WWE Smackdown is live from Birmingham, AL this evening, and we will have live coverage of the event as it happens, starting at 8pm Eastern. Already announced for the show: AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura team up against Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin, plus Mike Kanellis makes his in-ring debut against Sami Zayn.
Heading into this weekend’s Battleground, Jinder Mahal has brought the Punjabi Prison with him, and John Cena will address Rusev heading into their Flag Match. It’s a stacked night for Smackdown. Join us here at 8pm for all the details, and be sure to follow along on Twitter as well – @RingRap!
WWE: Then, Now, Forever. FOREVERRRRR.
I’m tired and loopy, sorry.
The show opens with clips of the Punjabi Prison, but conveniently leaving out any of the actual action that has occurred inside of it. We go to the arena, and The Singh Brothers introduce Jinder Mahal. Mahal and company make their way down to the ring, which is surrounded by one layer of the Punjabi Prison. They ender the caged part of the ring, and the outer half of the prison is lowered around it. It’s one heck of a sight.
Mahal addresses the audience. “Behold the Punjabi Prison.” He says it will be the final resting place of Randy Orton’s legacy. The fans begin chanting USA. He demands silence from the fans so his boys can explain the rules. “The inside structure is surrounded by four doors.” When instructed by a competitor, a referee will open the door for only 60 seconds. After 60 seconds, the door will shut, and it will remain shut. They talk about the outer structure having no doors – the only way to win is to climb out of both structures.
Mahal says there are no rules – no DQs, no countouts. Mahal says he’ll smash Orton’s face into the prison until it matches the ugliness of the nation he represents. Mahal threatens to Khallas him from the top of the prison, and he says they both might walk in, but only the Modern Day Maharaja will walk out WWE Champion. He then addresses the fans in Punjabi.
Orton’s music finally hits, and he walks out onto the ramp. Orton says he’s either the bravest SOB he’s ever met, or he’s just not all that bright. Orton asks if Mahal actually chose to be locked up in the prison with him. He stresses Mahal is isolating any real advantage he had – the Singh brothers. Orton says the Brothers are the only reason he lost the title in the first place.
Orton stares up at the prison. Orton reminds Mahal they’ll be locked up on Sunday, no escape, no running, no hiding. He starts to climb the structure and stops a few steps up. He says he has nothing to lose – Mahal took his title, embarrassed his family, tried to take his dignity, and left him for dead. He climbs up a few more rungs. He says Mahal is the 50th WWE Champion ever. “You have the weight of the entire country of India on your shoulders.” 1.3 Billion souls are on his back. He asks him what he’s going to do when they all consider him a disgrace?
Orton climbs over the top of the outer structure. He says this will be his view after he leaves Mahal’s “jacked up ass for dead in the ring.” He says Mahal chose his own fate when he hears the words “And your new WWE Champion Randy Orton!” His music plays as Orton poses on top.
Good fire from Orton, and not bad work from Mahal too, who was less raspy than he has been in the past. I’m looking forward to the match simply because I’ve never seen one that wasn’t disappointing.
After the break, it’s time for our first match. The announcers recap the happenings of the rap battle two weeks ago.
Jimmy Uso (w/ Jey Uso) vs. Kofi Kingston (w/ Xavier Woods & Big E)
The Action: Kofi stomps away at Jimmy in the corner. He hits a running drop kick in the corner too, covers and gets two. Kofi taunts Jimmy and shakes his ass, then low-bridges the ropes. He teases a leap outside, then follows up with it.
We go to commercial, picture in picture style. Kofi maintains control initially, but Jimmy fires back. He stretches Kofi in the ropes. We go full screen, Jimmy still in control. Jimmy rushes at Kofi, and Kofi leaps into the air, stomping Jimmy into the mat. Jimmy catches Kofi mid-air and sends him into the turnbuckle, picking up a two-count. Jimmy meets Kofi up on the top rope. Kofi fights Jimmy off the ropes with a headbutt, but Jey causes a distraction on the apron. Woods and Big E drive him away, and Kofi recovers, hitting a cross-body, but Jimmy rolls it through into a pin.
Winner: Jimmy Uso
A good match, but it’s difficult for me to get into this feud when I’m not exactly crazy about New Day. Just a personal preference, no slight on the performers at all.
Backstage, Shane McMahon is chatting with the participants in the Fatal Five Way on Sunday. He hypes up the match as they awkwardly stand in a line. He says they need a match tonight, and he wants to figure out the most competitive one. Charlotte volunteers to face Lana. Natalya calls her delusional, and says she’s the one that’s fighting Lana. Lynch makes a case too, but Tamina shuts it down, saying noone is fighting Lana tonight. Natalya suggests Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch. Charlotte says no, Shane wants a competitive match. Lynch takes offense to that. Shane makes it official.
The announcers acknowledge Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son, and up next, a reaction from Chad Gable. After the break, Tom Phillips cues up the video package, highlighting the past few weeks, and the happenings of last night. We see a clip of Jordan walking out to the ring all smiles, with Kurt Angle in tears. The announcers hype up Jordan’s history, and then go to Renee Young in a sit-down interview with Chad Gable. Gable is totally shocked. He says you don’t think your life will get turned upside down watching Raw. He says he never got a heads-up and it would’ve been nice to, since it didn’t just change Jason and Kurt’s life – it changed his own life too. He says they talked after Raw – Jordan called him. He says they lived together, ate together, trained together. Jordan felt distant and he explained it all to Gable last night.
Renee asks him about what this means for Gable. He says they’ve won titles together, and he’s supported him in big matches against Owens and Styles, why would he not support him too? He’s happy for Jordan, but this is a great chance for everyone to see Chad Gable on his own. Renee wishes him luck.
Gable came across very natural here. A good segment for him, that shows he can talk and that he’ll be just fine on his own.
Mike and Maria Kanellis walk to the ring for Mike’s debut.
Mike Kanellis (w/ Maria Kanellis) vs. Sami Zayn
The Action: Zayn takes it to Kanellis immediately, laying in right fists and chops. He drops a series of punches on the top turnbuckle. Kanellis rolls out of the ring to recover. Zayn nails him with a clothesline on the floor. Kanellis catches him with a boot to the gut, but Zayn fires back and clotheslines him to the floor once again.
Zayn tosses Kanellis into the barricade. Zayn rolls him in once more, and Kanellis leaps onto him with fists. Once more, Zayn catches him with a clothesline. Zayn hits an Exploder in the corner, and as Zayn sets up the Helluva Kick, Maria heads in and stands in between them. The referee tries to get her out of the ring, and Maria ducks long enough for Kanellis to sucker punch Sami in the face. He lifts him up on his shoulder and drops him, falcon arrow style, for the win.
Winner: Mike Kanellis
Not exactly the debut I had in mind for Kanellis, but in hindsight it’s perfect. He got his ass kicked and cheated to win, thanks to help from his wife. It makes perfect sense, and it also extends the feud.
John Cena is coming out at the top of the hour, next.
And here he is, John Cena himself. Cena hypes up the crowd and their mixed cheers/boos. He says the fans are excited because they’ll see amazing things at Battleground. He briefly hypes up each match, putting a dot on Shinsuke Nakamura. He asks the fans what they’ll remember after the event, and says they’ll remember the flag match. He points at each corner, one has the Bulgarian flag, the other American. He says to win the match you have to grab the flag and securely plant it at the finish line. He talks about Rusev running down America every chance he gets, and says we will remember the flag match because we’ll see the United States flag waiving in victory, or the Bulgarian flag waiving in victory. He knows there are people that don’t like him, but they can all agree they love the American flag. He promises the crowd that he’s ready. He says the US is a nation of fighters, and we fight for what we believe in and never give up.
Cena talks about all the wars America has been in, saying the flag flew high each time. He talks about the Dust Bowl and even mentions 9/11. “These colors do not run, these colors kick ass.” He takes the flag down and holds it up high. He says this Sunday it will fly high. He waves the flag, but out of nowhere, Rusev attacks him from behind. He stomps Cena in the back, hits a leaping kick to the head, and locks in the Accolade, but Cena powers out. He makes it to his feet and slams Rusev into the turnbuckle, but Rusev holds on and Cena drops again, succumbing to the hold. He drops Cena, gets his flag, and waives it high walking away.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte is up next!
Backstage, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura meet. Styles asks if they want to talk about strategy, or reminisce about Japan. Nakamura sees the US title, looks at it, and says “One day, you call, I answer.” He smiles and walks away.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
The Action: The two jockey for position early on. Charlotte hits a nice clothesline and bridges it into a pin for two. Lynch goes for a Disarmher, Charlotte bails out and we go to break.
Picture in picture time. Charlotte hits a back breaker on Lynch and goes for a cover. She continues to work the back, locking in a chin lock. She kicks Lynch repeatedly in the corner. Lynch fires back, hits a springboard side kick and knocks Charlotte to the floor. She hits a flying forearm off the apron.
Back in the ring, Charlotte gets the advantage with a series of knees and a kneedrop for two. Lynch dodges a Figure Four and picks up steam. She hits a Becksploder suplex and straight fire elbow. Two count. Lynch goes back for her submission, Charlotte counters and attacks the knee. She goes for Natural Selection, Lynch grabs the arm and goes for her submission. Charlotte reverses with a boot to the face for two. Charlotte misses a moonsault, and Lynch grabs the arm immediately. Charlotte breaks it on the rope. Lynch drags her in and reapplies. Charlotte taps out.
Winner: Becky Lynch
After the match, the two shake hands and go to drink their “cup of tea” but Tamina and Lana interrupt. Natalya attacks from behind, and it’s all hell breaking loose. Lana barks orders at Tamina, and takes out Natalya when she attacks Tamina. Tamina nails Natalya with a superkick. Tamina and Lana stand tall to end it.
Lynch and Charlotte had a good match together? No way! Sarcasm aside, these two work well, so this is not unexpected. I liked the post-match angle too. It got some heat on Lana, and more importantly, Tamina.
Up next, Fashion Files!
Renee Young interviews Naomi backstage. She talks about the winner on Sunday facing her at Summerslam. She says she wants every match to be her biggest challenge – she’s not here to play, she’s here to glow. She turns around mid-speech and Carmella waives the Money in the Bank briefcase in her face. She reminds her that everywhere Naomi goes, they go. “I guess we’ll see you at Battleground.”
The Fashion X Files cue up, and it’s an X-Files spoof. “The Truth is not H.” Breeze is wearing a red wig. The two are looking for “Tully.” Breeze says there’s no such thing as ghosts, when they hear a “Wooooo” noise from behind a curtain. It’s Aiden English warming up his voice. Out of nowhere, lights beam down from the sky. Breeze wants to meet ET and Alf. A “green man” walks in asking to sign a package. He turned on the light and needs a signature. Breeze takes the package – already opened. Fandango asks “What’s in the box?” Breeze is turned off. They find the head of Fandango’s stick horse. Inside is a note “Battleground.”
It’s impossible to keep up with these segments, but I got all the movie references at least. Another funny segment.
After the break, Drew Gulak hypes up 205 Live, and at 9:45pm, AJ Styles makes his entrance for the main event. There are three more men to come out, so this is gonna be a short match.
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin
Well, here’s your way of fixing that problem. Baron Corbin attacks Shinsuke mid-entrance. Owens runs out and attacks too, and Styles makes the save. The four square off on the ramp, as the referee gets them back in the ring. We go to break.
We come back and Corbin is working over Styles. He grinds Styles’ face against the bottom rope and tags in Owens, double-teaming Styles. Owens lays in a bunch of stomps. Styles makes the tag and Nakamura goes on the offense. Good vibrations in the corner. Owens tries to power out of it, eats an enzuigiri. He drops a knee. Corbin yanks down the top rope off of Owens clothesline, and Nakamura spills to the floor. He rolls Nak back in and Owens hits a senton for two.
Corbin legal, he works Nak over, then tags out. Corbin catches him in a bearhug. Corbin slips out of the ring and runs back in, but Nakamura catches him. Corbin takes out Styles before he could make the tag.
Nakamura nails Owens on the apron but Corbin hits Deep Six out of nowhere for two. Styles breaks up the pin. Corbin lays in tight elbows. Hot tag finally, Styles and Owens. Styles hits a flurry of moves and a low forearm for two. He misses a splash in the corner, but connects with a flapjack sitout facebuster for two. Owens catches Styles with a clothesline. Corbin tags in. Styles goes for a calf crusher, but Corbin tosses him across the ring. Styles manages to catch it on a reversal, Corbin grabs the ropes. Owens takes Styles out on the apron. Nakamura attacks Owens, Corbin dumps Nakamura into the time keeper area. He goes for End of Days, but Styles reverses, hits a Pele Kick. Owens makes the blind tag and catches Styles with a superkick and a pop-up power bomb for the win.
Winner: Owens & Corbin
It’s not bad enough that I have a clock next to my TV, but there was literally a clock counting down the premiere of a new USA show on the bottom of the screen. That took away all doubt that the match would be ending – one way or another. Otherwise, this was fine. Rushed, but fine.
A pretty good go-home show overall – Bill and I will have tons to talk about tomorrow on Ring Rap Audio as Battleground nears. But nothing really stood out as jaw dropping. The feuds all pretty much feel about where they were last week. We had some entertaining matches but nothing I would call must-see.
Be sure to join us tomorrow for Ring Rap Audio as we look at Battleground and much, much more! Thanks for reading!