Live from Memphis, Tennessee, this is Smackdown Live for episode #981. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

There was a shot of the live crowd to begin the show. Coming up during this week’s show: Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin, Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev vs. Samoa Joe.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match Summit

The Smackdown GM Paige was in the ring with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Lana and Naomi, all of whom were in their ring gear. The four women are in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match on Sunday. Paige mentioned the four Raw women that are in the match as well. Paige credited the ladies in the ring for qualifying for Money in the Bank and earning the chance to bring back the Money in the Bank contract back to Paige’s house here on Smackdown.

Lana said don’t worry, she’ll bring it home. It sounds like Lana has dropped her accent. Naomi threatened to snatch Lana bald. Naomi reminded them that she won the WrestleMania women’s battle royal. Charlotte told Naomi she only won because Charlotte wasn’t in the match. Charlotte talked about doing everything there is to do in the business in terms of titles (she named all the titles she has won) and the only thing she hasn’t done is win that Money in the Bank contract, so she’ll bring it home on Sunday. Becky Lynch said if anybody is bringing that contract back to Smackdown Live, it’s going to her. Lynch reminded them that she was the first woman drafted to Smackdown Live and she was the first Smackdown Women’s Champion. Lynch said she’s sick of saying she was and said “I am” going to be Smackdown Women’s Champion again. Lynch told Charlotte she doesn’t need luck because she’s good and she’ll go through anyone just like she did when she beat Charlotte last week. Lynch asked her best friend Charlotte how her arm was. Naomi reminded them that there are six other women in this match.

The Iiconics duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay interrupted the promo. Royce said that it would take a miracle for them to bring that briefcase back to Smackdown with those women in the match. Kay mentioned the WWE Universe smelled funny. Royce did a bad imitation of Lynch, which drew boos. Kay mocked Charlotte for dressing up in her daddy’s robes and said Charlotte likes to drink tea. Kay said that Charlotte cries when she loses and sometimes she says “woo.” Naomi asked them if they were done running their mouth. Peyton and Billie mocked Naomi’s dancing.

Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville also interrupted the fun to set up the obvious tag match. I certainly don’t mind seeing Mandy at any time. Mandy said that Paige will be disappointed on Sunday because the talent outside the ring is far superior to the talent in the ring with Sonya saying that last part. The women in the ring all left the ring to fight with the heels on the floor. The refs ran to ringside to break it up.

Analysis: It looks like they set up an 8-woman tag team match, but I am surprised that it was not immediate. This was the typical promo segment where everybody got to chime in with their thoughts on the match. It was noticeable that Lynch and Charlotte got to speak the most while Lana barely said anything. Naomi did say a bit more. I think Lynch has a legit shot of winning MITB although I’m favoring Natalya or Alexa Bliss from the Raw side. As for the women outside the ring, I like them all and I’m a huge fan of Mandy and Peyton in particular, so it’s always good to see them getting involved.

There was a clip of Raw from four years ago when Daniel Bryan had his “Occupy Raw” segment in Memphis. They also showed a clip of Shelton Benjamin pinning Randy Orton two months ago on Smackdown. Bryan was shown warming up backstage. Bryan vs. Benjamin is up next.

A commercial aired for NXT Takeover Chicago on Saturday. I’m excited about that show and will write a live review of it on Saturday night.

(Commercial)

It’s official for later: Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Lana vs. Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville.

The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were shown on camera talking about the story between Big Cass and Daniel Bryan. They showed a clip of Bryan’s great promo from last week that was only on WWE.com and Youtube even though it was better than anything on television.

Daniel Bryan made his entrance to a big ovation with a lot of “yes” chants. Shelton Benjamin was up next in his first match in a while because he hasn’t been on television that often. This should be good.

Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin

Bryan jumped off the turnbuckle to avoid a Benjamin attack and Bryan hit a running forearm. Bryan took over with an armbar on Benjamin where Bryan stepped on his arm. Bryan with a kick to the ribs. Benjamin sent Bryan to the apron with a back drop and Benjamin hit a kick to the front of the left knee. Benjamin followed up by slamming Bryan knee first into the top of the announce table. That looked painful. Bryan was in pain on the floor as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Benjamin had Bryan grounded with a half crab on the left knee that Bryan hurt before the break. Bryan forced the break by getting his hand on the bottom rope. Bryan avoided a German Suplex followed by a dropkick to the knee of Benjamin. Fans chanted “yes” to get Bryan going. Bryan with a dragon screw leg whip. Bryan with the yes kicks to the chest of Benjamin and Bryan with another running dropkick into the knee of Benjamin. Bryan went for a move up top, but Benjamin slipped out and hit a running knee to the head. Ouch. Benjamin went up top with a superplex for a two count. Benjamin went for Paydirt, Bryan held onto the ropes and Bryan pulled Benjamin down in the Yes Lock submission. Benjamin managed to power out of it into a two count. Benjamin quickly slapped on the half crab submission on the left knee. Bryan fought out of it, Bryan slapped on the heel hook submission on the left leg of Benjamin and Benjamin tapped out. The match went ten minutes.

Winner by submission: Daniel Bryan

Analysis: ***1/4 Very good match. Both guys were selling knee injuries, so it was cool to see them trying to make the other guy tap out. Bryan wasn’t able to win with the Yes Lock, which is fine because the heel hook submission has been working for him. If they got a few more minutes it would have been nice, but they made the most of the time they were given. Bryan going over was the right call since he’s in a MITB match and Benjamin is not.

AJ Styles was shown in the locker room because he’s up next.

(Commercial)

Paige was shown backstage looking lovely. Asuka approached her. Asuka wanted Carmella in a match, so Paige made it a 10-woman tag match later instead of the 8-woman tag match. Asuka said good for her and bad for Carmella.

Analysis: That’s fine with me.

The Miz was standing backstage in a referee shirt preparing for some role in a movie about dogs (heels lie) and Paige walked up to him. They bickered back and forth. It led to Paige making The Miz the referee for the Samoa Joe vs. Rusev match later on Smackdown.

Analysis: I missed some of the dialogue during the bickering, but it was obvious where it was going when Miz was wearing the referee shirt.

A video package aired showing all of the issues between WWE Champion AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura heading into their Last Man Standing Match at Money in the Bank on Sunday. Good video as usual.

AJ Styles interviewed by Jerry “The King” Lawler

Jerry Lawler got a big ovation from his hometown Memphis crowd with Graves plugging the restaurant that Lawler owns in Memphis.

Lawler stood on the side of the stage and he introduced AJ Styles. It’s the old school interview on the side of the entrance like in the Mean Gene days thirty years ago. Good ovation for Styles, who was wearing the WWE Championship around his waist.

Styles started off saying that he’s sorry he didn’t knock Nakamura’s head off with his fist. Styles reminded us this was Smackdown Live, which is the house that AJ Styles built. Styles said that Nakamura wants to continue to act like a child then Styles will act like a man – the Last Man Standing. Styles said that at Money in the Bank, he’ll walk out just like he walked in…as WWE Champion. Styles’ music played to end it.

Analysis: It was a quick promo from Styles that was basic in what he said. The video package before the interview went longer than Styles’ promo.

The Miz was shown in the locker room with one of the referees asking questions about what he can do as the referee. Samoa Joe vs. Rusev is up next.

(Commercial)

The announcers mentioned The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson at Money in the Bank. They got moved to the Kickoff Show.

The Miz made his entrance in a referee shirt. Aiden English did a quick song to introduce his buddy Rusev on this Rusev Day. Samoa Joe made his entrance looking serious as usual.

Samoa Joe vs. Rusev (w/Aiden English)

The Miz is the referee of the match.

Joe with a kick to the chest, Rusev with a clothesline and Joe bailed to the floor. Rusev followed Joe to the floor, Joe stunned him with a punch and Joe hit a suicide dive with a forearm to knock Rusev down on the floor. The show went to break there.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Joe slapped on a chinlock. The Miz’ referee earpiece was coming out, so he put it back in. Good job ref. When Rusev got back up, Joe knocked him down with a running forearm for two. Joe slapped on an armbar leading to a split screen commercial for Money in the Bank. Joe flipped him over and slapped on a headlock as the commercial still played. Right on cue, Rusev fought out of the headlock with a corner splash. Rusev nailed a punch, but Joe came back with a clothesline that was more like a punch on the side of the head. Rusev with punches, two kicks to the chest, a running back splash and a spinning heel kick from Rusev as the fans chanted “Rusev Day” for him. Rusev went for the Machka Kick, Joe avoided it, Joe with a Coquina Clutch attempt, Rusev got out of it, English on the apron, Miz distracted by that and Joe accidentally splashed Miz against the turnbuckle when Rusev avoided a charge. Joe knocked English down and hit a uranage slam on Rusev. Miz was too hurt to count. Joe grabbed the hand of Miz, so Rusev capitalized with a Machka Kick. Rusev pinned Joe and Miz was fine to count the fall. It went about ten minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Rusev

Analysis: **1/2 The match was solid for what it intended to be with a cheap finish. The rest holds were a bit much because it slowed the pace down so much and Rusev’s comeback was okay, but the crowd wasn’t fully behind him since he’s a mix of a heel and face right now. It wasn’t a surprise that The Miz would get involved in the finish. Samoa Joe is likely going to remain my pick to win the Money in the Bank ladder match, so having him lose here is fine because this match didn’t mean much.

Post match, English gave Rusev a ladder. Rusev hit Joe with the ladder and knocked him out of the ring. Rusev set up the ladder in the ring. Miz came back in and hit a Skull Crushing Finale. Miz climbed up the ladder and grabbed the green Money in the Bank briefcase that was above the ring.

The Miz went over to the announce table with the briefcase. They opened up the briefcase and Saxton told Miz there were pancakes. The briefcase opened up to reveal the pancakes. Miz did some over the top yelling “NEW DAY” and New Day was shown watching it backstage. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were sharing the same shirt while they watched. They are unique.

Analysis: The Miz overselling the pancakes being in the briefcase was the highlight of that whole thing. He was really over the top to the point that it was comical.

Shinsuke Nakamura was shown backstage getting ready for his match against Jeff Hardy after a break. The mans the women’s tag team match is up next.

A commercial aired for the WWE 24 documentary special on The Hardy Boyz that debuts on WWE Network on Sunday after Money in the Bank.

(Commercial)

Jeff Hardy made his entrance, who got a nice reaction. Hardy is the United States Champion that is not on the Money in the Bank card.

Shinsuke Nakamura entered. Nakamura is challenging AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank in a Last Man Standing match. The announcers hyped up the match one more time for what could be the final chapter between Nakamura and Styles.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy

This is not for Jeff’s US Title.

Nakamura did a taunt with Hardy up against the turnbuckle. The action spilled to the floor quickly. Hardy hit a leaping clothesline off the apron to knock Nakamura down and the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Nakamura in control slapping on a headlock. Hardy with a jawbreaker, Hardy with a forearm, atomic drop, double leg drop and a dropkick that was good for a two count. Nakamura shoved Hardy into the corner, but Hardy came back with a spin kick. Nakamura got his feet up to block a corner attack. Spinning kick by Nakamura. Hardy avoided a knee strike, elbow to the face by Hardy and Hardy up top with the Whisper in the Wind for a two count. Nakamura with a running knee attack against the turnbuckle. Hardy came back with a kick to the knee and the Twist of Fate. Hardy up top, he jumped off with a Swanton Bomb and Hardy was selling a back injury, so he was not able to cover right away. Nakamura was too close to the ropes, so he got his foot on the bottom rope. Hardy went for a Twist of Fate again, Nakamura slipped out and Nakamura hit a low blow uppercut punch. The crowd booed that. That led to the disqualification after eight minutes of action.

Winner by disqualification: Jeff Hardy

Post match, Nakamura hit the Kinshasa knee strike. Nakamura counted Hardy down for a ten count as a preview of Last Man Standing. They played Nakamura’s music even though he lost the match.

Analysis: **3/4 Good match with an ending that pissed off the crowd, but it fit Nakamura’s current gimmick perfectly. Nakamura didn’t care about winning this match. He wanted to send a message, so he did that. This could also set up for a future rivalry if Nakamura fails to win the WWE Title at Money in the Bank, This could work fine as a US Title feud. The post match attack also fit into Nakamura’s current persona.

Carmella was shown in the makeup area. Renee Young showed up asking her a question. Carmella laughed at Renee’s question about being concerned. Carmella said she’s the champion while reminding us that she beat Charlotte Flair twice and she’s better than Asuka too. Carmella said she’s not concerned about anybody. Carmella said that Asuka should be scared, she added she’s ready for Asuka and ended it by saying that Mella is money.

Analysis: Carmella is overconfident going into the Money in the Bank match. I can see there being a title change, but I’m leaning more towards Carmella retaining in cheap fashion.

The 10-woman tag team match is next.

(Commercial)

There was a plug for Stephanie McMahon on the show Undercover Boss this Friday on CBS.

Big Cass was interviewed by Renee Young in the interview area. Cass told her to leave and he just stared ahead at the camera. Cass stood beside a sign about being tall enough to go on a ride at the fair. Cass said that last week a good big man will always beat a good little man and that’s what will happen at Money in the Bank. Cass said that if Bryan tries to come up to his level, he’s going to come crashing right back down. Cass stared ahead.

Analysis: The promo was okay. They are really pushing the “big man vs. little man” story heavily. It’s a little too much, but that’s WWE style to want to drive a point home. Since Bryan won their last PPV match, Cass might win this one although I’d rather see Bryan win and move on to something else.

The announce team went over the Money in the Bank lineup. I have the full lineup below.

Naomi made her entrance first for the face team. Charlotte Flair was up next for the team. Asuka was third and she’s challenging Carmella for the Smackdown Women’s Title at Money in the Bank.

A video aired about an athlete competing at the Special Olympics USA Games.

(Commercial)

The show returned with four of the heels standing at ringside. Carmella was up last for the heel team since she is the Smackdown Women’s Champion.

Asuka, Naomi, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Lana vs. Carmella, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay

There are some lucky fans at ringside looking at eight lovely women standing on the apron for this match. Just saying. Naomi started with Deville. Lana tagged in with a neckbreaker on Deville for two. Carmella tagged in with kicks against Lana. Carmella with a bronco buster attempt in the corner, but Lana moved and tagged in Lynch, who hit Carmella with a clothesline. Lynch with a shoulder tackle on Carmella followed by the Bexploder suplex for two. The heels did a distraction leading to Royce hitting a spin kick on Lynch for two. Kay with a kick to the back of Lynch. The heels remained in control as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with the heels still control as Lynch was isolated from her team. Lynch got a rollup on Deville for two, but Deville came back with a tackle for two. Kay slapped on a headlock on Lynch. A promo was shown for Money in the Bank while Kay had Lynch grounded. Lynch finally broke free with a hot tag to Charlotte against Royce. Charlotte with chops with the crowd chanting “woo” for all of them. Charlotte hit an overhead suplex on Kay and a Spear on Royce. Charlotte went up top, Carmella distracted and Royce got the knees up. Deville got the tag, then she tagged in Rose and Rose hit a running knee on Charlotte. Deville hit a running knee as well. Charlotte avoided a double suplex and a tag to Asuka. Asuka up top with a missile dropkick on Rose. Asuka escaped a suplex attempt and slapped on the Asuka Lock on Rose. The heels saved Rose. The face team went into the ring to go after the heels. Carmella tagged in and Asuka knocked her off the apron. Charlotte went up top and hit a moonsault off the top onto the Iiconics on the floor. Deville and Rose sent Lynch into the barricade. Naomi with a dive on Deville. Asuka kicked Rose. Carmella in with a superkick on Asuka for two as Lana broke up the pin attempt. Carmella threw Lana out of the ring. Asuka trapped Carmella in the Asuka Lock submission and Carmella tapped out. The match went 11 minutes.

Winners by submission: Asuka, Naomi, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Lana

Analysis: *** That was a very good tag team match. They know how to build up to the hot tags well and once that happened in the last few minutes, things got really interesting. Charlotte has become so awesome with her offense after a hot tag. I thought it was smart to have Carmella tag in and get that nearfall with Lana making the save because that Carmella kick could have won it for the team. Asuka making Carmella tap out makes me think Carmella is going over on Sunday, which is fine. I like how it was booked with all ten women getting involved in some way. It was fun to watch.

After the match was over, Asuka’s team surrounded her in the ring. The women in the ring stared up at the Money in the Bank briefcases above the ring. Asuka’s music played to end the show.

Analysis: At least this is the last show where people will have to stare at the briefcases. It’s like we don’t get enough of it during WrestleMania season, so here’s more of it for Money in the Bank. We get it, WWE. We know what’s on the line.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Daniel Bryan
  2. Shelton Benjamin
  3. Shinsuke Nakamura

 

The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: 7

2018 Average: 6.38

Last 5 Weeks: 7, 8, 6, 7, 7, 6

2018 High: 8 (April 10, May 29)

2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2, January 9)

 

Final Thoughts

Smackdown gets a 7 out of 10 this week.

I thought it was a pretty good edition of Smackdown again this week. I liked the Bryan/Benjamin match a lot, Nakamura/Hardy was fine. The Joe/Rusev match with Miz getting involved was interesting and the main event featuring the ladies was really well booked and exciting in the last few minutes. They promoted most of the Money in the Bank matches well.

The next WWE PPV is Money in the Bank in Chicago on June 17. We will have a preview up on Friday. Here’s the lineup so far.

WWE Championship Last Man Standing Match: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey

Men’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match: Braun Strowman (Raw), Kevin Owens (Raw), Finn Balor (Raw), Bobby Roode (Raw), The Miz (SD), Rusev (SD), Samoa Joe (SD), One member of The New Day (SD)

Women’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match: Ember Moon (Raw), Alexa Bliss (Raw), Natalya (Raw), Sasha Banks (Raw), Charlotte Flair (SD), Becky Lynch (SD), Lana (SD), Naomi (SD)

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Elias

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (Kickoff Show)

I assume that Hardy/Wyatt vs. Dallas/Axel will be added as well, but it’s not official yet.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below. Go Los Angeles Rams.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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