By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to the 4th of July edition of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. WWE wraps up their two night stand in the desert by gifting fans with the return of John Cena. Cena is a free agent which pretty much gives him Carte Blanche to do whatever what wants to do on both Raw and SD Live. What did the Leader of the Cenation have to say to his loyal followers and detractors? Keep reading to find out. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s show in no particular order.
· John Cena made his return to SD Live and put the Raw and SD Live Superstars on notice that he was coming for them. Cena stated that he is not a part-timer, but an all-timer who has nothing else to lose at this point in his career. The match combinations involving Cena vs. Nakamura, Cena vs. Reigns, Cena vs. Bálor, and Cena vs. Samoa Joe would make any fan salivate at the mouth.
· Feeling left out, Rusev made his SD Live debut while waving the Bulgarian flag to the crowd’s chagrin. Rusev was upset because there was no video package hyping his return for two months. He was at home rehabbing his shoulder while Cena was busy shooting movies in Hollywood (or Atlanta if we want to keep it geographically real). Rusev wasn’t going to let Cena deny him of the opportunities he rightfully deserved.
· The Bulgarian Brute proceeded to call the fans fat for stuffing their faces with burgers and hot dogs instead of going out and showing their strength as a nation. Cena challenged Rusev to a Flag Match to determine which country reigned supreme. Rusev turned him down and wanted to fight on his terms. Cena encouraged the crowd to serenade Rusev with a USA chant as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a fine way to start the show. John Cena played up the 4th of July holiday by channeling his inner Captain America throughout the segment.
· It appears that Cena’s first feud will be against Rusev. It should be good based on their past history, but the outcome is pretty obvious. For reference, please watch the United States Championship match between Cena and Rusev from WrestleMania 31on the WWE Network.
· AJ Styles will take part in the Independence Day Battle Royal as he defeated Chad Gable with the Phenomenal Forearm in a good match. Styles and Gable have good in-ring chemistry as Gable did some excellent mat-based wrestling while Styles had to adapt on the fly. There were some nice counters and near falls that popped the crowd, but the outcome was never in doubt.
· After the match was over, Styles helped Gable to his feet as the fans applauded both men for a job well done. This was a nice showcase match for Gable and I hope this is a sign that he and Jason Jordan will get more television time in the very near future because they are too talented to be sitting on the sidelines doing nothing.
· Daniel Bryan suspended James Ellsworth for 30 days and fined him $10,000 for disobeying Bryan’s order to leave the arena during the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match last week. Ellsworth freaked out while Carmella didn’t seem to care about her man sitting at home for the next month. However, her facial expression changed when Bryan told Ellsworth that he would strip her of the MTIB briefcase if The Chinless One disregarded his orders. Carmella grabbed Ellsworth’s hand dragged him backstage as the crowd erupted in a raucous “Yes!” chant.
· Don’t feel too bad for Ellsworth. He’ll be back in time to collect his SummerSlam check.
· Naomi retained The SmackDown Women’s Championship when she made Lana tap out to the Headscissors Crucifix in about 10 seconds. It was another quick and decisive win that made Lana look like a complete wimp. In a strange twist, Tamina came to Lana’s aid as they headed backstage together.
· Is Tamina channeling her inner sensei by showing Lana the error of her ways?
· The Flag Match between John Cena and Rusev will take place at the Battleground PPV in a few weeks. No surprise there.
· Professional Backstage Attacker Baron Corbin lived up to his namesake when he struck Shinsuke Nakamura in the back with the MITB briefcase. However, Nakamura fired back with a forearm as WWE officials broke things up. Nakamura’s charisma was off the charts as he showed that he wasn’t scared of Corbin. This was a great way to forward the burgeoning feud.
· The Rap Battle between The Usos and The New Day was on some next level shit. The shade thrown from both sides was awesome. Jimmy Uso bringing up Xavier Woods’ Rated R past popped the crowd something fierce.
· Jimmy and Jey questioned whether or not Big E’s breasts were real while they read Kofi Kingston for his faux Jamaican roots.
· Xavier Woods came through in the clutch when he claimed that Jimmy’s claim to fame was being on Total Divas with his wife Naomi. Woods wrapped things up when he said that they should go back to carrying Roman Reigns’ bags which set the twins off. They charged after The New Day which resulted in Wale disqualifying The Usos and giving The New Day the win. It was a clever way to end the segment, but The Usos won the rap battle based on their bars and shade alone.
· I can safely say this was the best rap battle since John Cena rocked the mic back in 2003. The scripting was perfect and the crowd was hyped throughout. All in all, this was a hit in my book.
· Aiden English defeated Randy Orton via Disqualification when Orton got disqualified for striking English’s face with the steel steps. Despite the DQ, the ass kicking commenced with Orton nailing English with an RKO for good measure.
· English got the best of Orton early on, but it was short-lived. Despite getting his ass kicked from pillar to post, English does have a win over The Viper. He can tell that to his children someday.
· Jinder Mahal cut another so-so promo about how America is prejudiced against him and vowed to take his frustration out on Orton during their Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship at the Battleground PPV in three weeks.
· Orton called Mahal a jackass to wrap up the segment. Orton continues to show good fire on the mic as of later. It’s the only thing keeping his feud with Mahal somewhat interesting at this point.
· Tyler Breeze dressing like Renee Young and the next segment featuring the actual Renee Young was so awesome. Fandango trying to touch Breeze’s wig was great as well.
· Meanwhile, Maria and Mike Kanellis’ Power of Love mantra was interrupted by Sami Zayn. Zayn’s neuroticism was on full display once again which is both endearing and annoying at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but the gimmick is starting to grow on me. Slightly.
· AJ Styles won the Independence Day Battle Royal and will face Kevin Owens for the United States Championship at the Battleground PPV in three weeks. The match was solid, but it was nothing special until it came down to AJ Styles, Tye Dillinger, and Sami Zayn.
· Dillinger had a nice showing before getting eliminated while Zayn and Styles duked it out to see who would be the last man standing. Zayn had a close call when he missed the Helluva Kick which sent him tumbling over the top rope. He managed to avoid hitting the floor as he tried to Suplex Styles out of the ring.
· Styles nailed Zayn with a Pele Kick to clinch his shot at the US Title. Owens attacked Styles after the match, but his arrogance got the best of him when Styles nailed him with an Enzuigiri. He tried to hit Owens with the Styles Clash, but Owens rolled out of the way. The show went off the air with Styles standing tall in the ring while Owens sulked at ringside.
· The outcome was obvious, but it was still a solid main event match. The wrestlers were short on time as the Battle Royal took place during the last fifteen minutes of the show. Minor criticism aside, Styles and Owens should have a great match for the US Title at Battleground. Their first match was very good, but the finish left a lot to be desired. The Money in the Bank PPV prevented an immediate rematch, but it's full-steam ahead heading towards SummerSlam next month. Will both men still be in each other’s orbit by then? We shall find out soon enough.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SD Live was solid. Even though WWE was behind the proverbial 8-Ball due to the 4th of July holiday, they didn’t phone it in from an entertainment standpoint. John Cena kicked things off on a patriotic note while Rusev made his triumphant return with his surly attitude in tow.
· The Rap Battle between The New Day and The Usos was great as both teams were able to let loose and have fun. The fans enjoyed it and Wale did a wonderful job trying to keep things civil.
· The rest of the show was light on wrestling action, but the broadcast never hit a lull or dragged for the most part. Most importantly, no pies hit Kevin Owens in the face. That in of itself is a miracle. WWE kept the sophomoric humor at bay which was refreshing to see for a change.
· The blue brand is marching towards Battleground with four matches announced thus far. With two more live shows before the PPV, here’s hoping the creative team has a few more tricks up their sleeves to push things over the top. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!