INTRO: We get a package promising that SmackDown Live is “bringing the heat” five days before SummerSlam. Tonight, John Cena will fight Jinder Mahal for the first time.
OPENING SEGMENT: Play-by-play announcer Tom Phillips said that the Cena vs. Mahal (presumably non-title) match may be the biggest bout in SmackDown history. On this Independence Day in India, the WWE champion would face the “greatest of his generation”. The Singhs walked out to boos in their resplendent white tops. They introduced Mahal, who walked out “with all the confidence in the world” according to Phillips. Once in the ring (with the ring corners draped in gold cloth and a flowery arrangement adorning the ropes), Mahal said his people were celebrating in the greatest nation on earth. He said his pride comes from his people. That’s admirably patriotic if you discount the insults to America. Mahal motioned to the entrance ramp, where the same colorfully dressed dancers who appeared on SmackDown after he won the world title danced down toward the ring to some live percussion. Jinder and the Singhs busted a move. This rocked. Mahal then introduced a middle-aged woman, who sang the Indian national anthem mid-ring. Jinder and the Singhs belt out the anthem with her. And the Bollywoods orbited Jinder with their shuffle hop! This was great.
Mahal told the booing crowd that this is the reaction he expected, but the Providence crowd should expect him to beat Cena later tonight. He said he made WWE the global phenomenon it is today, and that fans are subscribing to the WWE Network to see him dominate at SummerSlam. Mahal referenced the “dream match” between Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura. Tonight, Mahal said, Cena’s dream would be a reality, and he would beat him more convincingly than Nakamura ever could. He attempted to quiet the crowd so he could speak to his people in Punjabi. The dancers are now raising their hands in glee as they encircle the ring.
Nakamura’s music hit, and the Indian anthem singer applauded for some reason. Mahal fumed, “How dare you disparage my people on our day?” Lusty “Nakamura” chant. Mahal holds up the belt to more boos. Nakamura said it is Indian Independence Day. But, in Japan, it is the day when people commemorate those who died in war, and pray for peace. Remarkably, this received cheers in an American arena. In America, he said, Sunday will be the day Mahal loses the WWE title. He then crooned, “Tooooo meeeeee” in a bad-karaoke voice that still elicited cheers. Nakamura left the ring and smiled at the Singhs, who climbed the ropes and threatened Nakamura.
JBL said that AJ Styles would apologize to Shane McMahon for inadvertently kicking him last week. Becky Lynch would wrestle Natalya, and their match is up next.
Phillips said that Ric Flair underwent successful surgery, and is resting comfortably in Atlanta. He remained in critical condition. The announce team sent their best wishes to the Nature Boy and the Flair family.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
Guy in the front row has a pink “Tea Time” sign. Cheers to that. Byron Saxton said Lynch teamed up with Natalya on her first tour of Japan. JBL acknowledged that the Hart family goes back a long way with SummerSlam. After both competitors entered the ring, Naomi made her full entrance (complete with slides on the entrance ramp and in front of the announce table). In the ring, Natalya started off with a side-headlock takeover. Lynch used a hair pull to grab her own headlock. She took down Natalya, then got slapped. An angry Lasskicker fired back on Natalya with rights. She went for the arm early, causing Natalya to bail out of the ring. Lynch hit Natalya with a running kick to the back of the neck, then sipped some tea as we go to break.
Back from commercial, Natalya gripped Lynch in an abdominal stretch, clasping her hands around Lynch’s neck. Saxton asked Naomi if she agreed that she hadn’t fulfilled her potential yet. Naomi declined by saying, “Absolutely not,” then said, “I’m just breaking the tip of the iceberg.” That sounded contradictory. Lynch hip-tossed her way out of the abdominal stretch. She elbowed Natalya near the ropes to create separation, then leveled her with two clotheslines and a leg lariat. Lynch hit a spin kick that caused Natalya to double over, allowing her to grab her opponent for a Becksploder. Becky called for straight fire, then bashed Natalya with a firearm for a two count.
Back on her feet, Becky went for the Dis-Arm-Her. Natalya quashed that effort and went for the Sharpshooter, which Lynch countered into another Dis-Arm-Her attempt. Natalya bowled her over into a schoolboy. Becky kicked out and then kicked Natalya with an enziguri. Lynch went to the top rope, but missed a big leg drop. Natalya stared down Naomi and hooked in the Sharpshooter, scoring the tap-out victory. Phillips told Naomi that the Sharpshooter could be her fate on Sunday. The champ said, “Ain’t gonna happen. I got the glow, that’s why.”
Result: Natalya beat Becky Lynch by submission via the Sharpshooter.
Well after the finish, Natalya stomped Lynch and reapplied the Sharpshooter. Naomi stormed the ring and Natalya begged off. Carmella’s music hit, bringing out the Money in the Bank contract-holder and Ellsworth. She addressed the women’s champion and number-one contender, then held up the briefcase and barked that she was “Ms. Money in the Bank!” She sarcastically wished both competitors the best of luck at SummerSlam. Ellsworth said that, whoever wins, “You lose!”
Saxton said that tonight would be Breezango’s final trip to Fashion Peaks. Phillips promoted the Cena vs. Mahal match.
After commercial, Saxton talked up the impending Styles apology to Shane. We then go to the women’s locker room to listen in on a chat between Lana and Tamina. That locker room seemed like an odd place for a cameraman to be. Tamina demanded to know why Lana hadn’t used her “ravishing ambition” to get her a match tonight. Lana told Tamina that she was not ready. She said that “they” don’t see her, and don’t fear her yet. But if Tamina followed Lana’s lead, they would. She said she’d use her cunning to help make Tamina the most destructive force, “with one single purpose – to crush.”
We then visit Daniel Bryan while he messed around on his phone. Conveniently, he was approached by two smiling Usos. Bryan asked if they wanted him to be the third member of their rap group.
Daniel Bryan: “I’ve been working on my beats, my hooks. They are sick, man, they are sick!”
The Usos simultaneously said, “Yeah!” and “No!” to this offer. Upon reflection, they said they’d consider it. But what they really wanted is to find out is which two New Day members they’d be facing at SummerSlam. Bryan said the active New Day members would be Big E and Xavier Woods. The Usos said they wanted Woods and Kofi Kingston tonight. Bryan granted their wish. Jimmy and Jey extended their fists to Bryan, who grabbed both of them and “set it off”. The involved parties agreed to work on it. The Usos walked off as Bryan shimmied in their absence.
Chad Gable vs. Rusev
We get footage of Rusev kicking Randy Orton in the face just before SmackDown went off the air last week. JBL rattled off Gable’s amateur wrestling accomplishments as we start off. Rusev used brute force to pound Gable with right hands in the corner. Back into the turnbuckles, Gable booted a charging Rusev, then executed a belly-to-belly throw on his larger opponent. Rusev ducked to ringside. Gable followed, but Rusev seized him and flung his opponent back-first into the steel stairs. Rusev picked up Gable and drove him face-first into the stairs three times. As the referee counted, Rusev turned Gable into a shotput, tossing him over the announce table on the fly. Both men were counted out.
Result: Double countout.
After the match, Rusev cleared the announce table and dragged Gable onto it. He bellowed his intentions before applying the Accolade on top of the table. Saxton said that, “Rusev is seeing blood right now!” Rusev broke the hold as the crowd chanted for Orton. He grabbed a microphone and reentered the ring. He spoke one word -“Randy” – before Orton nailed an RKO Outta Nowhere. Orton flashed the fans a maniacal smile. He threw his arms up on the middle rope, then stared down at the Bulgarian Brute. Phillips said that Rusev tried to make an example of Orton, and would now pay the consequences.
The announce team plugged SummerSlam as well as NXT Takeover, which would feature a Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre championship match. A two-hour kickoff show precedes SummerSlam. We get more on Cena vs. Mahal tonight, then see Styles pacing backstage. He would make his apology next.
Styles walked out to the ring. We see highlights of the Styles/McMahon/Kevin Owens imbroglio from last week. Back in the present, Styles halted a chant and called Shane to the ring. Backwards jog and some fist-taps to the heart from Shane-O-Mac. JBL mentioned Shane’s quick temper. This crowd is hot for Shane too. He sent some love back to Providence, then told AJ that his apology is unnecessary. His role as special guest referee required someone who could take a hit and keep going. AJ confirmed that the kick was accidental, but he wanted to know if Shane would use it as an excuse to screw him over at SummerSlam. McMahon appeared taken aback. He said that what happened last week was inadvertent. But, on Sunday, if AJ put his hands on Shane again, “I’m gonna put mine all over you.”
AJ said that sounded a lot like a threat. McMahon denied it was a threat, then paused … and paused … for an uncomfortable length of time. He managed to eventually say two words before Owens’ music hit. That brought to mind a high school musical where someone missed their cue and the characters onstage couldn’t play it off convincingly. Owens said Shane gave AJ the benefit of the doubt, but KO isn’t so sure. He said that AJ had no reason to get upset, as the referee was just reciting the rules. Owens said he’s glad that Shane would fire back on AJ if he was pushed or shoved, as Styles couldn’t just get himself disqualified to save his title. Owens told Shane it would be a complete accident if he hit him Sunday. He told McMahon that he’s the man to call it right down the middle, which meant KO would reclaim his U.S. championship.
McMahon told Owens it would be inappropriate for them to shake hands. If he wanted to do so with someone, it should be with Styles. Owens extended his right hand. Styles pointed a finger in Owens’ face. The two started shoving each other, then Styles threw a right hand that nearly struck Shane, who caught the strike. Shane angrily held Styles’ wrist as the two jawed at each other. Trying to sneak up from behind, Owens delivered a superkick that missed Styles and clobbered Shane. Owens looked down at Shane in despair, realizing that he may have destroyed his chances to win the U.S. title on Sunday. He blamed Styles and stormed off. Shane rolled to his side, nodding as if to show that he understood this was how it was going to be.
New Day skipped out to the ring. Woods said the Usos wanted to catch these hands so bad, they begged for a match with New Day tonight. New Day said they could also catch these hands at SummerSlam, The Source Awards, and Gillette Stadium. That New England Patriots reference got them some love in Rhode Island. Woods said they could also catch these hands when the white walkers made their way to Westeros, and, please believe, “Y’all about to bend that knee.” To be fair, Woods’ green trombone is more animated than Jon Snow most weeks.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The New Day vs. The Usos (non-title match)
Kofi landed some kicks to the gut on Jey Uso to start the match. Quick tag for a double-team kick/clothesline/splash/Woods elbow off the middle turnbuckle combo. Phillips said that New Day brought out their speed lineup as Woods and Kingston land repeated blows on a prone Uce. The Usos found sanctuary outside the ring until New Day hit them with tandem baseball slides. Kofi threw Jey into the barricade as we go to break.
Back from commercial, things done changed. Kingston is getting worked over inside the ring as we see a replay of Kofi being directed into the ring-post during the break. JBL said New Day better get over the Night King and the Wall holding because they’re going to the Uso penitentiary. Kofi endured two body slams and extensive trash-talking from the Usos. Jey Uso went for a third slam, but Kofi turned it into a back suplex. Hot tags for both men. Woods made an impact with two running forearms followed by a dropkick to Jimmy Uso’s neck as he was draped over the middle rope. An interfering Jey met the Honor Roll. Jimmy back-dropped Woods over the top rope, but Woods landed on his feet and cracked Uso with an enziguri as he ran toward him.
Blind tag from New Day as Woods failed to execute a tornado DDT. He and Kofi followed with kicks to Jimmy Uso, then a Team DIY-esque double kick to the head. Kingston’s cover was broken up by Jey. Woods knocked him outside the ring with a discus forearm, then was dumped over the top rope himself by Jimmy Uso. Kofi missed Trouble in Paradise. He recovered to drop Jimmy into a backbreaker, setting him up for a top-rope double-team maneuver. Jey intervened, pushing Woods off the turnbuckle and causing him to land throat-first on the top rope. As a distracted Kingston went after Jey, Jimmy caught him with a chop block. He tagged out, and the twins blasted Kofi with stereo superkicks for the win. The announcers made a point of informing viewers that this wasn’t the duo that the Usos would face Sunday.
Result: The Usos beat New Day after Jey Uso pinned Kofi Kingston following dual superkicks.
Fashion Peaks time! These parodies feel more like a show-within-a-show that anything WWE has put out in ages. A suited Fandango spoke into a phone, admitting that things in space “got deep and uncomfortable.” Beating this anal probe narrative into the ground, I see. He tried to clarify that he was mentally probed. Tyler Breeze, going undercover in ladies garb, asked Dango why he was talking into a phone when they were standing near each other. Fandango held up a chunk of space rock that the aliens left in his… back pocket. This rock would enable them to catch the culprits. He chucked it offscreen, where it hit Konnor. The Ascension claimed they were just returning Breezango’s terrible pie. Fandango combed through the dessert, finding hair, a band-aid, and some gluten. Viktor protested that they led a gluten-free lifestyle as he and Konnor departed.
Fandango continued to search the pie, eventually locating a note reading, “Two B”. He said he sensed a dark, dark presence that would put the entire tag-team division in danger. Breeze said it’s happening again, then the pair grew concerned as they stared into the distance as the screen faded to black. Onscreen text promised us that Breezango would return in 25 years. This hiatus was summarily reduced to two weeks.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal vs. John Cena (non-title match)
Phillips said it is a test for Mahal to face Cena tonight with Nakamura looming on Sunday. Slow start to this match as Cena played to the “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” alternating chants. We get an old-fashioned test of strength. Mahal won it, then booted Cena when he was starting to come back. Mahal grabbed a headlock and we hear Cena loudly call a spot involving a “headlock”. He threw Mahal off the ropes, floored him with a shoulder-tackle, then grabbed a headlock, as he himself prophesied. Mahal backed him into a corner and stunned him with a right hand. He backed away, allowing Samir Singh to knock down Cena with a cheapshot. Mahal hurled Cena to ringside. The Singhs taunt him as we go to break.
Mahal maintained his advantage, then missed a corner charge. Given time to recuperate, Cena connected on two flying shoulder-tackles and Blue Thunder. He threw some “You can’t see me” shade at the Singhs before hitting the Five Knuckle Shuffle. The Singhs responded by pulling Jinder out of the ring. Mahal made his way to the other side, chased by Cena, who is then grabbed by the Singhs. The referee saw the interference and ejected the brothers from ringside. On Indian Independence Day, Phillips said, the Maharaja was “liberated” from the Singh Brothers. Cena took advantage of Jinder being distracted and locked in the STF. Mahal crawled to the bottom rope to break the hold.
Back on his feet, Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment. Mahal made his way to the ring apron, and snapped Cena’s throat across the top rope. He then connected with a running knee for a near fall. Mahal called for Cena to rise. He attempted to execute the Khallas, but Cena powered out. He caught Jinder’s boot and landed an Attitude Adjustment. He covered Jinder, who escaped by throwing up his left shoulder at the last millisecond. Many fans yelling out “Three!” there in expectation of a Cena victory. Undeterred, Cena perched Mahal on the top rope and lifted Mahal for a crushing Attitude Adjustment. As he went for the pinfall, Baron Corbin ran into the ring and bulled over Cena to break the cover.
Result: John Cena beat Jinder Mahal by disqualification after Baron Corbin interfered.
After the match, Corbin walloped Cena in the face with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Corbin began to walk the entrance ramp. He slowly looked down at the briefcase, then back at the ring as the crowd grasped his thinking. He ran back into the ring and handed the briefcase over to cash in his world title shot. Corbin yelled for a beaten Mahal to struggle to his feet. The referee called for Mahal to compete as the pained champion slowly rose in the corner.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal vs. Baron Corbin
The bell rang and Corbin immediately punched Cena off the ring apron. Mahal crept behind Corbin and school-boyed him for the three-count. JBL yelled, “It’s official! Baron Corbin just lost the Money in the Bank contract!”
Result: Jinder Mahal pinned Baron Corbin with a schoolboy.
Grade: D for Dashed Dreams.
An apoplectic Corbin fumed inside the ring. Mahal laughed at he clutched his title and accepted hugs from the Singhs near the entrance curtain. Cena grinned at his unintentional effect on a title match. Corbin slammed down an announce desk monitor as JBL yelled, “Baron Corbin made the mistake of his life!” A dejected Corbin stared up at the entrance ramp as we go off the air. Phillips said Corbin’s hopes and dreams were just dashed. JBL promised a hell of a fight between Corbin and Cena at SummerSlam.
Jinder celebrates Independence Day
A festive celebration that brought us the long-awaited return of the Bollywood shuffle hop. Regardless of face/heel alignment, this lively performance should have gotten cheers instead of dumbass “USA” chants.
Daniel Bryan lives and dies for hip-hop
Great to see one of the most entertaining superstars of the past decade tout his mad lyrical flow. While Bryan’s in-ring career may be over, WWE should continue to utilize his goofy charisma and special connection to the fans. Just not with a heel tag team that’s made a habit of deliberately and viciously injuring its opponents.
New Day vs. Usos, but for free
A decent match that didn’t do much for either team. Seems illogical to give it away on SmackDown five days before you ask people to pay for it. It was smart, though, for the Usos to just ask Bryan what combination of New Day they’d be facing at SummerSlam. Surprising that no one’s thought of that before now.
Ready, willing, and discarded
After having two standout SmackDown matches this summer, Gable was beaten up thoroughly and left for dead by Rusev. His pummeling wasn’t even the purpose or climax of this segment. Hopefully, WWE determines a better use of his talents post-SummerSlam.
Mahal seemed more confident on the mic than at any other point in his championship reign. If he retains the championship at SummerSlam, tonight’s outing bodes well for the Maharaja. His real main event opponent, however, suffered a staggering rejection from WWE powerbrokers. Corbin lost what should have been a de facto coronation in stunning fashion. I’d love to know when the decision was made to essentially strip him of his Money in the Bank contract on cable TV. It’s difficult not to see this booking as a lack of faith in him when it’s part of an angle to promote a mid-card SummerSlam match.