By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Memphis, Tennessee at FedEx Forum
Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin was announced at the top of the show, along with Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy and Rusev vs. Samoa Joe. Lana, Naomi, Becky, and Charlotte were in the ring with Paige for a “Summit”. Paige introduced them and told them they all had the opportunity to bring the MITB contract and change their lives forever. She mentioned the Raw Women in the match, and then hyped up the women in the ring as having earned their spots and being qualified. She said she didn’t care which one of them won, as long as they brought the briefcase back to her house.
Lana said she would, and Naomi got feisty with her. They argued about dancing for a moment. Naomi said she was the winner of the first ever WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, but Charlotte said they only reason she did was because she wasn’t in the match. Charlotte ran down her resume, and said the only accomplishment she has left to achieve is winning Money in the Bank. Becky gave her list of accomplishments, but said she was tired of talking about who she was, and instead wanted to talk about “I am”. She said she would grab the briefcase, she would cash in on Asuka or Carmella, and would be the Smackdown Women’s Championship again.
The Iconics interrupted and did a series of impressions mocking the women in the ring. They mocked Becky’s accent, Charlotte’s use of her father’s mannerisms, and Naomi’s Glow entrance. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville made their way down to where the Iconics were standing in the walkway, and Sonya said the talent outside the ring was greater than the talent inside of it. Becky asked the other women if they were thinking what she was thinking. She gave a quick countdown (err…up) and they all ran to brawl at ringside. They were separated by referees.
Some video clips were shown of Daniel Bryan and Shelton Benjamin’s history in the building in Memphis, and then Bryan was shown backstage. Their match is next…[c]
My Take: The Iconics continue to whiff with their antics, at least for me. Charlotte came across as pretty heelish with her promo, and Becky was the solid babyface choice. There are several story layers in the 8-Woman Tag that will get announced after the break, and I assume the team heading into Money in the Bank implodes later on in the show. Daniel Bryan being shown backstage Yes Chanting to himself
The obligatory 8-Woman Tag match was made during the break. Video was shown of Daniel Byran’s WWE.com interview from last week where he said he’d tap out Big Cass because he hasn’t trained hard enough and isn’t skilled enough to live up to his promises. Shelton Benjamin then made his entrance in the arena.
1. Shelton Benjamin vs. Daniel Bryan: Bryan hit a shoulder block and tried to drag Shelton down to the mat for a Yes Lock, but Shelton avoided it with a mat reversal. Bryan bent up Shelton into a pinning predicament, but Shelton kicked out at two. Shelton got to his feet and kick Bryan’s leg out from under him on the apron to the floor. Shelton then dropped Byran knee first on the announce table on the outside…[c]
Shelton continued to attack the knee during the break. He wrenched it on the ropes and used the ring and barricades on the outside. He then applied a half crab in the ring, and Bryan was forced to fight for the ropes to escape. Bryan got to his feet and dropkicked Shelton’s knee out from under him, and then hit a dragon screw to the same knee. He then hit some kicks to the chest and wrapped Shelton’s knee around the second rope. Bryan placed Shelton on the top rope and climbed it, but Shelton slipped out and hit a rising knee.
Shelton then hit a superplex, and landed partially on the left knee. Bryan got to the ropes just as Shelton went for Paydirt, and held on so the move missed. Bryan the went for the Yes Lock, but Benjamin powered out and turned the move into a Half Crab. Bryan was able to reverse his way out of it and lock in the Heel Hook and get the tap out victory.
Daniel Bryan defeated Shelton Benjamin at 11:33
The announce team plugged the Money in the Bank PPV, and went over the card. They then threw to some video of Shinsuke Nakamura’s mind games with AJ Styles over the past several weeks. Backstage, AJ Styles was shown heading out next…[c]
My Take: I really enjoyed Shelton and Bryan. Easily Shelton’s best TV performance since his WWE return. The mat reversals, limb targeting, and straight forward story in the ring made it easy to follow and well executed to boot. The final sequence with the submission reversals is something we don’t often see in WWE anymore. It makes me look forward to whenever they get around to putting Samoa Joe and Bryan in longer matches.
Backstage, Asuka told Paige she wanted Carmella tonight. Paige said she couldn’t do that, but she would make the match later tonight a 10-Woman Tag. Asuka said it was good for her but bad for Carmella. Miz was wearing a ref’s shirt and his Karate headband, and Paige asked him what he was doing. He said he was studying for a role where he was the mentor of a dog that was going to ref the Main Event of WrestleMania. She told him she knows what he was doing. He asked to be the referee of Rusev and Samoa Joe, and surprisingly she granted his request. We then got a Nakamura and Styles video package hyping Money in the Bank.
Jerry Lawler made his way out to the area next to the stage. He explained the Last Man Standing Match for Sunday, and then welcomed AJ Styles. He told AJ that he slapped Nakamura last week like he once slapped Andy Kaufmann. Lawler asked him why he slapped him, and AJ said he got under his skin and he lost it. Styles said he should probably apologize for not knocking his head off his shoulders. Styles said if Nakamura wants to act like a child, he’ll continue to be a man, and be the Last Man Standing. He said he would walk out of Money in the Bank the same way he walked in, and that’s as the WWE Champion.
Backstage, Danilo Anfibio was explaining to Miz how to be a ref. Rusev vs. Samoa Joe is next…[c]
My Take: The AJ promo was a bit of a miss for me. It wasn’t bad, but it did nothing to increase my interest in the match. I’m sure it was nice for the Memphis locals to see Jerry Lawler, but he didn’t add anything here either. The video package was more effective honestly. Hopefully this isn’t the end of this conflict for tonight, and we see Shinsuke play some more games with AJ.
The Miz made his entrance, followed by English giving Rusev his intro, and then finally Samoa Joe.
2. Samoa Joe vs. Rusev (Miz as referee): The action spilled outside early, with Joe knocking Rusev out into the apron, and then hitting a dive through the ropes…[c]
Joe had Rusev in a headlock. Rusev turned it around and hit a jawbreaker, and then climbed to his feet. Joe mowed him down with a body block, and covered for two. Things slowed back down again as they cut to a picture in picture promo for the Money in the Bank PPV. Joe hit a lariat and knocked down Rusev. He then charged at Rusev in the corner, but ate a boot. Rusev fired up and hit palm strikes and two kicks. He then fired up for the Machka Kick, but Joe avoided it and attempted the Coquina Clutch.
English distracted the Miz, and then Joe squashed Miz in the corner. He then knocked English off the apron. Rusev ran at Joe, but got caught with a Uranage out of the corner. Joe then approached Miz and grabbed him by the wrist. Rusev used this as an opportunity to hit Joe with a Machka kick. He then covered Joe and got the win.
Rusev defeated Samoa Joe at 12:11.
After the match, English tossed a ladder into the ring, and Rusev hit Joe with it. Rusev set it up to go get the briefcase, but Miz surprised him with a Skull Crushing Finale and grabbed the briefcase for himself. He then slapped the briefcase on the announce table and said he would cash in that contract win the WWE Championship. He opened the briefcase to find it filled with pancakes. Backstage, New Day had the contract and some pancake batter. They laughed hysterically as Miz fumed with anger. The 10-Woman Tag was then hyped by the announce crew, as well as Nakamura vs. Hardy. That match is next…[c]
My Take: I guess that loss wasn’t technically clean, but they didn’t protect Joe as much as I would have expected. The match was also hopelessly broken up by commercials, which ruined any chance for flow. The pancake bit was funny, but why would Miz care if the briefcase he hadn’t actually won yet was filled with pancakes? That would have been a bit better saved for if someone had actually won the briefcase and New Day had stolen the contract.
Jeff Hardy made his entrance, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy: Hardy took control early on. He also seemed to be favoring a limp. The action spilled outside as Nakamura bailed from the ring and challenged Hardy to follow him. Hardy followed and had to pull Shinsuke back to the floor as he attempted to escape back into the ring. Hardy then hit a splash off the apron to the floor…[c]
Hardy sold a knee injury as the match wore on. He stumbled out of an irish whip, and the referee had to check on him several times to see if he could continue. After each Nakamura attack, the ref checked on him as he grabbed at his leg and lower back. Hardy went on an offensive streak and caught Nakamura with some strikes and his signature leg drop. He went for his springboard corner kick, but Nakamura shoved him into the center of the ring and then kicked him.
Nakamura draped Hardy over the top rope, but Hardy escaped before he could hit a knee strike. Hardy the hit a Whisper in the Wind and got a near fall. Hardy went up top again, but Nakamura knocked him down and hit a knee strike directly to his lower back. Nakamura couldn’t capitalize as Hardy avoided Kinshasa and hit a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb. Hardy couldn’t get a pin right away because of his back, and Nakamura got his foot on the ropes for his late cover.
Nakamura escaped to the outside, and Hardy rolled him back into the center of the ring. Hardy set up for a Twist of Fate again, but Nakamura got himself DQ’d with an intentional low blow. He then hit Kinshasa and made an audible 10 count in the ring.
Jeff Hardy defeated Shinsuke Nakamura by Disqualification at 10:44.
Backstage, Carmella was interviewed by Renee Young. Carmella told Renee to move as she was taking an Instagram Photo and didn’t want her in it. Renee asked if she was concerned about her Money in the Bank Title defense. She said she wasn’t concerned at all. Charlotte Flair beat Asuka, and she beat Charlotte Flair twice. She asked Renee if she has seen her leave Asuka laying last week? She said Becky, Charlotte, Naomi, and Asuka should be very concerned, but she wasn’t worried at all. The 10-Woman Tag is next…[c]
My Take: Nakamura vs. Hardy wasn’t as good as the opening match between Bryan and Shelton, but I enjoyed the finish if only because Nakamura continues to cement his heel tendencies and get reactions from crowds. It might have felt cheap if this was another PPV match with a screwjob finish, but for a TV match it’s forgivable and it makes sense for the Nakamura character. They also protected Hardy enough that he didn’t lose much in the loss. Carmella being an overconfident heel champion is not a choice I would have made. She was much more hateable when she was supremely obnoxious.
Backstage, Big Cass cut a promo about how tall he is. He has a roller coaster “Height Requirement” signs from a local amusement park, and said Daniel Bryan was the only member of the Smackdown Roster not tall enough to ride. He said a good big man beats a good little man every time, and on Sunday, Bryan will come crashing down when he tried to rise to his level. The announcers then went through the PPV Card again, and then we got the babyface ring entrances for the main event…[c]
My Take: They aren’t writing Cass very good material. He’s giving it a decent effort on the delivery, but it comes across pretty insincere.
Carmella made her entrance after the break. The other heels were already waiting on her at ringside. Video was shown of Carmella hitting a Superkick on Asuka last week.
4. Naomi & Becky Lynch & Charlotte & Lana & Asuka vs. The Iconics & Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose & Carmella: Naomi and Lana worked over Sonya Deville early on. Lana hit a neckbreaker, but couldn’t capitalize as Sonya backed her into the heel corner and tagged in Carmella. She entered and hit some strikes, but Lana escaped and tagged in Becky Lynch, who entered the match on fire. She hit several kicks and strikes, followed by an exploder suplex.
Carmella managed to pull her into the heel corner, where they were able to make quick tags and cut off the ring…[c]
Sonya continued to punish Becky in the ring, hitting a spear. She covered for two. Billie Kay tagged in and applied a facelock. This went on for an eternity due to a picture in picture break, after which Becky hit a dropkick and tagged in Charlotte. She cleaned the heels from the apronand took it to Peyton Royce in the ring with chops. She then hit a suplex on Billie Kaye and hit a spear on Peyton.
Charlotte then climbed to the top rope, and kicked Carmella to the floor in the process. She went for a Moonsault, but Peyton got the knees up. Sonya and Mandy the both hit running knees to Charlotte, but she was able tag out to Asuka. Mandy went for a double underhook suplex, but it was reversed into an Asuka lock. All 10 women then entered the ring and the match broke down all over the place. Charlotte hit a Moonsault to ringside. Sonya and Mandy tossed Becky hard into a barricade.
Carmella was the legal women and blindsided Asuka with a superkick. She covered, but Lana made the save. Mandy took Lana out to the floor, and Asuka managed to tap out Carmella a short time later with the Asuka Lock.
Naomi, Becky, Charlotte, Lana, and Asuka defeated Carmella, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and The Iconics at 12:55.
After the match, the women all surrounded Asuka as she celebrated. THey all looked up at the Briefcase and back down at her, as they’d have to cash in on her if she captured the Championship on Sunday.
My Take: The last 2 minutes were pretty fast and furious, but otherwise this was a pretty uneventful match. The show was a bit uneventful as well. It really dragged at times, and this long break in between special events seems to have thrown off WWE enough that they lost all sense of urgency or excitement with the stories being told heading into this show. Money in the Bank is a farily high stakes show with a lot of blood feuds and championships being contested, but it doesn’t feel like enough characters were developed to maximize the impact of the high stakes. I hope I come away from the show on Sunday more optimistic about the future than I am about the show.