By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Birmingham, Alabama at the Legacy Arena
A video promo for the Punjabi Prison was shown. The Singh Brothers were on stage to introduce Jinder Mahal. The announce team was Tom Philips, JBL, and Byron Saxton. As Mahal got closer to the ring, the first punjabi prison structure was already on the ring. As he got in, the second structure was lowered around him. I had forgotten how awful it is for visibility until they put the hard camera on it. Mahal told the crowd to behold the punjabi prison. He said it would be the final resting place for Randy Orton’s legacy on Sunday. Mahal then demanded silence as the crowd chanted for Orton.
The Singh Brothers gave the rules of the match. They showed the doors that are open for 60 seconds at the beginning of the match, and that the outer cage has no doors. Mahal then said there wouldn’t be any escape for Randy Orton, because he would take Orton to the top of the prison and then toss him off and send a shockwave through the WWE. He said he doesn’t take kindly to threats to his people or his family, and he would put an end to Orton’s talk at Battleground. He then spoke in Punjabi for a moment before being interrupted by Randy Orton. Mahal had a bit of a phlegm problem again tonight.
Orton stood on the ramp and told Mahal that he was either the bravest SOB he’s ever met, or he’s just not all that bright. He expressed surprise and dismay that Mahal would choose to lock himself inside the cage with him, because it negates the only advantage he ever had in the Singh Brothers. He said they were the only reason he had the championship in the first place, and on Sunday there would be no escape for him. There would be no running or hiding. Orton said he had nothing to lose. He took his title and embarrassed his family, and then left him for dead.
Orton said Mahal had everything to lose. Orton said was the 50th WWE Champion, and had the weight of India and it’s 1.3 billion souls on his back. He wondered what would happen when those 1.3 billion people thought he was a disgrace. Orton straddled the top of the outside cage, and said it would his view when he leaves Mahal’s beaten ass in the cage, and Mahal’s view would be looking at Orton being announced as the new WWE Champion. Orton posed on top of the cage. John Cena will address the flag match later. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi is next…[c]
My Take: A boilerplate opening from these two. I can’t say I’ve been particularly into this feud, but the Punjabi Prison is an interesting spectacle, and it should allow them to take some shortcuts and avoid some of the slow and plodding matches they are both known for. I don’t have extremely high expectations, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
Video footage was shown of The Rap Battle as Kofi and Jimmy Uso made entrances.
1. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston: Kofi stomped on Jimmy early on, and Xavier played along on the trombone. Kofi made a quick cover and then twerked at Jimmy, who charged at him and ended up out on the floor. Kofi then splashed him after Xavier and Big E pysched him out…[c]
Jimmy Uso took control after slamming Kofi on the apron. He applied a headlock, and then hit a kick to the face and covered for a two count. He the backed into the corner and charged at Kofi, who caught him coming out of the corner with a double stomp. He then hit a boom drop and played to the crowd. Kofi set up for Trouble in Paradise, but Jimmy caught him in a fireman’s carry and ran him neck first into the turnbuckle.
Kofi hit a wheelbarrow kick in the corner, and then climbed the top rope. Jimmy met him up there, but was shoved off. Jey Uso jumped on the apron, and Kofi had to jump down to scare him off. Jimmy tried to knock Kofi off the apron, but got rejected with a kick. Kofi then hit a flying crossbody, but Jimmy rolled through and got the win.
Jimmy Uso defeated Kofi Kingston at 8:12
Backstage, then annual Smackdown Women’s Division promo segment took place. Shane said they were 5 days away from the Fatal 5 Way match for the #1 Contenders Match at Battleground, but they needed a great match for tonight. After several minutes of pointless bickering about who would or wouldn’t fight Lana, it was announced that Becky would face Charlotte tonight. Charlotte made a snotty comment about their previous matches not being competitive, and Becky was offended and wanted the match…[c]
My Take: Becky vs. Charlotte is always a good match. If only the creative effort in the division was half as interesting.
A video recap was shown of Kurt Angle announcing Jason Jordan as his son. Renee Young then interviewed Chad Gable. He said he wasn’t notified ahead of time what was going to happen, but got a call after Raw and he now understood what he was going through. He said he supported him for the future, just like they had supported each other in all of their team accomplishments. Renee asked him about his future, and he said he has some ideas, but that wasn’t what was important right now. Jason and Kurt Angle were starting a new life together, and they deserved the best.
In the arena, Mike and Maria Kanellis made their entrance. Mike had Maria’s face on the back of his jacket, and hearts on his gear…[c]
My Take: I find it a bit odd that Gable didn’t want to talk about his future. Maybe they wanted him to come across as a nice guy by not changing the focus of the interview. I really hope it isn’t because they don’t really have any ideas for him. He should be put right into the thick of the US Title scene once AJ and Owens settle their feud on Sunday.
Sami Zayn made his ring entrance for the next match.
2. Mike Kanellis vs. Sami Zayn: I stand corrected. Mike has one heart and a bunch of smooches lipstick lips on his trunks. Zayn knocked Kanellis to the floor with a clothesline, and then tossed him into the barricade. Kanellis caught Sami with a blitz of punches, but Sami immediately fired back with a clothesline and a suplex into the corner. Maria jumped in the ring and stopped Sami from hitting a Heluva Kick. The ref got her out of the ring, but Mike hit a straight right hand, followed by the “Power of Love” Fireman’s Carry into Sitout Powerbomb for the win.
Mike Kanellis defeated Sami Zayn at 6:02.
John Cena is set for next…[c]
My Take: A whole lotta meh for me on that one. Mike didn’t show a lot in the ring here, and the dynamic between him and Maria just isn’t clicking for me at the moment. I hope they’ll be able to turn it around, but at at this point it just feels like Mike is incompetent in the ring and his wife tilts the table for him. It feels like a Seinfeld “shmoopy” version of The Miz and Maryse.
John Cena made his way to the ring and put over pretty much the entire Battleground Card. He said people would see the Punjabi Prison match, the Women’s Revolution, the US Championship, the Tag Team Championship, and the Artist known as Shinsuke Nakamura. He then asked fans what they would remember, and said it would be a flag match. He pointed to the Bulgarian flag for a boo, and the US Flag for a big cheer. He made a big patriotic pitch, saying that he hasn’t always been a favored son, but everyone loves the good USA. He got fired up about not letting the flag fall, and said he was ready.
Cena gave an eye rolling US history lesson about the flag standing through the great depression and 9/11, and made a tried in vain to relate all this to his match with Rusev on Sunday. Cena said these colors don’t run, they kick ass. He said on Sunday those colors will fly high. His music hit and he was waving his flag around, and Rusev blindsided him. He then hit a side kick and placed Cena in the Accolade. Cena powered up to his feet briefly, but eventually collapsed back into the Accolade. He tried to fight again, but didn’t have the strength. Rusev eventually released the hold and grabbed the Bulgarian Flag.
My Take: This promo was downright obnoxious. Did Hulk Hogan ever compare any of his matches to the American Revolution, D-Day, or the Great Depression? And 9/11 of all things? It all just came across pretty classless. I understand wanting to make a patriotic pitch for a USA vs. Evil Foreigners promo, but this was so far beyond any connection to reality that it’s baffling. How does this get through a creative process? How did Cena not object to it? Is Bulgaria some great American enemy that I’m not aware of? Utterly tone deaf segment. Who the hell associates the real triumphs and tragedies throughout US history with phony ass rasslin?
Backstage, AJ Styles was approached by Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura noticed Styles US Championship, and said the next time he does an open challenge, he will answer. Becky Lynch made her entrance, followed by Charlotte.
3. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte: Both women were evenly matched early on. Becky hit several arm drags and Charlotte fired back with some chops. Becky went for a disarmer off of a reversal, but Charlotte was able to make an escape…[c]
Charlotte hit a big boot and covered for a near fall. Naomi was shown backstage watching the match. Becky fired up and monkey flipped Charlotte when she attempted a figure four. She fhen hit an exploder suplex and a flying forearm for a near fall. Becky went for the disarmer and failed. Charlotte went for Natural Selection, but Becky avoided it and nearly applied the Disarmer. Charlotte hit a big boot, and went for and missed a moonsault from the top. Becky grabbed the Disarmer again, but Charlotte initially reached the ropes with a toe. Becky grabbed her and repositioned back towards the middle of the ring, and Charlotte was forced to tap.
Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte at 7:54
After the match, Charlotte shook Becky’s hand in a show of respect. Nattie blindsided Becky and tossed her out of the ring. Tamina and Lana walked down, and Nattie attempted to put Tamina in the Sharpshooter. Lana stopped her, and Tamina then blasted Nattie with a superkick. The Fashion files are next…[c]
My Take: Although a bit clunky at times, I enjoyed Becky vs. Charlotte. They have good chemistry together and push the pace in a way that few matchups in this division will attempt. The reversals throughout the match were clever and they went for a clean finish even though they had plenty of excuses around not to. This was a nice boost for Becky, who has been an excellent babyface, but has lacked a signature victory in recent memory.
Backstage, Naomi was interviewed over who would be her challenger at Summerslam. She was almost immediately interrupted by Carmella, who told her that she doesn’t need to worry about Summerslam, because she may not even be the champion by the time it comes around. She said wherever the Smackdown Women’s Championship goes, she and the briefcase will follow.
The Fashion Files then aired, and they were dressed like Mulder and Scully. Breeze played the skeptic role per usual, and said there were no aliens or UFOs. A blinding light appeared over their heads, and it turned out to be a delivery guy who asked them to sign for a package. They did a spoof of the “What’s in the box” bit from Seven, and inside was a horse head from Fandango’s plush cowboy horse on a stick from last week. They also found a note that said Battleground in it, so I guess the big reveal is on Sunday. The main event is next…[c]
My Take: I’m glad this mystery will be over on Sunday, because they had pushed the angle a ways past my ability to pay serious attention to it. Here’s hoping it turns out to be something more interesting than these segments.
AJ Styles made his entrance for the main event, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura. Corbin tried to ambush Nakamura on the ramp, but he avoided it and traded blows with them. Owens ran out to help, but Styles joined in and evened things up. They brawled until officials split them up. Nakamura and Styles made their way to the ring and called Owens and Corbin down…[c]
4. Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura: The match was joined in progress as the heel team worked over AJ Styles on their half of the ring. Corbin hit strikes, and Owens tagged in to do the same. Styles hit a dropkick and made a tag to Nakamura. He hit a knee and some good vibrations, followed by a step up enziguri. Corbin low bridged Nakamura and he got dumped out of the ring. He tossed him back into an Owens running senton.
Owens continued the abuse with strikes before tagging in Corbin, who applied a bearhug. Nakamura freed himself, and avoided a Corbin lariat to hit a single leg dropkick. Nakamura went for a tag, but Corbin knocked Styles from the apron. Nakamura hit several kicks, and then a kick to Owens. Corin caught him in a deep six, but Styles was there to break up the pin. Nakamura caught Corbin with a left footed kick and made a hot tag to Styles.
Styles entered the match and hit a flurry of strikes and a low flying firearm for a near fall. Owens fired back with a hard lariat and tagged out to Corbin. Corbin tried for a lariat of his own, but got caught in a calf crusher. Styles set up for a phenomenal forearm, but Owens took him of the apron. Nakamura tried to even the odds, but got dumped into the timekeeper’s area. Styles got the better of Corbin back in the ring, but Owens made a blind tag and hit a superkick and powerbomb on a vulnerable Styles for the win.
Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura at 13:11.
Owens and Corbin celebrated up the ramp as Nakamura checked on Styles to close the show.
My Take: A highly entertaining main event that had the heels outsmart the babyfaces instead of going with a cheap distraction finish. I like it, because Styles and Nakamura winning here would have siphoned some of the interest away from their matches on Sunday. Overall, this show was saved by the wrestling, and fell short anytime it tried to do anything narratively. They are limping into Battleground from a story perspective, so hopefully they can overcome that with some solid action on Sunday to make the transition to Summerslam a little smoother.