SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER
JULY 3, 2020
ORLANDO, FL. AT THE WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRS ON FOX NETWORK, 8:00 p.m. EDT
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Michael Cole and Corey Graves
Top 10 Moments from Last Week
News and Items Advertised by WWE
We roll on in this pandemic audience-free era with another episode of Smackdown emanating from the Performance Center in Orlando, FL. Last week, things changed from what was originally advertised to a tribute to the Undertaker following his retirement announce on the WWE Network series “Undertaker: The Last Ride.” Here’s what’s on tap for tonight thus far:
- A.J. Styles and Drew Gulak set for Intercontinental Championship clash.
- Sheamus to raise a glass to Jeff Hardy.
- Matt Riddle to step in the ring for an interview with Michael Cole
Intercontinental Championship: A.J. Styles (champ) vs. Drew Gulak
Michael Cole to Interview Matt Riddle
Let’s talk about these items collectively as they are tied together. Two weeks ago, A.J. Styles had a “championship presentation” one week after defeating Daniel Bryan in an epic final match of the Intercontinental Championship tournament. He requested that Bryan, standing at ring side with most of the Smackdown roster, put the title on him. Bryan obliged and congratulated him by saying he was the better man. He also recommended he defend the title against Drew Gulak, who had defeated him two weeks prior. A.J. said he would do things his way, not offer handouts, and only defend against the number one contender. The next one to “run their mouth” would deal with the consequences. Out came Matt Riddle, making his Smackdown debut.
Riddle said he heard A.J. was the “face that runs the place,” but he’ll be the “bro that runs the show.” They went on to have about a 13-minute match, won by Riddle when he hit his signature Bro-Derek slam for the win.
A.J. will have to re-focus on Gulak tonight, as his Intercontinental Championship is on the line. Here’s Gulak talking in one of his tweets and a WWE exclusive from several weeks ago when he beats Styles:
Matt Riddle, after briefly appearing on Smackdown last week to attack King Corbin, will step in the ring to be interviewed by Michael Cole. There’s no doubt we can expect him to tout his non-title victory over Styles from two weeks ago. Here’s a WWE exclusive with Riddle following his win a few weeks ago:
Frank’s Analysis: I don’t expect a title change given Styles just won the title, and I can’t imagine him being a short-term champion. It is possible they build towards Riddle vs. Styles at SummerSlam for the IC title. If they plan for Riddle to take the title then, that would be a two-month reign for Styles which for the most part makes sense. Done right, Riddle and Styles could have a long-standing feud. Of course, I’m jumping a few steps ahead, but you would expect WWE to want to build to some more premium matches come SummerSlam. Riddle vs. Styles is one of those matches.
Sheamus Toasts Jeff Hardy
This was one of the advertised items for last week. Instead, Jeff Hardy paid tribute to the Undertaker, and then defeated King Corbin. Following the match, Jeff kneeled as the Undertaker would and pointed towards a picture of him on the screen. Several wrestlers were ring side and beat Corbin down after the match including Big E, Braun Strowman, and Matt Riddle. Earlier in the evening, Corbin said the Undertaker was holding people like him back and ridiculed WWE and the Performance Center & NXT wrestlers for chanting “thank you ‘Taker.” Jeff attacked him, which led to the match.
Two weeks ago, Jeff Hardy gave a passionate interview with Renee Young. He talked about the struggles in his life, and how it feels like he’s been trying to turn things around his whole life. He talked about catching himself before he falls completely out of control, and how Sheamus is the latest obstacle in his life he must overcome. Sheamus defeated Jeff at Backlash.
Later in the show, Sheamus was interviewed for a response. He said he wish he crushed Jeff’s voice box so he wouldn’t have to hear the “garbage coming out of his mouth.” He said if Jeff can’t lift himself up, he would do it for him the way a “proper Irishman can.” He said he would toast the one-and-only Jeff Hardy, and that happens tonight. Here’s Sheamus in a WWE exclusive after he beat Jeff at Backlash a few weeks ago:
Frank’s Analysis: I gave my analysis on this in last week’s primer, and don’t have anything to add.
Universal Champion Braun Strowman Prepares for Swamp Match
This is not in WWE’s preview for the show, but it was in a hype video we saw during Raw.
Two weeks ago, Bray Wyatt returned to our screens in his Wyatt Family leader persona saying he had to go back to the beginning and destroy whom he created, and that’s Universal Champion Braun Strowman. Braun was a member of the Wyatt Family from post-SummerSlam 2015 until the rosters split in July of 2016. Braun retained the Universal Championship over Bray at Money in the Bank with Bray portraying his Firefly Funhouse host character.
Last week, Braun talked about when he first met Bray. He saw a snake bite him over and over and all Bray could do was laugh. As a result, he knew he was in the presence of evil. He said he started doing “the devil’s work” and loved every second of it. He tries to keep that side of him contained, but it still calls him. He then invited Bray to go back to the swamp, and have it become the place of his destruction.
The swamp fight is set for Extreme Rules: The Horror Show on July 19. It will undoubtedly be a cinematic match and will likely be filmed ahead of the show. We may hear from both Braun and Bray tonight.
Frank’s Analysis: I suppose this is the reason why they’re calling the PPV the “horror show?” At least we’re not getting a House of Horrors match like we had between Bray and Randy Orton back in 2017. Aren’t you glad I brought that up? Anyway, this is fine for me overall, although this is where I wish Braun weren’t Universal Champion.
Other Match Results and News Items from Last Week:
- They replayed the Boneyard Match from WrestleMania between the Undertaker and A.J. Styles, which for now has turned out to be Undertaker’s final match in WWE.
- They played soundbites from WWE legends and Hall of Famers weighing in on the Undertaker. They included “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Edge, Kane, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena.
- Nikki Cross defeated Alexa Bliss, Lacey Evans, and Dana Brooke in a fatal four-way match to earn a championship match at Extreme Rules against Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s title. Here’s Nikki and Lacey in separate WWE exclusives:
- Smackdown Tag Team Champions New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) and Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) defeated Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro and John Morrison & the Miz.
I don’t have much to add as we continue to sort of reset Smackdown with the additions of Styles and Riddle. I’m curious to see long-term what they’ll do as far as the Universal Championship is concerned as there aren’t many choices of opponents for Braun. It’s still odd for Otis to hold Money in the Bank, and I wonder if there’s a plan to get it off him or for him to have a failed cash-in. Therefore, we watch!
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!