Oli Davis rounds up the biggest professional wrestling news in his daily WrestleTalk column…
John Cena Returns
John Cena’s long-hyped, big WWE return segment was…a promo like most other John Cena promos.
John Cena loves two things: America and WWE. So coming back to Smackdown on Independence Day was effectively his birthday.
But his homecoming speech was ruined by Rusev’s Smackdown Live debut, who proceeded to cut an anti-USA promo. Making Smackdown not just the land of opportunity, but also the land of outdated foreign heel gimmicks.
John suggested they have a Flag match right there, but the fight was made for Battleground instead. Just a month ago, Rusev was reportedly planned to fight Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank. Now he’s losing to Cena in a three weeks’ time in a gimmick match.
AJ Styles beat Chad Gable
As United States champion Kevin Owens had beaten both AJ Styles and Chad Gable in recent weeks, Daniel Bryan put them in a match with an Independence Day Battle Royal spot at stake.
The two worked a really smooth 7 minute match, with AJ helping Gable up afterwards in a show of respect. Smackdown might have completely dropped the ball on American Alpha, but they’re booking Gable’s steady progression very well.
Carmella’s Money in the Bank briefcase ‘Carmellabration’ was ruined by Daniel Bryan announcing James Ellsworth isn’t just banned from the arena tonight, not just fined $10,000, but he’s also suspended for 30 days for interfering in last week’s Money in the Bank match. And if he somehow breaks back in, Carmella loses the briefcase.
Ellsworth did need some comeuppance, but it’s a shame Smackdown is losing his act with Carmella for a month. Hopefully we’ll get some Carmellsworth skits to fill the interim.
Naomi beat Lana
This transitioned into Lana’s third shot at Naomi’s GLOW title – which is an actual description of the belts new fancy lights, nothing to do with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling Netflix series. Just like the Alicia Fox vs Sasha Banks feud from several months ago, Lana got a rematch because her shoulder was mistakenly up during last week’s pin. Not like it mattered. Naomi made Lana tap almost immediately.
To everyone’s confusion, Tamina came down afterwards and escorted Lana from the ring.
The Usos vs New Day: Rap Battle
Then came one of the best WWE segments in months, perfectly capturing the seemingly improvisational, reality-based lines that are so lacking in today’s product: The Usos vs The New Day in a rap battle.
The New Day had plenty of zingers, with Xavier Woods claiming The Usos were nothing until Jimmy’s wife got them on Total Divas, and calling them Roman Reigns’ bag carriers. But The Usos won it in the first round, when they referenced Xavier’s starring role in the Paige sex tape leak:
“Let’s just keep it PG, you know what’s good… don’t get all Rated R like ya boy Xavier Woods.”
Somebody stop the damn match!
The crowd erupted, and Kofi’s follow-up ‘The Usos look a bit flabby’ line was awkwardly tame. The level of Savage had been irreparably raised.
Rap artist judge Wale – who was sporting an excellent retro WCW top – declared New Day as the winners via DQ when The Usos got physical. It was an unfortunately limp ending to a surprisingly heated moment. They should’ve had a big pull apart brawl heading into the commercial break, transitioning the storyline from usual New Day comedy schtick to heated blood feud.
Aiden English beat Randy Orton
Aiden English beat Randy Orton! Sure, it was because Randy got himself disqualified, but hey, Aiden’s gotta take them where he can get them. Jinder Mahal and Randy went back and forth on promos afterwards, still failing to get me even slightly interested in their feud.
Independence Day Battle Royal
The night’s main event was the ‘Here’s A Bunch Of Your Favourite Wrestlers Missing From Smackdown’ Battle Royal. We got to see Tye Dillinger go to the final three. See that Luke Harper is still with the company.
After a bunch of quick eliminations – including Mojo Rawley throwing his Hype Bro Zack Ryder over the top rope, yet another example of a tag team breaking up – it came down to Sami Zayn vs a man who’d already wrestled that night, AJ Styles.
Just like PWInsider broke last week, AJ won, and he scuffled with Kevin Owens to close the show.
So that was this week’s Smackdown Live in about 4 minutes, here’s the usual ratings recap from top to bottom: SmackDamn, Smacktastic, Smack Bang In The Middle, Ellsworthy and Raw.
This was a very enjoyable episode of Smackdown, with a fun main event, a great Rap Battle segment, and the steady build of Chad Gable.
The John Cena and Rusev returns, however, were very weak, the WWE Championship feud remains a chore, and Smackdown’s disposition for anti-American heels is becoming increasingly trite.
This week’s Smackdown is Smack Bang in the Middle.
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