By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Tampa, Florida at Amalie Arena
The show opened with Renee Young in the ring, who introduced Becky Lynch as the challenger for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at Summerslam. Renee asked her how it felt to be back in contention for the championship after all of her perseverance. Becky said she never gave up on herself, but also gave some facts about how long it had been since she has been Champion, or even in a position to win. She talked about the pressure of being a Champion, how she wasn’t born a champion, but fought hard to earn it. Becky said she would give everything she had at Summerslam, and she would be proud to walk into Evolution as the Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Carmella walked out to boos and tried to placate the crowd by acting conciliatory towards Becky. She said she earned her shot, and has had some time to reflect on the announcement Stephanie McMahon gave last week. Carmella played for sympathy by saying that she felt like she had betrayed women by setting bad example. She said they shouldn’t be tearing each other down, and admitted she had always been jealous of her. She started crying a few times by saying that people had said she’d never be anything but a manager, but Becky was the first every draft pick and was the center of the division.
She said she was the last draft pick ever, and that she hears everyone saying that she sucks and she shouldn’t even be champion. Legends of the business tell have gone on twitter and told her to go away. She teared up again and told Becky that she knows they are going to tear it up together at Summerslam, and offered her a handshake. James Ellsworth’s music played and Becky looked towards the entranceway and was ambushed. Carmella kicked her and let the ring to grab the chair. As she wound up, Charlotte’s music hit, and she ran into make the save. She took care of Carmella with a kick and a suplex, and then helped Becky to her feet.
The announce team plugged a Samoa Joe message to AJ Styles for later. Jeff Hardy will confront Randy Orton later as well. The show then cut to a backstage promo from the Usos, who will face The Bar later tonight. Jimmy delivered tribute to the Rock before Jey stopped him from going TV14. They said anyone who wanted a tag title shot had to go through the Usos. Welcome to the Uso Penitentiary…[c]
My Take: This was a strong segment. Very good character work from Becky and Carmella here. The crowd never 100% bought into her sympathy act, and Becky didn’t either, but the Ellsworth music was enough to throw her off and give Carmella the upper hand. I liked the delivery from both women. Carmella blended enough of the real life animosity you can find about her online into her promo effectively, and Becky has the crowd hooked in with her slow climb back towards the top. I’m curious whether Charlotte gets into this match somehow, or they play up a jealousy angle between herself and Becky. Becky vs. Charlotte would be a fantastic match for Evolution, and they’d be fools to pass it up.
Backstage, Carmella ran into Paige and complained about how Charlotte ruined her plan and had no respect for her. Paige told her that Champions always had to fight against the odds, and the real Champions don’t complain about it. Carmella then threw the Championship in Paige’s face and said she’d never be champ again. Paige then told her if she wanted to play that way, Carmella would face Charlotte later in the show, and if Charlotte wins, the match at Summerslam is a Triple Threat.
My Take: Charlotte just shows up and has title opportunities fall out of the sky.. I guess this will be the foundation of the upcoming feud with Becky. Which one will end up the heel, though?
In the arena, New Day joined on commentary, while The Usos and The Bar made their entrances.
1. The Usos vs. The Bar: The Usos cleared the bar from the ring, and things reset. The show went picture in picture for this…[c]
The Bar controlled the action and isolated Jimmy Uso in their corner. The action spilled outside, where Sheamus continues the assault while Jimmy was forced back to his corner by the referee. We had our first near fall as Sheamus covered Jey after a knee lift. The Bar continued to cut off the ring, and held Jey in a rear chinlock. Jimmy got a hot tag after Jimmy hit a big kick on Sheamus coming into a corner.
He hit a Samoan Drop on Cesaro for a near fall, and then an enziguri. Jimmy hit a splash on Sheamus on the floor, and then hit a superkick on Cesaro. He then hit a flying crossbody on Cesaro for a near fall. Jimmy climbed the ropes in the corner, and Jimmy was shoved off the top rope into the barricade at ringside…[c]
Jimmy fought off Sheamus and Cesaro from the corner, and was able to hit a splash. He couldn’t cover due to exhaustion. The match broke down with Jey entering and hitting a superkick on Cesaro. He then got a tag and hit a splash from the top on Sheamus, but Cesaro broke it up. Both Usos went for a double splash, but Jey jumped into an uppercut from Cesaro, and Sheamus got the knees up and rolled up Jimmy for the win.
The Bar defeated The Usos at 13:55.
After the match, The Bar celebrated, and the stared down New Day on commentary. They got in the ring, and talked trash, and told The Bar they’d see them next week. The announce team plugged Daniel Bryan being live tonight, and said he will address the Miz later. Lana vs. Zelina Vega is up later as well.
Backstage, Renee Young walked up to Charlotte and asked about potentially being added to the Women’s Championship match at Summerslam. She thanked Carmella for running her mouth, because she was only out there to support her best friend. She said she didn’t expect to be at Summerslam, especially not in a title match. Charlotte said she knows Carmella beat her twice, but the Queen is back and she wants her throne. Video was shown of last week’s Samoa Joe attack, he’s up next…[c]
My Take: A good match from The Bar and The Usos, but it was diminished a bit by the commercial breaks stopping them from building significant tension. I liked the finish though, and The Bar feels fresh. Charlotte’s promo work continues to show how she’s just ill fit to be a babyface. He faux surprise at being shoved back into the title picture immediately goes against the foundation of her character.
Samoa Joe made his entrance and addressed AJ Styles. He said AJ is familiar with his favorite forms of communication, so last week shouldn’t have been a surprise. He then said he respected Styles, and the fact that he’s made his title the most prestigious in WWE. He said he respects his grind, and how much he’s sacrificed to be a champion, including not being much of a member of his own family. Joe claimed that AJ’s story about his daughter was a fraud, and that he’s barely home enough to give her a hug, let alone look lovingly into her eyes. He called him a bad husband, and a failure as a father. Everything he’s sacrificed to be champion will be for nothing, because he was coming to taking it all from him.
Joe said after he was done tearing him down, and putting him to sleep, his wife and kids will have their Daddy back, but he will be WWE Champion. The announce team felt the need to clarify that those opinions were Samoa Joe’s and nobody else’s. They then threw to some footage of Orton pulling on Jeff Hardy’s earlobe from a few weeks ago, and then gave him a DDT on the floor. Backstage, Jeff Hardy was shown painting his face, and he will call out Randy Orton next…[c]
My Take: I’m glad Joe got really personal right away, as it was the only chance they’d have to build a decent program heading into Summerslam. Family is a lever that works on a lot of people, so it has a decent shot to gain traction quickly if the physicality matches the intensity of the words.
Jeff Hardy made his entrance and soaked up the chants. He said the US Title was more to him than just a Championship, it was a part of his lifeforce. He said it gives him energy and deepened his connection with the WWE Universe. He said nothing is more important than getting it back, but something is very close, and that’s beating the hell out of Randy Orton. He demanded Orton come down to the ring, and Orton responded quickly.
As Orton got to the ring, Nakamura blindsided Hardy and went to hit him with a Kinshasa. Orton got in the way, and Nakamura backed down. Orton gave him the signal to hit him, and Nakamura delivered the knee to the face. Orton then got in Nakamura’s face again, who slowly backed away up the stage. After Nakamura left, Orton played to the crowd and demanded they cheer for an RKO. He then dumped Hardy on his back and stomped on him. Orton then setup Hardy and gave him a draping DDT. Refs attempted to separate them, but he pulled Hardy out of the ring and hit another DDT on the floor.
Orton cleared the announce table and set Hardy on top. He ripped off Hardy’s arm wraps and his shirt, and then his necklace. He then used water and a rag to wash off his makeup. He told Hardy that if he thinks he has a connection with the people, he’s going to take it away. After he wiped away the makeup, he told Hardy that the enigma had been erased. Orton took Hardy’s necklace and walked to the back…[c]
My Take: We still have no idea how the Nakamura and Orton pieces of this puzzle fit together, but Orton is clearly focused on separating Jeff Hardy from his enigma identity, which is apparently the source of his power. It’s not difficult to follow, but I don’t know if it’s all that interesting yet. We’ll see where it goes from here. Randy Orton’s intensity continues to be one of the highlights of the show.
Backstage, Becky was asked about Charlotte being possibly added to her match at Summerslam. Becky said she was happy that Charlotte was back, and that she has a golden opportunity later. Renee followed up said her odds go down significantly in a Triple Threat. Becky responded that she’s not as happy with the prospect of a triple threat because of how hard she’s worked, but she’s never going to cheer against her best friend.
Lana made her entrance in the arena, as footage was shown of last week’s match between Rusev and Andrade Almas. Zelina Vega then made her entrance, with Almas in tow.
2. Zelina Vega vs. Lana: Vega struck a tranquilo pose right away, and Lana did some gymnastics in return. Lana forced Vega to retreat to ringside, where she collected herself with Almas…[c]
Vega controlled the action and kept Lana grounded with a chin lock for the majority of the break. Lana fought to her feet, but was quickly tossed back down and placed back in the hold. Things got pretty sloppy in the middle here, with Lana fighting out of various chinlocks and looking clumsy while doing so. Vega hit a jump kick in the corner, followed by double knees. Vega covered for a near fall. She then went for a hammerlock DDT, but Lana reversed out of it.
Lana hit a few running forearms and a neckbreaker. She then hit double knees to Vega’s back, and a running back elbow in the corner. Almas jumped on the apron twice to cause a distraction. Aiden English ran down and pulled Almas off the apron, but Lana got rolled up and pinned anyway.
Zelina Vega defeated Lana at 5:54.
After the match, the Bludgeon Brothers said they will break the bar and shatter the New Day. No one can escape the bludgeoning. Daniel Bryan then made his entrance in the arena to the usual chorus of chants…[c]
My Take: That match between Lana and Vega was not good. There were several eternal rest holds, and when the action did get moving it was quite sloppy. The announce team made a point to call out how much Lana had improved, and she has, but she’s still a long way from where you could call her matches serviceable for television.
Backstage, Aiden approached Lana and told her it was an accident. She told him that he needed to go, and he peeled out before Rusev walked up shouting for him. He told her that never would have happened if he was out there. Lana told him that she needed him, and that she knows he’s trying to figure out his future, but she really could have used him out there.
In the ring, Daniel Bryan talked about Evolution being a huge step forward for WWE, and how proud he was of his wife when he heard Stephanie McMahon make that announcement. He said even though we take steps forward, we takes two steps backward. He then showed footage of Miz tossing him the fake baby last week.
Bryan said for the last two years Miz could taunt and bait him, because he thought he’d never be cleared to wrestle again. But earlier this year that barrier went down, so Miz had to create a new one by bringing his wife and what he thought as his actual daughter to the ring with him. Bryan said Miz knows if they ever had a fair fight, Bryan would destroy him. He said if Miz thinks differently, he can come out to the ring and fight him like man.
Miz was then shown “on location” at the Miz and Mrs. se. He told Bryan that this isn’t the indies anymore, he can’t just walk out in to the gym and demand he come out and fight. He told Bryan to call his agent, because he was in demand. Bryan told him that he’s hiding, and that his failure to confront him just shows what a coward he is. Miz reminded him that the last time he called him a coward was on Talking Smack, and instead of punching him in the face, he just walked away. He then laid into Bryan and told him he’d been riding his coattails since NXT, and had been latching himself onto The Miz to remain relevant. Miz said while Bryan’s career has never been lower, Miz’s has grown into a Hollywood and WWE Superstar.
Bryan said this has always been about passion for him, and for Miz it’s about fame. He said what Miz is trying to do in Hollywood has already been done, and by better men than him. He said Miz will never be The Rock, and he’ll never be John Cena. He said if Miz’s ego required a big stage to have their fight, he said they could have their match at Summerslam.
Miz told Bryan that he doesn’t get it. His career is over. He should let his contract expire and just go back to wrestling in front of 12 people at Bingo Halls, because Team Hell No and the Yes Movement are gone. Miz said he talks about his wife, and rambles about passion, and that’s it. Miz put up some images and audio of crying babies, and said that’s all people hear when they see him. He then told Bryan to move on, just like everybody else has from him.
My Take: Smackdown has had a number of very effective segments tonight, this one included. Bryan’s contract status was a nice little wrinkle to add to the discussion, but this was reiterating a lot of the points they have made previously in an entertaining way.
Charlotte made her entrance. Mella was interviewed backstage, and said that her skills in the ring are flawless, and she would defeat Charlotte. She also said that she knows for a fact that Becky was rooting against Charlotte in an attempt to stir the pot.
3. Charlotte vs. Carmella: Charlotte hit a nice suplex early, and Carmella reeled out to the floor. Charlotte tried to slingshot herself out of the ring and missed, and Carmella was able to toss her into the ring apron and into the barricade…[c]
Charlotte hit some chops and a suplex. She then climbed up to the top rope for a moonsault, but Mella got her boots up and tossed Charlotte out to the floor. The ref tried to count out Charlotte, but she made her way to the apron, only to get knocked down by Carmella. She then followed Charlotte to the floor and tossed her into the barricade. She then slammed her into the timekeeper’s area and ran to the ring so the ref would restart the count.
Carmella continued her assault in the corner once Charlotte returned to the ring. Charlotte returned fire with a big boot and got a near fall. Charlotte went for a figure four a moment later, but Carmella escaped out to the floor. Charlotte went for a moonsault off the barricade on the floor, and finally hit one. She then hit Natural Selection in the ring, and got a close near fall. Charlotte sold frustration in the ring, and was bleeding a bit from the lips.
Carmella hit a kick, but Charlotte recovered and went for a figure four. Carmella rolled her up for a two count. She then hit a superkick, and got a near fall. Carmella went for a figure four of her own, but Charlotte escaped and applied a Figure Eight for the win.
Charlotte defeated Carmella at 11:49.
After the match, Becky looked frustrated and Charlotte was obviously excited.
My Take: Another solid match to close the show. This was a good edition of Smackdown by all accounts. Not a lot of wasted airtime, and a lot of programs that are really starting to click heading into Summerslam. I think the obvious move here would be to have Charlotte turn heel coming out of Summerslam. The best way I can think to do it would be for Charlotte to steal a win from Becky so she can chase her to Evolution and win the title there, because it would be a solid feel good moment to close that show. I guess they can do something really unexpected and have Becky do the heel turn, but it seems wasteful to turn the most successful female babyface in the company as she is just getting back into the game.