Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/05/09/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-05-01-2018-2/.)
After a 28-day period where we were treated to three PPVs of varying quality, it’s now almost six weeks until the next supershow, Money In The Bank. WWE began
preparing for said show with three qualifying matches (for the two announced MITB Ladder bouts, of course) on Raw, and three more qualifiers were announced for this episode of SmackDown.
Paige opened things up with a short monologue. Aside from her debatable claim that Backlash was “a smashing success”, and mentioning that we would hear from AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura later on, the SmackDown GM essentially echoed the words of her Raw counterpart Kurt Angle by outlining how we were now on the road to Money In The Bank, and provided the segue for Jeff Hardy to make his entrance for the first MITB qualifier from the blue brand.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz
This pitted a former Money In The Bank winner against one of the best Ladder match performers ever, as well as it being the former Intercontinental Champion against the current United States Champion. Clips were shown beforehand of Miz winning MITB in 2010, along with his subsequently successful cash-in on Randy Orton, which was a nice touch. On commentary, Tom Phillips also noted that Hardy had previously lost a World Championship via a MITB cash-in back in 2009, though he declined to name the man who actually became champion at his expense (hint: he’s Straight-Edge).
After a slow start, Hardy caught Miz at ringside with some Poetry In Motion. Hardy continued to dominate control with a series of armdrags and a standing armlock, as well as reversing a Miz armdrag into another armlock. Fun fact, by the way: Jeff was TNA World Champion at the same time that Miz held the WWE Title, meaning that in late 2010, this would have been a minor dream match. Back to 2018, Miz finally turned things round with some hard boots to the face, and attempted to ground Hardy from there (wise strategy). The two returned to ringside, where Miz crotched Jeff on the crowd barrier, though he missed two clothesline attempts, which led to Jeff hitting his old barricade clothesline, albeit without the run-up. In the ring, Jeff looked to hit a Twist Of Fate, which Miz tried to turn into a backslide; Hardy turned back over onto his feet and did hit the Twist Of Fate, but Miz rolled away before a Swanton Bomb could be launched. Miz neckbreakered Hardy from the apron, leading to a hard landing for the U.S. Champ.
After a flurry of offence by Hardy, Miz tried to lock in a Sleeper Hold, but Jeff broke free and caught his opponent with a Whisper In The Wind for two. After dropkicking Miz onto the floor from a grounded position, Hardy hit a senton over the ropes, and a victory for Jeff seemed imminent. But Miz blocked another try at a Swanton Bomb, though he fell victim to a middle-rope Sunset Flip for a close near-fall. Some nifty reversals of finishers and signature moves (this feels like a WWE 2K18 match review) led to Hardy hitting a second Twist Of Fate, and this time he finally hit the Swanton Bomb … only for Miz to counter his pin into a cradle for the win. Really good stuff here, with Miz backing up his claim from the Backlash Post-Show that he would make it to MITB. The question now is, can he replicate his 2010 form and win the briefcase once more?
Backstage, Sheamus told Cesaro that he was eating Lucky Charms (what a stereotype) to get over losing to Xavier Woods last week, and that his mood wasn’t helped by Liverpool losing to Chelsea (as a Red, I always appreciate a LFC reference). Cesaro claimed he’d have no problem beating Woods later tonight, but The Bar then realised that their bags were crammed with pancakes, thanks to those New Day rascals.
Renee Young tried to get a word with Shinsuke Nakamura. After reiterating that he didn’t speak English, he noted that he used to speak the language, but had now forgotten how to (what a line). But he did point out that “AJ is nuts, but so am I”, and that their issue was not over. Also, in the latest selfie promo, Carmella announced that she would hold a Royal Mellabration next week in London to celebrate her victory over Charlotte Flair (which she reminded us about once or twice) at Backlash.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Charlotte Flair vs. Peyton Royce
As expected, The IIconics mocked Charlotte beforehand for her loss to Carmella at Backlash. Charlotte comfortably out-wrestled Royce in the early going, drilling her with an Exploder Suplex and sending her to join Billie Kay out on the floor. It was there that Royce sent Charlotte into the post during the commercial break to take control of the bout. Charlotte tried to fire back with a chop, but Royce blocked it and sent Charlotte face-first into the turnbuckles. After locking in an unusual submission hold through the ropes (it was like a Triangle hold, but with Peyton’s long legs stretching much further), Royce saw herself fall victim to a comeback by Charlotte, who struck with a neckbreaker and her signature chops.
After a back suplex, Charlotte aimed to lock in the Figure-Eight, but Billie pulled Royce to safety; Charlotte responded with a plancha onto Kay, but this allowed Peyton to hit a neckbreaker of her own at ringside. With the referee momentarily distracted, Kay grabbed Charlotte’s hair to set up a big spinning heel kick for a close two-count. Charlotte rebounded with a big boot, but her attempted moonsault was blocked by Royce’s knees which led to a roll-up and another near-fall. After avoiding a suplex, Charlotte connected with a Spear for two, and after further pin attempts, Charlotte trapped Peyton in the Figure-Eight for the win by submission. This wasn’t great, but it was still miles better than the Carmella-Charlotte battle that we saw at Backlash. Charlotte currently joins Ember Moon in the all-women’s MITB match; who else will join them in the coming weeks?
Backstage, Daniel Bryan discussed his Money In The Bank qualifier with Rusev, and reminded us that he successfully cashed in MITB back in 2011 in Baltimore, the site of this week’s SmackDown, when he pinned Big Show (that feels like a lifetime ago now). Incidentally, this interview took place in front of the “What?” staircase; that being, a staircase which acted as the backdrop for a Steve Austin promo when he very first introduced the “What?” catch phrase way back in 2001. Ironically, the modern equivalent of “What?” in terms of fan interaction is “Yes!”, introduced by Bryan to WWE television shortly after his aforementioned MITB cash-in.
Xavier Woods vs. Cesaro
The early highlight here was Corey Graves noting that “someone can get hit in the eye” by flying pancakes, after Kofi Kingston and Big E complied with fan requests for extra pancakes. Woods hit the first big move of the match with a running head-scissors, though Cesaro capitalised on the referee ducking to avoid an accidental collision with Xavier by clobbering Woods in the back of the head, and tossing him around the ring as only the Swiss Superman can. Xavier fought out of an abdominal stretch and had an exchange of chops with Cesaro, as Graves slated Byron Saxton on commentary for suggesting that Sheamus might wish for Cesaro to lose here, due to the slight teasing early on.
A turning kick by Xavier off the ropes earned a two-count, as did a cool-looking Reverse Sunset Flip Powerbomb. A Sheamus distraction allowed Cesaro to roll up Woods, but Kofi shoved Cesaro’s feet off the ropes after an attempt to cheat. A Shining Wizard by Woods was followed by some pancake throwing and a Kofi crossbody onto Sheamus, but this may have ended up costing Woods: distracted by the ringside shenanigans, Woods waited before leaping right into a huge Cesaro uppercut (which cut his lip open) for the three. It was later announced that The New Day would face The Bar next week, with one member of the winning team joining the men’s MITB bout.
Renee Young then interviewed AJ Styles (who looked like he had a big kiss on his cheek, which in reality was a bruise – but perhaps an exaggerated one – from where he was inadvertently cut open – at Backlash). Styles said that he would finish Nakamura, whenever they were to meet again. Not much to this, so let’s move on.
In a strange segment, we saw the remains of the action figures for various members of SmackDown’s tag team division, before The Bludgeon Brothers smashed them with hammers. Their message: “Come play with us!” Well, okay then.
Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose
I had forgotten that this match was announced on WWE.com after last week’s episode. Beforehand, Paige informed Sonya Deville that she was barred from ringside, meaning that Rose would have to go it alone. By the way, she had a unique entrance whereby everything bar her was faded, allowing her to stand out more. Interesting. As for the match, it reached a fast pace early on, and Rose struck Lynch with a big dropkick for two. After an exchange of forearms, Becky connected with the Bexploder, but an attempted kick in the corner was countered and turned into a roll-up for the quick win by Rose. Looks like Mandy has a bright future ahead, assuming that she and Sonya are kept apart, which appears to be the plan.
Before the main event, it was announced that Andrade “Cien” Almas would make his SmackDown debut next week.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Daniel Bryan vs. Rusev
As with Miz earlier on, we had clips beforehand of Bryan winning MITB and of his cash-in. However, this year’s MITB PPV will be the first to take place on Rusev Day, and so it was imperative for the Bulgarian Brute to try and qualify for the big showdown on June 17. An early exchange of offence between both men led to Bryan having Rusev grounded for some hard kicks. Rusev turned it around with a bodyslam, but Bryan allowed Rusev’s own momentum to take himself to the floor; however, Rusev countered an attempted suicide dive by grabbing Daniel and tossing him across the announcer’s table as we went to break. Rusev continued to dominate the match from there, including a big suplex on Bryan back in the ring. From there, though, Daniel began making his comeback (which included his flip off of the top rope over his opponent’s head, which always provides a momentary scare).
The big corner dropkicks were followed by Bryan hoisting Rusev up to the top for a big hurricanrana, and the Yes Kicks which, of course, elicited a big reaction. Rusev rolled out of it, but Bryan turned him over for a roll-up. A hard kick to the side earned Rusev a two-count, and the King Of Rusev Day looked to apply the Accolade from there. But Rusev’s right hand was hurting, to the point where he couldn’t properly apply the hold. Bryan then struck the left hand, and rolled through to the Yes Lock from there, though Rusev quickly made the ropes. Further kicks by Bryan were halted by a boot to the ribs, but Bryan rolled out of a back suplex with a kick to the head, and he prepared to hit the Running Knee, only for Aiden English to pull Rusev out of the ring. A dropkick through the ropes took out both men, and a knee off the apron took Rusev down at ringside. From there, Bryan hit his signature top rope dropkick, but Rusev countered an attempted Running Knee with a knee to the ribs and a Machka Kick for the surprise victory to join Braun Strowman, Finn Balor and Miz in the men’s MITB match. Daniel’s injured ribs were the story of the match, which provided the excuse of sorts for his loss. Is this the beginning of that long-awaited big push for Rusev?
Post-match, the camera lingered on a disappointed Bryan, as if to suggest that he had just missed out on a dream championship opportunity, to close the show.
This was the best episode of SmackDown since the post-WrestleMania edition. A few notable names were absent (which isn’t always a bad thing, by the way; not everybody has to appear on television every week), but there was enough going on in the ring, namely in the MITB qualifiers, especially Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz which was a hot opener. I was hoping for more from the Styles-Nakamura storyline, but I can live with waiting another week to learn about what will surely be a score-settling confrontation between the two at Money In The Bank. Otherwise, though, a fun show as we travel on the extended journey to Money In The Bank.