Live from San Antonio, Texas this is Smackdown Live for episode #934. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks Melo Man for the banner up top.

The opening video package showed highlights of AJ Styles winning the battle royal last week to earn a US Title shot against Kevin Owens. It also included clips of Styles winning the US Title from Owens on Friday at a live event in Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was a rare house show title change. Here’s a video of that from WWE’s Youtube page.

The Smackdown opening video aired. No more pyro to start the show. Still getting used to that.

AJ Styles made his entrance to a big ovation. The announce team of Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield & Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show.

Let’s Hear from AJ Styles…And Probably Others

The fans chanted “AJ Styles” as Styles stood in the ring with the US Title around his waist. Styles noted that Battleground came a little early for him at MSG. He would never say he is the Face of America (that’s an egotistical heel thing), but since Kevin Owens did his face looks like a monkey’s butt, so he would say this is definitely an upgrade. Styles said it’s not about Owens or himself, this is about the United States Championship that is around his waist.

Styles said it wasn’t too long ago that a US Champion wanted to prove himself every time he was in a WWE ring where he would take on all comers and he called it the US Open Challenge. Styles said it’s about time they bring it back. Styles added that the championship has been overlooked, so from now on when you see somebody with the US Title you will know that he is the best. Styles said if there are any WWE superstars that disagree, tonight is their lucky night to prove him wrong. He said right here, right now it’s the AJ Styles US Open Challenge and it starts right now.

Analysis: Solid promo by Styles talking about the title win and his goal as the US Champion to make the title more prestigious. I liked the idea of an open challenge with Styles because he can have a great match with anybody. Plus, it was fun when Cena did it two years ago.

John Cena’s music hit to answer the challenge. It drew a big pop while the announcers were shocked by it. JBL noted that they had one of the greatest matches of all time in San Antonio earlier in the year at the Royal Rumble. That’s true. I loved that match. My WWE match of the year. Cena ran down to the ring to mostly cheers.

Cena said he just wants to make sure that Styles realized what he just said. Cena wondered if the US Title Open Challenge was for everybody but him. Styles told him it was for him…especially him. Cena said that he accepts. Cena called out a referee so they can do this right here, right now. The crowd was all excited about it.

The referee Charles Robinson went into the ring while announcer Greg Hamilton did the in-ring intros for both guys. It looked like we would get a match until…the music of Kevin Owens hit. The crowd hated that.

Analysis: It was obvious that was coming, but I’m glad they did it because there’s no way Owens would be happy about this after losing his title to Styles.

Owens said that nobody wants to see another stupid Cena vs. Styles matches because no one cares about either of them. Crowd booed. Owens said that he’s the rightful owner of that title and he should get it back. Owens asked John why is he back while adding that it’s his title. Owens told Cena nobody wants to see him there. Cena grabbed a microphone: “It’s not that you don’t wanna see me, it’s that you can’t see me.” Cena did his “you can’t see me” hand gesture to pop the crowd.

Cena said if Owens wanted him to leave then he should step up and do something about it. Cena warned him that if he steps into this ring, Cena will run through Owens and then John will run through Styles.

Rusev attacked Cena from behind. He entered the ring from the back side by the announcers. Rusev tackled Cena, so Styles saved Cena and tossed Rusev to the floor. When Styles turned around, Owens whipped him into the ropes and Owens hit a Popup Powerbomb. Cena back in the ring, but he was met with a superkick from Rusev. Rusev followed up with the Accolade submission on Cena as fans chanted “USA” at them. Rusev’s music played to end it.

Analysis: No surprise that they did an angle to set up a tag match since WWE does that often when it comes to opening segments. The attack from Rusev from behind was done well. Heels should do cheap things like that to get heat. Owens capitalized on the situation too, which is what a smart heel should do. Way to tease us with Cena vs. Styles again. I want to see it again, but we’ll have to wait on it.

Later: Nakamura vs. Corbin. Up next is Mahal vs. Dillinger.

(Commercial)

The main event was set by Commish Shane McMahon: Cena & Styles vs. Owens & Rusev. That was obvious.

The Singh Brothers introduced the WWE Champion, the Modern Day Maharajah Jinder Mahal. The rug was in the ring as Mahal made his entrance in there. Mahal will defend the WWE Title against Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match at Battleground.

Tye Dillinger made his entrance with a lot of “ten” chants of course.

Jinder Mahal (w/Samir & Sunil Singh) vs. Tye Dillinger

This is not for Mahal’s WWE Title. Two Canadian dudes.

Dillinger hit a cross body block. Mahal slowed him down with a clothesline. Chinlock by Mahal. More choking by Mahal as he put Dillinger’s head against the ropes. They went to break there although I believe in the US the action aired during the commercial. Not here in Canada.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Mahal was still in control with a body slam. Dillinger started a comeback with a forearm smash, boots up in the corner and punches in the corner by Dillinger on Mahal. Mahal shoved him out of the corner and hit a running knee strike. Mahal hit The Khallas (Cobra Clutch Slam) for the win after about six minutes with only three minutes of it airing.

Winner by pinfall: Jinder Mahal

Analysis: *1/2 Boring match designed to put over Mahal ahead of Battleground. Mahal works so slow with his style, so it wasn’t exciting to watch at all. At least it was a clean win for Mahal since the Singh Brothers did nothing. That’s rare for Jinder. Doesn’t make Dillinger look good either, but at least it got him on the show. I’m really reaching for positives with this match.

Post match, Mahal claimed he spoke the truth and the people still disrespect him. Mahal said he brought class, diversity and excellence to WWE. A few fans chanted “USA” while noting that 1.3 billion people in India know that Mahal is the greatest champion of all time. Mahal said that next week on Smackdown Live he’s bringing the Punjabi Prison. That’s it.

Analysis: I think it’s smart to have the Punjabi Prison on Smackdown. Best way to promote the match is having the structure there.

The New Day trio were shown walking backstage. Big E offered some lady some Booty O’s, but she didn’t want it. New Day in a match up next.

(Commercial)

The New Day trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods made their entrance. As they made their entrance, Big E dumped some cereal on fans at ringside.

The Usos, current Smackdown tag champs, made their entrance. Some highlights aired from last week’s Battle Rap between the teams.

Xavier Woods (w/Big E & Kofi Kingston) vs. Jey Uso (w/ Jimmy Uso)

Woods started with punches on Jey. Spinning forearm by Woods. When Woods ran the ropes, Jimmy tripped him up. Big E got shoved by Jey. Big E and Kofi got in the ring. Ref Charles Robinson ejected Big E, Kingston and Jimmy from ringside. Rollup by Woods doesn’t get the pin leading to Jey hitting a superkick. Jey up top for a splash, but Woods got his feet up to block it. Woods with a kick to the head while on the apron. Woods up top except he took a few steps so he was standing on the rope and he hit a leaping elbow drop on Jey for the clean win in about three minutes. That looked cool.

Winner by pinfall: Xavier Woods

Analysis: * Easy win to put over Woods to help give New Day some momentum going into Battleground. I liked the finisher Woods used with a rope walk. Looks great.

The other New Day guys celebrated with Woods on the ramp while Jimmy checked on Jey.

Nakamura vs. Corbin still to come.

(Commercial)

Shane McMahon was in his office talking to Daniel Bryan on the phone, so no DBry this week. Naomi showed up with the Smackdown Women’s Title. Naomi wondered who she gets to defend the Women’s Title against. Charlotte “Peacock” Flair showed up followed by Becky Lynch beside her. Natalya, Tamina and Lana showed up too. Shane announced the 5-Way Elimination match between Charlotte, Becky, Natalya, Tamina & Lana at Battleground. Charlotte said she thought this was the land of opportunity and wondered why Lana was in it. Tamina said “Charlotte, watch your mouth” and that’s it. Natalya said Charlotte just rides her dad’s coat tails with Lynch mocking Natalya saying she does it with her uncle Bret Hart. Shane set up the obvious tag match with Charlotte & Becky teaming against Natalya & Tamina. Those girls left while Naomi stayed. Carmella showed up with a letter from her attorney to not suspend Ellsworth. Shane ripped up the paper to end that. Carmella left angrily.

Analysis: So many people standing there politely waiting for others to finish their one line of dialogue so the next person could speak. Felt rushed, but they got through it. The PPV match should be good even though it feels like we’ve seen that stipulation before with these girls or at least something similar. They really limited the dialogue for some of the women, especially Tamina. She said four words because she’s not a good talker and messed up a promo a few weeks ago.

Baron Corbin was interviewed by Renee Young backstage. Highlights aired of Nakamura getting attacked at a Yankees backstage. Corbin said that Nakamura needs to learn that Baron is Mr. Money in the Bank and Nakamura is not. Corbin said after he’s done with him it will be “sayonara Nakamura.”

It’s Nakamura vs. Corbin up next.

(Commercial)

Shinsuke made his awesome entrance at the start of hour two. The crowd sang along with his song as usual. Baron Corbin made his entrance with the Money in the Bank briefcase in his left hand.

Nakamura attacked Corbin in the aisle before he could get in the ring. They went brawling into the crowd. Corbin fought back to send Nakamura over the barricade. Referees went down to ringside. Both men were pulled apart by officials as well as agents like Adam Pearce (somebody asked me who the “bald guy in a suit” was during one of those segments, so there ya go). Nakamura went into the ring, signaled for Corbin to bring it and Corbin left instead.

Analysis: I’m not surprised by the non-match because it made more sense to do this “for the first time ever” at Battleground instead of on Smackdown. The match could have started easily after they battled around the ring, but then Corbin left because that’s what heels do. I’m sure the live fans in attendance are angry that it didn’t happen here. Did it make me want to see this match even more? Yeah, I think so.

Styles was in the locker room when John Cena approached him. Cena said that in the future he’s going to accept the US Open Challenge. Styles mentioned the last time they were in the ring together he won’t forget it. Styles held the US Title saying that it means he’s the best. Cena said he respects that because you don’t just give respect, you earn it. Cena told Styles that when you need me tonight, I’ve got your back. Styles told Cena he’s got his back.

Analysis: It’s nice of Styles to say that title means he’s the best, but most people will say that the WWE Title really represents that. It’s what we all grew up on. Anyway, good to see Styles and Cena teasing another match at some point while agreeing to work together for this match. When former rivals are on the same side, segments like this are needed to show that issues from the past are no longer there.

Women’s tag match is up next.

(Commercial)

There was a promo from Cedric Alexander talking about meeting Noam Dar in a match on 205 Live.

The four women made their entrance individually for the tag match. I thought Tamina might have her new ally Lana with her, but she does not.

Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya & Tamina

Tamina with punches to Lynch early. Lynch came back with a dropkick and a standing side kick. Charlotte tagged in with a knee drop for two. Charlotte teased a suplex, but Tamina with a back elbow to break free. Natalya tagged in with head whip. After Natalya taunted Becky, Charlotte did a kip up, chop and tag in Lynch with a leg lariat. Lynch hit a Bexploder Suplex on Natalya with Natalya bumping to the floor. Tamina saved Natalya from a Lynch attack leading to Natalya shoving Lynch into the steel steps. Break three minutes into it.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Natalya prevented Lynch from tagging out by driving Lynch into the turnbuckle in the heel corner. Tamina slapped on a headlock. There’s the lovely Lana in a blue dress to observe the action. Clothesline by Tamina on Lynch and she knocked Charlotte off the apron. Natalya tagged in, Lynch kicked her and Natalya stopped her. Lynch fought out of a Sharpshooter attempt and Charlotte got the hot tag. Charlotte hit several chops on Natalya followed by the running boot and the knee drop. Lana was on the apron as Charlotte hit an overhead suplex. Charlotte yelled at Lana, so she didn’t see Tamina tag in for her team. When Charlotte went back in the ring, Natalya played possum as if she was still hurting, Tamina went in the ring and hit a superkick on Charlotte leading to the pinfall win. It went about nine minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Natalya & Tamina

Post match, the heels went up the ramp together with the announcers questioning Tamina’s friendship with Lana while Lynch checked on Charlotte.

Analysis: **1/2 Good work all around. I thought the finish was creative with the heels making the blind tag without Charlotte seeing it while the ref clearly saw it. Using Lana for the distraction was why I mentioned her before the match. I thought she’d be there the whole time to set up the finish. On another note, when I heard Charlotte on the Edge & Christian podcast she noted that she didn’t have enough moves yet as a face. You could tell when she got the hot tag because it was basic stuff. Too many chops. At least throw clotheslines or something. She’ll get better at it as she gets more experience.

Tag match main event still to come.

Maria Kanellis was shown walking backstage. Maria knocked on the door of the Men’s locker room. Chad Gable opened the door. Maria said she was looking for Sami Zayn saying that Sami owes her an apology, Gable called him “Sami wow wow” and asked for him. No answer. Maria told Gable to tell Sami that she is looking for him because Zayn owes her an apology. That led to a commercial.

Analysis: Zayn has had issues with Mike and Maria Kanellis, so it’s just a continuation of that.

(Commercial)

Mike and Maria Kanellis were standing backstage with a flower. Sami Zayn showed up to them. Maria said she expects that apology now. Zayn said he’s already apologized twice and said he’s sick of apologizing. Zayn said those guys are always in his way with their love-ins. Zayn asked if Mike competes there. Zayn said that Mike is the lover and she’s the fighter. Maria slapped Zayn in the face. Mike grabbed the flower vase that was there and she smashed them on Sami’s head. Maria said that sometimes loves hurts.

Analysis: Good heel attack with the dreaded vase. It should lead to a Zayn vs. Bennett (or Mike Kanellis) match at Battleground, which would be Mike’s televised debut.

It was officially announced that Shinsuke Nakamura will face Baron Corbin at Battleground.

Fashion Files

There was a video called “Sexy Fashion Rangers” with the Breezango duo mocking the “Walker Texas Ranger” show and it said this show starred Chuck Norris. Fandango had a horse on a stick, so he gave it to Zack Ryder and told him to park him. Tyler Breeze tried to lasso Ryder, but ended up tying himself. Ryder asked Breeze when he goes undercover, does he wear a bra. Breeze: “Of course! I’m not a hippie!” That was good. Mojo Rawley walked into the scene. Breezango asked Mojo and Zack where they were when Breeze was attacked in their office last month. Mojo said they were talking to Shane McMahon about reuniting the team to become number one contenders again. Zack argued with Mojo about how Mojo eliminated him from the battle royal last week. Mojo complained about Zack bringing it up again told Zack to get his head back in the game. Zack said they need to get back to reality and maybe they all do (he said that as he stared at Breezango). After Zack left, the horse was gone off the ladder, so Breezango thought it was “ghost aliens” that took it. It ended with a graphic saying “The Fashion X Files” and “The Truth is Not H” on it.

Analysis: Silly segment like usual from them. Not as good as their best stuff. At least it furthered the Zack/Mojo story a bit by having them bicker. There will probably be a split between them at some point soon. I’m still leaning towards Zack as the heel, but it could be Mojo instead. The bra line by Breeze cracked me up the most.

Kevin Owens made his entrance. He’s still announced as the “Face of America” even though he lost the US Title. That tag match is up next.

(Commercial)

On Talking Smack this week it’s Renee Young hosting with Shane McMahon with John Cena, Sami Zayn and The Usos as guests. The Usos are amazing on that show. Cena is usually very good too.

A replay aired of the altercation that led to this tag match being set up.

Rusev made his entrance with the Bulgarian flag. Rusev faces Cena at Battleground on July 23 in a USA vs. Bulgaria flag match.

AJ Styles made his entrance with the US Title around his waist. Great ovation for him. He’s got Kevin Owens for the US Title at Battleground.

John Cena made his entrance. Lots of cheers for him as the haters seem to be quiet compared to what there used to be for him.

Kevin Owens & Rusev vs. John Cena & AJ Styles

Can I unofficially name Owens & Rusev the Unamericans 2.0? Alert Christian, Storm & Regal!

The match started at 9:45pmET, so they can go under 15 minutes with it. Rusev knocked down Cena, left the ring and held his Bulgarian flag. Back in the ring, Cena hit a bulldog takedown. Owens tagged in to face off with Cena for the first time in a while. They had a great feud two years ago. Rusev tagged back in to work on Cena with some kicks to the face. Rusev decked Cena with a punch as the show went to break three minutes into it.

(Commercial)

The commercial for Raw next Monday focused on Kurt Angle’s mystery secret. No mention of Reigns vs. Joe match.

Back from break, Cena battled Rusev and Rusev hit a spin kick to knock him down. Rusev went to the middle rope, jumped off and Cena rolled out of the way of the splash attempt. Styles got the hot tag with punches, kicks and a clothesline to Rusev. Forearm by Styles on Rusev, back elbow by Rusev and Styles tripped him up leading to the Calf Crusher submission. Owens made the save for his partner by kicking Styles. Rusev shoved Styles into the corner and came back with a kick to the head. Owens pounded on Styles with punches followed by a two count. Chinlock City time for Owens on Styles. Rollup by Styles got a two count, so Owens came back with a stiff clothesline for two of his own. Rusev back in with a kick to the shoulder for a two count. Rusev slapped on a bearhug on Styles. When Styles tried to break free, Rusev grabbed him to stop him and Styles hit a step up enziguri kick to Rusev’s head.

Cena got the hot tag against Owens. Cena hit two shoulder tackles, the spinning slam and the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop connected. Cena went for the AA, but Rusev went back into the ring with a superkick. Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Rusev. Owens went after Styles, but that didn’t work as Styles hit a Pele Kick on Owens and Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Owens for the pin. It went about 13 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: John Cena & AJ Styles

Analysis: *** It was a pretty good tag match that followed the basics with the heels working over both faces for about 90% of the match before some flurry of offense after the hot tags. No surprise that Cena got the win for his team since it’s his first televised match in over three months. It felt like most main event tags on Smackdown where they don’t get enough time to have a classic, but the work is solid enough to hit the three star level.

Cena and Styles celebrated the win. Replays aired of the finish.

Styles stood in the ring with Cena. Styles held up the US Title. Cena held up Styles’ other arm as JBL said it was great respect from two of the all-time greats. Cena’s music played as he celebrated with Styles to end the show right at 10pmET as usual.

Analysis: That’s a show of respect from two guys that were rivals in the past. Now that they are both faces, it’s easy to tell the respect story for them.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. AJ Styles

2. John Cena

3. (tie) Kevin Owens

3. (tie) Rusev

 

The Scoreboard

5.5 out of 10

Last week: 7

2017 Average: 7.02

Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.75 – Raw is at 5.85

Last 5 Weeks: 7, 7.5, 7, 7.5, 7

2017 High: 8.5 (April 11)

2017 Low: 5 (May 16)

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 5.5 out of 10. That’s my second lowest Smackdown score this year. This show just didn’t click with me for whatever reason.

Just an okay show this week and below the yearly average for what Smackdown usually is. The in-ring work was just average without much going on aside from the main event. Promos didn’t mean much other than wasting time.

Orton wasn’t there because he’s filming a movie. He should be back next week.

The next Smackdown brand PPV is Battleground on July 23 in Philadelphia. Here’s what we know so far.

WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton

Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev

United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day

Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Lana – Winner gets Smackdown Women’s Title Match at SummerSlam

It looks like Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis will be added as well.

That’s all for now. Go Toronto Blue Jays. Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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