KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 7/11: Styles celebrates and issues new U.S. Title Open Challenge, John Cena back again, more Battleground hype

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

WWE Smackdown Live logo - new July 2016 (c) WWE.com

KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JULY 11, 2017
SAN ANTONIO, TEX.
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK

Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL, Byron Saxton

[HOUR ONE]

-They opened with footage of A.J. Styles earning a U.S. Title shot last week, and then footage of Styles beating Kevin Owens at MSG last Friday night. They incorporated some fan cam footage and various social media buzz over the title change and soundbites from fans reacting.

(Keller’s Analysis: That was wonderful. It made the U.S. Title seem so important by showing the reaction throughout social media. It also gave a fan perspective with the various amateur footage from various angles, which sold fans on the idea that the next time they’re at a house show, the same thing could happen. Imagine how much more this would mean if Styles had won the World Title instead, though?)

-A.J. Styles made his way to the ring to his music as Phillips introduced the show. Phillips asked Saxton what it was like to be at MSG last Friday night. Saxton talked about how the fans reacted. JBL said winning a title at MSG is off Styles’s bucket list. Fans chanted “A.J. Styles.” He said it looks like Battleground came a little early for him at MSG. He said even though his face isn’t the “Face of America,” since Owens’ face looks like a monkey’s butt, this is an upgrade. He said this isn’t about Owens or Styles, it’s about what the U.S. Title belt represents. He said it wasn’t long ago the U.S. Champion took on any and all comers, and he called it the U.S. Title Open Challenge. “I think it’s about time we brought it back,” he said. “This championship has been overlooked way too many times.” He said if any WWE Superstars disagree, tonight is their lucky night. He said right here, right now is his U.S. Title Open Challenge.

After nearly a minute, Styles said “Come on!” And then finally John Cena’s music played. JBL was so over-the-top in celebrating Cena walking out, it seemed to indicate this wasn’t going to happen (given Vince McMahon’s affection for being heavy-handed in this type of situation). JBL said “Christmas has come early.” When Cena entered the ring, JBL said he at least thought this meant Cena was answering the challenge. Cena asked Styles if the U.S. Title Open Challenge applied to him. Styles said it does. Cena said that solves it, let’s do it. He called for a ref. Out ran referee Charles Robinson.

We got formal ring introductions. The crowd seemed engaged with screams and cheers. Saxton said he can’t believe they’re about to see this. Phillips built it up some more. Again, just so over-the-top, it seemed like there was no way it’d happen. Sure enough, just as the bell was about to ring, Owens walked out to his music. He shook his head and said, “No, no. Nobody wants to see another stupid John Cena vs. A.J. Styles match. We’ve already had to sit through way too many of them.” He said he is the rightful owner, so he should have the chance to get it back. He said nobody missed Cena and he doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near it. Cena said it’s not that he doesn’t want to see him, it’s that he “can’t see me.” He waved his hand in front of his face. He called Owens “Michelin Man” and told him if he steps into the ring, he will run through him. He turned and said then he will run through Styles. Rusev then jumped Cena. Styles threw Rusev out of the ring. Owens then jumped Styles. He gave him a Pop-up Powerbomb. Rusev re-entered the ring and gave Cena a running boot and then put him in the Accolade. Owens and Rusev walked away to Rusev’s music as the ref checked on Styles and Cena in the ring.

(Keller’s Analysis: I could have done without the announcers being so over-the-top. It was almost like a friend suggesting they stop by his house on the way to the movie theater for his birthday, but saying over and over – even though no one asked – that there isn’t a surprise party at his house. “Definitely NOT a surprise part. I just forgot my, uh, sunglasses.” That said, other than the jokes about Owens’ weight and appearance by both babyfaces, this was a good way to tease a big match and set up a main event tag match with a fresh mix of people.)

-The announcers just shifted away and started promoting other matches – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal vs. Tye Dillinger. Phillips called it one of the biggest opportunities of Tye’s career. [c]

-No surprise, they announced after the break that Owens & Rusev would face Styles & Cena in the TV main event.

(1) JINDER MAHAL vs. TYE DILLINGER

As Jinder came to the ring, the announcers pushed the Punjabi Prison Match coming up in 12 days at BattleGround. Tye came out second. They showed fans doing the “10 finger” salute. Phillips noted Jinder’s smug look. JBL said Jinder is becoming a great World Champion. He said he has always had a body of a World Champion. (And what exactly is that, JBL? Did yours count or not? And Jinder did not actually always have that body.). He said he has to add to that body the style that suits him best, and Jinder does. They cut to a break about two minutes in with Jinder dominating with aggressive offense. They stayed with the action on a split screen. [c]

Tye made a brief comeback after the break, but Jinder came back right away and decisively beat Tye quickly with his finisher. JBL said he’s on a different level right now.

WINNER: Jinder Mahal in 5:00.

-Jinder afterward said the fans keep disrespecting him, but he is there to speak the truth. He said he brings class, diversity, and excellence to WWE, yet the fans still cheer “that snake Randy Orton.” He said chanting “USA” doesn’t change the fact that 1.3 billion people in India know he is the greatest champion of all time. He said Orton wants to make his life a living hell, but he’s going to bring hell to Orton next week on Smackdown Live. He said he’s bringing the Punjabi Prison. JBL said it dwarfs Hell in a Cell.

-They showed New Day backstage getting ready to head to the ring. [c]

-Clips aired of last week’s rap battle between the Usos and New Day.

(2) JEY USO (w/Jimmy Uso) vs. XAVIER WOODS (w/Big E, Kofi Kingston)

Xavier got in some offense early, but Jimmy tripped him running off the ropes. Big E and Kofi protested. Jey shoved Kofi off the ring apron. Big E and Kofi entered. The ref pushed them away and then kicked Kofi and Big E out of ringside to the back. He also sent Jimmy back. Saxton said it’s a fair call. Back in the ring, Xavier went for a roll-up, but Jey held on to the ropes and then Jey superkicked Xavier leading to a believable near fall. Xavier came back with a kick to Jey who landed on the middle rope. He positioned himself perfectly for Xavier’s top rope elbow, reminiscent of Alberto El Patron’s Fakest Move in Pro Wrestling History. It was good for the pin.

WINNER: Xavier.

(Keller’s Analysis: If Jey has the wherewithal to keep his balance and watch Xavier flying off the top rope with a match-ending elbow, he should also have the wherewithal to MOVE OUT OF THE WAY. It’s such a stupid looking move and someone in WWE needs to ban this. It never looks realistic at all and makes the guy taking the move look like a complete idiot.) [c]

-They showed backstage Shane McMahon talking on his cell (because what makes for better TV than eavesdropping on an executive making a phone call?) Shane told Daniel Bryan he is right, no one has asked about James Ellsworth. He said to say hi to his baby and Brie for him. In walked Naomi who said they have a bit of a situation. She wanted to know who she gets to defend her title against. She said, “You better not say Lana again.” Charlotte walked in and said if Lana gets another title shot, she’ll have to be banned like Ellsworth, because she’s due. In walked Becky Lynch to make her case. Then on the other side, Tamina, Natalya, and Lana walked in Shane said it’s great they’re all there because they’re going to discuss who is next in line to face the Smackdown Women’s Champion. He said Becky, Charlotte, Tamina, Natalya, and Lana would be in a five-way elimination match, and the winner would face Naomi at Summerslam. Charlotte said this is supposed to be the Land of Opportunity, not the Land of Make-believe. Tamina told her to shut her mouth. Natalya said if she’s so genetically superior, why is she worried, because all she’s done is ride her family coattails. Becky said, “Uh! You’re one to talk Bret, I mean Nattie.” That was kind of funny. Shane said Becky & Charlotte would face Natalya & Tamina later so they can work out their aggression.

Naomi hung around as Carmela walked up to Shane and told him her lawyer says he has to reinstate Ellsworth right away. Shane read the letter. Then he tore it up. He said his decision stands. Carmella shrieked.

(Keller’s Analysis: There are too many segments where all the women in the division are in a single segment. This was another one. It all feels so orchestrated when a big group stands in a way that they can all be seen by the camera without blocking each other as they each take turns talking. These segments are just cheesy and there’s other ways to accomplish setting up matches.)

-Renee Young interviewed Baron Corbin backstage. They replayed Shinsuke’s attack on him last week. Renee said Shinsuke’s clearly not afraid of him. Corbin said Shinsuke has to learn that he’s not Mr. Money in the Bank, he is. He said it’ll be “sayonara Nakamura.” Then he laughed, but also turned read like he was embarrassed to read that line. [c]

-Nakamura’s ring entrance took place.

[HOUR TWO]

-Corbin yelled at fans on his way to the ring. Nakamura charged at him at ringside to jump-start their battle. Corbin threw Nakamura over the ringside barrier into the crowd. Or “spilling him into the WWE Universe,” as Phillips awkwardly put it. Four referees and two producers (Adam Pearce and Jamie Noble) tried to break them up. Saxton said those two could care less (but he meant “those two could NOT care less”). Corbin backed off as they were separated while Nakamura entered the ring. JBL said they genuinely don’t like each other. Corbin grabbed his MITB briefcase and walked to the back.

(Keller’s Analysis: So that’s it? That’s two matches teased or promised that never happened, even though they could have been started after the outside interference. That comes across as cheap, and hurts the credibility of the announcers to just act like it’s normal to just all off the match because of a pre-match brawl between the two. That didn’t stop Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar from happening as scheduled on Sunday.)

-Cena walked in on Styles in the locker room nursing his neck. Cena said he might want to do that U.S. Title challenge when he’s “gone again, because I will accept.” Styles said he knew Cena couldn’t resist when he decided to issue that open challenge. He said he took a piece out of him the last time they wrestled. He held up his U.S. Title belt and told Cena he’s going to hold it for a long time. Cena said it’s obvious he wants to be the best. He said he’s big on respect and that’s not something you just get, it’s something you earn. He told him tonight he has his back when he needs him. He gave him his word. Styles said that’s great, because he’s got his, to.

-Saxton hyped the women’s tag match. [c]

-Cedric Alexander said he’s going to make Noam Dar quit tonight on 205 Live.

(3) CHARLOTTE & BECKY LYNCH vs. NATALYA & TAMINA

As Charlotte came out, the announcers said when Charlotte arrived at Smackdown, the women had to up their game. Saxton said they have. Becky and Charlotte beat up Tamina at the start. The heels came back and took over for a minute. Eventually Becky chased after Natalya at ringside, and Natalya shoved Becky into the ringside steps. They cut to a break, but the split screen showed the “action.” I say “action” loosely as it largely was Natalya having Becky locked in a chinlock until the commercial was over. [c]

Tamina ended up grounding Becky. Lana walked out to ringside. A minute later she stood on the ring apron. Charlotte dropped her attack on Natalya to take a swing and yell at her. Natalya secretly tagged out, but then lay on the mat playing possum. Charlotte turned around and began to apply the figure-four. The ref half-heartedly told Charlotte that there was a tag, and asked her what she was doing. Meanwhile, Tamina entered legally and kicked Charlotte and pinned her. Saxton said, “I still don’t understand what is going on between Tamina and Lana as they stood together at ringside after the victory.

WINNERS: Tamina & Natalya.

-Saxton hyped the main event tag match. [c]

-They showed Maria Kanellis walking down the hallway. She pounded on the “Male Locker Room.” (Locker rooms don’t have genders; they’re not alive. They mean “Men’s Locker Room.” Who says “Male Locker Room”?) Chad Gable answered the door. She said Sami Zayn owed her an apology. Chad said, “Oh, Sami Wow Wow?” She asked what that meant. He said that’s what he calls him. He called for him. No answer. Maria said to tell Sami the First Lady of Smackdown Live is looking for him. [c]

-Backstage, Sami approached Maria and Mike Bennett being all lovey-dovey with one another. He interrupted. She said she wants an apology. Sami said he’s already apologized twice and he’s getting a little sick of apologizing. He said he’s not even sure why he’s apologizing. He said they always seem to be getting in his way with their love-ins. He asked if Mike even fights. He said, “What do you actually do here? Mike, do you compete here? What is all this about? Wait, I think I have it figured out – you’re the lover and she’s the fighter. Is that what this is?” She slapped him. Mike then hit him over the head with a glass vase. Maria bent down and said, “That was brought to you by the power of love. Sometimes, Sami, love hurts.”

-They went to the announcers on camera. JBL said Sami deserved it. Phillips said they’ve just heard from Shane McMahon that Corbin vs. Nakamura has been added to Battleground. JBL said it’ll be a physical match-up of Japanese Strong Style vs. Golden Gloves Style. Phillips threw to the latest Fashion Files.

-The Fashion Files: This had a Western theme because they were in San Antonio. They said over and over to country music “Sexy Fashion Rangers” and they included Chuck Norris in the opening credits, but noted he’s not really in the segment. Tyler Breeze asked Fandango if he has a plan. He said he should hit them with his lasso. Breeze said they’d have to tell the truth like Wonder Woman. Fandango walked up to Zack Ryder and gave him his hobby horse. As Fandango engaged in small talk, Breeze ran up and tried to lasso him. Breeze got wrapped up in it. Ryder asked if it really works. Breeze said ask him anything. He asked if he wears a bra under his clothes when he dresses up. Breeze said, “Of course, I’m not a hippy.”

Fandango said they’re trying to figure out why the day Ryder returned to WWE, someone jumped Breeze. Mojo Rawley showed up and said they were looking for Shane and Daniel Bryan to talk about them being number one contenders again, and they wouldn’t do something shady like that anyway. Ryder asked Mojo if by shady he means eliminating him from the battle royal last week. Mojo said that’s not shady, those were the rules, and they talked about every man for himself before the match. He said they need to get to work. Ryder said he might be right, but maybe he needs to get his head back into reality. He looked Fandango and Breeze, “Maybe we all do.” They noticed that someone took their hobby horse. They agreed it was probably Ghost Aliens. The crowd laughed as they said next week it will be “The Fashion (X) Files.”

(Keller’s Analysis: For better or for worse, and usually it’s for the better, I would not recommend fast-fowarding through these. There’s just something endearingly funny about them. Ryder’s acting at the end was not fit for Disney Channel, though.)

-Owens made his ring entrance. [c]

(4) JOHN CENA & A.J. STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS & RUSEV

Phillips plugged that Cena, Sami, and the Usos would join Shane and Renee on “Talking Smack” tonight after “205 Live.” They replayed a clip of the angle earlier that set up this match. Then Rusev came out. JBL talked about the Battleground flag match. Then Styles came out. And finally Cena. The announcers talked about the Styles vs. Cena match at the Royal Rumble. JBL called it one of the greatest matches he’s ever seen. He touted that they didn’t leave the ring once and it was a classic. A “Let’s Go Cena! / Cena sucks!” chant started. Cena looked at the crowd. Then he and Rusev locked up. Owens and Rusev got the better of Cena before they cut to a break. [c]

Cena fought back and managed to hot-tag Styles. Styles entered and charged at Rusev, but Rusev elbowed Styles in the chest. Styles countered quickly with a Calf Crusher. Owens entered and broke it up. Styles tried to lift Rusev, but Rusev powered out and shoved Styles into Owens. Styles took a shot at Owens. Rusev kicked Styles and scored a near fall. Owens settled into chinlock on Styles. Rusev tagged in and kept on the offense. Styles eventually came back with an enzuigiri. Cena got the hot tag and landed an Attitude Adjustment on Owens for the win.

WINNERS: Styles & Cena.

-After the match, Cena and Styles celebrated together. Phillips said they put their rivalry aside for one night to score a big victory. Cena presented Styles with his U.S. Title belt. Cena’s music played as Styles and Cena saluted the crowd. The music stopped and Styles stared at Cena, teasing tension. He looked at his U.S. Title belt, then held it up. Cena raised his arm at the same time. More solidarity. They cued up Cena’s music yet again. You know, A.J. has music, too.

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