This week’s edition of WWE Smackdown was a lot better than Sunday’s Battleground show was. I made it very clear in my Battleground review that a lot of booking decisions hurt the show and the match quality was poor for what we usually get from the Smackdown brand.

The good news is that Smackdown delivered a very good show on Tuesday night that was easy to watch from start to finish and ended with an excellent main event.

Before I start, thanks to my friend Ian Casselberry for covering for me for Raw this week because I was out of town and couldn’t get it finished in time. He did a great job with it and can join my entourage any day!

Chris Jericho returned to set up a triple threat United States Title match

Kevin Owens started Smackdown with a celebration for winning back the US Title at Battleground after a surprising pin. Speaking about that title change, there were reports that said Vince McMahon made the decision to change the title at the last minute and may have happened during Battleground. I don’t know why they did it but after seeing how Smackdown was booked this week, it did make more sense because it set up a big match for this show and the night ended with Owens losing the title again.

Owens said he would have the US Title Open Challenge next week because he wasn’t going to wrestle in front of the hick fans of Richmond, Virginia. AJ Styles showed up to say that he wants his US Title rematch. Owens, who was in a suit, said he’s not defending the title against him or anybody.

That’s when we got a surprise as Chris Jericho’s music hit. Jericho, the former best friend of Owens and the former US Champion, entered to a thunderous ovation. It was a nice surprise. Jericho said he never got his shot at the US Title after Owens injured him (in the storyline) a few months ago, so he wants his title shot. Jericho ended up putting Styles on “The List of Jericho” while Owens left and Shane McMahon interrupted that.

Shane said that Styles deserved a rematch as the former champion and Jericho never got his rematch because Owens took it, so they’re going to do it later on Smackdown. The crowd loved it, while Owens was furious about it.

The Jericho return was not advertised or expected, but obviously most WWE fans are going to be happy about it. Jericho was taken out on a stretcher after Kevin Owens attacked him on the May 2 edition of Smackdown. The main reason was because Jericho did work with his band Fozzy, including live shows and finishing a new album. Jericho is 46 years old, which makes him one of the oldest guys in WWE, yet he still works at a high level and is one of the best performers in WWE. I missed him and am glad he’s back.

Later on Smackdown, Owens had a backstage segment with Shane where he complained about Shane making the match and they had a staredown. I think there was a reason why Shane made the match, rather than Daniel Bryan. I’ll get to that shortly.

AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho to win back the United States Title

This was a great match that was given about 15 minutes. Big-name wrestlers like these three know how to wrestle the triple threat format perfectly. Two guys in the ring for most of it, have the third guy break up the pin and set up some cool spots. Speaking of cool spots, there was a sequence where Styles hit a forearm on Owens, Jericho nailed Styles with an enziguri kick, Owens connected with a superkick on Jericho and Styles hit a Pele Kick on Owens. All three guys were out on the mat after that with the crowd cheering because of how cool it was.

The finishing sequence was well done. Styles went for a springboard move, Jericho hit a dropkick to knock him down and Owens hit Jericho with a Popup Powerbomb for a two-count. That was a great near-fall. Owens went up top, hit a Frog Splash on Jericho and went to cover. Styles sent Owens out of the ring, stole the pin and covered Jericho to win back the US Title. I would have liked to see Styles hit one of his moves to win, but this was cool because usually it’s a heel stealing a pin to win, not a face. Nice twist to end it.

Styles winning the title back from Owens is similar to what Owens and Jericho did with the US Title in early May. Owens lost the title to Jericho at Backlash and won it back two days later. Is it a good thing for WWE to repeat the same story two months later? Not really, but doing a title change on television makes it seem like a big deal. Owens didn’t need to win back the title on Sunday. However, I think it was done with the Jericho angle in mind to have the two faces claim they deserved a title shot against the heel Owens. Story-wise it makes a lot of sense.

Short title reigns are not something I’m a huge fan of, but if it fits the story, then that’s okay. It’s different from last year when Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair changed the title nearly every month just to keep having rematches because WWE didn’t want to book other women in title matches.

What happens now? I think Styles will face off with John Cena or Shinsuke Nakamura at SummerSlam, depending on how their match goes next week. It could also be Baron Corbin as a challenger for Styles’ US Title. Perhaps WWE could go with a face challenger like Sami Zayn or even Chad Gable to try to elevate one of them by having competitive matches with Styles.

It felt as though Owens started a new feud with Shane McMahon that could lead to a SummerSlam match between them. I can see WWE wanting to put Shane in a match at SummerSlam because he wrestled at WrestleMania and Survivor Series as well.

I’m not sure who Jericho will feud with. Jericho will likely stay in the face role because he is so well-liked with the catchphrases that the fans love. Jericho vs. Owens on PPV again is fine, but I think Owens vs. Shane is more likely for SummerSlam.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

Here are the other three matches that took place Tuesday night.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Baron Corbin

This was better than their Battleground match. Nakamura got to show more with a lot of different kicks as he worked over Corbin in impressive fashion. Corbin got a near-fall with the Deep Six slam that he does all the time, but I felt like Nakamura was going to win clean and that’s what happened.  It went about 10 minutes with Nakamura winning clean with his Kinshasa knee strike.

The problem with Battleground is that it should have been a clean win by Nakamura. The low blow by Corbin was a poor ending to what could have been a much better match. Essentially, they used a PPV match to build to a TV rematch. It should be the other way around with the PPV match coming across as the more special match.

Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch defeated Tamina & Lana

Easy win for Charlotte and Becky. The heels worked over Becky for a couple of minutes, Charlotte got the hot tag, took care of both heels and pinned Lana after a boot to the face. I’m not surprised by the result because Lana is not at the level of the other girls, so it makes sense for Charlotte to beat her easily. I find it hard to believe that Charlotte isn’t in a more featured role on Smackdown right now.

Post-match, Tamina yelled at Lana and made angry faces at her while Lana looked afraid of her. The announcers speculated on their alliance. I think the story is that Tamina is trying to toughen her up, which will eventually happen and Lana will attack Tamina to turn Lana face. That’s what makes sense to me anyway. It might take a few more weeks, but I think that’s where it is headed.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Lana was ranting about “pathetic villagers” ripping her, so I told her this is how I dance to her theme song in my village. Still waiting on a reply.

Love you, Borat.

Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English & Mike Kanellis (w/Maria)

Zayn beat Kanellis at Battleground while English beat Dillinger, so this was a good way to involve all four of them with about five minutes of TV time. Zayn was worked over to start, Dillinger tagged in, cleaned house and Zayn got the pinfall win on Kanellis after the Helluva Kick.

The pairing of Zayn and Dillinger is interesting. Two Canadian guys with a lot of experience that the crowd really likes. I assume this was a one-time thing, but if WWE chose to team them up more often that would be a good idea. They know how to build a great match and the crowd would be into their tag matches a lot. It’s unlikely that they would be a full-time team because Smackdown needs them as singles wrestlers, but I really think they would do well as a team.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. John Cena confronted WWE Champion Jinder Mahal leading to big match next week

Jinder Mahal started hour two with the WWE Title bragging about beating Randy Orton in the Punjabi Prison match at Battleground. No sign of The Great Khali with Mahal because I think he was just used for the Battleground match. It’s not like Khali is making a full return. He’s old and can’t move well. Also, no Singh Brothers because they were selling the attack from Orton at Battleground. Mahal wanted to know who he will face at SummerSlam.

John Cena interrupted Mahal, which was predictable. Cena gave credit to Mahal for finding ways to defend his title, even though it was underhanded. Cena said he was going to become “Super Cena” going after his 17th WWE Title (that would be the record, since he’s tied with Ric Flair for 16 World Titles) and it seemed like the match was on for SummerSlam until it was interrupted.

Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s GM and the brother-in-law of Cena, appeared on the stage. Bryan said Cena had to earn the title shot by facing Shinsuke Nakamura next week on Smackdown. The crowd loved that idea. Bryan added that the winner of that match will face Jinder Mahal for the WWE Title at SummerSlam. Cena seemed to be fine with it while Nakamura did a quick promo later in the night saying he’ll win.

I’m surprised Cena vs. Nakamura is happening for the first time on television rather than a big PPV match. I think it’s a money match for WWE, yet here they are doing it on Smackdown next week. Believe me, it’s not a complaint. I’m just saying that building it up for a PPV match after a month or two of build would make it seem more special. Trust me, I’ll be very happy to watch it next week. Right now, I’m leaning towards a Cena win although the way WWE books things these days, maybe it ends in a draw somehow leading to a triple threat at SummerSlam.

2. The Usos attacked The New Day from behind

This was simple. The New Day were going to enter for a segment. Big E did the usual microphone work from backstage when suddenly it stopped. The Usos were shown on the ramp beating up Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston. The idea was that Big E was attacked first and then The Usos went after the smaller guys. When Big E tried to come back, The Usos decked him with a double superkick.

They only used about two minutes of time to set up this angle, which is an effective way of using time. It’s just a way to further the feud leading to Usos getting their Smackdown Tag Team Title rematch against New Day at SummerSlam.

3. Natalya told Naomi she wants to restore credibility to the Smackdown Women’s Title

Naomi was interviewed backstage about Natalya refusing her handshake at Battleground. Natalya showed up to rip on Naomi for ruining the Smackdown Women’s Title by putting glow lights on it. Natalya wanted to restore class and credibility to the title. It makes sense from her perspective. They will need to build up this match more in the next month.

After Natalya left, Carmella showed up to remind Naomi that she is holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. I think it’s very possible that Naomi retains at SummerSlam and Carmella cashes in the contract to win the title after the match. Having Natalya win and Carmella cash in after is fine too, but both are heels. It makes more sense to have Carmella do it against the face Naomi.

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 vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya

There will be more matches added to the card over the next month.

In Closing

Great show. The best edition of Smackdown Live in several months, thanks to one of the best TV matches of the year from Styles, Owens and Jericho. I liked Nakamura vs. Corbin a lot as well. The other matches were simple, but they were effective in terms of elevating faces. The non-wrestling segments all made sense and built to more action down the road.

Smackdown got back on the right track this week, so hopefully they can keep the momentum going towards SummerSlam.

That’s all for this week. Next week’s Smackdown has the first ever John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match and AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens in a rematch for the US Title is likely as well.

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.