WWE is continuing to play the long game with an almost certain breakup of the Bayley and Sasha Banks duo. In the main event of SmackDown on Friday, Banks and Bayley managed to score a win over Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross to win the women's tag team championship. The win made the pair two-time women's tag champs, having been the inaugural champions after winning an Elimination Chamber match in February 2019.
The victory wasn't smooth for Banks and Bayley, with the match building to a point where Banks had Cross locked in the Banks Statement only to have Bayley sneak into the ring after a blind tag to try and steal the glory. Cross almost turned the tables and pinned Bayley, but Banks made the save and scored a crucifix pin to win the titles as the pair celebrated the victory as the show went off the air.
It wasn't the only news coming out of the show, with WWE universal champion Braun Strowman having been tormented by The Miz and John Morrison throughout the two-hour show before finally catching up to the team. Strowman declared the men "dead" before flipping over the surveillance van that had Miz and Morrison trapped inside.
Also, in attempting to prove a point to his intercontinental championship tournament finals opponent Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles suffered a major upset loss. Styles challenged Bryan's coach, Drew Gulak, to a match only to be caught in a pin reversal of a Styles Clash. The stunning upset left the former WWE champion in shock heading into the finals next week.
You can catch up on all the action from SmackDown with our recap and grades below from the penultimate edition of SmackDown prior to the Backlash pay-per-view on Sunday, June 14.
WWE SmackDown recap, grades
Jeff Hardy opened SmackDown by giving his side of the story: Elias was announced as having a torn pectoral muscle and broken ribs before Hardy's in-ring promo. Hardy said last week was "something awful" because lives were in danger and the show was thrown into chaos. He said that after he pulled up to the arena, he was immediately knocked out. Next thing he knew, police were surrounding him and he smelled like alcohol. Hardy said that he was glad to know he wasn't on this path alone and knew he did not "slip" last week. He said eyewitnesses told police the man who fled the scene of the car crash had red hair and a red beard. Sheamus walked to the entrance ramp after Hardy said he wouldn't let Sheamus get away with his actions. Sheamus called everyone who supports Hardy an enabler and that Hardy is not a man -- he's a junkie. After Sheamus said Hardy's family is used to disappointments, a brawl between the two broke out, ending when Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick and smashed Hardy into the plexiglass surrounding the ring and entrance ramp. The angle is still questionable at its core, but this was a better execution than last week's car crash angle. Grade: B-
Otis def. King Corbin via disqualification: An irate Corbin charged at Otis to get the match going, taking the fight to Mr. Money in the Bank and the action over with a ringside assault. Mid-match, after Otis had begun his comeback, Corbin went to ringside and grabbed the crown Otis had stolen earlier backstage. He then grabbed a steel chair and used it on Otis, drawing the disqualification. The move didn't get Corbin off the hook, however, as Otis laid him out in the ring and hit the Caterpillar before celebrating in the ring with Rose. Keeping Otis on TV is important given his status as the briefcase holder, but WWE could have just given him the clean win here since Corbin ended up on the losing end of everything anyway. Grade: C+
Lacey Evans def. Sonya Deville via pinfall: Before the match, Deville jumped Evans from behind, throwing her into the ring steps. In a match that steadily built its physicality, a schoolboy pin attempt by Evans launched Deville into the referee. The ref fell to the floor calling for help and clutching his leg. During the ensuing commercial break, Deville used the distraction to land a few cheap shots from behind. The back-and-forth action came to a somewhat unsatisfying end when Mandy Rose appeared on the 'Tron to provide a distraction, causing Deville to turn into a Woman's Right from Evans for the pin. Evans and Deville have very good in-ring chemistry as a pair of bruisers, but the cheap ending felt like it derailed everything they'd been building in this match. Grade: B-
Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles came face to face ahead of the IC title tournament finals: Bryan called Styles a coward for taking a bye after the incident involving Jeff Hardy and Elias last week. Styles said the move wasn't cowardly, it was smart. Bryan said his vision of being champion was defending the title against anyone and everyone weekly, while Styles would defend the championship sparingly to protect his title reign. That, Bryan said, is why Styles is a coward. Styles cited Bryan's friend Drew Gulak as the type of person who benefits from the kind of handouts Bryan is suggesting, leading to a challenge to a match with Gulak tonight. These two have perfectly matched personalities and Bryan was, as usual, brilliant on the mic in this segment. Grade: B+
Drew Gulak def. AJ Styles via pinfall: Gulak attacked Styles before the match even started. He kept the pressure on after the opening bell, using a mat-based attack to go at the former WWE champion. Gulak was able to match Styles' intensity both in wrestling and pure striking, building a very good, albeit short TV match. As Styles was preparing to hit the Styles Clash, he pivoted to face Daniel Bryan, allowing Gulak to counter the move into a flipping pin which he used to score the biggest victory of his WWE career. Grade: B+
Braun Strowman got his revenge on The Miz and John Morrison: After finding his car destroyed, Strowman demanded to know where Miz and Morrison were. After having their surveillance van pointed out, Strowman announced the duo were "dead men" before flipping over the van. Throughout the show, Miz and Morrison were watching from the van as they tormented Strowman. The pranks included messing with his protein drink, accidentally dumping Nickelodeon-type slime on Kayla Braxton during a backstage interview and destroying his vintage car with a baseball bat. Grade: C
Women's Tag Team Championship -- Bayley & Sasha Banks def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (c) via pinfall to win the titles: A bit of interference from the apron by Banks allowed Bayley to turn things around on Cross, who had told the SmackDown women's champion, "You belong to me." The challengers kept the pressure on Cross, cutting her off in the corner from making a tag to Bliss on the apron. Cross eventually made the hot tag and cleaned house, but Bayley eventually cut it off with a Bayley-to-Belly from the second rope, but Banks couldn't score the pin with a running knee follow-up. Bliss scored her own near fall with a Code Red on Banks while Cross hit a tornado DDT on Banks on the outside. Banks hit the Backstabber on Cross and was locking in the Banks Statement but Bayley tried to steal the glory with a blind tag. Banks eventually had to bail Bayley out of trouble and then managed to score a crucifix pin on Cross in a pin exchange to score the win and capture the titles. The build of drama between Bayley and Banks, who continue to find success despite steadily remaining on the edge of serious conflict, remains a very strong story element. Grade: B