Roman Reigns def. Shinsuke Nakamura w/ Sami Zayn via DQ – Intercontinental Championship match
This match was booked fairly evenly, with neither man surrendering control of the match for too long to the other. Whilst this would’ve looked like a good idea on paper (as both men need to be booked looking strong and with both previously finishing as the finalists of the 2018 Royal Rumble match) this didn’t work out to the benefit of the match itself.
Nakamura’s varied offence and combination of strong-style strikes tied in well with Zayn’s continuous interference to create plenty of transition spots for the Intercontinental Champion to regain the initiative. On the other side of the ring, Reigns had to resort to utilising his stiff uppercut and Superman Punch multiple times to put himself back in charge of the match. This is what separates the two superstars in terms of their ring-work and why it’s always so much more enjoyable to watch Nakamura as opposed to Reigns.
This match simply has to be booked either to be a lot shorter or to have Nakamura and Zayn continually hold the advantage over Roman before having the former World Champion make a solitary comeback before executing the finish. This way, both men look strong whilst Roman’s lack of offence isn’t highlighted and the audience isn’t subject to the same viewing over and over again.
The finish came after another Roman was able to land another Superman Punch in order to set up the Spear. Baron Corbin made the interference, however, striking Reigns on the back with his royal cane to give the Samoan the win via disqualification. A three-man beat-down on Roman ensued before Daniel Bryan made the save. After initially clearing the ring, Zayn was able to hold Bryan in place to allow Nakamura to hit the Kinshasa before the villain’s exit via the entrance ramp.
The finish sold the unity of Team Flair heading into Crown Jewel but also continued the alliance between Roman and Bryan which seems to be an odd decision. Unless these two are going to be a part of Team Hogan, I don’t see any reason why these two singles competitors continue to look out for each other, especially, seemingly as their feud with Erick Rowan and Luke Harper is over.
Shorty Gable def. Curtis Axel
A quick match, preceded by a promo highlighting Gable’s recent struggles caused by his height, which saw Gable earn the quick submission victory after putting Axel in the Ankle Lock.
After the match, Gable gave a pseudo-inspirational speech concerning how his height will never hold him back and that it’s ok to be who you are, before shortening his name to “Shorty G”. Frankly I find this whole angle to be rather boring. That’s no slight on Gable however, who’s a good worker, it’s just we’ve seen that height isn’t a condemning factor in the ring. We all remember Rey Mysterio, don’t we? So, unless this angle leads to a title victory (which it doesn’t look likely) then this angle lacks a lot of substance.
Heavy Machinery & The New Day (Big-E & Xavier Woods) def. Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler & The Revival
A match designed to promote the biggest tag-team turmoil match coming up at Crown Jewel, this cluster of superstars fought out to an entertaining-enough affair.
This match went pretty much how you’d expect it to go, Woods was worked over for the most part by the opposing teams before the smaller superstar was able to make the hot tag to one of his bigger, more powerful partners. In this case, it was Otis who got the hot tag, which was ideal as he’s easily the most entertaining aspect of Smackdown’s tag-team division and he always gets a great reception from the crowd.
The finish came from a neat combination between Otis and Big-E, to hoist Scott Dawson atop Big-E’s shoulders to set-up the Midnight Hour so Woods could get the pin and the win.
The only issue I have with the whole bout was the involvement of Kofi Kingston before and after the match, laughing and celebrating like he hadn’t just lost his WWE Championship. It’s been clear ever since he lost the title that, whilst is was amazing, Kofi’s run at the top of the mountain is one and done! WWE clearly have no desire to give Kofi a rematch for his title or further involve him in the World Title picture which is just sad.
MizTV w/ Bayley & Sasha Banks
Miz called out Bayley to explain her recent change in demeanour and that is what all her fans deserve after years of supporting her. Whilst I haven’t been a fan of previous MizTV segments, I thought Miz did a great job here, goading Bayley into an explanation and teasing that the Champion has some inferiority complex.
Bayley gave typical heel reasons for making the change, that the fans didn’t deserve or respect her, that no matter what she did, she was never supported etc etc and it’s a fair explanation if you substitute the “fans” for “WWE”. It’s great to finally see a character change for Bayley as the act had been growing stale on the main roster for some time now and it’s clear the fans love this change in attitude.
Cue the end of the tirade and Nikki Cross, Dana Brooke and Lacey Evans take their turns to state their claim for Bayley’s title in a way so we’re all introduced to Smackdown’s new Women’s division.
Nikki Cross def. Carmella, Lacey Evans, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville – Six-pack Challenge to determine the #1 Contender to the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville dominated the majority of the match, being the only tag-team in the match, they combined to single out and decimate their opposition. This was good to see as I was worried creative would try and crowbar in a split between the pair in this match when there’s no need or point to it just yet, especially as this match should be used to introduce new players in the Women’s title picture.
We got a little bit of that, not as much as I would’ve liked, but Brooke got a nice few spots and Evans always manages to fit in some great character work in her matches. In this match, she hung around on the outside, taking her chances when they arose to interfere and stamp her authority on the match, not entirely dropping all her heel characteristics despite teaming up with Natalya last week.
The finish felt a bit rushed but saw each superstar deliver a flurry of signature moves before allowing Cross to isolate Rose to deliver the Fisherman’s swinging neck-breaker to claim the victory.
Braun Strowman def. Drew Gulak
Gulak cut an interesting promo before the match, offering some advice to Strowman because he wants to his fellow WWE Superstar defeat Tyson Fury. This led to a funny moment as Gulak introduced a 345-slide presentation on how Strowman could beat the former boxing champion. Before we could get past slide one, however, Strowman obviously just attacked the 205-live star and quickly squashed his opponent in impacting fashion.
Grade: Funny Filler
Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan def. Baron Corbin & Shinsuke Nakamura w/ Sami Zayn
In the absence of our own WWE Champion, the main event had to be filled by the riveting, hour-old rivalry between these four combatants. Despite some odd spots in this match, namely where Corbin was portrayed as a heel with a conscience (cause they’re always easy to boo) for opting against smashing Roman’s head in, this match was enjoyable. Only because it reminded us that we have both Nakamura and Bryan on the same show and therefore a potential rivalry!
Bryan was able to pick up the victory for his team after hitting Nakumara with his own flying-knee and the shot of him celebrating with Roman ended the show.
I was really hoping for more from this show, being the first Smackdown on FOX after the draft. It’s clear, however, that it’s still much the same at WWE. The current WWE Champion will still be absent from the majority of shows and there’s still no real creative direction for the majority of superstars.
Despite some solid matches, this show never really captured my imagination or do anything to entice me into watching Crown Jewel, a sub-par effort, overall.
Final Grade: C