Universal Champion Braun Strowman Crashed The Dirt Sheet; Strowman def. The Miz (Non-Title)
I didn't mind last week's Miz TV segment with Otis, but this was downright deplorable. Sure, it was short, but it felt like it was a lot longer than it actually was. I feel bad for John Morrison for returning to the company only to deal with this garbage material. The subsequent matchup was essentially a glorified squash with Strowman winning rather quickly and decisively. I'm sorry but I have less than zero interest in Miz and Morrison challenging Strowman to a Handicap match for the Universal Championship at Backlash. It's obviously filler before Strowman faces The Fiend (hopefully at SummerSlam), but is the SmackDown roster that depleted that WWE has to rely on a tag team to feud with Strowman in the interim?
AJ Styles def. Shinsuke Nakamura in an Intercontinental Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
It's amazing to think that this was at one time a main event attraction at WrestleMania. It was cool to see them rekindle their rivalry here, but it didn't feel nearly as special as it should have. What was once a "dream match" has been reduced to a quarterfinal matchup in a tournament for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. Don't get me wrong, it was very well wrestled and the action was excellent, but I can't say I ever bought into the possibility Nakamura advancing. By the way, Michael Cole noted during Styles' entrance (which was clearly edited in during post-production) that Styles been officially traded to SmackDown. Who Raw will get in return remains unclear and I doubt it will be brought up again.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley def. NXT Women's Champion Charlotte Flair (Non-Title)
These two never cease to work well together, but the issue is that they've both been firmly established as heels and thus viewers have no incentive to want to see either woman win. They were given plenty of time and I was entertained for the most part. Bayley told Sasha Banks to stay in the back and still managed to win her on her own (albeit by holding the ropes while pinning Flair). My only hope is that Bayley vs. Banks will be saved for SummerSlam when it matters most.
Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville def. Otis and Mandy Rose
Depending on what WWE has planned for these four at Backlash, I would have saved this for then. However, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, so I'm not disappointed they gave it away on SmackDown. Everyone played their roles well and I like the move to have Deville pin Rose. Hopefully that keeps their feud alive, but I could do without another match between Otis and Zigger.
Jeff Hardy def. Sheamus in an Intercontinental Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
I loved the video package highlighting the feud between Hardy and Sheamus over the last month. It made this match more meaningful and I think Styles vs. Nakamura would have benefited from getting similar treatment given their history. The story was that Sheamus dominated a majority of the matchup and Hardy got lucky by barely pulling out the victory. I enjoyed the chemistry they had here and I expect more matches between them when Hardy loses to Daniel Bryan next week.
I really appreciated how laser-focused this edition of SmackDown was. The focus was on the Intercontinental Championship Tournament, but there was also some storyline progression in the women's division and with the ongoing saga between Otis, Mandy, Sonya and Ziggler. The only thing I didn't care for was the opening segment and the announcement of it being Strowman vs. Miz and Morrison at Backlash, but other than that, this was a super solid and straightforward show.
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