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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (July 10, 2018): The Forgotten Contender

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WWE SmackDown Live returned last night (July 10) from the SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. You can find all the results at the best live blog there is, was, and ever will be right here.

The Forgotten Contender

If I had to describe my feelings when Rusev became #1 contender in one word, it’d be elated.

If I had to describe the program since in one word, it’d be disappointed.

This was never going to be a major feud. I understand that. It was meant to fill some time before SummerSlam by giving a man who should have had a WWE title match by now a championship program.

But it’s clearly an afterthought. From its placement on the shows (Team Hell No is top billing currently) to it’s uninspired booking, this is a very lackluster build to any title match. Add in the fact that Rusev has been miscast as a heel for the last six months, and it just isn’t clicking.

Rusev is trying his best. On commentary, he focused on the fact that this is his first opportunity after way too long and he’s going to make the most of it. But that hasn’t been the focus of the story. There really hasn’t been a crux to this story since Rusev won the spot.

It wouldn’t have taken much to light a fire under this feud. Rusev continues to be super over and the story of him finally getting his chance against one of the best in the world doesn’t need months to tell. They could do great things with that in a month if they focused on that. It’s disappointing that they didn’t.

While the Bulgarian was on commentary, Styles spent tonight wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura... again.

I realize wrestling fans are known to complain about good things, and maybe this will be that, but we’ve seen this match way too much in the last three months. It is absolutely possible to have too much of a good thing. And seeing these two fight for the sixth time since April 8th falls into that category. In that time, I went from being super excited then to struggling to muster a care now.

For tonight, it was just the means to an end. The point A to get to the tag match that was point B. But running a match so often hurts the appeal if they want to go to it later as a big match.


Fun chemistry

The show kicked off with Miz TV with the Miz hosting Team Hell No.

But it was really about reminding us of the feud we really want to see: Miz vs. Daniel Bryan.

Yes, there was a recap about the past issues about Team Hell No and they had some of their fun antics, the main being that Kane has some takes on NSYNC and Justin Timberlake. But this was designed to get us excited for Bryan vs. Miz, which will likely be headed our way at SummerSlam.

Bryan made a comment that Miz’s blatant attempt to stir the pot between Kane and himself was as bad as Miz is as a wrestler. Suddenly, Miz’s face got angry and he lit into Bryan for “avoiding” him by hiding behind the Team Hell No nostalgia act.

Miz wasn’t as fired up as he was in his Talking Smack promo two years ago that kicked this off before we even knew there was something to kick off, but his passion here could easily suck you in. (With two years between now and that promo, I can confidently say it was one of the best in WWE of recent memory.)

The segment turned to chaos when the Bludgeon Brothers made their way down to the ring before SAnitY jumped them in line to attack Kane and Bryan. Eric Young’s trio are three crazy dudes who love to fight so their involvement here didn’t need explanation. Neither did the New Day, who were looking for revenge after SAnitY attack them last week.

This chaos fed into a big 10-man main event tag match between New Day & Team Hell No against SAnitY & the Bludgeons. Paige was really channeling her inner Teddy Long tonight.

Prior to the main event, we got treated to a hilarious backstage planning session between Hell No and the New Day that had Kane reminding us that it’s a gateway to hell and not a portal as well as quoting NSYNC as an inspirational quote. (The running NSYNC gimmick may be the best part of this week.)

The match itself was fun, with Daniel Bryan getting the pin on Eric Young. But the quick post match spot with Hell No may have been more fun.

While celebrating with Kane on the stage, Bryan was insistent on triggering Kane’s pyro on his own. Like a goofball, he tried multiple times to no avail, with Kane trying to explain it has to be him who does it. But finally, Bryan succeeded to the shock of his tag partner. He celebrated giddy on the stage as the show closed.

Their reunion has been brief, but tonight was a stark reminder of how fun they are together. They have such a goofy chemistry that can produce lots of laughs. Whether it be their odd couple arguing, Kane’s love of NSYNC, or Bryan imitating Kane on stage, they’re a blast together.

This will surely end Sunday after they lose at Extreme Rules. I just hope they don’t break up. Just have Bryan tell Kane “Hey, man, I need to deal with this Miz situation on my own” and Kane respond, “That’s fine. I’m running for mayor anyway.”


Bad Lumberjacks

James Ellsworth continued his Battle of the Sexes gimmick, where he plays an utterly despicable ass who thinks he’s better than every woman in everything but is really the worst at everything. It’s a very good role for him.

This week, he had a lumberjack match with Asuka with the rest of the women’s division serving as lumberjacks. And they were as bad as any other lumberjack. Instead of doing their jobs, people with no reason to attack each other attacked each other and they were pretty much ineffective.

Asuka still picked up the win, but hairspray to the eye after the match allowed Carmella to stand tall. We learned later on that Ellsworth will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage at Extreme Rules. If anything, that makes me think Carmella has an even better chance to retain.

We can discuss what that means for Asuka if/when that happens.


Finally

Andrade “Cien” Almas was finally back on our TVs this week with that match against Sin Cara they started building a month ago, ignored, and then finally got back to tonight.

Hopefully that means they’ll get Almas going now.


This show was hit or miss. Team Hell No was really fun tonight. But the WWE title program as a whole has left me wanting. Plus, this was a rather formulaic episode, going to the ‘let’s team up separate feuds” well not once but twice.

Grade: C+

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