There wasn’t a huge deal of excitement around the WWE Universe heading into Stomping Grounds this past Sunday night, meaning it was one of the least-anticipated PPVs in some time. However, it exceeded all expectations, with a card rammed with rematches and bereft of decent build producing some top quality matches and a genuine feel-good moment in Becky Lynch making the save for real-life partner Seth Rollins.
Raw last night saw the return of The Undertaker, the Deadman saving Roman Reigns from a beating at the hands of Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon. With that in mind, would Smackdown produce the goods this week?
New Day Kicks off Smackdown
Before the Power of Positivity movement invaded the blue brand, it was announced by Shane McMahon that he and Drew McIntyre would be taking on the team of Roman Reigns and Undertaker at Extreme Rules next month. Whether or not Taker can bounce back from the shambles that was his match with Goldberg at Super Showdown is a question for another time, though he should be protected somewhat, with the Big Dog able to take most of the workload. What was also announced for the July PPV was Kofi defending his title against Samoa Joe, after the latter brutally attacked the champ on Raw last night. Kingston alluded to this as he addressed the WWE Universe, saying how his reign has produced some of the happiest moments of his life but also some of the most painful. Dolph Ziggler interrupted and bemoaned the fact that another challenger has leapfrogged him to get a crack at the gold. He announced that he would be facing Kingston later in the night and if he won, he would be inserted into the Extreme Rules bout in a Triple Threat.
This basically set up a match for later in the night, but a 2 out of 3 falls match between these two is no bad thing, with the match now carrying high stakes. Kingston, symptomatic of his championship tenure, was fantastic as the impassioned veteran who has paid his dues to be in such a lofty position. He has capitalised on the fairytale story he created at Wrestlemania and has really relished this opportunity in the spotlight. One would think he will dispatch of Ziggler later on in the show, with the biggest threat to his crown so far in Joe waiting on the horizon.
Big E and Xavier Woods vs. Daniel Bryan and Rowan
Bryan and Woods kicked off the match, the bearded one taking control early on, planting a kick on the latter’s face and tagging in the imposing Rowan. The Big Red punished Woods with a shoulder barge and a big elbow as him and Bryan isolated him from his New Day partner, with quick tags. Rowan sent Woods half way across the ring with a huge cross body, but was stunned as Woods somehow made the tag to E. E tossed Bryan round the ring, but missed with a big splash, Bryan countering into the LeBell Lock. Woods made the save, only to be dumped to the outside by Rowan. Back inside, the babyface duo set up Bryan for the Midnight Hour, pinning the tag team champion.
After the bell, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens attacked the victors, assisted by Rowan and Bryan. Heavy Machinery entered the fray, adding to the growing mass of humanity collected inside the ring. They cleared house, setting up an 8-man tag match.
New Day and Heavy Machinery vs. Owens & Zayn and Bryan & Rowan
The heels dominated much of the match, viciously taking turns at brutalising Tucker. Rowan looked particularly ruthless, impressing with a mammoth superplex off the top rope, before both members of the New Day made the save. Rowan took out his frustrations in Woods with a chokeslam, before Tucker summoned the energy from somewhere to turn Bryan inside out with a huge clothesline. Otis was tagged in and went on the rampage, taking out the entire heel team before slamming Zayn. An onlooking Owens got bored and bailed on his best friend, leaving him to take a Compactor, handing the win to Heavy Machinery and New Day.
Otis and Tucker, fresh off their mightily impressive showing on Sunday night, gained a ton of momentum here with the pin, seemingly putting themselves firmly at the front of the queue looking to take the titles off Bryan and Rowan. And they also look like they could spring a surprise and eventually capture the gold, given how good their run has been recently. The other notable takeaway comes in the shape of Owens leaving Zayn high and dry, with a future programme between the two looking likely. It is a tried and tested formula between the two on-off friends, having been done countless times before, in both NXT and on the main roster. However, they have always produced instant classics and it at least gives them something meaningful to do following months with a distinct lack of direction.
2 out of 3 Falls Match: The Miz vs. Elias
The Miz was given a future opportunity to finally settle his score with Shane McMahon, provided he can get past Elias tonight. Shane looked on from ringside as the A-Lister took the fight to the Drifter, immediately slamming him into the announcers table. Back inside the ring, Miz continued the dominance, until McMahon tugged on the leg from the outside, allowing Elias to hit a running knee and the Driftaway to go 1-0 up. Elias took control of the second fall, punishing Miz in the corner with kicks before flooring him with a clothesline. Miz fought back with a couple of running knees and a DDT for a two count. He glared at McMahon whilst executing a series of ‘Yes’ kicks. He was about to put away Elias with the Skull Crushing Finale, before McMahon broke the pin, beating on Miz and handing the A-Lister the second fall for 1-1. McMahon and Elias then beat Miz all round the ringside area, tossing him over the announce table and flinging him into the barricade. Back in the ring, McMahon aped Roman Reigns with a spear before the bell rang for the third fall. Elias hit the flying elbow to take the tie.
Elias notched aa rare win here, but the narrative was again about the Boss’ son, who compounded the Miz’ misery further with a Coast-to-Coast post-bell. It would make sense if Miz was paired with Roman Reigns in the Extreme Rules match against McMahon and McIntyre, but it looks like he is going to be denied his shot at redemption by a Deadman who is by far past his best.
Bayley vs. Nikki Cross
Cross has been a revelation in her role being used by master manipulator Alexa Bliss, and she promised to make up for her mistake at Stomping Grounds by earning her a rematch with the Hugger at Extreme Rules with a win. The Scot came out determined, immediately scoring a near-fall. Stunned, Bayley drove Cross to the mat with a neck breaker for a near fall of her own. Cross responded with a flying cross body off the top rope. She followed this with a running Bulldog, as the WWE Universe seemed to get behind her, placing Women’s champ Bayley as the de facto heel in this match. Bayley fought back with a big knee to the chin and a belly to belly, but missed with a splash off the top rope. Cross then countered a roll up and hooked the leg to score a surprise victory and hand her ‘mentor’ another title shot next month.
Cross is incredibly over and scored a major upset in beating Bayley. She has excelled in her current role, getting played by the vindictive Bliss. The WWE Universe, seeing this play out where Cross seems oblivious, are behind the former NXT star. It is heading towards a realisation from Cross, and the pay off when she clicks she has been used by Little Miss Bliss should provide one of the storylines of the summer.
Ember Moon vs. Sonya Deville
Moon’s frustration was evident in the early stages, after weeks of taunting at the hands of Deville and Mandy Rose. She tossed Deville into the barricade and back onto the apron. Rose distracted Moon, who responding by wildly swinging a kick at her. This allowed Deville to shove Moon face first into the ring post, and roll her up for the win.
The way this story was going a few weeks ago was that of Deville assisting Rose in her feud with Carmella. It seemed a one-sided friendship with hints that there may be resentment between the two over the dynamic of their friendship. Now that Rose is seemingly returning the favours for her pal, it appears that they are now more united than ever.
2 out of 3 Falls Match: Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler
With another shot at Kingston’s gold at Extreme Rules on the line, Ziggler took the fight to the champion, wanting to score a pin early. He hit a perfect drop-kick and then drove him head first to the mat. Ziggler, looking as athletic as he ever has, then leapt onto Kingston in the corner, flipping him to the centre of the ring. Kofi, though, in his own show of agility, landed on his feet and retaliated with a beautiful drop-kick of his own. The Showoff then looked to have scored the first fall with the help of the middle rope for leverage, but the referee spotted his indiscretion and stopped the count, allowing Kingston to capitalise and score the first pin. Incensed, Ziggler allowed no respite as he threw the New Day high-flyer into the barricade and struck with a Zig Zag onto the arena floor. Back in the ring, he evened the scores with a superkick. Into the third fall, Ziggler tried to continue the attack but a resilient Kingston fought back, until he fell victim to a neckbreaker. Heel Ziggler raked the eyes of Kingston across the ropes and slammed him into the corner. A flying elbow followed for a near-fall before putting paid to an attempted Kofi comeback with a stiff right hand a slingshot into the turnbuckle. The champ reversed and leapt backwards onto Ziggler, who himself responded with a massive DDT. Kingston summoned the strength to hit a clothesline and a double axe handle from the top rope, as he again showed his never-say-die attitude. At this point, the contest looked like it could go either way, with Dolph’s Famouser being countered by a Powerbomb from Kofi. A Zig Zag looked to have settled the tie and booked Ziggler’s ticket to Extreme Rules, but somehow Kingston kicked out. He evaded a Superkick and hit back with a Trouble in Paradise to take the last fall and win what was a breathtaking contest.
Kingston and Ziggler’s programme has produced decent matches at Super-Showdown and Stomping Grounds and they had another enjoyable, sprint of a match here. Kofi is playing the role of a battling champion who never gives up to perfection, and he has also reinvigorated a stale Dolph Ziggler. Kingston, thankfully, was not just given his fairytale moment but was trusted to have a run with the title, and he has aced it, making his tenure a resounding success. With Ziggler now out of the picture, though, Kofi now faces his sternest test, facing an unforgiving Samoa Joe next month. Expect the Samoan Submission Machine to make his presence felt over the coming weeks and put Kingston’s resiliency and determination fully to the test.