By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at Mohegan Sun Arena
Footage was shown of Shinsuke Nakamura capturing the US Title via underhanded tacteics at Extreme Rules, as well as the surprise return of Randy Orton, where he stomped on a vulnerable Jeff Hardy.
In the arena, Jeff Hardy was out to open the show. The crowd chanted Hardy as Jeff began to speak. He said he looks like Jeff Hardy, makes an entrance like Jeff Hardy, and moves like Jeff Hardy, but he doesn’t feel like Jeff Hardy. He said his heart was broken, and he’s not the US Champion anymore because of what Shinsuke Nakamura did it him. He said he lacked ethics, and he was the embodiment of moral turpitude. He said that meant he was a huge jackass.
He said he shouldn’t have continued after Shinsuke gave him a low blow, but he wanted to get his hands on him so bad he wasn’t thinking clearly. Hardy said he was thinking mega clear now, and he would be back to take back his United States Championship later tonight. He then told the crowd to enjoy the show.
Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Shinsuke Nakamura, who called Jeff Hardy a sad clown that wears face paint to hide his tears. He said Hardy was a sad man, but Shinsuke was happy, and winning the US Championship was a reason to smile. He told Renee to smile, and she cracked a half smile to placate him. Shinsuke said he would make the sad clown cry again later tonight. God Bless America.
In the arena, AJ Styles made his entrance for a match with Andrade Almas next…[c]
My Take: Hardy didn’t have a lot of material to work with, but that might have been a blessing because that was not a particularly strong promo to open the show. Shinsuke gave a bit a comical response, but it came across better than Hardy’s somewhat manic and disjointed delivery. The unserious God Bless America at the end was a nice touch.
Andrade Almas made his entrance with Zelina Vega.
1. Andrade Almas vs. AJ Styles: Almas hit a hip toss early and flashed a cocky smile. He then hit a back elbow and then grabbed a headlock. Almas and Vega hit the tranquilo pose after hitting the ropes as Styles whiffed on a dropkick. We got a picture in picture commercial as the action spilled to the floor…[c]
They went back and forth on the floor, and ended up back in the ring with Almas in control. Styles appeared to do some damage to Andrade’s knee on the floor. AJ hit a wheelbarrow facebuster, and then a running forearm on a seated Almas. Andrade fired back with a backbreaker and covered for a two count. He then set AJ on the top rope and hit a springboard dropkick. He pulled Styles back into the ring and set up for the running Double Knees, but AJ avoided it and hit an Ushigoroshi for a near fall.
Styles then went to the apron and went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Almas broke it up with a back elbow. Almas climbed to the top and hit a double jump moonsault, and got a near fall. Almas lifted Styles for a suplex, but was reversed into an enziguri. Almas set up for a tornado DDT, but Styles hit a Pele Kick to avoid it. Styles then climbed the ropes, but got tangled, which allowed Almas to hit a double stomp. He then hit running Double Knees for a close near fall. He then went for a hammerlock DDT, but Styles caught him in the calf crusher for the win.
AJ Styles defeated Andrade Almas at 14:22.
After the match, Andrade looked upset with himself, while Styles looked hurt and lucky to have gotten out of that match with a win. Photos were shown of Styles getting the win on Sunday. Aiden English was then shown backstage approaching someone asking to apologize. It was shown to be Lana. He ask her to talk to Rusev for him and offer an apology, as he had been replaying Sunday in his mind ever since. Lana told him that he shouldn’t be coming to her with an apology, this about what’s best for Rusev. She questioned whether Aiden was the best thing for Rusev right now, and he said that was fair. Aiden asked for a second chance, and said he always had Rusev’s interests at heart. She said she’d take that under consideration.
Becky Lynch made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Really enjoyable match between Almas and Styles, as you’d expect. I’d like to see more of that pairing in the future. I’m surprised we didn’t see more involvement from Zelina Vega, but they may be saving that for after Almas is better established. The backstage interaction between Lana and English was interesting. The future of that trio seems open ended until Rusev is able to weigh in.
Mandy Rose made her entrance to her Softcore Porn music.
2. Mandy Rose vs. Becky Lynch: Mandy shook off an early flurry of offense from Becky with an assist from Sonya Deville. She then hit a big running kick and got a near fall. Becky avoided a clothesline and attempted a few roll ups, but only got two counts. She then hit a running forearm, and an exploder suplex. Becky then applied a Disarmher for the win.
Becky Lynch defeated Mandy Rose at 4:21
After the match, Becky said a few words about how hard she’s been working, and said it was time for her to get a Championship Match. She issued a challenge and the crowd reacted well to it. Backstage, Carmella bragged about beating Charlotte and Asuka twice, and demanded Paige throw her the biggest Mellabration of all time. Paige told her she could have her celebration, but only if she beat Becky Lynch next week. Carmella said she wasn’t putting her championship on the line next week. Paige said that’s fine, but if Becky wins next week, she earns a title shot at SummerSlam.
Elsewhere, R-Truth and Tye Dillinger had a conversation. Tye thought Truth was talking to him, but he was actually on the phone. Tye eventually got frustrated and said he was going after Samoa Joe tonight. Truth hung up his call and told Tye that he said to smile more, not go after Samoa Joe…[c]
My Take: WWE has too many Blonde White Women playing a version of Regina George in this women’s division. Becky is a refreshing change of pace as a sincere babyface. I hope they use this opportunity to get the division back on track. There’s too many diverse and interesting women in the company to continue to cycle the title between blonde heels that that are far too similar.
Tye Dillinger was already in the ring. Samoa Joe made his entrance.
3. Tye Dillinger vs. Samoa Joe: Tye went after Joe right as the bell rang and took the match out to the floor. Joe weathered the storm and then tossed Dillinger knee first into the ring post. It was academic at that point. Joe applied in Coquina Clutch a moment later for the win.
Samoa Joe defeated Tye Dillinger at 2:11.
Joe gave the camera an intense look. The Miz gives Team Hell No a eulogy next…[c]
My Take: Joe continues to be in beast mode. He’d be a great candidate for a feud with Styles right now.
A funeral dirge played in the arena as MIz walked out shaking hands of Audience Members with Kane’s mask on a mannequin head following behind him on a cart. It was pushed by people who look like local wrestlers, and will probably get beat up shortly.
Miz thanked the audience for being there, and said he was just as sad as the crowd. He plugged his reality show debuting next week and his MVP performance in the MLB Celebrity Softball game. He then said they were there to say goodbye to Team Hell No, who were a great tag team but terrible friends.
He mentioned their defeat at Extreme Rules, and how Bryan was an idiot for ever reuniting with a man who gave him Three Tombstone Piledrivers on the steel steps. He brought the crowd to their feet for a moment of silence, which people promptly ignored. He did the hand goes up bit, and then demanded total silence. He then waited as the crowd booed listlessly. A yes chant eventually broke out. Miz then told the crowd I told you so, and reminded them that he called Kane a broken down demon last week.
Miz then laid into Daniel Bryan, and said he was never the world beating wrestler he said he was. He said this was the last ditch effort by Bryan to remain relevant, so he could roll out his greatest hits again. Miz claims nobody is buying the albums anymore. Miz said Bryan’s return has been a bust, and every week he comes out and disappoints the crowd is another week he’s damaging his legacy. He said nobody has the courage to tell him except the Miz, and that his career is dead just like Team Hell No.
Bryan’s music hit at this point, and the Pallbearers got ready for a fight. Bryan approached from behind The Miz and knocked him down and landed a few punches before Miz scrambled away. Bryan took out the pallbearers and hit one with a running knee. He then stood on the turnbuckle and stared down the Miz, who looked angry from the stage.
Backstage, New Day got pumped up backstage for Kofi’s match with Eric Young. They likened themselves to the Birds of Prey from Always Sunny, and did some bird dancing on their way out of frame…[c]
My Take: Miz was strong here as you’d expect. He knows the buttons to push to get under Bryan’s skin as well as his fans, and this feud is off to a good start. Bryan is at his best when he’s seeking vengeance and has the moral high ground, and Miz has always been his greatest foil. Hopefully they give them the time to have a strong match at Summerslam.
New Day made their entrance, followed by Sanity. Footage was shown of Sanity getting the win at Extreme Rules. Corey Graves said that nobody knows how to prepare for Sanity, despite them already losing on television multiple times.
4. Eric Young vs. Kofi Kingston: Young took control early, but Kingston bought himself some time with his speed, tripping up Young with a leg sweep. He then hit a lariat that sent Young out to the floor…[c]
Young regained control during the break and went after Kofi’s neck. He tripped Kofi up on the apron and sent him spilling out to the floor. He then hit a catapult underneath the bottom rope, and covered for a near fall. Young climbed to the second rope and picked up Kofi by his neck, just hanging him for a moment before being forced to break. He then tried to jump at Kofi, who popped up with a dropkick.
Kofi launched his comeback with a dropkick and a boom drop. He then called for Trouble in Paradise, but Young avoided it and rolled him up for a near fall. Kofi then caught Young on the top rope and pulled him down with a suplex, which caused Young to retreat out to the floor. Kofi then launched himself at Sanity on the floor and hit a suicide dive. Kofi climbed the top rope, and a couple of distractions resulted in Kofi getting dropped on to the apron.
Killian Dain ended up picking up Xavier Wood and tossing him into Kofi, and Young hit a wheelbarrow neckbreaker for the win.
Eric Young defeated Kofi Kingston at 9:28
Backstage, Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura were shown preparing for their match backstage…[c]
My Take: Another entertaining match from these teams. I like the fact that they’re giving them something to do, but it’s been pretty light on narrative. It would be nice to hear them talk next week to set up further conflict.
The announce team said Paige will announce AJ Styles opponent for WrestleMania next week. Jeff Hardy then made his entrance in the arena, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy: Hardy got the jump on the bell and hit several strikes. Nakamura went for a low blow early, but whiffed. Nakamura retreated to the floor, but Hardy followed with a splash against the barricade. He then tossed Nakamura in the ring and teased a Swanton, but Nakamura rolled back out to the floor…[c]
Nakamura was in control and made several covers to force Hardy to kick out. He then applied a chinlock and tossed Hardy back to the mat when he fought to his feet. Nakamura hit some bad vibrations in the corner and then went back to a front facelock. Hardy avoided a knee drop, and then started his comeback. He took Nakamura four corners with turnbuckle smashes, and then hit a jawbreaker. He hit a running splash and got a two count.
Nakamura hit a strike to the throat and went for a reverse exploder suplex, but Hardy avoided it and went for his signature split leg pinning combination for a close near fall. Hardy then went for a Twist of Fate, but Nakamura slipped away and hit a knee to the back of the head. He then followed up with another knee on the floor…[c]
Hardy hit a whisper in the wind for a near fall at near the 10 minute mark. Hardy then threw some punches and hit a running forearm a leg drop. He then hit a seated dropkick for another near fall. Hardy called for the end and set up for Twist of Fate, but Nakamura avoided it. Hardy settled for a kick, but Nakamura quickly responded with a knee to the ribs for a near fall. Nakamura then hit a single leg backstabber, followed by a sliding knee to a seated Hardy for another near fall.
Nakamura continued with knees to the ribs and set up for Kinshasa. Hardy avoided it and hit a slingblade. He then went up top for a Swanton, but Nakamura kicked him down. Nakamura failed to hit another Kinshasa, and Hardy hit Twist of Fate. He followed up with a Swanton, and Randy Orton pulled Hardy out of the ring before he could get the pin.
Jeff Hardy won the match by DQ at 14:55.
After the match, Orton attacked Jeff Hardy on the outside, tossing him into the steps and stomping on his head while it was on the steel. He then told Hardy that if he wanted to know why, he would have to wait and find out. He then pulled Hardy up by the gauge in his ear, and threw him over the announce table. He then hit a draping DDT from the table to the floor. Nakamura looked on bewildered.
My Take: An interesting close to the show that keeps Orton’s intentions hidden while showing off his return to extreme violence. Nakamura looks like he’ll be booked as a weak heel champion, which is fine if they play it right, but they’ll have to be careful about doing long term damage. This was a solid show overall that moved at a nice pace. I’ll be on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast later tonight discussing the show, so you can hear more of my thoughts there.