By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from San Antonio, Texas at AT&T Center
The show opened with a recap of the battle royal that led to AJ Styles becoming number one contender for the US Championship. It then transitioned to footage of the championship match on Friday Night in MSG, where AJ captured the championship from Kevin Owens. The show opened with the announce team of Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton welcoming everyone to San Antonio. AJ Styles then made his entrance, and was announced as the new United States Champion.
Note: AJ Styles may very well be the last person who competed in WCW to hold the United States Championship.
AJ grabbed a microphone and had a new US Championship inspired shirt on. He said Battleground came a bit early for him at Madison Square Garden. He said he’d never call himself the face of America, but since Kevin Owens looked like a monkey’s butt, he considered it an upgrade. He said it wasn’t long ago that somebody set out to prove the worth of the US Championship every time he came to the ring, and he called the US Open Championship, and it was time it came back.
Styles said the US Championship had been overlooked far too many times, and he wanted to remind the world that when they see this title, whoever’s holding it is the absolute best. He set out an open challenge, and after a pause, John Cena’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. Styles looked game.
Note: They had a fantastic match at the Royal Rumble in San Antonio back in January. I was in the building and the crowd ate it up.
Cena grabbed a microphone and told Styles he wanted to make sure he realized what he just said. He asked if that meant everybody but him. Styles said no, it meant him, especially him. Cena then accepted and called for a referee, and Charles Robinson headed to the ring. Ring introductions followed.
Just before the match could start, Kevin Owens interrupted and headed out onto the ramp. He said nobody wanted to see another John Cena vs. AJ Styles match, nobody. He said all anybody wants is for the rightful owner of that championship, him, gets it back. He questioned why Cena was back, and told him he should just leave because nobody wants to see him there. Cena replied and said it not that they don’t want to see him, it’s that they can’t see him. He called Owens the Michelin man, and dared him to do something about it rather than running his mouth.
In the ring, Rusev blindsided Cena from behind, and Styles tossed him out of the ring. Owens used the distraction to hit a powerbomb on Styles. Rusev entered the ring again and took Cena down and applied the Accolade. Cena and Styles were left laid out to close the segment. Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin was hyped for later, and Tye Dillinger vs. Jinder Mahal is next…[c]
My Take: That’s quite the tease to walk back. I’m assuming we see a tag match magically booked for the main event. As much as it was a cruel swerve, Styles vs. Cena is best saved for a major show when it can be promoted. Solid promo from Styles to set the tone for his championship reign. Cena and Owens sort of felt like they were on autopilot.
The Singh Brothers were on the stage and introduced Jinder Mahal. He was followed by Tye Dillinger.
1. Tye Dillinger vs. Jinder Mahal: Mahal dominated the early going after a big clothesline. JBL went out of his way to talk about Jinder Mahal always having the body of a champion, but now having the gold to go along with it. Apparently he didn’t notice the 30lbs of muscle he put on recently…[c]
Mahal kept the pressure on with some punches and a body slam. He then taunted the crowd. Dillinger fired back with some punches of his own, and took Mahal down with a flying forearm. He hit some mounted punches in the corner, but Jinder shoved him off and hit a running knee lift to stop his momentum. He then hit a Cobra Clutch Slam for the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated Tye Dillinger at 7:43.
Jinder celebrated after the match and grabbed a micrphone. He said week after week he comes out and speaks the truth. He said they can boo all they want, but he bring class, diversity, and excellence to the WWE. Mahal then told the crowd they can cheer for the snake Randy Orton all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that 1.3 billion people of the Great Nation of India know he’s the greatest champion of all time. He told Orton that next week, he would bring hell directly to him, when he brings the Punjabi Prison to Smackdown. Xavier Woods vs. Jimmy Uso is next…[c]
My Take: A forgettable match, but one that further cements Mahal as a dominant champion. I must admit that I’m curious to see what that ridiculous Punjabi Prison looks like in HD. Whether or not anyone can actually have a good match in it is an open question. Mahal’s promos continue to feel like they keep rearranging the same five or six points into slightly different sentences.
The New Day made their entrance and poured some cereal on people. The Usos followed, with Jey pointing and laughing at Xavier Woods while footage rolled of the rap battle from last week.
2. Jey Uso vs. Xavier Woods: Woods hit a side kick and hit a forearm shot that put Jimmy Uso on the ropes. Things broke down as Jimmy Uso tripped up Woods from the outside, and Big E and Kofi jumped into the ring. All the extra participants were sent to the back. Jey hit a superkick for a near fall. He then went for a splash, but Woods got the knees up. Woods hit a kick from the apron, and then hit a flying elbow and covered for the win.
Xavier Woods defeated Jey Uso at 3:52.
New Day celebrated after the match. Corbin vs. Nakamura is still listed for later…[c]
My Take: A solid showing for the tag teams. I enjoyed the rap battle last week, and this match had some added flavor as a result. These two teams should really be given some time and creative license to take this feud all the way to Summerslam.
Naomi walked up and said she understands that Carmella can come after her anytime and anywhere, but who will she defend her championship against next. The rest of the women’s division showed up and demanded title shots. Shane booked them all in a five way elimination match for Battleground, with the winner of Natalya, Becky, Charlotte, Tamina, and Lana taking on Naomi at Summerslam. Becky and Charlotte will take on Natalya and Tamina later on tonight. Carmella then walked up with a note from her lawyer demanding James Ellsworth’s reinstatement, but he looked it over and tore it up and said the decision stands.
Baron Corbin was interviewed backstage, and video was shown of Nakamura brawling with him backstage last week. Renee told him Nakamura wasn’t afraid of him, and he responded that he was afraid of what he would do to him. He claimed that tonight would by sayonara for Nakamura….c
My Take: The Women’s division continues to be a complete jumble. The elimination match is a decent way to spin off the women into different feuds based on the events of the match, but we’re a far cry from the solid booking the women enjoyed last Summer when they had 3 feuds contributing to the show at various levels.
Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance, followed by Baron Corbin. Nakamura went after Corbin on the ramp, and they brawled into the crowd and then back to ringside. Agents came out to break up the brawl, and eventually Nakamura got into the ring and taunted Corbin. Corbin walked off with the briefcase….so no match here either.
Backstage, John Cena approached AJ Styles and told him that the open challenge was a good idea, but next time he might want to wait until he’s not in town. Styles told Cena he took something from him the last time they were in the ring together, and he hadn’t forgotten. He said holding the US Championship means he’s the best, and he owed him one. Cena said he respected that AJ wanted to compete with the best, and he’s big on respect, because it’s earned. He told AJ he has his back later, and AJ said the same…[c]
My Take: I guess we’ll have to wait for Nakamura and Corbin at Battleground. Cena and Styles had a bro fest in their backstage segment, but it set the stage for later. Here’s hoping we eventually get another high stakes match between them before Cena hangs it up.
Becky Lynch made her entrance, followed by Charlotte, Natalya and Tamina.
3. Charlotte & Becky vs. Tamina & Natalya: Becky and Tamina started the match, with Becky getting the early advantage with some kicks and leg drops. Charlotte tagged in and dropped a knee. Tamina tagged out to Nattie, who wrestled traded even steven offense with Charlotte until Becky tagged in and hit an exploder suplex that sent her out to the floor. Becky setup for a baseball slide, but Tamina pulled Nattie out of the way. She then shoved Becky into the ring steps…[c]
Lana joined on the ramp near the ring as Nattie and Tamina controlled the pace and cut off Becky Lynch in their corner. Becky fired back with knees and elbows out of the corner. Nattie tried to pull her down into a sharpshooter, but Becky sprung out and made a hot tag. Charlotte cleaned house, but Lana jumped up on the apron to provide a distraction. Charlotte took a swing, but Natalya made a hot tag behind her back. Charlotte put a Nattie into the figure four as she lay possum, but Tamina entered and blasted her with a superkick and covered for the win.
Tamina & Nattie defeated Charlotte & Becky Lynch at 9:14.
Backstage, Maria banged on the male locker room door and Chad Gable answered. She said Sami Zayn owed her an apology, and she wanted to talk to him. Gable yelled for him, but he wasn’t there. Maria told Gable that if he saw Sami, to tell him that the first lady of Smackdown is looking for him.
My Take: An enjoyable match from the women, but the commercial break took an eternity and ate up a good portion of the match time. The women’s division is desperate for some individual feuds. They have the talent, they just need the creative. Trying to cram all of these women into one match plus one segment a week is killing their characters.
Backstage, Mike and Maria were being cutesy backstage and giggling at each other. Sami walked up and asked what they wanted. She demanded an apology for interrupted them, and he responded that they had gotted in his way when he was trying to do something productive like have a match. He asked if they actually worked there, and wondered if Maria was the fighter and Mike was the lover. Maria slapped him, and Mike broke a vase over his head. Sami was tended to by trainers.
The announce team threw to a Walker Texas Ranger themed Fashion Files. They were dressed like Cowboys and asked Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder about where they were then their office got trashed. Mojo said they were to worried about becoming number one contenders, not their office. Fandango called Mojo shady, and Zack said he was shady last week when he eliminated him from the Battle Royal. Mojo said it was every man for himself, and that he had to get his head on straight. Mojo walked off and Zack said he was probably right. Fandango and Breeze spotted a ladder and broom and found the inspiration for their next suspects: Ghost Aliens. An X-Files themed Fashion Files was hyped for next week.
Kevin Owens made his entrance for the main event…[c]
My Take: Mike and Maria finally show some aggression. I like it. The Fashion Files is running out of gas. They need to move whatever they are doing forward.
Rusev made his entrance, followed by AJ Styles and John Cena.
4. AJ Styles & John Cena vs. Rusev & Kevin Owens: Cena started with Rusev, who got the early advantage with a shoulder block. Rusev rolled to ringside to gloat and wave his flag, which gave Cena time to fire up. Cena hit his own shoulder block and a clothesline, which caused Rusev to tag out to Kevin Owens. Owens roughed up Cena with kicks and stomps. They isolated Cena in their corner, and cut him down with punches. Owens choked Cena while Rusev provided a ref distraction…[c]
Cena fired up with some punches, but Rusev hit a wheel kick and covered for a near fall. Rusev climbed to the second rope and went for a headbutt, but he missed and Cena crawled for his corner. Cena made a tag, and Styles immediately took it to Rusev. He took Rusev down with a calf crusher, which Owens had to break up. Styles took a shot at Owens, but Rusev kicked him on the side of head when he turned around. Owens tagged in and applied a headlock to a grounded Styles.
Styles fought to his feet, but ate a clothesline for his trouble. Rusev tagged back in and kicked Styles again for another near fall. Rusev applied a bear hug, and Styles shook loose with some punches. He then reversed out of a back suplex and made a tag to Cena. Cena fired up and hit several moves of doom on Kevin Owens. He then went for an AA, but Rusev connected with a kick to break it up. Styles flew in to hit a phenomenal forearm to take out Rusev, and then hit a pele kick on Owens. Cena then hit an AA on Owens for the win.
John Cena & AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens & Rusev at 13:02.
After the match, AJ Styles stood face to face with Cena teasing tension, but they ended up holding up their arms and celebrating together to close the show.
My Take: A good close to the show after a few false starts throughout the night. I don’t know if Cena and Styles needed to be so dominant here so close to the PPV, but they still have next week to put the heat back on Owens and Rusev. At this point, they don’t feel particularly dangerous. Overall, this show moved along pretty quickly. I’m hopeful we can see AJ Styles have several weeks where he can successfully run a open challenge. It would be fun to be able to look forward to great matches on TV every week.