Baron Corbin Interrupted John Cena
Cena put over his encounter with Shinsuke Nakamura last week as a "dream match," which it was, but it was weird that he didn't say anything about eventually going back after the WWE Championship. Hey, I'm not complaining since I have no desire to see him in the title picture anytime soon. As for his back-and-forth on the mic with Corbin, it was fine, but this rivalry really feels forced. I'm glad it's a fresh feud and Corbin is being given the chance to work with a top talent in Cena, but a two week build to the bout at SummerSlam will hardly get people excited about it.
The Usos def. Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger
For heat-generating purposes alone, putting Canada natives Zayn and Dillinger against The Usos was smart, and it was a fun little match to boot. On the other hand, Zayn was positioned as just another dude on the roster. I guess at this point that's what he is considering he lost to Aiden English last week, but he deserves a lot better. At any rate, I was glad The New Day showed an aggressive edge afterward in their attack on The Usos that we haven't seen from them before. This is probably the match I'm most looking forward to at SummerSlam from SmackDown.
Charlotte Flair def. LAna
According to a SmackDown Fallout video WWE posted last week on their YouTube channel, Lana "idolizes" Tamina and wishes to be like her. That's frightening to me. I suppose it's a plus that there's more stories going on in the women's division than just everyone being crammed into the title picture at once, but Lana is truly terrible and should be sent back down to developmental or reunited with Rusev. I realize this was only two minutes long, but it was pretty pointless other than getting Charlotte some airtime. Do crowds cheer Lana because she's hot? It certainly isn't because she's exceptionally skilled in the ring.
SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon Mediated a Face-to-Face Confrontation Between United States Champion AJ Styles and Kevin Owens
Unsurprisingly, Owens was over huge in front of this Canadian crowd, and I loved how he brought up the Styles vs. Shane rivalry from earlier this year as well as Shane screwing over Mankind at Survivor Series 1998 while serving as special guest referee. Of course, he's going to try to tease as much tension as possible between Styles and Shane, but all signs point to Owens and Shane clashing at some point one-on-one. Nevertheless, this was an entertaining segment that the crowd ate up.
Carmella def. SmackDown Women's Champion Naomi (Non-title)
Carmella isn't the most polished worker yet, but her character work is improving at a rapid rate. Naomi helped carry her to a passable match, but it was the finish that will get people talking with James Ellsworth returning from his "suspension" and aiding Carmella to victory. The crowd popped for him, but I think that was more out of shock than anything. After this, I am even more confident that Carmella is cashing in her Money in the Bank briefcase successfully at SummerSlam.
Renee Young Interviewed Shinsuke Nakamura
There's no doubt that talking is not Nakamura's strong suit, but at least he's getting better in that department, and it helps that this was pre-taped and not in front of the live crowd. That's where he comes across like a star on the mic. This was the character motivation he desperately needed with Nakamura talking about the "Nakamura Dynasty" and his journey to the WWE Championship.
Randy Orton def. WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in a Grudge Match (Non-title)
WWE called this a "Grudge match," but it was basically a No Holds Barred match/Street Fight. That said, this was easily the best bout Orton and Mahal have contested to date because they were allowed to utilize the extreme environment and it wasn't saddled with interference (we were told The Singh Brothers were out "injured"). The crowd was behind Mahal (who actually hails from Canada) throughout, but it didn't matter since he ended up being beaten clean by Orton. I understand Orton finally giving Mahal his comeuppance, but it made zero sense for Mahal to suffer his first defeat so close to SummerSlam, making me think that he'll be retaining his title versus Nakamura.
Due to the two hour format, the Canadian crowd was much livelier for SmackDown Live than they were for Raw on Monday night. Then again, it was a stronger show on the whole anyway, so I'm sure that was another contributing factor. It's clear very few of the feuds on SmackDown heading into SummerSlam have juice, but on the bright side, they're making the most of what they have. Next week's episode will be crucial in selling fans on the show, because as of now, my anticipation for the event is not at an all-time high.
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