By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Corpus Christi, Texas at American Bank Center
The show opened with Carmella making her way to the ring for a promo. She immediately demanded the crowd get down on their knees and give her the praise she deserves as Smackdown Women’s Champion. She then pivoted and said tonight was about her opponent Asuka, and that we all deserved the truth. She the introduced a video package of how she inspires fear, love, and respect.
She said the video showed poise and confidence, but it was time to remove the mask and face the horrible truth together. She then showed another video package that focused on Asuka’s loss at WrestleMania and her lack of immediate success on Smackdown. Carmella then said that her loss at WrestleMania shattered her psyche, and that’s why she had no fear, and that’s why Mella is Money. The crowd booed while Carmella said the Age of Asuka is over. She said she was once undefeated, but Asuka is just defeated.
Carmella said no one used to be ready for Asuka, but now everybody is, and she had the crowd raise their hands to show who was ready for Asuka. She then made her entrance as Carmella stared her down from the ring. As she finished her entrance and got to the ring, Mandy and Sonya interrupted. Mandy said she was a second away from beating Asuka last week, and she knows she can beat her tonight. Sonya said she left just enough of Asuka for her, and tonight it was her turn.
Carmella said if she was the undefeated Asuka, she would take them both, but now that she’s the defeated Asuka, she should call and Uber and head on home. Paige then interrupted and said she was the one who makes the matches, and gave Asuka a choice between Sonya and Mandy. Asuka chose both, and a handicap match was booked for next…[c]
My Take: This was a competent promo from Carmella, but it didn’t blow me away. The lack of characterization of Asuka has made it difficult for Carmella to really get under her skin like she could with Charlotte.
1. Asuka vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville: Carmella was on commentary. Sonya started the match with Asuka. Sonya dragged Asuka down with a waist lock, and Asuka quickly reversed into a knee bar. Sonya reached the ropes and both women stood up. Sonya dropped Asuka with a big right hand. Sonya backed her into the heel corner and tagged in Mandy. They both took shots at her in the corner, and made quick tags in and out. Carmella went on and on about how embarrassing this was for Asuka to fall victim to the numbers.
Mandy grabbed a chinlock, but Asuka fought to her feet. She fired up and hit a hip attack and a missile dropkick from the top. Carmella distracted Asuka, which allowed Sonya to tag in and hit Asuka from behind. Carmella moonwalked on the announce table…[c]
Asuka hit a dropkick to Mandy and sent Sonya to the floor with a hip attack. Asuka hit a kick to Mandy and went for a cover, but Sonya broke up the pinfall. She then tagged in, and Asuka hit her with a knee. Sonya fired back with a spear, and covered for a near fall. They traded strikes and holds, and eventually Asuka pulled her into the Asuka lock and got the win. Mandy never re-entered after tagging out.
Asuka defeated Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville at 11:33.
After the match, Carmella entered the ring. Mandy Rose tried to attack Asuka from behind, but Asuka hit her with spinning back fist. Carmella then hit her with the belt and a superkick to close the segment. Backstage, Mr. Bootyworth approached The Miz, and he asked who he was. New Day appeared and told him, and offered him a faux apology for the way they had acted over the past few weeks. They asked him to help them reveal their member to the WWE Universe. They ask him to draw a name out of a hat, and the person he draws will enter Money in the Bank.
They blindfolded him, and replaced the hat with one filled with pancake batter. He pulled his nasty hand out and flung batter in their faces. He said they would all pay later tonight when they face Samoa Joe, Rusev, and The Miz. He then wiped his hand on Mr. Bootyworth and walked away.
My Take: Sonya looked pretty good at times in the ring with Asuka. It wasn’t always great minute by minute, but the match had its moments. Sonya desperately needs a new gimmick through. That MMA thing feels a bit obsolete with Ronda around. The Miz and New Day segment was a bunch more pancake humor. It doesn’t work on me, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it based on their reactions.
Karl Anderson was already in the ring. Gallows was at ringside. The Bludgeon Brothers then made their entrance.
2. Luke Harper vs. Karl Anderson: Harper started out with a big boot and then dominated the first few minutes of the match. He hit a spinning side slam and looked out over the crowd. Anderson kicked Harper in the knee and backed him away from the corner. He then pulled him into a sneaky rollup and got the win.
Karl Anderson defeated Luke Harper at 3:05
Harper looked enraged as Anderson and Gallows celebrated up the ramp. We then got a highlight reel from the dance off last wek. Jimmy and Naomi were shown backstage, and Naomi told Lana she was going to snatch her bald and climb the ladder at Money in the Bank. Jimmy said first they would find out which Husband and Wife team runs Smackdown Live. Welcome to the Uso penitentiary…[c]
My Take: Another fluke win over the Bludgeon Brothers to setup a title match. It didn’t pay off for the Usos last time. Speaking of which, Jimmy Uso being invested in who is the most dominant Husband and Wife team on Smackdown is a downhill slide for him. Bummer.
Naomi made her entrance with Jimmy, followed by Aiden introducing Lana.
3. Aiden English and Lana vs. Naomi and Jimmy Uso: Jimmy hit a shot to the throat of Aiden English early on, and he recoiled to his corner. He told Jimmy that was his moneymaker, and tried to get the ref to check on him. It was a ruse, as Aiden and Lana tried to ambush Jimmy and Naomi, but they saw through it. Aiden and Lana were sent out to the floor, where Naomi splashed them…[c]
Naomi was in control, but Lana was able to land a kick after an Aiden English distraction. She then choken Naomi on the second rope and hit running knees to the back for a two count. Lana shoved Naomi into the bottom turnbuckle and taunted the crowd. She then called for Naomi to get back to her feet, but ate a dropkick for her trouble. Naomi crawled towards her corner, but Lana intercepted and dropped some ugly looking elbow drops on her.
Naomi finally made a tag after a double clothesline put both women down. Jimmy Uso hit another strike to the throat of Aiden, and then a kick to the face. Jimmy covered, but Lana broke it up. Naomi was vaulted by Jimmy onto Lana, and they both ended up on the outside. Naomi hit a cross body on Aiden as he set up for a run into the corner. Jimmy hit a superkick to Aiden’s neck and covered for the win.
Jimmy and Naomi defeated Lana and Aiden English at 9:08
They showed a replay of the finish, and Naomi and Jimmy danced on the stage to celebrate. Backstage, they held the contract signing for AJ and Nakamura on the normal interview set. A table was set up. Dean Malenko and Adam Pearce were present. Paige assured both men there would be a winner. AJ told Nakamura that he feels like they’ve been at this war forever. He said he feels like he understands why he does what he does, and it’s because he knows he can’t beat him straight up. He has to use his tricks, and none of that is going to work, and that’s why he will come out of Money in the Bank the same way he went in, and that’s the WWE Champion.
AJ signed the contract first. The pen Shinsuke had was out of ink. He asked Styles to use his pen, and Nakamura said the pen was broken. Styles got furious and asked Shin if that was the game he was going to play. He then slapped him across the face, and was pulled away by Pearce and Malenko. He yelled at Shinsuke to be a man. After AJ was restrained, Nakamura pulled a pen out of his pocket and signed the contract. Namakura said “Last Man Standing” in a devious way, and walked off.
My Take: I liked Nakamura playing games, even when he had the stipulation he wanted. Taking Styles off his game is his best chance to win, and he’s finally under his skin enough to cause unforced errors. I actually like the backstage format more than the in ring segment, as it didn’t feel like it needed to end in a predictable table flipping brawl. As for the match, it was passable, but Naomi and Lana are so clunky in the ring together that it’s difficult to overlook some of the flaws.
Becky and Charlotte made their entrances.
4. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte: Becky and Charlotte flashed each other a 4 before the match, indicating their membership in the Four Horsewomen I assume. Charlotte sent Becky out to the floor after an attempt at the Disarmer early. Charlotte went for a Figure Four right away, but Becky maneuvered out of it into a headlock. Both women fought traded some reversals and ended up on their feet. They did a tea time gesture in the ring, and then both tried to kick each other, but they each caught each other’s foot. They agreed to put each others feet down, but then ran into each other with a double cross body in the middle of the ring…[c]
Charlotte controlled the break, and chopped at Becky as the show returned. Becky fired back with some uppercuts, but Charlotte turned oned of them into a backslide for a two count. Charlotte hit a belly to back suplex and fired up. Becky tried to climb to the top rope, but Charlotte grabbed her and turned it into an backbreaker over the shoulder. Becky went for the disarmer again a moment later, but Charlotte turned it into a roll up for a near fall.
Charlotte then hit a spear, and Becky rolled outside. Charlotte hit a springboard splash and tossed Becky back into the ring. She went for a Moonsault, but Becky got the knees up. Charlotte recovered and went for a Figure Four, but Becky maneuvered it into the Disarmer, and Charlotte was forced to tap out.
Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte at 9:49.
After the match, Becky helped Charlotte to her feet and gave her a hug. Charlotte left the ring and gave Becky some room to celebrate. Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviewed Samoa Joe. Joe asked her if she saw in front of her a ruthless man who would stop at nothing to get what he wants. Or maybe a dog with no moral compass. He said later tonight, New Day would find out that those things are true. He planned to live up to his promise, and he felt a chill rise up the spine of every Smackdown Superstar when he grabbed that briefcase last week. They felt destiny becoming reality, and Champions will become marked men. He said what you see is what you get, and soon everyone will get it.
My Take: A very enjoyable match between Becky and Charlotte. Here’s hoping this isn’t just an attempt to give Becky some short term credibility heading into Money in the Bank, and they actually have a plan for her. A Charlotte heel turn would be welcome, or even a Becky turn for that matter. The brand will be far better with these two at odds with each other. Samoa Joe was impressive as always on the microphone.
Renee Young brought out Big Cass for an interview near the top of the stage. She asked how his match at Money in the Bank will be different than Backlash? He told a story about Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 30, and how pathetic he seemed when he met him backstage. He called that victory a fluke, just like his victory at Backlash. He said Bryan packs a punch for a little man, but a good Big Man will always beat a good Little Man. He then showed some footage of the conclusion of last week’s show.
Cass said he almost felt bad for him, but Bryan had brought him upon himself. Bryan had asked to come back and get in the ring, but little did he know he’d have a 7 foot shadow followed him. Cass then said that Bryan has never been in the ring with anyone as big or as educated as him, or a star of his magnitude. He said nobody Bryan has ever faced holds a grudge like he does, and he will do everything he can to beat him down and embarrass him. He then said he would rip Bryan’s arms off and beat him with them, and snap his legs so he could never put the heel hook on him again.
He told Bryan to go home and be a garden gnome on Total Bellas. He told him that after Money in the Bank, he’ll come to the slow realization that a small man can never survive in this Big Man’s world. Backstage, Sin Cara was interviewed by Dasha. He said he’s known Andrade since he was 14 years old, and considered him a brother, but something happened. Zelina Vega walked up and said she is not “some thing”. She’s the best thing that ever happened to him, and when he looked up to Sin Cara, he was weak. She said she taught him to be his own man. Sin Cara said that wasn’t true, but Zelina said if it wasn’t, why did Andrade request a match with him from Paige next week? Sin Cara was then attacked from behind by Almas, and left laying backstage.
In the Arena, New Day made their entrance…[c]
My Take: Big Cass’s interview rang hollow. He’s just repeating the same little man big man shit over and over again, and the crowds don’t buy it. Bryan has handed him his ass every time they’ve been in the ring together, so the shtick stopped making sense weeks ago. I think Big Cass and Baron Corbin feel like they are in the wrong places. Cass is much better suited to being an annoying pest backstage, and Corbin is more suited to being the angry big man who liked picking on smaller wrestlers. He’d have better motivation for going after Bryan too, after his year of failures in 2017.
Samoa Joe made his entrance, followed by Rusev and The Miz.
5. The New Day vs. Rusev, Samoa Joe, and The Miz: Miz and Woods started the match, with Woods hitting a nifty rolling forearm, and starting some rapid tags between the other New Day Members. Kofi hit Miz with a Boom Drop in the corner, and the Big E hit a running splash for a near fall. Samoa Joe and Big E entered, and E hit a belly to belly suplex. Woods then tagged in and hit a double axe handle. Joe gained the advantage in the heel corner with a big enziguri…[c]
Miz applied a headlock to Xavier Woods mid ring. Miz hit a knee lift and placed Woods on the top rope. He went for a superplex, but Woods shoved him down and hit a missile dropkick. Miz made a tag to Samoa Joe, who rushed the ring and knocked Big E off the apron. Things broke down as Rusev attacked Big E at ringside. Woods hit a knee strike on Joe and made a tag out to Kofi, who entered as Miz got back into the ring. Kofi cleared the heels and hit a Boom Drop mid ring. Kofi then called for Trouble in Paradise, but Joe caused a distraction and Miz hit a DDT for a near fall. Rusev made a blind tag, but Kofi was able to escape a hold and tag in Big E.
Big E hit an overhead suplex on Rusev, but got caught with a knee going for a spear. Samoa Joe tagged in and hit a Uranage. Woods took out Rusev on the outside, and Kofi low bridged Samoa Joe and took him out on the floor with a spring board splash. Miz went for a Skull Crushing Finale, but Big E escaped and speared him out to the floor. New Day then went for the Midnight Hour, but the heels recovered and took out Woods and Kofi at ringside.
Miz wanted to embarrass the New Day with their own pancakes, but ended up tossing them at Joe and Miz instead. They destroyed him and then abandoned him, which led to New Day recovering and hitting the midnight hour for the win.
The New Day defeated Rusev, Samoa Joe, and The Miz at 13:43
The New Day Celebrated as the show went off the air.
My Take: A fun match with high entertainment value, but it’s clear we’re just filling time at this point heading into Money in the Bank as far as the ladder match competitors are concerned. They have been getting some good TV matches out of the deal, but I don’t really feel like the story is being driven forward in any meaningful way. Why aren’t Raw and Smackdown superstars addressing one another? Wouldn’t this be a good time for a surprise backstage assault across brands? Seems like there’s just a lot of wasted opportunity. That said, this was a very watchable edition of Smackdown, and a much better show than Raw this week.