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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JULY 18, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
IMPORTANT NOTES: Tonight, a couple hours after Smackdown ends, the second episode of “The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast” debuts on PodcastOne. You can stream from their website HERE or subscribe in iTunes HERE or search “Wade Keller” in any other podcast app you use on your phone to subscribe. It is currently the no. 1 pro wrestling podcast in iTunes. We’d like to thank everyone who has already subscribed! Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter and PWTorch.com columnist Travis Bryant from the PWTorch East Coast Cast joins me as cohost.
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Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL, Byron Saxton
-The show opened with footage of the Punjabi Prison with a narrator talking about how it is brutal and unforgiving.
-Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers walked to the ring to their music. The announcers talked about the prison structure. JBL said it dwarfs Hell in a Cell. “It is cruel, fierce,” said Phillips. Phillips said Orton can secure his 14th World Title this Sunday if he beats Jinder. Jinder and the Singh Brothers entered the inner cage. Then the outer structure lowered around them.
Jinder said this structure will be the final resting place of Orton’s legacy. The fans chanted “USA!” He said as their WWE Champion, he demanded silence as the Singh Brothers explained the rules of the match. They explained there are four doors, and four referees will open the doors when ordered for 60 seconds. The outer structure has no doors. So the only way to win is by climbing out of both structures. Singh said the most important rule is there are no rules – no DQ, no countout. He said there is no escape for Orton. He said he will smash Orton’s face against the prison walls until his face matches the ugliness of the nation that he represents. He said he would then speak in his native language. After several seconds of that, Orton’s music interrupted.
Orton walked out just as it appeared Jinder was going to lose his raspy, hoarse voice entirely. He said Jinder is either the bravest SOB he’s ever met or he’s just not that all that bright. Jinder and the Singhs were outraged. He said Jinder is making a conscious decision to be caged up like an animal with him, isolating any real advantage he ever had – the Singh Brothers. He said the Singh Brothers are the only reason he took his title from him in the first place. Orton walked up to the cage and said on Sunday they’ll be locked up inside that Punjabi Prison. He said Jinder cannot run or hide or escape. Orton began to climb the side of the cage. What stood out is that Randy could have easily just crawled through the openings in the cage grid.
Orton said he has nothing to lose. He said Jinder is the 50th WWE champion ever. He said Jinder has the entire weight of India on his shoulders – 1.3 billion souls. He asked what he’ll do when those 1.3 billion souls consider him a disgrace. Orton made it to the top of the structure and sat down. He looked pretty relaxed. He said that will be his view on Sunday “when I leave your jacked up ass for dead in that ring.” (Wow. That language is often associated with steroid use.) Orton said Jinder will have to listen to Orton being announced as the new World Champion. Somehow the person running the music knew Orton was done because suddenly his music played. Orton struck his pose atop the cage.
(Keller’s Analysis: The announcers talked about scary the match and structure are, but neither Jinder nor Orton seemed particularly worried about it. The rules with the doors opening and closing by the referees didn’t really add any intrigue and was just confusing. And Orton climbing the side comfortably took away from the idea that it’s a big deal to climb it. Even worse, it was pretty clear nobody is actually trapped in there as the openings in the cage are so large, Braun Strowman could probably crawl through them, and certainly Orton and Jinder could. The segment did more to take away from the mystique of the match than add to it. That said, visually it’s pretty cool. I just think it’d have been better to show videos and it to people’s imaginations what it’ll be like to see it again.)
-The announcers hyped John Cena coming up later.
-They showed the Usos backstage heading to the ring. [c]
-Highlights aired of New Day and the Usos on Smackdown two weeks ago.
(1) JIMMY USO (w/Jey Uso) vs. KOFI KINGSTON (w/Big E, Xavier Woods)
Kofi taunted Jimmy with a butt wiggle in his face a minute into the match. When Uso charged, Kofi ducked and Uso flew to the floor. Kofi then did a cool spot where he bounced on the top rope and then flipped once Uso got within range. New Day celebrated at ringside as they cut to a break. [c]
They stayed with the action in split-screen during the break. When Kofi went for a kick from the ring apron, Uso caught his boot and yanked him hard to the edge of the ring. Uso rammed Kofi’s face into the edge of the ring apron. Uso settled into a chinlock mid-ring. After the break ended, he had Kofi in a chinlock. Kofi promptly escaped with a jaw-breaker. Uso came back with a round kick to the head. Kofi came back and set up a Trouble in Paradise, but Uso caught him and rammed him into the top turnbuckle for a near fall. Uso set up a superplex, but Kofi resisted and eventually headbutted himself free. Jey stood on the ring apron to distract Kofi. Kofi yelled at him. Jimmy charged, but Kofi shouldered him in the chest and then leaped off the top rope with a crossbody. Jimmy rolled through and scored the pin.
WINNER: Uso in 8:00.
-Shane McMahon stood between the five women and gave them a pep talk, asking who would earn the right to face Naomi for the WWE Women’s Title at Summerslam. He asked who would step up to wrestle tonight, aos. Charlotte said that’s easy, because she wants to fight Lana. Naomi said that’s a shocker that the delusional queen thinks she can fight whomever she wants. Natalya said she’s fighting Lana. After Becky chimed in, Tamina yelled at her and said nobody’s fighting Lana tonight. Natalya suggested Charlotte face Becky tonight. Charlotte said she won’t fight Becky because Shane wants a competitive match. Shane got excited at the notion of Becky vs. Charlotte. “It’s tea time, ladies,” he said.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nobody wins in that setting. It just calls for really bad over-the-top acting and contrived responses. Ugh. They need to move away from these awkward segments where everybody stands sideways so the camera can show them all and have a supposedly casual improvised conversation. It’s just awful. It marginalizes all of them. I’m not sure even Disney Channel would let this kind of acting make air on a show aimed at Tweeners that was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and cheesy.) [c]
-Phillips threw to a video package on the Kurt Angle revelation last night, since it affected recent Smackdown roster member Jason Jordan.
-The announce team at ringside reacted. JBL said he tuned in to Raw like everybody else and was shocked. He said Angle should be proud of Jordan. Saxton said he knew Jordan when he entered WWE’s developmental system and was compared to Angle back then when he picked up “our industry” so quickly. Phillips threw to an interview with Chad Gable.
-Renee Young interviewed Gable in a sit-down interview. She asked if Gable had a heads up that this was happening. “No. And a little heads up would have been nice. This didn’t just change Jason and Kurt’s life; it changed my life, too.” He said Jordan did call him after Raw, but his life changed when he watched Raw. He said it was obvious to him that Jordan was being distant recently in their travels and now he understands what he was going through. Renee asked what this all means for him. Gable said they accomplished a lot together. He said they beat Orton & Bray Wyatt to win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. He said Jason’s a great guy and supported him in huge matches against Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles. He said he has some ideas for what’s next for him. He said this is a great chance for everyone to se him on his own now. Renee thanked him for his time.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good nuanced performance here from Gable. I really like the little hint that he dropped that, in retrospect, might be seen as an indication that Jordan was “distant” and stressed out because he was contemplating pulling an elaborate con on Kurt Angle in order to curry favor with The Authority. That’s just a guess, but the fact that Gable painted Jordan as distant and not keeping him informed, but then forgave him because otherwise he was a great guy, totally points toward Jordan not having the “Integrity” that Angle bragged his “newfound son” has exhibited in the past.)
-Mike & Maria Kannellis made their way to the ring. [c]
(2) MIKE KANELLIS (w/Maria Kanellis) vs. SAMI ZAYN
Sami’s ring entrance aired. Sami took it to Mike early so Mike bailed out to the floor. Sami went right after him at ringside with a running clothesline. Sami clotheslined Mike over the top rope a minute later, then threw him hard into the ringside barrier. The announcers talked about Mike taking Maria’s last name. Sami landed an exploder suplex in the corner of the ring a minute later. Maria entered the ring, showing off her legs in a short skirt while protecting Mike. That delay gave Mike a chance to recover. He surprised Sami with a punch to the jaw during the distraction as the ref was holding Sami back from going after Maria, then hit the Samoan Driver for the win. JBL said the Power of Love is here to stay.
WINNER: Mike Kanellis in 6:00.
-Saxton said Cena would be out next to talk about facing Rusev. [c]
-Cena made his full ring entrance. He went into promoter-mode, hyping the BattleGround line-up, including Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and the Punjabi Prison match. He asked fans of all the things they see, “what will you remember?” He said Rusev, every chance he gets, runs down the country he loves.
Cena said fans will remember one thing – the flag being waved for the USA or Bulgaria. He said he knows he hasn’t always been their favorite son and some fans haven’t liked him. He said that’s fair, but tonight they can agree that they all love the U.S. flag. He pointed at it. He asked if on Sunday, that flag will fly or will that flag fall. He said he is ready. He said he knows how the fans will feel if he doesn’t get the job done. “I promise you, I am ready!” he shouted. He said if it was any one of them, they’d stand there and do the same thing “because the United States of America is a country of fighters. We are not afraid to stand up and fight for what we believe in, and we never give up.” He said the fans proudly chant “USA” because they believe in what he believes. He said as a country they went to war with themselves, and in the end, the flag flew high. He talked about other key moments in American history when the flag flew high. He closed by saying when the towers fell, the flag flew high. He said on Sunday, fans will remember the same thing he does – those colors on the flag do not run, they kick ass. He climbed up and grabbed the flag. He closed: “On Sunday, this flag will fly high!”
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s vintage patriotic John Cena, for better or worse. It’s not for everyone, but it’s part of the WWE formula in one form or another over the years. I’m not sure how many pro wrestling fans tune in for that maudlin level flag waving rah rah stuff, especially in the context of promoting a pro wrestling exhibition in the same breath as speaking about D-Day, 9/11, and other world-changing events.)
Rusev attacked Cena from behind as his music began to play and he was waving the flag. The flag fell to the mat. Rusev put Cena in the Accolade. Cena powered up to a standing position. JBL called it super-human strength. Cena backed Rusev hard into the corner turnbuckle, but Rusev held on and Cena sunk back down and wrenched back on the hold. He eventually let go. Rusev angrily waved the flag on the stage and his music played as he looked on at Cena regaining his bearings next to the U.S. flag on the mat.
-Phillips plugged Charlotte vs. Becky. [c]
-A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura prepared for their match with a little conversation backstage. A.J. asked Shinsuke if they wanted to plan a strategy. Shinsuke shook his head no. Styles said that’s okay, they didn’t need it last time they teamed. Styles asked Shinsuke if he wanted to reminisce about Japan “because I can tell you all the things I miss about Japan.” Shinsuke pointed down at his U.S. Title. He said, “One day, you call, I answer.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Intriguing hint at Shinsuke answering the Styles U.S. Title Open Challenge. A lot of the back-and-forth between Nakamura and Styles reminds me of Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat cartoon.)
(3) BECKY LYNCH vs. CHARLOTTE
Natalya joined the announcers on commentary. She told Byron to “zip it” early on. Charlotte did a cartwheel at ringside and then the splits inside the ring, then struck a pose. Early in the match Charlotte showed off with two back handsprings. Becky countered Charlotte into an attempted Disarmer. Charlotte rolled to the floor to force a break and applauded Becky from ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
The action continued on split-screen. Charlotte gave Becky a Razor’s Edge off the top rope and then settled into a chinlock. Becky came back by backdropping Charlotte over the top rope and kicking her off the ring apron. Then she leaped at Charlotte with a forearm at ringside. Back in the ring as they came back to full screen after the break, Charlotte and Becky exchanged big blows mid-ring. The crowd “woo’d” along to the chops. They cut to Naomi watching the match on a monitor from a ridiculous side view angle while making cartoon faces in response to the action. Yuck. Becky rallied and played to the crowd and got some cheers. She took Charlotte down with a flying forearm for a two count. Becky set up her Disarmer, but Charlotte countered and clipped Becky’s knee. Then she set up a Natural Selection, but Becky countered with an armbar attempt. Charlotte countered with a roll-up which popped the crowd. Charlotte gave Becky an immediate big boot as the pace accelerated. Charlotte stomped on Becky and then climbed the top rope and went for a moonsault. Natalya said the tension is rising and she loves seeing these two BFFs fighting. Becky avoided the moonsault and then applied her Disarmer. Charlotte put her foot on the bottom rope. Becky yanked Charlotte to mid-ring without fully breaking. She reapplied the hold and Charlotte tapped out.
WINNER: Becky via tapout.
-Afterward, Charlotte stood and looked upset with the loss, but then shook Becky’s hand. Suddenly Tamina’s music played. Tamina and Lana marched out. Natalya attacked Becky from behind. Tamina and Natalya attacked Charlotte as Lana rammed Becky’s face into the mat. Tamina joined in with Lana. The three heels cleared the ring of the two faces, but then Natalya tried to put Tamina in a quick sharpshooter. Lana yanked Natalya off of her and yelled at her. Tamina superkicked Natalya in the face. Lana and Tamina looked at each other. There was tension. Phillips wondered how long that alliance would last on Sunday.
-The announcers, on camera, hyped Battleground and WWE Network. [c]
-They showed the exterior of Legacy Arena.
-Renee Young interviewed Naomi backstage. She said whoever wins at Battleground could lead to her toughest challenge yet at Summerslam. Well, unless Lana wins. Naomi said she wants every match to be her biggest challenge. “I didn’t come here to play; I came here to glow.” She said whoever wins at Battleground, they better be ready to glow. Carmella walked in with the Money in the Bank briefcase. She told Renee to shoe. Renee obediently left on command with a little eye roll thrown in as a protest. Carmella said wherever Naomi goes, her MITB briefcase goes, “so I guess I’ll see you at Battleground.”
-Phillips said it might not even be Naomi who is defending at Summerslam against the winner at Battleground.
-The Fashion X Files: They did a spoof opening of X Files. A bulletin board had a photo of a UFO with the caption “Bo-Lieve.” Another picture of R-Truth with the caption “R-Truth is Out There.” Of course, Tyler Breeze played the role of Agent Scully, cross-dressing. He was the skeptical one. They heard a ghost sound behind a curtain. They opened the curtain and it was Aiden English warming up. Suddenly a light shone from above. They looked up. Tyler said he wants to meet E.T., Alf, Max Moon, and Chewbacca. A UPS delivery looking guy walked in with a box and asked them to sign for it. Fandango thought he was an alien. The guy said he turned on the light above them. Fandango said, “You breath air. You are so human-like!” still thinking the guy came from outer space. Breeze opened the box and told Fandango not to look. He did, and he pulled out the horse head from his hobby horse. Fandango was despondent. Breeze pulled out a note that said “Battleground.” It closed with “To Be Concluded at Battleground.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Thumbs up to this week’s Fashion Files.) [c]
-Styles made his full ring entrance. Then Nakamura began his, but Corbin attacked him from behind with the MITB briefcase. Owens joined in. Styles charged up to the stage to even the odds. JBL said they had to restore order to get the match started. (Why didn’t that happen last week when twice scheduled matches never happened after pre-match brawls?) They cut to a break. [c]
(4) A.J. STYLES & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. KEVIN OWENS & BARON CORBIN
The match was in progress after the break with Corbin attacking Styles. The heels had Styles down. Owens stomped away at Styles. Styles came back with a nice high dropkick. Styles tagged in Nakamura who went to work on Owens including a step-up enzuigiri. The heels took over on Nakamura. Saxton said Nakamura didn’t earn the name “King of Strong Styles” because it sounded cute. Eventually Nakamura fought back, but thanks to Owens teasing a run-in, Corbin was able to come back with a Deep Six for a near fall. (Nakamura didn’t raise his shoulder on the third count despite Styles running in the for the save, so the ref should’ve just kept counting. Why punish Corbin just because Styles chose to interfere?) Nakamura caught Corbin with a punch and rolled over and hot-tagged in Styles just after Corbin also tagged in Owens. Styles went to work with rapid-fire offense against Owens. He slammed Owens face-first to the mat and scored a two count. Styles tried to lift Owens, but Owens slipped out and clotheslined Styles. Owens tagged in Corbin.
Styles went for a Calf Crusher, but Corbin blocked it and tossed Styles across the ring. Styles tried again and this time got it locked on. Corbin crawled to the bottom rope to force a quick break. Styles elbowed Corbin and signaled for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens yanked Styles off the ring apron. Nakamura attacked Owens at ringside. Corbin dumped Nakamura over the barrier into the time keeper’s area. Back in the ring Styles blocked an End of Days and hit an enzuigiri. Then he hit a Pelé Kick. He set up a Styles Clash, but Owens entered and kicked Styles in the face. Then he hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb and scored the pin.
WINNERS: Owens & Corbin.
(Keller’s Analysis: One of the better formulaic ten minute tag team TV main events in WWE. Logical finish the way WWE books, by having the challenge at the PPV score the pin over the champion, but of course because Owens is a heel, it wasn’t clean.)