With Summerslam on the horizon, anticipation for the biggest show of the summer has been less sizzling, more lukewarm. Last week’s Raw Reunion was a nice departure, a slice of nostalgia, but the company has failed thus far to build on the excitement around that and get the WWE Universe fully invested in what is widely considered the second biggest PPV on the calendar. The blue brand had the opportunity to rectify this Tuesday night, as Smackdown rolled into Memphis, Tennessee.
Kevin Owens vs. Drew McIntyre
Shane McMahon announced at the top of the show that he would not be at Smackdown tonight because of Kevin Owens, and vowed to make the Prizefighter quit the company in a stipulation inserted into their match at Summerslam. Owens welcomed the news as he addressed the WWE Universe, stating how he was going to put an end to the Boss’ son’s reign of terror. McIntyre interrupted, challenging KO to a match. What followed was a brutal, hard-hitting affair, that wouldn’t be out of place on any PPV. Owens flew out the blocks, trying to ground McIntyre, until the big Scot turned him inside out with a shoulder barge and gained control. He hit a throwaway slam for the near-fall and then tried to wear down Owens as the crowd got behind the babyface. A couple of chops and brutal kicks followed as KO had no answer for the imposing McIntyre. Owens bought some time, though, as the Scottish Psychopath went shoulder first into the post, and then almost pinned Drew with a frog splash, followed by a senton from the top rope. A stunner was thwarted, though, with a Glasgow Kiss, as McIntyre set up for the Claymore Kick. This in turn was combatted by a couple of superkicks and, in a phenomenal show of strength from Owens, a pop-up powerbomb for the two count. McIntyre countered with a Samoan Drop from the ropes, before the action spilled outside. Owens somehow managed to hit a stunner on the announce table before hitting another one back in the ring to pin McIntyre clean in the centre of the ring.
This was a top-quality, hotly contested match, which the audience was fully behind. Owens was gutsy and resilient in the face of a relentless McIntyre, and is more over than he has been for months, as he thrives in his new babyface role. The only downside to the match was, though dominant at times, McIntyre added another defeat to the mini losing streak he is on at the moment, denting a little his credibility as one of the most fearful heels on the roster.
Ember Moon & Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
WWE dropped the ball on the Cross/Bliss dynamic when they failed to pull the trigger on a protracted face turn for Cross, after months of being manipulated by Little Miss Bliss. It looks like all is well for now, as the heels took on the team of Moon and Bayley, who will face off for the Smackdown Women’s title at Summerslam. Moon, riding a bit of a wave of momentum at the moment, took the fight to Bliss straight away and then proved that her and the Hugger are on the same page (for now) as they displayed some slick tag team work. An aggressive Cross quickly took control, though, trapping Bayley in the apron and tagging Bliss, who executed a drop kick on the champ. The two heels then double-teamed Bayley as they trapped her in the corner and unloaded a series of kicks. Bayley fought back and made the hot tag to Moon, who hit a beautiful Eclipse on Cross. Bliss, ever the opportunist, quickly blindsided Moon and threw her into a post, following up with a Twisted Bliss for the win. After the bell, Bayley helped Moon to her feet, but then turned on her temporary tag team partner with a Bayley to Belly to close the segment.
The two duos barely scratched the surface here in a match that was just beginning to pick up steam, and it was surprising that Moon and Bayley took the defeat so close to their match. Bayley turning on Moon at the end and paying her back for the attack she suffered the previous week showed an aggressive, more impulsive Hugger that should start to ramp up interest ahead of their Summerslam showdown.
King’s Court with Trish Stratus
Hall of Famer Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler brought back his popular King’s Court segment, a staple of the attitude era, though this PG-era version thankfully contained less of Lawler drooling over the talent and referencing puppies. He introduced Trish Stratus, and the conversation was kept polite and jovial, until Charlotte Flair interrupted proceedings. She goaded the 7-times Women’s champion, who finally agreed to a match at Summerslam.
Flair was fantastic as the disrespectful heel who is ignorant to the legends who had paved the way for her and the Women’s Revolution. Stratus has added some star power to a PPV currently lacking hype and Flair, one of the best workers in the business, will push hard to get a decent match out of the Hall of Famer. The match is a nice addition to the Summerslam card and may provide a real ‘passing of the torch’ moment.
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler
Balor dominated the early exchanges, flying around the squared circle, belying his recent injury woes. The wily Ziggler fought back and hit a Famouser for the two count. Balor kicked out and recovered with a Sling Blade and a Stomp as he looked to put the Showoff away. Another terrifying cameo from The Fiend Bray Wyatt, momentarily distracted and petrified Balor, allowing Ziggler to score the win with a superkick.
The match was really a footnote to the build towards Wyatt’s much anticipated debuting of the Fiend character at Summerslam. He has hands down been the most intriguing part of WWE programming for the past few months, and with Balor reportedly taking a small hiatus, the hope is for a comprehensive Wyatt win in two weeks time to kickstart a monster push for a character who has so often promised a lot, but delivered little.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Ali
The impressive Ali looked to avenge his loss to the Intercontinental Champion at the ludicrously named Smackville a few days ago, with a rematch. He looked determined from the off, showing his aerial prowess, stunning the Artist as he flew round the ring. Nakamura responded and gained a foothold in the match, brutally pummelling the popular Ali. He then attempted to put Ali away with a Kinshasa, but was shocked as the plucky babyface rolled him up for the surprise victory.
Ali is extremely talented and deserves to be back in the conversation over titles, after his unfortunate injury kept him out of the Elimination Chamber match earlier this year. And we all know what happened to his replacement. He looks to have booked a match with Nakamura, but expect a few more challengers to step up in the next week or so, maybe resulting in what could be a talented multi-man match over the gold at Summerslam.
Kofi Kingston w/The New Day vs. AJ Styles w/The Club
It is truly farcical that the brands are still split, with multiple superstars flitting between both shows on a weekly basis. But what it sometimes does throw up is potential five-star matches between the company’s top talent, as was the case here as US Champion AJ Styles took on WWE Champion Kofi Kingston, both with their respective stables ringside. The two champs traded blows early on as neither looked to give anything away to their opponent. Each hit impressive dropkicks, before the action spilled outside. Styles hit a knee to Kingston and rammed him over the timekeeper’s area as New Day and the Club sized each other up. Back in the ring, Styles kept Kingston grounded with some aggressive offence; a kick to the chest and vicious backbreaker for the two count. Kofi hit back with a DDT from the top rope as the WWE Universe rallied behind the popular babyface. Re-energised, he threw everything at Styles, before missing a bug splash in the corner. He recovered to slap on an SOS for the two-count, Gallows and Anderson interfering to make the save. As a brawl broke out ringside, Kingston seized the opportunity and scored the win with a Trouble in Paradise.
The two, unsurprisingly, produced a highly entertaining match, heightened by the growing dissention ringside. Once the two have defended their titles at Summerslam, revisiting this rivalry wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, and an eventual six-man face off between the two stables who dominate their brands could be a feud for the ages.
Roman Reigns announces his Summerslam opponent
The Big Dog is currently without a dancing partner for the biggest show of the summer and made his way to the speak Kayla Braxton to announce his Summerslam plans. Before we could find out who would be stepping into Reigns’ yard, a tower of backstage equipment was seemingly pushed on him. He escaped unscathed, looking perplexed as he walked back to the locker room.
Clunky camera work and cheesy acting aside, this was an intriguing segment, insomuch as it set up a ‘whodunnit’ narrative, the perpetrator being teased over the next couple of shows, before the Big Dog exacts his revenge at Summerslam.