Smackdown – July 31, 2018

Smackdown
Date: July 31, 2018
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton

Most of the blue half of Summerslam is either set up or you can tell where things are going. We still need to get the confirmation of Miz vs. Daniel Bryan and some #1 contenders for the Bludgeon Brothers. You can probably guess where things are going but it’s nice to have things made official. Let’s get to it.

Renee Young brings out Becky Lynch for a chat. Becky knew she would get back to the top of the mountain if she kept fighting. She hasn’t had a title match since Wrestlemania XXXIII nearly a year and a half ago. Now she’s back and just has to beat Carmella again to become Smackdown Women’s Champion again. Becky wants to go into Evolution as the champion but here’s Carmella to interrupt.

Carmella admits that she lost fair and square last week and that scares her. Becky has worked her way to the top and has been there to mentor Carmella every step of the way. She was the first woman to be drafted to Smackdown and Carmella was literally the last person drafted. With some tears in her eyes, Carmella talks about having to block out all the haters who say she’s not worthy of the title.

Now she’s getting to go into the biggest match of her career against her idol and they’re going to kill it. We’ll ignore why Carmella would want to have a great match rather than successfully defend her title but here’s James Ellsworth’s music. The distraction lets Carmella jump Becky from behind (as you knew was coming) and load up a chair. Cue the returning Charlotte for the save.

The Usos are in a dark room and quote Rock (that’s two Rock references in two nights) but one cuts the other off before he can swear.

Carmella comes in to rant to Paige about what happened and says Paige will never be champion again. Paige makes Carmella vs. Charlotte for tonight and if Charlotte wins, it’s a triple threat at Summerslam.

Tag Team Title Tournament First Round: Usos vs. The Bar

Hang on though as New Day comes out to sit at a table full of cereal and pancakes. Sheamus and Jimmy start and we take a break before anything can happen. Back with Cesaro holding Jey in a chinlock as New Day is doing their own commentary. A double clothesline sets up a knee drop and it’s off to an armbar from Sheamus. Jey fights up as Big E. eats cereal and leads the cheers.

Sheamus goes shoulder first into the post and the hot tag brings in Jimmy. House is cleaned and a high crossbody gets two but Cesaro sends Jimmy into the post as we take another break. Back again with Jimmy hitting a Whisper in the Wind on Cesaro but not being able to follow up. The superkick into the Superfly Splash gets two with Cesaro making a save, sending New Day into hysterics. Cesaro breaks up half of the Double Us and the second Superfly Splash hits knees, giving Sheamus the pin at 15:05.

Rating: C+. Ignoring the fact that half of the match was spent in commercials, this was a rather good return for the Bar. I see no reason why they had to be off TV for so many months but at least they’re back and winning again. The division doesn’t have the depth to leave a team (or teams) on the shelf for weeks at a time but at least we should get a nice match next week.

Post match New Day comes in for the staredown but the Bar bails.

Charlotte is very happy that Carmella’s big mouth has gotten her this opportunity. She doesn’t care about what has happened between the two of them before because things can change.

We look back at Samoa Joe attacking AJ Styles last week.

Here’s Samoa Joe with a message to AJ. He puts a stool in the ring and talks about how much he respects what AJ has done for the title, making it the most prestigious in WWE (the fans gasped a bit on that). AJ has put the title in front of what he wants and even in front of his own family. Last week AJ came out here and told a story about being able to talk to his daughter about being anything she wants to be.

The truth is that AJ is barely home long enough to hug his child, let alone look her in the eye. AJ is more comfortable living out of a suitcase than being at home with his family. He’s a great champion, even though he’s a failure as a father. Come Summerslam, AJ’s family will be cheering for Joe because it means they’ll have daddy back but Joe will be WWE Champion. This was more great stuff and as usual, it’s not about what Joe is saying but rather the intensity with which he says it. In a word, Joe comes off as real and that’s something most people can’t do in wrestling anymore.

Here’s Jeff Hardy (Wasn’t he supposed to be out with an injury?) to say the US Title is part of his life force. It is his fifth eye and allows him to connect with the WWE Universe. There is nothing more important than beating Shinsuke Nakamura and taking it back. The one thing that comes close is beating up Randy Orton, so get out here right now. As Orton comes out and gets in the ring, Nakamura comes in from behind to jump Hardy. Orton blocks the Kinshasa…before stepping aside so Nakamura can hit it.

Nakamura leaves and Orton loads up the RKO but sweeps both legs instead. The Orton Stomp returns and still looks stupid so Orton switches to regular stomping instead. Orton hits the hanging DDT off the apron and puts Jeff on the announcers’ table for some right hands. He rips off Jeff’s necklace and pours water on Jeff’s unconscious face so he can scrub the paint off with a cloth. Orton: “Enigma erased.” They’re making me want to see more of Orton and I could very easily picture him taking the title from AJ at this rate.

Becky isn’t thrilled with Charlotte possibly being added to the match but she knows she can defeat Carmella one on one. She’ll never root against her best friend.

Lana vs. Zelina Vega

Fallout from last week’s brawl between the two. Vega does Almas’ pose on the mat so Lana does a handstand as we have a pose off. Lana shoves her outside and we take an early break. Back with Vega holding her in a dragon sleeper (at least it’s something different) and getting two off the running knees in the corner. Lana gets in a kick to the ribs and a neckbreaker, followed by some dancing. Her own running knees to Vega’s back get two but Almas offers a distraction. Cue Aiden English to pull Almas down but Vega rolls her up for the pin at 6:00.

Rating: D. Somehow, this is a major improvement for Lana, who can now at least get through a short match. It helps a lot to have Vega around in case you need someone to work a match, even though she’s that much better as a manager. Neither of them are going to be pushed for what they can do in the ring but being able to do this well is at least acceptable.

The Bludgeon Brothers still don’t care who wins the tournament because no one can escape the bludgeoning.

Aiden begs Lana’s forgiveness but leaves before Rusev arrives. I’m not sure why as Aiden was trying to help. Rusev comes in and says that wouldn’t have happened if he was out there. Lana is mad at him too and says she needed him.

Here’s Daniel Bryan to plug Evolution (this is why I wanted to wait for after Summerslam, as Evolution is getting almost as much if not more attention) because it makes him think of his wife Brie Bella. Brie was in the ring when the Give Divas A Chance campaign started. The two of them have fought for respect for years now but every time they’ve taken a step forward, it’s been two steps back.

We see a clip from last week of Miz throwing the fake baby at Bryan and beating him down. That bothers him because Miz taunted him for two years while hiding behind the wall of Bryan’s injury. But then Bryan was cleared and Miz had to find a new way to hide. Last week Maryse and the baby were the new wall because Miz knows he would get destroyed in a fight.

Miz pops up on screen with security around him. He doesn’t want to hear this from Bryan because we’re not in the indies. If Bryan wants to fight, call Miz’s agent because he’s on the set of Miz and Mrs. right now. Bryan calls him a coward again so Miz brings up the Talking Smack segment from 2016. This right here, the eternal conflict, is all Bryan wants because it’s what furthers Bryan’s career. It took Bryan ten years of fighting on the indies to get noticed but Miz just yelled at Bryan for five minutes and got famous.

Bryan says that’s the difference between the two of them: Bryan is in this for the passion and Miz just wants fame. It’s been done before and better, but Miz is never going to be the Rock or John Cena. If Miz needs a big stage, come fight Bryan at Summerslam. Miz laughs it off and says the YES Movement is dead because everyone has moved on. No one wants to hear from Bryan because all the fans see when they look at him is this, and the screen is filled with pictures of crying babies. More great stuff from these two as there’s a natural chemistry there and I’m fine with waiting on the match announcement, as it’s not like it’s a secret.

Charlotte vs. Carmella

Non-title but if Charlotte wins, the title match at Summerslam is a triple threat. Before the match, Carmella says her fashion sense is just as flawless as her wrestling abilities. Charlotte may not want to admit it but Becky is rooting against her. Carmella moon walks away to start so Charlotte shoulders her down and says all night baby.

A t-bone suplex into a nipup puts Carmella on the floor but Charlotte misses the slingshot dive. Carmella sends her into the barricade and we take a break. Back with Charlotte missing a moonsault and getting sent outside so Carmella can stomp away. Carmella takes her down with a chinlock and things slow a bit.

Charlotte fights up and hits a big boot before sending Carmella outside for a moonsault off the barricade. Natural Selection gives Charlotte two but the Figure Eight attempt is broken up. Carmella’s superkick gets two and she can’t believe all these kickouts. For some reason Carmella tries the Figure Four but gets reversed into the Figure Eight for the tap at 12:46.

Rating: C-. You know, I really could go for something other than putting two challengers over the champ to set up a title match. Granted I could also go for the lack of triple threat matches. It’s cool that Charlotte is back and there’s nothing wrong with putting her right into the title scene, but egads I’m over the triple threat title matches, especially if Carmella retains and we go on to Becky vs. Carmella one on one like we could have had in the first place.

Becky is upset in the back to end the show.

Overall Rating: C+. The wrestling, while not exactly prolific, did what it was supposed to do but the show’s strength was in its promos. The talking advanced the big stories and I’m sure Miz vs. Bryan will be confirmed soon. AJ vs. Joe has some serious potential and I’m intrigued by where Orton/Hardy/Nakamura is going. They were doing stuff without having a ton of wrestling tonight and that’s ok, especially this close to a major show.

Results

The Bar b. Usos – Small package to Jey

Zelina Vega b. Lana – Rollup

Charlotte b. Carmella – Figure Eight

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