Venue: Little Caesar’s Arena (Detroit, MI)
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, & Byron Saxton
This week it’s another triple threat tag team match as The Usos, SAnitY, and the team of Rusev & Aiden English square off for the right to meet The Bar next week in a #1 contender’s match. The build to Hell in a Cell continues in other ways as well, as Samoa Joe tries to get into the head of WWE Champion AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella respond to the attack from last week’s show, and a whole lot more (some of it probably featuring Randy Orton so I might fall asleep). Come join me for LIVE coverage of the event, sprinkled with my own random thoughts.
- WWE Champion: ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles
- WWE United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
- SMACKDOWN Women’s Champion: Charlotte Flair
- SMACKDOWN Tag Team Champions: The New Day (Xavier Woods, Big E, & Kofi Kingston)
- Daniel Bryan vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (***1/2)
- Naomi vs. Peyton Royce (NR)
- The Usos vs. SAnitY vs. Rusev Day (**1/2)
- R-Truth vs. The Miz (**1/4)
Renee Young welcomes Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella to the ring for the opening segment. Props to Brie for being able to move around after landing face-first via tope suicida last night. That looked real painful. We quickly go to footage of the 4-on-2 attack from last week. Bryan sarcastically chides Young for making the fans upset, then we cut to footage from ‘Earlier Today’ of The Miz and Maryse in an empty arena. Miz and Maryse call out Bryan and Brie but they’re nowhere to be found and they mic drop, content that they’re afraid of them. Back live Bryan says that’s a perfect encapsulation of Miz and Maryse as people and calls them a couple of COWARDS. Oh snaaaaap. Brie and Bryan “don’t wanna wait till Hell in a Cell” and call out Miz and Maryse. Young gives them the bad news that they aren’t in the building…
…But Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega, the other attackers from last week, are. Vega throws shade at Brie, Almas is ready to walk over Bryan again like he did last week. Vega says Almas wants to finish what he started…right…NOW. They charge the ring and Bryan removes his shirt (available now on WWEShop.com) as we go to commercial.
Daniel Bryan [w/ Brie Bella] vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas [w/ Zelina Vega]
I’m very very very much okay with the show starting like this. I missed last week’s match but these guys are so damn good and I’m glad I get to see the rematch. Bryan manipulates the joints of Almas, Almas responds with a kick into a side headlock. Almas drops Bryan with a shoulderblock, Bryan responds by targeting the left arm of Almas with kicks and an over the shoulder armbreaker. OUCH. He goes for the YES! Lock, Almas quickly gets to the bottom rope to force a break. Almas belts Bryan with an elbow out of nowhere and covers for a two-count. Bryan goes to the apron, Almas applies a hanging armbreaker then sends him flying into the barricade. Almas rolls Bryan in but can only get a two-count. Almas charges knee-first into the corner after Bryan side-steps, flying out to the floor. Bryan goes for a flying knee off the apron but gets countered with a beautiful dropkick and Almas rolls him in for the 1…2…not yet. Almas belts Bryan with a kick, Bryan sends him flying to the floor and follows up with a tope suicida (WAIT HE DOES THOSE AGAIN?!?). Bryan favors his arm as we go to…picture in picture commercial! This is low-key my favorite part of SmackDown, I wish RAW would do the same thing. Bryan and Almas re-enter the ring and trade rights until the latter drops the former with a hard slap across the chest. Almas connects with another chop, Bryan responds with some of his own but Almas stops him with a knee. Bryan does the backflip counter from the top and follows it up with the running clothesline. Almas bails to the corner, Bryan belts him with a running dropkick followed by YES! Kicks and a hurricanrana from the top rope…BUT ALMAS ROLLS THROUGH AND COVERS FOR THE 1…2…Bryan kicks out and Almas immediately slaps on a Fujiawara Armbar in the center of the ring.
Bryan struggles to the ropes and finally forces a break as we go back to the match proper. Almas goes to the top, Bryan crotches him and puts him in a tree of woe for some more YES! Kicks and a basement dropkick to the mush. Almas fights Bryan off and goes for a moonsault, Bryan dodges so Almas lands on his feet and immediately hits a standing moonsault for the 1…2…NOPE! Bryan lays into Almas with so many YES! Kicks, Almas ducks the head kick and sends the back of Bryan’s head into the buckles. Almas follows with a running pair of knees. He goes for the Hammerlock DDT, Bryan counters and connects with a kick to the back of the head. Bryan measures Almas and connects with the Busaiku Knee, which Almas sells beautifully by flipping, for the 1…2…3!
Daniel Bryan defeated Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas via pinfall with the Knee Plus (11:40)
- I loved this match so much and wish it could have gone on longer. Almas has gotten next to nothing to do since coming to the main roster (what a reward for having a full-on ***** match back in January) and still doesn’t seem on much of a trajectory but at least he got to show off a bit in this one with one of WWE’s best performers. Bryan seemed more motivated than normal here, getting to wrestle someone on his level, and I enjoyed the bulk of his offense…except for that tope suicida where he almost ended up like his wife from the night before. Yikes. PROTECT THE SKULL, D-BRY. Anyway I won’t be sad if this match keeps happening on a weekly basis. Well for now. Ask me again in two months. (***1/2)
Brie belts Vega with a running knee but the Bryans’ celebration is cut short by The Miz and Maryse on the TitanTron. Miz says they’ve taken the night off to go on a date in the finest Italian restaurant in Detroit. They do this just so they can say ‘Arrivaderci…BELLAS’. GET IT?!? THAT’S BRIE’S LAST NAME! HA! JOKES!
After a commercial break we go backstage where Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella are trying to leave. They’re stopped by an interviewer lady (I’ll learn her name eventually) and they say they’re going to get dinner…and are thinking Italian. Somebody is gonna get covered in spaghetti, which is good luck where I’m from. No it’s not.
A video plays recapping Becky Lynch‘s attack on Charlotte Flair at the end of last week’s show. STONE COLD BECKY LYNCH.
Phillips conducts the interview with Flair and Lynch, who are forced to be in separate locations by GM Paige. Smart move. Flair talks about how she looked at Becky as a Four Horsewoman and said all she needed to do was ask her for a title match. Becky asks Flair if she looks like a charity case to her, and is taking instead of playing around from now on. Becky says she doesn’t care what she has to do at Hell in a Cell, the title is coming home with her. They continue to argue until the segment ends.
- Becky came off like a real badass here, someone sick of Charlotte’s queen b.s. and ready to stomp a mudhole in her former best friend. Flair did her best to keep up but Becky was the star here, without a doubt. I am REAL into this feud, can’t wait to see them go at it at Hell in a Cell.
Naomi makes her entrance for the next match, and does a real bad version of Flossing which breaks my heart a little beat. She faces Peyton Royce next.
Back from the commercial break and out comes The IIconics (Royce and Billie Kay). They cut a pre-match promo that isn’t very good but goddammit it’s still weirdly endearing. Apparently these gals have been fighting every week for the past seventy years, but this is the first episode of SmackDown I’ve watched in awhile so it’s NEW TO MEEEE.
Naomi vs. Peyton Royce [w/ Billie Kay]
Naomi attacks Royce, Royce responds with a Greco-Roman slap to the face to take control. Naomi ducks a spin kick, hits a kick of her own, and slides under Royce’s legs to drop Kay with a baseball slide. Naomi rolls Royce up with a sunset flip from the apron for the 1…2…3. Oh okay.
Naomi defeated Peyton Royce via pinfall with a sunset flip (1:20)
- Uhhhh (NR)
The IIconics attack Naomi until Asuka makes the surprise save. Looks like Naomi has a friend after all. Is it bad I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t Cameron to make the save?
Video plays hyping the feud between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton. They meet inside the Hell in a Cell at, uh, Hell in a Cell. Apparently this is Hardy’s first-ever HIAC match which is the most surprising part of all this. Motherf*cker is gonna get launched off the Cell Mankind-style.
Cut to GM Paige backstage, where The Miz and Maryse have returned. They want to give Bryan and Brie another chance to face them, but Paige lets them know they’ve left the building. Miz feigns shock about this, Paige informs him that Miz will be competing tonight against…whoever wants to face him. CAN WE GET A MASKED DANIEL BRYAN TONIGHT?!? It won’t make any sense but I want it anyway. Cater to me and me alone, WWE.
R-Truth accidentally mistakes Maryse for Carmella. Miz walks in and asks what’s going on, Truth says he’s trying to book a match with Carmella but she can’t handle the truth. Miz calls Truth a joke, saying he forgot he still worked here. Truth snaps back, saying he has no idea what “Carmella” sees in him and walks off. Miz is a true heel for not helping his obviously crazy friend get help.
Samoa Joe makes his way out in his wrestling gear. Joe says judging by the lack of a champion in the building, the Styles family has started to take his threats seriously. Joe says his actions have forced AJ Styles to actually care about his wife Wendy and wants the Styles clan to enjoy tonight…because at Hell in a Cell he’s taking Styles’ championship and will make him go ‘night night’. This sucks.
AJ Styles appears on the TitanTron. Styles says the talking stops when his family gets threatened. Styles makes his way out, Joe in fighting stance. Styles death stares Joe and charges the ring, a good ol’ fashioned brawl breaking out. Joe pulls Styles out of the ring and throws him into the steps, then grabs a steel chair. Before he can do anything though Styles bounces back with the Phenomenal Forearm off the steps. Styles tries to cave in Joe’s skull, but Joe dodges and he hits nothing but LED post. A host of referees rush out to calm things down. Two start leading Joe away, Styles flattens them all with a springboard splash. Paige runs out and talks Styles down along with two more refs.
- Joe delivered his promo well but it was just so lame that I couldn’t take it seriously. I did like the brawl though, you can tell these two wanna hurt each other. I hope that means their Hell in a Cell has some actual fire to it instead of, like, five minutes of armbars or whatever.
R-Truth is backstage with new best friend Tye Dillinger. Truth says he knows Carmella is around somewhere and they stop directly behind the former Women’s Champion herself. Truth asks Carmella…if she’s seen Carmella. Carmella tells him to leave her alone, Truth asks her to call a truce so she can accompany him to the ring. Truth tells her that Maryse called her ‘Staten Island trash’, Carmella gets pissed and angrily walks off which I guess is a yes? Tye asks what Truth is doing, Truth says he’s teaching him a lesson: how to get into the main event of SmackDown Live. OH SNAP, TRUTH IS THE SMARTEST MAN IN WRESTLING. That was actually pretty good.
After a commercial break we get another Hardy/Orton video, this time from the perspective of Orton. Time to put this baby on mute.
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. SAnitY (Eric Young & Killian Dain) [w/ Alexander Wolfe] vs. Rusev Day (Rusev & Aiden English) [w/ Lana]
Picture in picture for the beginning of the match. Young clubs down an Uso to start, the Uso responds with a deep armdrag into an armbar. Young puts the breaks on an Irish whip but Rusev makes the blind tag and now he’s the legal man, much to Young’s chagrin. Rusev gets ready, Young tags himself back in so Rusev throws him in, almost leading to a win by The Usos. English and Rusev double team the Uso and cover as we return to full screen. Uso tags out to Uso, who hits a flying forearm on English while he’s being held by the other for a two-count. Uso with a scoop slam for another two-count. Dain blind tags in, pulls Uso out, and belts him with a clothesline. Aw man they put him in a fat kid singlet? Young tags himself in and connects with a forearm to the back of the neck, covering for two. SAnitY work over Uso as Wolfe cheers them on. Oh hey apparently it’s Jey Uso in the ring right now, I was waiting for someone to finally differentiate for me. Thanks, Tom Phillips! Dain slows things down, wrenching the head of Jey at an unnatural angle. Jey escapes and runs right into a dropkick, sending him to the floor. Young makes the tag and connects with a NESTEA PLUNGE elbow on Jey as we go to commercial for real this time.
Back live Jimmy Uso gets the hot tag and goes ham on Young. Rusev tags himself in as Young throws Jimmy hard face-first into the ropes. That’s whiplash waiting to happen, CHRIST. Rusev beats Young down and sends Wolfe off the apron with a kick. Young ducks a Machka Kick, Jey tags himself in and hits Young with a Superfly Splash for the 1…2…English breaks it up. Dain flattens English, Jey superkicks Dain out to the floor and Rusev tags himself in mid-run leading to a flying splash. Young tries to roll Rusev up with his feet on the ropes, English pushes them off to stop it. Young argues with English then turns right into the Machka Kick for the 1…2…3!
Rusev Day defeated The Usos and SAnitY when Rusev pinned Eric Young following a Machka Kick (9:08 shown)
- Fun ending stretch there, glad Rusev Day got the win. I’m really hoping the story is truly the rehabbing of Rusev and English’s friendship and isn’t leading to a turn. They are so damn good together. (**1/2)
The Bar show up afterwards to pose at Rusev Day. These two meet next week for the right to challenge for the Tag Team Championship at Hell in a Cell.
The Miz and Maryse make their way out for the main event. Miz segues to footage from last week’s attack on Bryan and Brie. Yes again. Back live Miz and Maryse high five and Miz throws some shade at THE LOCAL SPORTS TEAM. Miz calls Bryan and Brie out one more time, but Maryse says they’re too afraid and it’s a waste of time. More talk, more hype until the music of Carmella hits, mic in hand. Carmella tries to moonwalk in high heels but doesn’t, really. R-Truth is out next and Carmella joins in on the ‘What’s Up?’ fun. I forgot how much I actually missed this entrance.
R-Truth [w/ Carmella] vs. The Miz [w/ Maryse]
We join the match in progress, Truth hitting Miz with a hip toss followed by a dance-y legdrop for a two-count. Truth is wrestling in sorta-jorts instead of his ol’ baggy jeans, this is WEIRD. Truth hits Miz with a spinebuster and belts him with a flurry of rights. Miz, however, regains control with a knee to the gut off an Irish whip. Truth escapes a chinlock but can’t escape the backbreaker/neckbreaker combo and Miz covers for the 1…2…Truth kicks out. Miz mocks Carmella’s moonwalk then goes back to work, applying a chinlock with a knee firmly planted into the spine. Miz throws some mocking NO! Kicks followed by a corner dropkick that the crowd rakes him over the coals for. Miz with more NO! Kicks, Truth ducks a head kick and rolls Miz up for the 1…2…Miz kicks out and runs into a boot in the corner. Truth mounts a comeback but Miz dodges the Ax Kick and hits a kneeling DDT for the 1…2…Truth is still in it. Miz measures Truth for the Knee Plus, Truth catches him with a spinning heel kick for the 1…2…Miz kicks out! Miz flips out of a suplex attempt and clips the knee, Truth counters a Figure Four with an inside cradle for the 1…2…Miz kicks out then kicks Truth right in the teeth. Miz sets up for The Skull Crushing Finale but gets distracted with Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, distracting him long enough for Truth to roll him up for the 1…2…3!
R-Truth defeated The Miz via pinfall with a roll-up (7:20 shown)
- Truth is looking about as good as I’ve ever seen him and seems to be winning fans over with his latest goofy character, so it was cool to see him get the distraction win even if it’ll ultimately mean nothing. Seemed more like a promo for the Mixed Match Challenge if anything, I’m sure Truth will bring this up when they build to that match. (**1/4)
Bryan traps Miz in a YES! Lock, Zelina Vega shows up and stops Brie from doing Brie Mode on Maryse. Bryan lets go of the hold, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas throws him into the ring steps. Almas and Vega throw them inside the ring, Bryan and Brie surprise them with duel YES! Locks, staring daggers at Miz and Maryse. Miz charges, they let go and Miz stops dead in his tracks. Bryan and Brie stand tall and that’s all she wrote.
Final Thoughts: SmackDown Live was pretty fun tonight, with a great opening contest and GODDAMN R-TRUTH IN A 2018 MAIN EVENT. Wow. What a difference not having that extra hour made. It also did a good job of getting me into Hell in a Cell a bit more, especially the Charlotte/Becky feud, so I consider this whole thing a win. Also I get to go to bed at a reasonable hour so extra points!
- Match of the Night: Daniel Bryan vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
- Moment of the Night: R-Truth cons his way into the main event THEN WINS THE DAMN THING