SmackDown Live hailed from New Orleans last night (June 13, 2017), only five days before its historic Money in the Bank pay-per-view. For full results and the best live blog in the business from the exceptional Reverend Kain, click here.
Five days before the six man Money in the Bank ladder match, SmackDown Live ran ... a six person tag match with those six men. Both the face (AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Sami Zayn) and the heel (United States Champion Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin) trios got short little backstage segments to highlight how the teams would mesh.
The good guys had an especially entertaining bit with Styles explaining to Nakamura that Zayn gets really intense in pre-match discussions, only for Zayn to appear and initially act relatively subdued. Styles was pleasantly surprised, but it wasn’t long before Sami’s hyperactivity took over. Nakamura stared, slightly bewildered, at Zayn the entire time. Zayn finally walked off, with Styles telling Nakamura, “See, I told you,” only to have The King of Strong Style reply, “I like him.” It was a good bit.
On the flip side, Kevin Owens displayed his coldly logical side with Ziggler and Corbin, noting that if they worked together they could take their three opponents out of Sunday’s match—making the odds for all three better. It is noteworthy that Zayn and Owens were the two leads in these segments.
One small aside: The addition of pyro to Nakamura’s entrance—which has been a thing for a few weeks now—and an official tagline of “The Artist Known As” screams “overdone.” Neither is needed, and both make him come across as mechanically produced instead of as a unique character.
As it turns out the match itself had a bit of a clever structure, with Zayn ably (as usual) playing the role of face-in-peril. But instead of a hot tag sequence, Zayn persisted and with an opportune intervention from Styles, picked up the win over Corbin with a Helluva Kick—without having made a tag. A different spin, and it was noticeable in a good way.
(Speaking of Zayn, there was a delightful Easter egg during last night’s installment of The Fashion Files, with Zayn’s picture posted on the board with the label “Generic” and a post-it-note reading “Needs a mask.” Those segments are too good.)
After the match, everything broke down—of course—but eventually Nakamura climbed the ladder and unlatched the briefcase. Could this be a signal that he’s destined to do to the same Sunday?
(It’s not, and he won’t.)
He was, however, very personable on Talking Smack.
Change of pace
SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi defeated Tamina with her split-legged moonsault finisher, but was attacked afterward by Lana who had ventured ringside to watch. Later Lana claimed backstage that she would be the first “Ravishing” SmackDown Women’s Champion, a claim that Becky Lynch contested on Twitter:
Elsewhere in the division, Charlotte beat Natalya with Natural Selection following a pretty solid contest. At one point, Charlotte ate a turnbuckle hard, and immediately responded with an appropriate fire on offense, laying in her following forearms just a little bit more. Her direction since moving to Tuesdays has been shrug emoji, but there’s no doubting her skill level.
Both Becky and Carmella ft. James Ellsworth were shown watching the match backstage.
Contrary to recent months, the division got two separate singles matches that were part of two separate angles. That’s a welcome sign, though any celebration that the division is getting back on track will be muted until after Money in the Bank at least.
Too many cooks
The New Day’s quintessentially New Orleans entrance—being played to the ring by a jazz band—was a great opening to the show.
Unfortunately, it was the best part of the segment. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos, Breezango, and The Colons all took turns interrupting each other before they got to their scheduled eight man tag team match.
The blue brand’s tag team division has been the highlight of the show since WrestleMania, but tonight SmackDown just tried to fit too many parts into the segment for it to really click. It’s good that Breezango continues to get legitimate time—and it’s plainly obvious that a heel American Alpha are their attackers, and that program should be awesome—but all four teams getting talking time in the opening segment ensured that none of them said anything that resonated much.
If you’ve seen any eight man tag team match, you’ve pretty much seen them all. It’s not that any of the performers were bad in anyway, and in fact the structure itself wasn’t necessarily bad. It was just very basic. The faces won when Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston hit a combination backbreaker and top rope double stomp—which Tom Phillips called Up Up Down Down—on Primo.
Later in the evening, the “Sweet Victory” episode of The Fashion Files saw Fandango admiring his pecs and looking forward to hitting the Big Easy with Breezy—only to find his partner battered in their office, which had again been ransacked by unknown assailants. (It’s Alpha.)
That’s going to be a great program, and the Fashion Police’s goofiness will allow Alpha to fire back with some of the cocky and brash attitude that first won them admirers in NXT.
Actions speak louder
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, accompanied by the Singh Brothers, was set to square off face-to-face with his Money in the Bank challenger, Randy Orton. Mahal cut an extended promo, of which nothing was particularly interesting or exciting, and was finally interrupted by Orton’s music. Because he is a genius, Mahal sent his two goons out of the ring to the entry way to try to prevent Orton from reaching him. Obviously, Orton came through the crowd and hit a very cool looking running RKO on the champion before celebrating with his trademark pose in the crowd.
Seriously, people, watch the product. Your opponent is going to come through the crowd!
Orton later told Renee Young backstage that he didn’t need to say any words, and that his actions would speak for themselves in St. Louis.
The world title feud has been a serious, serious drag on this show ever since—as has been noted time and time and time again—creative saw fit to remove Luke Harper from the Orton-Wyatt feud in the WrestleMania build. Neither Mahal nor Orton is going to be part of any fix, so viewers for the most part are stuck with waiting out the clock until WWE moves on. It’s neither entertaining nor interesting, and that’s a disaster for a world title feud.
WWE can give the champ all the bells and whistles in the world, but it doesn’t remotely take away from the fact that Mahal is not a performer worthy of the world title. It’s not his fault by any means, he’s doing the best he can, but there’s a reason he was never seriously pushed until the last two months.
Unfortunately there’s no longer basketball as an alternative.
All the rest
Mojo Rawley continues to impress as a solo babyface, this time with another strong backstage promo—but he was interrupted by his tag team partner, Zack Ryder, during his monologue. Ryder suggested that the pair still have unfinished business “as a team,” but there was just a hint of hesitation in Mojo’s reaction to suggest that he thinks he’s finding his way as a singles star. Later on Talking Smack, Ryder was very adamant that the Hype Bros were owed a tag team title match—they were slated to be number one contenders before Ryder’s injury—while Mojo was on board, but ever so slightly less hyped.
Very, very well played.
Becky Lynch cut a very good online only promo, because why put one of your best talkers and most beloved babyfaces on TV? #BeckyGotBank
There’s not really a whole lot to say about last night’s episode. There were some entertaining bits, and nothing was particularly bad, but on the whole it just ... kind of happened.