Five days before its Battleground pay-per-view, SmackDown Live hit Birmingham, Alabama last night (July 18, 2017). United States Champion AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were scheduled to take on Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin in a tag team match.
For full results and the best live blog in the business from the exceptional Reverend Kain, click here.
The no rules match with many rules
SmackDown Live opened with the Singh Brothers introducing WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, who then brought down the Punjabi Prison structure over the ring.
The Singh Brothers listed a bunch of weirdly convoluted rules involving four doors that open for only sixty seconds and then shut forever and two areas of the prison to escape. (For the complete rundown, see Rev’s live blog).
Then Jinder said there are no rules in the match.
Even though we were just told like twelve rules for the match.
This is the WWE Championship program.
No really. It is.
Randy Orton came out and slowly climbed the Punjabi Prison while cutting a promo, in which he rightly told Jinder that he was an idiot for requesting this match because Orton is a violent man and the champ negated the one constant advantage he had—interference from his lackeys—with the stipulation.
We all know the Singh Brothers will get involved anyway, but it’s a fair point.
Orton ended up at the top of the structure and gave his iconic pose to close the segment.
It should be noted that everything that happened in the ring was difficult to watch because the damn structure blocks much of the camera view.
So this match will definitely be a hoot Sunday.
Lordy let this please be the end of this feud.
Put the kettle on
So Commissioner Shane McMahon gathered backstage the five women who will be competing in Sunday’s Five-Way Elimination Match to determine SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi’s number one contender for SummerSlam and said he wanted to set up some competition for the night.
Shane, the show is underway. You should have thought this out days ago! Anyway, Natalya, Tamina, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Lana all sniped at each other, with most of the bullets headed Lana’s way, with Nattie, Charlotte, and Becky all wanting to fight her. At one point Tamina told Becky, who was doing the now customary imaginary tea kettle gimmick, that no one cared about Tea Time.
Becky, feeling the insult, poured out her imaginary tea. It was probably like the third best thing that happened on the show.
Natalya then played instigator and convinced Shane to set up a match between Charlotte and Becky, which Charlotte protested because Shane had said he wanted a “competitive match,” which left her bestie feeling rightly annoyed.
They ended up having a really fun match—probably one of Becky’s best showings in the ring since ... uh ... well ... huh. It is still utterly perplexing why her offense is so tame, since we’ve all seen how impressive she can be, but her and Char played well off each other last night, with a couple of learned counters included in the match. It eventually finished with Becky forcing Charlotte to submit to the Disarmer.
After the match, Tamina and Lana came ringside, allowing Natalya to attack from behind. Once Tea Time was disposed of, Natalya tried to put Tamina in the Sharpshooter but was pulled off by Lana grabbing her hair, before The Queen of Black Harts ate a superkick from Tamina, who fell down in the process.
That’s a sentence.
Naomi then cut a promo backstage noting that she would congratulate the winner on Sunday, but was cut off by Ms. Money in the Bank Carmella, who rudely dismissed Renee Young who has kind of had a rough week. What a jerk.
This all happened.
All the rest
Breezango ran their X Files version of The Fashion Files last night (“The Truth Is Not H”), and it was a doozy as usual. It featured a ghost that in fact turned out to be Aiden English preparing his vocal cords, much banter, and finally the devastating revelation that whomever kidnapped Tully the Horse last week cut her head off and then mailed it to the pair. This was kind of dark (and an obvious Seven reference with a hint of The Godfather). The box also included a note reading only “BATTLEGROUND,” which suggests we’ll find out the identity of the mystery attacker on Sunday.
Kevin Owens and Mr. Money in the Bank Baron Corbin defeated United States Champion AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in the tag team main event when Owens pinned Styles.
We’ve all seen plenty of these SmackDown tag team matches in our lives, including just last week. But last week’s match was set up by a nifty bit of wrestling psych, whereas this was announced before the show and thus lacked a “lived in” build of sorts.
The most interesting part happened earlier in the night, when Nakamura told Styles that one day he would answer The Phenomenal One’s United States Championship Open Challenge.
Maria Kanellis gave a whole heap of interference to help her hubby Mike pin Sami Zayn in his debut match on the blue brand. After Zayn dominated basically the whole match—quite easily—The First Lady of SmackDown Live literally climbed into the ring and shielded Mike from further danger. She stopped Sami from getting to her husband several times, allowing the Mr. to pop to his feet, hit a big right hand and then a Samoan Driver for the win.
Most of the show around it is a tirefire, but this program is very fun and everything about Maria and Mike is great.
Also! A huge shout out to whichever clothing designer made Mike’s tights and jacket, because they were truly lovely.
John Cena cut probably the worst promo of his I’ve ever heard in which he listed off a lot of times that the American flag was flown during wars (and he included the Civil War as “brother vs brother,” which was kind of weird because one side literally flew a different flag because they were traitors and seceded from the country so they could keep owning slaves). At the end of it Rusev attacked him from behind, put him in the Accolade until Cena passed out, then held the Bulgarian flag—a country that the United States is bound by treaty to protect from attack, by the way—high in triumph. This is all to remind you that they have a flag match on Sunday, which will be bad.
What a complete and utter waste of Cena. Given that Rusev is the third-most important generic foreign heel on the blue brand, this is extreme lower card fodder. It’s John freakin’ Cena, and this program could not be more uninteresting.
Jimmy Uso pinned Kofi Kingston in singles action after Jim rolled through a top rope splash from Kofi. Reminder that only two weeks ago, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos and The New Day had a hugely entertaining rap battle. They have done nothing interesting since then. They’ll face off for the titles in Philly Sunday night.
Chad Gable got a sitdown interview with Renee Young to show his reaction to Monday night’s shocking news—that his now former tag team partner Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son. Gable has actually came off pretty charming in backstage bits and looked quite good in the ring in the last few weeks, so here’s hoping he can get some momentum on Tuesday nights.
Aiden English and Tye Dillinger will have a match during Battleground’s Kickoff show.
General Manager Daniel Bryan did not appear on this show, and you could tell.
Talking Smack is dead. Long live Talking Smack.
This was a bad show. If you watched it you are now almost certainly less excited for Battleground than you were beforehand—which is impressive, because expectations for the upcoming pay-per-view were already nearing rock bottom.