WWE SmackDown results, recap: John Cena, AJ Styles square off in a hot start

Many WWE fans were thrilled with Raw on Monday. I was not one of those viewers. In fact, what Raw lacked is exactly what SmackDown brought on Tuesday -- some intrigue and originality along with a wider variety of faces that ar enot necessarily seen in competition every week.

With AJ Styles becoming the new U.S. champion in surprise fashion at a house show on Friday in New York's Madison Square Garden, SmackDown did not benefit from the same immediate lead-in as Raw did from Great Balls of Fire. Despite that, it exceeded expectations two weeks out from Battleground and definitely entertained from start to finish.

Big fan of WWE? Be sure to subscribe to our podcast In This Corner with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know each week.

U.S. Open Challenge -- AJ Styles, John Cena, Kevin Owens and Rusev: A video package ran showing Styles capturing the United States championship at the Madison Square Garden house show. He was then introduced to chants of his name. Styles announced that he was reinstating the true U.S. Open Challenge as begun by Cena. "This championship has been overlooked way too many times. So from now on, every time you see a man with this championship around his waist, you will know that he is the best," Styles said before opening up the challenge. Cena's music hit to a huge ovation, and he clarified with Styles that he was included in the open challenge. Styles was absolute in his reply, a referee ran to th ering and the competitors prepared to start.

Just as the bell was set to ring, Owens entered and said no one wanted to see another Styles-Cena match, and the only thing that mattered was Owens getting his rematch. He went on to ask why Cena returned because nobody missed him, to which Cena cleverly replied, "It's not that you don't want to see me, it's that you can't see me." Cena then referred to Owens as Michelin Man and told him to force him out of the ring. Cena turned around to address styles only for Rusev to slide into the ring and attack him, locking Cena in the Accolade. Owens used that distraction as an opportunity to take out Styles. An obvious tag team match was made for the main event.

I don't blame WWE for not giving Cena-Styles away for free. The challenge and tease of the match announcement itself was a hot enough start to a show that's needed a boost over the last few weeks. SmackDown opened with so much more fire than Raw, which is a shame coming off of a stellar final 30 minutes at Great Balls of Fire on Sunday. Styles is so ridiculously over, and Cena brings a much-needed boost to a SmackDown roster that was floundering with the U.S. title not being defended and WWE title stuck in a boring three-month rivalry.

Jinder Mahal def. Tye Dillinger via pinfall: The WWE champion picked up his first clean win since prior to becoming No. 1 contender by overwhelming Dillinger with his power and hitting the Khallas for the 1-2-3. Mahal cut a slightly tweaked version of his typical promo after the match, promising to bring hell to Randy Orton next week on SmackDown Live when the Punjabi Prison will hang over the ring.

It's about time that WWE gave Mahal a legitimate victory. I'm still nowhere close to sold on him as champion, though tonight's promo was his best in weeks. He's got to have something to go on besides simply being from India.

Xavier Woods def. Jey Uso via pinfall: Jimmy Uso tripped Woods from outside the ring moments into the match, so when The New Day jumped on the apron to protest, referee Charles Robinson kicked out everyone at ringside. Woods hit a beautiful springboard elbow onto Jey, who was dangling between the top and middle rope, before covering him for the pin.

Backstage -- Shane McMahon and the women's division: Naomi approached the commissioner to ask who she would be defending her title against next, and the rest of the women's division soon surrounded McMahon to ask the same question. McMahon decided on a Fatal 5-Way elimination match at Battleground to determine a No. 1 contender. Charlotte Flair questioned why she had to wait and then wondered why Lana was being given yet another chance. "I thought this was the land of opportunity, not the land of make believe," she said. "How is Lana in this match?" Good question. When the rest of the women left, Carmella handed McMahon a petition from her attorney demanding he reinstate James Ellsworth immediately. McMahon tore it up.

Naomi has not completed a title defense against a legitimate competitor since winning the championship at WrestleMania 33. And she won't get that opportunity at Battleground either. In other words, Naomi will have basically accomplished nothing from WrestleMania to SummerSlam, which is not the way you build a champion.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin: Nakamura attacked Corbin at the bottom of the ramp before the bell, and the two quicky spilled over the ringside barrier and into the crowd. With it clear the match would never begin, road agents and officials ran out to separate the two superstars. It was later announced that the two will fight at Battleground.

Backstage -- AJ Styles and John Cena: After praising Styles for putting out the U.S. Open Challenge, Cena said it would be better to offer those when he's gone because he will always accept. Styles said he knew Cena would be the first challenger but that he planned to hold on to the title for a long time. Cena appreciated Styles' candor and promised to have his back tonight in the main event.

Tamina Snuka & Natalya def. Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch via pinfall: Lana strolled down to ringside midway through the match, distracting Flair and allowing Snuka to make a blind tag. As Flair began to put Natalya in the Figure Eight, Snuka stepped in and superkicked her for the win.

Backstage -- Mike & Maria Kanellis and Sami Zayn: Maria knocked on the door of the men's locker room. When Gable answered, she demanded to speak with Zayn saying he owed her an apology. Zayn was not there, so Maria said he needed to find her. After the commercial break, Zayn approached the couple, saying he already apologized and was sick of apologizing. Zayn went on to say he had no idea what they were even doing there, suggesting Mike was the lover and Maria was the fighter. Maria slapped Zayn, and Mike smashed a glass vase of flowers over the back of his head.

Fashion Files -- Runway Walker, Texas Ranger: Dressed as cowboys with a toy horse and lasso, Breezango approached Zack Ryder to question him about the attack a few weeks ago. Mojo Rawley walked up confused as to what was going on, and Ryder lambasted him for eliminating him from the battle royal last week. Rawley said it was every man for himself and everyone needed to focus on what was important. A poster was then shown for next week's edition -- "The Fashion X Files: The Truth is not H."

John Cena & AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens & Rusev via pinfall: Solid, entertaining back-and-forth match that saw both teams get some shine. Cena and Styles worked well together in the end with Styles clearing the ring (Phenomenal Forearm to Rusev, Pele kick to Owens) and Cena hitting the Attitude Adjustment on Owens for the 1-2-3. The two faces shook hands after the match and celebrated after Styles was handed his title by Cena. When the music stopped, Styles and Cena stood face to face for a moment before Cena raised Styles' arm in victory again.

Finding myself trying to remember the last time Owens won a match other than via countout. Dude seems like he's getting buried and ignored. Also surprised no U.S. title rematch was announced for Battleground considering it just two Sundays away. Regardless of this being an obvious match after the opening to the show, there was some good juice considering two of the competitors had not fought on TV in months.

CBS Sports Staff

Adam Silverstein joined CBS Sports in 2014 as college football and golf editor. He also helps lead pro wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts coverage. Adam still maintains that Tim Tebow could have... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    CBS Sports Shop