Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/08/15/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-08-14-2018/.)
This week marks the final stop-off on the road to SummerSlam. After an eventful Raw which saw the return of Dean Ambrose, how would SmackDown fare in terms of giving one last push to the summer’s biggest PPV?
Carmella-Becky Lynch-Charlotte Flair Promo
The set-up for this felt a little forced, partly because it opened the show with no real announcement about why all three were required to speak at the same time (a mini intro by Paige would have helped, since she would make her presence felt as the segment ended). Either way, there was intriguing words between the three, perhaps most notably when Charlotte described Carmella as being a diva in a women’s evolution, thus dumping on her wrestling skills (which must have been pleasing for the likes of Melina, Candice Michelle and Kelly Kelly to hear). Carmella responded by saying she was proud to be a diva, and reeled off her qualities that her opponents do not have (the babyfaces smirking her didn’t really help). As Carmella was stating her brilliance, Paige appeared to place the SmackDown Women’s Champion on commentary for a tag match pitting Charlotte/Becky against Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Funnily enough, Paige said that she would let Charlotte and Becky do what they did best, which is presumably tag team wrestling. Not a great segment here.
Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
Given that the babyfaces are days away from a big PPV match, and the heels haven’t been seen much on SmackDown lately, the result of this bout was never in doubt (this was also one of several matches on the show where an in-match PPV advertisement aired, meaning that this particular trend is likely to continue). Match quality was fine for what it was, though nothing too memorable. The most notable thing about the match concerned Becky Lynch: instead of tagging out to Charlotte, as is the case in 95% of tag bouts, Becky Balboa went it alone, and ultimately secured the win for her team. Becky had noted in the previous segment how she didn’t want Charlotte in the match at SummerSlam, but respected her and viewed her as one more obstacle, and their slightly-strained friendship was evident again in the post-match where Charlotte asked Becky, albeit politely, about her not tagging in. Clearly, SummerSlam will be a major turning point in their relationship, especially if Flair leaves Brooklyn with the blue brand women’s gold.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz: The Story
Throughout this show, we had a three-part series of extended video clips detailing the entire history of the Daniel Bryan/Miz conflict, dating back to their initial issues on NXT in 2010, up to their infamous Talking Smack spat and onto their present-day problems. These were very effective, perfectly encapsulating not only their related history, but also how they have changed over the years while maintaining a deep dislike for one another. In particular, the final segment which saw Bryan and Miz (who provided the links between vintage clips) giving their big statements about why each would win at SummerSlam into the camera would be what older wrestlers would described as “money”. Suffice it to say, fans will be on their feet when these two go at it this Sunday.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Triple Threat
Back in the 1990s, the original ECW featured a faction named The Triple Threat. It took on several forms, with the first incarnation consisting of Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko, and they were very successful, holding ECW’s top titles at various point. The version of The Triple Threat who appeared on SmackDown fared far less successful. Indeed, they were obliterated within a matter of seconds by Harper and Rowan (who vanquished three no-name opponents for the second straight week), who strangely decided not to stick around at ringside for the next match on this show.
The New Day vs. Sanity
I think it’s safe to say that Sanity have not exactly set the world on fire since coming up from NXT. It took over two months for the faction to make their SmackDown debut, and for the most part, they have been on the losing end when they have faced a team of real quality. Despite beating The New Day in a Tables match on the Extreme Rules Kick-Off Show, they have come up short every other time they have faced the positively-thinking tandem, and that continued here as Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods scored another win over Eric Young’s stable. Admittedly, New Day are about to face The Bludgeons for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam, so a defeat here might have been counterproductive, but a loss instigated by interference from Harper and Rowan would have still promoted said match while giving Sanity a boost. Instead, the group will be nowhere near Brooklyn this Sunday, and as things stand, their fortunes are unlikely to change anytime soon.
Aiden English vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Aiden has been in Rusev and Lana’s bad books lately, but he planned to defeat Andrade Almas here to help his about-to-be-former friends. English looked decent here (in terms of in-ring action anyway; he strangely had R-Truth style pants on for this one), but Almas looked dangerous from the start and never in looked in danger of losing this one. Speaking of danger, Aiden took his lumps very convincingly here, from Almas’ double knee to his Hammerlock DDT finisher that appeared to knock Aiden out cold for the pinfall win. Post-match, Rusev Day proclaimed victory over Almas and Zelina Vega on the SummerSlam Kick-Off Show.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin
This was advertised as being Hardy’s in-ring return, but it was noteworthy too for being Shelton’s first SmackDown match in ages. This was a fun match, though one that felt truncated due to the increasingly large number of breaks appearing during SD bouts these day. I noticed how Benjamin’s top-rope leap towards hitting his adversary with a vertical suplex has become a middle-rope leap, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Most notably, I thought that Hardy hitting a simple standing splash following a Twist Of Fate for the win was a sign that Jeff might be reducing his reliance on the Swanton Bomb, only for him to then hit Shinsuke Nakamura with both the TOF and the Swanton following the bout. This occurred while Randy Orton stood by the entrance way, peeking out in a creepy manner (presumably while waiting to give Hardy a special handshake).
AJ Styles-Samoa Joe Promo
Earlier on, Paige had requested that both men be professional in this segment, the first time that both would be in the same vicinity since Joe attacked Styles to become #1 contender three weeks ago. AJ promised that he would be, and said that his wife had told him to maintain his composure after the slanderous comments made about Styles’ family by Joe two weeks ago. Just when it seemed like Styles was in the right frame of mind, out came Joe to stir the pot once more, bringing out a letter about how AJ had disgusted this particular fan by ignoring his family, only to reveal that it was sent to him by AJ’s wife (wink, wink). AJ looked angry, but the show went off the air as things seemed to be running late. A post-show segment on WWE.com saw AJ being held back by officials from attacking Joe backstage, which leads me to expect a DQ finish on Sunday when the two collide for the WWE Championship.
As you can probably tell, the main focus of the show was SummerSlam, so much so that the in-ring action took a back seat (despite there being five matches). The Daniel Bryan/Miz videos were the highlight of the show, while the opening and closing segments moved their respective storylines along. There have been better episodes of SmackDown in recent weeks, but the brand as a whole has done a fine job of setting up its major bouts at SummerSlam, as well as creating an air of excitement about what we could expect in the post-SS period.