By Steven Flora
This week's edition of Smackdown Live featured the return of the U.S. Open Challenge and the Smackdown Women's champion finding out her next No. 1 contender. With the Hype Bros wondering if they will still be a team, Shinsuke Nakamura looks set to shut up Baron Corbin, once and for all.
Styles & Cena thwart the challenge of Owens & Rusev
WWE U.S. Champion AJ Styles (c) & John Cena def. Kevin Owens & Rusev
The biggest story of the night was AJ Styles & John Cena overcoming Kevin Owens and Rusev in the main event of this week’s Smackdown Live. Styles previously had Cena & Owens gunning to become No. 1 contender to the U.S. champion, so with this conflict potentially arising, can Styles really trust Cena at all?
Rusev shoulder blocks Cena to begin and takes time to wave his flag. Rusev back in and Cena takes control, hitting a bulldog. Owens tags in and works over Cena, keeping him in his corner so he and Owens can beat him down. Cena tried to fire up but Rusev cut him off with a spin kick. Rusev missed the diving head butt, allowing Cena to tag in Styles. Styles ran wild on Rusev, rolling into the calf crusher, but Owens made the save. Owens then got the tag, worked over Styles, grounding him and keeping him away from Cena. Styles managed a roll up, but Owens laid him out with a lariat and tagged in Rusev. Rusev is still selling the calf crusher, which I appreciate. Rusev worked a bear hug, the crowd rallies Styles, who escapes and hits the enziguri. Cena and Owens tag in and Cena runs wild, shoulder blocks, proto bomb and the five-knuckle shuffle connect. Owens escapes the AA, Rusev superkicks Cena but Styles takes him out and Cena hits the AA on Owens for the win.
Side Note: The match worked in terms of using it to build up two of the Battleground matches, but I felt it was a bit disappointing considering the talent involved. It was a pretty good match, worked in a laid-back house show like pacing. I was hoping they could end the show strong like they started it.
The Maharaja sends Randy Orton a message
Non-Title Match: WWE Champion Jinder Mahal def. Tye Dillinger
Mahal looked to use his power early. Dillinger hit a springboard high cross but immediately got cut off with a clothesline. Mahal quickly grounded Dillinger and we went screen in screen for the commercial break. During the break, Mahal kept control, keeping Dillinger grounded with a cravat. Mahal mixed in some knee strikes as he worked the heat, Dillinger kept fighting but Mahal would have none of that as he dropped some knees to the gut. Back to full screen as Mahal keeps control. Dillinger hit some desperation forearm strikes, followed with mounted corner strikes and started to get the crowd into it but then ate a running knee strike. Mahal hit the khallas for the win. Winner: Jinder Mahal (c).
Side Note: It was nice to see Mahal dominate and win clean, but they really failed here in terms of using Tye to get the crowd into things, as Tye really should have gotten a big fire up spot and near falls because the crowd would have been into it. It would have added to the excitement I feel, but this was OK.
New Day gain momentum heading into Battleground
Xavier Woods def. Jey Uso
This is part of the build to the New Day challenging for the tag titles. Big E defeated Jimmy Uso on June 20 and last week was the rap battle. Woods attacked at the bell, showing more aggression than usual and choking out Jey in the ropes. Jimmy would trip him up to cut that off, everyone else argued and the ref tossed Kofi, Jimmy & Big E to the back. Jey hit a superkick for the near fall, and the top rope splash ate knees. Woods fought back, and hit an elbow on Jey who was trapped in the ropes and Woods won. Winner: Xavier Woods.
Side Note: It was fine for what it was in ring-wise, but accomplished it’s goal as New Day gains momentum, showing when things are fair and the Usos can’t run, they can win against the champions. Hopefully this feud culminates at Battleground ,though with how WWE is, New Day will probably continue feuding with The Usos leading to either a No DQ match or a triple threat/fatal 4-way match at SummerSlam.
Tamina and Natalya look strong heading into Battleground's fatal 5-way
Tamina & Natalya def. Charlotte & Becky Lynch
Tamina tried to overpower Becky to begin, but Becky quickly fought her off and tagged in Charlotte. Tamina quickly cut her off and tagged in Natalya. Natalya took too much time celebrating nothing, allowing Charlotte to take control and tag in Becky, who hit an XPLODER on Natalya. Natalya would avoid the baseball slide and slammed Becky to the steps. We went to the split screen commercial break, where Natalya worked the heat on Becky, grounding her and then choking her out in the ropes. Tamina laid in some cheap shots as she and Natalya kept Becky from getting the tag to Charlotte. Natalya back in and works a chinlock since we’re not on full screen. We return to full screen, so Becky can escape and go for a tag, but she’s cut off again. Lana makes her way out and stands at ringside. Tamina and Natalya keep the heat, it’s OK but nothing special at all. They cut off Becky again, but she fights off Natalya and tags in Charlotte. Charlotte runs wild with chops and the knee drop, Lana distracts her allowing Tamina to tag in and superkick Charlotte for the win. Winner: Tamina & Natalya.
Side Note: A really flat match and I wish Smackdown Live could go back to having more than one feud in the Women's division. I understand there are only seven women in this division but they managed to do it before with Naomi/Lana and Carmella/Natalya/Charlotte/Becky Lynch/Tamina, so surely they can reprise some feuds instead of the same four or five way matches every week.
Other Notable Moments
Sami meets with Mike & Maria. Mike & Maria want an apology, but Sami says he has already apologized and feels they should be apologizing to him. He asks if Mike actually wrestles here, and Maria slaps him and Mike breaks a vase of flowers over his head. Maria tells Sami that love hurts.
Nakamura decides he wants revenge for Corbin’s recent actions and attacks during Corbin’s entrance and they brawl into the crowd. Agents and referees try to separate them but they keep brawling. Nakamura stands tall and Corbin takes a walk. This feud will continue at Battleground.
We get a cowboy themed “Sexy Fashion Rangers” segment. Fandango rides a horse on a stick and they sneak up on Zack Ryder. Breeze fails to lasso Ryder and Mojo arrives. He asks what he walked in on. The Fashion Police accuse Ryder of attacking Breeze and wrecking their office. Ryder then brings up Mojo eliminating him from last week’s battle royal. Mojo says they need to get back to work. Ryder says they all need to get back to reality. SOMEONE STOLE FANDANGO’S HORSE! They tease the fashion X-files. At this point, Smackdown may be better off as a two-hour Fashion Files.
Overall Smackdown Live Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
When will we see Mike Kanellis in action?
More Chad Gable matches? That guy is a wrestling machine.
Which woman will gain momentum heading into Battleground?
How will The Viper respond to Mahal's threats?
What is next for Breezango?