This week’s Smackdown felt like a bit of a letdown. If you read my reviews regularly, then you know that generally I’m a big fan of what the “blue brand” is doing. This week just felt off, though.

I can’t put my finger on it other than to say that the booking was too predictable, there really was only one match that I’d consider above average and none of the promos stood out either. It was an average show from the Smackdown team that usually produces more interesting broadcasts than what we got this week.

AJ Styles Celebrated His Recent US Title Win

AJ Styles beat Kevin Owens for the US Title at a live event at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday. It’s rare for a wrestler to win a match at a non-televised event in this era, but it used to happen all the time. The last time it happened on the main roster was a tag title change five years ago. If you want to see clips of the match, here are some highlights.

Styles said that he wasn’t going to call himself the Face of America like Kevin Owens. I think he said that because that’s an egotistical heel thing. Styles added when fans saw the US Title, he wanted them to know it represents the best and wanted to bring back the US Title Open Challenge. You may recall the US Title Open Challenge was a John Cena thing from two years ago when Cena issued an open challenge, random wrestlers answered and the matches were usually good.

John Cena’s music hit to answer the challenge as the announcers, especially John Bradshaw Layfield, got excited about the possibility of Cena vs. Styles since they had a match of the year contender at Royal Rumble earlier this year. Cena wondered if the Styles open challenge was open to everybody but him and Styles said it’s open to everybody, especially Cena. It looked like the match would begin, but Kevin Owens interrupted.

Owens ranted about how he should still be the US Champion and nobody wants to see Cena vs. Styles again, which drew a lot of boos. Cena fired back at him and even busted out his “you can’t see me” line to pop the crowd. This crowd was really pro-Cena with not a lot of booing him at all.

While Cena was getting fired up, Rusev attacked him from behind. Styles sent Rusev out of the ring, which allowed Owens to capitalize with a Popup Powerbomb on Styles. When Cena got back in the ring, Rusev crushed him with a superkick. Rusev put Cena in the Accolade submission to set up the obvious tag match.

Do you think WWE ever gets tired of using the opening segment to make a tag match? It’s been going on for well over a decade as a regular segment to start the show. It’s lame how repetitive they are. Maybe lame isn’t the right word. Lazy is a better word.

AJ Styles and John Cena defeated Kevin Owens and Rusev

This was the most obvious and predictable tag team match result of the year. There was no way WWE was going to have Styles and Cena lose as a team in their first match together. The heel duo of Owens and Rusev isolated Cena for the first half of the match, then they worked on Styles and Cena got the hot tag to end up getting the win for his team. It was a fine match that went about 13 minutes.

After the match, Styles and Cena celebrated the victory in the ring together. The fans loved it. That’s how the show went off the air.

It was fine for being a TV match, but there was nothing special about it. A problem with Smackdown of late is they haven’t really done any big angles or storylines. The in-ring action is a big focus, which is great, but they need to do more to get viewers more interested in the product. I don’t have much excitement for Cena vs. Rusev at all. Styles vs. Owens is always a great match, so that’s a good thing.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

Here are the other three matches from Tuesday night’s show.

Jinder Mahal defeated Tye Dillinger

The match wasn’t for Mahal’s WWE Title. Dillinger got in a bit of offense, but not that much. I don’t think anybody watching this thought that Dillinger was going to get the win. It’s one of those things where you can be happy that he appeared on television because he has been left off a lot. However, if this is all they are going to do with him, then I’d rather not see him on there. Mahal won clean without any help from the Singh Brothers, which is rare for him.

Post-match, Mahal did his usual promo to get heat. Mahal added that he’s bringing the Punjabi Prison to Smackdown next week to help promote the Punjabi Prison match he’s having with Randy Orton at Battleground.

There was no Randy Orton on the show this week because he’s filming a movie. He should be back next week.

Xavier Woods defeated Jey Uso

This match felt really rushed. They got about three minutes to work with once Jimmy Uso along with Kofi Kingston and Big E were all ejected from ringside. Woods made the comeback to win the match with an elbow off the top rope after he walked across the ropes a bit. It was just a win for a New Day member over one of The Usos, trying to add to their story for the tag titles. It felt pretty flat, though.

Tamina & Natalya defeated Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch

Prior to this match, there was a backstage segment where these four women, plus Lana and Naomi, were talking to Smackdown commissioner Shane McMahon. Shane announced there would be a Fatal 5-Way elimination match at Battleground between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina and Lana. The winner of that match gets to face Naomi for the SD Women’s Title at SummerSlam on Aug. 20. After the five girls left, Carmella, aka “Miss Money in the Bank,” tried to get Shane to lift James Ellsworth’s suspension, but Shane said no and ripped up a document from her lawyer.

The tag match was fine. It followed the usual tag formula. In this case, it was the heel team focusing on Lynch for the majority of the match, Charlotte got the hot tag, cleaned house and was looking great when Lana made her presence felt at ringside. Lana distracted Charlotte, which led to Tamina tagging herself in the match. The key thing is the ref saw it, but Charlotte didn’t. When Charlotte turned around to go after Natalya (who she thought was legal), Tamina went in the ring and nailed Charlotte with a superkick to give her team the win after 10 minutes.

I thought it was a clever finish. Using the third person outside the ring was obvious, but the way they did it really worked. You don’t always see a blind tag like that where the face wrestler has no idea the heels made a tag. They executed it perfectly.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. Nakamura vs. Corbin never got started

It was supposed to be Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin at the start of the second hour, but the match never got started. After Nakamura made his entrance, he went after Corbin during his entrance as payback for Corbin attacking him several times in the past. They brawled all around the ringside area and even went into the crowd a bit. They were separated by referees and agents from the back. When they got back near the ring, Nakamura went in the ring and Corbin left to put an end to it.

I’m sure some fans in the arena were disappointed that the match didn’t happen. The good news for them is WWE did Nakamura over Corbin as the dark match after the show to send the fans home happy.

Later in the night, Nakamura vs. Corbin was added to Battleground on July 23. That should be an interesting match in terms of the booking. Corbin may win because he’s currently Mr. Money in the Bank, but Nakamura is undefeated in singles matches on the main roster. I would lean towards a Nakamura win because if he beats Corbin, then they can do the match again down the road if Corbin is the WWE Champion. I think playing up Nakamura as being undefeated in singles matches is what they should do for many more months.

2. Mike and Maria Kanellis taught Sami Zayn that love hurts

There was a backstage scene with Maria Kanellis looking for Sami Zayn. She went to the men’s locker room, knocked on the door and Chad Gable told her “Sami Wow Wow” (Gable said that’s what they call him) wasn’t there.

After a commercial, Zayn was there with Maria and husband Mike Kanellis. Maria wanted an apology for Sami interrupting their “Power of Love” the past few weeks. Zayn said he already apologized enough, so he’s not going to do more. Sami questions what Mike was even doing there anyway, so Maria slapped Sami and Mike crushed a flower vase on Sami’s head. With Zayn down selling the pain, Maria told Sami that sometimes love hurts.

This should lead to Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis at Battleground in what would be Mike’s first televised match in WWE. It’s not official yet, but I expect it to happen. I also think Kanellis would get the win, thanks to Maria getting involved. Debuting a new guy and having him lose isn’t a good idea.

3. The Fashion Files were silly as usual while teasing Hype Bros problems

There was another Fashion Files segment that was ridiculous with Breezango using a “Walker Texas Ranger” theme since the show was in San Antonio. Tyler Breeze ended up tying himself up in a lasso while trying to catch Zack Ryder. Funniest line was Ryder asking Breeze if he wore a bra when he dressed like a woman undercover and Tyler responded with, “Of course! I’m not a hippie!” It made me chuckle.

Anyway, Mojo Rawley ended up in the scene too, so Zack asked him why he tossed him from the battle royal the previous week. Mojo said they already talked about it and then he left. I think it’s a way to slow burn the split of the Hype Bros, which is fine with me. No need to rush it. Who’s going heel? I think Zack is the better choice, but could be Mojo.

There was also some toy horse thing that got stolen, so that’s the mystery that the Fashion Police have to solve for next week.

Looking Ahead to WWE Battleground

The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Battleground on July 23 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton

Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev

United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles

Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day

It’s not official yet, but Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis is very likely as well.  

In Closing

Smackdown was a bit of a letdown this week. Like I said in the open, it just lacked the spark that it usually has. I think it was hurt by having two long tag matches. When you only have two matches going over 10 minutes and both of them are using the same tag formula, it just feels repetitive. Hard to get into a show like that sometimes. I like the Battleground lineup, so I’m not down on the Smackdown brand too much. It just felt like a down week, that’s all. Then again, I consumed a PPV on Sunday, Raw on Monday and then this show. It’s a lot of WWE action in three straight days. Even us hardcore fans will feel burned out by it.

That’s all for this week. There’s nothing special announced for Smackdown next week while Raw has Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns and the reveal of the Kurt Angle mystery storyline.

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.