After an opening video package highlighting the stuff that went down last week as well as hyping two huge matches for tonight (Styles vs. Owens and Cena vs. Nakamura) we head to Cleveland, Ohio for action. Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton are calling the action.
Match 1: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
WWE has so conditioned me to expect an opening talking segment, that when Owen’s music hit as soon as Styles was in the ring I was confused. Owens is still rocking his “New Face of America” graphics even though he’s not the US Champion anymore.
Both dudes stand around while ring introductions happen. This one’s for the US Championship. The bell rings and Owens goes for a chinlock and then hits a shoulder block. The crowd is behind Styles.
Styles goes for a dropkick by Owens avoids it by hanging onto the ropes. He thing hits a forearm to the back that sends Styles out to the floor. Owens goes out after him and levels Styles with a clothesline as we go to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!
Owens is still in control as we return from break, but eventually gets cut off with a dropkick. Styles follows up with strikes and kicks before nailing Owens with a kneedrop that’s good for two. He follows up with a suplex and another pin attempt, but again Owens kicks out at two.
They go back and forth with some chops and strikes before Styles starts putting the boots to Owens in the corner. Owens runs into a boot and Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens rolls out of the way. He bails to the floor but Styles goes up again and hits the Phenomenal Forearm to Owens on the outside. Owens recovers and sends Styles into the barricade and then hits a cannonball as we go to commercial once more. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!
Back from the break and Styles is in control. He hits a running forearm and sends Owens into the corner. Styles follows with a leaping clothesline in the corner and then hits a fireman’s carry neckbreaker that earns him a near fall. Styles then goes for a Styles Clash, but Owens counters with a back body drop.
Styles goes for another springboard attack, but again Owens manages to avoid it. He nails Styles with a superkick and goes for a Popup Powerbomb. Styles blocks it and takes Owens to the mat and locks on the Calf Crusher. Owens pulls Styles’ mom hair and then headbutts him to break the hold.
Owens goes for a cradle but Styles escapes and nails him with a Pele Kick. He tries again for the Styles Clash, but Owens is a big boy who loves to roughhouse so Styles can’t get him up and just gets him in the Calf Crusher again.
Owens tries to fight out and looks like he might tap, but manages to get to the bottom rope and the hold is broken. Owens shoves Styles off and stuns him with a pair of superkicks. He goes to punch Styles, but Styles ducks and the ref gets popped in the eye and goes down. Owens goes for a powerbomb, but Styles counters with a sloppy rollup. Owens’ shoulder is not down but the ref counts. ONE! TWO! THREE! Styles retains his US Championship.
After the match a doctor comes to check on the ref while Owens fumes in the ring and screams about his shoulder being up. JBL agrees with him. We are shown some replays that make it clear that Owens wasn’t pinned. Owens eventually heads to the back.
Winner: AJ Styles
A very good outing from these two. Styles is one of the best dudes in the ring and Owens is fantastic with psychology and in ring story telling. Little stuff like him biting his hand to prevent himself from tapping out in the Calf Crusher really does a lot to make his matches feel more believable.
The ending was what it was. These two need a reason to continue their feud through to SummerSlam, and bad officiating is as good a reason as any I suppose. [***]
Referee Mike Chioda is getting his eye checked by the doctor. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan show up and are like, “We’ve got a problem Mike…you made a bad call.” Chioda’s like, “I couldn’t see well, I thought his shoulders were down…I admit I done goofed.”
Owen comes up and is furious. He asks Shane and D. Bry if they saw what happened. They did. He calls the ref and idiot and grabs his shirt to rough him up. Shane tells Owens to calm down. They saw what happened and admit that the ref made a mistake, but the decision still stands.
Shane then said that Owens would get a rematch at SummerSlam for the US Championship. Owens said he wanted a ref who wasn’t going to screw him out of the title again. So Daniel Bryan says he’s got a great idea for a ref: Shane McMahon!
Owens is furious, screaming, “HE’S THE WORST ONE HERE!” but Shane’s like, “If you want your rematch, I’m the ref.” Owens agrees to it but then flips over a table and knocks some stuff over before storming off.
Highlights for Children!
We get a recap of The Usos beating up The New Day from last week.
Meanwhile In The Arena…
Here come the New Day! Wait, “busted up tag team champs?” That doesn’t sound particularly positive. Oh it was the Usos…
The Usos walk around on the stage and on the ramp quasi-rapping a promo about how lame the New Day are. Because it’s the Usos they drop some overt homophobia on us, but Jey Uso randomly declaring “comic books” is pretty good. They end by chanting “Usos Rock!” a la “New Day Rocks!” and then their music plays. At one point there’s a shot of a kid going hard to the Usos’ entrance music while giving them the thumbs down which caused me to laugh.
This week we get a Twin Peaks parody. Tyler Breeze is Agent Cooper. He talks about Deputy Dango being missing into a cassette recorder and then opines that it would probably be easier to just call the person he’s going to send the tape to. He goes for a “damn fine cup of coffee,” but it’s some kind of sludge.
Suddenly Fandango in a red silk shirt shows up dancing. The Ascension’s there too laughing. One of the Ascension dudes pours maple syrup onto a log. “No wonder this show got canceled the first time,” says Tyler Breeze.
They keep laughing as Breeze yells, “No more metaphors!” It fades out and we cut to Breeze waking up. The entire thing had been a dream, but he stands up and says that he knows who kidnapped Fandango. To Be Continued!
Match 2: Sami Zayn vs. Aiden English
Sami Zayn comes out and we immediately go to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING! We come back and Sami’s music is still playing. I assume he just skanked in the ring for like three minutes straight.
English comes out and does his singing himself to the ring spiel. He says he’ll be “the greatest thing you’ll ever see right here in W~~~~W~~~~~shhhh….” The crowd chants “YOU SUCK!” at him before he finishes by singing “E!”
English gets things going with a shoulder tackle. He charges at Zayn again, but Zayn goes off the bottom rope and flips over English to avoid whatever he was going to do. Zayn then channels Steamboat and hits a trio of armdrags. Zayn has English grounded on the mat when English suddenly scores a roll up FROM OUTTA NOWHERE to pick up the win.
After the match Mike and Maria Kanellis comes out and declare that they love each other and also love that Sami Zayn lost.
Winner: Aiden English
This was a weird match. I mean I’m glad they seem to be giving Aiden English a push. He’s got a decent gimmick, is good on the mic, and decent enough in the ring. I always liked him in NXT and think he could be a solid midcard guy. That being said, I don’t really understand what’s going on with Sami Zayn right now or Mr. & Mrs. Kanellis for that matter. [½*]
Naomi and Becky Lynch are walking backstage. They’ll be in tag team action coming up next!
Match 3: Natalya & Carmella vs. Becky Lynch & Naomi
Nattie and Carmella got jobber entrances and were already in the ring when we came back from commercials. Becky Lynch and Naomi head out separately, but Becky waits for Naomi to come out and they walk down to the ring together.
Lynch and Natalya start things off. Becky controls the early going and works Natalya to the ropes. Becky hits some kicks and then takes Natalya down with some mat work. Naomi tags in with a sunset flip. Becky hits a shoulder tackle and then Naomi nails Nattie with a legdrop that’s good for two.
Carmella comes in and talks some shit so Naomi kicks her, but Carmella cuts her off with a slap to face. Naomi drops her with a jump kick and then slides in on her knees and slaps Carmella back right in the face.
Natalya comes in and Naomi goes after her, but the distraction allows Carmella to take control and take down Naomi. Natalya tags in she and Naomi work some double teams. Natalya covers and gets a two count.
Naomi tries for the tag, but Nattie cuts her off. Natalya applies a headlock. She stays in control and then gets Naomi in a Sharpshooter. Naomi gets to the ropes but Nattie pulls her back to the middle of the ring. Naomi fights back to the ropes and Natalya breaks the hold.
Carmella tags in much to Natalya’s chagrin and gets Naomi in the Code of Silence, but Naomi gets out of it and gets her head/arm submission on. Becky hits the ring and takes out Natalya with a Bexploder Suplex as Carmella taps out.
Winners: Naomi & Becky Lynch
This was a fine tag match for TV. Naomi survived some submission hold and got the pin so she looks strong going forward for SummerSlam. There was also some dissension between the number one contender and Miss Money In The Bank so maybe they’re hinting at something there. [**]
Renee Young is standing by with Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers. The Singhs are all taped up and bandaged from the beating they took during the Punjabi Prison match. Jinder cuts his same goddamn promo he’s been cutting for the past three months and then says that he’s going to watch the match between Nakamura and Cena from his skybox but he doesn’t care if he has to fight the American or the Japanese guy at SummerSlam because he’s the Modern Day Maharajah.
Somewhere Else Backstage…
Rusev is walking toward the ring. He’ll be in action coming up after the break!
Match 4: Rusev vs. Chad Gable
Rusev comes out alone because Lana’s too busy being a mediocre wrestler. Gable comes out next. He still has the American Alpha theme song.
They start things off with some mat wrestling. Gable tries in vain to take Rusev down a few times and gets tossed out of the ring for his troubles. Gable comes back in and takes Rusev down with a waist lock. He then works over Rusev’s knee with knee drops, but Rusev comes back with a knee lift and an overhead suplex that earns him a near fall as we go to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!
We return to find Gable on offense. He hits a pair of belly to belly suplexes where he kept his hands locked. Rusev fights off a third with headbutts, but Gable manages to hit a bridging German suplex that’s good for two.
Gable heads up top, but Rusev is up and attempt to cut him off. Gable does a backflip into the ring and avoids Rusev’s charge. Gable then hits a moonsault for a fantastic near fall. Gable goes for a rollup out of the corner but Rusev escape and nails Gable with a superkick that earns him another near fall.
Rusev gets fired up and goes for the Accolade, but Gable counters and gets Rusev in an ankle lock! Rusev looks like he’s about to tap, but manages to fight out of it. He kicks Gable out to the floor. Gable heads back in and gets levels by a brutal looking superkick. Rusev locks on the Accolade and Gable has no choice but to tap.
After the match Rusev gets on the mic and says that ever since he came to SmackDown Live he was promised competition of his caliber. He says that at Battleground Cena might have waved his flag around but he didn’t beat him. He says that he beats everyone so everyone is afraid of him. Rusev’s music plays for a second and then human Godsmack album, Randy Orton’s music hits and head slithers out to the ring.
Rusev won’t let him into the ring so Randy gets a mic and says that if he was Rusev he wouldn’t want Orton to get in the ring either. Rusev smirks and lets him in. Orton says that if he’s looking for an opponent for SummerSlam he doesn’t have to look any further. The fans chant, “Randy!” but Rusev laughs at him and cuts a promo in Bulgarian.
Orton gets pissed and charges Rusev. Rusev goes for a clothesline but Orton ducks it. RKO FROM OUTTA NOWHERE! The crowd goes apeshit and Orton’s music plays.
The match between Rusev and Gable was fantastic and even in defeat Gable looked great. He had a couple near falls and some decent submissions where it really seemed like he could win at any moment. He’s a good looking dude, pretty decent on the mic, great in the ring, and able to do serious or goofy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves into the US title scene once the Jinder Mahal experiment ends and main event guys go back to going after the World Championship.
The stuff with Orton I guess is fine. It gives Rusev something to do at SummerSlam, though I worry that he’s going to be sacrificed to build Orton back up after losing three in a row to Jinder. [***½]
Highlights for Children!
We get a quick recap of the controversial ending to the match between Owens and Styles earlier in the night. The rematch has officially been signed for SummerSlam with Styles defending his US Championship against Kevin Owens with Shane McMahon as the special guest referee. Rusev vs. Orton has also been made official.
Match 5: John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Cena’s out first. He gets a massive pop from the audience. There are a few boos but it’s mostly cheers tonight. I guess people finally realized that Cena usually has good matches and no longer wins all the time so it’s stupid to boo him.
Nakamura heads out as next. He gets nothing but cheers. People sing along to his theme music as he makes his way out to the ring. He finishes his entrance and we go to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!
We’re back and the match gets underway. The winner of this will go to face Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam. Jinder and the Singh Bros. are shown watching the match from their skybox.
The opening of the match has the two superstars feeling each other out. They do their signature hand gestures at one another and Nakamura mocks Cena’s “You can’t see me,” thing. He then runs the ropes and Cena leap frogs him.
Nakamura motions for Cena to bring it and then drops him with a step up enziguri. Cena recovers and Nakamura goes for a kick but Cena blocks it and lays Nak out with a belly to belly slam that earns him two. Cena gets him in a head lock as we head to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!
We return to the action and see Cena striking. Nakamura starts to block Cena’s blows and then nails Cena with a spinning kick to the head that takes Cena down. Nakamura kips up and blasts Cena with some kicks to the body. Nakamura brings Cena to the corner and lays him across the top rope and then nails him with a running knee to the ribs. He tosses Cena down to the mat and covers him for two.
Cena makes his standard comeback: flying shoulder tackles, spinning slam, “you can’t see me,” hand gesture, but before Cena can hit the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, Nakamura gets him in an armbar. Cena’s fighting it so Nakamura can’t get it locked in well and transitions into a triangle choke.
Cena powers out of it by standing up and slamming Nak down. He goes for the AA but Nakamura fights it off and ruins Cena’s shit with a facebuster. Nakamura then charges for the Kinshasa, but Cena trips him up and gets him in the STF. Nakamura quickly counters into an arm bar, but Cena escapes and turns Nakamura inside out with a lariat.
Nakamura comes back with a knee strike and then goes for a charge, but Cena avoids it and gets Nakamura up on his shoulders. Attitude Adjustment! ONE! TWO! NO! Cena looks shocked. He goes for another AA, but Nakamura wiggles out of it and gets Cena in a guillotine choke.
Cena fights out of the hold and goes for the AA again. He hits with it but rolls through to go for a third. Nakamura counters and hits an suplex that dumps Cena on the back of his neck. It looks like it sucked. Nakamura sets up in the corner as Cena slowly gets back to his feet. Nakamura nails him with the Kinshasa and cover him. ONE! TWO! THREE! Clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring.
After the match Cena fortunately seems to be okay. He raises Nakamura’s hand in victory and bows to him. Nak’s music plays and he celebrates in the ring as the show goes off the air.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
This was a really great match, especially for TV. It felt like we were seeing something special. The last match I recall feeling like this was the first Cena vs. The Rock match. Prior to that was probably The Rock vs. Hogan. This had that same sort of “How is this match actually taking place?” feel. The actual wrestling more or less lived up to the hype too. Sure, it would have probably been better if they’d had a little more time and if Cena hadn’t gotten dropped on his neck, but other than that it was very good. [****]
I really liked this show, because, surprise, surprise it was a wrestling show that featured wrestling. The bulk of the show actually consisted of wrestling matches, three of which were pretty outstanding (of the remaining one was a fine TV match and the other more or less existed to further an angle so whatever). With the skits and backstage stuff we had a great Fashion Files and stuff to set up a match at SummerSlam. Like last week, all in all this was a really good show. Way better than Battleground…