WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER 7/31: Lana vs. Vega, The Bar vs. The Usos, follow-up on Samoa Joe’s attack on A.J. Styles and Bryan-Miz tensions

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch contributor

Samoa Joe ROH (photo credit Wade Keller)


JULY 31, 2018

Arena/Opening Thoughts

Writer’s Note: Due to some differences in my normal schedule this week, I am completing this article prior to WWE.com posting their Smackdown preview. Aside from known matches I will take some educated guesses on what’s in store based on last week’s show. Thank you.

WWE’s signature blue brand Smackdown returns to the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. for the first time since January of 2016. The history of this arena hosting WWF/WWE events dates back nearly 22 years as Raw first appeared here in December of 1996

SummerSlam continued to take shape last week on a lot of fronts. Samoa Joe was named the no. 1 contender for the WWE Championship by G.M. Paige as he will take on champ A.J. Styles for Smackdown’s top prize. New Day took another step towards challenging the Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship as they defeated Sanity in the semi-finals of the tournament to determine the no. 1 contenders. Becky Lynch became the no. 1 contender for the Smackdown Women’s Championship per the stipulation of her defeating champion Carmella. The Miz fooled us all thinking he brought his daughter into a WWE only to reveal it was part of an elaborate plan to attack Daniel Bryan. While nothing has been announced, this is expected to lead to a Daniel Bryan vs. Miz match.

Lana vs. Zelina Vega

Last week Zelina Vega’s protégé, Andrade “Cien” Almas was victorious over Lana’s husband Rusev. Tonight, we get a different slice of this potential budding rivalry as Vega takes on Lana one-on-one. These two women have been going at it quite a bit on Twitter over the weekend. Here’s the announcement from Paige:

Thoughts: I can’t be sure but it’s possible this is heading towards a mixed tag match at SummerSlam involving Rusev and Lana vs. Vega and Almas. The dynamics are interesting with Rusev as he was the heel in his recent feud with A.J. Styles. Last week, he faced a heel Almas. WWE has certainly left us wondering exactly on which side of the pond he sits. The other issue is following the loss, Rusev went so far as to suggest maybe both Lana and English aren’t good for him. It’s hard to determine the ultimate destination of this entire situation but the dynamics are certainly interesting.

Semi-Finals of Tag Team Tournament: The Usos vs. The Bar

The Usos will take on The Bar in the second match of the four-team tournament to determine the no. 1 contenders for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship. The winners face New Day next week, where the winner of that match goes to SummerSlam to challenge the Bludgeon Brothers for the championship. The Bar made an appearance for the first time in more than a month following New Day’s victory over Sanity last week.

Thoughts: It’s great to see a good old-fashioned method of determining no. 1 contenders for any championship. While this is a small tournament, it involved the best teams on Smackdown. New Day was a surprising victor last week, but it could be setting up another New Day vs. Usos confrontation should the Usos come out on top tonight. As we remember, that rivalry dominated the better part of 2017 when New Day moved to Smackdown.

Orton Follow-Up

Last week Randy Orton explained his recent attacks on Jeff Hardy. He claimed he had been disrespected by the fans after 16 years of “busting his ass” in WWE. He talked about not being an “indie darling” but rather learned and mastered his craft in front of millions of people while learning from the best in the business. He questioned whether or not the fans didn’t respect him because he didn’t “paint his face” or do a “hand gesture” (obviously referring to the nWo’s and Bullet Club’s “2 Sweet”). He claimed Jeff Hardy is finished and won’t ever be back. Tonight, I suspect we will get some follow-up on Randy Orton’s new mission as a heel.

Thoughts: I’m all for Randy Orton being a heel as I believe it’s his natural role. I do feel they pulled the explanation out of their rear ends, excuse me for saying so. For 16 years, even as a heel, Randy Orton has been cheered and is one of the beloved babyfaces when he plays that part. With that said, I’m certain the rivalry with Jeff Hardy is not over. U.S. Champion Shinsuke Nakamura has to figure into the mix as well, which could lead to the ever-so-used triple threat match at SummerSlam for the U.S. title.

More Daniel Bryan-Miz Follow-Up

Last week the Miz and his wife Maryse came out to the ring to promote their new show, Miz and Mrs. which would air following Smackdown. They brought their daughter Monroe Sky, or so we thought, after there was a “foul up” getting a babysitter. When the preview began showing on the titantron, it would instead be clips of embarrassing moments early in Miz’s career (c’mon, you all loved that haircut he had). Daniel Bryan would eventually come out, to have Miz throw what wasn’t his daughter but instead a doll and deliver a skull-crushing finale.

Thoughts: TV time has to be filled week to week, so WWE finds it necessary to do skits like this to build what should eventually be a match between these two long-time rivals at SummerSlam. There are some theories out there as to why this segment was done, one in specific claims it was to get heat on Daniel Bryan as he still hasn’t signed a new contract with WWE. We shall see what unfolds in the next three weeks.

Samoa Joe #1 Contender

As I alluded to earlier, Samoa Joe was named the no. 1 contender to the WWE Championship as he will take on A.J. Styles at SummerSlam. Paige came out to make the announcement, only to be interrupted by James Ellsworth who would eventually be fired by the Smackdown G.M. While Ellsworth was being ejected from the building, Joe would come out to attack A.J. Styles who was standing in the ring with Paige, waiting for her to make the announcement. Tonight, the beginning of the build-up to this championship match should begin.

Here’s some trash talk between Joe and A.J. on Twitter.

Thoughts: This is the championship match I’m certain we were craving for quite some time. Joe is hands-down the best heel on the roster. His promos are believable and the program between he and A.J. should be a no-brainer. A.J. has done a great job and I’d be happy if he remains champion for a while, but I’m on board with a Joe title run as well. I’m certain those with TNA/Impact viewing experience will harken back to their matches in that promotion.

Other Items

Prior to Becky Lynch defeating Carmella, James Ellsworth was fired by G.M. Paige as I talked about earlier. She kicked him out of the arena in similar fashion to when Gorilla Monsoon threw Bobby “The Brain” Heenan out of Monday Night Raw in 1993. On a personal note, that memory and thinking of those two late legends put a smile on my face. As far as Ellsworth it appears his deal with WWE was short term. I believe Bruce Mitchell brought up on his PWTorch VIP audio show that it’s a good idea they got him out of here in the run-up to Evolution, the all-women’s PPV to take place in October. Give a listen to Bruce’s audio shows as they are “can’t miss” in my opinion.

Asuka got back on the winning track in a victory over Billie Kay. It’s hard to know what her direction is for SummerSlam but some sort of tag match with the IIconics can’t be out of the question

R-Truth made his return to the ring after quite some time and lost a squash match to Samoa Joe. This would take place prior to Joe getting the nod to face A.J. at SummerSlam.

Start Time and 205 Live

The arena website shows a start time of 7:45 but doesn’t specify when doors will open.

205 Live will follow Smackdown. Last week, Drew Gulak won a fatal four-way match to become the no. 1 contender for the Cruiserweight Championship currently held by Cedric Alexander. It’s not known when a match between the two will take place, but SummerSlam can’t be out of the question. Akira Tozawa won his match over Jack Gallagher. Lince Dorado and Kalisto of the Lucha House Party won a squash match with Buddy Murphy looking on in the back.

Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Thank you for reading!

NOW CATCH UP ON LAST WEEK’S SMACKDOWN: 7/24 ELDER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT: Styles’s Summerslam opponent announcement, “Miz & Mrs” premiere party, The New Day vs. Sanity, Becky vs. Carmella

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