Charlotte Flair Saved Becky LYnch From SmackDown Women's Champion Carmella
I really, really liked this as the opening segment for the show. First and foremost, both women brought their A-game on the microphone here. Lynch has always been a pretty good talker, but Carmella's recent promos have felt repetitive and thus I appreciated her switching up her approach during this verbal exchange. Sure, virtually no one actually felt for her plea for sympathy, but James Ellsworth's music distracting Lynch long enough so Carmella could attack her was well done. Charlotte making her anticipated return to SmackDown and saving her best friend was simply the cherry on top, setting up the night's main event nicely.
Sheamus and Cesaro def. The Usos in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender's Tournament Semifinal Match
These two teams had one of the best bouts of the night back at Survivor Series late last year and thus I was happy they were given the time to contest an equally entertaining match here. The two commercial breaks interrupted the flow a bit, but despite that, they worked well together and The New Day weren't as much of a distraction on commentary as I feared they might be. The final stretch was especially excellent and I'm thrilled The Bar advanced after being off TV for so long. Here's hoping they're ultimately the ones who go on to face SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers at SummerSlam.
Samoa joe Addressed WWE Champion AJ Styles
Joe never ceases to amaze me with his mic skills, because he hits every one of his promos out of the park. This was no exception as he specifically targeted Styles' family, and although I skeptical of the material at first, he made it work and turned the crowd against him. I was hoping he'd bring up their history together, but I can't say I'm surprised WWE didn't want to allude to something that happened in TNA years ago. Nevertheless, this Styles vs. Joe feud is off to a strong start.
United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton Attacked Jeff Hardy
SmackDown Live is known by many as the "wrestling" show compared to Raw, so I don't know how wise it was to put two talking segments back-to-back. Hardy's promo was solid and thankfully straight to the point as he called out Orton only to be blindsided from behind by Nakamura. Both heels generated a great amount of heat by beating down on the uber popular Hardy, but Hardy is going to have to bounce back at some point at the risk of looking like a loser.
Zelina Vega def. Lana
I think it speaks volumes that Vega never once competed in a match in NXT (at least as long as she was aligned with Andrade "Cien" Almas) yet she is wrestling on SmackDown mere months into her main roster run. To me, that means officials are high on her and Almas and have plans to push them moving forward. Granted, this wasn't the most exciting affair, and in fact it was quite abysmal, but I give both women credit for putting forth a decent effort. Plus, they did their part in furthering the feud with Aiden English once again playing a factor in the finish.
Daniel Bryan Called Out The Miz
When Miz initially went off on Bryan on that episode of Talking Smack two years ago, this was what I wanted to see from them if they ever ended up feuding. Fast forward two years and here we are. This was an exceptional verbal exchange between the two with intense delivery from both men and I loved how they brought up their history from over the years. I could've done without the babies bit at the end, but beyond that, this certainly succeeded in getting me more excited for Bryan vs. Miz at SummerSlam than I was before.
Charlotte Flair def. SmackDown Women's Champion Carmella (Non-title)
It's ridiculous that Charlotte just returned from injury and already she finds herself back at the forefront of the women's division. I realize she's a huge star and all, but she shouldn't be stealing the spotlight from Lynch. Then again, that appears to be the point. At any rate, this was a much better bout than their outing at Backlash, which was deplorable. It had its fair share of dull points (i.e. rest holds), but they made the most of their main event opportunity and largely kept the crowd engaged. With her win, Charlotte has been added to the SmackDown Women's Championship match at SummerSlam, and I can't say I'm too thrilled about that. We'll see what the follow-up is, though.
It's interesting how SmackDown took a page out of Raw's book this week by being more promo-heavy than usual, yet all of said segments held my attention and served to progress several storylines in a compelling way. The build for SummerSlam on the SmackDown side has been superb so far with this episode being a prime example why. The two hours never once dragged, and while I didn't love everything that occurred, the positives outweighed the negatives and the show maintained a nice flow throughout.