corbin shoved him off. Orton charged back at him and ate a deep six. Corbin tried to slide under the ropes again for a sneak clothesline, but Orton hit him with an RKO for the win.
Randy Orton defeated Baron Corbin at 13:10
Jinder Mahal made his entrance and stood on the ramp. He told Orton to savor his victory and relish his his time with the WWE Championship, because he will destroy his pride, his body, and his future at Backlash. The Singh Brothers snuck up on Orton from behind, but he took them out quickly and hit a knee to Mahal to prevent him from getting in the ring. He setup the Singh Brothers for a double hanging DDT, but Mahal jumped him from behind to stop him. They then beat down Orton and Mahal hit him with The Krulass (Cobra Clutch Slam) and put him down to close the show.
My Take: The match felt like a repeat of the last time we saw Orton and Corbin together. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Mahal isn’t clicking for me, but he is getting boos from the live crowd. It’s hard to judge whether it’s real heal or just people groaning that he doesn’t fit in this position yet, but the noise is there. He’s just missing the spark that comes from top shelf main event talents. I think it wouldn’t be as obvious if he was tearing it up on the microphone, but so far the all around package seems like it’s missing that “je ne sais quoi” that makes up memorable wrestling performances.