Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/06/13/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-06-12-2018/.)
It’s the final WWE show before Money In The Bank. And with Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin and an AJ Styles promo hosted by Jerry Lawler all announced in advance, it looked like being a fun Tuesday night.
Women’s Money In The Bank Summit
Paige hosted this segment, as she and the four SmackDown participants in the women’s Money In The Bank Ladder match – Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Naomi and Lana – discussed said match on Sunday; of course, all four vowed to win. They were rudely interrupted by The IIconics (they’re back!), who mocked everybody in the ring, and also Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, who came looking for a fight. The ladies in the ring complied, leading to a big brawl that was cut short by the camera panning to the announcers. Weird.
It was announced that we would get an eight-woman tag match later on, featuring all of those involved in the previous segment.
Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin
The two started off reversing submission attempts and strikes, before Shelton created an opportunity to generate momentum by kicking Bryan off the apron, striking Daniel’s left knee to do so, and then dropping him knee-first on the announcer’s table. Benjamin continued to work on Bryan’s left knee with a Half Boston Crab. Daniel hit back with Yes Kicks, but a high knee and a top rope suplex kept Shelton in control.
Bryan countered an attempted Paydirt into the Yes Lock, but Benj rolled out and smoothly transitioned back into the Half Boston Crab. Bryan managed to reverse this himself, though, and locked on a heel hook for the win by tap-out. Really good stuff here, featuring more psychology than we usually see on WWE television these days with the focus on Bryan’s left knee. The irony, of course, is that it is Big Cass’ left knee which Bryan has targeted ahead of their clash at Money In The Bank.
Backstage, Paige was approached by Asuka, who demanded Carmella before MITB. Paige couldn’t make that singles match, but she did add Carmella and Asuka to the big women’s tag. Paige also saw The Miz in a referee’s shirt supposedly preparing for a film award. Very odd, but it was a front to try and officiate Samoa Joe vs. Rusev. Paige eventually granted his wish in a roundabout way.
AJ Styles Promo
Hosting this interview was Jerry Lawler, a local hero of course given that this show was being held in Memphis. The segment also used the Mean Gene stand that we got for Big Cass’ promo last week, so it looks like that is making a (welcome) comeback for good. This was kept pretty short: in a nutshell, AJ unsurprisingly vowed to retain his WWE crown against Shinsuke Nakamura in their Last Man Standing match at Money In The Bank.
Samoa Joe vs. Rusev (Special Guest Referee: The Miz)
This was the second of three singles bouts on the show that were first-time pairings (SmackDown can’t be accused of recycling matches, on TV anyway). Joe (who had a new Mohican-style hairdo) scored some early momentum with an Elbow Suicida, and he maintained control after the break. Rusev fought back with high kicks and his spinning heel kick. Aiden English distracted Miz as Joe tried to kick in the Coquita Clitch, and was then accidentally caught with an errant Joe kick. This meant that Miz wouldn’t count Joe’s pinfall shortly afterwards, but he was happy to count after a Machka kick, giving Rusev a surprise win.
Afterwards, Rusev hit Joe with a ladder and set it up to climb, only for Miz to pull him off and ascend himself to unhook the men’s briefcase. Miz then got a surprise when he opened the MITB briefcase to discover that it was filled with pancakes; cue New Day laughing backstage at Miz’s expense. Looks like we’re finding out on Sunday which New Day member will actually be competing in the Ladder match.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This is the dream match that you never realised you needed to see until it was confirmed for this show. In what was Hardy’s first appearance on SmackDown for a few weeks, the early going saw Nakamura continuously play mind games with Jeff, even using the Hardy finger signs (do they have an official name?). But he paid for it each time with Hardy landing a receipt, including a running clothesline off the apron. Shinsuke rebounded during a(nother) break, but Hardy fought back with his usual signature moves. Nakamura was soon back on offence with a spinning kick, but Jeff hit back again with a Whisper In The Wind for two.
Nakamura knocked Jeff off the top by literally running at the ropes. Hardy avoided a Kinshasa with a Twist Of Fate and then hit a Swanton Bomb, but having taken sufficient punishment, he took too long to cover Shin, whose foot made the bottom rope. Jeff signalled did another Twist Of Fate, but Nakamura stopped it with a low blow. Shinsuke was disqualified but he didn’t care, drilling Jeff with a Kinshasa and counting him down for ten. Considering that Nakamura has his latest WWE Title shot on Sunday, Hardy was booked very strong here; are we getting a Jeff-Shinsuke feud for the United States Championship after MITB?
Backstage, we had promos from Carmella and Big Cass (not together; that might be awkward these days). Incidentally, it was announced online that Sin Cara was injured and couldn’t face Andrade “Cien” Almas, as promoted last week; there was no mention of this whatsoever during the show.
Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Lana & Asuka vs. Carmella, The IIconics, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
This was described as being the biggest women’s tag bout in SmackDown history as far as numbers go, which makes sense since the blue brand has very rarely had so many females to mix and match with. By the way, I guess we’re just meant to overlook Naomi and Lana teaming up with no issue whatsoever, given their recent scrapes.
Given how many participants there were here, and the frequent tags in and out to various partners, I’ll jump ahead to the final third of this contest. Charlotte made the hot tag and chopped everybody in sight, hitting a Spear on Peyton Royce. Huge knees to Charlotte by Rose and Deville were followed by Asuka tagging in, who went back and forth with Mandy before trapping her in the Asuka Lock. From there, everybody got involved in another huge brawl, as Charlotte hit a top rope moonsault onto The IIconics on the floor. Back in the ring, Asuka drilled Rose with a kick only to taste one by Carmella, but after avoiding a second kick, Asuka submitted Carmella to the Asuka Lock, claiming the victory for her team.
This episode of SmackDown flew by, which is a really good sign. Bryan-Shelton was excellent given its time, and Hardy-Nakamura was very good too. The show did a fine job of providing a last push for MITB (it was quietly mentioned that The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Gallows & Anderson will be on the Kick-Off Show), and the results tonight create a sense of unpredictability about the blue brand’s matches on Sunday. Another highly entertaining episode, then, as SmackDown continues to outshine Raw based on recent television output. Can it do the same when it comes to the big Ladder matches on June 17 in Chicago?