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With WWE preparing for The Horror Show at Extreme Rules on Sunday, Friday’s SmackDown was all about building up the pay-per-view.
Several titles will be on the line this weekend, but the blue brand also featured a championship match when Matt Riddle Challenged AJ Styles for the intercontinental title.
WWE also hyped a mystery guest for a special episode of A Moment of Bliss with Alexa Bliss and another episode of The Firefly Fun House.
Even if the buildup to Extreme Rules has been a little lackluster due to the current circumstances, several of the matches on the card have the potential to be loads of fun, especially if WWE does another cinematic match that feels different from what we have already seen.
Let’s take a look at everything that happened on this week’s SmackDown.
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SmackDown opened with a video package before we went to the ring for the first match of the night between Cesaro and Big E.
We found out that the winner got to choose the stipulation for a SmackDown tag title match at Extreme Rules, so there were real stakes on the line.
The two powerhouses immediately took the fight out of the ring where Big E crushed Cesaro against the steel steps with a running shoulder. He tried the same thing in the ring but The Swiss Superman sidestepped him and he hit the ring post.
Both men hit their usual signature moves as they traded control back and forth. After a commercial break, Cesaro began to build momentum with a springboard uppercut. Big E grabbed him for a stretch muffler submission but Cesaro countered with a Big Swing into the Sharpshooter.
With a little help from Shinsuke Nakamura, Big Swiss was able to hit the Neutralizer for the win. Cesaro and Nakamura grabbed a table after the match was over, so it’s clear what stipulation they chose for Sunday.
Big E and Cesaro are both so good at what they do that having a bad match seems impossible. They are just too talented to be mediocre.
The only real complaint one could bring against this match is that it ended too soon. Kingston and Nakamura were involved outside the ring but their presence was never a distraction from what was happening inside.
The tag title bout at Extreme Rules should live up to past encounters between these two teams, especially with a hardcore stipulation.
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Bliss and Cross began this segment by talking about the five-year anniversary of the Women’s Evolution and what has happened since then.
At first, Cross thought she was Bliss’ special guest but The Goddess had to rain on her parade and inform her that she was not the mystery guest. Before she could reveal who it was, Bayley and Sasha Banks came out to talk some trash.
After she let them talk, Bliss introduced Asuka as her real guest. A fight broke out and Bliss somehow gained the booking power to turn this into a tag team match.
We returned to see the fight in progress and Cross took control of Bayley with a series of kicks to the body. The Role Model used some dirty tactics to turn the tables. This led to Cross being double-teamed for quite some time.
After we saw every combination of opponents had their moment to shine, Bayley stole the win by using the ropes for leverage during a pin on Cross.
Grade: C- (Moment of Bliss), B (Match)
The idea of a mystery guest was intriguing but the reveal was a little underwhelming. It seemed like Bliss was going to bring out somebody who had a big impact on the Women’s Evolution by the way the segment started.
The match that followed was a nice change of pace. Pairing Cross and Asuka together made for an interesting combination, even if it was just a one-time thing.
The bout was typical tag team fare. The women’s tag champs showed their usual level of chemistry while Cross and Asuka found their groove as a pair about halfway through.
This was a surprisingly physical contest, especially when it came to Bayley and Asuka. They were swinging for the fences with their strikes. It may have lasted a little longer than necessary but all four women helped make it an enjoyable match.
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Wyatt took us on a little trip to his swamp ahead of his match with Braun Strowman on Sunday before The Monster Among Men came out to battle John Morrison.
The universal champion gave a quick promo about facing his fears before he fought The Friday Night Delight. As soon as the bell rang, Strowman started destroying Morrison with ease.
It took him less than three minutes from bell to bell to defeat Morrison with a running powerslam. After the champ left, medical staff came out to check on the high-flyer. The Miz helped him to the back as Lacey Evans made her way to the ring.
The short segment with Wyatt was well-produced and did a good job bringing back his cult leader character, but Strowman showing more emotion than he ever has was what really sold their matchup.
The promos were good but the match between Strowman and Morrison felt unnecessary. We don’t need to see The Monster beat somebody half his size, especially when that person is part of one of SmackDown’s top teams.
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Evans tried to take Naomi down with a drop toe hold but it didn’t work and Naomi quickly sent her into the corner. The Sassy Southern Belle regained her composure and dropped an elbow.
The Queen of Glow countered a moonsault but Evans used her hair against her to tie her up in the ropes before nailing her with The Women’s Right for the pin and the win.
Evans was suddenly turned back into a heel last week after spending the past few months as a babyface, and she continued to show those characteristics this week with her pre-match promo.
This match was a little sloppy and did little to push Evans as a heel. Both women are talented but this was not up to their usual standards. A few more minutes would have allowed them to tell a more cohesive story.
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The main event of the evening featured Styles defending the IC title against the man who defeated him last month in his SmackDown debut, Riddle.
They kept things clean early on by using basic lockups and counters. It didn’t take long for Styles to use a few strikes to take control. Riddle showed off his power by hitting two gutwrench suplexes in a row.
After a break, The Phenomenal One regained the upper hand and began working on Riddle’s leg to set up for the Calf Crusher. Styles was still in control after a second break until Riddle hit a German suplex out of nowhere.
Riddle countered a Phenomenal Forearm but failed to capitalize with his own finisher. This allowed the champ to lock in the Calf Crusher. The challenger reversed into his own submission before AJ stacked him up for the pin.
Styles offered Riddle his hand but the show of respect was a ruse. Baron Corbin attacked The Bro from behind and hit The End of Days to cap off the show.
Riddle and Styles both have a reputation for putting on exciting matches, so there was a lot of pressure on them to steal the show in this bout.
This was a well-paced match that made both men look good, but it felt like they were holding back at times. There was nothing wrong with this bout. It just didn’t get to the level we all know these two are capable of reaching.
The finish was the right call as it protects Riddle while allowing Styles to retain his title. This probably won’t be the last time they clash over the belt. For now, Riddle and Corbin appear to be on a collision course.