By David Dodgson @DodgeeWriter
Last week’s shows promised much – AJ Styles reviving the US Title Open Challenge, the return of Shelton Benjamin, Dolph Ziggler back on our screens, Lana trying to push Tamina up the card – but all eyes would be on Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon and the fallout from last week. Right at the top of the show, an intriguing main event of Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton teaming to face Jinder Mahal and Rusev was also announced. Who would deliver on their promise and who would miss the mark? Read on to find out!
Jinder Mahal Promo
But that would have to wait as The Singh Brothers kick off the show introducing the champ, Jinder Mahal. He discusses the evening’s main event, drawing a barrage of boos as he does so (say what you like about Jinder as champ and the standard ‘foreign heel’ gimmick but he does draw a lot of heat). He talks about the lack of respect he is afforded by the American fans and people in general. The Singhs interrupt to tearfully apologise for letting Nakamura get the better of Mahal last week (drawing ‘USA!’ chants every time they say ‘India’) before bizarrely offering to kiss Jinder’s feet. Just as they are about to pucker up, Shinsuke’s violin music hits to the usual sizeable pop. He and Jinder soon come to blows with The Singhs helping their boss get the upper hand. Randy Orton tries to make the save but is soon hit by a superkick from Rusev. Jinder then delivers The Khalas to Nakamura (such a weak looking finisher – surely there is a more impactful move for the champ to try) while Rusev just stands there. With the main event tag match between these four already announced at the top of the show, this segment felt unnecessary. There was also no mention of the fact that Mahal and Rusev teamed up briefly on Raw last year before coming to blows. That could have added intrigue to the encounter…
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin v. The Ascension
The debut for Smackdown’s newest tag team (needed when you consider how many team WWE has broken up recently). Gable starts off the match with his usual explosion of energy. There is a huge cheer when Benjamin gets tagged in for the first time. The babyfaces stay in control until Konnor pulls down the top rope to make Gable spill to the outside. The Ascension remain in control through the commercial break until Gable finally makes the hot tag. Benjamin then unloads on Viktor and Konnor with a combination of strength, high-flying and kicks. After Viktor breaks up a pin attempt, Gable returns to the ring and sends Viktor into Benjamin for Paydirt, face first into the canvas. Winners: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
US Title Open Challenge: AJ Styles (c) v. Tye Dillinger
Backstage, Baron Corbin made clear his intention to answer the open challenge but he is beaten it by Tye Dillinger with The Perfect 10’s music hitting first. Corbin soon appears and gets in Dillinger’s face on the ramp, attacking the challenger much to the ire of the crowd. Nevertheless, Dillinger recovers in time to knock Corbin off the apron, immediately demanding the match get underway. He has the early advantage punching Styles in the corner and drawing the ‘ten!’ chants from the audience. He then catches Styles as he goes for the Phenomenal Forearm and attempts the Tye Breaker. Styles, however, counters into the calf crusher and Dillinger taps out quickly. A furious Corbin then throws The Perfect Ten into the barricade before eating a forearm from AJ Styles, who stands tall with the fans chanting his name as Corbin throws a tantrum at ringside. Great to see the Open Challenge back and guys like Tye Dillinger are exactly those who should get a chance in the spotlight. A shame then that it was over so quickly. The Corbin storyline has potential though. Following his failed Money in the Bank Cash-in, it would make for an amusing story if he keeps missing out on the Open Challenge every week. Winner: AJ Styles (retains)
In the locker room, Jinder Mahal tries to get Rusev fired up by mentioning how their great nations will fight together. Rusev cuts him off to say this about revenge only. He then promises to come after Jinder’s title once they have won tonight’s match.
Bobby Roode v. Mike Kanellis
Bobby Roode is in action once again and judging by the huge cheers from the crowd and the choice of opponent, he is clearly being initially pushed as a babyface. There is not much to this match. Kanellis gets in a little bit of offence, and Roode draws a pair of huge ‘Glorious!’ chants from the crowd before landing the Glorious DDT to win. Winner: Bobby Roode
A number one contender’s match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton is announced for next week.
Kevin Owens Promo
Aiden English is in the ring ready to serenade the crowd but doesn’t get very far before Kevin Owens comes to the ring. Owens talks about English being too refined for the hillbilly crowd and orders him out of the ring. KO then recaps last week’s US title match and Shane’s involvement in the final call. He goes into a tirade against Shane O’Mac, drawing plenty of ‘what?’ shouts from the audience, and laments his departure from Raw, where Stephanie McMahon apparently does not abuse her power. Shane comes out to a positive reaction from the crowd and gives his side of events. He tells KO to drop it and get out the ring so the next match can begin.
Sami Zayn v. Aiden English
An irate Kevin Owens sits in on commentary for this one, continuing his rant against the perceived injustice he has faced. He does not sit still for long, getting up to grab the referee’s shirt and insert himself into the match. He then gets into an argument with Sami Zayn and hits him with a pop-up powerbomb. One fast count later and the match is over. Backstage, Shane declares the match result invalid before announcing his departure for the evening. No contest.
In an interview, Dolph Ziggler says the fans in Little Rock will get nothing from him this evening and his promised change will come next week. He then launches into a rant bordering on unstable about how other stars get attention, lambasting Elias and his guitar, Finn Balor’s body paint, and harking back to Stone Cold’s beer swigging heyday. He promises to show the WWE universe his plans to distract his fellow competitors next week.
The New Day v. The Usos (Winners pick stipulation for championship rematch)
This match goes straight into a picture-in-picture commercial break. We return to the full match as Kofi Kingston gets a hot tag into the ring. He fights off both Jimmy and Jey for a few moments as Big E eats a superkick. Kofi rolls up Jey but The Usos made a quick tag meaning Jimmy is legal. He then rolls up Kofi, grabs the tights and gets the three-count along with the right to name the stipulation for the tag team title rematch. Winners: The Usos
James Ellsworth hijacks the mic backstage to conduct his own interview with Carmella. She chastises him for giving away her plan to cash-in on Natalya after last week’s tag match before Natalya interrupts, promising to make Carmella the Baron Corbin of the women’s division, which gets a big ‘oooh’ from the crowd. Natalya then announces a match between the two of them for next week. Ellsworth says it’s a big mistake but Carmella stops him from adding anything else, simply repeating ‘big mistake’ before leaving. Naomi then comes in to announce she will have her rematch for the Women’s title in 2 weeks’ time before making a poor attempt at a cat’s meow.
Tamina (w/ Lana) v. Tina Stock
So, Lana’s big plan for Tamina is to go down the Braun Strowman/Nia Jax route with a series of jobber squashes… Chants of “let’s go jobber” soon rise up but are drowned out by Lana on the mic providing motivational coaching. Her cries of “Tamina, crush! Crush her!” accompany a superkick and a quick win. The match gets zero reaction from the crowd and the segment ends with Lana inviting photographers to snap shots of her fighter. Winner: Tamina
The Fashion Files Season 2 Premiere
After a whole week away, Breezango return with another 80s themed detective show spoof. The usual run of self-depreciating jokes and innuendo ensues before they are guided back to the ‘Two B’ clue from Season 1 (complete with plenty of B.B. initialled wrestlers and celebs on the pin board). Shakespeare, poetry, and art eventually lead them to their new number one suspect, Aiden English.
Main Event: Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton v. Jinder Mahal & Rusev
Orton and Nakamura go straight after their opponents taking the fight to the outside and lapping up the cheers of the crowd before going into commercials. Coming out of the break, Mahal has the advantage over Nakamura until Orton gets the hot tag. He proceeds to dominate Jinder until The Singhs cause a distraction and Rusev sends Orton into the ring post. Mahal and Rusev dominate for a few moments until Jinder crashes and burns in the corner and Nakamura tags back in. Nakamura and Rusev in the ring finally gives us a fresh pairing and Shinsuke is soon unloading kicks onto the Bulgarian Brute. Mahal breaks up an armbar attempt but Orton soon dispatches him. A knee strike and a Kinshasa later and the babyfaces win. They congratulate each other until Orton hits an RKO out of nowhere on Nakamura to send out a message ahead of their number one contender’s match next week. Winners: Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton
Not a great episode of Smackdown… Too many squash matches meant a night of predictable in-ring action. Even the Usos and The New Day was over in a matter of minutes, most of which was a commercial break. It was a shame to see the likes of Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn, and Rusev having to play the fall guys again as well. They are all in desperate need of momentum over the coming weeks. On the plus side, there was a small but significant increase in the tension between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon, which will only add to the drama when they finally come to blows. I also hope we get to see a run of Baron Corbin continuing to just miss out on the Open Challenge matches. Aiden English will also be a promising addition to the Fashion Files skits. Overall though, this was one of those episodes where you did not miss much if you couldn’t watch it. I just hope everything picks up pace as we move towards Hell in a Cell.