By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Raleigh, North Carolina at PNC Arena
The show opened with Tom Phillips saying tonight was all about gaining momentum towards Money in the Bank. The New Day will face The Miz and The Bar. Lana will face Naomi in a dance off, and Samoa Joe will face Daniel Bryan. Samoa Joe made his entrance right out of the gate, and grabbed a ladder from underneath the ring. He set it up and grabbed one of the briefcases hanging over the ring. He said it is said in biblical texts that the ladder represents the connection between the Earth and Salvation. He said in the bible, Gabriel ascends to the heavens to seek salvation, but in his version, there is no salvation, and after Money in the Bank he’ll be the one smiling.
He said he would grab the briefcase, and begin a campaign of fear and intimidation that would shake Smackdown Live to it’s very core. Joe then said that he would prove to Daniel Bryan that there are far worse things than retirement. He told him to call his wife and tell his daughter a story that he would make it home from their match tonight, but he would never be the same man. He would be drenched in regret, sadness, and failure, and he hopes Brie tells their daughter that it was a bad bad man who did it and his name is Samoa Joe.
Bryan walked out and said if Joe mentioned his wife or daughter one more time, he’d break his leg. He said if Joe was looking for a fight, they could do it right now. Before they could get into it, Big Cass interrupted and made a slow crutched walk to the ring. He said it was his Money in the Bank opportunity, not Daniel Bryan’s, and this second chance crap had to stop. He said he had spoke to Paige, and the match between Bryan and Joe will not happen. Cass then said that Joe will take him on when he is medically cleared, which he already is.
He took a shot at Bryan with the crutch, but Bryan ducked and he took out Joe. He then hit both Bryan and Joe with the briefcase that Joe pulled down, and stood tall in the ring. Backstage, Shinsuke Nakamura made a 10 count backstage with some cue cards. He will be up next against Tye Dillinger…[c]
My Take: That’s a pretty rotten bait and switch to advertise Bryan and Joe and pull back on it, if that ends up being the case. We’ll have to see what ends up actually taking place. I’d have to imagine a Triple Threat is the most likely outcome. Either way, still a huge downgrade in my opinion as Cass has been a disappointment in the ring since his return.
In the arena, Shinsuka Nakamura made his ring entrance, followed by Tye Dillinger.
1. Tye Dillinger vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Tye got out front with some chops and 10 punches in the corner. Shinsuke bailed out to the floor, and took over with a kicks and knees. He tossed Dillinger back in the ring, but got caught with a dropkick and got knocked off the apron when he tried to re-enter. Dillinger lined up a suicide dive, but Nakamura met him with a kick, and they both brawled out on the floor…[c]
Dillinger broke free of a chinlock with a jawbreaker, but ran into a knee lift that put him back on the mat. Shinsuke taunted the crowd and demanded the ref give Dillinger a standing count. He hit a few more strikes and started the same process. He then hit a running knee the corner, and repeated the counting process. Dillinger got up at a count of nine, and a 10 chant started in the crowd. Dillinger the ducked a clothesline and taunted Shinsuke with his “C’monnnnn” phrase.
Nakamura hit rocked by a knee to the side of the face, and rolled out to the apron. He fired back with a kick to the face, and then a second rope jumping knee. He then hit Kinshasa and covered fo the win.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Tye Dillinger in 8:44.
After the match, Nakamura hit another Kinshasa to the back of Dillinger’s head, and made an audible 10 count on the microphone. Backstage, Dasha interviewed AJ Styles and asked if the Last Man Standing stipulation favors Shinsuke. AJ acknowledged that the match favors strikes, but the story of his life has been people underestimating him. He said he always fights smarter, and nobody works harder than him. AJ said he never backs down from a challenge, and the last man standing at Money in the Bank will be AJ Styles.
Elsewhere, Rusev and Aiden English have Lana some tips for her dance off, which is next…[c]
My Take: I appreciate the effort being put in to cast Shinsuke as a legitimate threat in this type of match, but the method they chose to do so in the ring also highlights some of the downsides of it as well. Counting gets real boring down the stretch, especially early on when it’s hard to buy into the idea that the match will end quickly. AJ and Shinsuke have their work cut out for them at Money in the Bank.
Rusev and Aiden gave Lana a rousing entrance for her dance contest. Jimmy and Jey accompanied Naomi. Lana went first and worked in a few breakdance moves, and Naomi fired back with some hip hop. They both shook hands when it was over, and then danced together briefly. In the middle of it, Lana gave Naomi a neckbreaker and slapped Jimmy Uso. Naomi fired back when she got back to her feet, and The Usos cleared Aiden and Rusev from the ring. Naomi hit Rear View on Lana to send her packing. The announcers gave the win to Naomi, but nobody else got a vote.
Backstage, New Day got ready for their match with pancakes. The Miz and The Bar also had pancakes, but Miz was practicing swatting them away while blindfolded. Their match is next…[c]
My Take: The Dance contest was utterly pointless. I could forgive doing a non-wrestling segment if they felt like they were building to something, but this just felt like filler heading into Money in the Bank and it closely resembled some of the “Divas” era garbage.
The New Day made their ring entrance, followed by New Day and The Bar.
2. New Day vs. The Bar and The Miz: New Day made quick tags early on with Cesaro in the ring and hit some rapid fire offense. The Miz distracted the ref, which allowed Sheamus to low bridge Kofi out to the floor…[c]
The Miz tagged in Sheamus as the heel continued to isolate and punish Kofi Kingston. The announce team all heard a different version of the New Day was entering Money in the Bank, and ended up agreeing that it’s still a mystery. Kofi avoided a charging Cesaro in the corner, and also avoided Miz as he charged across the ring to stop him from making a tag. Miz and Sheamus baited Big E on the outside, and then tossed him into the barricade on the outside. Kofi was unable to make a tag, and ate a kick from Sheamus for a near fall.
Miz tagged in and signaled for a Skull Crushing Finale, but Kofi reversed into SOS. Woods went crazy on the apron for a hot tag, and cleared the heels from the ring apron. He then hit a flying head scissors on Sheamus, and dove to the outside onto Cesaro. He hit a DDT on Sheamus as he jumped back into the ring, and got a near fall.
Woods looked for his springboard elbow, but Miz knocked him back into the ring. Kofi took out Miz, but Cesaro clobbered him with a lariat in response. Big E finally got back into the match, and he and Woods hit a Uranage/Backstabber combo for a near fall. Big E paced and sized up Cesaro, and grabbed him for the Big Ending, but Cesaro escaped and made a blind tag to Miz. Things got fast and furious and both teams hit back and forth high spots. Kofi dove over the top out to the floor to take The Bar out of the match. Miz then walked into a Big Ending in the ring, and Big E covered for the win.
New Day defeated The Bar and The Miz at 10:32.
New Day celebrated and pointed at each other and Money in the Bank. They did a bit of silly comedy, but eventually said they were in the best shape of their careers, and at Money in the Bank they would beat them like a couple of…..they were interrupted by The Bludgeon Brothers on the TV next to them. They did a very 80s promo where they said that bodies would be liquified.
The announcers showed some footage of Daniel Bryan’s beating of Big Cass two weeks ago in the UK. They then plugged the main event of Daniel Bryan vs. Samoa Joe vs. Big Cass. Asuka was shown painting herself up for her match with Mandy Rose next…[c]
My Take: The only think Tom Phillips could say about Mandy Rose is that she’s “stunning”. There’s some really regressive things going on with the women’s division on Smackdown right now. A real lack of focus on ring action and telling good stories. New Day vs. The Miz and The Bar was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the ring action a lot, though the continued focus on pancakes is still a bit puzzling.
Carmella made her way to the ring to join on commentary. We then got Mandy Rose’s softcore porn entrance, followed by Asuka. Sonya Deville attacked Asuka during her entrance, knocking her down. She just hit her once, though, which seems like not enough.
3. Asuka vs. Mandy Rose: Mandy backed Asuka into the corner with a double leg, and then stomped her down to the mat. Mandy then hit a reverse suplex, and applied a straight jacket hold. Mandy hit a knee strike and covered for a two count…[c]
Asuka hit a wheel kick to the face and followed up with some palm strikes. She then hit a running kick to a seated Mandy. She then hit a missile dropkick from the top, and covered for a near fall. Mandy came back with a short arm clothesline, and went for a wheelbarrow slam, but Asuka reversed it into a pinning combination for a two count. She then pulled her into the Asuka lock from the same position and got the win.
Asuka defeated Mandy Rose in 7:42
After the match, Carmella walked up to Asuka and held up her championship. She them moonwalked away holding up her championship. Backstage, Becky and Charlotte watched the happenings out in the ring, and bantered about who would win Money in the Bank. Charlotte made the assumption that Asuka was going to win the Championship at Money in the Bank, and that she could win the briefcase and get her WrestleMania rematch. Becky said this year nothing was going to stop her, not even Charlotte. Charlotte said she wants Becky to win, but as bad as she wants it, she needs the contract to get back what was stolen from her.
Paige walked up and said this was getting interesting. She recalled Team PCB years ago, and said those were good memories…..but they all agreed they weren’t. Paige said they should keep that going, because it was Tea Time. Paige then headed offscreen…[c]
My Take: Surprised by how much offense they gave Mandy there. Asuka desperately needs some characterization to help her reconnect with fans in this new world where she isn’t an unstoppable juggernaut. The backstage segment with Becky and Charlotte was good, if only that it teased a future where they would be at odds with each other. That’s the real money feud on this show from the Women’s side of things.
Becky vs. Charlotte was announced for Smackdown next week, as well as English, Rusev and Lana vs. The Usos and Naomi. Backstage, Sin Cara approached Andrade Almas, and Zelina Vega quickly told him to back off. Sin Cara said he knew Andrade from way back, but Zelina corrected him that he doesn’t know this Andrade, and they blew him off. Samoa Joe and Cass were most of the way through their entrances as the show cut to the ring. Daniel Bryan then made his entrance.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Samoa Joe vs. Big Cass: Joe and Bryan united early on to get a bit of revenge for the attack by Cass earlier. Joe quickly turned on Bryan and chopped him down, and hit rapid fire punches in the corner. Joe dove at Cass at ringside, and then Bryan jumped from the top onto both of them…[c]
Cass and Joe brawled back and forth, with Joe getting the better of it with a big kick. Bryan broke up a Coquina Clutch attempt, but ate a kick to the chest for his trouble. Cass and Joe traded chops, and then Bryan pulled Cass away and chopped him down with kicks. Cass swatted Bryan away after a bit and tossed him to ringside, where he followed and sent him over the announce table.
Joe and Cass collided back in the ring, where Joe took him down with strikes. Joe climbed up to the top, where Bryan quickly ran in and kicked him. He then hit a baseball slide on Cass and pulled Joe off the ropes with a head scissors. Bryan fired up and hit Joe with several running kicks in the corner, but got turned inside out by a Cass lariat on his third attempt. Bryan attempted to fight to his feet, but Cass shut him down with a knee to the ribs. Samoa Joe was out of the match on the floor…[c]
Cass hit some clubs to the back of Samoa Joe, and followed it up with a spinebuster. He then hit the Empire Elbow, but Bryan broke up the count at one. Cass hit the East River Crossing and covered for a two count. Bryan got back into the match with Dragon Screw Leg Whips on both men, followed by a Yes Kick two for one. Bryan covered Cass for a two count after the final kick. Bryan hit another leg whip and went for a Heel Hook, but Joe applied the Coquina Clutch from behind.
Bryan reversed into a pinfall attempt, and broke free. He then sent Joe to ringside with a low bridge and went for a Yes Lock on Cass. Joe pulled him to the ropes, and Bryan hit a jumping knee to ringside to shake off Joe. Bryan climbed to the top and hit a missile dropkick on Cass, and kipped up after firing up for the crowd. He hulked up a bit and then fired up the crowd for his running knee and put Cass down, but Joe immediately pulled him into the Coquina Clutch. Bryan fought briefly, but Joe ended up putting Bryan to sleep.
Samoa Joe defeated Daniel Bryan and Big Cass at 19:33
After the match, Cass waited on Daniel Bryan to recover and gave him a Big Boot. He then stood over Bryan to close the show.
My Take: Joe getting the win by catching Bryan when he was vulnerable was a good finish to this match, and could still lead to a fun feud down the road. Bryan doesn’t look weak for passing out in a submission. The fact that his feud with Cass is going to continue is a crime against humanity. There’s just nothing there. I had expected coming into the show that Cass would get involved and probably cost Bryan the match, but the way they stole the thunder immediately at the beginning of the show was a huge let down. It felt like a downgrade in every way, and judging by the go away boos at the end of the show for Cass, it didn’t get people fired up about more matches between them.