By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. John Cena for the WWE SummerSlam title shot: The pre-match build left a lot to be desired. Sure, the broadcast team mentioned it and treated it like a big deal, but I still felt like WWE should have done more to make this feel like a big television event. There were no promos from either man leading into the match, and it received the same attention as a typical television main event despite who was involved and the high stakes. That said, this was really fun once the bell rang. The early exchanges with Cena’s “you can’t see me” and Nakamura’s oddball rope break and his own sign that he could see Cena was good fun. They picked up the pace following the commercial break and it was very enjoyable to watch the two legends work a good back and forth match. The big suplex spot was scary and it was a good to see him back on his feet for the post match exchange of respect. By the way, it was a nice touch to have Jinder Mahal in the luxury box, as it played into his character nicely.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship: It’s nice to see a hot start to the show with an immediate match rather than the usual long talking segment. Plus, these two had a better outing than they had at WWE Battleground and on last week’s television show. The finish kept the title on Styles while also setting up the need for a rematch. I’m surprised it’s taking place at SummerSlam rather than the rumored Owens vs. Shane McMahon match. That said, the fact that AJ’s opponent was named prior to the John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match felt like it tipped their hand a bit in that many fans assumed that it would be Nakamura challenging Styles, but with him out of the U.S. Title match, it felt like a tell that he would be in the world title picture instead.
Rusev vs. Chad Gable: An entertaining match with Gable’s character putting up a good fight despite taking the loss. How odd is it that Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s storyline son, yet Chad Gable is the one performing the ankle lock? Maybe we’ll find out that Angle’s character was a man-whore and he has more than one lovechild on the roster. The post match angle saw Randy Orton get a star reaction from the crowd as he heads into yet another feud with a foreign menace.
Jimmy and Jey Uso: A good heat drawing spoof of the New Day entrance followed by a solid promo.
Aiden English vs. Sami Zayn: A minor Hit. I continue to enjoy English making the most of the singles gimmick he is revisiting from his NXT days. Meanwhile, Zayn fans are sure to be grumbling about him losing to an undercard act, but one can only assume that he’ll get the win back. The post match angle with Mike & Maria Kanellis was flat. Mike needs wins, not blink and you miss it promo segments. I continue to hope that Zayn losing as often as he wins pays off in the long term in that fans will rally behind him when/if the company eventually positions him as an underdog who earns his way into a major match.
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya and Carmella: A minor Hit for simple tag match that gave the babyface champion a clean win. It was the only thing clean about the match, as the ring canvas was covered with someone’s spray tan afterward. At some point, they need to put some heat on Natalya and make her look strong heading into the pay-per-view. I thought that would happen here, but I assume it’s still to come.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Fashion Files: More of “not my thing” than a Miss, as I assume this clicked more with fans of Twin Peaks. I’ve been meaning to watch the first two seasons on Netflix. Perhaps this segment going over my head was the final nudge that I needed.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Todd Martin on his background, attending pro wrestling events in Japan, the NJPW G1 Tournament, why lucha libre companies haven't been as successful as NJPW in the United States, AEW optimism, covering pro wrestling and MMA, and more (68:57)...