Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/06/06/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-06-05-2018/.)
After a productive and entertaining few episodes since Backlash was (thankfully) left in the rearview mirror, could SmackDown continue its momentum for the latest edition? Let’s find out!
Carmella opened with a promo, where she suggested that there was the old Asuka – the undefeated Empress Of Tomorrow – and the new Asuka, who has been beaten and is beatable. Of course, Asuka interrupted, but before she could say a word, we heard from Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. Carmella quickly tried to convince Asuka to face the both of them, though Paige came out to say that Asuka would have a match against one of the two ladies, with the choice being hers. Triggered by Carmella’s insults, Asuka decided that she would indeed face them both.
Asuka vs. Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose
This was a well-worked handicap match which, given the flow of the bout and the result, helped to rebuild Asuka’s aura after a challenging few weeks (Carmella was right in that regard). Besides a moment where a leapfrogging Asuka accidentally caught Sonya with a knee that momentarily appeared to daze her for real, Deville and Asuka seemed to have good chemistry, which bodes well for a potential future feud between the two. Asuka won by submitting Sonya with the Asuka Lock, but Carmella struck her with the SmackDown Women’s Championship afterwards. (By the way, what happened to The IIconics, who were pushed heavily for a few weeks but have since only appeared once in the last month?)
Backstage, The New Day persuaded The Miz to pick a name out of a hat to decide which of the trio would be in the men’s Money In The Bank Ladder match (Big E: “Pull our member … for Money In The Bank”). Blindfolding Miz, they swapped the hat for one containing pancake mix, much to Miz’ disdain. Big E’s reactions here were hilarious.
Harper vs. Karl Anderson
Harper dominated 95% of a relatively short hour, as Tom Phillips noted on commentary that Harper hadn’t lost a singles bout since his Bludgeons repackaging in November. What happened no more than ten seconds later? Yep, Karl rolled up Harper for the pinfall win. This gives Anderson and Gallows a boost for MITB, but it was a very forgettable match (in fact, I actually had forgotten about it until I began writing this review).
Jimmy Uso & Naomi vs. Aiden English & Lana
This mixed tag bout stemmed from last week’s dance-off between Naomi and Lana. This was your standard mixed bout, with some comedy thrown in for good measure. Naomi’s Uso-esque dive to the floor was the stand-out moment, and Naomi and Jimmy won pretty easily after a Naomi crossbody to Aiden was followed by an Uce superkick. Have you noticed how The Usos have slowly morphed back into their pre-2016 selves, a lack of facepaint aside?
WWE Championship Contract Signing
Backstage, Paige held the contract signing for AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura under Last Man Standing rules at Money In The Bank. Nakamura said his pen didn’t work, and when AJ gave him his pen (which Styles had just signed with), Nakamura humorously said that it was broke. The mind games once again ruffled AJ’s feathers, as he slapped Nakamura and stormed off. Shinsuke then produced his own pen and signed. This was kept short and, being backstage instead of in the ring, it stood out more than other recent contract signing segments. It’d be wise for WWE to hold these angles backstage in the future, since they achieved the segment’s goals with minimal fuss and in minimum time, whilst still managing to be entertaining.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch
This all-babyface clash began very cordially, with the two even manoeuvring slowly out of planned attacks at the same time. As the bout progressed, though, it became more competitive with each lady trying to capture momentum ahead of MITB. The big moves came in the form of a top rope legdrop by Lynch and a Spear by Charlotte. In the end, Charlotte went for her Figure-Eight, but Becky reversed it into the Dis-Arm-Her for the slightly surprising submission win. Becky has been promoted strongly in recent weeks; Charlotte’s recent setbacks were played up by the announcers, which could be designed to set up a triumphant “comeback” win for Flair on PPV.
Two backstage interviews were held with Samoa Joe (who looked to be taller than usual for reasons I can’t explain) and Sin Cara (who was confronted by Zelina Vega and attacked by Andrade “Cien” Almas ahead of their match next week). Sandwiched between those were a promo for Big Cass, conducted by Renee Young in the old Mean Gene position near the aisleway (which is something that I’d like to see more of). Cass’ promo was nothing special, with the crux being to hype up his rematch with Daniel Bryan at Money In The Bank by claiming that a good big man will always beat a good little man (even though Cass tapped out to Bryan at Backlash).
The New Day vs. The Miz, Samoa Joe & Rusev
This was essentially the same match as last week, except with Samoa Joe in place of Aiden English, and it started very similarly too with New Day isolating one of their opponents, in this case Miz. Samoa Joe tagging in surprisingly didn’t change the momentum immediately, but it did happen following a Miz distraction to Xavier Woods. The heels diminished throughout the commercial before Kofi Kingston tagged in and unleashed his usual high-octane offence. Further big spots followed, including Big E spearing Miz to the floor. New Day looked to finish Miz off with the Midnight Hour, but Joe clamped on the Coquita Clutch to Woods and Rusev dropped Kingston at ringside.
Instead of trying to pin Big E, though, Miz had his partners hold him up so that Miz could throw the plate of pancake at him. But distractions from ringside meant that by the time Miz made the throw, E had turned around, meaning that Joe and Rusev took the pancakes instead. Their response was to level Miz and walk out on him, allowing for New Day to hit the Midnight Hour for the win. As things stand, whichever New Day participant enters the big Ladder match next Sunday is currently being positioned as a strong favourite to take the briefcase on June 17.
This was a fun episode, though it wasn’t quite as good as recent editions. The build to Money In The Bank is getting a bit stale, meaning that the content of the show is becoming very repetitive (also, it’s odd how little we’ve seen of Jeff Hardy, the reigning United States Champion, in recent weeks). Still, I’m more interested in SmackDown than Raw right now, and the seeds are slowly being planted for the storylines that will be triggered or shortly after MITB.