It was another week where WWE Smackdown Live proved that a show built heavily around strong wrestling matches is more entertaining than a typical WWE broadcast. There were two matches advertised from a week ago, each of them got over 15 minutes and the other matches were entertaining too. There wasn’t a lot of talking or backstage segments either. It felt like a pure wrestling show more than anything, which is what I love to watch.

Here’s a look at the main event and John Cena avoiding a serious injury.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated John Cena to earn a WWE Title shot at SummerSlam

The advertised main event on Smackdown was Shinsuke Nakamura facing John Cena with the winner earning a WWE Title match against Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam. There were no promos from either guy to set up the match during the show. They got the main event slot while Mahal watched the match from a skybox with his buddies, the Singh Brothers.

The Nakamura vs. Cena match started at 9:44 p.m. ET and they went 14 minutes with a commercial break in the middle of it. This is the kind of match that I wanted to see on a pay-per-view where they got 25 minutes, but doing it on Smackdown was done to build up SummerSlam. I’m not going to complain about getting one of the best TV matches of the year, which this was.

There were some cool spots in the match with Cena hitting the Attitude Adjustment, he covered right away and Nakamura kicked out. Each guy also went for submission moves that nearly got the job done as well. Cena hit the AA again, but he didn’t cover. It was reminiscent to what he did to AJ Styles in the past where he had to hit the AA twice in a row to beat him. When Cena went for the second AA in a row, Nakamura countered it and hit a back suplex with Cena landing right on his head/neck. It looked nasty. More on that momentarily. Nakamura ended up hitting a Kinshasa knee strike. I thought Cena might kick out, but he didn’t and Nakamura won the match after 14 minutes.

Post-match, Cena and Nakamura shook hands. Cena raised his hands to put him over as the winner. Mahal looked on from the skybox and Nakamura challenging Mahal for the WWE Title at SummerSlam is official now.

Very good match with a hot crowd and a clean win by Nakamura over Cena. It also left me wanting more because I think if they do that 25-minute match at some point down the road, we could be talking about a match of the year contender.

After the match, on the start of WWE’s 205 Live broadcast on WWE Network, Baron Corbin showed up to attack Nakamura from behind to continue their rivalry. Cena ended up making the save for Nakamura and the fight ended with Cena putting Corbin through the announce table with the Attitude Adjustment. That should lead to Cena vs. Corbin at SummerSlam, although it’s not official yet.

My official prediction for SummerSlam is that Cena beats Corbin in their match. Later in the night, Nakamura will beat Mahal for the WWE Title and Corbin will cash in on Nakamura to become WWE Champion. That would set up Corbin vs. Nakamura as a WWE Title feud with Corbin vs. Cena as a future title feud as well.

John Cena’s strong neck saved him from a serious injury

A big story with the match was the nasty bump that Cena took on his head/neck. The good news is that Cena appears to be okay because he told Nakamura not to be sorry and Cena also participated in that post-match angle with Corbin.

Who is to blame? I think it’s easy to point to Nakamura because it was a tight suplex with not much give for Cena, who landed right on his head/neck in a way that makes people cringe. However, that’s a move that Nakamura has done many times over the course of his nearly 20-year career and most of the time the guy takes the bump on his stomach after flipping over to land face first. I don’t know if Cena was unable to do it because he may have been tired or it was just a slight error. I don’t think it’s right for people to say Nakamura is unsafe. He wrestles with an aggressive style and the reality of wrestling is that sometimes people get hurt.

Here’s that aforementioned scene where Nakamura said “I’m sorry” and Cena said “Don’t be sorry.” I think that was Cena’s way of telling him that it’s part of the business and that Cena was fine, so there was nothing to be upset about.

The important thing is that Cena appears to be fine, so I don’t think fans should worry about it. I’m just glad they didn’t set up the triple threat I thought they would do in my column on Monday. A clear winner was the right decision and it put Nakamura over in a big way.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

Here are the other matches from Tuesday night’s card.

AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens in controversial fashion to retain the United States Title

It was another good match between two of the best performers in WWE. Like their match at Battleground a few weeks ago, the finish was controversial with the referee playing a key role. The action was very good for about 15 minutes as they sent to the finish. They did a spot where Owens was attempting to punch Styles, who moved and Owens ended up punching referee Mike Chioda by accident. The punch barely grazed Chioda, who sold it by grabbing his eye.

After the ref was down, Styles ended up countering a Powerbomb attempt into a pinfall with Owens’ right shoulder clearly up, the ref was on the other side and never saw it. Styles won to retain the title. The announcers, especially John Bradshaw Layfield, jumped on the point immediately noting that the ref blew the call. Owens bitched about it immediately as well.

The story continued backstage with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan telling Chioda that he made a mistake. Chioda said he couldn’t see. Owens showed up angry, he grabbed Chioda by the shirt collar and shoved him down. Shane told him he can’t be doing stuff like that, so Owens said he wanted a good ref. Shane set up Styles vs. Owens at SummerSlam for the US Title and Bryan suggested that Shane as the ref for the match. Owens didn’t like that but Shane said if you want the title match, you have to agree to him as ref. Owens agreed and left angrily.

I think doing Styles vs. Owens again is almost like the Raw brand doing Miz vs. Ambrose too many times. The Styles/Owens matches are better, though. It’s just too much of the same match. What will most likely happen is Owens will lose again, blame Shane for the loss and that should set up a Shane vs. Owens match soon. The story of Owens complaining about Shane has been building, so a match between them make sense.

Aiden English defeated Sami Zayn

I’m torn on my feelings about this match because I have wanted to see English as a singles act for many years and I’m happy he got a clean win. I’m also happy English got to do his full song entrance for the match. However, English won in about two minutes after countering an armbar. It was such a basic looking move that beat Zayn easily, so it really hurts Zayn to have him lose in such a manner. It’s a reminder that you can’t push everybody at once and somebody has to do the jobs. English has two TV wins in a row after beating Dillinger at Battleground and this win too.

Post-match, Mike and Maria Kanellis appeared on the ramp to say they love each other and loved seeing Zayn lose. It was a quick way to get them on the show.

At the bottom of this post, I mention the 14 possible matches at SummerSlam. Zayn isn’t a part of any of them. That’s a shame and I hope that at some point, WWE will start using him better.

Naomi & Becky Lynch defeated Natalya & Carmella

They went about six minutes, so not too short and not too long. The heels tried to isolate Naomi with Natalya applying a Sharpshooter on her (teasing their SummerSlam match) with Naomi doing a good job of selling it as she crawled to the ropes. Carmella tagged, looking for her submission for the win, but Naomi managed to counter into a head/arm submission and Lynch took care of Natalya with a suplex while Carmella tapped out. It was a good way of putting over Naomi as a credible Smackdown Women’s Champion who can beat her opponents in a number of ways.

It was also announced that next week, there will be a Naomi vs. Carmella singles non-title match. Carmella has the Money in the Bank briefcase in her possession as well.

Rusev defeated Chad Gable by submission

What a fun match this was. I didn’t expect it this week, so when they met up I was intrigued by what they could do. There was a lot of cool mat wrestling because Gable was an Olympic wrestler and Rusev has a lot of wrestling training in his background. Gable used his quicks to get the advantage for most of the match. There was a great sequence where Gable even applied an Ankle Lock. Rusev sold it great as he nearly tapped out, but he managed to get to the ropes to break it. Rusev ended up hitting Gable with multiple superkicks and the last one he connected with looked great. Rusev applied the Accolade submission to win.

I thought Gable looked impressive. He continues to impress every time he’s in the ring whether it’s with Styles, Owens or Rusev. I don’t mind that he’s losing to those guys because the story is about him as a new singles wrestler trying to prove himself. If he keeps getting closer to wins, then it won’t feel like as much of an upset when he finally beats them.

After the match was over, Rusev mentioned how he wanted an opponent for SummerSlam. Randy Orton showed up, slowly walked down to the ring and challenged Rusev to a match at SummerSlam. Rusev said yes, so it’s official. Rusev went for a clothesline and Orton hit him with a RKO to end the segment. I hope Rusev wins the match and feud, but I don’t know if he’ll do that. It seems like this will be done to help rehab the Orton character after losing cheap three times to Jinder Mahal.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. The Usos bragged about their attack on The New Day

The Smackdown Tag Team Title story last week saw The Usos attack New Day from behind while they were making their entrance. The New Day wasn’t on Smackdown this week, so The Usos did a promo where they stole the opening promo that New Day usually does. The Usos bragged about how they took out New Day and ended it saying “Usos Rock” the way New Day said “New Day Rocks” in their promos.

2. The Fashion Files mystery continued with a “Fashion Peaks” segment

There was a Twin Peaks spoof segment featuring the Breezango duo of Tyler Breeze and Fandango. I never got into the original Twin Peaks or the reboot, so I didn’t get the references. Sorry to the fans of the show, but I don’t know if this was funny as a spoof. Anyway, Fandango was missing, Breeze was looking for him and Fandango was there with The Ascension while Breeze yelled about “no more metaphors.” It ended up being a dream with Breeze waking up to say he knows who kidnapped Fandango. A “To Be Continued” graphic ended the segment.

I hope there’s a payoff for these Breezango skits because it’s been going on for a couple of months now in terms of who mysteriously attacked them. The team barely wrestles on television, but they usually get time to do these two-minute skits, so that’s better than nothing. I find it mildly humorous most weeks. I wish it was funnier.

Looking Ahead to WWE SummerSlam

The next WWE pay-per-view is SummerSlam on August 20 in Brooklyn, New York. Here’s what we know so far.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

United States Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens (with Shane McMahon as the referee)

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Bayley

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi (c) vs. Natalya

Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Akira Tozawa – Tozawa beat Ariya Daivari on 205 Live Tuesday night to earn title shot

Other matches likely to take place at SummerSlam are:

– The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for the Intercontinental Championship

– Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

– Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Raw Tag Team Championships

– Big Cass vs. Big Show

– John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

– New Day vs. The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles

A three-way tag match featuring The Hardy Boyz, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson and The Revival is possible too.

That’s 14 matches assuming they go with all of those, which I think they will. It’s going to be a long night.

In Closing

It was an awesome Smackdown this week. One of the best episodes of the year. Maybe the best. Three excellent TV matches with a Nakamura/Cena main event that was very good and put over the right guy as the next contender to the WWE Title. I liked the Rusev/Gable match a lot because even though Gable lost, he looked like a rising star. Styles/Owens featured great in-ring action with a controversial finish that adds to the Owens/Shane story.

There really wasn’t anything on the show that I hated other than Sami Zayn losing in two minutes, but I did like seeing English go over.

That’s all for this week. Next week’s Smackdown has Naomi vs. Carmella advertised in a non-title match. I’m going to be at Raw and Smackdown next week in Toronto. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write about both at my usual time, so we’ll figure it out.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.