Winners: Aiden English, The New Day, Shinsuke Nakamura, Natalya, Kevin Owens, John Cena, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal.
So the night started with the kick-off match between Aiden English and Tye Dillinger. Dillinger, who has the crowd firmly behind him and is clearly a hot rising, young star but lacks any direction currently and needs to be racking up some wins to capitalise on the natural momentum he has….lost. Clearly this was the WWE’s way of setting us up for a pay-per-view littered with disappointments; now, I’m no NXT super-fan or anything (I’ve never seen watched a show) but it’s so obvious that Dillinger has a strong crowd following that the WWE is apparently intent on ignoring for now. Maybe they’re building him up to have more of an underdog story but…you have Sami Zayn for that and Dillinger is obviously built like a superstar so he needs to be pushed like one, not losing to nobodies like Aiden English (whom I equate to being on about the same level as Bo Dallas at the moment).
Then, the prophecy came to fruition as the New Day became the first tag team to win both sets of Tag Team Championships by defeating the Usos. While I’m not really feeling the continued push and over exposure of the New Day, perhaps they will be able to bring some credibility and spotlight to the division and help, which has been dying a slow, painful death over the last few months.
Shinsuke Nakamura then won his match against Baron Corbin when Mr. Money in the Bank had enough of Nakamura’s shit and just kicked him right in the balls and, afterwards, smashed his head in with the briefcase. This was pretty good on a few levels; Shinsuke got in loads of stiff, impressive offense, Corbin didn’t just lose and look like a chump even though he has the briefcase, and Corbin’s methods help to cement him as a complete and utter bastard.
Despite the fact that Charlotte Flair vs. Naomi for the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship is the clear money match for Summerslam, Natalya somehow and inexplicably won the fatal-five-way match for the number one contender spot. I don’t recall seeing Natalya in a match, much less picking up wins, over the last few weeks (months, maybe?) but yeah, sure, make her the number one contender and randomly push her. Why not? It’s better than Lana, surely? Ugh, look, I like Natalya (she’s super hot and pretty good in the ring) but she’s been doing nothing; she turned heel, became a lackey, lost a lot (I think? I don’t even know), has done a lot of commentary, and now she gets the shot.
Moving on, the United States Championship jumped back on to Kevin Owens after a bit of a botched ending to his match against AJ Styles. Man, was this a disappointing outing; the unnecessarily long and over-acted ref bump didn’t really factor into anything, and all the WWE smoke and mirrors really detracted from what should have been a competitive, engaging match.
The drudgery continued with John Cena besting Rusev in their flag match. Ugh, a flag match in 2017; I get it, the Americans are super-duper patriotic but surely this is just old hat by this point? There were some good spots here, such as Rusev hitting Cena with the flag podium and the Attitude Adjustment to Rusev through a table but, in the end, this was a pretty poor first match back for both guys.
Despite the promise that the mystery behind who trashed Tyler Breeze and Fandango’s office would be revealed, it wasn’t. Then, Sami Zayn defeated Mike Kanellis, which is just as weird as Aiden English’s win. I would’ve been fine with Zayn winning the final match of the feud but the very first match between the two? Kind of makes Kanellis look weak and why should Zayn bother facing him again when he can clearly beat him with a minimal amount of effort. But, this is Sami Zayn and, if there’s one thing the WWE likes to do with Zayn, it’s make him face the same opponent over and over and over again (oh, and also to not capitalise on his popularity).
Finally, the greatest World Champion of all time, the Great Khali, made his dramatic return to the WWE to assist Jinder Mahal in retaining the WWE Championship over Randy Orton. Turns out the Punjabi Prison added very little to the feud of the blow-off between these two; it was just another structure for them to fight in and get out of. Plus, as is the case in the WWE lately, the entire point of the prison/cage is to keep people out so, to have people just interfere anyway, really makes you wonder why they bothered at all. It was a nice, fresh visual though but, seriously, the Great Khali was like a cancer during his first run and I really hope this was just a one-time deal (though, having said that, he would work as the silent muscle behind Jinder and nothing else…)
Whatever Kurt Angle had to say to open the show means nothing because Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns come out to each lay their claim to being eligible to face Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. While they are all strong, legitimate contenders to the Universal Championship, Reigns and Joe have both lost recently so surely, based on that alone, they are behind Strowman? Strowman seems to think so as he leads the charge for a full-on brawl between the three men, which was amazing.
Elias Samson then defeated Finn Balor in a no disqualification match after Bray Wyatt appeared out of nowhere, planted Finn with Sister Abigail, and made sure everyone knows that it doesn’t matter what happens between Finn and the Drifter because it’s all about Bray’s newfound issues with Finn.
Big Cass then made short, aggressive work of Enzo Amore and, afterwards, the Big Show. Hopefully this is getting us properly on track towards the Big Show vs. Big Cass as it’s clear and obvious that Enzo is no threat to Cass and cannot beat, or ever hope to beat, him.
Nia Jax then squashed Emma; well, Emma’s been complaining about not being on TV so I guess this is her reward? Then, in a lovely change of pace, Bayley pinned Sasha Banks nice and clean to become the number one contender; Bayley might have been booked quite poorly but I am so glad to see Sasha being pushed away from the spotlight for a change.
Jason Angle…er, I mean, Jason Jordan than wowed and impressed and proved why breaking up what promised to be the hottest, most competitive tag team in recent memory was a truly inspired idea by defeating multi-year veteran Curt Hawkins in less then three minutes. Mmm, that’s some tasty sarcasm. Look, I’m happy to see Jordan be pushed following the “reveal” that he’s “Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son” but is beating someone like Curt Hawkins really the best way to showcase that? I know it’s hypocritical of me as I often say guys need to pick up wins over jobbers and such but there’s a time, a place, and a context for that; I feel like Jordan needed a more competitive opponent here.
The Revival defeated Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, which is great news for the revival and for furthering their issues with the Hardy Boys but bad, bad news for the Club. Again, I know this is a bit hypocritical, but couldn’t the Revival have beaten Heath Slater and Rhyno or a composite tag team of opponents rather than a heel team that hasn’t had a right chances to succeed like the Club? Like, it doesn’t actually mean much more to defeat the Club as they’ve literally done nothing, nothing of note, since appearing in the WWE; their accomplishments outside of the WWE make them a legitimate team but there’s no glory in beating them as they are in the WWE now.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins managed to stay on the same page long enough to get a win over the Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel after a great spot where Rollins smashed a knee into Miz’s face and allowed Ambrose to hit the Dirty Deeds. It’s not a good look for the Miz-tourage to have lost to two men but look at the context; these guys used to be a functioning, strong unit as the Shield, they’re both former WWE Champions, former Tag Team Champions, former United States Champions, and Ambrose is a former Intercontinental Champion. Whereas the Miz’s former championship accomplishments have been a bit tainted over the last few years until his latest runs with the Intercontinental Championship and his partners are glorified jobbers. However, the real story here was whether Rollins and Ambrose are able to put their past behind them and semi-reunite as the Shield; at the moment, Ambrose isn’t totally into it so it’s not looking likely, but that’s the bigger story and, to tell it, they needed to win. If they’d lost, then there’d be no proof that they’re still a unit to be reckoned with.
Kevin Owens opened the show to brag about being the United States Champion once again; although he also vows to reinstate the open Challenge, he refuses to face AJ Styles for the belt that night and walks away when Chris Jericho returns to stake his claim for a rematch. However, Shane McMahon then pops out for a cheap pop and to force Owens to defend against both in a triple threat main event later in the show.
Flashback to Battleground as Shinsuke Nakamura faced Baron Corbin again in a match probably more competitive and executed that their one at Battleground but which ended with Corbin being pinned. It’s not a great look for the briefcase holder to be losing but losing to Nakamura, clearly SmackDown! Live’s fastest rising star, is no shame….however, as I see Nakamura as being bulletproof, I’d much rather have seen him lose in definitive fashion.
Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch defeated this year’s hottest union, Lana and Tamina. More importantly, however, Jinder Mahal comes out to channel his inner Braun Strowman and demand competition and oh my God it’s Joooooohnnnn Ceeeeeeeeeeeeee-NAH! Cena comes out to claim that he is the number one contender but, thankfully, Daniel Bryan calls bullshit on that and makes the dream match between Cena and Nakamura for next week to determine who will face Mahal at Summerslam. Oh, how I would love to see Nakamura win and then go on to defeat Mahal, only to lose the belt instantly when Corbin cashes in. that would be sooo good for Corbin.
Mike Kanellis continues to show that he’s just a pathetic loser as he and Aiden English lose in a tag team effort to Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn. Honestly, with the gimmick Kanellis has, he should be stealing victories from top faces thanks to his super hot wife and being the ultimate slimy, chickenshit heel. Instead, he’s getting no in-ring mic time, losing all over the place, and appears to be a complete nobody. However, regular team ups between Dillinger and Zayn could really help kick SmackDown! Live’s tag team division up the ass.
Speaking of which, the new SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions came out to celebrate only to get jumped and have the piss beaten out of them by the Usos. Yay for never-ending feuds.
But who cares about that because the United States Championship gets the main event again as Kevin Owens…lost the belt to AJ Styles. See, a lot of people will probably moan about the belt being traded back and forth and maybe they have a point but I’d counter that by saying it’s okay for the same two guys to trade it, especially in short bursts like this, as it keeps the belt between those two men and it shows that they’re really passionate and serious about winning and holding that particular belt. They don’t just lose it and then upgrade themselves to the WWE Championship; they’re trying to legitimise this particular championship. If Owens had lost it to AJ, then AJ to Jericho, then Jericho to Aiden English, and English to Zayn, and Zayn to Kanellis all within two weeks then, yeah, that would be ridiculous but to see two guys, knee-deep in a feud, have their feud be about wanting the United States Championship, rather than the belt being an after-thought, that’s okay. Plus, it helps that multi-time WWE/World/Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho returned and immediately wanted to regain that belt.