With the only a pair of intercontinental championship tournament semifinal bouts announced ahead of this week's SmackDown, WWE wasted no time scratching those matches from the card. SmackDown on Friday opened with Elias laying in the street and being tended to by paramedics next to a crashed car. The car was searched by police, revealing an open bottle of alcohol and paperwork showing it was Jeff Hardy's rental car. Hardy was found moments later laying in the bushes and "smelling like the same alcohol from the car" before being arrested.
The angle, which played off Hardy's past substance abuse struggles, scratched Elias vs. AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan from the tournament. Styles accepted a free ride to the finals, but Bryan insisted on earning his way in the tournament, leading to a battle royal to determine his opponent. Sheamus would win the match and face off with Bryan in the main event, coming up short when Hardy returned to cause a distraction before eventually beating down the Irishman as the show went off the air. This suggested the opening angle was all an elaborate set-up by Sheamus.
That wasn't all that went down from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando on Friday, with more matches taking place, the announcement Matt Riddle is heading to the brand and even a full-blown make out session between Otis and Mandy Rose.
You can read the full recap and grades below for what was, in ways good and bad, an interesting edition of SmackDown.
WWE SmackDown recap, grades
This week's show opened with Elias being attended to by paramedics in the street after an accident. Police found an open bottle of alcohol in the car that struck him and paperwork saying it is Jeff Hardy's rental car. Hardy was then found in the bushes by police, soaked in alcohol. Hardy was arrested after "eyewitness reports," including one from Braun Strowman, that a man in a black hoodie was seen running from the scene. Elias was loaded into an ambulance while Hardy was driven away in a police car. There's questionable taste and there's bad taste, and this whole angle quickly fell into the latter, in addition to simply being poorly done. Grade: F
Following the show-opening incident, the locker room was informed of Elias and Hardy's situation. WWE staff member Adam Pearce told the wrestlers that both men would not be competing in their respective intercontinental title tournament matches. AJ Styles pushed for a bye to face Daniel Bryan in the finals but Bryan said they should face replacement opponents -- an idea Styles refused, instead taking his bye. Sheamus and King Corbin pushed to get back in the tournament, but were shouted down by Jey Uso, Dolph Ziggler and everyone else in the back. This led to the booking of a battle royal with the winner facing Daniel Bryan later in the night for a shot at AJ Styles and the intercontinental championship.
Sheamus won a 10-man battle royal to earn his way back into the intercontinental title tournament.
King Corbin scored the first four eliminations of the match, tossing Lince Dorado, Drew Gulak, Gran Metalik and Dolph Ziggler before being caught with a surprise superkick from Jey Uso leading his own elimination. Shorty G went on a brief run, eliminating Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakmaura before Nakamura provided a distraction which allowed Cesaro to sneak back in to eliminate Shorty G. In the end, it came down to Uso and Sheamus before Sheamus was able to score the final elimination for the victory. This gives some payoff to the likely story that he was the one who set Hardy up for the DUI angle earlier in the show. Grade: B-
Lacey Evans and Sonya Deville ended in a double countout. Evans challenged Deville to a bit of amateur wrestling early in the match, getting the upper hand in the ensuing scramble. But once Evans told Deville, "Mandy will always be better than you," Deville flipped the switch, stopping the amateur angle and turning the match into a brawl. As Evans fired back with her own striking attack, the two women took the fight to ringside where they were both counted out. The fight continued on the outside briefly before Evans got back in the ring and told Deville to get back in the ring. Deville declined, saying she would fight Evans on her own terms. There's a little something that works with these two and their physicality, but the match needed more than it was given in terms of time to really get to the next level. Grade: B-
Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss hosted The New Day for a tag team champion summit edition of A Moment of Bliss. The event was quickly interrupted by Sasha Banks and Bayley, however. After the women traded barbs, Bliss pointed out that Banks was the only person in the ring without a championship. Bliss told Bayley and Banks that they could have a shot at the women's tag championship anytime, anywhere. This led Bayley to throw down a challenge -- a challenge for Banks to take on Bliss one-on-one. As Banks protested the idea, pointing out she didn't even have her wrestling boots, Bliss dropkicked her from the ring. This was a long way to go to show the cracks in the Banks and Bayley friendship, with New Day being entirely unnecessary in the segment. Grade: C
Sasha Banks def. Alexa Bliss via pinfall with a roll-up. Bayley and Nikki Cross were on commentary for the match. The early portion was heavy on pinning combinations before Banks, wearing tennis shoes and yoga pants to Bliss' full ring gear, brought a bit of nastiness. Cross and Bayley got involved on the ring apron and the distraction allowed Banks to take out Bliss and roll her up for the pin after a solid effort from both women. Grade: B
Mandy Rose and Otis were shown hanging out by the pool. Rose said she wanted to take a nap and then proceeded to have a dream about Otis going for a swim and then making out -- a spoof of the famous "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" scene -- before Otis woke her up with the splash from a cannonball. The two then got in the pool together and made out. There's not much to say about this other than that it was pretty weird. Grade: C+
A video package aired announcing Matt Riddle's move to SmackDown. The video was introduced by Kurt Angle, who spoke about refereeing Riddle's final NXT match this past Wednesday. The video did a good job of getting across Riddle's perfect mix of high-intensity wrestling and laid-back attitude.
Intercontinental Championship Tournament -- Daniel Bryan def. Sheamus via pinfall after a running knee to advance to the finals. With plenty of history to play off, these two were able to build a really solid, hard-hitting match to close the show. Sheamus taunted Bryan throughout, saying he built the "Yes movement" with his 16-second win over Bryan at WrestleMania 28. Sheamus came close to a win after hitting White Noise as Bryan was riding his back and throwing elbows to the side of the head. As Sheamus seemed on the verge of scoring the win, Jeff Hardy, returning from his arrest earlier in the night, made his way to the entrance ramp. As Sheamus was distracted, Bryan hit a running knee for the win to advance to the tournament finals where he'll face AJ Styles in two weeks. After the match, Hardy charged the ring and laid a beating on Sheamus before the show went off the air. The Hardy angle was not good earlier in the night, but that couldn't derail a very solid main event between Sheamus and Bryan. Grade: B+