Wrestling Review: WWE SmackDown, July 16 2019

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Two nights removed from a solid and at times spectacular Extreme Rules, SmackDown rolled into Worcester as the fallout from the PPV continued. Shane O’Mac would surely be licking his wounds after a humbling at the hands of the Deadman and the Big Dog, and he promised to address that tonight at the top of the show. Also, feuds would be looking to get settled and programmes getting conceived as the blue brand started its build towards Summerslam. Here’s what happened.

Smackdown ‘Town Hall’ with Shane McMahon

The wrestling fraternity have been sick of having Shane McMahon shoved down their throats in the past few months and have been vocal with this displeasure. Aside from taking up way too much TV time across both brands, he has played the entitled heel to perfection and at Extreme Rules put on a good showing, taking his usual bumps and selling like a champ to Taker and Reigns as he finally got his comeuppance.

The arrogant McMahon kicked off SmackDown by inviting the roster out on to the ramp so he could invite grievances and address frustrations at his prominent position on both Monday and Tuesday nights. He milked his ‘Best in the World’ moniker and told of how Kevin Owens would not be in attendance for the forum. Roman Reigns was first to step up to the mic, the Big Dog saying nobody respected McMahon. Charlotte tried to curry favour with the billionaire, comparing his family lineage to her own, and Liv Morgan responded by calling Flair a phony. It was nice to see Buddy Murphy getting some screen time, as he called out Kevin Owens, and another lesser-seen superstar, Apollo Crews, bemoaned his lack of action, Andrade offering a solution to that by setting up a match for later in the night. Cesaro then used the summit to request a rematch with Aleister Black. Kevin Owens then appeared and planted a stunner on McMahon.

Though billed as a space to respectfully air differences, it instead became a slightly different way to trod out the same tired opening segment formula for setting up matches later in the night. It was nice to see KO continue his anti-hero persona by evading security and delivering a stunner to Shane, though it was slightly botched. Expect the intensity to crank up ahead of a protracted McMahon/Owens grudge match at SummerSlam.

Cesaro vs. Aleister Black

It was great to see that these two would be going at it once again after their top quality outing at Extreme Rules seemed to end definitively and point towards a new feud for Black. The Dutchman took control early as the Swiss Cyborg sought solace outside the ring. Cesaro fought back and managed to get a foothold in the match, slowing down Black. A leg sweep and moonsault, though, put Black back in the ascendency. Cesaro responded with a couple of trademark uppercuts and a big boot for a near fall, before throwing himself shoulder first into the post, allowing Black to execute a brutal Black Mass for the victory.

This didn’t have time to develop into the stellar contest they had at Extreme Rules, but the two have got undeniable chemistry. Gaining a 2-0 over the Swiss Superman means that Black will now move on to other things, seemingly destined for a shot at some sort of gold in the not too distant future. What next for Cesaro is less clear, which is frustrating given his immense talent.

Charlotte Flair vs. Liv Morgan

After their verbal exchanges earlier, the under-utilised got to showcase her talents against 8-time champion Flair. Morgan looked too quick for the Queen in the early stages, catching her napping with a dropkick and a step-up insiguri. Flair caught Morgan with a powerbomb, though, and transitioned into a Figure Eight for the victory.

Afterwards, a deflated Morgan grabbed a mic and said Flair was right about her being fake and promised to put that right when she ‘comes back’. This hints at a change in gimmick for the underused Morgan. A refreshed and repackaged Morgan could be a shot in the arm for a character who has been toiling, and could eventually put the rest of the women in the division on notice.

Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose vs. Ember Moon & Bayley

Rose and Deville immediately took out Moon, isolating the women’s champ, who had been announced as Moon’s surprise partner. The Hugger was beat down as the heels cut the ring in half. She fought back, though, and made the hot tag. Moon exploded into the match and hit Rose with the Eclipse to score the win for the popular babyfaces. After the match, Bayley announced that she would be facing Moon at SummerSlam for the title.

The match was nothing, really, as it didn’t have time to be. Moon seemingly put her prolonged feud with Rose and Deville to bed in a matter of minutes and put herself back in the title picture. The babyface vs. babyface match at Summerslam could be fun, and it is no more than the talents of Moon deserve. However, one of them needs to show an edgier side and ramp up the intensity in the coming weeks if the WWE Universe is to invest in their bout at the party of the summer. Here’s hoping The Hugger can channel her lesser-seen aggressive side in the build-up.

The New Day vs. Samoa Joe, Elias & Randy Orton

The three heels all coveted Kofi Kingston’s title and demanded a crack at the gold from the top of the ramp. Elias suggested the three challenge the New Day to a six-man tag match in what was a long, drawn out segment, though it promised to pit six top workers together for an impromptu match.

Elias and Kingston started, the Drifter taking an early advantage with some shoulder barges, and tagging in Joe, looking to mete out revenge for his defeat at Extreme Rules. He allowed Kofi to fight back, tagging in Big E and Woods for some slick teamwork. Woods took down Elias with a clothesline until Orton intervened, pulling back the hair of Woods to hand the advantage back to the heels, Elias grinding one half of the tag team champions to the mat. The superplex from the top rope was blocked, though, as Woods sent Elias flying with a dropkick, allowing him to tag Kingston, who subsequently took out the opposition, before focusing on Orton, setting him for the Trouble in Paradise, but being thwarted, the ref losing control as all six men brawled in the squared circle. Back in the ring, Orton pinned an unsuspecting Kingston with an RKO out of nowhere.

The match was decent for what it was, but its primary purpose was to set up Kingston’s next challenger, in the shape of the evergreen Orton, who can always be trusted to step up to this spot. He has a storied history with Kingston, and the two know each other inside out. The narrative over the coming weeks will focus on how impactful Orton’s RKO is, and how a dangerous and sadistic Viper will push the New Day member to the limit in his latest title defence.

Women’s Tag Team Title Match: The IIconics vs. The Kabuki Warriors

The women’s tag titles have been such an afterthought that The IIconics memorable moment capturing the straps back at WrestleMania seems a distant memory. The WWE attempted to give the titles some relevance with a title match on Tuesday’s show. As Asuka and Kairi Sane were dominating the match, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay got themselves counted out to retain the titles. After the bell, Asuka and Sane laid out the champs to stand tall.

The hope is that these two tandems can put on a decent showing at Summerslam, with the result being a decent, meaningful run with the titles for The Kabuki Warriors, which has unfortunately not been afforded to the IIconics.

Apollo Crews vs. Andrade

Crews was attacked before the bell by a ruthless Andrade, who continued his vicious beatdown of the high-flyer as the match started. A back elbow and a running double knees looked to have put away Apollo, but the resourceful Crews countered with a roll-up for the surprise win.

Though it is nice to see Crews pick up some momentum with a win over such a talent in Andrade, they need a space and more time to develop what could be a show-stealer between the two.

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler

Ziggler escaped the ring straight away as Owens attempted a stunner from the bell. The Prizefighter tossed over the top rope onto the Showoff to a huge pop from the crowd. Back in the ring KO tried a splash but Ziggler got the knees up and countered with a Famouser for the two count. A couple of big elbows followed as Dolph started to control the match. He scored another near-fall after a splash in the corner and a huge DDT. Owens hit back with a superkick and a senton off the top for a two-count, as Shane O’Mac and a posse of heels made their way down the ramp to distract him. They surrounded the ring as Ziggler capitalised with a Zig-Zag for a two count, and then pounded Owens with right hands, shoving him into the ring post. He looked to compound the beating with a superkick, but Owens somehow managed to counter with a stunner. Just as the ref was slapping the mat for the third time, McMahon pulled him out of the ring, eating a stunner himself for his troubles. Owens legged it out of the arena to escape the heels as McMahon promised to make him pay.

Owens is relishing the role at the moment and the payoff should be worth it if he is finally the one who gives Shane an extended break from television. WWE need to be more creative in the coming weeks, though, as continuing to use Ziggler as a pawn in the feud and merely just throwing the stunner on Shane every episode will soon become tiresome.