"The Fiend" Bray Wyatt Interrupted Mr. McMahon; Universal Champion Braun Strowman and the SmackDown Superstars Retaliated Against RETRIBUTION
I guess Vince wanted to be the first person to appear in the ThunderDome, and I assume he wanted The Fiend to be the first person to make an entrance inside the revamped arena. It looked awesome, but I question why they would waste so much time on his entrance if he never actually got his hands on McMahon or anyone for that matter. As soon as Strowman and RETRIBUTION showed up, he bounced, so that was stupid. I still don't care for the faction even though they're finally targeting the Superstars. I just have my doubts that it will be paid off properly.
Big E def. Sheamus
I felt bad for these two, as the match felt like an afterthought with the focus being on the threat of RETRIBUTION returning and on the ThunderDome itself. It will take time for fans to get used to the setup, so Big E and Sheamus were in a tough spot. On the bright side, this was a well-wrestled, quality contest. I hated the roll-up finish because they're done to death and I wish Big E would have won more decisively, but at least he picked up the victory to keep his momentum going.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro def. The Lucha House Party (Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik)
As I've said a few times before, these teams work well together and the matches are always enjoyable like this one was, but viewers have been given zero incentive to want to care about this feud aside from *checks notes* Lucha House Party stealing the tag titles backstage one week. Lucha House Party appeared to be off their game at certain points and there were a handful of sloppy spots, but this was fun on the whole. Kalisto teasing tension with Metalik and Dorado afterward surprised me. Yes, they've been together for almost three years now, but it felt like it came out of nowhere since they were perfectly fine a week ago.
Raw Women's Champion and WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Sasha Banks def. Naomi in a Beat the Clock Challenge (Non-Title)
It's been a while since we've had a Beat the Clock Challenge in WWE (was the last time when Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair did it before WrestleMania last year?), so this was both refreshing and logical given the circumstances of the two title matches at SummerSlam. Neither of the matches should have been short given the talent involved, but whatsoever. I was disappointed Naomi lost so quickly and decisively, but that was of course rectified when she faced Bayley right after this.
Naomi def. SmackDown Women's Champion and WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Bayley in a Beat the Clock Challenge (Non-Title)
This wasn't much better than Banks vs. Naomi but, again, could have been knowing what these women are capable of. I fully expected Naomi to lose this too since she already lost to Banks, so her win was a pleasant surprise. Granted, Bayley losing yet another non-title match was dumb, but at least this progressed the story with Banks and Bayley and planted more seeds of dissension between the two. Additionally, I could have done without Asuka showing up afterward since she's a Raw Superstar and is starting to feel as overexposed as Banks and Bayley. We know she's facing both of them on Sunday and she already interacted with them on Monday's Raw, so her appearance was pointless.
Sonya Deville Challenged Mandy Rose to a Loser Leaves WWE Match at SummerSlam
in case you missed it, both Deville and Rose were involved in a pretty scary incident last weekend where a stalker broke into Deville's house and attempted to abduct her. You can tell they're still shaken up about it and, I mean, who wouldn't be? She was in court with the guy this week and I don't know how long that's going to last, so the change of stipulation seems to indicate she'll be off TV for a little while to take care of that. It's a shame because I was looking forward to the Hair vs. Hair stipulation, but it's clearly for the best given recent developments.
Jeff Hardy def. AJ Styles to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Why couldn't they have saved this for SummerSlam? Did they really want to do a title change on SmackDown (the first in the ThunderDome) to boost ratings? Given that this was a first-time-ever encounter (in WWE, anyway), I'm disappointed this wasn't built up more. The actual match was entertaining while it lasted but could and should have been a lot more. The title change was genuinely shocking and the way they did it was clever, but I thought Hardy should have been in chase mode a little longer. Styles was in the midst of an awesome title run and I disagree with it being interrupted.
Universal Champion Braun Strowman Attacked "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt
If this new "deranged" Strowman doesn't lead to him officially turning heel, then all of this will have been a waste of time. He can't go back to being babyface Braun once this storyline is over, as it isn't the same without fans. He'd be better off as a heel since SmackDown needs more credible top heels (and no, I don't count King Corbin). As for this angle, it was what it was. It definitely came across as hokey, but this whole storyline has been hokey, so I was hardly surprised. I honestly don't care so much about the rivalry between Braun and Bray than I do Alexa Bliss and seeing who she ultimately aligns with. Strowman's Universal title reign has largely been flat and I think it's time Wyatt takes the belt back. Then again, not everyone loved his first title run earlier this year, so who knows how much of an improvement that would be.
This was less of a go-home show for SummerSlam on Sunday and more of a test run for the new ThunderDome concept. My initial impressions of it were this: aesthetically, it looks really cool and is an obvious step up from the Performance Center, but they still need to work on the giant Zoom call with the fans in the background. They weren't distracting or anything, but I wish they would have been more lively like they were actually there, because seeing them sit there and look at their screens is boring to me. As for the audio, I saw a lot of people online hating on it because it sounded like a video game, but that didn't bother me as much because it's better than silence or a bunch of Performance Center recruits banging on glass for two hours. It's a work in progress, of course, but it has potential. The actual episode of SmackDown was solid. I don't think it did anything to sell me more on SummerSlam than I was going in, but the title change was noteworthy, feuds were progressed and the pay-per-view hype was decent. A lot of things were accomplished, so that's an easy thumbs-up right there even though the RETRIBUTION stuff continues to do nothing for me.