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Welcome to another week of WWE Smackdown Live. The show takes place in Tampa this week with the following matches announced: The Usos vs. The Bar (Sheamus/Cesaro) and Zelina Vega vs. Lana. They have also promoted confrontations with Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton and a follow up to Samoa Joe attacking AJ Styles last week.

Live from Tampa, Florida, this is Smackdown Live for episode #988. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

Let’s Hear From Becky Lynch

The show began with a shot of the crowd in Tampa. It looks pretty full.

Renee Young was in the ring and she introduced the number one contender to the Smackdown Women’s Championship, Becky Lynch. Lynch was not in her ring gear, so she’s not going to be put into an “impromptu” match.

Lynch was asked what it’s like to be back in the Smackdown Women’s Championship picture. Lynch said that she knew that if she kept pushing she would get back to where she wants to be. Lynch said that she hasn’t been SD Women’s Champion since December 2016 and no title match since WrestleMania 33, which was a year and a half ago. Lynch said being the champion is an honor. Lynch talked about how she fought to be a champion and come SummerSlam she will fight mind, body and soul to beat Carmella. Lynch said it would be her honor to walk into WWE Evolution as the Smackdown Women’s Champion.

Carmella, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, made her entrance. She was also in street clothes looking great. Carmella said normally she would make an excuse about why she lost last week like James getting fired, but that’s not the case. Renee left the ring as Carmella went into the ring.

Carmella said that she was so focused on the match last week and then she got a chance to think about WWE Evolution. Carmella talked about how they get to make history at Evolution and Carmella noted that they represent the women that have been in a WWE ring in the past. Carmella talked about how Lynch has always been a step ahead of her. Carmella said in NXT they told her that she would only be a manager and a hype girl. Carmella was showing emotion as she mentioned Lynch gave her advice. Carmella talked about how Lynch was the first women drafted to Smackdown Live two years and Carmella was literally the last draft pick out of everybody. Carmella added that Lynch was the centerpiece of the division while Carmella was an afterthought. Carmella noted that the WWE Universe has always loved Lynch leading to “Becky” chants. Carmella cried (sort of) as she said that most of the WWE Universe thinks she doesn’t deserve to be champion. Carmella talked about how she tries to block the haters on social media who say things about how they think she sucks or is unworthy of the title, which led to fans chanting “you suck” at her.

Carmella said that there are legends in the industry going online saying that she should go away. Carmella said that’s exhausting, but she tells herself she deserves to be there like Lynch deserves this match. Carmella said that she could not be more excited than to tear the house down with Lynch at SummerSlam. Carmella said “good luck” to Lynch and she extended her hand for a shake. Lynch did not shake her hand.

The music of James Ellsworth started up, Lynch was distracted, Carmella hit Lynch in the back with the title and Carmella hit a superkick. Carmella brought a steel chair into the ring and set up Lynch for a DDT, but Charlotte Flair made her return. Charlotte kicked the chair out of Carmella’s hand. Charlotte suplexed Carmella and she left. Charlotte checked on Lynch. Charlotte and Lynch posed in the ring. The crowd was hot for that return of Charlotte.

Analysis: That was well done by all three women. Carmella showed a different side of her by faking being humble, the crowd felt sorry for her a bit as she was in near tears and then she attacked Lynch in a cheap way. Lynch’s promo was good because it put over how hard she has worked to get back to the title picture. As for the return of Charlotte, she was missed over the last two months or so after a ruptured implant. She looks great and I’m glad she’s back in action. I hope we get Lynch with the title at SummerSlam or the next PPV leading to Lynch vs. Charlotte in a long match at the Evolution PPV that could be the match of the night.

Jeff Hardy was shown in the locker room. He confronts Randy Orton later on Smackdown.

The Usos did a backstage promo talking about how it’s Smackdown Live where The Usos reside. Jimmy did a Rock style promo about shoving a thumb up The Bar’s ass, Jey stopped him and they welcomed us to the Uso penitentiary. They are up against The Bar up next.

(Commercial)

Paige, the Smackdown GM, was in the office. Carmella showed up to complain about Charlotte. Paige said that Carmella should be ashamed of herself. Carmella said that she’s not a role model like Paige, but she is something Paige will never be and that’s the champ. Paige put Carmella in a match against Charlotte Flair and if Charlotte wins then the title match at SummerSlam will become a triple threat with Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair.

Analysis: My initial feeling is that Charlotte will beat Carmella to set up the triple threat at SummerSlam because WWE wants to get their top woman Charlotte on a major PPV like SummerSlam.

The Usos made their entrance first to a good ovation. The Bar were up next.

The New Day made their entrance since they are facing the winners of this match to earn a title shot at the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were joined by The New Day at their own announce table that had pancakes on it.

The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) vs. The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro)

The Usos were aggressive early, but The Bar bailed to the floor leading to a break less than one minute into the match.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Cesaro working over one of the Usos with a headlock. The New Day commentary was better than the regular guys. Sheamus tagged in with a kick to Jey’s ribs followed by a clothesline. Sheamus hit two running knee drops on Jey. The New Day noted that The Usos haven’t been on the main card of SummerSlam before, which is a sad reality. Sheamus grounded Jey with an armbar. Jey fought back with punches, Sheamus charged, Jey moved and Sheamus went shoulder first into the ring post. Jimmy got the hot tag against Cesaro with Jimmy hitting a sweet Samoan Drop for a two count. The crowd was into this match. Jimmy with a spinning kick to the head of Cesaro. Jimmy went for the corner attack, Cesaro moved, Sheamus pushed Cesaro away and Jimmy hit a splash onto Sheamus on the floor. Jimmy with a superkick on Cesaro. Jimmy sent Cesaro into the ring, Jimmy up top and a cross body block was good for two. Jimmy went up top, Cesaro shoved him and Jimmy went into the barricade. Time for another break.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Jimmy tried to fight off Cesaro and Jimmy jumped off the top with a dive that knocked down Cesaro. Sheamus was sent out of the ring by Jimmy. Chops by Jimmy, forearm by Cesaro and Sheamus went for White Noise, but Jey came back in with a superkick on Cesaro. Rollup by Sheamus. Jey with a splash off the top for two and Cesaro broke up the pin at two. That was a great spot and The New Day were marking out on commentary. Jey went up top, he jumped off and Cesaro decked him with an uppercut. Jimmy up top, he jumped, Sheamus got his knees up and Sheamus got a cradle for a pinfall win after 15 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Bar

Analysis: ***1/2 That was a great match between two teams that have worked together a lot in the last few years, but it has been a while since they had a match. The chemistry is still there. The crowd was hot for most of the match, so it was good to see them get a lot of time. The winners made sense since The New Day won last week, which sets up a heel vs. face match next week. What’s disappointing is I miss The Usos in the title picture because they are such a great team, but I’m fine with The Bar winning since they are great to watch too. You can’t put everybody over at the same time, right? Smackdown has some great teams. The finish was well done. The Usos went for their splashes, but The Bar was ready and it cost The Usos the match.

The win means The Bar faces The New Day next week with the winners earning a Smackdown Tag Team Title match at SummerSlam.

After the match was over, The New Day got in the ring to talk trash with The Bar. The fans chanted “New Day rocks” as Sheamus and Cesaro backed out of the ring.

Analysis: That should be a win for The New Day since they are faces that make sense as the opponents of The Bludgeon Brothers at SummerSlam. Hopefully the match next week gets around 15 minutes too.

Still to come is Daniel Bryan live. Lana vs. Zelina Vega is coming up later.

Charlotte Flair was in the locker room and Renee Young was there to interview here. Charlotte said she was there to support Becky Lynch and she didn’t even expect to be a part of SummerSlam, but now she has an opportunity to beat Carmella to get a title shot.

Samoa Joe is up next.

(Commercial)

A video aired about a classic superstar sponsored by Sonic and it was the “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase.

Samoa Joe Has Words For AJ Styles

Samoa Joe made his entrance with the fans chanting “Joe” for his song. Joe faces AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam.

Joe said that he respects what AJ Styles has done in his carer. Joe said that Styles has put being WWE Champion in front of everything in his life including his own family. Joe said that last week Styles said that he can tell his daughter you can be everything you want to be in your life. Joe mentioned knowing Styles for a very long time. Joe pointed out that Styles is barely home long enough to look his daughter in the eye to tell her anything. Joe talked about how Styles has been more comfortable living out of a suitcase than he does in being there for his family. Joe called Styles a failure as a father. Joe talked about the sacrifice noting that he is coming after Styles soon and he will take it all from Styles. Joe said that at SummerSlam when the whole world is cheering for Styles, the reality is that AJ’s family will be cheering for Joe because after Joe is done tearing down his house and putting him to sleep, AJ’s wife and kids will have their daddy back, but Joe will be WWE Champion. Joe left the ring with no response from Styles.

Analysis: Great heel promo from Joe, who delivers those serious promos perfectly. He’s always intense. I liked the premise of the promo with Joe talking in a serious tone and taking a shot at Styles as a father, which will add some intensity to the feud. That should lead to a good brawl between the men in the future. I think Joe could definitely leave SummerSlam as the WWE Champion.

A replay aired of Randy Orton’s attack on Jeff Hardy two weeks ago. Hardy was off last week selling the injury.

Jeff Hardy was shown putting on his face paint because he’s up next.

(Commercial)

Let’s Hear From Jeff Hardy

Jeff Hardy made his entrance. His face was painted. The crowd gave him a good reaction. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I miss the “No More Words” song that Hardy had about ten years ago. The traditional Hardy song that he uses is fine, but the other one was more unique for him.

Hardy spoke about how the US Title was more than a title for him. Hardy said that the US Title is like his fifth eye (he has four apparently?) because it revitalizes him and helps his sense of purpose while building his connection with the WWE Universe. Hardy said there was nothing more important than beating Shinsuke Nakamura to take back the US Title. Hardy said then something became more important and that was Randy Orton. Hardy called out Orton for a fight.

Randy Orton made his entrance in his ring gear looking focused as usual. Orton stood on the apron, but before he could get in the ring, Shinsuke Nakamura attacked Hardy from behind with a kick to the head. Nakamura hit Hardy with knees to the ribs. Nakamura wanted Kinshasa, but Orton stood in front of him. Orton had a staredown with Nakamura, so Nakamura backed away. Orton said, “go on.” Nakamura hit the Kinshasa knee strike on Hardy. Nakamura backed out of the ring.

Orton fired up, smacked the mat and set up for the RKO. Hardy stumbled to his feet, Orton tripped him up and put him on his back. Orton stomped on Hardy’s body repeatedly. Orton picked up Hardy and gave him a draping DDT off the middle ropes. Two referees finally showed up to help Hardy. Orton grabbed Hardy and hit a draping DDT off the apron onto the floor. Orton cleared off the announce table. Orton pulled off the arm sleeves of Hardy and ripped off Hardy’s shirt. Orton pulled off a necklace that Hardy was wearing. Orton grabbed a water bottle at ringside, he poured it on Hardy’s face paint and Orton used a towel to wipe the paint off Hardy’s face. Orton looked at the Hardy necklace in his hands. Orton pointed at Hardy, looked at the fans and asked why. Orton left with the necklace while referees checked on Hardy.

Analysis: It was another example of a heel outsmarting a face because Hardy was in the ring ready to fight, but Orton had Nakamura with him. I am all for an Orton pairing with Nakamura although I don’t know if that’s going to be a regular thing. I think the attack with Orton taking the necklace and wiping off the face paint is symbolism with Orton wanting to humiliate Hardy by taking his identity away from him. Like Orton said last week, he doesn’t like the fans liking a guy like Hardy, so Orton did what he could to humiliate him. I thought it was a very effective segment.

(Commercial)

A commercial aired for Miz & Mrs. on USA Network after Smackdown. It’s not on in Canada, but I downloaded the first episode and thought it was a decent show. I watch it to support Maryse. The Miz is okay too. I’m kidding. Both are good people that I want to support.

Becky Lynch was shown walking out of her locker room. Renee Young was there to interview here. Lynch said she’s happy her buddy Charlotte Flair is back. Lynch said that she’s happy that Charlotte is back, but she’s not happy at the thought of a triple threat. Lynch said she knows she can beat Carmella one on one and Renee asked if Lynch is rooting against Charlotte. Lynch said she never roots against her best friend. Lynch left.

Analysis: That could be the tease of a heel turn from Lynch out of jealousy. I think Charlotte is the more natural heel of the two women, but Lynch could pull it off because she’s talented.

Lana made her entrance first. She was alone without her husband Rusev. Zelina Vega entered with Andrade Cien Almas, who was in a suit. This is Vega’s first match on the main roster. Tom Phillips noted that Lana was giving Rusev the professional space he requested.

Lana vs. Zelina Vega (w/Andrade Cien Almas)

Vega did the tranquilo pose early on. Lana did a dance pose of her own. Lana shoved Vega out of the ring leading to a break less than one minute into the match.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Vega slapped on a weak looking sleeper. Lana broke the hold by driving Vega into the turnbuckle. Vega sent Lana into the turnbuckle and hit a kick to the head. Running double knees by Vega the same way that Almas does it. Lana with a back body drop on Vega. Lana wit ha running hair pull on Vega two times followed by a neckbreaker. Lana did her own version of the Spinarooni to get back into it. Lana with double knees to the back on Vega for two. Lana went to the ropes, Almas went on the apron, English pulled Almas off the apron and Lana fell down off the top. Vega did the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! (with tights) on Lana for the pinfall win after about five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Zelina Vega

Analysis: *1/2 It was okay. They are not two of the better women on the roster in terms of matches, but they made the most of their time. I thought Lana’s comeback was pretty good with her own version of the Spinarooni earning a good pop. The story of English continuing to mess up during Rusev/Lana matches should lead to English splitting from the duo leading to Rusev/Lana being booked as faces full time, which Lana was here. I’m shocked this got five minutes. I thought it might be a two or three minute match, so at least they got a decent amount of time.

Next week: The Bar vs. The New Day.

The Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper and Rowan did a promo backstage in a darkened room. They said no team is going to beat them. It was a quick promo.

Daniel Bryan made his entrance in his ring gear. He’ll address The Miz up next.

(Commercial)

A commercial aired for WWEShop merchandise items.

Aiden English was shown walking backstage. English walked up to Lana. She said to leave alone. English said he saw she was in trouble and he wanted to do the right thing. Rusev yelled for Aiden, so English left. Rusev walked up to Lana. Rusev said that would never happen if he was out there. Lana said she can understand that he needed a break, but she could have used him out there. Lana left and Rusev said nothing with his arms extended.

Analysis: It was a necessary segment to continue the storyline.

Let’s Hear From Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan was in the ring for a promo. Bryan talked about how last week WWE announced the Evolution PPV. Bryan said he thought about his wife Brie because Brie was in the ring when the fans started the #GiveDivasAChance movement that led to the women’s evolution. Bryan said every time they take a step forward, it seems like there’s always a step back.

Analysis: There’s another wrestler plugging the Evolution PPV that is nearly three months away.

The angle from last week was shown with Miz tossing a fake baby at Bryan leading to Miz attacking Bryan.

Bryan spoke about how for two years, Miz said things to Bryan because he thought he was safe because he was under a protective wall since Bryan was injured. Bryan said then he got cleared. Bryan said Miz has gone to new levels because last week he was out there with his wife Maryse and what Bryan thought was the baby of The Miz. Bryan said he knows that if they ever had a fair fight, he would destroy The Miz. Bryan told Miz to come out there to prove it. Bryan said that he’s in the ring all by himself and he would like nothing more than to punch Miz in the face right now.

The Miz was shown on the screen with two security guards beside him. Miz told Bryan that this is not the indies and he can’t just call Miz out to fight him. Miz said if Bryan wants him, he should call his agent. Miz talked about how he was on the set of Miz & Mrs. while plugging this week’s episode featuring a baby shower. Miz talked about how fans are trying to sneak on set for Miz & Mrs., so that’s why he has security.

Bryan said that he doesn’t care about the lifestyle of The Miz. Miz reminded Bryan what happened when Bryan called him a coward the last time while noting that it was on Talking Smack. Miz talked about how he has carried Bryan since being his pro on NXT (in 2010) and that it took Miz trash talking Bryan on Talking Smack to make Bryan famous.

Bryan fired back at The Miz noting that the wrestler turned Hollywood thing has been done by men better than him. Bryan told Miz that he’ll never be The Rock or John Cena and he told Miz that people won’t remember him as a great wrestler. Bryan challenged Miz to a match at SummerSlam. Miz said that Bryan creates sympathy, talks about his wife, he cries and repeats that. Miz claimed that Bryan’s career and dreams are over. Miz told Bryan to let his contract expire, he told him to go entertain dozens of people in high school gyms and added the people are annoyed with Bryan. Miz told Bryan to be quiet and go away. Miz said the people look at Bryan and all they see is one thing…images of babies appeared on the screen along with sounds of babies crying. Miz said “wah wah wah” and put on his sunglasses. Bryan’s face was on screen and then it faded out.

Analysis: That was great. I liked it from the perspective of both men. Miz is an egomaniac that wants nothing to do with Bryan, but Bryan wants to shut him up and prove he’s the better man. Miz is also being cowardly by not challenging Bryan or accepting Bryan’s challenge. It fits their characters perfectly. I didn’t like the bit with the babies at the end because it was a bit cheesy, but it fit in with the storyline of The Miz calling Bryan a crybaby that whines a lot. This will be one of the best matches at SummerSlam with the crowd likely being hot for the match. It’s not official yet, but I’m excited about it.

The main event is Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella up next.

(Commercial)

A commercial aired of the Elias documentary on WWE Network. I don’t think I’ll watch it. I just don’t care. Sorry Elias.

Next week on Smackdown: AJ Styles returns.

Charlotte Flair made her entrance to a big ovation. She had a big smile on her face. She looks great after being off for several weeks to repair a breast implant issue. Speaking of big…well ya know.

Carmella was interviewed by Renee Young from the gorilla position behind the curtain. Carmella was confident she was going to win this match. Carmella made her entrance.

Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella

This is not for Carmella’s Smackdown Women’s Title.

Charlotte was aggressive early on going for the Figure Four Leglock. Becky Lynch was shown walking on a TV backstage. Carmella managed to break free from an attack and went to the floor. Charlotte went for a dive, Carmella moved while on the floor and Charlotte went crashing to the ground. Carmella capitalized by sending Charlotte into the ring apron. Carmella whipped Charlotte into the barricade as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Charlotte working over Carmella with chops followed by a belly to back suplex. Charlotte climbed to the top rope, she jumped off with a moonsault that wasn’t close and Carmella got her boots up to hit Charlotte in the face. Carmella tossed Charlotte out of the ring. Carmella went for a kick, Charlotte moved, Charlotte went for a kick and Carmella hit a headscissors that sent Charlotte into the barricade. Charlotte whipped Charlotte over the barricade to send Charlotte crashing into the timekeeper’s area. Charlotte got back in the ring before the ten count. Carmella slapped on a headlock. Charlotte drove Carmella back into the turnbuckle. Carmella whipped Charlotte back first into the turnbuckle. Carmella with a boot to the face, but Charlotte came back with a kick to the face for two. Charlotte wanted the Figure Four, but Carmella bailed to the floor. Charlotte with a baseball slide dropkick. Charlotte jumped off the barricade with a moonsault onto a standing Carmella to knock her down with her elbow. Back in the ring, Charlotte hit Natural Selection for two. Nice nearfall because that’s a move Charlotte wins with sometimes. Charlotte had a bloody nose (she confirmed that on Instagram), but it was not that bad. Charlotte charged, Carmella kicked her in the head, Charlotte wanted a Figure Four and Carmella escaped leading to a superkick for two with Charlotte getting her shoulder up at the last moment. Good nearfall. Carmella teased a Figure Four attempt, but Charlotte got up and Charlotte slapped on the Figure Eight submission. Carmella was right by the ropes, but she tapped out to lose the match. Charlotte won by submission after 13 minutes.

Winner by submission: Charlotte Flair

Analysis: *** Good match. Carmella controlled most of the match with heel tactics, Charlotte sold well and came back with the Figure Eight to win as expected. I am not a fan of Carmella losing clean in non-title matches in back to back weeks, but she is the kind of cheap champion that is going to get booked like that. That’s just how WWE booking is. I thought the announcers did a good job trying to tell the story that Charlotte was off early in the match since she has been out of action, but then Charlotte got back into it and won the match. It’s nice to have them tell a story like that instead of bickering as much as the Raw guys do. This was one of Carmella’s better matches. She is getting better. Working with Charlotte helps too.

There was a shot of Becky Lynch backstage looking sad about her title shot becoming a triple threat match at SummerSlam: Carmella vs. Lynch vs. Charlotte.

A replay aired of Charlotte’s win.

Charlotte celebrated the win in the ring while Carmella was on the floor looking frustrated about the loss. Becky Lynch was shown watching backstage as well with an angry look on her face. That’s how Smackdown ended.

Analysis: They are definitely teasing the idea of a heel turn if Charlotte wins the title and Lynch attacks her after the match. That would be a little too obvious though. I’m all for one of them turning, but I think Charlotte is better as a heel. Then again, Lynch is a great performer that could pull it off even though Lynch is more of a prototypical and natural face. A week ago I thought Lynch was going to win the SD Women’s Title at SummerSlam. Now I think Carmella will retain the title due to Lynch and Charlotte having problems to set up one of them turning heel.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. Charlotte Flair

2. Carmella

3. (tie) The Bar

3. (tie) The Usos

A lot of people could have been put in those spots. This was a very good show from top to bottom. Shoutout to Miz and Daniel Bryan for a fun promo too. Randy Orton’s attack on Jeff Hardy was very good as well.

 

The Scoreboard

8.5 out of 10

Last week: 6

2018 Average: 6.48

Last 5 Weeks: 6, 7.5, 7, 7, 6

2018 High: 8.5 (July 31)

2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2, January 9)

 

Final Thoughts

Smackdown gets a 8.5 out of 10 this week.

That’s my highest score of the year. It was an excellent show this week. The Usos/Bar tag match was the best match of the night, I liked the main event of Charlotte beating Carmella and even Vega/Lana was fine. It’s weird to say a show with just three matches is great, but I think it’s better to do it that way than have five or six short matches.

This was also a strong night for promos. From Carmella’s performance with Lynch in the open to Samoa Joe’s personal promo and then Daniel Bryan trash talking Miz again, it was easy to get into the promos this week. None of them felt forced or too fake. They all made sense. I also liked Orton’s attack on Jeff Hardy because once again it reminded us of how good Orton can be as a heel.

The next WWE pay-per-view event is SummerSlam on August 19 in Brooklyn, NY. Here’s the lineup so far.

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

For the Money in the Bank Contract: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Drew Gulak

There will be more matches added in the coming weeks. Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz is very likely and we’ll know the Smackdown Tag Team Title match next week.

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

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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