By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Worcester, Massachusetts at DCU Center
The announce team plugged Shinsuke Nakamura choosing the Money in the Bank Stipulation, and Bryan vs. Hardy in what I assume will be the Main Event. The Miz was already in the ring, and he welcomed the crowd to MizTV. He said he had two exclusives for tonight, and said one of them is years in the making. He then plugged the debut of Miz and Mrs debuting after Smackdown at 10pm on USA. He then announced his next exclusive, and welcomed New Day to the ring.
They made their entrance and tossed some pancakes. They each had microphones and said they were happy to be there. He asked if they were going to watch or DVR Miz and Mrs, and they said nah. He then asked who was going to enter Money in the Bank. They did a count of 3, and all said it’s gonna be me. Miz said it was cute, but he thinks that the 3 of them hold each other back from reaching their full potential. Woods said that’s what he doesn’t understand about them. He ran down all of Miz’s many accomplishments, but said that what nobody likes about him is that he’s always made sure that Miz comes first.
Miz told Kofi that he has a list of accomplishments, but he’s already lost 6 Money in the Bank matches, so maybe it’s time someone else got a shot. He told Big E that he has all the tools, but no one will take himself seriously if he doesn’t take himself seriously. He then puffed up Woods by talking about UpUpDownDown, and asked him how great it would be if he could stream Fortnite while holding the WWE Championship. New Day continued to refuse to make a decision, and Miz got frustrated and demanded an exclusive. He told them he could beat any one of them any day of the week.
Kofi stood up and said it would be E. Miz then started doing his announcer voice to the crowd, but Woods interrupted and said they weren’t talking about Money in the Bank. They were talking about tonight. Miz told them that if he didn’t get what he wanted, they wouldn’t get what they wanted. No exclusive, no match. New Day then shamed him and pelted him with pancakes. Miz stormed to the back, but ran into Paige. He told him to back up his trash talk, and go out there and have the match…[c]
My Take: This was a bit of a mediocre open. I don’t really see the point in dragging out the mystery of The New Day entrant into the Money in the Bank match, but I guess they still have several weeks until the show and want to get a few more segments out of it. I think they might have been feeling out the crowd to see which New Day member got the best reaction, but I don’t think anybody really stood out over the rest.
1. The Miz vs. Big E: The match was mostly comedy early on with Big E using his power to clown on The Miz a bit. He hit a hip toss and gyrated a bit. A moment later, he trapped Miz in an Abdominal stretch spanked him to the tune of New Day Rocks. Miz tried to roll out to the apron, but Big E followed and hit a splash. Xavier Woods left commentary to give Big E a refresher between “rounds”. E sat on a chair and they poured syrup in his mouth, which he spit out. They then put vaseline on his face, but it was way too much and he wiped it off. Miz recovered enough to pull E off the apron a moment later and take control…[c]
The Miz remained in control during the break. He ran at Big E in the corner, but got caught with an overhead belly to belly. He followed up with another belly to belly off the ropes, and gyrated a bit. E hit the ropes and hit a running splash, and then started up the crowd with some clapping. Miz rolled out to the apron, and tried to slide back in to grab a surprise pinfall attempt, but Big E held the ropes.
Miz tried for a DDT while Big E was on his knees, but E stuffed him. Miz then ran at him in the corner, but E caught him in a Uranage for a near fall. Miz and E caught each other in a double clothesline, and the Bar took this opportunity to interfere. They took out Kofi and Xavier on the outside, and caused Big E to get distracted as he was about to hit the Big Ending. The Miz then caught him from behind with the Skull Crushing Finale and got the pinfall.
The Miz defeated Big E at 10:33
After the match, the announce crew put over the main event, and then showed some footage of Daniel Bryan taking out Big Cass last week. The winner of tonight’s match will take on Samoa Joe next week in a Money in the Bank qualifier. Bryan was interviewed backstage, and said he knows better than anyone about second chances, and now treats every match like it’s the biggest match of his career. He said he proved last week that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, if you kick a hornet’s nest you will get stung. He called Jeff Hardy an innovator and a legend, and said he would be a difficult mountain to climb, but later tonight he will make a legend tap out. Lana was then shown preparing for her match next…[c]
My Take: Miz and Big E put together a fun match. The crowd was solidly behind Big E, and got up for all of his big spots. I’m assuming we get a six man next week to settle the score. Daniel Bryan gave a decent promo backstage, but it was a big step backward from his highly energetic promo last week. I think being in front of a live crowd and feeding off the energy is the key to getting good Bryan promos. He also wasn’t done many favors by the writing, but I think he overcame it as best he could.
Aiden English gave a musical introduction for Lana and started a chant. She then made her entrance. The IIconics then made their entrance, and said that it was nice, but they were twice as nice. They started a duet, and sang terribly that Lana was a loser. They did their mean girls bit, but the crowd didn’t really react. They also looked like they both hit the spray tan booth at the same setting. English held up a sign that said Lana Day, and Peyton Royce slapped him. Lana then tossed her into the barricade. Billie attacked her and tossed her back into the ring.
2. Lana vs. Billlie Kay: Lana kicked Billie in the head, and then hit a sitout facebuster for the win.
Lana defeated Billie Kay in 0:10
The crowd fired up with Lana Day chants after the match. A match was announced between The Usos and Gallows and Anderson for the #1 Contendership. Elsewhere, Zelina Vega complained about the lack of competition on Smackdown. She called Andrade the future of Smackdown Live, and said if he doesn’t get what he deserves, they’re just going to take it. The announce team said Almas is up next.
My Take: Color me surprised that the Lana Day chants took off like they did. However, it was still pretty obvious they don’t want her doing too much in the ring. If that’s the case, why put her in Money in the Bank? The IIconics act just isn’t working right now. I think they need to tweak the formula a little bit and lean a little less on the comedy and give them some credibility with some heel tactics.
Andrade Almas made his entrance with Zelina Vega. A jobber victim was already in the ring.
3. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs. Jobber: The jobber got in a few shots early, which must made Almas angry. He hit a vicious back elbow, followed by front and back double knees. He then hit his Hammerlock DDT for the win.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas defeated a jobber at 1:11.
Backstage, Carmella has an Asuka mask in front of her face. She called Dasha Fuentes a hater, and told her that the Asuka myth was shattered at WrestleMania by Charlotte, and she had defeated Charlotte twice. She said she sees through Asuka’s smoke and mirrors, and she would moonwalk her way through Money in the Bank and prove that Mella is Money…[c]
My Take: A nice squash victory for Almas. These types of encounters are really helpful in getting over the signature offense of a character and making them feel like a threat. They seem to be taking a slow approach with Almas, which makes me think he could challenge Jeff Hardy once the Money in the Bank qualifying is out of the way. Though, based on their promo earlier, maybe he’ll show up in the Main Event.
Renee Young was in the ring, and welcomed AJ Styles. Once he got in the ring, Renee brought out Shinsuke Nakamura. AJ gave Shinsuke the side eye, and they paced around one another. Renee started to recap the situation, but AJ demanded to know what the stipulation was. Shinsuke told him to relax, and replayed the footage of his victory from last week. AJ told him to enjoy that, because it would never happen again. Nakamura told him that he wouldn’t just beat him, he would dishonor him and take his title. He told him AJ’s house is now his.
Styles shrugged it off and asked for the stipulation. Shinsuke told him it would be a pillow fight, to which Styles laughed. Nakamura told him that he jokes because he has the upper hand, but Styles jokes because he’s afraid and he’s weak. He told Styles that he can see it in his eyes that he’s already beaten. He told him at Money in the Bank, it would be nothing but knees to face. Styles told Nakamura that he wasn’t the man they hoped they were going to get on Smackdown Live, and that it didn’t matter what the stipulation was because he couldn’t beat him when it mattered anyways.
Nakamura attacked Styles, but Styles sent him packing to the outside. They brawled around ringside, but Nakamura got an advantage when Styles lept at him for a forearm and he intercepted it with a chair. He then suplexed Styles onto the announce table, and hit him with a Kinshasa out on the floor. He counted to 10 in an animated way, and then stood on the announce table to call for a Last Man Standing match.
The announce team plugged the main event.
My Take: I enjoyed this segment. Nakamura and Styles both took some verbal jabs that got under each other’s skin, and the physical confrontation was a satisfying way to work in the stipulation. I’m not a huge fan of Last Man Standing matches on principle, because they tend to lack suspense because of all the counting, but I think the match outcome is up in the air enough that it may not be as much of an issue. Money in the Bank may also help out, if a Smackdown star is holding the briefcase.
Gallows and Anderson were in the ring with The Usos. They told them that they want a title shot, and if they got to go through them, it wouldn’t be a problem. Jey told them that this wasn’t Japan or Monday Night Raw, this was Smackdown and they’d have to earn it. Anderson said he didn’t see any wardens, he saw a bunch of Neeeeerds. A brawl started, and the match begun during the break.
4. The Usos vs. Gallows and Anderson: Anderson and Jey Uso were in the ring as the match was joined in progress. Anderson hit a flying neckbreaker from the top rope. Jey then caught Anderson with a kick, but Gallows tagged in before he could capitalize. Jimmy hit a superkick and Jey hit a splash from the top for a near fall. They setup for double splashes, but Anderson shoved Jey off the turnbuckle to the floor. They hit the Magic Killer in Jimmy a moment later and got the win.
Gallows and Anderson defeated The Usos at 4:32.
The announce team replayed some footage of the AJ and Shinsuke situation from earlier, and plugged the Last Man Standing Match for Money in the Bank. Naomi them made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: I guess Gallows and Anderson are the next victims of the Bludgeon Brothers until Sanity show up? Or do we see Sanity cost the Bludgeon Brothers the titles and go after Gallows and Anderson? Lots of possibilities.
Sonya Deville was introduced next, and this will be her second chance to qualify for Money in the Bank.
5. Naomi vs. Sonya Deville: Becky Lynch was shown in the back watching the match at an unnatural angle. Sonya hit a spear early on and covered for a two count. Charlotte was also shown watching in a different area than Becky. They moved into a long chinlock on the ground. Naomi stood up and backed Sonya into the corner, breaking the hold. Sonya then caught Naomi running in and hit a spinebuster for a two count.
Naomi caught Sonya with a boot, and they both traded kicks in the middle of the ring. Then they both hit step up kicks that knocked each other down. Deville got to her feet first, and hit several knees to Naomi’s body. Naomi then surprised Sonya with a prawn hold into a pin for the win.
Naomi defeated Sonya Deville at 6:33.
After the match, Jeff Hardy was shown in the back walking towards the ring. Renee Young caught him and asked him how excited he was about having an opportunity at Money in the Bank. He used the word synapses and neurons in a sentence that didn’t make any sense. But the idea was that his mind was racing about the idea of using ladders to entertain the WWE universe. He said he and Daniel Bryan for the first time would “scorch our cerebrums”, but he planned on winning and going to Money in the Bank.
My Take: Naomi and Sonya worked hard, but it just didn’t click. There wasn’t much of a story told in the ring, and the finish came out of nowhere. It just felt like they worked through a series of disconnected spots. Jeff Hardy’s promo was a bit jumbled, but he’s charismatic enough that it didn’t lose much of it’s charm.
A six man tag was announced for next week with New Day vs. The Miz and The Bar. Samoa Joe was on commentary as Jeff Hardy made his entrance. He was followed by Daniel Bryan.
6. Daniel Bryan vs. Jeff Hardy: Bryan grounded Hardy early on. They both hit shoulder tackles, but Bryan remained on offense focused on grounding Hardy heading into the break…[c]
Bryan and Hardy had a cross body collision mid ring and both went down. Bryan then sent Hardy to the floor with kicks and then hit a baseball slide through the second rope that sent Hardy into the barricade. Bryan missed the follow up knee strike, and Hardy used the opportunity to hit a flying clothesline from the apron. Bryan crotched Hardy in the corner and placed Hardy in the Tree of Woe. He hit several kicks and then a baseball slide. Bryan climbed the rope and went for a suplex from the top, but Hardy sent him crashing to the mat.
Hardy followed up with a whisper in the win for a near fall. He then went for a twist of fate, but Bryan shoved him off and hit a strike to the knee that Hardy was favoring. Hardy avoided Bryan’s wildest Yes Kick and hit a twist of fate. Hardy then went for a Swanton, but Bryan got the knees up and hit a kick for a near fall.
They went back and forth with pinning situations until Bryan hit a dragon screw leg whip. He then applied a heel hook, and it was game over. Hardy was forced to tap.
Daniel Bryan defeated Samoa Joe at 12:48
After the match, Samoa Joe entered the ring and got in Bryan’s face. He told him to celebrate now, because next week he would be facing him. Bryan celebrated in the ring. Backstage, Samoa Joe was asked by Renee Young why he was so confident about next week. He said that next week, Bryan goes to sleep, yes yes yes.
My Take: A very good match to close the show. I was a little surprised that Hardy didn’t sell the heel hook a bit more, but I like that they are establishing it as a new threat from Bryan. Hardy has put on good matches just about every week, which is a great to see. It’s quite amazing for someone who has put their body through as much as he has, both in and away from the ring. Bryan continues to look sharp in the ring, and I’m hoping we’ll see some callbacks to the great Samoa Joe/Bryan Danielson matches of yesteryear. It could be a real banger if they give it 15-20 minutes of TV. Overall, this was a very watchable show, with some strong segments at the top of the second hour and in the main event. The Women really seemed to fade into the background on this show, which is something they need to work on heading into next week.