July 26, 2016
From the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY
Your hosts are David Otunga, JBL, and Mauro Ranallo
The show opens with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan backstage telling us the show is not about them, it is about the wrestlers and us fans as they start heading to the ring.
We get a new theme and montage then the live show starts with the Smackdown wrestlers surrounding the ring. Shane talks about Backlash on September 11th will be the first Smackdown only PPV. But first, there is SummerSlam and since Smackdown is home of the WWE Champion, they need to determine who will face him for the title at SummerSlam. Ambrose comes out and asks who will be the one to face him as Bryan puts over his fighting spirit before saying there will be a Six-Pack Challenge tonight and that will determine who will get a title shot. The first entrant is John Cena, who steps into the ring. After that, Shane names Bray Wyatt as an entrant. Bryan then introduces Dolph Ziggler as the third person while Shane names Baron Corbin as the fourth. Bryan then names AJ Styles as the “final entrant.” Bryan then says that we might be upset but that the sixth person included in the match will be the winner of the Battle Royal that Shane tells us will be happening next as Shane puts over how they will give everyone a chance to get included into the #1 contender match.
Right off the bat, on the first show after the WWE Draft, they open up Smackdown almost identically as they did with RAW. I guess the difference here is that all of the wrestlers were standing around the ring. Also, the men fighting for the right to get a title shot at SummerSlam here were far less impressive as a whole than what we saw on RAW.
Battle Royal: Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Apollo Crews, Kalisto, Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley, Jey Uso, Breezango, Vaudevillains, Ascension
Simon Gotch is the first one eliminated as that took less than a minute. Shortly after that Kane eliminates both members of the Ascension with a double clothesline. Kalisto saves himself after Kane tried to eliminate him. We get some more near-eliminations until Breezango tosses Jey Uso over the top rope right before the break. The action returns as we learn that Aiden English and Erick Rowan have been eliminated. Del Rio gets rid of Mojo Rawley but Kalisto eliminates him the Kane takes out Breezango as we are down to the final four: Kane, Kalisto, Apollo Crews, and Zack Ryder. Ryder takes out Kane with a missile dropkick then Crews and Kalisto hit splashes on Kane as JBL says that will not help you get him over the top rope. Ryder dropkicked Kalisto on the back of the head but it missed completely as even JBL pointed it out on commentary. Man, that looked terrible. Ryder then messes up again as he slipped trying a top rope elbow on Crews. Kane then gets up and tosses Kalisto over the top rope as we are down to three. Ryder then hits Kane with the Broski Boot and sets up for the Rough Ryder but Kane cuts him off and tosses him over the top rope as we are down to the final two. Kane tries to chokeslam Crews, who flips out of the move. Kane then charges but Crews pulls the ropes down and gets the win (12:46) *1/2. After the match, Renee Young heads down and asks Crews about his win as he tells us about not celebrating until after he wins the six man challenge tonight.
Thoughts: I liked the booking of the match, especially at the end, but the actual wrestling here was pretty bad. Zack Ryder had an awful night, as he completely whiffed on a dropkick and fell off of the top rope attempting an elbow drop. Crews winning made sense but he did not do anything at all in the match except eliminate Kane at the end. Kane stood out the most in the match as he eliminated several guys himself. Sadly, this match really highlighted the depth issue on the Smackdown roster as well.
We get a Shelton Benjamin vignette, hyping his return to the WWE as he will be exclusively on Smackdown. They showed a lot of his highlights from his previous WWE run. He should help a bit with the depth issue at least and can help by working with the younger talent on TV and at live events.
Dolph Ziggler cuts a promo telling us that tonight, he is ready to break through the glass ceiling. He then said it is all in his hands because he let it slip through once before and will not let that happen again. Looks like they are going with the gimmick that Ziggler is newly motivated but glass ceiling comments from Ziggler in 2016 is nothing I want to hear. I did like the style of promo here, with the wrestler talking in behind a dark background though. If Smackdown does little touches like that for now on instead of generic backstage interviews it would help differentiate themselves from RAW.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
These two start off trading holds on the mat as the crowd chants for Becky. Natalya takes Becky down with a shoulder tackle but Becky comes back with a dropkick as Natalya rolls outside then returns and kicks Becky down before choking her out against the ropes. Natalya taunts the crowd after a scoop slam then steps on top of her before applying a chinlock. Becky comes back with a rollup then blocks a reverse rollup and hits a clothesline as she fires up until missing a charge in the corner. Becky then heads up top but Natalya sweeps her off as we head to break. We return with Natalya working a stretch as Becky escapes and hammers away. Natalya catches a spin kick and sends Becky into the corner but ends up getting hit with an enziguiri. Becky then gets two with a top rope leg drop for two as Mauro refers to it as the “Dublin Jam.” Natalya comes back with a German Suplex for two then sizes Becky up she blocks that as it sets up a reversal sequence ending with Natalya hitting a discus clothesline for a nearfall. Becky then counters the Sharpshooter and puts on the Disarmer for the win (10:21) **1/2.
Thoughts: Solid match, but not as good as their match at Battleground. With both women winning by submission, it could be lading up to a submission match between the two in the future but after Natalya’s submission match against Charlotte at Extreme Rules, I am in no rush to see a repeat of that stipulation.
After the match, Renee comes to the ring and speaks with Becky, who calls herself “Becky Balboa.” However, Alexa Bliss makes her WWE debut and cuts Becky off saying she is what the New Era is all about. Naomi then comes out to tell Bliss to move to the side as she has not even wrestled here in the WWE. Carmella comes out to call herself the “Princess of Staten Island” and to get our popcorn ready but after that, Eva Marie interrupts with a voiceover putting her over for her beauty and charisma.The voiceover touch with Eva Marie’s entrance was pretty great actually but overall, this was a terrible segment. Where as RAW did a fine job in introducing Nia Jax to the audience, Smackdown did the exact opposite with Alexa Bliss and Carmella, who came off as complete afterthoughts. A really lazy job to set up the Smackdown’s Women’s Division.
We now hear from Baron Corbin, who says he will win this match for himself.This promo was designed to make him look like a loner but it did not make me care about Corbin one way or the other.
Miz TV is up next. He introduces himself as his own guest as he proceeds to interview himself. He then asks Maryse what it is like to be married to “Han Solo” as she puts over her wonderful life until Randy Orton interrupts. Orton takes his time getting to the ring and when he does, the crowd chants “RKO.” Miz then welcome Orton to Miz TV as Orton said he thought the Miz was talking about him during his opening monologue. Orton puts over Miz for his speaking ability then jokes about how he is an expert at playing with himself. Miz then compares Orton to the “Blair Witch Project” because they both show up uninvited. Miz then asks Orton about facing Lesnar as Orton talks about how he used to make a living taking out legends and that it only takes one RKO to send Lesnar back to “Viperville.” Miz talks about how Orton has not been in the ring in nine months and that is first match back might be his last. Orton tells Miz his first match back will not be his last and that SummerSlam will not be his first match as he was thinking about facing off against the Intercontinental Champion tonight. Miz asks the crowd if they want to see the match but he tells them no because you cannot just get a title shot as Orton asks just for some friendly competition as Miz reminds Orton he beat him for the WWE World Championship. Orton then asks Miz if he is scared getting his ass whipped in front of his pretty little wife. Maryse is appalled that Orton would take to her like that and says that her husband accepts his challenge.
These two did a decent job going back-and-forth on the mic here. The material itself was not the greatest though. I am liking Orton’s new character and how he cracks jokes though. Plus, it set up for a match between the two.
The Miz w/ Maryse vs. Randy Orton
The Miz bails after the bell and whispers into his wife’s ear then returns and hammers away. Miz dumps Orton, who grabs his previously injured arm and gets censored, then starts stomping the arm. The Miz continues to work the arm and ends up ramming Orton into the steps. The announcers talk about what would happen if Lesnar starts attacking Orton’s arm as they head inside where Orton hits the RKO outta nowhere but does not bother covering Miz as he sits against the ropes. Orton slowly gets up then stands over Miz before pumping up the crowd and waits for Miz to get up again as he hits another RKO for the win (4:53) DUD.
Thoughts: This was just terrible. With Smackdown’s depth as shallow as it is at the moment, they went out and made the Intercontinental Champion look like a complete joke here. The win did not help Orton out much at all either, which brings up the question as to why you would even do this to begin with.
We get a video package on American Alpha. It highlights the accomplishments of both guys and showed highlights of their NXT run as they do a voiceover telling us they want to be the face of the tag team revolution as they make their debut next week.This video was great and really put over the team as something special.
Some unknown wrestler is in the ring as Heath Slater comes out dressed in street clothes and tosses him out. Slater thinks something is wrong because he was not drafted to either RAW and Smackdown and if Shane and Daniel want to lead things into a New Era, they should add him to the Six-Pack Challenge, making it a “Magnificent Seven” as he starts a sign Heath Slater chant. Shane comes out to tell Slater that there is a better way to get a job, such as handing in a resume. Slater then laughs at that notion to tell Shane to put his name in the WWE Network and see all of his accomplishments. Slater then calls himself the hottest free agent in wrestling as Rhyno sneaks into the ring and waits for Slater to turn around. Shane says he is looking at the hottest free agent in wrestling then Slater turns around as Rhyno hits the Gore. JBL hails Rhyno as the first free agent signing. I don’t mind Rhyno, although he looked a lot older here than the last time he was on WWE TV this past Winter, but wasn’t Shane’s whole deal about giving people opportunities that they never would have gotten before? First, Shelton Benjamin returns and now Rhyno. Sure, they will help a bit with the depth but the whole point of Smackdown was to be “new and fresh” and so far tonight, I am not feeling that at all.
AJ Styles tells us the New Era sounds like the same old thing to him, with power-hungry authority figures trying to control things. He also is pissed that the Club was not drafted to Smackdown and talks about how without him, he will still beat up everyone else involved in the Six-Pack Challenge, especially John Cena.
Bray Wyatt talks about how some things always stay the same, calling himself the “eater of worlds.” Wyatt then tells us soon, he will truly have the whole world in his hands. After that, he makes his way towards the ring.
Six-Pack Challenge: Bray Wyatt vs. Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles vs. John Cena
This starts with everyone brawling then they head to commercial. We return with Corbin, Ziggler, and Cena out on the floor as AJ and Wyatt beat on Crews in the ring then they try do out-do each other, similar to what Kevin Owens and Rusev did last night on RAW, until Wyatt clotheslines AJ. Ziggler comes in and beats on Wyatt until he gets dragged out by Corbin. AJ then hits Wyatt with a springboard 450 splash. Cena heads in as AJ hits him with a fireman’s carry neckbreaker. Crews hits AJ with a German suplex then Corbin attacks Crews and stomps him down as JBL declares Corbin as a future champion. Crews tries to figh out but Corbin hits a corner clothesline then a back suplex as that gets two as we head to another commercial, with the camera zooming in on Cena’s face out on the floor. The match returns with a double tower of doom as everyone is down. Crews and Corbin get up first and slug it out until Corbin gets a nearfall with a spinning slam. Crews flips out of a End of Days attempt and hits a sitout powerbomb but Wyatt pulls out the referee before the three count. Wyatt hits Crews with the Sister Abigail then Ziggler hits Wyatt with a Zig Zag as the referee is out on the floor clutching his knee. Ziggler then sets up for the Sweet Chin Music but Cena intercepts him and hits the AA. AJ catches Wyatt with the Pele Kick then Cena hits AJ with the AA as the referee slides inside and counts but AJ kicks out. Crews tries a crossbody but Cena rolls through and picks him up for an AA. Cena then hits Wyatt and eventually Corbin with an AA. AJ then hits Cena with the Phenomenal Forearm but Ziggler drills AJ with a super kick and gets the surprise win (16:05) **1/2.
Thoughts: The match itself never seemed to find a groove. Watching on TV, it was also hurt by the placement of the commercials, which really hurt the flow. I also did not care for the ref bump spot either. They gave Corbin and Crews a lot of shine here but the crowd barely even reacts to them and were practically silent for their entrances. The big news here is the ending as Ziggler wins after pinning AJ Styles with a super kick. Ziggler himself barely even stood out here and Cena spent most of the match on the floor it seemed. I thought Bray came out of this looking like a threat though. And now, they have the task of building up Ziggler as he faces Ambrose at SummerSlam, with the premise that he is “breaking through the glass ceiling.” All I thought when watching this was of Cesaro, when he was legitimately pissed off about not going to Smackdown as a report also came out that he was in fact supposed to be drafted there because I have to believe that he was going to get Ziggler’s spot. In 2016, Cesaro being put in this role makes a lot more sense.
After the match, Ziggler celebrates with the fans then Dean Ambrose comes out. Ambrose gets in Ziggler’s face and raises up the WWE Championship. Shane and Daniel Bryan head out as Ambrose and Ziggler remain in the ring.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a poor way to debut Smackdown. Nothing here really felt “new and fresh” to me. The announcing was really bad, to me anyway. I found it painful when Ranallo forced in his references while Otunga was atrocious. The guys on RAW seemed a lot better together. In fact, Smackdown felt second-rate to RAW instead of a different show.
Ziggler as the #1 contender was a shock but after Finn Balor winning last night on RAW for the right to face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the WWE Universal Championship, another surprising win really forced. Plus, instead of a new guy on the roster, its a former two-time Champion who recently lost a PPV Pre-Show exclusive feud against Baron Corbin. Not exactly the momentum you want for your #1 contender.
They handled the introduction of the women poorly and made the Intercontinental Champion look like a complete thought, when at the very least he should have been in the battle royal for the right to be in the Six-Pack challenge. Hopefully, they will do a better job at introducing new talent like American Alpha next week.
Heading out of the draft, the biggest issue on Smackdown was their lack of depth. And after watching this show, its still a major problem. Its obvious they want to push Crews and Corbin but right now they are not over in the slightest. Plus, Cena is rumored to be working a reduced schedule, meaning as of now your top 5 guys on the roster this Fall can be Ambrose, Styles, Orton, Wyatt, and Miz/Ziggler. And speaking of Cena, after he is done with Styles, who is he going to feud with? No one wants to see him feud again with Orton or Rusev and besides that, who else is even close to being over enough?
Besides a few minor production values, nothing Smackdown did felt different from RAW. It all felt like a second-rate version of Monday night’s show and that is not going to cut it in the long run, especially with the lack of depth.