SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan Had James Ellsworth Banned From the Arena
Man, I can't stress enough how great it is to have Bryan back on SmackDown Live. Shane McMahon is an awesome authority figure as well, but he just doesn't bring the same energy that Bryan does. This segment was similar to what Bryan had to say last week, but it was effective in hyping up the women's Money in the Bank Ladder rematch for later in the evening. Despite still lacking in the ring, Carmella continues to make up for that on the mic and her act is improving as a result.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos def. The Hype Bros (Non-title)
I was hoping The Hype Bros would automatically receive a title shot immediately upon their return considering they originally earned one the night Zack Ryder got hurt back in December, but I understand wanting to have them earn it again considering how much the landscape of the tag team division has changed since then. It was a decent enough match that led to a decisive win for The Usos to allow them to reset their sights on The New Day. There wasn't any focus on Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley after the loss, but a heel turn from either one of them is inevitable. As I've said before, it would be best for WWE to hold off until at least SummerSlam to put the tag titles on New Day given how hot The Usos are right now as champions.
SmackDown Women's Champion Naomi def. Lana
I was interested to see how Lana would fare here compared to her initial outing at Money in the Bank, but despite attacking Naomi before the bout and hitting her finisher on her, she was defeated within a minute. I saw Lana campaigning for yet another title match on Twitter because she noted how her shoulder was (barely) up when Naomi pinned her, but I think she just went into business for herself and that won't be a part of the storyline going forward. Hey, it might be, but she's been beaten clean twice at this point, it's time for Naomi to move on to new (and better) challengers.
Randy Orton Called Out WWE Champion Jinder Mahal
Orton is always more engaging to watch when he's fired up during his promos, but for whatever reason, what he said here didn't come across as genuine to me. Perhaps it's because I desperately want this feud to end, and even though Shane McMahon allowed Mahal to choose the stipulation for their next match, it really makes no sense that Orton is vying for the belt for the third straight pay-per-view after already getting pinned twice. Nevertheless, we all expected the Punjabi Prison match to return at Battleground and this segment confirmed it. The first two weren't exactly classics, but we'll see how Mahal and Orton do in the unique environment.
Baron Corbin def. Sami Zayn
Before Corbin can continue climbing the ladder on SmackDown as Mr. Money in the Bank, he needed to wrap up his rivalry with Zayn and finally defeat him. It's weird because you'd think it would be the other way around with Zayn being the ultimate underdog, but Zayn being undefeated against Corbin definitely added to the story of this match. They've built up a nice chemistry by this point and thus this was another entertaining encounter from them. Corbin winning clean was the right way to go and it looks like his next program will be with Shinsuke Nakamura. Meanwhile, I presume Zayn's next feud will be with Mike Kanellis after he interrupted his promo, so that should be fun.
Carmella def. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Natalya and Tamina to Win a Money in the Bank Ladder Match
I'd have to watch back the first women's Money in the Bank Ladder match to really compare it to this one, but this was very good in its own right and all five women worked hard. I'm thankful they didn't take a ton of crazy risks and played it safe for the most part yet still delivered a memorable match. James Ellsworth interfering was pretty predictable, but I liked how he was taken out by his arch-rival Lynch only for Carmella to take her out with a chair and emerge victorious, this time by herself. Could we see a darker Lasskicker in the near future coming off her latest loss?
This edition of SmackDown Live was proof that the more matches and segments that are advertised in advance, the better of a show it will be because fans have several things to look forward to. I was slightly skeptical early on when the first two matches were cut short, but the episode on the whole was certainly enjoyable and successfully laid the groundwork for next month's Battleground pay-per-view.