WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Stomping Grounds anticipation heightens on strong go-home show
A strong final go-home effort from WWE should have everyone excited for this Sunday
Thankfully, it may be time to put the stain and pain of WWE's latest trip to Saudi Arabia in the rearview mirror. For the second straight night, the go-home episode previewing Sunday's inaugural Stomping Grounds pay-per-view show correctly succeeded in doing its job of building anticipation. During a post-WrestleMania stretch of fallen ratings and lazy storytelling, this was nothing short of an oasis in the desert.
Tuesday's episode of SmackDown Live saw WWE present a fast-paced two hours that was actually heavy on cohesion. No, there certainly weren't any monster reveals or major swerves, save for a title change late in the show. There also didn't need to be. By avoiding the crutch of their predictable main roster tropes, WWE gave viewers a reason to be interested in finding out what happens next come Sunday.
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Kingston, Rollins stand tall entering Stomping Grounds
SmackDown opened with Dolph Ziggler interrupting a promo from The New Day to complain that Kofi Kingston isn't deserving of being WWE champion. He also warned that Kingston is nothing without his teammates who won't have his back inside the steel cage during Sunday's title bout.
Dolph Ziggler def. Xavier Woods via pinfall following a stiff super kick while the New Day member was caught up in the ropes. The finish came after outside interference from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn forced the referee to eject everyone from ringside, including Kingston and Big E. Shortly after a tag team match later in the show (more on that below), universal champion Seth Rollins used a chair to beat down the B Team to follow through on his promise from Monday of assaulting anyone considering the special referee role at Stomping Grounds. Owens and Zayn complained outside to a late-arriving Shane McMahon and were given a main event match to deal with their issues.
Kofi Kingston & Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn via pinfall in a 2-out-of-3 falls match. Kingston recorded an instant pin on Zayn by connecting with a Trouble in Paradise. Late in the match, Rollins connected with a stomp on McIntyre to complete the sweet of the two falls. Kingston and Rollins hoisted their respective titles after the match as Brock Lesnar adviser Paul Heyman smiled while watching on a backstage monitor.
Don't look now, but WWE has decided to try again creatively with the backbone storyline of Tuesday's show being the perfect example of coherent storytelling across multiple angles. No, this wasn't quite Shakespeare, but it was apparent by the attention to detail in the tiny areas that there was real effort expelled to make sure everything made sense. Sad to say, but that's a great improvement. Tuesday's episode successfully weaved together multiple stars from both brands without convoluting the build to Sunday's biggest matches. Not only did Ziggler open the show by building his heat in a finish of Woods that was nothing short of a message regarding what he plans to do to Kingston, the main event perfectly presented the synergy of a looming Heyman to remind that Lesnar can spoil the title reigns of either victorious babyface should he chose to. Call me old school, but it just felt good again after the scripted abomination of the last few months to know they still care. Grade: B+
What else happened on SmackDown Live?
- Bayley suffered a beating during "A Moment of Bliss" thanks to the presence of Nikki Cross. From a storyline standpoint, Alexa Bliss played things perfectly ahead of her shot at Bayley's SmackDown women's title. Not only did she continue her brainwashed manipulation of Cross as her sidekick, she caused Bayley to lose her cool with an honest rant meant to expose her as a fraud who peaked in NXT and is jealous that Bliss is living out the main roster career that Bayley always wanted. Bayley finally snapped to attack her before succumbing to Cross' distraction as Bliss gained revenge in a red-hot segment.
- Andrade attacked Apollo Crews from behind during a backstage segment after Crews attempted to give Zelina Vega a message to relay his way. For the second straight week, Chad Gable watched from a distance and shook his head while taking notes.
- Heavy Machinery def. The B Team via pinfall as SmackDown tag team champions Daniel Bryan and Rowan sat in on commentary to get a closer look at Sunday's opponents. Bryan did well to mock Otis and Tucker as nothing more than unfocused buffoons. The finish came after Heavy Machinery landed the Compacter on Bo Dallas. After this match is where the aforementioned Rollins attack took place.
- Aleister Black cut another backstage promo asking what it takes to change the essence of a man. Seemingly coming to terms with the fact that no one has picked a fight with him since he began these bizarre rants, he went on to threaten the essence of anyone who eventually does.
- The Miz took issue with Shane McMahon's abuse of power in what began as a gloating in-ring promo from McMahon and quickly turned into a war of words. After taking turns insulting their fathers, The Miz correctly called out McMahon, the former proprietor of SmackDown's "land of opportunity," for hogging all the airtime on both shows with his friends. The Miz, who blamed himself, was eventually given 10 seconds by McMahon to find a tag team partner for an impromptu match. At that moment, R-Truth emerged from under the ring with his 24/7 title to trigger the Awesome Truth reunion.
- Drew McIntyre & Elias def. The Miz & R-Truth in a tag team elimination match. As expected, McMahon's constant interference played a huge role as he prevented Truth from making a tag, allowing a running knee from Elias to eliminate him. After a group of wrestlers from the locker room, led by Shelton Benjamin, attempted to steal Truth's title, he grabbed it from the referee to escape through the crowd. McIntyre eventually pinned The Miz following a Claymore kick before McMahon held Miz up for a second one after the match as the heels sent a message to Roman Reigns.
- The Kabuki Warriors secured an opportunity to compete for a shot at the WWE women's tag team titles when SmackDown heads to Tokyo next week. The champion Iiconics initially turned down the challenge backstage by making excuses until Paige revealed she had asked for it and received it. If Asuka and Kairi Sane defeat The Iiconics in Japan, they will earn a title opportunity.
- Ember Moon and Sonya Deville needed to be separated by a group of referees backstage after Deville and Mandy Rose taunted her into a brawl. Moon, who knocked a box of donuts out of their hands, let out a ferocious scream in a continued tease toward an eventual program.
- 24/7 championship -- Drake Maverick def. R Truth via pinfall to win the title. Truth was interrupted in the parking lot by a car driven by a WWE referee. But instead of Carmella tagging alongside Truth, it turned out to be Maverick in disguise. He rolled up Truth for the pinfall before grabbing the title and commandeering the referee's car to escape.
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