By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Indianapolis, Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves opened the show. They announce the Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe, and Big Show vs. Randy Orton WWE World Cup Qualifying matches. The Smackdown Women’s Championship match was nearly underway in the ring. There were ring announcements made, but no entrances were televised.
1. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch: They tied up to start this grudge match (groan), and Becky backed up Charlotte into the corner. They were then tied up in the middle of the ring for an extended sequence, with Charlotte nearly applying the figure four. Becky slapped Charlotte and talked some trash, and then dragged her face across the top rope. She then kicked her into the corner, and slammer her face onto the mat for a two count.
Becky hit a running leg drop, and then did some styling and profiling before hitting an elbow. Charlotte got to her feet and hit a double leg takedown, followed by a double leg pin for a near fall. Both women then got up and hit a double clothesline. More back and forth as both women got to their feet, but they ended up at a stalemate again. Charlotte began selling her left arm, and Becky grabbed it for an arm drag and very impressive bridging hammerlock.
Charlotte avoided a dropkick and went for a Boston Crab, but ended up hitting a slingshot into the corner. Becky rolled out to the floor, and Charlotte went over the top to splash her on the floor…[c]
Charlotte broke free from Becky and went out to the apron. She then climbed to the top rope and got slammed into the ring. Becky covered for a two count. A moment later, Becky hit a suplex and covered again for two. Charlotte chopped Becky across the ring, and hit a back suplex. Charlotte kipped up, but fell back down. She then went back up top, but Becky pulled her down again.
Becky went to the second rope and missed, and Charlotte rolled her up for two. Becky fired back with an enziguri, and went back up top. She got to the top rope, but got dropped into a seated position on the top rope. Becky caught Charlotte partially in an armbar, but Charlotte eventually picked her up into a powerbomb for a near fall…[c]
My Take: A few clumsy spots, but a very strong match so far. Becky doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the minor jaw injury she suffered over the weekend.
Both women were on the mat, and Charlotte crawled to her feet and went for a Figure Four, but got shoved into the turnbuckle. Becky rolled out to the floor and went to leave again with her Championship. Charlotte threw her back in the ring with the title belt, and then Becky shoved Charlotte into the ref. She then grabbed the belt to use it, but the ref recovered and nearly disqualified her. Becky got rolled up as she was arguing with the ref. She reversed the rollup for a near fall.
Becky rolled to the outside and Charlotte went for a moonsault and got nothing. Becky hit a suplex and went back in the ring and ref started to count. Charlotte made it back in the ring and hit Natural Selection, but Becky rolled outside again. This time, both women were unable to answer the count after brawling, and the match was ruled a double countout.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch ended in a Double Countout at 21:59
After the match, Becky tossed Charlotte into the barricade and walked up the stage. As they got to the LED boards, Charlotte charged and speared Becky through the board. Trainers and security checked on them, and eventually Charlotte was shown grabbing her left arm in pain. Becky didn’t move after the spear. Backstage, Jeff Hardy was shown preparing for his match with Samoa Joe next…[c]
My Take: A very good story told throughout th ematch, with neither woman being able to put the other away. This was also a much longer match than any we’ve seen the women have on Television, and it benefitted a great deal from it. Fatigue played a believable role late in the match. The only thing I’m still not sold on is the dual nature of Becky Lynch’s character. She continues to exude confidence and attitude in her matches and on the microphone, but she’s also a coward. This element seems grafted onto her character in order to make the booking direction make sense, rather than writing something that is focused on keeping the characters true to themselves.
Jeff Hardy made his entrance. Corey Graves announced Charlotte and Becky were being tended to backstage, and Charlotte had some cuts on her arm. A video package was shown for Jeff Hardy, that focused on him taking insane risks throughout his career. Joe made his entrance, and got a video package that focused on his violent tendencies.
2. Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe: They went back and forth in the early going, with Hardy getting an advantage by hitting a low dropkick to Joe’s taped left knee…[c]
Joe controlled the action, and hit a jumping senton and covered for a near fall. Joe put his knee in the back of Hardy and stretched him out, but Hardy was able to fight out and get to his feet. He grabbed Joe for an inverted atomic drop, but Joe sent him to the floor when he tried to follow up. Joe shoved Hardy into the stairs and tried to kick him, but he ended up kicking the stairs with his bad leg.
Hardy capitalized and focused with kicks and strikes on the bad knee. Joe struggled to get up, and could not continue to stand. The ref called for the bell, and the match was awarded to Hardy by ref stoppage.
Jeff Hardy defeated Samoa Joe by ref stoppage at 8:34
After the match, Samoa Joe was furious and Hardy smiled as he left the ring. After the match, we got a video package for Randy Orton that went over his career accomplishments and how dangerous he is. The announce team the teased more from “One Night in Milwaukee”, and The Miz will host MizTV later on. Evolution was then teased for Smackdown 1000, along with the Undertaker being mentioned in a commercial earlier.
The Miz made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: I guess Samoa Joe will go into rebuilding mode….again. I still don’t understand why Evolution is reuniting on Smackdown, being as they were never on the show. Maybe this will plant the seeds for Batista and Triple H, since he’s always wanted that match for WrestleMania? I’m probably wishful thinking.
The announce team said that Charlotte ended up ok after suffering some minor cuts on her arm, and will participate in the Mixed Match Challenge later on. Backstage, Paige announced a Last Woman Standing match for Evolution between Charlotte and Becky as a result of their match getting so ugly. In the arena, Miz said he was instructed to remain professional with his two guests tonight by Paige. He said that his two guests will be competing for the WWE Championship at WWE Crown Jewel. AJ Styles was brought out first, and images were shown of his title defense at Super Showdown.
Miz asked AJ about his family, given the horrors he experienced with Samoa Joe. Styles got up, but Miz said he’s got a kid so he gets it. He just wanted to know how he’d do without all the anger that led him to victory. He said Daniel Bryan was all about respect, and if he went to your house he’d tend to your garden. He’s better than a boy scout, and then Bryan made his entrance.
Miz looked upset as Bryan and AJ shook hands. Miz said that was the last thing that anyone wanted to see in a fight for the most coveted Championship in Sports Entertainment. Bryan asked Miz if he wanted to talk about their match, since he talked about AJ’s, and promised it wouldn’t take very long. Miz then asked AJ to rank Bryan amongst his challengers. AJ called Samoa Joe his greatest competitor lately, but he took things outside the ring and to his doorstep. But he and Bryan would keep the fight in the house that AJ Styles built.
Miz recapped and said that AJ thinks he’s better than Bryan. AJ said he didn’t say that, and Bryan agreed. Bryan said he was glad that AJ thinks he’s better than him, because since he’s come back he has a lot to prove. He commended AJ for defending the title for 300+ Days, and said he earned the right to think he’s the best. He then reiterated that he’s glad AJ thinks he can beat him, and deep down he knows he can beat AJ Styles.
They both made fun of Miz for being a two minute man, and then Bryan said since he came back that he never got a chance to talk about his dreams. He said his dream wasn’t to put Team Hell No back together, or to punch The Miz, it was to win the WWE Championship, and the only thing standing in his way was AJ Styles. Styles got to his feet and told Bryan that he wasn’t moving, not for him or anybody else.
Miz said things had finally gotten interesting. Bryan and AJ stared each other down briefly before AJ asked Bryan how good it felt to punch the two minute man in the face. Bryan said it felt great, and AJ recalled the time he knocked one of his teeth out. Miz finally popped off and called them both losers. He told AJ that he’s held the Championship for a year and never headlines PPVs, and he told Bryan that he never really beat him. He asserted his shoulder was up at Super Showdown, but since Bryan was such a charity case Paige had refused to give him a rematch.
He said that he beat Bryan down week after week, and beat him at Summerslam and Hell in a Cell. He said whichever one of them was Champion after Super Showdown, he had next. He then told AJ that he wasn’t facing him tonight, he was facing the man that beat Daniel Bryan last week. Shelton Benjamin’s music then hit…[c]
My Take: That was a fun segment, and everybody played their parts well. Miz inserting himself as the next challenger just makes me think that we’re going to get yet another AJ Styles title match with a screwy finish, and that’s just a bummer.
3. AJ Styles vs. Shelton Benjamin: Benjamin dominated the early going, but it was fairly slow paced. He used a side Russian Leg Sweep and some strikes to contain AJ in the corner, but he escaped and hit a Pele Kick. Styles avoided a suplex and went out to the apron for a phenomenal forearm, but Shelton intercepted him with a knee that sent AJ out to the floor. Shelton followed him and tossed him into the led board on the ring and into the barricade…[c]
Styles lit up Benjamin with a lariat and a running forearm. Shelton went for a German Suplex, but Styles avoided it and rolled Benjamin into a calf crusher. Benjamin reached the ropes to break the hold. Styles hit a leg kick on Benjamin and rolled out to the apron. He hit a firearm as Benjamin ran to intercept, and then hit the Phenomenal Forearm to put him away. He covered and got a clean 3 count.
AJ Styles defeated Shelton Benjamin at 9:21
After the match, the announce team threw to a video that highlighted Big Show’s size and career highpoints. Aiden English is up next to show the entire video of what happened in Milwaukee next…[c]
My Take: Another solid TV match for Benjamin, who has looked good against Styles and Bryan over the past few weeks. He hasn’t been integrated into a story yet, but he has had positive outings regardless. The Miz and Bryan on commentary was less interesting than you’d expect. For guys that had one of the longest running feuds in the company that has lasted for years, you’d think they’d have a bit more animosity built up than just verbally sniping at each other. It should be barely contained rage, at least on Bryan’s part.
Aiden English was in the ring, and he said he got six figure offers for One Night in Milwaukee, but he has something else in mind, and so he threw to the video again. Essentially, where the video cut off last week was an awkward pause, and Lana complimented Aiden on how much he means to Rusev and how much he’s meant to his career. He was flattered by her words, and then leaned and touched Lana on the arm. He asked Rusev to come out, and he walked out on to the stage.
English offered to destroy the tape, and said everyone knows what happens next. He said if Rusev will dump Lana to the curb, and reunite Rusev Day, he said no one has to see the rest of the tape. Lana walked out, and Rusev asked him to play the rest of the tape. He said he wouldn’t, because he doesn’t think any man needs to see that. Lana said if he wouldn’t, then she would. Rusev told him that he’d been hacked. Aiden acted like it was impossible, but Lana said that his password was I Heart Rusev.
They played the rest of the tape, and Lana rebuked him and left the room. After the video played, Aiden told Lana the offer still stands, and if she gets tired of those boring Rusev Days she can treat herself to an Aiden night. Rusev gave chase, and Aiden rang to ringside. He caught him near the timekeepers area and tossed him back to ringside. Aiden then got in the ring and avoided the Machka kick and bailed up the stage.
After Aiden escaped, the announce team threw to a video that advertised Rey Mysterio for next week. He will face Shinsuke Nakamura in a World Cup qualifier. Big Show was shown backstage heading out for the main event…[c]
My Take: I don’t know if that was always where this was going, but that payoff was lame and they’ve already sucked the wind out of Aiden English as a heel act. I don’t know where Rusev and Lana go from here, but it can’t be any worse than this.
Big Show made his entrance to an ovation. He was followed by Randy Orton.
4. Big Show vs. Randy Orton: Show got the early advantage on Orton with some heavy strikes, which caused Orton to retreat to the floor…[c]
Orton hit a DDT and clutched his chest, that was red and busted from Big Show’s chops. He stomped on Big Show’s fingers and the back of his neck. Show got to his feet and hit a lariat and a shoulder tackle. He called for a Chokeslam, but Orton escaped to ringside. Show followed and tossed Orton back in the ring, but that setup Orton for a dropkick. He then hit a draping DDT over the top rope and covered from a near fall.
Orton set up for a punt, but Show intercepted with a spear for a near fall of his own. Show called for another chokeslam, and once again Orton rolled to the floor. Big Show reached over the ropes and hauled him back in. He hit a big chokeslam, and got a close near fall. Orton escaped to the outside again to avoid a KO punch. Show reached over the ropes again, but Orton poked him in the eyes when shielded from the ref. Orton then ran in and hit his first RKO since he returned to TV to get the win.
Randy Orton defeated Big Show at 10:49
After the match, Orton celebrated to close the show.
My Take: It was nice to see Big Show back for a change of pace, but this match was pretty much what we can expect from him at this point in his career. The crowd was into some of the big spots, but this was a slower paced match that had the right guy win. Orton broke out the RKO here to put Show away, having not used it for months, and the announce team made no mentioned of it. We also didn’t see any of the “killer instinct” Orton that has been on TV lately. All in all, this wasn’t a bad finish to the show, but it what a bit odd what ended up being ignored. Overall, this was a good show, but it peaked early with the Lynch and Charlotte match.