Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/06/20/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-06-19-2018/.)
Coming off a memorable Money In The Bank PPV, the hype for this show occurred on social media with the announcement of several eye-catching matches, including the SmackDown debut of Sanity against The Usos and a five-man gauntlet match to determine AJ Styles’ next challenger for the WWE Championship.
Paige opened the show by essentially going over the night’s card, though she did mention that Daniel Bryan defeated Big Cass at MITB, a slight surprise since Cass had unexpectedly been fired, for real, earlier today (exactly one year after Cass and Enzo Amore split on television, ironically).
Carmella opened by wanting to be honest with the fans. This sounded similar to Alexa Bliss’ previous sarcastically-frank promos, and so it proved, as Carmella began to brag about her latest big-match victory over Asuka. The Empress Of Tomorrow then came out, only it wasn’t Asuka; for the second time in 48 hours, it was the returning James Ellsworth dressed as Asuka. Claiming that “no-one is ready for Ellsworth”, James reeled off the names of those females who Carmella is supposedly better than, which randomly included Mother Teresa. The real Asuka then came out and attacked Ellsworth, only to taste another superkick by Carmella.
Becky Lynch vs. Billie Kay
Beforehand, The IIconics mocked Becky Lynch for her failure to win the Money In The Bank Ladder match; as any heels would be inclined to do, neither Billie Kay nor Peyton Royce happened to mention that they weren’t even in the MITB bout. As for this particular bout, it was a good effort by both: Becky charged at Billie from the opening bell, and Kay needed a distraction by Royce to gain an advantage by driving Lynch into the post. But Becky fought back, taking out Royce at ringside and soon locking Billie in the Disarmer for the win. Given the recent focus being given to Becky again, I’m predicting that we see Becky Lynch face the SmackDown Women’s Champion – whomever that may be – at SummerSlam.
Backstage, we had two very different promos: Jeff Hardy explained his issues with Shinsuke Nakamura stemming from last week’s clash with The King Of Strong Style (reintroducing his facepaint-adorned look in the process), and Daniel Bryan vowed to win the gauntlet match by beating three good wrestlers … and The Miz. Ouch.
The Usos vs. Sanity
We were meant to get the main roster debut of Sanity next against The Usos. But after Jimmy and Jey slightly bent kayfabe by discussing how they tried to get noticed upon their own WWE arrival, the scheduled match instead gave way to a beatdown, as Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe totally pummelled the brothers Uce. Presumably, this is only the first step of an intriguing feud between two very different tandems.
Shinsuke Nakamura responded to Jeff Hardy’s threat from earlier by asking: “Who?” This followed Nakamura blaming the referee for his defeat to AJ Styles at Money In The Bank for counting him down too quickly, and for not counting in Japanese as an added insult. Pretty funny.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Bludgeon Brothers (C) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
This was a direct rematch from the Money In The Bank Kick-Off Show last Sunday, despite The Bludgeons convincingly winning on that occasion. Beginning during the commercial break, this match followed a very similar path to their PPV battle: Harper and Rowan isolated Luke Gallows while nailing Karl Anderson at ringside, leading to Anderson making the hot tag and the big comeback, only for the full nelson powerbomb to polish Karl off and retain the titles for The Bludgeons. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but there appeared to be occasional tension teased between the champions here; it was subtle enough that it may have been accidental, but if it wasn’t, surely it’s too soon to engineer a split for a team who were only repackaged last autumn?
As The Bludgeon Brothers left the ringside area, Daniel Bryan came down to kick off the big gauntlet match, pausing momentarily to the staring eyes of Harper and Rowan. More on this shortly.
Gauntlet Match To Determine The #1 Contender To The WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan vs. Big E vs. Samoa Joe vs. The Miz vs. Rusev
The gauntlet officially began with Daniel Bryan vs. Big E. The all-babyface opening salvo to the main event started slowly, with Bryan’s surfboard dragon sleeper being an early highlight, but the action and the physicality of it soon increased. Big E looked strong in a rare chance for him to shine in a singles capacity opposite a top babyface, and his charging spear through the ropes looked like a car accident, such was the speed and the ferocity. But Bryan recovered from this to hit a running knee to eliminate Big E via pinfall.
Samoa Joe was next to enter the gauntlet, and the brutality of the match increased via the sheer explosiveness of Joe’s offence. Bryan’s chest was almost instantly marked up from Joe’s chops, and though he dished out hard strokes of his own, Bryan took a lot of punishment from Joe, in particular a turning powerslam which almost dropped Daniel on the back of his head (a cringeworthy sight at any time, but especially here given the recipient’s past injury problems). In the end, Joe caught Bryan with a Coquita Clutch at ringside, but Daniel rolled out and made it into the ring, causing Joe to be counted out.
Before the next stage, Harper and Rowan unexpectedly showed up and levelled Bryan with their full nelson powerbomb. Who should show up next, then, but The Miz, who sped down the aisle to pin Bryan with an immediate Skull-Crushing Finale. The tease for the big Daniel-Miz feud continued; Miz threw Bryan out to ringside for good measure.
With only Rusev remaining, Miz seemed to fancy his chances of easily pulling off the win. But the honorary of Rusev Day proved a formidable challenge, reversing Miz’s corner clothesline into a uranage. Miz did slow Rusev down eventually, but the Bulgarian Brute would make a comeback with several high kicks. A low DDT got a close two-count for Miz, who then prepared to mock Daniel Bryan further by attempting a running knee. However, Rusev blocked it with a Machka Kick and the Accolade for the submission win! Rusev has a WWE Title match with AJ Styles at Extreme Rules, on Rusev Day no less! Post-match, Rusev shook hands with AJ Styles, but when Aiden English rejected one for himself, AJ drilled him with a punch.
This week’s SmackDown started slightly slow, but it ended up being a highly eventful show, with a great gauntlet main event. We’re a step closer to Miz vs. Bryan, Sanity are here, Asuka vs. Carmella is continuing, Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura are heading for a feud, and Rusev has the biggest match of his career at Extreme Rules. All in all, I’d say that it was a successful episode, wouldn’t you?