Live from Omaha, Nebraska, this is Smackdown Live for episode #984. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with a recap of last week’s Smackdown with Harper and Rowan doing a two on one attack on Daniel Bryan when Kane made his surprising return to Smackdown. Team Hell No cleaned house and Smackdown ended with Paige informing us that Bryan and Kane would challenge the Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at Extreme Rules on July 15.
This week on Smackdown: Asuka vs. James Ellsworth, AJ Styles vs. Aiden English in a non-title match and Jeff Hardy has a US Title open challenge.
Let’s Hear From Team Hell No
Renee Young was in the ring welcoming us to Smackdown Live. She introduced Kane and Daniel Bryan aka Team Hell No to join her in the ring.
Kane entered first for the team in his full outfit complete with a mask. He is likely going to be the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee in one month, so we don’t know how long this return is going to last. Daniel Bryan was greeted with the “yes” chants as usual.
Bryan talked about how the beautiful thing about their relationship is sometimes they fight, sometimes they hug and when they step in the ring they always deliver. Bryan said that together they are unstoppable. Kane talked about how they stood toe to toe against The Shield in a TLC match, they graduated from anger management with honors, they’ve been through hell and Kane said that Team Hell No is back and better than ever.
Kane was asked by Renee why he came back. Kane pointed out that Bryan has a bit of a temper, so when the Bludgeon Brothers attacked Bryan two weeks ago, Kane knew he was needed. Kane said Bryan has a devil over his shoulder. Bryan pointed out that the last time they were in the ring together, they were opponents. Kane said that’s true, but they are friends. Bryan pointed out that Kane tried to end his career. Bryan pointed out that Kane Tombstoned him on the floor, steps and announce table when it wasn’t a match.
Kane said that if they want to defeat the Bludgeon Brothers, they have to focus on what unites them. Bryan said that Kane tried to abduct his wife (Brie Bella), Kane said “tried” and then said he has always had Bryan’s back. Bryan said no he hasn’t, Kane said “yes I have” which led to them getting into a “yes / no” argument.
The Usos music hit for the interruption. They were not in their ring attire. They welcomed Kane back and referred to Bryan as Sweet Beats. I miss Talking Smack. Jimmy asked the crowd if they were excited that Hell No was back, but then they said that Team Hell No does not deserve a title shot. The Usos welcomed them to the Uso Penitentiary. Jey complained about how Paige gave them a title shot because they hugged last week. The Usos hugged eachother four times, which they claimed means four championship opportunities.
Bryan told them that hugging does not mean four title matches. Bryan told them they should get in the ring right now to settle this. Kane said that they would consider it. Bryan yelled at Kane for thinking that Bryan was the weak link.
Paige, the Smackdown General Manager, interrupted with a promo on the stage. Paige said it’s up to her to do what’s right. Paige said that Team Hell No will still get their title match at Extreme Rules and tonight they will face The Usos. Paige added that if The Usos beat Team Hell No, they will be added to the Smackdown Tag Team Championships match at Extreme Rules to make it a triple threat. The Usos liked that. Paige’s music hit to end it.
Analysis: It was a classic Team Hell No with some bickering from Kane and Bryan while also showing that they are on the same page at least in terms of being a team again. The Usos were justified in their complaints about how Team Hell No didn’t win a match to get their title shot. Paige setting up the tag team match for later was the right call too. That took about 15 minutes to get through all of that, which is a bit longer than the usual Smackdown opening.
Jeff Hardy did a promo talked about celebrating this nation’s independence and he carries the US Title with great pride. Hardy had red, white and blue face paint. Hardy said his challenge is now open.
Asuka was shown backstage looking into the camera. Asuka said men or women, it doesn’t matter who she faces because they all feel the pain. Asuka said James (Ellsworth) is not ready for Asuka.
Jeff Hardy entered for the Independence Day Open Challenge for the United States Championship. As mentioned earlier, Hardy has red, white and blue face paint for Independence Day. Hardy greeted the fans at ringside.
The open challenge opponent for Hardy is…The Miz. That’s a big name that has no current storyline, so it makes sense. Corey Graves put over how great Miz is saying on July 4 it should be the Declaration of Mizdependence.
United States Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz
Hardy with a jawbreaker early on. Miz missed a corner attack when Hardy moved, Hardy went up top, punch from Miz and Hardy managed to shove Miz down. Miz bailed to the floor, Hardy jumped into the ring and the show went to break two minutes into the match.
The match returned with Miz in control, but Hardy managed to come back by sending Miz into the turnbuckle repeatedly. Hardy led the crowd in “delete” chants. Graves wondered why Hardy’s paint job looked like a Union Jack for the United Kingdom. Miz with a running kick that knocked down Hardy. Miz worked over Hardy with a submission move where he pulled on Hardy’s arms. Hardy came back with punches, forearm, atomic drop, double leg drop and dropkick for two. Hardy with a back body drop that sent Miz over the top to the floor. Hardy with a low dropkick that sent Miz into the barricade. Hardy ran at Miz on the floor, Miz moved and Miz sent Hardy into the barricade. Both guys were down outside the ring. The match went to break there.
The match was back on with Miz still in control until Hardy hit a mule kick to knock him down. Hardy went to the two boots to the chest, Miz slipped out, they each went for big moves and Hardy got a two count. Miz hit a kick to the knee followed the snap DDT for a two count. Miz with the corner clothesline. Miz up top, Hardy moved out of the way and Hardy went up top with a Whisper in the Wind cross body block for a two count. Hardy was selling the left knee injury. Miz countered a Twist of Fate attempt with a rollup with his feet on the ropes, but the referee stopped the count because Miz had his hand on the ropes. Miz argued with the referee. Hardy hit a Twist of Fate. Hardy went up top and hit the Swanton Bomb for the pinfall win after 17 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jeff Hardy
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a good match that was given a lot of time like the last time they had a long match on Smackdown going into Money in the Bank, which was a win for Miz. That match was a level above this one, but this was still fun to watch with two veterans that know how to get all their moves in while building up to the key spots in the match. Hardy retaining was the right move because he needs a long run to help establish that title after there were so many title changes before he won it. The last few minutes were great, which again is no surprise considering how experienced these guys are. They know how to put on a good match when they get that much time.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were shown on camera. They promoted Extreme Rules on WWE Network on July 15 by going over all the matches. I have all those matches at the bottom of this review.
James was in the locker room talking about how men are the superior specimen. Ellsworth bragged about how great he is. Ellsworth ended it saying he’ll put Asuka in her place because Mella is Money and Ellsworth is exquisite.
Still to come: Bryan and Kane vs. The Usos.
Up next is the first ever New Day’s 3rd of July pancake eating contest.
New Day Pancake Eating Contest
Byron Saxton was in the ring hosting the pancake eating contest. Saxton said that tomorrow is the 4th of July, but tonight is the first annual 3rd of July pancake eating contest. The ring had a table on it with three pots covering plates.
The New Day trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods made their entrance to a nice ovation from the crowd. Phillips said the world record for pancake eating was 113 pancakes in eight minutes.
The New Day guys were given fancy introductions by Saxton with Kingston up first, then Woods and Big E was last. Five minutes were placed on the clock. They have five minutes to eat as many pancakes as possible.
Big E’s pancakes were red, Woods’ were white and Kingston’s were blue. They ate about three pancakes and then it ended due to the music of Sanity.
The Sanity trio of Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain sabotaged New Day with an attack from behind. They knocked Big E out of the ring first. Wolfe tossed Kingston over the top to the floor with a rough landing for Kingston on his knees. Young whipped Woods into a table leg. Dain tossed Big E into the steel steps. Dain threw Big E over the announce table into the chairs. Dain hit a running cross body block on Kingston to take him out. Sanity set up a table in the ring for Woods. Young went up top and hit a flying elbow drop onto Woods through the table.
Analysis: The pancake contest idea was obviously going to lead to an interruption, so if you were mad that it ended I’m sorry for your loss. That’s pro wrestling. I’m glad it was Sanity that made the interruption because it makes a lot of sense for them to have a 3 on 3 style feud. They’ll have good matches together whether it’s a regular tag or a six-man tag.
Still to come: Team Hell No vs. The Usos.
They also mentioned Ellsworth vs. Asuka and compared it somehow to Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in tennis in the 1970s. This is not as important as that. Sorry WWE. That match is next at the top of hour two.
Asuka made her entrance first. Remember when she won the Royal Rumble in January? She has not been booked well since then.
James Ellsworth entered to boos with a shirt that said “No one is ready for Ellsworth.” Images were shown from Money in the Bank with Ellsworth distracting Asuka leading to Carmella retaining her Smackdown Women’s Title.
Carmella made her entrance with the Smackdown Women’s Championship in her hands. She was out there to support her buddy Ellsworth. Carmella joined the commentary team for this match.
James Ellsworth vs. Asuka
Ellsworth started the match with three push-ups. Asuka shoved Ellsworth leading to Ellsworth bumping out of the ring. Asuka locked up with Ellsworth, so Ellsworth bailed to the floor again. Asuka worked over Ellsworth with punches, kicks and an airplane spin. Ellsworth teased getting sick. Asuka slapped Ellsworth hard in the face and a spinning back fist that led to Ellsworth leaving the ring. Ellsworth ran into the crowd. Asuka ran after him and they went running into the crowd. The ref countered them both out. The match went about two minutes.
Match Result: Countout
Analysis: 1/4* It was a short match as expected. Ellsworth got no offense in because WWE doesn’t really want a man to hit a woman. The countout result is okay in that situation.
Post match, Ellsworth went running back towards the ring with Asuka chasing after him. Carmella got involved by shoving Asuka into the barricade. Carmella picked up Ellsworth and they left up the ramp.
Analysis: Cheap attack by Carmella to get her some heat.
Kane was walking around in the backstage area. Bryan showed up with papers. Bryan read things about what Kane did to him in the past like hitting him with a Chokeslam in 2012 and other things. Kane said he’s sorry. Kane said he’s like a brother to him. Bryan pointed out that Kane set his brother (The Undertaker) on fire. Kane fired him up saying that when they are on the same page, nobody can stop them. Kane said that they create a fire that no one can extinguish. Kane said that they will be Tag Team Champions. Kane asked Bryan if he’s ready for the Usos and Bryan did “yes” chants to show that Kane’s pep talk worked.
Analysis: That was a necessary segment to show that Bryan was still hesitant about trusting Kane, but Kane reassured him that they’re on the same page again.
AJ Styles was shown putting on his gloves because he was getting ready for his match with Aiden English that is up next.
It was announced that Jeff Hardy will defend the US Title against Shinsuke Nakamura at Extreme Rules on July 15. Good to know that Nakamura will be healthy after the dog bite to his leg last week.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, made his entrance to a loud reaction like usual.
Styles did a promo with fans chanting “AJ Styles” and “Rusev Day” at him. Styles talked about how Rusev’s bigger and stronger, but that’s not new to him. Styles reminded us that this is the house that AJ Styles built. Styles said Rusev is a super athlete, but he is not phenomenal.
Rusev interrupted with Aiden English by his side. Rusev said he didn’t care how phenomenal Styles is because he’s never faced THIS Rusev that has a title opportunity for the first time ever. Rusev said it’s going to happen on his holiday, of course. That led to some “Rusev Day” chants, but not a lot. Rusev got in the ring to say he’ll take that title and move into the house that Styles has built. English sang “Rusev Day” when Rusev asked what day they are moving in. Fans chanted “Rusev Day.”
Analysis: There is not much of a story for this match other than Styles is a confident champion and Rusev feels like he is wrestling as well as he ever has, so maybe he has what it takes to win. I’ll pick Styles to retain, but a win for Rusev would be fine with me.
AJ Styles vs. Aiden English (w/Rusev)
This is not for the WWE Championship.
English with a punch to the back of Styles after a distraction from Rusev. They went to break there.
English worked over Styles with a kick to the ribs. Rusev wanted a suplex, Styles landed on the apron and English hit a full nelson into a slam for a two count. English slapped on a headlock. Styles came back with strikes to the face, a clothesline and a running forearm. Styles with a clothesline on English in the corner followed by the Ushigoroshi neckbreaker. Styles went for the Styles Clash, English avoided it and Styles turned it into a Calf Crusher submission. English tapped out to give Styles the win after about five minutes.
Winner by submission: AJ Styles
Analysis: *1/2 Easy win for Styles in a quick match. Other than one nearfall, nobody believed English had a chance here.
Post match, Rusev pulled Styles out of the ring. Rusev sent Styles face first into the ring post. Rusev hit a Machka Kick to knock down Styles on the floor. Rusev sent Styles into the ring and Rusev applied the Accolade submission. Styles sold it by passing out in the ring. Rusev stood over a fallen Styles.
Analysis: This feud needed a cheap attack like that to get some heat on Rusev. I know people like to cheer Rusev, but it’s better for the match if Rusev is booked like the heel. That way it will mean more when Styles makes the comeback in the match.
The Iiconics duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay did a cell phone promo. Royce said that Becky Lynch is a has-been that never wins when it matters most. Royce said that Lynch is on a roll, but she will finish what Billie started. Kay said that Royce will beat Lynch and Royce said she will hurt Lynch.
Becky Lynch vs. Peyton Royce is next.
Carmella and Ellsworth were shown walking backstage. Paige walked up to them. Paige booked Ellsworth in a rematch with Asuka next week with every Smackdown woman at ringside for a Lumberjack Match.
Analysis: It might go longer than the match this week.
The women were in the ring to start the match, so no televised entrance. That tells you it’s going to be a short match.
Peyton Royce (w/Billie Kay) vs. Becky Lynch
Lynch got a rollup early on. Kay with a distraction, Royce tripped up Lynch off the top, Royce with a kick and a slam off the shoulders by Royce got a two count. Royce slapped on an abdominal stretch as the fans chanted for Lynch. Royce tripped up Lynch and sent her throat first into the middle ropes. Lynch got a rollup for two. Royce went for a spin kick, Lynch ducked it, Lynch with a Bexploder suplex. Royce with a kick to the face, but Lynch came back with a leaping kick. Royce came back with a running knee to the face. Royce put Lynch on her shoulders, Lynch rolled through and slapped on the Disarmer armbar for the tapout victory after about four minutes.
Winner by submission: Becky Lynch
Analysis: *1/2 It was fine for the time given. Like I say all the time, it’s tough to have a meaningful match when it is so short. The winning streak for Lynch continued since she has won matches several weeks in a row now beating some of the midcard heels on this show.
Shinsuke Nakamura did a cell phone promo asking why Jeff Hardy paints his face. Nakamura wondered if Hardy is a clown or if he’s ashamed. Nakamura said at Extreme Rules he will take his pride, his honor and his United States Championship.
Analysis: That should be a very good match like they had on Smackdown a few weeks ago. They have good chemistry.
The Usos made their entrance. I like how the graphic on their entrance mentions they won two Slammy Awards for best tag team. Why would they put that in there when they stopped doing the Slammys? Weird. Anyway, they are also 5-time Tag Team Champions.
This week on 205 Live was Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy. I watched it on Wednesday morning. It's outstanding. A four star level match that was given over 20 minutes. Check it out.
Kane made his entrance for the main event. There wasn’t much of a reaction for him. Daniel Bryan got a loud ovation with the “yes” chants.
The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) vs. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane)
If The Usos win, they are added to the Tag Team Title match at Extreme Rules.
Bryan tripped up Jimmy and put him in the surfboard as Phillips noted that Bryan and Kane had a tag team title run as champions for 245 days. I had forgotten that it was that long, but it’s true. Kane tagged in, then he tagged Bryan back in leading to a Bryan kick on Jimmy against the turnbuckle. Jey tagged in with a forearm, Bryan nailed him with a kick and Kane was back in there with a body slam on Jey. The Usos attacked Kane at the same time, so Kane pushed them both over the top to the floor. Uppercut punch by Jimmy on Bryan. Both Usos nailed suicide dives to take out Kane on the floor.
Back from break, Bryan was in the ring for his team with a running clothesline on Jimmy. Bryan with a corner dropkick. Bryan worked over Jimmy with kicks to the chest. Bryan with a Frankensteiner off the top. Bryan did the “Yes” kicks to the chest, the last kick didn’t connect and Bryan was sent to the floor. Jey distracted Bryan and Jimmy kicked Bryan to the floor. Jey tagged in with a clothesline on the floor. Jimmy tagged in with a running hip attack against the turnbuckle. The Usos made quick tags as they continued to work over Bryan on their side of the ring. Bryan got moving, he ran the ropes and he did a collision spot with Jimmy that took down both guys. Kane got the hot tag against Jey. Kane with a punch, kick to the face, corner splash and sidewalk slam for two with Jimmy making the save. Jey hit a dropkick that sent Kane out of the ring. Jimmy suicide dive didn’t work because Kane sent him into the barricade. Kane punched Jey. Jimmy tagged back in, Bryan jumped in and a double superkick for him. Double superkick for Kane got a two count. The Usos each went to the top rope, but Kane got his hands up to choke them both. Bryan hit a running knee on Jimmy, Kane hit a Chokeslam on Jey and Kane covered for the win for his team. It went 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Daniel Bryan and Kane
Analysis: ***1/4 This was a good tag team match that went exactly as we would have expected it to go with Bryan as the face in peril, Kane getting the hot tag and Team Hell No getting the win. What I really liked is that The Usos had a few moments in there where it looked like they could get the win even though most of us watching probably knew Team Hell No would win. It’s important to make it look like the losers had a chance to win. That’s what they did here.
Post match, Bryan led the crowd in “Yes” chants. Kane did his own version, then Bryan told him to do it like he means it and Kane got into it more. Bryan and Kane hugged in celebration.
The Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper and Rowan made their entrance with less than one minute left in the show. Harper and Rowan just stood on the stage for a staredown with Bryan and Kane. Smackdown ended with the staredown.
Analysis: I think Bryan and Kane are going to win the titles at Extreme Rules. I think they’ll get that last run as Tag Team Champions with Kane likely to become mayor of Knox County next month. It may be a short title reign because of that since Kane will likely be off the road. I just figure if WWE is going to put this team back together, they might as well win the titles again.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Daniel Bryan
2. Jeff Hardy
3. The Miz
7 out of 10
Last week: 6
2018 Average: 6.39
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 7, 7, 8, 6
2018 High: 8 (April 10, May 29)
2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2, January 9)
Smackdown gets a 7 out of 10 this week.
I liked this show. It was easy to get through it with two matches over three stars, the opening promo was exactly what was needed after what happened last week and everything else was fine.
It was good to see that Rusev got some heat on Styles because that was needed in that rivalry.
The pancake eating contest idea is silly in theory, but turning it into an angle to start a Sanity vs. New Day rivalry is cool with me. I liked the cheap attack by the heels. I wasn’t a fan of the Asuka vs. Ellsworth idea. The positive thing about it is that it was kept short and it didn’t drag on.
One of the best things about Smackdown is they make the most of their time. Raw is too long, so there’s filler that makes me want to go to sleep while I’m watching. With Smackdown, it's just easier to get through it because nearly everything on the show feels important.
— WWE (@WWE) June 27, 2018
The next WWE PPV is Extreme Rules on July 15 in Pittsburgh, PA. Here’s the lineup so far.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Rusev
Intercontinental Championship 30-Minute Ironman Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley
Raw Women’s Championship Extreme Rules Match: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) vs. Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan)
United States Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka
Raw Tag Team Championships: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs. The B Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas)
I think we can pencil in Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens as well. That would be 10 matches. If they add one more it might be The New Day vs. Sanity.
Thanks for reading. My contact info is below. Go Los Angeles Rams.