This week’s Smackdown was the last show before Sunday’s Battleground pay-per-view event. Unlike on Raw, there wasn’t a big mystery angle to keep viewers interested and the main event of this show was just a tag match, rather than a singles match with a lot on the line.
There also wasn’t a theme of the show where the opening segment led to a match later in the night. Instead, they had three segments meant to build the top four matches at Battleground. Here’s a look at those segments.
Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal talked about their Punjabi Prison match
The show opened with Jinder Mahal in the ring with the Singh Brothers standing inside the massive Punjabi Prison structure. There’s a 16-foot inner structure that surrounds the ring that has doors on it. Once the wrestlers get out of that, they must climb up a 20-foot-high outer structure and then climb down it to win the match like a cage match. Climbing out of the prison is the only way to win. Mahal’s promo was the same generic promo he always does, leading to the crowd chanting “USA” at him while he ends his promo speaking in Punjabi to get more heat.
Randy Orton showed up in his ring gear to slowly deliver a promo about how he has nothing to lose since Jinder stole his title and the Singh Brothers went after his family. Orton wondered what Jinder was thinking picking a Punjabi Prison match since it meant the Singh Brothers can’t help him win like they’ve done in the past. Orton climbed up the outer structure, sat on top of it and said this is what it will look like before he drops down to become the WWE Champion again. Orton’s music played to end it.
It was done to show the fans what the Punjabi Prison looks like. It’s been 10 years since they did the match, so a lot of fans have no idea what it looked like. At least providing a visual of the structure could help fans become more interested in it. I’m not thrilled about the match because it isn’t that exciting. They needed to brawl or do something entertaining. All we got here were a lot of words and angry faces.
John Cena did a promo about America and was predictably attacked by Rusev
At the top of hour two, John Cena entered the ring for a promo talking about the Battleground pay-per-view. He mentioned a bunch of the other matches and then focused on his Flag Match against Rusev. It ended up turning into one of those “America is the greatest” type promos. The only thing I got from it is that Cena could be a good politician one day because he knows how to play to a crowd and to pause at the right time so they can chant “USA” right on cue.
If you didn’t see the Rusev post-speech attack coming from a mile away, then you must be a new WWE fan. It was very predictable. Cheap attack by Rusev to knock Cena down from behind just as Cena was about to grab the US flag. Rusev applied the Accolade submission, Cena did a great job of trying to fight it, but couldn’t do it and ultimately Rusev made him pass out while in the submission hold. Rusev grabbed the Bulgarian flag, waved it in the ring and planted it on the stage. That’s how you win the Flag Match on Sunday, so it was a preview of that. If Cena doesn’t win at Battleground, I’ll be very surprised.
Man down Flag down NATION FINISHED. #WWEBattleground
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) July 19, 2017
The problem with this feud is that I don’t think most people watching could even point out Bulgaria on a map, nor can they tell you anything about Bulgaria except that Rusev is from there. The same Rusev who was once billed as a Russian supporter because Russia is a much bigger country. Keep in mind Rusev is so anti-American that he married an American woman who plays a Russian (Lana) on the WWE-produced reality show Total Divas. What a jerk! Anyway, at least this feud might be over on Sunday.
Does WWE’s “Creative Team” realize how uncreative they are right now with Rusev and Jinder Mahal as evil foreigners feuding with Vince McMahon’s golden boys John Cena and Randy Orton? It’s not that interesting. It’s also not Hulk Hogan vs. The Iron Sheik from over 30 years ago.
Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin defeated AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura
They only got 10 minutes, which is a shame because it’s the kind of tag match that should have gone five or 10 minutes longer. Corbin and Owens attacked Nakamura from behind before the match, but Styles saved his partner and the match began shortly after.
There were plenty of tags on both sides with Styles eventually getting the hot tag. It looked like Styles was going to finish off Corbin, but Owens did a blind tag without Styles seeing. Owens went into the ring, hit a superkick on Styles and a Popup Powerbomb to give Owens the victory for his team. There was no time for replays, so the show ended there.
What I immediately noticed about that finish is that they did something very similar last week. There was a women’s tag where Charlotte was distracted by Lana on the apron, Natalya tagged in Tamina without Charlotte seeing it and Tamina hit a superkick on Charlotte to pin her. This was almost the same thing except no distraction on the apron. I’m not a fan of repeating finishes one week apart. That’s not very creative at all.
A #PopUpPowerbomb seals the deal as @FightOwensFight pins the #USChampion @AJStylesOrg on the last #SDLive before #WWEBattleground!!! pic.twitter.com/g2yaxkeD1D
— WWE (@WWE) July 19, 2017
The win by Owens gives him momentum ahead of his US Title match against Styles. I doubt he wins the title back so soon after Styles won it over a week ago.
Also of note, there was a backstage segment with Nakamura going up to Styles and telling him at some point he might come after the US Title. I wonder if WWE goes with Styles vs. Nakamura at SummerSlam. I’d rather see them save that until WrestleMania, but I won’t complain about ever seeing that match. I’ve seen them wrestle in Japan and it was great. Looking forward to it in a WWE ring whenever it happens.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
Here are the other matches from Tuesday’s show.
Jimmy Uso defeated Kofi Kingston
The tag team feud continued with Jimmy facing Kofi in a competitive match that the crowd was into. There were some cool offensive moves by Kingston that led to him nearly winning the match. I thought there would be some blatant interference by Jey, but there wasn’t much of that. When Jey tried to interfere, Big E and Xavier Woods chased him outside the ring. Kofi went up top, hit a cross body block into a pin, but Jimmy rolled through and managed to cover Kofi to win the match clean. No tights grab or anything like that. It was a clean win.
I’m leaning towards picking New Day to win the titles at Battleground. The Usos have done a good job as champions, but there’s not a lot of depth there (especially with American Alpha split up) and doing a title change would allow them to continue the feud. I could change my mind on that pick, of course.
Mike Kanellis defeated Sami Zayn
I thought this would happen at Battleground. Nope. They opted for Smackdown, but it still might happen at Battleground too. Quick match with Zayn on offense for most of it. Zayn went for his finish, Maria Kanellis walked into the ring to protect her husband. The ref got involved, escorted her out, Mike hit a cheap punch to the face and a Samoan Driver for the cheap heel win.
Zayn is booked like an idiot again. It’s been one year since the WWE Draft last July and I think it’s fair to say that Zayn is one of the most poorly booked performers on either show. He should be and could be doing so much more, yet here he is stuck in the midcard without much changing even though he has some of the best matches in the company.
Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair
This was set up after a backstage segment where five women were bickering and Natalya suggested Charlotte vs. Becky in a match between friends. Shane McMahon said that’s a great idea, so the match took place in the second hour. Natalya was on commentary for the match with some funny lines.
They worked an even match where each woman came close to winning a few times. Charlotte wasn’t able to apply her Figure Eight submission finisher. Lynch kept going for her Disarmer (or Dis-harm-her) armbar submission, Charlotte fought out of it as best she could, but Lynch synched it in and Charlotte tapped out after about 10 minutes. It was a competitive match between two good workers who know each other very well.
Post-match, Natalya went in the ring for an attack. Tamina and Lana joined her. Those three heels knocked the faces out of the ring. Natalya went after Tamina, Lana pulled Natalya off and Tamina hit Natalya with a superkick. The story is Tamina and Lana are allies, so one of them might win the 5-Way Elimination match because of how well they work together.
I’m not sure who my pick is for the 5-Way Women’s Elimination Match on Sunday. Right now, I’m leaning towards Tamina or Charlotte Flair. I’ll dive into it more in the preview on Friday.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. Chad Gable discussed the story about Jason Jordan being Kurt Angle’s son
There was a two-minute interview with Chad Gable conducted by Renee Young in which he talked about his former tag team partner Jason Jordan. Chad’s first reaction to the news that Jordan is the son of Kurt Angle was simply to say: “What?” Chad mentioned that Jordan didn’t tell him anything about it and he found out with everybody when he saw it on Raw.
Chad noted that Jason called him after Raw, they talked and he understood what Jason was going through. He then spoke about how much they accomplished as a tag team, but now Jordan is on Raw and he’s on Smackdown, so he had to focus on what’s next. Renee asked him what plans he had and Chad said he didn’t want to share anything except that it will be a good chance for people to see him on his own.
I’m interested to see how Gable does on his own, just like Jordan on Raw. Gable was featured in singles matches in the last couple of months. He impressed in those matches against Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. If he gets a chance, he’ll do really well. My concern is he’s a shorter guy, so it might be tough for him to move up the card quickly. This is the same company that doesn’t know how to book Sami Zayn well, so it’s hard for me to be too optimistic about a guy that’s even smaller than him.
2. The Fashion Files mystery will lead to a surprise at Battleground
There was another Fashion Files comedy segment with Tyler Breeze (in a red wig) and Fandango. It was an X-Files theme this week. They had some decent jokes there, but nothing really stood out. At the end of a promo, they received a package that had the stuffed horse head on it. There was a note that said “Battleground” which means they will meet their attackers (from over a month ago) at Battleground.
I’m not sure who it might be, other than perhaps a NXT team like Sanity being called up to the main roster. Perhaps it will be Erick Rowan and Luke Harper as a fake tag team again. I’m not sure, so we’ll find out together at Battleground on Sunday. Thrilling? Not really.
Looking Ahead to WWE Battleground
Will @FightOwensFight reclaim the #USTitle THIS SUNDAY at #WWEBattleground? He'll have to go through @AJStylesOrg FIRST! #SDLive pic.twitter.com/3J4P0axEVM
— WWE (@WWE) July 19, 2017
The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Battleground this Sunday, 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
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Match) – It was added on Tuesday.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis isn’t official, but I expect it to happen.
It was an average show for the second week in a row. There’s no question that Smackdown has lost some momentum after the “Superstar Shake-up” which happened after WrestleMania earlier this year. Everything on this show was done to provide a final build to the Battleground card, which was already set weeks ago. There wasn’t anything that grabbed my attention or stood out this week. That doesn’t mean Battleground will be bad. It just means this show didn’t get me any more or less excited after I watched it.
That’s all for this week. I’ll be back with a preview of Smackdown’s Battleground pay-per-view on Friday.