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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (June 19, 2018): Run the Gauntlet


WWE SmackDown Live waltzed back into our lives last night (June 19) from the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. You can find all the results at the best damn live blog in this world and others right here.

Run the Gauntlet

SmackDown crowned their number one contender for the WWE title in a five man gauntlet match this week.

And it was a superb RUSEV DAAAAAAY!

It was also a superbly booked gauntlet match. Here’s what we got:

Daniel Bryan defeated Big E in the first match. Big E looked very good against Daniel Bryan. E has proved to be a good singles wrestler prior, but it’s been a long time since he’s been featured as a singles guy. Acquitting himself well against a main event talent like Bryan could be a big step in Big E becoming a singles star.

With Kofi trying for the Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday and Big E competing for a title shot last night, we may be heading into the stage of the New Day where they start exploring singles roles while remaining a unit. At least I hope so because they’ve been “been there, done that” in the tag scene for awhile now. And they’re all talented in the ring.

The second match was Daniel Bryan going over Samoa Joe.

It too was a good match with one really ugly bump that Bryan took on his head. With Bryan’s history, seeing things like that take me out of the match for a while.

But Bryan didn’t seem any worse for the wear and wrestled Joe for another segment. They ended up outside, and Joe tried to put Bryan to sleep prior to the ten count. However, as the count was nearing ten, Bryan ran his feet up the barricade, dropping Joe on his back. Then it was DB who beat the count while Joe couldn’t recover in time.

That win had Bryan continuing to look like a stud without taking too much away from Joe.

Then things got a bit weird. The Bludgeon Brothers ran into the ring and double powerbombed Bryan. This was teased earlier when Bryan’s entrance interrupted the tag champs’ exit. There was a tense staredown at that time but nothing came of it. Looks like there’s no love lost between the former Wyatt Family members.

How does Bryan get revenge? He needs a partner to do so. Team Hell No reunion perhaps?

With Bryan down and out, of course Miz was the next one out. He quickly hit his Skull Crushing Finale on Bryan and pinned him. He did no work and didn’t deserve it, but now he’s going to be able to hang the pinfall win over DB’s head for weeks. It’ll be completely obnoxious.

Finally, it was Rusev vs. Miz. They had themselves a fun final match that ended with Miz tapping to the Accolade.

AJ Styles came out and shook hands with the new number one contender. Aiden English obnoxiously asked for a handshake for himself and ended up getting punched by the champ. Rusev seemed more concerned with English acting like an ass than AJ hitting him. Is this signaling the beginning of the end of Rusev Day?

I am super pumped for Styles/Rusev. Rusev is being booked more in tune with face reactions he’s receiving. He and AJ should tear the house down in Pittsburgh. I know I’m elated. Are you?

No one is ready for Carmellsworth

Man I missed the Big Hog. Carmella has been great as a heel, but hiding behind the dweeb that is Ellsworth just adds to it.

Mella opened the show alone, cutting a bait and switch promo where she started speaking about overcoming self-confidence issues but then revealed she’s always known she’s great and no one should try. I’m not sure the point of the bait and switch here given we all knew she didn’t have a change of heart all of a sudden.

Then she reminded us that she beat Charlotte Flair twice (did you know that?) and then beat Asuka clean. That’s when the Empress’ music began to play.

I’ll admit, for a few moments, they had me here. This was the perfect spot for Asuka to come out to get her revenge. But alas, it was Jimmy Dream in his favorite cosplay.

Eventually, the real Asuka came out, marching to the ring determined. This is a side of Asuka we actually never get to see. She used to win so often that she never had a chance to be really angry. Now she has that side to tap into which can help evolve her character.

Ellsworth told Mella that he would handle Asuka as he derobed (but kept the Asuka armbands on because he’s awesome), and soon got kicked to the ground by the Empress. Big Hog back where he belongs - getting his ass kicked by the women’s division.

The champ took her moment and kicked Asuka in the head, grabbed her sidekick, tossed him out of the ring, and fled.

Carmella has been doing well as a heel, but having the troll that is Jimmy Dream give her that extra advantage will help continue getting heat.

Other happenings:

- Becky def. Billie Kay

The IIconics opened things up with their usual shtick, which I still enjoy but the crowds still aren’t really responding too. They’re really annoying, which is definitely the point, but they need to find that spot that will get more of a negative reaction.

Becky, on the other hand, is hot right now. The crowd loved her tonight. With her losing streak and her added intensity to get back on track, Becky is at a really good place right now. It looks like Becky could be starting the climb back to the top.

- Chaos

The Usos were scheduled to face the debuting SAnitY. The match never happened. Instead, the Usos just got their asses kicked three on two. It’s a way to make the debuting trio seem threatening on their first night out.

- Bludgeoned

The Good Brothers had another shot against the Bludgeon Brothers for the tag titles. Why? Who knows. Probably because not a lot of people watch the pre-show of a five hour pay-per-view. And these teams match up very well so I was fine seeing it again.

Of course, the Bludgeons were successful. It was on their exit where their first run in with Bryan occurred.

- Count in Japanese

Shinsuke Nakamura got a chance to cut a backstage interview explaining his loss on Sunday. This isn’t something we see a lot of in WWE. More often than not, the loser of feuds just move onto the next without a chance to get some heat back. And Nak’s explanation was fantastic. He said the referee didn’t count in Japanese and that threw him off. Brilliant.

Looks like he’s on a collision course with Jeff Hardy, who’s looking to get a measure of revenge after the low blow and knee to face last week. He even brought back the face paint where he paints eyes over his eyelids. And the Brother Nero contacts.

This was a very good episode this week, anchored by an hour long gauntlet match that was very well booked.

Grade: A-

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