Tonight’s SmackDown was absolutely terrific, with all of the right decisions made. New doors have been opened for wrestlers who had taken a back seat, and new faces in the main roster. There is also an aura of mystery, regarding where feuds are going (we are yet to find out *why* Orton attacked, and much longer Miz vs. Bryan will continue). This was just the booking as the countdown to SummerSlam begins.

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs. AJ Styles

Winner: AJ Styles

Grade: A-

Verdict: Early on, this set a very high standard for everybody to follow throughout the episode. Almas (and his fantastic spokeswoman Zelina Vega) looked terrific in defeat. After all, he went up against the champion. It wasn’t going to be easy. They were also given a full 15 minutes, which went by without incident (if you don’t count the adverts anyway).

As of now, it doesn’t look as though Almas will be getting a 1 vs. 1 match at Summerslam (but a multi-man match contendership would make sense), and that his growth might be more of a slow burn operation, as opposed to giving him a victory over a champion so soon). We have now seen Almas defeat Sin Cara arrogantly and without his full arsenal of signature moves (fans wondered where his hammerlock DDT went, having forgotten that it’s possible for matches to end without a finishing move) and in a second match at Extreme Rules, that used the rest of the spots. This could easily be a good feud that follows a similar format, but is giving Almas a bumpier ride on his way to the top. These two combatants are capable of so much together.

Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose

Winner: Becky Lynch

Grade: B-

Verdict: The match itself was very little to write home about, but to be fair, this was not really what the match was about in the first place. As much at Corey Graves wanted it to be about Mandy Rose, there was a gasp of elation when Becky Lynch not only won, but was handed the microphone to cut a great promo to remind the WWE Universe that she was in pursuit of the Women’s Title.

It is no secret, however much WWE has attempted to ignore it, that Becky has been at the front of the queue of women who fans have wanted to see at the front of the division. Both RAW and SmackDown look in danger of plummeting into a place of afterthoughts and diva bitches once again, what with both champions falling into the latter category (Carmella and Alexa Bliss), and Carmella’s reign being played for humour.

One can only hope that this is taken as seriously as is deserved, and that this feud will avoid any ‘Ellsworth on a Pole’ or ‘Kiss Ellsworth’s Arse’ matches. Fingers crossed this isn’t just a placeholder until the return of Charlotte.

Samoa Joe vs. Tye Dillinger

Winner: Samoa Joe 

Grade: C+

Verdict: Unsurprisingly, this was a two-minute squash match in favour of Samoa Joe, and a much needed reminder that they both exist. By no fault of his own, Joe’s status as a monster, had fallen somewhat. And considering that this wasn’t the first match between Dillinger and Joe, not even the victim, The Perfect 10, had his reputation damaged.

The Miz’s Eulogy for Team Hell No

What happened?: The Miz held a teasing eulogy for Team Hell No, during which he devoted half of his time to boasting about being MVP in his celebrity All-Star game, and the rest to tell Daniel Bryan that his career can’t be recovered. Bryan appeared out of nowhere to attack the pallbearers, but The Miz managed to flee before he got hurt.

Grade: A+

Verdict: I don’t remember any feud that I’ve wanted to last forever since, well… ever. I seriously hope that the idea isn’t to draw a line under it at Summerslam, however likely it seems with a promo so boldly styled around a funeral.

This promo segment didn’t feature a single word from Bryan himself (he had the audience to do that for him), and The Miz is the greatest heel that the WWE has seen in years. While so many want to see Bryan with a championship again, this is an example of a feud personal and entertaining enough that nothing needs to be put on the line to make it enthralling.

Kofi Kingston vs. Eric Young

Winner: Eric Young

Grade: B+

Verdict: SmackDown’s ongoing introduction to Sanity is going absolutely swimmingly, as they continue to take down The New Day. Both combatants looked amazing (despite the involvement of Sanity teammates) – seriously, how does Kofi Kingston do it? He could really do with at least one singles title before he retires, rather than be damned to the tag team division for the remaining years of his career.

Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Jeff Hardy (for the United States Championship)

Winner: No contest when Randy Orton attacked Jeff Hardy (and yanked his ear plughole. Ewww…) as he pinned Shinsuke Nakamura.

Grade: B

Verdict: The match itself was definitely of a main event stature, and one would expect to be disappointed with yet another ‘no contest’ due to a run-in, but the sheer brutality of this one, as well as the mystery surrounding why it’s happening, means that the writers are more than forgiven. It was also a bonus for Nakamura not to win with a low blow again. While he might be a heel, it’s becoming a bit repetitive.





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