WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Becky Lynch stands out, and a major breakup goes down
Title coronations can be predictable, but Lynch made the most of her moment in the main event
Although their roles in the overall scheme of WWE's weekly entertainment have flip-flopped at times since the most recent brand split began in 2016, Raw and SmackDown continue to hold very different identities to wrestling fans. Some call the blue brand the show for "marks," while Raw remains the home for casual fans. But since WrestleMania 34 in April, it's clear that SmackDown has become the more consistent home for entertainment and logical storytelling, especially since Raw has taken such a nose dive in recent months.
However you define the specific role that each show plays, it's hard to argue against SmackDown being the "A Show" thus far in 2018. This week was no different as an unoffensive and wrestling-heavy two hours ended with another bang thanks to the final segment involving Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
SmackDown is not only much more digestible than it's three-hour sister on Monday nights, it has consistently given more time and detailed energy to telling better stories whether that's Daniel Bryan-The Miz or AJ Styles-Samoa Joe. This week, the same treatment was given to Rusev and Aiden English.
While it's fair to argue that returning to a system of two WWE pay-per-view cards each month is overkill, SmackDown is so good right now that it might deserve its own showcase.
Becky Lynch refuses to reconcile
The show's final segment saw SmackDown general manager Paige announce Lynch to present her with the SmackDown women's title she won at Hell in a Cell. Lynch said it took her two years to get back where she belongs and "from now on this is my show and my title." Out came Charlotte Flair to give Lynch her respect and tell her, "woman to woman," that Lynch was the better of the two on Sunday. "Congratulations, but you paid a steep price to regain that title and threw away more than a friendship," Flair said. She also hyped their Oct. 6 rematch at Super Show-Down in Australia.
With a heel smirk on her face, Lynch told Flair to "shut your face, it's the champ's turn to talk." She then offered Flair a chance to raise her hand, which was denied. So was her offer for Flair to put the title around her waist. Flair spoke of the respect she showed simply by coming out here and said she wished there was a little bit left of her best friend "inside of what this has become." Lynch responded by telling Flair to call her "queen," which caused Flair to walk away. After Lynch called her a bitch, Flair attacked and knocked her out of the ring with a forearm. But Lynch quickly took control and threw Flair into the steps and then over the announce table. After applying her Dis-Arm-Her inside the ring, Lynch left before turning around and adding a Becksploder suplex.
Call her a heel or simply a bad-ass babyface in the mold of Steve Austin. Heck, you can call her whatever you want. Two nights after their fantastic title match, Lynch continued to show her recent personality turn is becoming one of the best things going in WWE at the moment. The dialogue between the two was just as perfectly written as it was executed and the swag that Lynch is exuding while carrying out a beating is nothing short of intoxicating. This is what her character has needed all along, even if it's coming in a package none of us would have expected would work to this level. In fact, Lynch has been so good, Flair is starting to receive partial boos from the crowd. While some might argue it messes with the psychology of the feud, it works because of how long Lynch had previously toiled as a hard-luck babyface who rarely got her due. It has gone a long way in nearly making her recent nefarious actions feel justified. Grade: A-
Daniel Bryan escapes a trap on Miz TV
The Miz revealed he'll be facing Bryan at Super Show-Down for a shot at the WWE championship and bragged about a big Miz TV guest which turned out to simply be Maryse. The Miz called Bryan and Brie Bella "a marriage of convenience," with Maryse saying Bella uses Bryan to market her image and Miz insisting Bryan uses her to fight his battles. Maryse added that tonight would be her last on SmackDown "for now" so she can focus on motherhood.
Out came Bryan to answer Miz's challenge and remind him that no one talks about his wife. But his attack on Miz ended when a shotgun dropkick sent Miz flying into Maryse in the corner. Medical personnel came to her aid almost instantly and had a stretcher ready. Just as Bryan crouched down to apologize, Maryse stood up and started laughing. Maryse then held Bryan's shoulders back but as Miz came running forward, Bryan ducked and Miz knocked Maryse off the apron. Bryan clotheslined Miz over the top to end the segment. Later on backstage, Bryan called Miz a coward and promised to punch his ticket to the WWE title in Melbourne.
With Brie Bella inexplicably absent despite appearing on Raw the night before, the Bryan-Miz feud was given prime billing to open the show. Unfortunately, the segment fell flat with a noticeable lack of creativity in terms of the overall storyline. A frustrated Bryan continued to play into The Miz's traps, which supports the current direction of the angle, but the execution in this case left much to be desired. So did seeing EMT's run to Maryse's aid with a stretcher after she was simply bumped into considering she took part in a wrestling match just 48 hours earlier. Grade: C
Aiden English breaks up Rusev Day
Following his latest bungling at Hell in a Cell, Rusev told English backstage that he wouldn't be needed in Tuesday's United States title match. "If this is your best," Rusev said, "it simply isn't good enough." A distraught English then let his frustration out on a WWE producer by screaming that it's all Lana's fault and that Rusev Day is nothing without him. Lana overheard the rant and despite groveling from English, she threatened to tell Rusev. Later on, Lana's attempt to do just that was twice interrupted by Rusev, who said it will have to wait as he needed English to "do the honors" and sing him to the ring.
United States Championship -- Shinsuke Nakamura (c) def. Rusev via pinfall to retain the titel: After English provided an extra passionate serenade to present Rusev, he spent much of the match arguing with Lana outside the ring. At one point, English grabbed the microphone against Lana's wishes and began a "Rusev Day" chant to hype the crowd. But just as Rusev appeared on the verge of victory, English jumped up on the apron to yell "Rusev crush" into the microphone and badly distracted his teammate. Nakamura rolled him up from behind for the pin. English then attacked Rusev from behind with the microphone, ripped the flat off of it and sang in a downtrodden voice "Happy Rusev Day" before dropping it as Lana screamed for him to leave.
While it's disheartening to see someone so deserving as Rusev come up empty in his fourth title opportunity since WrestleMania, the story of English's turn was well told over the course of three different segments throughout the show. The development was one SmackDown had spent considerable time building to yet the payoff felt fresh with surprisingly strong acting from Lana and English backstage, which built suspense as to whether Rusev would ever find out about English's earlier comments. What will be interesting to see is if English can be presented despicable enough as a heel that a legitimate feud with Rusev would be viable. Grade: B+
What else happened on SmackDown Live?
- Cesaro def. Kofi Kingston via pinfall: With New Day dressed in safari gear and Big E sporting an Australian accent, the trio traded pre-match trash talk with The Bar while promoting their title bout at WWE Super Show-Down. The entertaining match saw Kingston use the ropes to perform a gymnast-like flip onto Cesaro outside. After Kingston sold a left leg injury throughout, the finish came when Cesaro kicked his leg to gain momentum before hitting a Gotch Neutralizer for the 1-2-3.
- Randy Orton sends message to future victims: Orton snuck up behind a producer in the TV truck to threaten him to work quicker on a highlight reel of Orton brutally beating Jeff Hardy over the past month. Orton continued to intimidate the producer and eventually began choking him while making him watch footage of Hardy's ear lobe being stretched. "Tell me something, what do you feel when you see that?" Orton said. "It's disturbing, isn't it?" Orton went on to say that everything he has done to Hardy will pale in comparison to what he does to his next victim.
- AJ Styles def. Andrade "Cien" Almas via pinfall: This non-title match was preceded by an interview in which Styles said he is glad his match with Samoa Joe in Australia will be no disqualification. He also said Joe's controversial loss at Hell in a Cell was karma he deserved. The three-segment match with Almas was borderline pay-per-view quality and showcased just how poised "Cien" is for stardom. A series of big spots and near falls ended with Styles reversing out of a Jacknife DDT to hit the Styles Clash for the win. Joe then attacked from behind while Styles was celebrating and screamed, "You know the truth, you will never be safe!" They brawled outside until Joe thumbed Styles to the eye and retreated through the crowd.
- Asuka def. Billie Kay via submission: With Naomi by her side in a pairing that continues to feel forced, Asuka made surprisingly quick work of Kay, who had joined teammate Peyton Royce in heckling her before the match. Kay tapped out due to the Asuka Lock.
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