Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/09/19/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-09-18-2018/.)
Hell In A Cell brought an end to one feud (Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy), progressed others (Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz, Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair) and remained lateral for another (AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe). This episode of SmackDown would be the next chapter in most of these rivalries, as well as providing us with an official celebration to mark Becky Lynch’s much-anticipated regaining of the SD Women’s Championship from Charlotte at HIAC.
Miz TV w/ A Surprise Guest
Miz TV kicked things off, with a surprise guest that Miz said he had to move heaven and earth to bring here … Maryse! (For those who aren’t keeping up with SD, this was not a surprise at all and another heat-seeking heel tactic by Miz.) With Miz having already officially confirmed a rematch with Daniel Bryan at Super Showdown, Maryse then revealed that this would be her last appearance on SmackDown for now. Agitated by the fans booing, Miz became more aggressive and called out Daniel Bryan for a scrap. Bryan obliged, and the two brawled, only for Bryan to be knocked into Maryse in the corner. For a moment, it was played up that a serious accident had happened, but then the It Couple revealed their ruse … which didn’t achieve much as Bryan then knocked Miz into Maryse again. Bryan noted afterwards that it was always going to be a set-up by the heels, and that he was looking forward to defeating Miz on October 6, and earning a WWE Title opportunity in the process.
Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro
After a humorous pre-match promo, which saw The New Day sporting attires inspired by the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin (since we are on the road to the Australia-based Super Showdown, after all), Kofi and Cesaro locked horns. It’s funny that SmackDown held two mini-tournaments to determine SmackDown Tag Team Title contenders at SummerSlam and Hell In A Cell, yet The Bar were simply given an opportunity for Super Showdown, just like that. At least Cesaro gave further credibility to his and Sheamus’ latest title shot by pinning Kofi in a fun encounter here. The highlight was Kofi’s delayed flip over the ropes onto The Swiss Superman.
Backstage, Rusev discussed the failed attempt to unseat New Day last Sunday with Aiden English and Lana, in particular noting that English let the team down that night (which is debatable). English was so angry that, when the Machka Couple left, he took his frustrations out on a stagehand by noting how Rusev was nothing without him and criticising both Rusev and his wife… only to learn that Lana was eavesdropping the conversation. She said that she would tell her hubby, but Aiden begged for forgiveness; an oblivious Rusev would simply note that any problems between the two would need to be remedied after his upcoming match with Shinsuke Nakamura.
Also, in the TV truck, the increasingly-evil Randy Orton forced a crew member to show him stills form his HIAC match against Jeff Hardy, in particular the moment where he stuck a screwdriver through Hardy’s ear piercing and twisted the lobe, in a gruesome moment that was shocking to see in this PG era. Orton noted that his next attack on a fan favourite would be even worse. Hmmm …
United States Championship Match
Shinsuke Nakamura (C) vs. Rusev
Before the match, Corey Graves noted that Rusev Day could be cancelled completely if he lost here, which made me laugh. It also made me smile that, in kayfabe, Paige had made this match because Nakamura was the only champion who didn’t defend his title at HIAC, only for Rusev – who challenged for a separate title that night – to earn the opportunity. This was a decent bout, but the story was Aiden English at ringside; desperate for Rusev not to know what he had said earlier, he cheered him on every step of the way, to the point where he inadvertently distracted him enough for Shinsuke to roll up Rusev for the win.
Lana tried to console Rusev afterwards, but then came the big moment as Aiden English attacked Rusev from out of nowhere with his microphone, pounding him on the canvas before throwing the mic down onto him. Aiden sarcastically said “Happy Rusev Day” as he left to a chorus of boos. Striking before Rusev could react to Aiden’s earlier comments, English’s assault here clearly brings an end to the Rusev Day tandem, with the Bulgarian in the babyface role. How will this affect Rusev’s popularity, and the popularity of the Rusev Day catch phrase now that English is no longer a part of the package?
AJ Styles vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Earlier on, in a backstage promo, AJ pointed out that he needed to focus on Almas rather than his ongoing rival Samoa Joe, otherwise he would lose this bout. I thought this was a nice touch, a simple way to get Almas over as a threat without dousing any of his heel heat. Andrade ensured that he would be booed further by attacking AJ before the bell, and nailing him with some brutal strikes throughout the match. But Styles fought back, and though this was possibly a shade below their previous SmackDown bout, this was still a thrilling encounter with a great ending: Andrade ran towards AJ only for Styles to duck below, grab the legs, lift Andrade up and drop him with the match-winning Styles Clash.
Post-match, Samoa Joe rained on AJ’s parade, in response to the controversial finish at Hell In A Cell (Joe trapped AJ in the Coquina Clutch, but AJ rolled back and managed to pin Joe; however, he tapped out right before the three-count, which the referee did not see at the time). Styles rallied and sent Joe fleeing into the crowd, holding court so to speak. It feels like the Styles-Joe feud has peaked from a story-telling standpoint (no mention of Styles’ family here, which has been the focus for several weeks), and given that Joe did not capture the big title last Sunday, I assume that another loss to Styles at Super Showdown will conclude their hostilities.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay
After last week’s terrible scripting of an Asuka-Naomi promo, the focus was thankfully on the wrestling this week, as Asuka faced Billie Kay. It should be no surprise that Kay submitted quickly to the Asuka Lock, and so she should; with respect to The IIconics, a win here for Kay would only have piled further problems on Asuka’s already-damaged aura. That being said, even given the Australian location, few could envisage Billie and Peyton Royce defeating Asuka and Naomi when they face off in a few weeks.
Becky Lynch’s Championship Coronation
This show-closing segment was more or less a way to continue getting over Becky Lynch’s new attitude, which if not for the continuous cheering by the fans would make Lynch a sure-fire heel. Here, she asked Charlotte Flair to come to the ring and admit Becky was better than her, before asking her to call her “Queen”. Charlotte wasn’t going to do that either, and she had also stated that there would be no physicality, either. That was until Becky called her a bitch, which set Flair off and the two began scrapping. But it ended with Becky in control, as she trapped Charlotte in the Dis-Arm-Her. The feud goes on, as does the mystery surrounding Becky’s tweener/heel character. Either way, Becky is back on top of SmackDown’s women’s division, which is more important than her alignment on the face/heel spectrum.
Moving on from Hell In A Cell, this was another consistent show, with AJ vs. Almas and the Aiden English heel turn being the standout moments. The splurge of major WWE shows has made it hard to keep track of everything on Raw, but on SmackDown, things move at a slower and much easier pace. Super Showdown may just be an extension of HIAC, but the seeds are being planted for what is to come (including what I expect to be The Miz gunning for AJ Styles’ WWE Championship). So, not an essential episode to watch, but this episode definitely has its moments that are worth checking out.