The main event of this week’s edition of WWE Smackdown Live was a first time ever match between WWE Champion Jinder Mahal and John Cena. The reason WWE did that match is because Cena’s going to move to the Raw brand after SummerSlam, so this was their last chance to do that match unless they shake things up again.
What I found to be a bit silly was how many times WWE’s announcers talked about how big the Cena/Mahal match was. They called it “arguably the greatest match in Smackdown history.” I thought that was a laughable claim when WWE is trying to portray Mahal as a big deal just because he’s been WWE Champion for three months. There isn’t anybody watching at home who thinks this was the greatest or biggest match in Smackdown history when guys like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and so many others had big matches on the show too.
Cena vs. Nakamura two weeks ago was a huge match that was a legit dream match. Cena vs. Mahal is not even close to that level. I just want WWE’s product to be better and they need to stop saying ludicrous things like that.
Shinsuke Nakamura confronted Jinder Mahal
Mahal started Smackdown with the same promo he does all the time about being the WWE Champion. It was also India’s Independence Day, so Mahal had dancers with him and a woman sang the anthem. The crowd hated all of it because it was right out of the “Foreign Heel 101” playbook. Shinsuke Nakamura showed up to say it’s India Independence Day, but it’s also a day in Japan where they celebrate people who fought in wars and Sunday is SummerSlam, which is the day that Mahal loses the title to Nakamura. That was it, as Nakamura left.
I thought they could have used a brawl or at least some physical action there. Look at how well Raw ended as they promoted the Universal Title match with four big names to end the show. This felt lame in comparison to that.
John Cena beat Jinder Mahal by disqualification
The Cena match with Mahal only went about 10 minutes. There weren’t any believable near-fall spots for Mahal, even though he controlled most of the match. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment at one point and covered for a two-count. A lot of wrestlers have kicked out of the AA in the last decade, so I’m not surprised that Mahal would do it since he’s the WWE Champion. Cena realized he needed to do more and went up for the Super AA off the top rope. Cena connected with it, covered Mahal and Baron Corbin showed up to cause the disqualification. That means Mahal lost clean to Randy Orton last week and lost by disqualification to Cena this week.
Corbin hit Cena in the head with the Money in the Bank briefcase to knock him down. Corbin was about to leave until he realized Mahal was down in the ring. That led to Corbin going in the ring to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Jinder Mahal defeated Baron Corbin to retain the WWE Title
The referee Mike Chioda allowed Mahal to get up against the turnbuckle. The bell rang, Cena was on the apron, Corbin punched him down and Mahal did the dreaded schoolboy rollup and won the match in five seconds. The crowd reacted to it in a big way and Corbin was mad about the loss.
If you watched the show, you may have noticed a woman in the crowd giving the middle finger to Cena while Cena was laughing at Corbin’s loss. Here’s a GIF of that.
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) August 16, 2017
Cena noticed the one-finger salute as well and tried to turn the visual into a positive message because that’s what Cena does.
— John Cena (@JohnCena) August 16, 2017
Corbin ended the night by freaking out at ringside about the loss as replays aired showing what happened.
I’ll begin the analysis by saying I didn’t expect that to happen on this show. If they did something like that at SummerSlam, I would have said it was more likely. It was weird to do it on the last Smackdown before SummerSlam. I can only assume they did it this way because a lot of people, like myself, predicted that Corbin was going to cash in after the WWE Title match at SummerSlam and now that can’t happen.
The immediate question is this: Has WWE lost faith in Corbin? I don’t know for sure. Just because 15 of the previous 17 Money in the Bank winners left with a major title after a cash-in doesn’t mean that everybody has to. This could be the start of a long-term storyline for Corbin where he is mocked for his MITB failure, which leads to him becoming more of a vicious heel who raises his game and becomes a better wrestler because of it. On the other hand, maybe WWE’s bosses felt like he wasn’t the right guy at the right time.
— WWE (@WWE) August 16, 2017
I feel like Corbin is eventually going to be a main eventer, but WWE made the choice to hold off on it. I don’t know if he’ll be able to recover from it because a guy like Damien Sandow failed to recover after he failed in his cash-in attempt in 2013. Everybody’s different and I still feel like WWE’s creative team is going to get behind him whether that’s later this year, next year or the year after that. When you’re 6-foot-6 like Corbin, you’re always going to get a chance.
I want Shinsuke Nakamura to win the WWE Title at SummerSlam. Nakamura has been undefeated in singles matches since his Smackdown debut in April and I don’t think his first loss should come to Jinder Mahal of all people. There’s obviously the scenario where Nakamura could win the match by disqualification so that he keeps his streak alive and Mahal keeps the title, leading to another title match at another time. I just feel like Mahal represents a stale period for Smackdown and moving the title onto Nakamura would be a better move.
Put the WWE Title on Nakamura at SummerSlam, have AJ Styles win the Royal Rumble and set up Nakamura vs. Styles at WrestleMania. It’s not that hard, right? Just do it, WWE.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
It was not a strong show in terms of matches. Here’s a look at what happened in the ring other than the main event.
Natalya defeated Becky Lynch
It was a clean win for the heel Natalya, who challenges Naomi for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. The right person went over because it’s important to build up challengers ahead of title matches. They got about eight minutes with a commercial, which is fine, but they’ve also had better matches in the past. Natalya used the Sharpshooter submission to win.
Post-match, Natalya tried to attack Becky and Naomi (who was on commentary) made the save. Carmella did a promo reminding them she is Miss Money in the Bank and could cash in the contract at SummerSlam to win the title.
Rusev vs. Chad Gable ended in a double countout and Randy Orton hit a RKO on Rusev
They had a good match a few weeks ago, so I was looking forward to it. Gable got in a suplex, but Rusev took control as they spilled out to the floor. Rusev tossed Gable over the announce table onto the chairs at ringside. The match ended in a double countout after just over one minute of action, so it was incredibly rushed. Post-match, Rusev put his Accolade submission on Gable on the announce table as if it’s supposed to hurt more that way.
Rusev went in the ring, said “Randy” on the microphone and was dropped by Randy Orton with a RKO out of nowhere. Crowd loved it. That was filmed in a way where the camera was zoomed in on Rusev, so we couldn’t see Orton sneak in to attack. It was revenge from Orton for Rusev’s surprise attack to end last week’s Smackdown.
The Usos defeated The New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods
There was a backstage segment with The Usos asking GM Daniel Bryan which New Day members are wrestling on Sunday. Bryan told them it would be Big E and Woods, so Usos wanted to face Kingston and Woods. Bryan said sure and put his palm on the Usos’ fists when they wanted a fist bump, which drew some laughs. They fly Bryan in for Smackdown to film a one-minute skit. I like Bryan, but they don’t need two face authority figures on the show.
Kingston and Woods were on fire early. The match went to break, The Usos were in control and ended up hitting a double superkick to win. They went about eight minutes with a commercial in there, so it wasn’t that long. Here’s hoping they get 15 minutes at SummerSlam and that it’s a much better match. That will be their third straight PPV. This felt like just a warmup for SummerSlam.
Earlier, I said it was good to build up title contenders like Natalya. The Usos are also challengers to the titles, but I don’t like having champions lose non-title to build them. Isn’t there another tag team that The Usos can beat? I hate non-title losses right before a PPV.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. AJ Styles had a talk with Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens that became physical
AJ Styles brought out Smackdown’s Commissioner Shane McMahon to apologize for the errant kick that he hit him with when Owens moved out of the way. Shane told him he didn’t need to apologize because it was in the heat of the moment. Shane added that if Styles hits him at SummerSlam then Shane will put his hands on him.
Owens interrupted the chat to suck up to Shane and to try to shake his hand. Shane told Owens to shake Styles’ hand, which led to some shoving between them. Styles punched Owens in the face. When Styles went to punch Owens again, Owens ducked and Styles nearly punched Shane as Shane caught his hand. Owens tried a superkick to the back of Styles, but Styles moved and Owens knocked down Shane with it. That means Owens did to Shane what Styles did last week, so it was even.
I would have preferred seeing Styles or Owens in a match to give one of them some momentum. The focus on this story seems to be on Shane too much. The title should be more important than the referee, but it’s not a surprise since he’s a McMahon. As much as I like Styles and Owens, I’m ready for both to move on. Sunday’s match will likely be their last for a while as Styles retains and Owens will blame Shane for it to set up their obvious big match down the road.
2. “Fashion Peaks” let us know when Breezango will return
This was promoted as the final “Fashion Peaks” segment. It was the usual comedy with a cameo from The Ascension, who had some pie that had hair, a band-aid and gluten in it. Fandango found something in the pie that said “Two B” on it. I’m not sure what it means or if it means anything at all. It seems like they went away from the story of who attacked after the Arn Anderson comedy cameo last week.
My favorite part was this line by Breeze because it’s always good to laugh at yourselves and how stupid you can be at times.
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) August 16, 2017
Anyway, the final graphic said that Breezango “will return in 25 years” and then it said they “will return in two weeks.” It’s been a long time since they have been in the ring on TV, so it will be good to see them in action again.
3. Lana told Tamina she’s going to help her crush the competition
There was a backstage segment where Tamina complained to Lana about how she doesn’t have a title match. How is Lana supposed to know? It led to Lana telling Tamina she’s going to help her get noticed more and that Tamina is going to “crush” people with Lana’s help. This continued the story these women have been doing where they have worked together for a few months. Doing some changes with Tamina will help her, but her acting is terrible and the matches are just average.
Looking Ahead to WWE SummerSlam
— WWE SummerSlam (@SummerSlam) August 16, 2017
The next WWE pay-per-view is SummerSlam this Sunday, August 20 in Brooklyn, New York. Here are the 12 announced matches.
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns
WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (Shane McMahon is the referee)
Raw Tag Team Championships: Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins
“The Demon” Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
Big Show vs. Big Cass (Enzo Amore is in a shark cage above the ring)
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The New Day vs. The Usos
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya
Cruiserweight Championship: Akira Tozawa vs. Neville
I assume that at least two or three of those matches will get bumped to the Kickoff Show, but as of this writing, nothing has been announced yet.
I thought it was below average this week. The matches really didn’t stand out much at all. Every Smackdown-related SummerSlam match was featured in some way at least, so they tried to further all of the stories. I think the US Title storyline was advanced the best, while some of the others didn’t do much in terms of getting me more excited.
It was a great Smackdown two weeks ago, thanks to great matches all night and I thought last week was a downer, which my pal Ian reviewed. This week continued the downward trend in terms of show quality. Frankly, I think Raw has better matches at SummerSlam, but I hope Smackdown can regain its form soon because I miss when it was a better show.
I’ll be back on Friday with an in-depth preview of SummerSlam.