By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the go-home show for Battleground which takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday. Jinder Mahal promised that he would unleash hell on Randy Orton by bringing the Punjabi Prison to The Magic City. Did the structure live it up to its mystic or did it conjure up vivid nightmares from the past? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.
· Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers gave a tutorial on how to escape the Punjabi Prison while Randy Orton came out and proclaimed that he had nothing to lose on Sunday.
· Orton stated that Mahal was carrying the country of India on his back as he tried to prove his worth to his people. Being the 50th WWE Champion was another milestone that few could claim. Having the pressure of living up to expectations would weigh heavily on Mahal which will give Orton the opening he needs in order to regain the WWE Title. The Viper climbed to the top of the big cage and told Mahal to enjoy the view because that’s what his future would be like after the announcer declares him the NEW WWE Champion as the opening segment came to a close.
· This was a fine way to start the show. Mahal continues to be bland on the mic and his hoarseness only hampered his delivery. I need the modern-day Maharaja to invest in some Halls or Ricola because this has been a recurring issue over the past couple of months.
· Orton did a nice job conveying that he was playing with house money come Battleground. He spoke with conviction as the crowd hung on his every word. Their Punjabi Prison match will be a hot ass mess, but here’s hoping it’s more pleasing to the palate than Batista vs. The Great Khali and The Big Show vs. The Undertaker from ten years ago.
· Jimmy Uso defeated Kofi Kingston when he countered Kingston’s cross body with a rollup in a solid match. Jey Uso provided the distraction down the stretch, but Big E and Xavier Woods shooed him away. However, it wasn’t enough to change the outcome as Jimmy won fair and square. Booking suggests that The Usos are dropping their SmackDown Tag Team Titles to The New Day after winning five days before a PPV. As with all things in WWE, expect the unexpected.
· After Charlotte suggested that a match against Becky Lynch wouldn’t be competitive, Shane McMahon took Natalya’s advice and booked them in a match for later tonight. It should be good if they are given enough time to shine.
· Chad Gable took the abrupt end of American Alpha in stride as he assured Renee Young that he and Jason Jordan talked it out over the phone last night. Gable is happy that Jordan is forging a father-son relationship on Raw and vowed to thrive as a singles star on SD Live. Gable has all the tools to be a future World Champion someday. Will the Powers That Be get behind him or hold him back? We shall see.
· Mike Kanellis defeated Sami Zayn in his debut match when Kanellis pinned Zayn with a Samoan Driver. Zayn dominated the match until Maria Kanellis got in the ring to save her husband from getting nailed with the Helluva Kick. The diversion gave Mike enough time to drill Zayn with a right hand which set up the finish.
· Mike hiding behind his wife makes sense, but he will look like a pansy if doesn’t find a way to fight his own battles. Hopefully, his rematch with Zayn will be a bit more competitive which will give WWE fans who are not familiar with his work in ROH and TNA a reason to care about him on an emotional level.
· John Cena delivered a passionate promo about the American Flag as he hyped his Flag Match against Rusev to the hilt. It was patriotic and tugged on the heartstrings which gave a sense of importance to this bout that was nonexistent a couple of weeks ago.
· After his speech, Cena grabbed Old Glory and waved it high in the air until Rusev attacked him from behind.
· Rusev nailed him with a Superkick before locking in The Accolade. Cena tried to power out of the move, but The Bulgarian Brute had it cinched in from start to finish. Cena eventually lost consciousness as Rusev let go of his submission hold. Rusev grabbed the Bulgarian Flag and waved it proudly before planting it in a flag stand as the segment came to an end.
· Cena and Rusev did a hell of a job plugging their Flag Match at Battleground. Cena tried to hype it as the biggest thing on the PPV. He might have been a bit overzealous, but it I think he did enough to make fans care about a gimmick match that has not historically been must-see over the years.
· Rusev has looked a like badass since returning from injury and I expect him to have a good match with Cena on Sunday. Plus, neither men will eat a pin fall which is a smart way to protect them heading to SummerSlam.
· Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte when she made her tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her in a good match. The in-ring work was a bit too choreographed for my tastes early on, but it was reigned in after the commercial break.
· After the match was over, Charlotte shook Becky’s hand, but the Mutual Admiration Society was short-lived as Tamina and Lana made their way to the ring.
· Natalya attacked Charlotte from behind as the heels pounced on the babyfaces. Natalya went after Tamina, but Lana yanked Nattie’s hair when she tried to put Tamina in the Sharpshooter. Tamina nailed Nattie with a Superkick as the weird relationship between her and Lana continues to confuse the masses.
· The Fashion X Files had me rolling as Tyler Breeze channeled his inner Scully while Fandango looked dapper in his detective uniform. Aiden English warming up behind a curtain while sounding like a ghost was a great touch as well.
· The anonymous office trashers sent a package to Breezango which contained the severed head of a stuffed horse that Fandango was galloping with last week. The culprits also left a note indicating that the mystery will be solved at Battleground. With The Colons, Ascension, and Hype Bros in the clear, who is the dastardly team behind the attacks? I guess we will find out the truth come Sunday. At least it won’t be H…
· Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura when Owens pinned Styles with a Popup Powerbomb in a good main event match. The heels tried to gain an unfair advantage early on when Corbin attempted to nail Nakamura from behind with his Money in the Bank briefcase. Nakamura avoided the hit and went on the attack. Owens came to Corbin’s aid which caused Styles to jump into the fray.
· From there, Corbin and Owens isolated Nakamura from Styles for a large chunk of the match. He eventually made the hot tag to Styles which shifted the momentum in the babyfaces’ favor.
· Styles was about to nail Corbin with the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens yanked Styles off the top rope which sent him crashing against the ring apron.
· Nakamura tried to even the odds, but Corbin tossed him over the barricade which played into the finish.
· Corbin threw Styles back in the ring and was about to drop him with End of Days until Styles wiggled out of the move. He backed Corbin into the corner which allowed Owens to make the blind tag.
· Styles had Corbin in position for the Styles Clash, but Owens nailed him with a Superkick which led to the aforementioned finish. SD Live went off the air with Corbin and Owens celebrating on the main stage while Styles and Nakamura were trying to gather their bearings in the ring.
· Once again, booking suggests that Owens is losing on Sunday after pinning the United States Champion five days before a PPV. We shall see how it all plays out, but conventional WWE logic never ceases to shock and awe the audience.
· As for Nakamura and Corbin, I think both men compliment each other well in the ring due to their striking abilities. This could be a breakthrough performance for The Lone Wolf if he’s able to showcase his style of wrestling in a believable way. Having the King of Strong Style as his dance partner doesn’t hurt either. Here’s hoping the match is laid out in a way which will allow both men to shine instead of Nakamura selling for 80% of the match a la his debut match against Dolph Ziggler at Backlash two months ago.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The in-ring action wasn’t blow away, but WWE did a nice job pushing the Battleground PPV by hyping every match on the card in a meaningful way. Like their red counterpart, SD Live can break their streak of ho-hum PPVs by delivering a smartly booked and well-wrestled show from top to bottom. The margin for error is slim, but I expect everything to make sense heading into SummerSlam. Hopefully…
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!