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WWE LIVE EVENT REPORT – SMACKDOWN BRAND
JULY 9, 2018
REPORT BY BRANDON LECLAIR, PWTORCH CORRESPONDENT
The Smackdown crew visited Augusta, Maine on Monday night. This was the state’s first show since December (also a Smackdown house show), and Augusta’s first show since last August (a Raw house show.) Attendance was down significantly over their previous visit (which happened to include John Cena.) The Augusta Civic Center can be configured for up to 6,500 people. WWE’s configuration usually puts max attendance at around 4,800, as they opt to tarp off the upper bleachers (an extension of the lower level on one side of the arena.) I would estimate about 1,800 people were at the show. The center sections were mostly filled, but became sparse as soon as you looked left or right of center. The cheap, $15 seats seemed to sell well, as they almost always do. The floor had some noticeable gaps beyond the first five rows.
The show’s lineup changed a fair amount since it was announced in May. A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Samoa Joe, Charlotte, and Asuka were the focal pieces of original advertisements. A few weeks ago, Daniel Bryan, Charlotte, and Asuka were removed. I was particularly disappointed about the former, as I sprung for my usual ringside seat almost entirely to see Bryan up close again. For what it’s worth, I sat front row and paid $106 after fees, which is WWE’s usual pricing here in Maine.
(1) Jeff Hardy defeated Samoa Joe and The Miz in a triple threat match to retain the United States Championship in 9:00. The Miz was the first out of the curtain, and he worked up the crowd well. Joe and Hardy both received warm responses. Miz grabbed a mic and insulted Mainers before teasing removing his entrance gear. The match got underway, and Miz and Joe quickly reached an agreement to work together to take out Jeff Hardy. The two took turns throwing punches and kicks Jeff’s way before Miz got too cocky and wound up eating a clothesline from Joe. With Joe on the outside, Miz hit a Skull Crushing Finale on Hardy for a believable near fall, saved at the last possible moment by a returning Joe. Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch on Jeff, but Miz broke it up and sent Joe to the outside. Jeff hit a quick Twist of Fate on Miz and then gave him a very awkward looking standing splash for a 3 count. Jeff was favoring his ribs and had a noticeable limp throughout the match. It didn’t appear to be anything that happened during the course of the bout, though. People seemed disappointed that he didn’t perform the Swanton Bomb. Post match, Jeff stuck around and handed out his wrist bands and took selfies with plenty of fans.
(2) Andrade Cien Almas (w/Zelina Vega) defeated Sin Cara in 11:00. Fairly minimal reactions for both guys starting out. Almas and Vega have a star presence that translates incredibly well in a live setting, and the crowd quickly got into heckling Vega, who was excellent. The match itself was incredibly slow and plodding. Lots of stalling and taunting on Almas’ part, with Sin Cara getting very little offense in for the first several minutes. The action picked up slightly toward the end, including a scary looking reverse-rana spot that dumped Almas awkwardly on the top of his head. The crowd let out an audible gasp. Almas recovered quickly and didn’t seem to be be phased at all by it. Andrade survived an onslaught of late offense by Sin Cara thanks to a distraction by Vega, and hit Sin Cara with the double knees in the corner for the win.
A video package hyping Nikki Cross aired on the screen. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but then, her music hit.
(3) Becky Lynch & Nikki Cross defeated Peyton Royce & Billie Kay in 11:00. Nikki came out to her remixed Sanity theme. She chased the referee and Greg Hamilton of the ring, then hugged them when they returned. She was turning up the unstable/crazy gimmick to an eleven. Becky entered to a strong reaction and playing along with Cross. The Iconics cut a brief promo about Maine that was a little hard to hear, but they generated some decent heat. A fairly standard tag team affair, with Nikki getting in some crazy antics in the beginning to scare Peyton and Billie, before winding up isolated for the majority of the bout. Becky got the hot tag and cleaned house before eventually locking in the Disarmer on Royce for the tap out victory. Becky and Cross celebrated at ringside with the fans.
(4) Rusev (w/Aiden English) defeated Tye Dillinger in 7:00. Tye entered first to a positive reaction. He played up the “10” gimmick and soaked in some adoration. When Aiden English cut off his music, though, the attention immediately shifted. English led a chorus of strong Rusev Day chants, and Rusev hit the ring to a great reaction. This was a strange match, as Tye began as a babyface and slowly started developing some heel-like tendencies, though he never really fully crossed any lines. Similarly, Rusev played into the Rusev Day chants but made no effort to overtly take on the babyface role. It wound up becoming a match where people weren’t sure who to cheer for (they chose Rusev, but there was some trepidation.) Standard affair, otherwise. Rusev eventually hit a big side kick and locked in the Accolade for a tap out win.
(5) The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, & Xavier Woods) defeated Sanity (Eric Young, Killian Dane, & Alexander Wolfe) by disqualification in 15:00. Excellent reaction for New Day, who proved to be one of the more entertaining acts of the night. I have to admit, as much as I often role my eyes at some of the staleness this trio exhibits on TV, their energy is infectious in person. All three were fully engaged with the audience and never once appeared not to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Fairly typical six man tag, with Xavier being isolated for much of the match. There was a fair amount of focus on the “battle of the big men” between Dain and Big E, most of which wound up being reduced to “shave your back” jokes at Dain’s expense. The action picked up late with things breaking down. New Day had the pin, but Young attacked, causing the DQ (why?) Post match, Sanity issued a beat down to Kofi and Big E and tried to continue punishing Xavier. Big E & Kofi recovered, cleaned house, and hit the Midnight Hour before taking selfies, signing Booty-O’s boxes and slapping hands all around ringside.
Greg Hamilton sent us to a brief intermission, where they played a game with a fan at ringside involving a Network clip (Randy Orton faking an RKO on an unsuspecting young fan who was talking trash about him) that they have used at every single show I’ve been two for the past three years. Switch it up!
(6) The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championship in 6:00. Not much to this one. Muted reactions for both teams. Anderson tried to get a “Gallows” chant started early, and, while the crowd tried to oblige, it just wouldn’t take. Slow and plodding big-man type of match, with Anderson taking the majority of the punishment. I got the sense that the crowd expected (and wanted) to see The Usos in this one.
(7) Carmella defeated Naomi to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship in 7:00. Naomi received a warm welcome. Carmella came off as very charismatic and got the crowd to feed into Naomi well. The match felt over-choreographed, but did feature an athletic spot or two. After a battle in the corner, Carmella rolled Naomi up and put her feet on the ropes for the cheap victory. Post match, a young fan explained to Charles Robinson what he missed, and Charles apologized. It was quite funny.
Greg Hamilton thanked us for coming and announced the main event.
(8) A.J. Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in a No Disqualification Match to retain the WWE Championship in 17:00. Despite playing up his heel persona, Nakamura received a very positive reaction. The crowd erupted when Styles music hit. It was, far and away, the loudest reaction of the night. No one else was even in the same ballpark. The two felt each other out early, before spilling outside and using the barricades and ring steps as weapons. They actually dropped the lights lower for this match, presumably so that they could draw attention to the spotlight they were using to highlight the action on the outside. It wound up making things sort of hard to see, though. Nakamura retrieved a kendo stick from under the ring, and much of the match centered around the two men trading blows with it. They both kept their shirts on, presumably to dull the impact. Nakamura retrieved a table late and the pair teased a superplex off the top and through it, but Styles blocked the attempt and the table was momentarily pushed aside. Nakamura later set it up in the corner and charged at Styles for the Kinshasa, but A.J. moved and Shinsuke went crashing through the propped table. Styles set Nakamura up and connected with the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. A good, safe and suitable no DQ main event that satisfied the crowd.
After the match, A.J. made the rounds, taking selfies, slapping hands, signing posters and gloves. He hopped the barricade for a picture with some handicapped fans. He was immensely appreciative and the crowd responded in absolute kind. A class act.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, a decent show hindered slightly by a small, and tepid crowd. No return date was announced, but I’d wager they’ll be back at this venue sometime in 2019 (and somewhere else in Maine before then.)
1. A.J. Styles
2. The New Day
4. Becky Lynch
5. Jeff Hardy
1. The Miz
3. The Iconics