Live from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, this is Smackdown Live for episode #986. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The opening video package showed images from Extreme Rules (read my review here) on Sunday where Shinsuke Nakamura beat Jeff Hardy in less than ten seconds to become US Champion thanks to a low blow before the bell rang. It also showed Randy Orton making his return with a low blow stomp to Hardy.
Let’s Hear From Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy made his entrance to start the show. He had his face painted. Hardy challenges Nakamura for the US Title later on Smackdown.
Hardy did a promo looking into the camera saying he may look like Jeff Hardy, make an entrance like Jeff Hardy, wear face paint like Jeff Hardy, but he does not like Jeff Hardy. He feels like something is missing and he feels incomplete. Hardy said his heart is broken. Hardy said it’s because he is not the US Champion anymore because of what Shinsuke Nakamura did to him on Sunday. Hardy said that Nakamura lacks a conscience and he’s a low down good for nothing jackass. Hardy said that Nakamura hit him with the low blow because he knew that was the only way to beat him. Hardy said that he wanted to get his hands on him, but he wasn’t thinking clearly. Hardy said he was thinking clearly tonight. Hardy said he’s going to try to make Nakamura fade away and classify himself as obsolete. Hardy said he’s going to take back his United States Championship. Hardy said “enjoy the show” and he left.
Analysis: A solid promo from Hardy to start the show. It was noteworthy that he was focused only on Nakamura without mentioning Randy Orton’s attack on him.
Nakamura was shown backstage watching that promo from Hardy when Renee Young went to interview him. Nakamura said that Hardy is a sad clown that wears face paint to hide tears. Nakamura did some mock crying. Nakamura said now it’s his title and that is reason to smile. Nakamura said tonight he’ll give everybody a reason to smile by making a clown cry. Nakamura: “God bless America.”
Analysis: I enjoy heel Nakamura a lot. Calling Hardy a sad clown is a great line. I like ending the promo with “God bless America” from the foreign heel champion.
Still to come is The Miz delivering a eulogy for Team Hell No since Kane is out with a broken ankle. That should be good. The announcers are Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton as usual.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, made his entrance to a good ovation like he gets every week. He’s against Andrade “Cien” Almas after a challenge was issued to him earlier in the day.
It was noted by Tom Phillips that AJ Styles’ WWE Title reign was at 252 days. Andrade “Cien” Almas made his entrance with the lovely Zelina Vega for this next match.
AJ Styles vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega)
This was not for the WWE Title held by Styles.
Almas took control with a headlock that grounded Styles. There was a whip into the ropes, Almas held onto the ropes when Styles went for the dropkick and Vega went into the ring to pose under Almas for their “tranquilo” pose. Break time.
The match returned with Styles hitting a clothesline followed by a running forearm on a seated Almas. Dropkick by Almas. Hard chop to the chest by Almas followed by a backbreaker and an elbow smash to the chest that drove Styles into the mat. Almas set up Styles on the top rope and then he hit a springboard dropkick, which looked great. Almas went for a charge, Styles caught him and hit a fireman’s carry into a neckbreaker aka the Ushigoroshi for two. That was a good sequence too. Styles went for a springboard attack, but Almas hit a running back elbow leading to Styles crashing to the mat hard. That was a bit of a rough bump, but Styles was okay. Almas up top for a moonsault, the first one missed and the second one connected for a two count. That was well done. Almas has done that before in NXT, but it’s fresh on the main roster. Almas wanted a suplex, Styles slipped out and hit an enziguri kick. Almas was seated on the top rope and Styles hit a Pele Kick to stun him. Styles wanted a superplex, Almas tripped him up and Almas hit a double stomp to the chest. Almas with the running double knee attack against the turnbuckle for just two. That’s a great nearfall because Almas has won matches with that move. The fans were chanting for AJ Styles. Almas went for a Hammerlock DDT, Styles slipped out of it and slapped on the Calf Crusher submission. Almas tapped out to give Styles the submission win after about 12 minutes.
Winner by submission: AJ Styles
Analysis: ***1/2 That was fun to watch. It was a competitive match with the veteran Styles outsmarting Almas to win with the Calf Crusher. Styles getting the win was the right call because if he lost non title here it would look bad. Almas got in a lot of offense to make it look like he was on AJ’s level. These two worked very well together. This could be a future big feud because Almas has a bright future. I don’t think Almas is hurt from losing a match like this. Almas showed he can go in the ring with the best in WWE, so I’m okay with a loss like that.
Post match, Almas had a staredown with Styles and then Almas left with Vega.
Images were shown from Extreme Rules with Aiden English costing Rusev when he exposed a turnbuckle and shortly after, Rusev went crashing into the turnbuckle.
Aiden English was shown walking backstage when he spotted the ravishing Russian Lana aka Rusev’s wife. She was looking amazing in a “Happy Lana Day” shirt. English said that he has to apologize. English said he wishes he could take back that moment, but he can’t take it back. English felt bad for taking Rusev’s WWE Championship opportunity away from him. Lana said that Rusev is disappointed and he needs his space. Lana said that this is about Rusev. Lana wondered if English is what is best for Rusev. English said that maybe he doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but he has always had Rusev’s back and his interests at heart. English said he was there for a second chance and noted we all deserve a second chance. Lana said she will take that into consideration.
Analysis: I don’t want the Rusev Day duo of Rusev and English to split, but it looks like that will happen with Rusev becoming more of a face. Lana’s fake Russian accent sounded cheesy and sounded like she forgot to do it at times during that promo. It’s pretty silly that she keeps doing it considering you can follow her on Instagram or Total Divas where you can see her without the accent. I know she’s playing a character on Smackdown, but if she stopped doing the accent I doubt anybody would care.
Becky Lynch made her entrance for a match. The crowd loved her like they do every week. Lynch is on a winning streak over the last two months, so we will see if she can get it going.
There were images shown that noted that The Miz was the MVP of the celebrity softball game on Sunday.
Mandy Rose made her wonderful entrance with her buddy Sonya Deville. Graves told Saxton to be quiet while Rose made her entrance. I agree.
Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose (w/Sonya Deville)
Rose with a forearm that stunned Lynch, but Lynch came back with a kick to the gut. Lynch with a kick to the chest. Deville distracted, so Rose pulled Lynch off the ropes leading to a two count. Rose stomped away on Lynch in the corner. Rose with a suplex for two. Rose with a dropkick followed by the running knee that got a two count. The crowd wasn’t reacting to Rose’s offense. Lynch got two rollups to start her comeback. Running forearm by Lynch, jumping leg lariat and the Bexploder Suplex. Lynch slapped on the Disarmer (or Dis-Harm-er) for the submission win after about four minutes.
Winner by submission: Becky Lynch
Analysis: *1/2 It was a quick match to put over Lynch to continue her winning streak. The match was basic with Rose on offense for most of it, Lynch making the comeback and getting the win. Most of Rose’s offense looks good, but the crowd doesn’t buy her as a threat at all.
Lynch did a post match promo thanking the fans. Lynch said that winning feels good and then added that it feels freakin’ great. Lynch said that she has been biding her time and she has never stopped working as hard as she can. Lynch talked about how she has been racking up victory after victory, but she is just getting started. Lynch mentioned Carmella and said that “straight fire” is coming for her. Lynch said that “Becky Balboa” (her nickname for herself) is ready to become Smackdown Live Women’s Champion again. The crowd cheered. Lynch’s music played to end it.
Analysis: It makes a lot of sense to do Lynch vs. Carmella as the SD Women’s Title feud. I think Asuka’s run as the top contender is over for now. Charlotte will be back in two weeks, so she might get involved.
Paige, the Smackdown GM, was in her office talking about how great Lynch looked. Carmella walked in, so they started to bicker. Paige asked about Carmella’s boyfriend leading to Carmella clarifying that Ellsworth is not her boyfriend. Carmella talked about how she beat Charlotte Flair and Asuka twice. Carmella thinks that she deserves another Mellabration. Paige said that Carmella will get her Mellabration if she can beat Becky Lynch and it’s not a championship match. Paige said if Becky beats her then Carmella has to defend the title against Lynch at SummerSlam. Carmella said nothing.
Analysis: That’s fine with me. I assume Lynch will win to earn the title match, but I don’t like champs losing non-title to set up a title match.
Tye Dillinger was shown getting ready in the locker room. R-Truth showed up asking if he’s ready. Dillinger said that tonight, Samoa Joe gets his. Dillinger left. When Truth turned around, it was revealed he was talking into a headset he had on. Truth warned Dillinger not to fight Joe. Dillinger vs. Joe is next
Tye Dillinger was in the ring finishing his entrance. Poor guy can’t even get his full entrance on television.
Samoa Joe made his entrance looking angry like usual. Fans chanted “Joe” for him. A clip aired from last week when Samoa Joe attacked Dillinger in a match that was going to take place before the show. Joe took out Dillinger with a Coquina Clutch.
Samoa Joe vs. Tye Dillinger
Dillinger with punches to start the match sent Joe out of the ring. Dillinger followed with punches and a knee attack. Joe picked up Dillinger and launched him groin first into the ring post. You can do low blows if you use the post or turnbuckle, but not blatantly. Back in the ring, Joe with a running splash followed by a jumping kick to the head. Joe with hard kicks to the chest followed by the Coquina Clutch submission. Dillinger tapped out to give Joe the win after about two minutes.
Winner by submission: Samoa Joe
Analysis: * Easy win for Joe as you would expect in a match like that. I like how aggressive Dillinger was early in the match, but it was a brief attack that was stopped when Joe sent him into the ring post.
Post match, Joe stared ahead and the camera zoomed in on his face to show how intense he was.
Still to come: Nakamura vs. Hardy.
The Miz Eulogy for Team Hell No
The Miz walked out in a black suit with sunglasses on. The arena went black. There was a Kane mask that was wheeled out by three guys that are likely local indy wrestlers that will take a beating later. Miz shook hands with some fans on the way to the ring.
The ring had a black carpet along with a wreath and photos of Daniel Bryan and Kane aka Team Hell No. Miz put the Kane mask on a table in the ring.
The Miz thanked the crowd for being there and said he is as sad as them. Miz said they are there not to discuss what everybody is talking, which is that in on week’s time Miz and Mrs. will premiere on USA Network next week. Miz also bragged about being the MVP of the MLB Celebrity All-Star Game. Some fans chanted “MVP” but not a lot. Miz said tonight is not about him. Great line after he was just talking about himself.
The Miz said they are paying respect to one of the greatest tag teams and the worst friends ever, Team Hell No. Miz said in honor of Kane’s favorite N Sync it’s time to say “Bye Bye Bye” to Team Hell No. Miz talked about how five years ago they were Tag Team Champions (in 2013) that inspired unity until Kane attacked Bryan and hit him with three Tombstones (that was in 2014). Miz said any sane person would think that was the end of their friendship, but hell no to that. Miz said that Bryan made the same mistake again by reuniting with Kane. Miz said that now that Team Hell No is six feet under, he wants everybody to stand up out of their seats (the crowd stood up) and join Miz in honoring them in a moment of silence. The fans booed, so Miz told them to show respect. Miz did his “hand goes up, mouth goes shut” routine and asked for silence. Fans started the “yes” chants.
Miz said he had one final thing and that is “I told you so.” Miz said he told everybody how this would end because he said that Kane was nothing more than a broken down demon. Miz said that he’s also right about the bogus hero Daniel Bryan. Miz said that Bryan was never a world beating wrestler like he claimed to be and he’s a glory hound that has impossible goals to tug at our heartstrings. Miz claimed that Bryan tried to be relevant and Bryan tried to roll out his greatest hits, but nobody is buying the album. Miz said that as sad as this has been, no one is sadder than Daniel Bryan. Miz claimed that Bryan knows the truth and that his return from injury has been a bust. Miz talked about how every week Bryan comes out there he is destroying his legacy. Miz ranted that Bryan’s days of main eventing WrestleMania is over and he said Daniel Bryan’s career, just like Team Hell No, is dead.
Daniel Bryan predictably interrupted by entering from behind. Bryan attacked the three indy wrestlers that were at ringside with Miz. Bryan hit a German Suplex on one of the guys in the ring. Miz ran up the ramp to get away. Bryan knocked down the pictures in the ring. Bryan hit a running knee strike on a guy in the ring. Miz was up the ramp. Miz and Bryan had a staredown. Bryan led the crowd in “yes” chants.
Analysis: That was a good heel promo from Miz for about seven minutes before Bryan interrupted. He worked the crowd so well. The question could be why would Bryan take so long to interrupt? Don’t expect WWE to answer that for us. The good news in all of this is that it looks like the Miz vs. Bryan storyline is kicking off after Miz moved to Smackdown three months ago. I figured it was going to be saved for SummerSlam, which makes a lot of sense since it’s a big event. I would have liked to hear Bryan fire back with a promo of his own, but there are five weeks before SummerSlam, so there is plenty of time for that. I thought it was a good segment and I’m glad that Miz vs. Bryan is likely a go for SummerSlam.
Still to come is Nakamura vs. Hardy.
The New Day were in the locker room getting Kofi Kingston hyped up because he faces Eric Young next.
The New Day trio of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods made their entrance with the pancakes for the fans at ringside. Some kids have “Pancake Power” shirts. Kingston tossed some pancakes into the crowd frisbee style. He did a good job of it.
The Sanity trio of Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe made their entrance. They have one of the coolest entrances in WWE because if you are watching this show for the first time, it would be catch your eye and you would know they are bad guys. Sanity beat New Day in a Tables Match at Extreme Rules on the Kickoff Show when Young put Kingston through a table.
Kofi Kingston (w/Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. Eric Young (w/Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe)
Kingston started with a kick to the leg followed by a dropkick. Young worked over Kingston with elbow smashes to the back. Young ran the ropes, Kingston tripped him up and Kingston hit a springboard clothesline. Kingston with a running clothesline that sent Young over the top to the floor as the show went to break.
After a quick break, Kingston sent Young face first into the turnbuckle. Young tripped up Kingston leading to an apron bump. Young worked over Kingston with a stomp to the back of the head. A slingshot by Young sent Kingston throat first into the bottom rope. Neckbreaker by Young for two. Kingston worked over Young with punches, but Young came back with a hard punch to the face. Young choked Kingston while he was on the turnbuckle leading to Young making a crazy face. Young jumped off the middle ropes with Kingston countering that with a dropkick. Kingston with chops, another dropkick, leaping clothesline and the boom drop leg drop. A fan in the crowd had a sign that said “My First WWE Event.” My first event was 1990. I guess I’m old. Young with a rollup, Young went to the top and Kingston hit a top rope superplex for a two count. It was more like an overhead toss by Kingston. Young left the ring, Kingston ran the ropes and hit a trust fall dive over the top to take down all of Sanity on the floor. Back in the ring, Kingston hit the SOS for two. Kingston with two boots to the face. Kingston up top, Wolfe on the apron, Big E took care of him and Woods kicked Dain. Kingston missed a springboard attack, but he got a rollup and Dain threw Woods into Kingston, which stunned Kingston. Young hit the wheelbarrow neckbreaker for the pinfall win after about 10 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Eric Young
Analysis: **3/4 That was a good match by two veterans that have never met in a singles match before. I liked the creativity of the finish with New Day looking like they were going to win by neutralizing Sanity on the floor, but in the end it was Dain that tossed Woods into Kingston, which led to the finish. I’m happy for my fellow Canadian Eric Young, who has been wrestling for about twenty years and is finally showing what he can do on the main roster. I like this Sanity group a lot as long as WWE continues to book them strong.
Post match, Young and Sanity celebrated the win. The replay showed the ref never saw what Dain did.
Shinsuke Nakamura was backstage staring at his United States Title. Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy was shown backstage staring into the camera. That’s up next.
A commercial aired about Total Bellas with Nikki Bella whining about things like he she does every week. I don’t know any sane people that watch that show.
Next week: Becky Lynch vs. Carmella and if Lynch wins then she gets a title shot at SummerSlam. Also next week, we find out AJ Styles’ SummerSlam opponent for the WWE Title.
Analysis: I think it should be Samoa Joe against AJ Styles. Too bad it’s not up to me.
Jeff Hardy made his entrance to a good reaction. Shinsuke Nakamura, the new United States Champion, was up next. There was about 23 minutes of show left when this started, so they’ll get a lot of time.
United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy
Nakamura went to the floor early, so Hardy went after him with a running cross body block against the barricade. Back in the ring, Hardy went up top, so Nakamura rolled to the floor as the show went to break.
Back to the match, Nakamura was in control with some kicks to the body followed by a roundhouse kick. Nakamura grounded Hardy with a headlock. Nakamura slammed Hardy down by the back of the head. Nakamura mocked the delete hand gesture followed by Nakamura putting his foot against Hardy’s throat. Nakamura missed a knee drop because Hardy moved, Hardy sent Nakamura into four turnbuckles followed by a jawbreaker and a running splash for two. The crowd isn’t into the match at this point. Nakamura with a throat punch, but Hardy hit a side Russian legsweep followed by a leg drop into a pin for two. Nakamura shoved Hardy into the turnbuckle and kicked Hardy in the back of the neck. Running knee by Hardy while Hardy was hanging off the apron led to a second commercial in this match.
Nakamura sent Hardy into the turnbuckle, Hardy with two boots to the face and Hardy hit Whisper in the Wind for two with the crowd getting into that nearfall more than they were into the match before. Hardy with an inverted atomic drop, a double leg drop and a low dropkick for two for Hardy. Spinning heel kick by Hardy, but Nakamura came back with a boot to the face. Nakamura with a running knee while Hardy was on the top rope that got a two count. Nakamura with a single leg backstabber by Nakamura and a knee to the face (not the Kinshasa) got a two count. Nakamura set up in the corner, Hardy back up, Nakamura charged, but Hardy took him down with a clothesline. Hardy up top, Nakamura tripped him up and kicked Hardy to knock him down again. Nakamura charged in, Hardy slipped out and hit a Twist of Fate. Hardy up top and he connected with a Swanton Bomb where he got all of it, but Randy Orton showed up at ringside. Orton pulled Hardy out of the ring for the disqualification. The match went about 19 minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Jeff Hardy
Analysis: ***1/4 The match was good, but not a great match like you might expect from guys of this caliber when they got nearly 20 minutes. The match ending in a disqualification also hurt it because it felt incomplete. I found it interesting that the announcers didn’t mention Randy Orton attacking Hardy at Extreme Rules, which made me think it was going to happen again here. Nakamura should have a fun reign as the US Champion as long as he’s given a chance to have long matches like this one was.
Orton grabbed Hardy by the head and rammed the back of his head into the steps repeatedly. Orton pounded on Hardy with punches. Hardy tried to fight back with punches, but Orton with an eye gouge and sent Hardy into the steps again. Orton stomped on the head of Hardy on the steel steps while Nakamura looked on. Orton talked to Jeff asking him why he was doing this saying that “you’re going to have to wait to find out.” Orton stuck his finger between the hole in the earlobe of Hardy and pulled on it. That looked nasty. Some fans at ringside were freaking out about it. The agent trio of Fit Finlay, Jamie Noble and Adam Pearce went to ringside along with referees. They tried to stop Orton, but Orton beat on Hardy with punches. Orton hit a DDT off the announce table.
Orton walked away with a crazed look in his eyes while the announcers wondered what is going on with Orton and why he would do that. The show ended with a closeup on Orton looking crazy.
Analysis: Orton was great as a lunatic attacking Hardy without telling him why he was doing it. The part where Orton pulled on the earlobe of Hardy was vicious too. You don’t see things like that, so it makes Orton stand out in terms of being a different kind of villain. Cerebral is a good word except we know it’s a word used for Triple H during his heel days. Anyway, Orton vs. Hardy was a fun rivalry about a decade ago, so hopefully they can deliver the goods again when they get to having a match. Orton is likely happy to be back to his heel ways again. I thought this was well done.
Three Stars of the Show
Andrade “Cien” Almas
(tie) Shinsuke Nakamura
(tie) Jeff Hardy
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 7
2018 Average: 6.45
Last 5 Weeks: 7, 7, 6, 6.5, 7
2018 High: 8 (April 10, May 29)
2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2, January 9)
Smackdown gets a 7.5 out of 10 this week.
The hot streak for Smackdown continues with three straight weeks at 7 or above. I really enjoyed this show with good opening and closing matches along with Orton destroying Hardy in memorable fashion to end the night. Ripping on a man’s earlobe? That’s nasty! I also liked that Miz segment with Daniel Bryan although I would have loved to hear from Bryan a bit. That’s coming in future weeks, I’m sure. It’s also likely that Miz vs. Bryan is happening at SummerSlam, so that should be awesome.
The good thing about Smackdown is they make the most of their time. Nothing seems wasted. It’s not perfect obviously, but it’s structured better than Raw is most weeks. Smackdown being two hours instead of three hours is a big reason for that too. There’s less filler even though it sucks sometimes that plenty of great wrestlers are not on the show. For example, the tag team division was mostly ignored this week. You can’t push everybody all the time. The wrestlers understand it. Most fans do too.
If @RondaRousey can ride out the rest of her suspension, her light at the end of the tunnel is a #RAW#WomensChampionship match against @AlexaBliss_WWE at #SummerSlam! https://t.co/y9g29ZtC56pic.twitter.com/PCKVdstf5G
— WWE SummerSlam (@SummerSlam) July 17, 2018
The next WWE PPV is SummerSlam on August 19 in Brooklyn, NY. Here’s the lineup so far.
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns or Bobby Lashley
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
There will be more matches announced over the next month.
Thanks for reading. My contact info is below. Go Los Angeles Rams.