SMACKDOWN

SmackDown Live General Manager Paige opens the Money in the Bank go-home show with the four women who will represent SmackDown in the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Naomi, Lana, Charlotte and Becky Lynch all state their case for why they will win the briefcase on Sunday. Suddenly they are interrupted by The IIconics. The Australian wonder twins do their usual mimic gimmick for a little until they too are interrupted by the former members of Absolution which leads to a brawl.

The IIconics continue to do their best despite being a bit handicapped by their gimmick. The crowd tonight hardly responded to them at all during this segment, but they soldiered on. I’m probably in the minority here but I think they are pretty funny most of the time. Shortly after, it is announced that an 8-women tag match featuring everyone in this segment will take place later on the show.

DANIEL BRYAN VS SHELTON BENJAMIN

In the first of several matches that see two superstars meeting in singles action for the first time ever, Daniel Bryan gets a final tune-up match before he goes head-to-head with Big Cass again on the PPV this Sunday. Bryan comes out of the gate hot in this one and the crowd is clearly behind him as he gets Benjamin in a couple working holds. The knees are a big focus of this match as both wrestlers try to destroy the other man’s legs. Bryan gets a huge pop for his Yes Kicks in the city where the Occupy RAW movement started, and he eventually gets Benjamin to tap to a Heel Hook.

Daniel Bryan looked REALLY good in this match and it looks like he’s finally starting to get back into the swing of things. Maybe it was because Benjamin sold it like death, but that Heel Hook continues to look legitimately devastating. The crowd was fully behind Bryan and it looks like he is continuing his slow climb back to the top after returning from retirement. He should absolutely defeat Big Cass on Sunday.

Daniel Bryan def Shelton Benjamin via submission

THE KING INTERVIEWS THE CHAMP

Special guest and Memphis native Jerry Lawler interviews AJ Styles ahead of his title match on Sunday. This was the typical interview fare, ostensibly done to keep Styles healthy going into the PPV and there really isn’t anything to say it. Always nice to see The King on WWETV.

RUFF RUFF REF

After Rusev and Samoa Joe both got on The Miz’s bad side last week, the A-Lister petitioned GM Paige to be the referee during this first-time-ever matchup. This match is a brawl from the beginning as these two bruisers just beat the hell out of each other for the duration of this match. Aiden English eventually distracts The Miz long enough for him to take a hit from Samoa Joe just before Joe puts Rusev on the mat with a huge Ura-Nage and goes for the pin. Miz, annoyed by this, ignores the pin which distracts Joe long enough for Rusev to turn the tables, kick him in the face and pin Joe for the three-count. After the bell, the wrestlers engage in some ladder-based shenanigans culminating with The Miz hitting Rusev with a Skull Crushing Finale and climbing the ladder to retrieve the briefcase.

I would love for any of these three guys to capture the briefcase on Sunday. To me, this match really highlighted how much better SmackDown has been since the Superstar Shakeup. The acquisitions of The Miz and Samoa Joe really put the blue brand over the top, at least in my eyes. The Miz’s ongoing feud with The New Day (he found pancakes in the briefcase) continues to be my favorite thing to watch for on Tuesday nights.

Rusev def Samoa Joe via pinfall

JEFF HARDY VS SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

Yet another first-time-ever matchup pits the Intercontinental Champion against the number one contender for the WWE Championship. Jeff Hardy takes to the skies early with a big spot to the outside which receives a pretty good pop. Hardy gets in most of his usual offense, but he just looks overmatched by the younger and fresher Nakamura. Hardy’s picture-perfect Swanton Bomb seems to hurt him as much as his opponent which gives Nakamura enough time to kick out of his pin attempt. Soon after, Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate, which Nakamura counters with his trademark low blow. After he is disqualified, Nakamura hits Hardy with a Kinshasa and then stands over him as he and the crowd count to ten.

Storyline-wise, this match makes zero sense. Why would a champ fight a number one contender for a different title just 5 days before his big title match? This next AJ-Shinsuke match needs to be the end of this feud, no matter who wins. It would benefit both wrestlers to work with some different talent for the first time in months. Still, for some reason, I’m looking forward to finding out how this one ends.

Jeff Hardy def Shinsuke Nakamura via disqualification

10-WOMAN TAG MATCH

After Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Naomi and Lana got into a brawl with The IIconics, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville earlier in the night, GM Paige announced an 8-woman tag to headline the show. Later, Asuka confronted Paige in the backstage area and said she wanted to fight Carmella tonight, so Paige did the diplomatic thing and simply added both of them to this match to make it 5 on each side.

This match really gets going after Becky’s hot tag to Charlotte after the commercial. This leads to a failed Moonsault attempt by Charlotte before she gets double-teamed by the former members of Absolution. Charlotte tags Asuka who quickly traps Mandy Rose in an Asuka Lock that is broken up by the entire heel team. A brawl ensues which culminates in a successful Charlotte Moonsault to the outside of the ring. Somehow, Carmella ends up as the legal woman for her team and she goes toe-to-toe with Asuka in the center of the ring, which does not end well for her. Asuka locks in her signature submission and it’s all over.

I don’t think there was a single person watching this that thought the heels had any chance to win this match clean, as the team of Asuka and SmackDown’s WMitB representatives cruised to an easy victory. This match was chaos from start to finish but it was fun and the final segment should mirror how the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match will go on Sunday.

Asuka, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Naomi and Lana def Carmella, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville and The IIconics via submission

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Austin Pagel

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