By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown
Taped earlier today in Orlando, Florida at the WWE Performance Center
Aired July 17, 2020 on Fox
[Hour One] The AC/DC opening kicked off the show (yes, we’re ready)… A video aired with AJ Styles talking about how Matt Riddle beat him in their previous match due to the element of surprise. Footage aired of their previous match while Styles spoke. He said there would be no surprise this time.
Matt Riddle checked in and said that once he wins the title, he’ll be the Bro Who Runs The Show. Daniel Bryan spoke in an outdoor setting and said he thinks there will be a new Intercontinental Champion. Alexa Bliss teased her mystery guest for A Moment of Bliss and declined to say who it would be.
The Miz asked John Morrison if he’s afraid to fight Braun Strowman. Morrison worked in a Jean Claude Van Damme joke. Miz repeated the question. Morrison admitted he was terrified. Strowman checked in and said he hoped Bray Wyatt was watching. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro spoke about getting a chance to pick the stipulation for their title match, the Big E and Kofi Kingston chimed in from elsewhere backstage. Big E delivered the New Day introduction before the duo made their entrance…
Michael Cole and Corey Graves recapped last week’s Smackdown Tag Title match and noted that there was not a definitive winner. Cole said the question now is whether Cesaro and Nakamura have New Day’s number. Cesaro and Nakamura made their entrance…
Powell’s POV: The show opening montage was unique. I like that they’re trying new things. By the way, we’re under a severe thunderstorm watch and our power has been known to cut out, so if I stop updating tonight it’s either that or Illuminati have finally caught up with me.
1. Big E (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. Cesaro (w/Shinsuke Nakamura). The winner of the match gets to choose either a tables match or a steel cage match for the tag title match at Extreme Rules. Big E was in offensive control heading into a break. [C]
Cesaro applied a Sharpshooter and then locked in a crossface while smirking at Kingston. While Kingston was encouraging Big E, Nakamura hit him with a cheap shot. Big E rebounded and went for the Big Ending, but Cesaro grabbed the ropes. The referee ducked to avoid Cesaro’s legs, allowing Nakamura to hit Big E with a kick. Cesaro followed up with a Neutralizer and scored the pin.
Cesaro defeated Big E in 10:05 to earn the right to choose the stipulation for the Smackdown Tag Title match at Extreme Rules.
After the match, Cesaro and Nakamura pulled out a table from underneath the ring. Kingston recovered and performed a dive onto them. Kingston placed Cesaro on the table. Big E stood on the apron while Kingston set up to climb onto his shoulders, but Nakamura pulled Cesaro off the table…
Powell’s POV: My favorite part of all of this was that Cole and Graves had to act clueless regarding which stipulation would be selected, even while the heels were pulling out the table after the match.
Kayla Braxton interviewed King Corbin on the interview set. Corbin said that once Styles would finish pounding Riddle into the mat, everyone would realize that the Bro is nothing but a little boy… Crew members were shown setting up the ring for the Alexa Bliss talkshow… [C]
Cesaro and Nakamura stood backstage. Cesaro said they earned the right to choose the stipulation the hard way. Cesaro asked Nakamura which type of match they should choose. Nakamura sang the praises of the cage match. Cesaro said he couldn’t get the image out of his head of New Day gyrating against the cage. He said he loves smashing New Day with a table last week. They both agreed to a tables match…
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross sat in the ring for A Moment of Bliss. They noted that it was the fifth anniversary of the women’s evolution and led the masked spectator wrestlers in a round of applause. Bliss spoke of being clairvoyant. She predicted that the LA Lakers would win the NBA Championship, Matt Riddle would win the Intercontinental Championship, and her friend Braun Strowman would win the Swamp Fight.
Cross thought she was the surprise guest and then ranted about becoming the next Smackdown Women’s Champion. Bliss asked her to bring it down a little bit. She asked how many nitro brews she had. Cross said seven. Bliss informed Cross that she was not her mystery guest.
Sasha Banks and Bayley made their entrance and spoke as they walked to the ring about how Bayley would beat Cross on Sunday. They claimed to be the architects of the women’s revolution and boasted that they were the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Banks and Bayley entered the ring. Bayley predicted that she and Banks will both win their title matches on Sunday. Bliss noted that they never let her say who her guest was.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka made her entrance as the mystery guest. Banks and Bayley attacked Bliss and Cross. Asuka headed to the ring and joined the babyfaces in clearing Banks and Bayley from the ring. Bliss called for a referee going into a break… [C]
Matt Riddle was shown shadowboxing with Drew Gulak backstage. Cole noted that former world champions would check in with predictions for the main event. Daniel Bryan checked in from the outdoor setting again and stating that he’s pleased that AJ Styles has been forced to be a fighting champion. Bryan said he’s seen the fire that Matt Riddle rings up close. Bryan said he may be a little biased because he heard Riddle had a special coach (Gulak)…
2. WWE Women’s Tag Champions Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Nikki Cross and Asuka (w/Alexa Bliss) in a non-title match. Cole noted that Bayley has been Smackdown Women’s Champion for 280 days. Cross was isolated by the heels early on. Cross eventually rallied and caught Bayley in the ring skirting and worked her over with punches. Asuka and Cross hit their opponents with moves and then stood on top of the broadcast table and celebrated. [C]
Banks showed frustration over not being able to pin Cross. Bayley tagged in and went to the ropes, but Cross cut her off. Bayley tossed Cross to ringside and followed her. Cross performed a tornado DDT off the broadcast table, then rolled Bayley back inside the ring. Cross covered Bayley, but Banks broke up the pin.
Asuka ran in, but Banks caught her with a kick that sent her to ringside. Banks and Asuka took each other out at ringside. In the ring, Bayley stuffed another tornado DDT by Cross, then pinned her while using the ropes for leverage…
WWE Women’s Tag Champions Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nikki Cross and Asuka in 14:30 in a non-title match.
Powell’s POV: It’s a pleasant surprise that the tag team champions didn’t lose a non-title match to a makeshift tag team. Cole tried to play up the idea that it was telling that Bayley had to use the ropes for leverage to beat Cross.
Backstage, The Miz tried to sell John Morrison on being the hero who would slay the monster Braun Strowman. Morrison tried to sell Miz on the horror movie best friend stepping up to face the monster. Miz said he’s not much of a horror movie fan… [C] The Raw ad hyped Randy Orton vs. Big Show in an unsanctioned match, and the fallout from Extreme Rules…
The Firefly Funhouse opening played and was quickly distorted. Bray Wyatt was shown dressed in his original garb while standing in front of a pond. He recalled that Braun Strowman was a lost sheep who was looking for a home and he found one. Wyatt said he gave Strowman purpose, but then he left “or so he thought.”
[Hour Two] Wyatt said he was in a special place where the devil dances and all the horrors of the world feel right at home. Wyatt said that once you enter, you can never truly leave. Wyatt said he knows that the monster he created is scratching and waiting to come home. Wyatt said he can see that it still lives within Strowman.
Wyatt said Strowman isn’t capable of handling the gifts he bestowed upon him. Wyatt said he must control it and now he will see the monster that Strowman has become. “You know where to find me,” Wyatt said. “Come home. Run.” Wyatt blew out his lantern…
John Morrison and The Miz made their entrance. Braun Strowman made his entrance and said there’s a time when every man must grow up and face his fears. Strowman said he’ll do just that on Sunday when he goes home and faces Wyatt. Strowman said he needed to do this to prevent Wyatt from becoming The Fiend, and added that he has to end Wyatt before Wyatt ends him. Strowman headed to the ring while Morrison and Miz ducked to ringside…
3. WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman vs. John Morrison (w/The Miz). Morrison entered the ring to start the match and was immediately attacked by Strowman. The domination continued with Strowman performing a standing submission triangle, then releasing it and executing his running power slam for the win.
WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman defeated John Morrison in 1:50 in a non-title match.
Cole said Wyatt has brought out the evil in Strowman. Strowman took the mic and said he hoped that Wyatt was watching. “I’m coming home,” Strowman said. Strowman left the ring. Miz tended to Morrison and called for help. EMTs entered the ring to treat Morrison. Cole said he’d never seen Strowman in that state of mind. Miz helped Morrison to his feet and then to ringside. Lacey Evans made her entrance and crossed paths with the duo while Cole hyped her match against Naomi… [C]
Powell’s POV: Strowman showed good fire during his promo, but there’s not much difference between the evil Strowman that Cole and Graves played up and the usual Strowman. When they stuck with Miz helping Morrison from the ring, I was wondering if Miz was going to turn on his partner.
A sponsored ad recapped last week’s karaoke segment… Evans stood in the ring and said Naomi’s glow would be a little sparkle after their match. Naomi made her entrance…
4. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi. Evans went for an early moonsault, but Naomi put her knees up. Naomi did the splits onto Evans and covered her, but Evans kicked out. A short time later, Evans caught Naomi in the ropes and tied her hair to the ropes. Naomi freed herself, then turned into a Woman’s Right and was pinned…
Lacey Evans defeated Naomi in 2:35.
Powell’s POV: Yes, Evans actually turned heel because she lost a karaoke contest last week. We know this because the spectator fans booed her.
Jeff Hardy was interviewed backstage by Kayla Braxton, who asked him why he accepted the bar room brawl given his history. Hardy said that battling a bully is like battling an addiction in that you can’t hide from it. Hardy said fighting Sheamus in a bar is a risk he’s willing to take. Braxton asked Hardy for a prediction on the Intercontinental Title match. Hardy noted that Sheamus framed him for drinking and driving and it took him out of the Intercontinental Title tournament.
Sheamus blasted Hardy with a Brogue Kick out of nowhere. Sheamus sat down next to Hardy and said that he was right in that he couldn’t run from it, hide from it, or wish it away. Sheamus said he would cleanse Hardy of his demons, then said he would see him on Smackdown next week… [C]
An ad aired for a bonus edition of Undertaker’s Last Ride called “Tales From The Deadman” that will stream on WWE Network on Sunday…
Sasha Banks and Bayley were walking backstage when Kayla Braxton popped up and interviewed them. Bayley spoke about how much momentum they have, and Banks said it’s their destiny to hold all the championship gold. Bayley said that Cross should go back to being a chimney sweep, then she and Banks laughed uproariously…
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss were shown watching the promo elsewhere in the Performance Center. Cross spoke about how she would have friends and family watching back in Scotland, then said her confidence is shaken. Bliss assured Cross that she would beat Bayley. Cross overheard Banks and Bayley laughing, then attacked Bayley from behind. Bliss and Banks pulled them apart…
The AJ Styles and Matt Riddle promos from the opening montage was replayed… Riddle was shown walking backstage while Graves hyped the title match as coming up next… [C]
Cole noted that it was five years ago that Stephanie McMahon introduced Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Sasha Banks. Cole and Graves hyped the women’s evolution and how the industry changed forever… Ring entrances for the main event took place…
5. AJ Styles vs. Matt Riddle for the Intercontinental Championship. Greg Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Riddle performed a couple of early gut-wrench suplexes. Styles went to the apron. Riddle leapt from the middle rope and threw a knee to the head of Styles, who then threw a fit by slamming his fists on the broadcast table. Riddle went to ringside and joined Styles in hitting the broadcast table. Riddle dropped Styles with a kick. [C]
Riddle remained on the offensive coming out of the break until Styles clotheslined him over the top rope. Riddle rallied with a couple of sentons and a kick. Riddle hit his Bro To Sleep move and a powerbomb, then tagged Styles with another running knee before covering him for a near fall. [C]
Styles took offensive control and picked up a couple of near falls. Styles applied a Calf Crusher. Riddle countered into a Bromission attempt, but Styles rolled on top of him and held him down for the three count.
AJ Styles defeated Matt Riddle in 18:10 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Riddle looked shocked and frustrated after being pinned. Cole said the veteran Styles survived, then he and Graves raved about the performance of Riddle. Styles celebrated his win while Riddle continued to show disappointment. Styles approached Riddle and offered him a handshake, which Riddle accepted.
King Corbin attacked Riddle from behind. Styles left the ring rather than save Riddle. Corbin mounted Riddle and threw punches at him, then picked him up and performed his End of Days finisher on him. Corbin grabbed his crown and rolled out of the ring, then mugged on the stage. The broadcast team recapped highlights of the post match attack. Corbin was shown standing on the stage to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A good title match with a surprisingly clean finish. The post match handshake was also a surprise, though clearly it wasn’t a babyface turn by Styles, who left the ring when he could have saved Riddle. That said, it also didn’t seem like this was meant to come off as Styles setting up Riddle for the Corbin attack.
Overall, this was an entertaining two-hour show. WWE did a really nice job of making this title match feel important throughout the show. They didn’t move me when it came to Extreme Rules, but that lineup is so hokey that I don’t think anything really could have. I will have more to say about the show in my same night audio review for Dot Net Members. Let me know what you thought of Smackdown by assigning it a letter grade in our post show poll available on the main page.
Join us for live coverage of Impact Wrestling Slammiversary on Saturday and WWE Extreme Rules on Sunday. Dot Net Members will hear same night audio reviews of both shows. ProWrestlingnet Live returns with Jason Powell and Will Pruett taking your calls on Monday at 3CT/4ET at PWAudio.net.