Happy birthday America! Let’s see what Smackdown Live, featuring the return of John Cena, has for us this week.
Live from Phoenix, Arizona this is Smackdown Live for episode #933. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with a video package about how this week’s Smackdown will be a celebration of American Independence Day since it’s the Fourth of July. It ended with a shot of John Cena of course.
John Cena is Back
The music started and John Cena made his return to a thunderous ovation while some fans sang “John Cena sucks” at him. It’s his WWE TV return after three months away. The ring ropes are red, white and blue this week in honor of America’s birthday.
Cena said he’s fired up tonight while urging the crowd to make some noise. The dueling “Let’s go Cena/Cena Sucks” chant started. He asked if they missed him and there was a mixed response.
Cena said he’s fired up because today is their Independence Day. He spoke about how the USA was built on an idea that anybody can come there and with hard work they can achieve greatness. Cena noted that on days like today they get together and they celebrate the American Dream. That’s why he loves this country. Cena said WWE is the same thing where superstars from all around the world, all walks of life, get to come there and with hard work they get a chance to prove they can compete with the best. Cena said every time he gets in that ring he wants to compete with the best.
Cena talked about how there were a lot of superstars spreading rumors about his future because they think he’s gone Hollywood, sold out, lost his edge and that he’s nothing more than a part timing mascot. Cena said he is not a part-timer, he’s an all-timer and that means Monday night Raw and Smackdown Live. Cena said that the reason he’s a free agent is because if he’s going to go down he’s going down in a blaze of glory. Cena mentioned some of the biggest names from both Smackdown and Raw (like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, Jinder Mahal, Seth Rollins, etc.) including Roman Reigns at the end, which drew boos. Cena: “You line ’em up and I will knock them down.” Cena fired up saying he has never lost the passion for the business and he has nothing to lose. Cena said he couldn’t think of a better time to make his return because today is Independence Day.
Rusev’s music hit and Rusev stood on the stage. It’s his debut on Smackdown since the Superstar Shake-up three months ago. Rusev spoke about how he was rehabbing his shoulder and wondered where his comeback commercials were. Rusev said that he sent video messages to Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, but nobody responded to him. Rusev said that’s why he’s not waiting anymore. The fans did the “what” chants at him, but he got through it. Rusev told Cena his American Dream just like America is a joke. Fans chanted “USA” at him.
Cena fired back saying they are not in “Bulge Area” (Bulgaria) and asked the fans if the USA is a joke. They didn’t like that. Rusev talked about how in their home they march in a parade and in the US people eat cheeseburgers and hot dogs. The fans chanted “yes” to that, so Cena mentioned fireworks too. Rusev yelled at the fans and said that is not a compliment. Cena said forgive Rusev because he’s been off thinking a lot and Rusev thinking is a bad idea. Cena spoke about how in the US they are not afraid to stand up and fight for what they believe in.
Cena suggested that Rusev bring that Bulgarian flag and Cena will bring the US flag for an old school Flag Match. The fans chanted “yes” for that. Rusev said “yes, yes but not today.” Rusev said they will fight on his time and his terms. Rusev waved the flag around. Cena encouraged “USA” chants to send Rusev home with the gift of song. The crowd chanted “USA” some more as Cena’s music played to end it.
Analysis: Great promo from Cena, which is usual for him. He’s one of the best talkers in the business and has been for a very long time. I liked Cena saying he was an all-timer to counter the people that call him a part-timer, but being an all-time great doesn’t erase the fact that he is just a part-time wrestler. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just saying it wasn’t a great counter to it. Rusev did well in his promo too. I’m glad to see Rusev back even though we have seen him feud with Cena before. It makes sense as a comeback rivalry for Cena where he can be the American hero type of face against the evil foreigner in Rusev. I figured they would do the match this week, but saving it for Battleground later in the month is fine too.
Coming up: Naomi vs. Lana for the SD Women’s Championship and a Rap Battle between The Usos and New Day hosted by rapper Wale.
Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s General Manager, was in his office. Chad Gable showed up and so did AJ Styles. Bryan said he was tired of Kevin Owens complaining about how KO has beat both guys, so he didn’t want either of them in the battle royal. They were mad that they weren’t in the battle royal. Bryan suggested a “win and you’re in” match between Styles and Gable. Winner gets in the battle royal while the loser is out. Both guys were okay with it. That match is next.
Analysis: It’s a fresh matchup with something on the line, so that’s fine with me. Plus, I’m a big fan of both guys.
The best in the world AJ Styles made his entrance to a big ovation. The announce team of Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield and Byron Saxton were shown on screen welcoming us to the show.
Chad Gable made his entrance alone. No sign of his partner Jason Jordan.
AJ Styles vs. Chad Gable
Both guys are faces and similar in size although Styles is a bit taller. There was some mat wrestling early on with Gable getting the advantage with a waist lock takedown. Styles came back with a kick and the show went to break one minute into it.
Analysis: I believe in the US the match was shown while commercials aired, but we don’t get that in Canada. They run commercials here.
Back from break, they battled on the top turnbuckle and Styles tripped him up to send Gable into the top turnbuckle. Styles came back with a forearm, but Gable tripped him up on the top rope. Gable up top, he jumped off, Styles moved and Styles gave him a suplex into the turnbuckle. Ouch. Styles went for the Styles Clash, but Gable slipped out of it and applied the Ankle Lock. Styles kicked him away, Gable held on and Styles fought out of it with the Calf Crusher. Gable powered out of the Calf Crusher. Both guys were selling the leg injuries. Gable avoided the strikes of Styles and hit a German Suplex with Styles bumping onto his chest. Styles countered another German Suplex attempt, but Styles rolled through for two. Styles hit a Pele Kick to the head. Styles followed up with a Phenomenal Forearm to the face for the pinfall win after eight minutes. That forearm looked great.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: **3/4 Great match for the time given. It would have been nice if they got more time because the work was excellent and the crowd was into it from the opening bell. Styles winning was no surprise since he’s the bigger name and his star power is needed in the battle royal. Gable put up a good fight, came close to winning and the most important thing is the fans believed in him. We want to see fresh matchups like that. More please.
After the match, JBL put over the match and spoke about the incredible future that Gable has. Styles picked up Gable as a sign of respect and nodded to him before leaving.
Analysis: That Styles vs. Gable story could lead to a feud down the road. Their styles (no pun intended) are similar, so I would love to see more matches between them. No rush, obviously.
Mojo Rawley was in the locker room looking sad at a Hype Bros shirt when Zack Ryder showed up to him. Ryder told Rawley that they are going to be in the battle royal later. Rawley noted he won the Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania and Ryder said that’s because he wasn’t in it. Rawley thanked him for getting them in the battle royal.
Analysis: They’re either headed for a split (that’s what I think) or they could be built back up stronger than ever. I’m interested in seeing where it’s headed.
Carmella and James Ellsworth were shown walking backstage because they’re up next.
A commercial aired for the Kevin Owens DVD that’s out now. I saw the 25 minute preview on WWE Network and it’s amazing. I look forward to checking that out.
Let’s Hear From Miss Money in the Bank
Carmella walked out with her Money in the Bank briefcase and her buddy James Ellsworth was with her as well. A replay aired from last week’s MITB match that was won by Carmella.
Ellsworth said he’s cancelling Independence Day because they’re here to celebrate something more important…a Carmella-bration. Ellsworth introduced the first, second and only Miss Money in the Bank.
Carmella laughed about how the fans thought somebody else was going to win the briefcase. Carmella said the people wanted to right a wrong and have Daniel Bryan strip her of the contract, but the Rolling Stones said it best when they said “you can’t always get what you want” unless your name is Carmella because she gets what she wants. Carmella said now she has the power to decide when she gets to defeated the SD Women’s Champion Naomi.
Analysis: Solid promo, but the one last week was better. Rolling Stones references are pretty dated although that was a very popular song that most people would know.
Naomi made her “glow” entrance that now includes glow lights on her Smackdown Women’s Title that she has around her waist. That looks cool with JBL joking that it must be contagious.
Naomi congratulated Carmella on being able to call herself Miss Money in the Bank. Naomi reminded her that she is the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Naomi said her eyes are always open and she’s not scared. Naomi called James “Ellsworthless” and said there’s somebody else that has words for him. Here comes the Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan.
Bryan made his entrance to a huge ovation with the arena chanting “yes” for him. Fans chanted “Daniel Bryan” as he asked Ellsworth what he’s going to do with him. Bryan said he knows exactly what he’s going to do with Ellsworth. Bryan told Ellsworth he is barring him from the arena and Ellsworth laughed about it. Bryan also said he was fining him $10,000 as well, so Bryan laughed. Bryan told Ellsworth don’t expect a paycheck for 30 days because he’s suspended. Fans chanted “yes” for that. Bryan added that if Ellsworth doesn’t leave right now or if he breaks the rules, he is stripping Carmella of the briefcase. Carmella told him to leave and he escorted Ellsworth out. Bryan’s music played leading to “yes” chants to end it.
Naomi vs. Lana is up next.
Analysis: Good to see the follow up to Ellsworth trying to help Carmella win last week. Stories that happen one week and have a consequence the next week is what we want to see. I’m not going to miss Ellsworth for the next month either.
Lana made her ravishing entrance. She complained about her shoulder not being down last week, so she gets another title shot. Third title shot for Lana.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Naomi vs. Lana
The bell rang, Naomi kick to the gut, flip over and a head & arm submission by Naomi leads to the tapout. Naomi wins by submission in five seconds.
Winner by submission: Naomi
Analysis: That puts an end to this story. Match of the year! Not really.
Post match, Tamina entered the ring. She stood in between Naomi and Lana. Tamina told Lana to come with her. Naomi celebrated in the ring while Tamina left with Lana.
Analysis: Pairing up Tamina with Lana is a good way to help Lana’s toughness and credibility for the future. At least that’s what I think they are doing.
Shinsuke Nakamura was about to be interviewed backstage when Baron Corbin attacked him from behind with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Nakamura fought back with a forearm before refs showed up to break it up.
Analysis: Quick segment to push that story that should lead to a match at Battleground.
The Rap Battle is up next.
It was announced that John Cena will face Rusev in a Flag Match at Battleground on July 23 in Philly.
Rap Battle Hosted by Wale
Rapper Wale was in the ring to host the rap battle. I know he’s a huge wrestling fan, so he should do well. He introduced the first contestants.
The Usos, who are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions, made their entrance with a group of guys wearing hoods in support of The Usos.
The New Day trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods made their entrance. The New Day had their own entourage featuring a bunch of dudes in some funny costumes. It is almost like the Party Posse is back. Wale told them to keep it clean and set it up.
Big E started off by saying before The New Day was there, dark matches and pre-shows is all that The Usos got. Big E called them Chunky Cheeks because they’re bums. Big E told them speaking of butts, say hi to their pops because even Rikishi knows that New Day Rocks.
Jimmy and Jey Uso started off talking about Big E’s Double Ds, how Kofi looks like Whoopi and how Xavier says he’s 5’5” but he’s really 5’3”. Jimmy welcomed them to The Usos penitentiary. Jey mentioned that Rikishi’s booty made millions and Jimmy wondered if that’s supposed to be chest or breast on Big E.
Jey: “Big E, let’s just keep it PG, you know what’s good.”
Jimmy: “Just don’t get all rated R like your boy Xavier Woods.”
The crowd let out a big “oooohhhh” reaction to that. It was a reference to that leaked video that came out a few months ago where Xavier wasn’t exactly PG with Paige. The crowd knew all about it because they reacted to it in a big way. The Usos said the line again just for added effect.
Kofi picked it up saying Jimmy Uso looks like he has never worked out at a gym. Kofi mocked Jey for not working out either and bragged about his abs. Kofi noted that they were both college dropouts while pointing out that they had muffin tops for guts. Kingston wondered why they started wrestling in shirts. Kofi mocked them by mentioning “weeny-do” saying that’s when your gut hangs out more than your “weeny-do.” It led to a brief “weeny-do” chant.
Jey asked Kofi if he used to be Jamaican and Jimmy pointed out he was Jafaican. Jimmy said Kofi’s forehead looks like the back of a hand and Jey said Ron Simmons would say “DAMN!” The Usos kept on ranting saying that the only way New Day is going to beat them is if they added a fourth member like Wale. Usos did their line about how it’s not paranoia, it’s The Usos.
Woods said they came there fresh and clean looking like a million bucks while The Usos look like recently divorced dads. Woods focused on Jimmy and told him that he was absolutely nothing until his wife (that would be Naomi) put him on Total Divas. Big “oooohhhh” reaction from the crowd. Woods pointed out how The Usos used to wear face paint, but then they saw New Day coming up on the horizon. Woods told them they should go back to carrying bags for who? For Roman. Crowd did another “ooohhh” reaction to that.
The Usos shoved the New Day and the other guys in the ring pulled everybody back. Wale said The Usos were disqualified and said The New Day were the winners. The Usos left as The New Day’s song played.
Analysis: That was fun and I enjoyed it. Wale did a good job. I thought The Usos won in terms of coming up with funnier lines and delivering them too. They have shown a lot of personality since the heel run started while killing it whenever they get a chance to deliver promos. The line that The Usos had about Xavier Woods with the R Rated video with Paige wasn’t something I expected them to reference, but they did it and it drew a huge reaction. Best reaction for New Day was mentioning Jimmy was only famous for Total Divas. It was funny for the most part and it felt personal, so I like that it was done because we don’t see that kind of stuff very often.
Randy Orton was shown walking backstage.
Titus O’Neil was shown hyping up 205 Live and how Titus Worldwide was taking over the show.
Aiden English was in the ring for some singing. He was quickly cut off by Randy Orton’s song. Orton made his entrance and English said he wasn’t done. English hit Orton in the back with the microphone.
English whipped Orton shoulder first into the steel steps. They went to commercial there.
Randy Orton vs. Aiden English
The match began during the break. They were outside the floor with Orton hitting a clothesline. Orton sent English over the announce table. Orton whipped English into the barricade at ringside and sent him into the ring post. Orton picked up English and suplexed him onto the announce table, which didn’t break, but that’s usual for that spot. Orton hit a draping DDT off the announce table. Orton picked up the steel steps. Ref Charles Robinson told him he’ll disqualify him, Orton said I don’t care and Orton hit English with the steel steps to knock him down. The ref called for the bell, so that was it after about four minutes of action.
Winner by disqualification: Aiden English
Orton rolled English into the ring. Fans chanted “RKO” for him. English walked right into it and Orton hit a RKO. Orton’s music played as he stood on the turnbuckle.
Analysis: * It was a beating more than an actual match to put over Orton being in a bad mood. English can say he got the win, but the point of the match was to focus on Orton’s aggressiveness.
Jinder Mahal’s music played as the WWE Champion Mahal entered with the Singh Brothers at his side. Fans chanted “USA” at Mahal. It led to Mahal saying that USA is the home of prejudice and the land of ignorance. Mahal claimed that people disrespect him because of the way he talks and the color of his skin. Mahal said despite that he is still the WWE Champion while adding he wants to put everybody in the Punjabi Prison and beat tolerance into them. Mahal spoke about how he’s going to destroy Orton’s once great legacy and prove why the Modern Day Maharajah is the one true power in WWE.
Orton cut him off and told him to shut the hell up. Orton told Mahal nobody is going to stop him from punishing him in the Punjabi Prison match. Orton said that Mahal is right that nobody likes him, but he’s wrong about why. Orton told Mahal that nobody likes him because he is, and forever will be…a jackass. The crowd cheered.
Analysis: Good point by Orton. Mahal said the same thing he always does and Orton ended it in a simple way by telling Mahal why people don’t like him.
The announcers plugged WWE Network.
Still to come is the Independence Day Battle Royal.
Tye Dillinger was shown walking backstage. Tyler Breeze showed up dressed like a woman with a blonde wig. Dillinger asked if he was going to ask a question, then said Tyler and Tyler said it’s “Tenee Young.” Dillinger spoke about how he’s going to have a eyes in the back of his head during the battle royal and Fandango was in the background dressed as a construction worker. Dillinger ended it telling “Tenee” that “she” is a ten. Dillinger left. Fandango and Breeze said that they may come to blows in the battle royal, but they will be partners forever.
Analysis: That was mildly funny. Seeing Breeze dress up undercover every week is pretty silly, but it fits the Breezango/Fashion Police gimmick.
There was a shot of Renee Young backstage who said: “Tenee Young?” She just moved on by welcoming Maria and Mike Kanellis. Renee asked about the Power of Love. Maria said that love is undeniable, it’s ageless, it’s timeless, everybody wants love and not everybody gets it. There were some brief technical difficulties as Mike said Maria was beautiful. Some pipes got knocked over backstage. Sami Zayn was stretching and knocked them over. Sami went over to them to apologize for interrupting them this week and last week. Sami said the power of love makes one man weep and makes another man sing. Sami said that Huey Lewis and The News said that, but then his music played to end it. Zayn left for the match while Maria said “not right now” for a kiss and Mike said the moment was ruined.
Analysis: It’s the second week in a row where Zayn “accidentally” interrupted them, so Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis should be Mike’s first feud on the main roster.
Sami Zayn made his entrance for the Independence Day Battle Royal.
On Talking Smack after Smackdown it was Renee Young and Daniel Bryan hosting and the guests were Naomi, Maria & Mike Kanellis and the battle royal winner.
The US Champion Kevin Owens was seated at the announce table for this match because the winner of this faces him at Battleground. He said “shut up” when Tom and Byron tried to talk to him. AJ Styles made his entrance to fill out the ring with people in the battle royal.
Independence Day Battle Royal to Determine #1 Contender to the US Title
The ring was full of Smackdown’s midcard talent and AJ Styles, who is the obvious favorite. No Shinsuke Nakamura or Baron Corbin in the match. Tyler Breeze started wrestling with his “Tenee Young” wig. Dolph Ziggler was on the apron after going over the top and Luke Harper hit him with a clothesline to eliminate him.
When the show returned from break, Erick Rowan eliminated Fandango and tried to toss out Breeze, but Fandango caught him. Rowan threw Breeze out anyway. Rowan picked up Kalisto and threw him out. Rawley battled Konnor on the apron. Harper eliminated Konnor with a running clothesline after Rawley moved and then Rawley eliminated Harper. Ryder faced off with his partner Rawley. Rowan shoved both of them down. Hype Bros worked together and eliminated Rowan. Rawley grabbed Ryder and tossed him over the top to the eliminate him. Crowd reacted to that in a big way. Owens was yelling on commentary calling Mojo a hypocrite and saying that was disgusting.
Analysis: I still think Ryder is the one that turns heel to end the Hype Bros and now he can use this as a reason to do so.
The final four are Styles, Zayn, Dillinger and Rawley. Dillinger sent Rawley over the top, but Rawley hung on the apron. Styles tried to get rid of Rawley, but Rawley punched him and Zayn hit a Helluva Kick to eliminate Rawley. Owens noted that two of the three guys left are Canadian, which proves Canadians are better. I agree! Dillinger hit his Tyebreaker finisher on Zayn and Styles. Dillinger tried to dump both guys out, but they held on. Zayn was on the apron and he gave Dillinger a back body drop to eliminate Dillinger.
Zayn and Styles were the last two men with Owens saying he has beaten both men multiple times. Zayn hit an Exploder Suplex that sent Styles into the corner. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, styles moved and Zayn’s momentum took him onto the apron. Styles with a knee strike followed by a Pele Kick knocked Zayn to the floor to give Styles the win. It went 10 minutes.
Winner: AJ Styles
The win means that AJ Styles will challenge Kevin Owens for the US Title at Battleground on July 23.
Analysis: **1/2 It was a fun battle royal with Styles emerging as the winner even though he didn’t do that much in the early part of the match. The big angle development in the match was Rawley eliminating Ryder, which could lead to that Hype Bros split. I thought Zayn was great for most of the match and carried most of it. Finish was strong and put over Styles like it should have.
Post match, Owens said Styles would regret the win and went into the ring to stomp away on him. Owens showed Styles the title, told him to take a good look and Styles nailed a jumping kick to the head. Styles went for a Styles Clash, but Owens bailed to the floor.
Styles was left in the ring with the title, so Styles held up the US Title and the crowd cheered. Owens yelled about how it was his title. The show ended with Owens and Styles having a staredown.
Analysis: Basic angle to end it and promote the US Title match. It should be a good match of course.
Three Stars of the Show
1. AJ Styles
2. Chad Gable
3. The Usos
7 out of 10
Last week: 7.5
2017 Average: 7.07
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.78 – Raw is at 5.86
Last 5 Weeks: 7.5, 7, 7.5, 7, 7.5
2017 High: 8.5 (April 11)
2017 Low: 5 (May 16)
It gets a 7 out of 10.
It was a good show that gets 7 out 10, which is right around my yearly average for Smackdown. The in-ring action took a back seat to the promos because there was a lot of talking this week.
I thought Styles and Gable was the best match. Any time a tag wrestler like Gable gets put in that kind of situation and is allowed to look competitive with a top guy like Styles that is great for Smackdown. It puts over how deep the roster is and how anybody can thrive if they get a chance.
Good to see Cena back although feuding with Rusev doesn’t excite me that much because it’s not new. It makes sense since neither guy had anything else going on.
Styles winning the US Title battle royal was a no brainer. He had the rivalry with Owens a few months ago and now it’s back.
I would have liked to see more of Nakamura and Corbin. Instead, they were just on screen for about 30 seconds. The feud needs more than just a couple of cheap attacks from Corbin.
The rap battle was cool and I thought The Usos were hilarious, so that’s why they were my third star of the week.
As @WWEDanielBryan announced, we will have a #FlagMatch at #WWEBattleground pitting @JohnCena against @RusevBUL! #SDLive