Wrestling Review: WWE SmackDown, September 11 2018

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Written By: Mark Armstrong

(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/09/12/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-09-11-2018/.)

It’s the final stop before Hell In A Cell, and as with last week, this week’s episode was concerned more with moving the stories along rather than triggering new feuds; after all, all but one of the blue brand’s matches for the PPV were already set in stone. Incidentally, this edition was almost entirely focused on HIAC, as opposed to Raw which has also been pushing Super-Showdown and Evolution (which has arguably made fans less interested in Cell).

Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

After a quick promo by Hardy (where he vowed to take Randy Orton straight to hell, due to their HIAC match of course), it was time to see Shinsuke Nakamura wrestle on television for the first time in a month. And this bout, stretched over three segments, was pretty good; it wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but the fans were into this one and were fully behind Hardy as he looked to finish Nakamura off with a Swanton Bomb, only for that dastardly Randy Orton to shove him off the ropes. A post-match beatdown by Orton looked set to lead to an RKO (which Randy hasn’t used on TV since his return, by the way), but Jeff managed to fight back and leave Randy laying with a Twist Of Fate and Swanton Bomb combo. I’m actually looking forward to their Cell match on Sunday, though I (and no doubt others) will be watching nervously if/when Hardy looks to execute a death-defying bump off the Cell structure.

AJ Styles Promo

For the second straight week, we had a promo conducted in the arena before the show went on the air. This time, it was AJ Styles’ turn, who largely reiterated what we already know: that he is very angry with Samoa Joe (and why wouldn’t he be) for bringing his family into their WWE Championship rivalry, and vowed to defeat him at Hell In A Cell. The thing is, we’ve already had a DQ finish at SummerSlam, so this rematch needs a more decisive ending (even if it isn’t clean), which means there’s a chance that AJ drops the title; after all, if AJ wins cleanly, the feud is over (aside from Super-Showdown, anyway) since Joe will have had his chance and missed out on striking gold. More on him shortly.

Charlotte Flair vs. Sonya Deville

The good news for WWE is that Charlotte was largely cheered during this match, as opposed to the boos she has received when opposing Becky Lynch in the ring and in promos recently. The bad news (well, slightly bad) is that this match had several moments of what appeared to be miscommunication, where Sonya’s timing was off or where things seemed too rehearsed (such as Charlotte running to the ropes, directly in front of Mandy Rose in such a way that it was obvious, and then – shock! – Mandy tried to grab Flair’s leg to her apparent surprise). Charlotte submitted Sonya to the Figure-Eight and posed at ringside for a photo with fans afterwards, only to be blindsided by an apparent member of the audience. Yes, it was Becky Balboa, and given her momentum right now, WWE is risking the wrath of its audience once more if Lynch doesn’t win the SmackDown Women’s Championship, or at least win on a screwjob finish, at HIAC.

Samoa Joe Promo

It was now the challenger’s turn to speak in a pre-taped promo. But unlike AJ, who talked from the heart inside the SD arena, Joe spoke backstage while reading a bedtime story, entitled Night Night AJ. It was a fairytale about AJ’s drive to be the best at the expense of his family, with Joe portrayed as the hero for attempting to make things right by beating Styles to give his family their “daddy” back. But the smoking gun came at the end, with a drawn-up image of Joe not only holding the WWE Championship, but with AJ’s wife and youngest daughter at his side, essentially treating him as their new father. If ever there was a time for Joe to be WWE Champion, it is at HIAC, though the concerning thing for WWE is that the most interesting characters on SmackDown right now are all heels (or supposedly heels in Becky Lynch’s case).

The Bar vs. Rusev Day

This was the final of the mini-tournament to determine The New Day’s next challengers for the SD Tag Team Titles, and once again the champs were sat at ringside with their own orange-coloured announcer’s table. This time, we heard from them fairly frequently, unlike last week where their contributions were very limited. As for the action, it was pretty good; there wasn’t much that we hadn’t seen before (despite this being the first on-screen clash between these two combos), but it had a clever finish: Aiden English (who recently had some problems with appeasing Rusev and Lana, remember) took a bullet for his team-mate by eating a Sheamus Brogue Kick, allowing Rusev to strike with the Machka Kick for the win, thus giving us New Day vs. Rusev Day on Sun-Day.

Backstage, we had a quick promo where Asuka tried to explain why she helped Naomi against The IIconics last week. I say “tried” because the scripting of this segment was awful, and only demonstrated how far Asuka’s career has fallen over the last few months.

R-Truth vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas

It looks like Carmella is now a babyface, because she was at R-Truth’s side again here (I know they’re tagged up for the Mixed Match Challenge, but so are Kevin Owens and Natalya, and I doubt we’ll see them hanging around together on Raw). And she played her part by dragging Zelina Vega off the apron when she assisted Almas by distracting Truth with, well, the everything’s-cool pose (hey, I don’t know what to call it). Only problem was that it led to Andrade rolling up Truth for the pin. This was too short to really grade, though I expect we’ll get a rematch (and probably a mixed tag bout at some point).

Brie Bella vs. Maryse

It was hyped as being Maryse’s first SmackDown match in 7 years, and the first Brie-Maryse bout in 8 years (I can’t remember their previous encounters, to be fair), but it was more an angle than a match. With Daniel Bryan and The Miz backing up their wives at ringside, Maryse repeatedly stalled before Miz proclaimed that neither Brie nor the city of Layafette deserved to see the match (classic) and the two began to leave. Brie managed to get Maryse in the ring and trap her in the Yes Lock, only for Miz to pull Brie out for the DQ. A brawl ensued which included Bryan accidentally tumbling into Brie, but the faces rallied and after Bryan struck Miz with Yes Kicks, Brie clocked him in the jaw, and the villains retreated. I’m looking forward to the mixed tag at HIAC now more than I was when it was first announced, though there’s no doubt that this PPV bout is only part of the journey in the Bryan-Miz war as opposed to being its final destination.

SmackDown was again a solid show; like last week, you wouldn’t have missed too much if you didn’t see it, but there was plenty to enjoy, and by keeping things simple, it’s much easier to sample than Raw is right now. Hell In A Cell could be crucial for the blue brand, given the likelihood of at least one major title change.