By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Evansville, Indiana at Ford Center
A limo was shown approaching the arena as the show started, with The Miz and Maryse exiting. Maryse grabbed their young baby and they headed into the arena. Corey Graves plugged Miz and Mrs debuting after Smackdown. A special Premiere Party will take place later in the show.
In the arena, Randy Orton made a ring entrance wearing his wrestling gear. Byron, Corey, and Tom Phillips joined in on commentary and wondered if Orton would provide some clarification for his actions from last week, and threw to a video package of his attacks on Jeff Hardy. Orton said he’s heard a lot of explanations for why he did what he did. He said he wasn’t jealous of Jeff Hardy from something 10 years ago, he wasn’t mad about the Smackdown Top 10, he told the audience it was their fault. He asked the audience to look around and see who is left from when he started in the company. He said nobody.
Orton said he’s been the one constant in WWE for over a decade, and he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He said he didn’t pay his dues in front of hundreds of people, he doesn’t just show up for WrestleMania, or change his merch color every few months to steal money from people. He then said he didn’t steal a sweet hand gesture or work as in indie darling in bingo halls all over the country. Orton said he proved he was worthy in front of millions and he earned his place.
Orton then said he started his career as the legend killer, but he now realized that the real legend killers are the people in the stands. He said Jeff Hardy wouldn’t be there tonight, and when he’s done with him, he won’t ever come back. He told the crowd they can call him the Viper or the legend killer, it doesn’t matter, but they only need to refer to him as the three deadliest letters in WWE, and that RKO. He then dropped the mic and walked to the back.
The announce team said Orton was on a mission to end Jeff Hardy, and said up next would be a recap of the announcement from last night’s Raw…[c]
My Take: A very strong promo from Orton that immediately catapults him to the top of the heel heap on Smackdown. He seems energized, and this promo was the most effective mission statement we’ve seen on the show in a while. They’ll need to keep him involved with the few hot babyfaces they have on this show, because he would eat any of the lesser established characters alive on the mic if he keeps this up.
The announce team threw to a video package that recapped last night’s WWE Evolution announcement. The fans responded positively in the arena after the video. After the video package, Rusev made his entrance with Lana. Footage was shown of a backstage argument between Andrade Almas and Rusev where they both think they deserve a title shot with AJ Styles. Almas made his entrance after the video.
1. Andrade Almas vs. Rusev: Big Rusev Day chants as the match started. Aiden English was not present at the start of the match. Rusev grabbed and tossed Almas into the ropes, and he filled into a tranquilo pose. They went picture in picture a moment later as Rusev forced Almas to retreat to the floor…[c]
Rusev gained an advantage with some power offense during the break, but Almas was able to ground him after a reversal and worked over his shoulder with holds. Rusev rocked Almas with a big kick to turn things around, and the crowd came alive for his comeback. Almas avoided a Machka Kick and gave him a hard chop to the chest. Rusev got fired up momentarily, but Almas rocked him with a big back elbow. Almas charged up for his double knees, but Rusev intercepted with a huge Machka kick that sent both men down.
The ladies started to argue on the outside, with resulted in Zelina slapping Lana. Lana then tackled Vega, and English ran down to break it up. There was a commotion on the outside that resulted in English distracting Rusev. This allowed Almas to hit a Hammerlock DDT and get the win.
Andrade Almas defeated Rusev at 9:32.
After the match, Rusev and Lana commiserated and English looked like a doofus again. The announce team moved on and plugged the Miz and Mrs Premiere party for later tonight. Backstage, R-Truth and Tye Dillinger had a conversation backstage. Truth was worried about facing Samoa Joe, and Dillinger gave him a pep talk. Truth said he would show Joe what’s up…[c]
My Take: The long commercial break really blew up the flow of this match. There were a few exciting moments, but it felt like they left a lot of crowd anticipation untapped because of the way the match was laid out.
Backstage, English and Lana argued, and Rusev paced in the background. After a moment, he told them enough, and that maybe neither of them is good for Rusev Day. In the arena, R-Truth made his entrance, followed by Samoa Joe.
2. Samoa Joe vs. R-Truth: Joe charged right at Truth, but got hit with a kick and a big Stinger Splash in the corner. Joe caught Truth coming in and hit a Uranage out of the corner. He then applied the Coquina Cluth and Truth had to tap.
Samoa Joe defeated R-Truth at 2:11.
Backstage, Asuka was asked about the first ever All Women’s PPV. She said she was excited and ready, but tonight, Billie Kay was not ready for Asuka…[c]
My Take: Not much to that match, but Joe continues to look dominant. Asuka’s exagerated anime character dialogue delivery is wearing long in the tooth. I think they need to find a more human direction for her at this point, considering how they’ve already broken down the mystique around her character.
Asuka made her entrance, followed by The Iconics.
3. Asuka vs. Billie Kay: Asuka trapped Billie’s arm early, but she managed to escape. Billie then talked trash and slapped Asuka disrespectfully. Asuka then fired up, and Billie got scared. Asuka hit a dropkick and a shining wizard, and then got a near fall. Peyton gave Billie an assist escaping and ankle lock, but Asuka destroyed her with a head kick a moment later and got the pin.
Asuka defeated Billie Kay at 3:02
After the match, Shinsuke Nakamura gave a brief interview. He said Hardy got oh so close, but he got bitten by the Viper. He said if Orton comes for him, he bites back. Carmella vs Becky was plugged for later, and AJ Styles is next to have a contract signing with his Summerslam opponent…[c]
My Take: Lots of quick matches tonight. I hope they give Becky and Carmella more than few minutes. The Iconics feel like they’ve fallen from favor since their debut. It would be nice if they didn’t treat them as really annoying paper tigers. Nakamura’s promo wasn’t all that great. It didn’t really seem like he had a point.
Paige was in the ring, and said she was very happy being the Smackdown Live General Manager. She said the Smackdown Gals are set to steal the show at WWE Evolution, and talked up how big the concept was. She then turned her attention to Summerslam, and said it was time for her to announce the challenger for the WWE Championship. She brought out AJ Styles first. He reminded the crowd that he is a husband and a father, and said the first person he thought of when Evolution was announce was his baby girl. He said he can now tell her she can do anything, and it’s another reason to be proud of the company he works for.
He said that Summerslam is the biggest show of the summer, and said he had great memories of tearing it down with John Cena, and ending his rivalry with Kevin Owens. He said it’s just like WrestleMania, except they just turn the temperature up. Paige then said it was time, and asked for a drumroll. James Ellsworth walked out and demanded a title shot, stating he had already beaten Styles three times. He said the fourth time would be the charm, and Styles said nobody says that. He said it would be wham bam Ellsworth is the champ at Summerslam.
Paige told him to stop and walked up to him on the stage. He insulted her and told her she was pale as a Ghost. She said she had two words for him, and told him as dramatically as possible that he was fired. She had him escorted out, and followed him backstage to kick him out of the arena. As she was kicking out Ellsworth, Styles was attacked from behind and choked out by Samoa Joe, who then signed the contract and got himself a match at Summerslam…[c]
My Take: That was a fun segment, even if it was mostly James Ellsworth comic relief. Joe was the obvious choice, and attack from behind was the best way to go about it, even if they had to take a circuitous path to get there. This feud feels fresh, and they have a lot of history to dig into. I hope they don’t avoid their past matches just because they took place in another company.
Backstage, Paige told Samoa Joe that she picked him because he was unpredictable and dangerous, but that wasn’t the way to go about it. Joe asked her what she thought that was? He told her what she had planned was pedestrian, and what he did was phenomenal. Carmella then walked up and told her that what she did to Ellsworth was rude. Paige said if Mella is Money, she should just go buy herself a new boyfriend. Carmella said she can hate just like everybody else, but she would still be Champion when Evolution comes around. She said she would go beat Becky Lynch right now. Becky Lynch made her entrance in the arena, followed by Carmella.
4. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella: Becky went for the Disarmher a few times early, but Carmella escaped and tossed her down by the hair. The floated in and out of the ring as Carmella tried to escape, and Becky got tossed into the barricade…[c]
Becky nearly got counted out during the break, and the offense was all Carmella as she grounded Becky and trash talked. Becky fired back with a dropkick and got to her feet to trade blows. She hit a series of clotheslines and a kick. She went for a suplex, but Carmella reversed into an flatliner. Carmella went for a tornado DDT from the top, but Becky reversed into an exploder suplex.
Becky went up top for a missile dropkick, but Carmella pulled her down with a head scissors. Carmella went for a superkick, but Becky caught her leg and went for a Disarmher, but didn’t get it. Carmella then rolled her up with her feet on the ropes, but Becky kicked out anyways. Becky hit a kick and got to her feet to climb the ropes. Becky then went for a legdrop from the top, but missed. Carmella hit a kick while she was seated, and covered for another near fall. Carmella got frustrated with the ref, and that gave Becky an opening to pull her in for the Disarmher and a tap out victory.
Becky Lynch defeated Carmella at 9:46
Becky celebrated big, and Carmella was apoplectic on the stage. New Day vs. Sanity is next, and Miz and Mrs hype is in the main event slot. Bludgeon Brothers cut a brief promo where they said it didn’t matter who their opponents were at Summerslam, because the same Bludgeoning awaited them all. New Day made their entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Corey Graves bent over backwards to try and make it sound like Carmella had won the match because of a slow count. I thought he was going to call for an official review….but then they’d also have to consider that Carmella was leveraged up on the second rope so his point fell apart quickly. This was a solid match, a bit better than the matches Charlotte or Asuka have gotten from Carmella thus far, if only for having fewer botched spots. I would be shocked if Becky ends up being the only challenger at Summerslam, but if they are open to having more that one Smackdown Women’s match, a WrestleMania rematch between Asuka and Charlotte would be a welcome addition to Summerslam.
5. Sanity vs. New Day: Wolfe and Dain wrestled for Sanity, along with Woods and Big E for Sanity. Wolfe and Woods started the match, and Sanity gained an early advantage. Woods missed an Honor Roll, and Wolfe hit him with a German Suplex. Dain tagged in and hit a big Senton on Woods, who rolled around in pain…[c]
Woods hit a big top rope dropkick on Killian Dane, and made the hot tag to Xavier Woods. The Usos mocked Tom Phillips on commentary doing their best nerdy white guy voice. Kofi and Woods took out Killian Dane on the outside. Eric Young tried to get involved with what was happening in the ring, but Kofi took him out. Woods and Big E then hit Up Up Down Down on Wolfe for the win.
New Day defeated Sanity at 7:55
The Usos got up from commentary and jumped on the apron. The Bar’s music then hit and they said they were back and asked if they were missed. They said they would defeat The Usos next week and would defeat the Bludgeon Brothers at Summerslam. They said their catchphrase and The Usos and New Day trash talked from the ring. Backstage, The Miz asked Paige who the babysitter was going to be for his segment, and she introduced Sin Cara. Miz refused and loaded the baby in a carrier to take out to the ring with them…[c]
My Take: Sanity reverts to the mean and loses on TV again. Hard to believe WWE’s booking of NXT talent at this level. I understand not seeing them as worldbeaters, but they really seem to have wasted any momentum they had debuting and being something new for the Smackdown Audience. I hope Miz has some ear protection for that baby.
The Mizanin family made their entrance. Miz welcomed everyone to the Miz and Mrs Premiere Party. He obnoxiously complimented Maryse, who spoke about how great their show is, and said it’s not what people expected. He then introduced their infant co-star (Pretty clearly a fake baby) Monroe Sky, who he said had accomplished more in her short life than Daniel Bryan had since his return. They then introduced a clip, which was supposed to be Miz and Mrs, but was instead an embarrassing Miz blooper reel.
Daniel Bryan appeared on the tron and said that he was sorry about the clip, he wasn’t sure what Kerwin was doing in the truck. He started to talk about Miz and Mrs, but instead said he should join the party. Bryan made his entrance, and was stopped by bouncers at the velvet rope near the ring. He destroyed the “bouncers” and entered the ring. Maryse talked trash to Bryan, and Miz tossed the fake baby at Bryan. He then kicked Bryan in the face and hit him with a Skull Crushing FInale. Miz then said this was all a rouse, and that he knew Bryan’s ego wouldn’t allow him to leave them alone. Miz said the baby in the back was an actor, and he’d never bring his daughter to a crummy city like Evansville. He said if people wanted to see Monroe Sky, they’d have to watch Miz and Mrs next.
My Take: A very fun segment. It was pretty obvious from first 5 seconds that it was a fake baby, but Bryan sold it well when Bryan tossed the baby to him. The push for Miz and Mrs was strong, as you’d expect, but it they managed to make a good wrestling segment out of it anyways. Bryan ends up looking like a bit of a dupe, but his reaction will determine how big of a deal it is. All in all, this was an enjoyable edition of Smackdown that held my attention and moved along quickly.