WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER 5/29: Continued Build Towards Backlash, Styles-Elias and Hardy-Bryan in IC Championship Tournament Semi-Final Matches, Will NXT star make his debut

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch contributor


MAY 29, 2020

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

Top 10 Moments from Last Week

Items Advertised by WWE

We continue towards Backlash, coming to us on June 14. Tonight’s show is light on advertised items, as the focus is the ongoing Intercontinental Championship tournament which is now into the semi-final round:

  • Jeff Hardy looks to keep comeback rolling against Daniel Bryan
  • Elias and A.J. Styles set to battle for tournament finals appearance
  • Intercontinental Championship Tournament Semi-Final Matches

A.J. Styles vs. Elias

Elias moved onto the semi-finals of the tournament by defeating King Corbin two weeks ago in a first round match. Elias and Corbin have been in a feud since before WrestleMania, where Elias got the better of Corbin in a one-on-one match. Elias cost Corbin the 2020 Money in the Bank contract when he smashed him with a guitar as he was climbing the ladder. He has not held gold under the WWE banner.

A.J. Styles defeated long-time rival Shinsuke Nakamura last week in a first round match to advance in the tournament. A.J. has held the WWE Championship on two different occasions and the U.S. Championship three times, with his most recent reign happening from July until November of last year. He defeated Ricochet to win the title and lost it to Rey Mysterio. Last week, we were informed that A.J. was traded to Smackdown for “future considerations.” Here’s Elias and A.J. in separate WWE exclusives:

Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan

The Intercontinental Championship is no stranger to Jeff Hardy. He won it for the first time in 2001 by defeating Triple H on an episode of Smackdown. He went on to hold it on four different occasions, the last reign beginning in September of 2007 when he defeated the late Umaga. He lost it to Chris Jericho on an episode of Raw in March of 2008. It’s been a long, circuitous road for Jeff as he finds his way into the current tournament. He defeated Sheamus last week to advance to the semi-finals.

Daniel Bryan defeated Drew Gulak two weeks ago in a first round match. Gulak’s contract expired and left WWE, but he has since returned. Bryan won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania in 2015 after coming back from injury where he had to surrender the WWE World Championship following the Yes Movement in 2014. It was his only reign with the title.

Bryan and Jeff first went one-on-one two years ago on Smackdown and then again in the run-up to Elimination Chamber last year, where Bryan defended the WWE Championship. Jeff was eliminated by Bryan in the match which also featured Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Randy Orton, and Kofi Kingston. Tonight, they go at it again for a chance to go to the finals for the Intercontinental Championship. Here’s Jeff in a WWE exclusive:

Frank’s Analysis: I can’t imagine Elias beating A.J., but he sounded determined in that exclusive interview. In three years of Elias being on the main roster, I’ve never seen a desire from him to win titles let alone wrestling matches. I’ll pick A.J. because that’s what logic tells me. As far as Bryan and Jeff, to me it’s a toss-up. I’ll pick Jeff because of how big of a deal they’ve made his comeback. Bryan wouldn’t surprise me though. He gave a spirited promo a few weeks ago regarding winning the championship. A Jeff-A.J. final or a Bryan-A.J. final sounds good to me!

Matt Riddle

Several wrestling media outlets have NXT wrestler Matt Riddle punching his ticket to Smackdown, perhaps as early as tonight. Here an article by frequent Wade Keller post-show co-host Mike Chiari, writing for Bleacher Report where he discusses potential opponents for Riddle:

He is still listed as an NXT talent on WWE’s website, and understandably so if they want to keep it under wraps. He recently held the NXT Tag Team Championship with Pete Dunne and eventually Timothy Thatcher, who stepped in for Dunne as a result of the recently implemented travel ban from the United Kingdom to the U.S. preventing Dunne from meeting his obligations. Thatcher turned on Riddle when they lost the titles to Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel of Imperium. They split two matches, the most recent being a Fight Pit match won by Thatcher this past Wednesday on NXT.

Riddle made his WWE debut in late 2018. He feuded mostly with Kassius Ohno, Velveteen Dream, and Killian Dane. He was a part of the NXT team that participated in Survivor Series and actually pinned Randy Orton, before eating an RKO and being eliminated by King Corbin. He also entered the 2020 Royal Rumble, but was eliminated by Corbin who potentially can be Riddle’s first feud. Our eyes will be peeled for certain to see if the man known as the “Super King of Bros” arrives tonight or sometime soon.

Frank’s Analysis: I always proceed with caution when someone is called up, or as is the case these days “moved over” from NXT to either Raw or Smackdown. Once Vince McMahon gets his mitts on someone, they’re generally pushed in the way he envisions them which doesn’t always necessarily line up with how fans perceive and love the character. Riddle has a good personality and is fun to watch, at least to me, so he’s got that going for him. Corbin would be fine as his first opponent.

Other Match Results and News Items from Last Week:

Universal Champion Braun Strowman joined Miz and John Morrison on the Dirt Sheet. That led to Braun defeating Miz one-on-one in a non-title match, which led to Morrison and Miz challenging Braun to a handicap match at Backlash for the Universal Championship. Braun, oh so graciously, accepted their challenge.

Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley defeated NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a champion vs. champion non-title match.

Sonya Deville & Dolph Ziggler defeated Mandy Rose & “Mr. Money in the Bank” Otis. Ziggler attacked Otis after the match. For some reason Sonya and Lacey Evans have been going at it on Twitter:


Final Thoughts

The potential final match for the Intercontinental Championship has my interest over everything else on the show. Having Miz and Morrison work a handicap match for the Universal Championship is an odd choice, but we’ve seen something like this before. My guess is it’s just to pass the time, and likely sets up the return of the Fiend at Backlash. I wouldn’t have had Sonya & Ziggler defeat Otis & Mandy since Otis has the Money in the Bank contract. Even though he didn’t take the pin, it’s still better to keep him strong and feel like a legitimate threat to take a world title. Overall, tonight’s show should be more enjoyable that those past with having the Performance Center and NXT wrestlers at ringside.

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!

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