On 30th May, WWE aired the 928th episode of SmackDown live from the Phillips Arena in
Atlanta, Georgia on the USA Network. The show featured AJ Styles taking on Dolph Ziggler, a wild brawl with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina and Carmella as their #1 Contender's match never got started, as well as Randy Orton, United States Champion Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, The New Day, Shinsuke Nakamura and more. But was it any good? Let's take a look.
- Charlotte Flair, Carmella, Natalya, Becky Lynch and Tamina cut short and mostly uninspiring promos about why they will become #1 Contender to the SmackDown Women's Championship later in the show.
Nakamura was a Guest on Owens' Highlight Reel
A run of the mill opening segment, with a few flashes of excellence on the mic from Kevin Owens. The New Face of America beginning by running down Chris Jericho for inventing the Money in the Bank ladder match, whilst the crowd chanted for AJ Styles, continued to keep that fire burning, whilst he also managed to get some good heat for mocking Nakamura's entrance and had a sound-bitey exclamation point of telling Shinsuke that Money in the Bank will be the "day the music dies". The crowd wasn't too hyped to hear Nakamura talk with a spattering of "What?" chants with the King of Strong Style stumble over his first sentence not helping the matter, but the content as he threw shade of Owens and Corbin was well done. This moved well into the Owens and Corbin attack with Sami Zayn quickly making the save and throwing down the challenge for a tag team match.
Zayn & Nakamura def. Owens & Corbin
The match was a continuation of the segment as it didn't verge off the beaten path, but remained entertaining thanks to a couple of nice touches, as well as an Atlanta crowd that was heavily into the action. Pretty much your regular tag team match, as Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin controlled Sami Zayn through double teams and distractions, before Zayn was able to find the space to make the hot tag to Shinsuke Nakamura and we headed towards the finish. Sami is perfect in the face in peril role, especially against physical talent like Corbin and Owens. He makes the other talent look like a million bucks, whilst also making you long for the day he finally gets the upperhand. Zayn hitting the Blue Thunder Bomb on Owens, only for Corbin to knock Nakamura off the apron was my second favourite moment in the bout, only topped by Atlanta's reaction to the finish. After Corbin and Owens fell out after a bit of heel communication, Zayn Cactus clotheslined Big Banter Baron to the floor, with the camera panning back round to show Owens about to turn around with Nakamura eyeing him up in the corner. The crowd popped huge when they realised what was about to happen and for the second time in as many weeks Nakamura pinnined the United States Champion with a Kinshasa.
- Commentary team Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and John "Bradshaw" Layfield shilled the WWE Network free trial, pushing 4th June's Extreme Rules and 18th June's Money in the Bank.
The New Day interrupted The Usos
Big fun, super happy return house for The New Day's Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. This was a succinct promo segment in which all five lads involved played their roles well and built up a match for 18th June. The Usos fed for the New Day entrance well, bigging up themselves for their victories of American Alpha and Breezango, before ragging on one of Atlanta's sports teams for an added bit of cheap heat. The pop for Big E, Kingston and Woods sounded sizeable and the trio didn't disappoint with the crowd eating up what they'd been missing for over a month. Both sides seemed to have a lot of fun working together and that translates to a fun experience as a fan with the five bouncing off of each other as The Usos took jabs at the attitude and skipping of New Day, whilst New Day through shade at the Usos cap and hoodie look. These two teams are more than capable of keeping this up for the next two weeks and continuing to produce entertaining segments opposite each other and have shown before at last year's Royal Rumble that they can do a good match together and I've got high hopes that this programme can raise the bar.
- ICYMI - Highlights of Jinder Mahal's Punjabi Celebration from #927, as well as various Indian media coverage of Mahal as champion.
- The Fashion Police went all noir for a superb skit, that included voice overs of the twos thoughts (leading to a great moment of the two finding out they could hear each other's thoughts) as Fandango discovered their office destroyed. Breeze was in a dress for some reason and after licking a substance found Fandango worked out it was Epico & Primo who were behind the attack, this was all a wonderful experience and you should go and watch it.
The 5-Way Elimination Match to Determine the No. 1 Contender to the SmackDown Women's Championship Never Began
An incredibly well put together segment here, that concluded with Commissioner Shane McMahon announcing that Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Tamina, Becky Lynch and Carmella would compete in the first ever Women's Money in the Bank Ladder match on 18th June. The announcement got a nice response from Atlanta, but if the preluding brawl hadn't been so bright, I don't think the announcement would've had the impact it did, history-making or not. This was supposed to be a Number One contenders Elimination match between the five aforementioned women, but quickly erupted into a wild brawl, with the referee repeatedly asking the girls to get back in the ring, almost comically, in order to start the match. The quintet had other ideas, as Lynch through Carmella into the time keepers area and dove off the barricade with a forearm, Flair sent Tamina into the ringpost, hit an Exploder suplex on the floor on Natalya and then a diving moonsault to the floor onto both, before a flurry of moves on the floor from all five concluded with Flair powerbombing Natalya through the announce table. It's great to see Women's wrestling being treated so seriously on the blue brand and the women took the opportunity and ran with it, creating a crazy melee that acts as a strong advert for what the five could do when they bring a bunch of ladders into play also.
Breezango def. The Colons
Breezango continued to be one of the best things on WWE television in a delightfully comedic match. The bout was more than just comedy though as the short story that was told, with the Colons repeatedly knocking Breeze out of his corner leaving Fandango to go at it alone was solid stuff and had a nice pay-off, as well as a number of good wrestling sequences as Deputy Dango battled against two men. The hot tag when Breeze re-appeared dressed as a janitor and went to town on Epico and Primo was glorious stuff as Breeze worked at a higher pace than anyone in overalls, swimming cap and false moustache should ever be expected to work. Finishing off with Primo walking into an Unprettier from Breeze after fighting over a mop with Fandango, this match put Breezango back on track after two successive loses to The Usos and was charmingly captivating throughout it's short time on screen.
- Dolph Ziggler interrupted AJ Styles being interviewed by Renee Young, saying if SmackDown was the house that AJ Styles built then Ziggler laid the foundation, getting Styles fired up for a fight right there and then, only to say "See you out there, kid" and walk away.
Orton Spoke for the First Time Since Backlash
I like that this Randy Orton v Jinder Mahal feud has been pushed to peripheries with the segments kept shorter and snappier than what the Money in the Bank ladder match competitors are receiving. That perhaps sounds like a strange statement when talking about the WWE Championship story, but allow me to explain. Having the two only appear on screen together for seven minutes, after only having Jinder present last week, has allowed the story time to breath and find it's groove, whilst also not overexposing either act. Orton is an underrated promo guy when motivated and whilst he didn't seem to be bringing his A-game here, the content was strong enough that it hit home. Orton talking about his grandfather and wrestling in his home town at Money in the Bank told the right story, ending with Orton declaring that "The only thing Jinder Mahal has earned the right to is a good old fashioned American Orton family ass kinking". Mahal interrupting on the big screen started off awkward but once getting past Jinder telling Randy where he was, The Majarajah cut a much better promo that last week, galvanising a big USA chant from the crowd, before The Singh Brothers clapped for about five minutes. The two haven't been seen in the same place and neither has wrestled since Backlash so WWE still has those ideas in their backpocket for the next two weeks leading into the PPV. I'm finally beginning to warm to this storyline and hopefully we'll see WWE continuing to hit the right notes moving toward 18th June.
Ziggler def. Styles
A good TV main here as AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler worked a pacy and energetic match, that gave Ziggler a huge win heading into Money in the Bank. The bout was built around the Styles Clash with Ziggler doing anything and everything to escape the move and usually ending up taking some punishment straight after the escape, whether that be the Ushigoroshi or a tasty suplex into the turnbuckle. We eventually saw Styles attempt his other finisher, the Phenomenal Forearm, only for Ziggler to crotch him on the top rope and hit a superkick to pick up the win. The match wasn't always particularly crisp and no one would tell you this was the clinic it perhaps could have been, but the two bought bags of intensity and covered their mistakes well. The two have the in-ring chemistry where it doesn't matter if something goes wrong, they're able to make whatever happens work. The Show Off needed a big win to make him look credible ahead of the Ladder match, whilst AJ Styles could get pinned every week and still be over because of the way he wrestles and commands a crowd.
ATPW Scale Rating - 6.03/10
Top to bottom this was a really good piece of wrestling television. The Women's segment was the high pint and the main event was finished the show well, but there was also the opening tag, the return of the New Day, Breezango antics and some good work from Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal. The two hours flew by and there was absolutely nothing that outstayed it's welcome. Good stuff from the Blue Brand.