SHINSUKE GETS TO PICK THE STIPULATION…
Recap: The show opened with a video package highlighting the history of the Styles-Nakamura feud, beginning with Shinsuke’s heel turn at WrestleMania. The commentators then announced a match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura tonight, with the winner choosing the stipulation for their match at Money in the Bank.
In a backstage interview, Renee asked AJ what his chosen stipulation would be. AJ joked about some ridiculous stipulations, which led to an awkward moment where Renee joked about the referees being dressed as Elvis. AJ guaranteed victory both tonight and at MITB.
In a later backstage interview with Renee, Shinsuke was asked about his chances against AJ. He said it was a certainty, not a chance, and indicated that he would repeatedly knee AJ in the face.
In the main event, the two had a good TV match, although the crowd seemed apathetic. The match ended with Shinsuke feigning having received a low blow, and taking advantage of the resulting confusion with the referee to hit AJ with a Reverse Exploder followed by a Kinshasa for the pin.
Evaluation: This entire feud has seemed lacking to me from the start. Nothing about it has been able to get me invested. The lousy finishes to the prior matches are probably a big part of the reason.
Tonight’s match was fine, but we’ve seen these two fight so much recently that it lacked any sort of novelty.
AJ’s promo was nothing special. Shinsuke’s was better.
Forecast: Because these two have fought so many times over such a short period, I would presume we’ll get a fairly extreme stipulation. I’d predict Last Man Standing.
BRYAN HAS HAD ENOUGH…
Recap: After the show’s opening video package, Daniel Bryan came to the ring for an interview with Renee Young. Renee attempted to ask about Bryan’s record breaking time in the Greatest Royal Rumble and loss to Rusev, but had trouble speaking over the deafening chants from the crowd. Bryan explained that he initially was happy just to be back doing what he loves. He said that’s no longer enough, and he now wants to be on top. He stated that when all is said and done, he will be WWE Champion.
Big Cass then interrupted. He said he was sick of Bryan running his mouth, and that he wasn’t fooled by Bryan’s heartwarming story. Cass claimed that he was the reason Daniel Bryan lost to Rusev. He also claimed that he didn’t tap out at Backlash from the pain; he tapped so that the match would end quickly, allowing him to immediately begin the post-match beatdown. He then recounted eliminating Bryan at the Greatest Royal Rumble and called Bryan a loser.
Bryan then proceeded to beat down Cass in the corner, focusing on Cass’ previously injured knee. Referees attempted to break up the melee, but Bryan escaped and wrapped Cass’ knee around the ringpost, followed by a chop block and heel hook.
Evaluation: This was a good segment. I really liked seeing Daniel Bryan give a statement of purpose, indicating that he is working toward the WWE title.
It was also great to see Bryan get intense and viciously beat down Cass. I had been afraid that WWE was moving in a sympathetic “lovable loser” underdog direction with Bryan, but that doesn’t seem to be the case after tonight.
Forecast: Bryan hopefully will beat Cass at Money in the Bank to end the feud looking strong. He can then move on to facing the Miz, a feud that has been building for almost two years and one I am personally looking forward to. After the Miz, hopefully he moves to the title picture.
BECKY LYNCH QUALIFIES FOR MITB…
Recap: In a backstage segment, Paige informed Mandy Rose that her victory last week wasn’t enough to earn a spot in the MITB ladder match, Paige placed Mandy and Sonya Deville into a match with Becky Lynch for a qualifying spot. Mandy and Sonya initially assumed this meant they were in a handicap match, but Paige informed them it would be a Triple Threat.
During the match itself, Becky won cleanly after reversing a pin attempt by Mandy into the Disarm-her.
Evaluation: As much as Becky has been losing lately, it was good to see her get a clean victory, especially in a 2-on-1 situation.
Forecast: Nothing much has been done with Becky in quite a while, so qualifying for MITB is a positive. Hopefully even if she doesn’t win the ladder match, it can set up a feud that gives her a purpose on television.
Lana’s Russian accent seems significantly different from when she was last paired with Rusev. It sounds significantly less strong….
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 5/8: Miz & Rusev Qualify for Money in the Bank, Little from AJ & Shinsuke