By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Taped earlier in the day in Manchester, England at the Manchester Arena
A video package opened the show that featured AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal hyping up their WWE Championship match in the Main Event. In the building, the announce crew of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton. They announced Becky Lynch vs. James Ellsworth in an Intergender “Battle of the Sexes”, and The Usos facing Gable and Benjamin to determine who faces The Bar at Survivor Series.
Shane McMahon made his entrance and made a pitch for Survivor Series. He reminded everyone that it was the one time a year that Raw meets Smackdown, and said it would be the last time Raw could call itself the A Show, because after Survivor Series Smackdown would be “The Show”. He then promised revenge on Kurt Angle when he got in the ring with him at Survivor Series, and held him and Stephanie McMahon responsible for the attack on Bryan by Kane on Raw last week. He then said Bryan would be back next week, because Bryan is just like the rest of the Smackdown roster, in that nothing will keep them down.
Shane then gave New Day credit for their shot across the bow of Raw last night, and bought them out. A video clip played of last night’s event where New Day cost The Shield the Raw Tag Team Titles. New Day said it wasn’t their intention to cost The Shield the Championships, but those are the consequences of putting Raw under siege. Big E talked about going to Raw and looking their roster in the eye and putting a whooping on them, and because it’s the Raw roster, they did nothing in return. He said if Raw tried anything, they’d be first in line to beat them back to Mondays. Shane did an awkward New Day Rock chant to fire up the crowd
Zayn and Owens interrupted, and Sami told Shane he should never dance again. He said Shane’s not cool and he never will be. Owens piped up and said Shane was still bitter about losing to him at Survivor Series, and his Daddy issues forced him to set them up. Shane accused them of having no loyalty, and said that the reason they aren’t on Team Smackdown is because they couldn’t win their qualifying matches. Sami and Kevin fired back and said that he lost to a low blow, and Owens said it was embarrassing that they had to qualify in the first place. He then called New Day a bunch of puppets and said he refused to dance to earn Shane’s favor.
Kofi called Sami a 1930’s paperboy, and Big E said Owens hand was so far up Zayn’s ass that when Sami brushes his teeth Owens gets a manicure. Zayn had a enough at that point, and said that he would enjoy it when they lost at Survivor Series, because Team Raw was going to destroy them. Shane then booked match between Kofi and Sami, and it would take place now…[c]
My Take: This was an entertaining promo, but all the stuff about brand loyalty rings hollow. New Day being the brand ambassadors makes sense, but honestly I don’t think the crowds are that invested in this Raw vs. Smackdown story. They mostly got excited about the catchphrases.
1. Kofi Kingston vs. Sami Zayn: Kofi started out pushing the place and hitting some strikes. Sami took him down with an arm drag and rest hold. Kofi fired back with a nice dropkick that sent Sami reeling out to the floor. Kofi followed out to the floor, and flinched when he saw Kevin Owens. Sami took advantage and took over on offense with some clubbing blows. He climbed to the top, but Kofi hit a dropkick as Sami took to the air…[c]
Kofi hit a gymnastics style flip over the ropes onto Sami out on the floor. He then hit SOS in the ring for a near fall. Sami recovered and hit a blue thunder bomb for a near fall of his own. Kofi went for a springboard, but Sami got out of the way. Kofi ran towards the corner and leaped up into a Moonsault that caught Sami by surprise for the win.
Kofi Kingston defeated Sami Zayn at 6:49.
Video was shown of Jinder Mahal as he beat down AJ Styles last week. Jinder was interviewed backstage, and was asked if the match with AJ Styles had interrupted his preparation for Brock Lesnar. Mahal said he was at lunch today and asked for an AJ Styles, because he would be the appetizer for the meal that is the best Brock Lesnar. He said AJ Styles would be a serious opponent for any normal man, but he’s the Maharaja, and he would devour AJ Styles and then get ready to feast on the best…[c]
My Take: A decent promo from Mahal, but I’m at the fatigue point with his monotone delivery and one dimensional character. Kofi vs. Sami was a fun match, but it feels like they’ve been undermining Owens and Zayn ever since they began the build in earnest to Survivor Series. Part of me wonders whether they’re being setup to get their revenge during the big Raw v. Smackdown match on that show.
We saw another Bludgeon Brothers promo in the woods. Humanity is terrible, and they’re here to make it worse. Aiden English was introduced and asked for silence. He then sang in Rusev, who made his entrance. Randy Orton followed with his ring entrance.
2. Randy Orton vs. Rusev: Rusev avoided an RKO and hit a big side kick that got a near fall. Orton was staggered and Rusev continued to stomp on him…[c]
There were Rusev Day chants as Orton landed punches. Backstage, Roode and Nakamura were shown watching the match. Rusev landed shoulder tackles in the corner and then covered for a two count. Rusev dropped some elbows and covered again for two. Rusev showed some frustration after landing several blows and covering again for a two count. He complained to the ref, and turned around directly into an RKO. Orton covered for the win.
Randy Orton defeated Rusev at 7:03.
The announce team plugged Styles vs. Mahal. Backstage, Ellsworth paced outside the women’s locker room.Tamina walked out, and he snidely asked for Carmella. Instead he got Becky Lynch, and he rattled off a bunch of boiler plate misogyny. He said men are superior in everyway, they were in Manchester and not Womanchester, and that he hoped she didn’t get hurt in their match. Becky said they were ballsy statements, and it was a shame he didn’t have any…[c]
My Take: Another RKO loss for Rusev. I hope they start using him better soon. Ellsworth’s promo was odd and out of character. Apparently he read a manual on how to cram as many dismissive statements as humanly possible about women into a single monologue.
Charlotte, Naomi, Tamina, and Lana were at ringside. Ellsworth made his entrance with Carmella. He said something to Carmella on the ramp, and she looked a bit disgusted. Ellsworth got booed, and wore leopard print trunks. Becky Lynch made her entrance to a nice reaction.
3. Becky Lynch vs. James Ellsworth: Ellsworth started by doing some push ups. His shirt had some tape on it and “Captain Ellsworth” written on it. They tied up and Ellsworth did a standing switch and took her down. She returned the favor, and picked him up and set him on the tope rope. Becky rolled Ellsworth around the ring in various pin attempts. She then grabbed a leg scissors around his waist and spun him around the ring, and then did an airplane spin.
Ellsworth rolled to the floor as the Women’s Division stared him down. He got in the ring and then shoved Becky down, and a second time that sent her out of the ring. Ellsworth sent Becky hard into the turnbuckle, and then set up for No Shin Music. Becky blocked it and hit an atomic drop, followed by an exploder suplex. Ellsworth rolled out to the floor and tried to leave, but the rest of the women forced him back in. He tried to pathetically apologize to her and give her an apology, but she turned the hug into a disarmer and ended it.
Becky Lynch defeated James Ellsworth at 6:50.
The main event was hyped for later. The Usos vs. Gable and Benjamin is up next…[c]
My Take: I can’t say that was particularly exciting. It never felt like it got into a rhythm, and the concept wasn’t over enough with the crowd to make up for it. It’ll be nice to have Ellsworth out of the Women’s division, though, as I think Carmella has more room for growth without him. They made it work for quite a while though, so hats off to them.
Backstage, Charlotte and Shane McMahon were talking when Natalya approached. Nattie said she knows why he called her, and said she accepted. She would defend her Championship against Alexa Bliss, and then she would take Charlotte’s spot on Team Smackdown. Charlotte called her delusional, and Shane kept the peace. He said that since Natalya had kept her title at HIAC by using a Chair, she would defend it next week against Charlotte, and the winner would take on Alexa Bliss at Survivor Series.
Gable and Benjamin made their entrance, followed by the Usos. The Usos had mics and they did some call and response. They called Gable and Benjamin chumps who think they will represent the blue team at Survivor Series, but they were actually their next victims. They welcomed them to the Uso Penitentiary, and then sucker punched them…[c]
4. The Usos vs. Gable and Benjamin for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The match was joined in progress. There was a blind tag to Benjamin that Jey Uso didn’t see. Shelton hit a spinebuster on Jey and Paydirt on Jimmy. The Usos went out on the floor and Gable hit a nasty looking chop block on Jey Uso. Shelton stared down Jey, but made no attempt to bring him back in the ring, and The Usos were counted out.
Gable and Benjamin defeated The Usos at 3:48
Backstage, AJ Styles was interviewed by Renee Young, and asked if he felt overlooked by Jinder Mahal. AJ said Jinder should practice portion control, because the last thing he wants to do is take him lightly. He said he’s never been the biggest, or the strongest, but he’s phenomenal because he works the hardest. He said he would defeat the Maharaja, and then slay the beast at Survivor Series…[c]
My Take: So, why wouldn’t Benjamin and Gable bring the Usos back in the ring so they could win the Championships? Unless there was a legit injury there, I don’t really understand the finish. Styles cut a good promo after the match. He showed some fire about being overlooked, and it was a welcome change from the dull babyfaces elsewhere on the show.
Sin Cara will get another match with Baron Corbin next week, along with Natalya vs. Charlotte, and New Day vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. The Singh Brothers made their entrance, and gave their introduction for Jinder Mahal. AJ Styles then made his entrance.
5. AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship: It was all Jinder Mahal early on. He tossed Styles around and taunted the crowd with his physique. He tossed Styles out to the floor over the tope rope…[c]
Styles fought out of a headlock and hit a forearm that caused Jinder to retreat to the floor. Styles tried to capitalize, but got his legs pulled out from under him and landed hard on the apron. Jinder then hit a bodyslam on the announce table. It didn’t break, so AJ slid off backwards onto the floor. Jinder continued to dominate in the ring, with plodding offense involving holds and power strikes. He kept styles grounded as best he could. Styles got his feet up when Mahal tried to drop a knee, and started his comeback.
He hit a combination of strikes and hit an Ushigoroshi for a two count. He signaled for a Styles Clash, but Mahal powered out. Styles landed on his feet and hit some kicks. Mahal recovered and tossed Styles over his shoulder from a body slam position in what looked like a modified pancake. Mahal set Styles up in the corner for a superplex, but Styles slipped out and kicked out Jinder’s leg. AJ applied the Calf Crusher, but Mahal escaped by slamming AJ’s head off the mat. He applied the hold again, but Mahal reached the ropes.
Styles went for a spinning backfist, but Mahal blocked it and hit a lariat for a near fall. Jinder showed some frustration, and put AJ back on the tope rope. Styles slipped out again, and low bridged Mahal out to the floor. He then followed up with a Phenomenal Forearm out to the floor. He then put Mahal back in the ring, and hit a Springboard 450, but the Singh Brothers pulled Mahal out of the ring. Styles then followed and took them both out on the floor. AJ went for another forearm, but Mahal caught him and hit the Khallas. Mahal covered and AJ got a foot on the rope.
Mahal set AJ back on the rope rope, and set up for a top rope Khallas, but he reversed and hung Mahal on the top rope with a cutter. Styles then hit the Phenomenal Forearm and got the three count for the victory and the WWE Championship.
AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal at 16:22
The Survivor Series match was updated to Lesnar vs. Styles, and suddenly optimism is running high on the blue brand. Styles celebrated with the Manchester Crowd as the show went off the air.
My Take: Well, I guess the WWE Title doesn’t have to Weekend and Bernie’s Jinder Mahal into relevance anymore. All jokes aside, this was a good move….though I think it may be short term. Mahal vs. Lesnar wasn’t a main event anyone was excited about, and I don’t think they want to have Mahal lose any matches where he’s not going to get his win back. He can do that against Styles in India, or at the next Smackdown PPV, or wherever they decide, but it likely never would have happened against Lesnar. Though, I honestly hope I’m wrong and they’ve picked a new direction for the show. I’d trade Mahal to Raw for The Revival 6 days a week and twice on Sunday. He’s just not my cup of tea, and I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.