WWE SmackDown Live REVIEW: Full Results, Grades & Highlights For 05/15/18

styles nakamura
Credit: WWE

Tonight, we witness history. The “dream match” between WWE Champion AJ Styles and #1 contender Shinsuke Nakamura transpires on live television! For the fourth time in 5½ weeks. But, this time, it’s in Great Britain. And it’s not for the world title. Plus, The Bar and The New Day will square off to determine who wins a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match, the winner of which will earn a title shot against whoever survives the Styles/Nakamura ball-kicking gauntlet. Tally ho!

Intro: Oh no, it’s that f’ing Kid Rock song again. It briefly plays over still photos of the Styles/Nakamura bout from WrestleMania. We then get pictures, accompanied by fawning web headlines, showing their two ensuing pay-per-view matches. Tonight, AJ and Shinsuke fight again, with the winner picking the stipulation for their Money in the Bank title match.

– Renee Young introduces Daniel Bryan mid-ring, talking over the London crowd as they chant Bryan’s name. She eventually relents and lets the fans shout for Bryan. He goes from smiling to intense, yelling for everyone to, “Feel that!” Although Young never finishes asking her question, Bryan picks up the dialogue, telling her he was disappointed to lose to Rusev in last week’s main event. The London fans give the arm-wave “No’s” when he asks if anyone there likes losing.

– Bryan said he was just happy to be back when he returned to active competition. Now, he doesn’t want to just be back, he wants to be on top. Bryan says he knows he’ll have to fight and scrap, but he will regain the WWE championship. The good times are ruined by Big Cass, who strolls onto the entrance ramp.

– Big Cass vows to prevent from Bryan from achieving his dreams and aspirations in WWE, and threatens to follow Bryan around as his “seven-foot shadow.” He mocks Bryan’s 75-minute showing in the Greatest Royal Rumble, noting that he eliminated Bryan from that match. When Cass climbs over the top rope and starts throwing sarcastic “Yes” finger-points, Bryan attacks him with forearms. He rips into Cass with kicks in the corner, then targets Cass’ surgically repaired left knee by wrenching it around the ring-rope. He keeps throwing kicks at the knee until referees hit the ring. At which time Bryan runs around the ring and slams that knee into the ring-post twice.

– When Cass regains his feet, Bryan chop-blocks him and applies a heel hook. Cass screams and taps out as five officials/agents attempt to pull Bryan away. Cass limps up the ramp as Bryan stares him down in the ring. Corey Graves testifies that Bryan snapped. Good aggression from Bryan to beat down the bully who kept sneak-attacking him. That assault looked vicious coming from an underdog babyface. Cass should’ve stayed down longer to sell that punishment. He comes off as imposing when antagonizing Bryan, but not as scary or mean as he would ideally be viewed.

The New Day vs. The Bar (Money in the Bank qualifying match)

– Big E pantomimes pouring a cereal box full of pancakes onto a ringside fan. Did the Booty O’s get confiscated at customs? Miz is doing color commentary for this match, and notes that he hasn’t held his infant daughter in 10 days. Hope that Stephanie McMahon reminds Miz that his job is to put smiles on people’s faces.

– Xavier Woods and Big E team tonight for New Day. Woods kicks Sheamus off the ring apron, hits Cesaro with a discus forearm, then somersaults over the top rope onto the Celtic Warrior. Xavier slingshots back into the ring, then bounces off the ropes with an enziguri to Cesaro for a two-count.

– When Woods goes for that impressive v-lock slam he utilized last week, Cesaro grabs his hair, holds him in place, and tags out. Cesaro drops Woods with a back suplex as Sheamus leaps off the top-rope with a double ax-handle. The Bar gets a two-count.

– Cesaro and Sheamus deliver a double-clothesline. Sheamus tags into the match, trapping Woods in a wristlock while cutting off the ring. The Irish Curse backbreaker nets a two-count. When Cesaro tags in, Woods creates separation, only to get leveled with a forearm.

– Cesaro wraps up Woods in a reverse-chinlock. The Bar hits their tandem sidekicks in the corner. Cesaro grabs Woods in a headlock with their bodies pressed against each other. It looks strange, and he wisely tags back out to Sheamus.

– The Bar keeps up the double-team offense, executing a Demolition-style elbow drop off the turnbuckle for a near-fall. Back on his feet, Woods fights out of the corner, then backdrops Cesaro to the floor.

– Both teams make needed tags. But the New Day’s tag is hotter, and Big E throws Sheamus with two belly-to-belly overhead suplexes and a side belly-to-belly version. Sheamus gets his knees up to stymie E’s attempt at a big splash, but runs into a uranage in the corner. Big E gets a near-fall. He responds by clapping and getting distracted by Cesaro.

– Sheamus schoolboys Big E, who kicks out as Sheamus makes the blind tag to Cesaro. As E picks up Sheamus for the Big Ending, Cesaro saves his partner. The Bar hits a double-sidekick and double-DDT for a near-fall on Big E.

– Cesaro applies the Sharpshooter to Big E after two failed attempts. Sheamus tries to prevent Woods from breaking the hold, but Woods shoves him into the ring-post and knocks Cesaro off of his partner.

– Woods tags in and springs off the ropes to corral Cesaro with a Tornado DDT. He gets another two-count as Miz demands to know how New Day would choose a Money in the Bank entrant if they win. Fair question, especially when he states that Kofi Kingston (inactive for this match) would have no case to be chosen.

– Cesaro throws Woods into the turnbuckles, then slams his own shoulder into the post trying to shoulder-block him. Woods follows up with his v-lock maneuver, somersaulting to plant Cesaro face-first into the mat. He covers Cesaro, inducing Sheamus to break up the pinfall.

– The powerhouses of both teams do battle. Big E hurls Sheamus to the apron, then wipes him out with a running shoulder-tackle that sends both men crashing to the arena floor. With Cesaro still down, Woods jumps off the top with his rope-walk elbow-drop for the victory.

Result: The New Day beat The Bar when Xavier Woods pinned Cesaro with his top-rope-walk elbow-drop.

Grade: B+

– We watch video of a London double-decker bus displaying an advertisement that reads, “Make Monday great again.” Way to rub it in, England.

– The Bludgeon Brothers tell us that family is for the weak and friendship is an abscess waiting to be pierced. Also, joy is a disease. These formerly positive words are associated with rival tag-teams like The Club and The Usos. Rowan counsels that, “The cure is to bludgeon.” Terrific medical advice. The Bludgeons smash the camera with their mallets. That’s got to cost a fortune when you add up the cost of the television equipment they’ve hammered to death over the past four months.

– Paige is speaking to someone on the phone, presumably about why SmackDown insists on showing Bludgeon Brothers videos and losing valuable TV cameras in the process. No, she’s talking to Carmella, who is definitely not receiving a horse-drawn carriage for her Royal ’Mellabration tonight. The arrival of Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville prompts the end of that phone call. Paige bequeaths a qualifying match to both women. The catch is that they’re both facing Becky Lynch in a triple-threat contest.

– Young interviews Styles backstage. She asks what stipulation he will choose if he wins tonight . Styles considers an inverted-scaffold match, a pole-on-a-pole match, and a bull-rope/Hell in a Cell/inferno match. Those all sound like fine choices. No matter what match AJ chooses, he says, everyone will be entertained – except Nakamura.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Jake Constantino

– After participating in the 2018 Royal Rumble, Andrade “Cien” Almas makes his SmackDown debut alongside Zelina Vega. He fights Jake Constantino, who was billed as hailing from England.

– Almas elbows his opponent, then gets cocky and takes his eye off the ball. Constantino floors him with a dropkick for a no-count. Yeah, the referee didn’t even count to one there. Constantino can’t formulate a second offensive move, as Almas slaps him hard in the chest, then stomps away at him in the corner.

– El Idolo calls for and executes the double knees as Constantino reclines against the turnbuckles. Almas hits the Hammerlock DDT to win his televised singles debut on SmackDown. I like the squash match format to introduce this dynamic wrestler.

Result: Andrade “Cien” Almas pinned Jake Constantino after a Hammerlock DDT.

Grade: D+

– Vega grabs the microphone and informs the men’s division that they didn’t come to play nice – “We came to take over.”

– Rusev expresses mild appreciation for the personal locker room that Aiden English acquired for him. Lana interrupts English’s vocal performance to share the news that she will wrestle Billie Kay next week in a Money in the Bank qualifying match. Good news: Lana recovered her Russian accent!

– A town crier rings his bell and proclaims the arrival of the fair princess “from the Isle of Staten.” He decrees, “God save Carmella!” Three beefeaters march onto the entrance ramp, with one of them carrying the SmackDown women’s championship on a pillow. Carmella snatches the belt and struts to the ring.

– Carmella grants the audience 10 seconds to shower her with praise for being Ms. Money in the Bank and the SmackDown women’s champion. This doesn’t happen. Carmella loses her benevolence and orders the crowd to bow down. This also doesn’t happen.

– Paige precludes more ranting by shuffling to the ring. She announces that it’s great to be home in England. The crowd chants “This is your house.” Paige announces that Carmella will defend her title against Asuka at Money in the Bank. Asuka enters the ring to grin at Carmella, who exits indignantly.

– Young speaks to Nakamura backstage. She asks how he feels about his chances tonight. Nakamura tells Young she’s using the wrong word. It is a “certainty” that Styles will suffer a knee-to-face.

Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville (Money in the Bank qualifying match)

– One of Deville’s on-screen “Facts” is that she lives with Mandy Rose. That’s a pretty personal bit of information to disseminate. Lynch tries to fight both women at once. She throws Rose to the floor, then trades turnbuckle head-smashes with Deville. Lynch hits her corner kick against Deville, but Rose resurfaces to ambush her, and the former Absolution teammates work in synchronicity to batter their foe.

– After roughly a minute of teamwork, Rose schoolgirls Deville for an unsuccessful cover. The two get over this betrayal by choking Lynch against the middle rope. They take turns striking Becky in the corner, then double-suplex Lynch, who rolls out of the ring. Rose and Deville casually pursue their opponent, flinging her into the ringside barricade. This slow pace makes sense, considering that one of the heels must eventually betray her friend, and each woman must figure out how she’s going to get away with it.

– And there’s Rose going for a cover on Lynch. Deville pulls her roommate off their foe. They exchange shoves, giving Lynch time to recover and mount the top rope. Lynch hurtles over her opponents, who turn around and steamroll her with a double-shoulderblock. Rose talks trash to a prone Lynch. Deville contributes by smashing Rose with a forearm.

– Deville lights up Lynch with kicks to the ribs. When she whips Lynch into the ropes, however, Becky responds with two clotheslines and a leg lariat. Lynch doubles over Deville with a spin kick, then launches her with the Becksploder. When Deville momentarily regains the upper hand, Rose reenters the fray to pitch her to ringside.

– Lynch inside cradles Rose, dodges a pump knee-strike, then seizes Rose for a Dis-Arm-Her attempt. Rose avoids that hold by throwing Lynch hard into the turnbuckles. She lands her double-underhook face plant on Lynch. Deville grabs her from behind and tosses her aside, going for the cover herself. Lynch kicks out of the near-fall.

– Deville perches Lynch on the top rope and attempts a superplex. Rose picks up her frenemy in an electric chair, allowing Lynch to soar off the top rope with a dropkick to Rose. Mandy drops Deville, leaving all three women lying hurt and exhausted on the mat.

– Lynch covers Rose unsuccessfully. She and Rose trade forearms, with Rose winning the exchange. Lynch counters the face-plant maneuver and locks in a standing version of the Dis-Arm-Her. Deville breaks the hold by kicking Lynch. Then she kicks Rose for good measure. She scores with a sliding knee to Lynch for a two-count.

– Deville goes for a suplex, which Lynch blocks. Rose runs toward Lynch for her pump knee-strike, but “accidentally” clocks Deville. Lynch grabs a shocked Rose for the Dis-Arm-Her, but Mandy counters into an O’Connor Roll. Becky kicks out at two, then applies the Dis-Arm-Her for the tapout victory. This match told an engrossing story from beginning to end, an impressive feat considering the relative inexperience of Rose and Deville.

Result: Becky Lynch beat Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville in a triple-threat match by tapping out Rose via the Dis-Arm-Her. She qualified for the women’s Money in the Bank match.

Grade: B

– Next week, Big Cass wrestles Samoa Joe in a Money in the Bank qualifying match. That’s an interesting match-up that will be probably be decided by outside interference. Joe cuts a handheld-cam video, warning Cass that ambition will make him a victim. I need to see an exciting Samoa Joe match to get that Backlash debacle off my mind.

– The Iconics cut their decidedly less-intimidating handheld-cam video. They run down London and Lana, promising that the future is “Iconic.”

WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (non-title)

– The Styles onscreen “Fact” is that he successfully defended the WWE championship against Nakamura at the last three pay-per-views. Is the SmackDown production crew intentionally trolling the booking team?

– Displaying admirable restraint, Styles and Nakamura engage in scientific wrestling instead of immediate nut-shots. Competing crowd chants favor AJ. Each man executes an unsuccessful victory-roll pinning combination. Nakamura concludes the wrestling action by hitting Styles in the gut. He then bounds off the ropes directly into a Styles dropkick.

– Styles delivers a tight backbreaker, causing Nakamura to beg off and roll from the ring. AJ gives no quarter, slingshotting himself over the top rope to bash Nakamura with a Phenomenal Forearm. But when Styles measures him for a sliding knee on the apron, Shinsuke strikes first with a kick that stops AJ in his tracks.

– Nakamura repeatedly boots Styles in the back of the head as the Phenomenal One is trapped against the ropes. Shinsuke steps into Bad Vibrations. When Styles counters the reverse Exploder, Nakamura bounces off the ropes and decks Styles with a flying kick for a two-count.

– Nakamura applies a Dragon Sleeper, hooking AJ’s right arm. Styles breaks the hold with a knee strike to the skull. His advantage doesn’t last, as Nakamura sends him back down with a forearm. Nakamura lifts Styles onto the top turnbuckle. AJ slips under Nakamura, however, and stuns him with a Pele kick.

– With both men back up, Styles unleashes his strike flurry, then follows up with a running forearm to a seated Nakamura. AJ kips up and hits a leaping clothesline in the corner. When Shinsuke dips out of an ushigoroshi attempt, Styles lifts him in a back-suplex position, then slams him face-first for a near-fall.

– Styles signals for the Styles Clash, which Nakamura foils by barreling him into the turnbuckles. AJ tries to apply the Calf Crusher out of the corner; Nakamura escapes and misses a Kinshasa. As both men bob and weave, Shinsuke connects with a wheel kick, then executes the Landslide for a two-count.

– Nakamura places Styles horizontally across the top rope. AJ avoids the knee strike as Nakamura smashes into the turnbuckle, then sizes up his opponent for the Phenomenal Forearm. When he goes for the springboard, however, Nakamura kicks his legs out, sending Styles sprawling back across the top rope. This time, Shinsuke buries his left knee into AJ’s guts, sending him to the apron.

– Making his way onto the apron, Nakamura moves to suplex AJ onto the arena floor. AJ blocks the move, but fails to execute his own suplex. Nakamura boots Styles, then climbs to the second-rope to crack AJ with a flying knee on the apron. He drags Styles into the ring for a near-fall.

– Nakamura lines up the Kinshasa. AJ undercuts him and tries to lift Nakamura for the Styles Clash. While Nakamura kicks his way out of that move, he can’t defend against the ushigoroshi, which nearly ends the match. Running out of options, Styles attempts another running forearm, which Nakamura stifles with a stiff boot. Nakamura gets all of a running knee and covers AJ, who raises his shoulder at the last split-second.

– Nakamura calls for a Kinshasa. Styles counters with a spin heel-kick. He attempts a Styles Clash, but Nakamura backdrops him to the apron. Perfectly comfortable there, AJ springboards off the top for a Phenomenal Forearm. Nakamura moves and Styles nearly decapitates the referee. As the official turtles on the mat, Nakamura grabs his own groin and pretends that Styles hit him with a low blow. As Styles turns to plead his case to the official, Nakamura snares Styles with a Reverse Exploder. A Kinshasa finishes a terrific bout that adds intrigue to their upcoming title rematch.

Result: Shinsuke Nakamura pinned AJ Styles following a Kinshasa.

Grade: A-