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Was this show booked at a drunken Independence Day party? The top three matches feature Americans facing foreign menace heels. The theme is a little too similar in these matches and that’s coming from an American. I can only wonder how invested the rest of the worldwide audience is when it comes to seeing WWE present their “America, F— Yeah!” pay-per-view. Smackdown has slipped in recent months and it’s not because they put the title on Jinder Mahal. That hasn’t helped and one can only wonder how different the show would feel if he held the U.S. Championship while AJ Styles took on all comers as the WWE Champion. Still, the women spend their weeks huddled around Shane McMahon in campy backstage segments. John Cena went all in on the patriotic theme for a silly flag match. The tag team division is a two team battle with everyone else feeling like pretenders. We’re getting the same Kickoff Match we had at Backlash in late May. Hopefully the in-ring action can make up for the slumping creative work.
Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship: If you read my recaps of the two previous versions of the match, then you know that it won’t take much for Mahal and Orton to produce the best Punjabi Prison match ever. It’s a bad match concept and I’m curious to see how the Philadelphia crowd reacts to watching the match via the big screen given that the structure makes it difficult to watch. God bless referee Charles Robinson if he works this match, as this would be his third up close look at the gimmick match. Someone give that guy a bonus. One can only hope that this is the end of the line for the Mahal vs. Orton feud. It feels like it’s already overstayed its welcome and it’s been ridiculous that no other wrestlers seem interested in challenging for the championship. The exception is Money in the Bank contract holder Baron Corbin. Could Corbin lose his match to Nakamura and then play the buzzard role by picking at the remains of the winner of this match for a successful cash-in? Sure, if they really want to shake things up, but my guess is that they are not going there yet. Instead, I’m looking for the Singh Brothers to get involved once again by blocking Orton’s path to the floor, giving Mahal a win by dropping to the ringside before Orton can do so.
Jinder Mahal retains the WWE Championship.
John Cena vs. Rusev in a Flag Match: D-Day. 9/11. Cena really wants it to feel like he’s fighting for the honor of his country when he takes on that evil Bulgarian. Wait, what? There are no issues between America and Bulgaria. For that matter, America has no issues with India or Canada. Rusev is finally playing the role of monster heel again, yet he was reintroduced in the dullest way possible. This feud and the match concept is beneath both men. It should feel exciting that both men are back, but this feud has no juice. I assume there’s a reason that Cena is being labeled in a free agent heading into SummerSlam even though it’s oddly never mentioned on Raw. My guess is that he’s moving on for a SummerSlam match with someone on the red brand. Cena laid it on so thick with his patriotic promo on Tuesday that I assume he’s going over. Sadly, I just don’t care.
John Cena wins.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship: The likely show stealing match. The house show title change was cool in the moment, but I must admit that I think I would be looking forward to this match more if Styles had not won the title at MSG. It’s not that they can’t book another title change here, it’s just that it’s hard to believe they will this soon, especially when they seem to be teasing Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for SummerSlam. Even so, this should be very good and I’m happy the wrestlers are not bogged down by a bad gimmick match unlike the two other top matches.
AJ Styles retains.
The Usos vs. New Day for the Smackdown Tag Titles: We are less than a month away from the SummerSlam event. My guess is that they stretch this out until then to save New Day capturing the Smackdown Tag Titles for the bigger show.
The Usos retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin: I am looking forward to seeing what type of match these two can produce. Corbin strikes me as a guy who will welcome working Nakamura’s stiff style and surely he recognizes that this is a big match for him. The Nakamura vs. Styles match is looming and thus I assume Nakamura comes out on top.
Shinsuke Nakamura wins.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana in a five-way elimination match for a Smackdown Women’s Championship match at SummerSlam: WWE still hasn’t explained why Tamina is aligned with Lana. Normally, my guard would be up for the new alliance factoring into the finish of a match like this one, but I can’t imagine WWE going with either woman challenging Naomi at SummerSlam. Rather, my guess is that Charlotte has to fight off both women before winning the match and becoming the No. 1 contender heading into SummerSlam.
Charlotte wins the elimination match.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis: The Smackdown version of this match featured Zayn dominating until Maria Kanellis saved her husband by standing in front of him to prevent Zayn from performing his Helluva Kick finisher. It feels too soon for Mike to lose his first match, so I assume he will get a similar flukey win.
Mike Kanellis wins.
Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger (Kickoff Show): English is doing a fine job as the overdramatic crybaby undercard heel. Dillinger is good in the ring, but creative isn’t even trying to establish a persona for him beyond the 10 gimmick. It would be nice to see these two have an actual feud rather than just meeting in random Kickoff Show matches. I’d like to see English get the win to begin that process, but history suggests that the babyface will win the opener.
Tye Dillinger wins.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...