Drew McIntyre outlasted Sheamus in a war of attrition on WWE SmackDown. McIntyre will now challenge the undisputed WWE universal champion -- most likely Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar or Theory -- at Clash at the Castle in September.
McIntyre and Sheamus made the most of their half-hour slot on Friday's iteration of the blue brand. The longtime colleagues fought tooth and nail in a lawless "Irish Donnybrook" match. McIntyre will now challenge for the WWE's top prize at the promotion's first major U.K. stadium show in 30 years.
Elsewhere on the card, Ronda Rousey found an edge over SmackDown women's champion Liv Morgan ahead of their SummerSlam rematch. And Theory continued to loom over Reigns vs. Lesnar with his Money in the Bank briefcase.
CBS Sports was with you all night with recaps and highlights of all the action from State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
McIntyre vs. Sheamus delivers with scars and storytelling
Drew McIntyre def. Sheamus via pinfall in an "Irish Donnybrook" match to earn a shot against the undisputed WWE universal champion at Clash at the Castle. The longtime comrades and rivals presented a physical match that ran for approximately 30 minutes and left talent bloodied and bruised. McIntyre and Sheamus beat the stuffing out of each other in a no disqualification, no count-out match with Irish-themed weapons ringside.
The contest opened with Sheamus attacking McIntyre during the latter's entrance. McIntyre nearly closed the show by driving Sheamus' head into six steel chairs with a Future Shock DDT. Sheamus appeared to be on his last legs before his Brawling Brutes intervened. Ridge Holland snapped a shillelagh off McIntyre's back and Butch dove off a tall barrel onto McIntyre. Sheamus had his best moment of the match when he planted McIntyre with an avalanche White Noise off the corner ropes.
The closing moments of the "Irish Donnybrook" match came as McIntyre endured a Brogue Kick from Sheamus, kicking out on the precipice of a three-count. In a stunning feat of strength, McIntyre caught Sheamus in a standing powerbomb position as the Irishman searched for a second Brogue Kick. McIntyre powerbombed him through a table and planted his foe with a Claymore Kick to secure the victory. McIntyre was remorseful as he stamped out Sheamus' final flicker of hope. Money in the Bank briefcase holder Theory attacked McIntyre post-match.
Backstage, Theory asserted that he would cash in the briefcase on Lesnar or Reigns at SummerSlam. Reigns' special counsel Paul Heyman approached Theory for a private conversation.
Heyman closed out the show by claiming that Reigns would do away with Lesnar at SummerSlam. "The Beast Incarnate" interrupted his former friend before Theory tried and failed to attack Lesnar from behind. Lesnar tossed Theory around before McIntyre emerged and landed a vengeful Claymore Kick on Theory. SmackDown closed out with McIntyre and Lesnar staring each other down.
The outcome was never in doubt, but the pain and passion deserve applause. McIntyre and Sheamus' chemistry oozed out of this match. The impact was heavy and their story benefited from expressions of grit, struggle and shades of regret. McIntyre and Sheamus deserve a ton of credit even though external circumstances took away from the match. The winner was never in question; that isn't necessarily a bad thing but takes away from the drama. Some lingering frustration remains from WWE's decision to repeatedly delay the match. McIntyre vs. Sheamus was tremendous in hindsight, but there wasn't enough pining for it in advance to justify multiple re-bookings. Finally, I'm not sure if McIntyre beating three men benefits him as much as it hurts The Brawling Brutes. Weighing the good and the bad, it is hard to discredit the fantastic efforts put forth by McIntyre and Sheamus. They knocked it out of the park. Everything after the match was fine. It is nice to see multiple people in the title picture. Lesnar, Reigns, McIntyre and Theory are all in the mix. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- Happy Corbin laid out Pat McAfee. Corbin purchased a front-row ticket behind the announcer's table. He repeatedly harassed McAfee before getting the jump on his SummerSlam opponent.
- Shotzi def. Aliyah via pinfall after planting her with the Never Wake Up finishing move.
- Ronda Rousey took out her frustrations on Shotzi in the ring after Natalya and Sonya Deville interrupted her photoshoot with Liv Morgan.
- Ronda Rousey and Liv Morgan def. Sonya Deville and Natalya via submission after Rousey armbarred Deville. There was plenty of friction between the winners ahead of their SummerSlam rematch.
- Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) get the better of The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) in a brawl ahead of their tag team match at SummerSlam. Special guest referee Jeff Jarrett was present and accidentally struck by The Usos.
- Maxxine Dupri and Max Dupri unveil Maximum Male Models' SummerSlam collection with Mansoor and Mace.
- The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) def. New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) via pinfall after Ivar covered Kingston. Viking Raiders brutalized Woods post-match, smashing his injured leg between a steel chair.