Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/07/25/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-07-24-2018/.)
The road to SummerSlam continued through this episode of SmackDown, with two major matches set up for the PPV, and the groundwork being laid for other collisions on that card. (I should also mention that this show was filled with references to the all-women’s PPV Evolution, which ranged from logical, such as the announcers replaying footage of the announcement from Raw, to cringeworthy, as in an Asuka backstage promo talking about the event that made no sense whatsoever.)
Randy Orton Promo
Speaking of promos, Randy Orton opened proceedings with a monologue to explain his recent attacks on Jeff Hardy. Officially confirming his heel turn, Orton blamed the fans for not showing up respect, noting that he had been around for 16 years but is not given enough credit by the “WWE Universe”. Tapping into reality, he noted how he doesn’t base himself around the likes of high-flying spots or “stealing a sweet hand gesture”, and for that reason he isn’t a recipient of the same adulation as guys like Jeff Hardy. Hence his beatdowns of Jeff, and why he plans to take out all of the crowd favourites, beginning with a plan to end Hardy’s career altogether.
This was one of Orton’s better interviews, as it makes such a difference when he brings real passion to his speeches rather than just mumbling through his lines. It should also be fun to see Orton in the heel role again (one he genuinely prefers), and it’s interesting that he seems to be reigning back on using or even mentioning the RKO due to the inevitable pop the move gets.
Rusev vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
This was set up by a backstage confrontation earlier on between Lana and Zelina Vega. The two worked well together in what was technically a heel vs. heel bout, though Rusev is clearly a tweener at worst and a babyface at best right now, as he clearly worked to the crowd multiple times here (as he has done recently). Rusev had much of the control in this one, though it was Aiden English who decided the outcome: breaking up a Lana/Vega ringside scrap, he ended up being knocked into Lana which sent her tumbling, and the distraction led Rusev to succumb to Almas’ Hammerlock DDT. Post-match, Rusev interrupted an argument between his, erm, extras, and wondered if he needed either of them. Ouch.
R-Truth vs. Samoa Joe
This marked Truth’s first match since the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal due to injury. It felt like a mix of eras here, with Truth marking the old guard and Joe representing the current generation. This, despite the fact that both men entered the business around the same time, and they had both worked for TNA at the same time (though I don’t believe they had ever faced off until this bout, interestingly). As for the match, Truth showed some fire early on, but Joe cut his momentum off quickly, and earned a decisive win with the Coquina Clutch. More on Joe later.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay
There wasn’t much to this bout, with it really serving as an additional way to promote Evolution. Despite the presence of Peyton Royce at ringside, Asuka dominated the bulk of the match, and she knocked Kay out cold for the fairly easy win. The IIConics have seen their status plummet following the momentum they had built up for their initial appearances. As for Asuka, this win marks the beginning of the rebuilding process, but recent results have really tarnished her reputation as a bad-ass, possibly irreparably (as Goldberg discovered, one’s appeal diminishes greatly when an undefeated streak ends).
Paige Announces AJ Styles’ Opponent For A WWE Championship Match At SummerSlam
Paige and AJ Styles stood in the ring, with a contract at the ready. AJ signed on the dotted line, but before Paige could announce his next challenger, James Ellsworth came out to express his beliefs that he should be facing Styles at SummerSlam. Paige laughed it off before James began insulting her personally, which led her to deliver a simple two-word message: “You’re fired!” Paige had security escort Ellsworth out of the building, but just as he was being shown the door, Samoa Joe ran in via the crowd and pummelled Styles, locking him in the Coquina Clutch and hurling the table at him. Joe then signed on the contract himself, seemingly replicating Shawn Michaels’ actions ahead of WrestleMania XX in 2004 (though Paige did later confirm that Joe was the planned challenger). As expected, it’s AJ vs. Joe at SummerSlam, and if given sufficient time and in front of a hot Brooklyn crowd (before they ruin Lesnar vs. Reigns, anyway), it should be one hell of a championship match.
Carmella vs. Becky Lynch
This match also had SummerSlam implications, in that Carmella would have to defend her SmackDown Women’s Championship against Lynch at SummerSlam if the Lass Kicker won here. Carmella complained to Paige about Ellsworth being fired, leaving her without any back-up to save her skin, and given Lynch’s recent momentum (which has seen her defeat around half of the blue brand’s entire women’s roster), all of the factors led one to the conclusion that Becky would triumph here. And that’s exactly what happened: Carmella got her licks in, but Lynch overcame everything she could throw at her, and made the champion tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her. Unless WWE trades a member of the Raw crew to Tuesday nights (which has been hinted at between Sasha Banks and Bayley, to be fair), Becky seems the strongest candidate to dethrone Carmella (Naomi is present too, but WWE hasn’t done anything with her in months), and therefore I’m expecting a title change in Brooklyn.
The New Day vs. Sanity
Paige had announced on social media a four-team tournament, spanning three weeks, to decide who would face The Bludgeon Brothers for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam. Though New Day and Sanity are currently feuding, I wasn’t a big fan of this match for two reasons: firstly, The Usos were on commentary, but far from the cock-sure, shoot-style twins that we’ve seen light up a microphone so much over the last year, they played the role of New Day at the announcer’s desk here, at times ignoring the action to discuss pancakes, and putting on corny voices that only douses heat on their personas. The second reason is that, after only a few minutes (which were interrupted by a commercial break, as always), New Day cleanly beat Sanity to advance. I understand that not every new act can remain undefeated, but Sanity are supposedly a destructive, chaos-ensuing faction, and yet they’ve now fallen to The Usos (albeit in a six-man bout, which is actually worse when you think about it) and New Day too. It took months for Sanity to appear on the show, yet just a few weeks down the line, one gets the feeling they should have stayed in NXT. That’s an experience we’ve felt before, I know.
Post-match, The Bar returned from a short absence from television (sporting new T-shirts that Cesaro described as their “new away kit” on Twitter, humorously), and vowed to not only defeat The Usos next week in the tournament, but to go on to beat New Day and then take the blue-strapped titles from The Bludgeons at SummerSlam.
Miz & Mrs’ Premiere Party
Throughout the night, The Miz (along with Maryse and who we assumed was their baby daughter Monroe Sky) hyped up the debut of Miz & Mrs, a new reality show on USA Network airing right after SD, and this Premiere Party to close the show would mark their celebration. Miz brought the baby to the ring, after rejecting Sin Cara’s offer to be a babysitter, though I noticed that she wasn’t moving much and the camera never showed close-ups of her face in the ring. There would be a reason for this, but firstly Miz did what he often does, and that’s talk himself up massively, while running down Daniel Bryan yet again. Noting that his daughter had already achieved more than Bryan has since his in-ring return, Miz managed to get another Ruff Ruff Ruff reference in (this will make sense if you’ve been watching week-by-week), before a video aired to ostensibly promote the new reality programme.
Instead, the video showed embarrassing Miz moments, from being laid out by legends to losing championships to generally looking weak. This obviously didn’t impress Miz, and no guesses as to who came up with the video (on iMovie, presumably): Daniel Bryan, who had been the victim of a similar video about Team Hell No, conjured up by Miz (presumably also a tech wizard), a few weeks back. Bryan then offered to apologise for this to Miz’s face and he came down to the ring, brutalising two security guards holding the red ribbon to prevent commoners from ruining the ceremony. Bryan came into the ring, ready to strike, when Miz threw his baby at Bryan! Of course, we quickly discovered that it was a doll, though Daniel caught it pretty well (hey, he’s a father too), before Miz whacked him and dropped him with the Skull-Crushing Finale, and verbally blasted Bryan for his ego trying to spoil Miz’s big night. A memorable visual here, one that may have seemed a bit wrong to some viewers, but which perfectly casts Miz as a complete tool, and which moves the Miz-Bryan feud along nicely to what should be a huge showdown at SummerSlam (though it has yet to be announced). By the way, as the announcers were encouraging us to watch Miz & Mrs, they seemed to forget about 205 Live, a show on their own network which was on at the same time. I understand why, but it’s yet another reminder that the all-cruiserweights programme really should air prior to SmackDown and not after it.
Summing things up, this was another fun episode of SmackDown. I preferred last week’s show, but there was still plenty to enjoy here. Randy Orton’s heel turn freshens him up so much, the presumed Rusev Day split is gathering pace, we have the two major singles title matches for SummerSlam (U.S. Champion Shinsuke Nakamura only appeared in a selfie-style promo), and Miz vs. Bryan holds the fort as arguably the biggest rivalry that the blue brand has right now. At a time when it’s almost impossible to log onto social media and read up about Raw without facing a load of criticism, SmackDown is having a pretty consistent run right now, and with some huge feuds now under way, it is currently the go-to show on the main roster. The fall-out of Joe’s attack on Styles, The Bar vs. The Usos and the probable announcement of Miz vs. Bryan already make next week’s show well worth watching.