INTRO: For the first time in recent memory, we lead with the full SmackDown opening theme, which is heavy on champions Jinder Mahal and Natalya.
OPENING SEGMENT: General manager Daniel Bryan “Yes’ed” his way to the ring. Bryan looked happy in his home state and flannel/jeans gear. Big chant from the Seattle fans. He announced that Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair would wrestle Tamina, Lana, and Natalya in a six-woman tag-team match. Mahal would make a special announcement, and Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler would face off in a Hell in a Cell rematch. But Bryan said he’d like to personally address someone whose actions at Hell in a Cell “disappointed me” – Sami Zayn. This immediately brought out Sami, who skanked to the ring in an insanely dorky fashion. Any three-second portion of this entrance now serves as my favorite GIF.
Zayn danced around Bryan before coming face-to-face with his erstwhile advocate. Bryan scolded him for his antics, asking if this is really the same guy he’d known for 13 years. Zayn said he’s still the same person he’s always known, a great guy. He just decided to take back control of his career. The crowd seemed ambivalent until Zayn questioned whether some of them believed he was a bad guy. Bryan said he’d been in Zayn’s shoes; Sami cut him off and said they’re not the same, although they have some similarities. “We’re both gifted in-ring performers. Well, I still am.” OK, he’s a heel now.
The big difference between them, Sami declared while gesturing to the crowd, is that, “You had them”. The fans made Bryan the superstar he was. But those same people didn’t uphold their half of the agreement with Sami Zayn. The fans didn’t keep their end of the bargain, where Zayn does everything right and they cheer for him so loud and hard that they make him undeniable to management. Zayn assured that crowd repeatedly that he didn’t care what they thought anymore. And, between you and me, Daniel, it feels ah-mazing. Zayn told Bryan that if he lost his martyr complex and worked a little smarter, he wouldn’t have had to retire in the same building they were now standing inside. A “Sami sucks” chant started up.
Zayn said he considered Bryan a once-in-a-lifetime performer. He spent his career trying to catch up to Bryan, but he was always two steps ahead. At this time, however, Bryan is the last person Zayn would ever want to be like: a man who broke his body for glory and adulation just to end up a housewife. This burn elicited a Kevin Owens sighting. Owens told Zayn he was happy he’d seen the light. KO called Bryan “Mr. Bella”, and said he’d regressed to being a hypocrite. Bryan told KO that Owens didn’t care about anyone but himself. Owens fired back that Bryan is now the authority; Zayn piggybacked on that comment to state that Bryan is a sellout. Sami thanked Owens for saving him from that fate, and the two reunited friends shared a manly hug.
Bryan left the ring. He promised that he’d find a couple of dudes to punch Zayn and Owens in the face.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Naomi vs. Natalya, Tamina, and Lana
Byron Saxton sent out congrats to Nikki Bella for her best-yet performance on Dancing With the Stars. Carmella sat with a leashed Ellsworth at the announce table. When the bell sounded, Naomi and Natalya tangled. Natalya backed her into a corner, gave a clean break, then ran into a boot. Natalya countered by picking up Naomi for a back suplex, then dropping her on her rear. She followed up by running up Naomi’s back while the former champion was seated, then running into a leg lariat for a two-count. Naomi took a running start to slap Natalya, sending the champ to ringside. Not to be deterred, Naomi executed a pescado onto Natalya and Tamina.
Back in the ring, Natalya took over with a snapmare and reverse chin-lock. Naomi armdragged her way out of the hold, then tagged Lynch. Becky rang Natalya’s arm, taking her to the mat before landing a legdrop. Lynch attempted to apply an arm bar to Natalya, who scooted quickly out of the ring as we go to break.
Back in action, Tamina steamrolled Naomi into the heel corner. Lana tagged in and executed a suplex. Michael Cole inaccurately said that Lana and Naomi had “quite a rivalry” this summer. Lana went for the cover, then grounded her opponent. Naomi fought to her feet before being tossed to the mat by her hair. Lana threw shots at Becky and Charlotte, bringing Flair into the ring and allowing her to pull Naomi to her corner for some double-team punishment. Naomi surprised Lana with a schoolboy. Lana kicked out and prevented Naomi’s first attempt at making the hot tag, but not her second try.
Charlotte entered to knock all three opponents to the ground. She pelted Lana with chops, then sent her into the ropes and chopped her down. Charlotte strutted like the Nature Boy, then dropped a knee onto her opponent. She executed a t-bone suplex on Lana, then kipped up. Lana got a boot up in her corner to stop Charlotte’s momentum. She then ran into a bigger boot by Charlotte, who went for the figure-four. Natalya broke up the attempt by throwing Charlotte into the middle turnbuckle. Lynch neutralized the champion with a Becksploder suplex; she was summarily superkicked by Tamina. Naomi took out her former stable-mate with a springboard cross-body-block, leaving only the two legal women left in the ring. Lana went for the pin with an O’Connor Roll. Charlotte kicked out, then took down Lana for the Figure Eight submission.
Result: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Naomi beat Natalya, Tamina, and Lana when Charlotte Flair tapped out Lana with the Figure Eight.
After the match, Natalya pulled Charlotte out of the ring. She drove her back-first into the announce table. Natalya grabbed a steel chair, but Charlotte kicked the weapon back into her foe. Charlotte eyed the chair with a grin. She grabbed it and chased Natalya over the barricade.
Bryan walked up to Owens and Zayn backstage. He told them they’d be facing Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Finally, we get the SmackDown Return of Fashion Files. This is Pulp Fashion, starring Fandango, Tyler Breeze, and the Ascension. Our bulletin board material includes John Cena (wearing variously colored t-shirts) as Mr. Blue, Mr. White, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Pink. Fandango attempted to question the Ascension, who asked why they’d been waiting for hours behind a desk. He told them to be cool like the Fonz, prompting them to make a jump-the-shark joke that was presumably about these vignettes. Fandango clarified that he meant cool like his partner; a femme fatale Breeze danced and vamped like Mia Wallace. Uma Breeze informed the Ascension that, in Paris, a cheeseburger is called a Royale Rumble with Cheese. Breeze bit into a burger that was just sitting out on the table.
The Ascension rightfully told Breezango that they hadn’t even solved the case of 2B, which is obviously the Bludgeon Brothers. Breeze choked on the cheeseburger and went down. Fandango yelled that he was allergic to pickles. The Ascension said they’d help if Breezango would promise to be their friends. Fandango acquiesced. He was handed what appeared to be the world’s largest turkey baster and told to jam it into Tyler’s chest. As he was about to do so, Breeze wheezed his way back to consciousness. He blamed his temporary sickness on a nasty hamburger bun; Viktor told him it was gluten-free. As the teams bickered over whether they were best friends, Breeze pointed out that someone had taken the briefcase that had been lying on a nearby table. The Ascension called for Fashion Files 4: Assemble. This saga will be continued.
U.S. Champion Baron Corbin vs. Sin Cara (non-title match)
Before the bell rang, Corbin asked if anyone wanted him to give Sin Cara an opportunity and make this a title bout. The crowd cheered; Corbin told them he wouldn’t do it anyway, and proclaimed the United States Open Challenge closed. When the match started, Corbin powered Sin Cara into the corner and bullied him. Sin Cara fought back with punches and a dropkick that knocked Corbin out of the ring. He cracked Corbin with an enziguri, then sent him hard into the barricade with a suicide dive through the ropes.
Corbin got to the ring apron, where Sin Cara snapped his neck over the top rope. Sin Cara perched on the top turnbuckle, then dove off onto Corbin on the arena floor. Corbin stumbled his way toward the ring, failing to make the count in time.
Result: Sin Cara beat Baron Corbin by countout.
Renee Young interviewed the Usos backstage. She asked them about facing Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. Uce talked about walking out of Hell in a Cell the five-time tag-team champions, and feeling like it was Christmas morning. Gable and Benjamin interrupted; Gable rapped that his team would wrap the Usos up and tap them out. Gable and Benjamin offered their hands to the Usos, then pulled them back as the twins attempted to shake. Pretty heelish stuff, but at least the faces didn’t look too much like geeks or wusses.
We get another Bludgeon Brothers promo, this time in the woods for whatever reason. They vowed that the darkness of destruction always prevails over the futility of light. The two men then smashed the ground with their giant hammers. This looked like a deleted scene from Lord of the Rings.
Cole introduced a video package showing Jinder Mahal visiting Mumbai and New Delhi last week. He looked like he endured a media blitz on his Indian trip. Back in the arena, the Singh Brothers introduced Mahal, and all three men walked to the ring. Jinder touted his hero’s welcome in India. He related the story of a young boy asking the Maharaja what is next. Mahal said he must make a Survivor Series challenge. The crowd chanted, “You can’t wrestle.” Jinder wisely just held up the belt and reminded the fans he is WWE champion.
Mahal said he must beat the most dominant force in WWE. So he is challenging Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Mahal said he wanted every fan to bow down when he beats Lesnar. AJ Styles made his entrance. While Mahal claimed to have beaten every worthy opponent on SmackDown, he’s never beaten Styles. Mahal called him a loser. Styles said it shouldn’t be a problem, then, to offer a championship shot to the Phenomenal One. Mahal called Styles’ challenge a joke, asking if AJ knew who he was. Styles hit his breaking point, unleashing a flurry of strikes on Mahal. He cleared the ring of Singhs, then clocked Mahal with a Pele kick. Team Maharaja bailed while someone held up a “Jinder Neutral” sign in the crowd.
Bryan talked on a cell phone backstage. Mahal told Bryan that Sunil Singh would challenge Styles next week on the Maharaja’s orders. Sunil looked surprised at this news.
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
The announce team adeptly showed how Ziggler tried to use the tights to pin Roode at Hell in a Cell, then threw a fit when Roode used the same tactic to win the match. Ziggler beat on Roode with right hands to start the match. When he celebrated briefly, Roode walloped him with a running clothesline. Unable to prevent Ziggler from rolling under the bottom rope, Roode followed him to ringside. Ziggler drove his opponent back-first into the ring apron. He followed up with a dropkick on the concrete as we go to break.
Back live, Roode fought his way out of a chinlock with right hands. He bounded off the ropes directly into a sleeper. When Roode tried to escape the hold by back-suplexing Ziggler, Dolph backflipped out and went for a dropkick. Roode countered the counter by slingshotting Ziggler into the corner. Ziggler smashed his head against the turnbuckle. Both men made it to their feet. Roode blocked Ziggler’s right hands and landed his own blows. He hit Ziggler with a running forearm and two clotheslines. Ziggler staved off a back-body-drop by kicking Roode, but ran into a spinning uranage for a two-count.
Roode clotheslined Ziggler in the corner, then went to the middle rope. He jumped past Ziggler, who took him over with a schoolboy and a handful of tights. Roode kicked out anyway and went for the Glorious DDT. Ziggler escaped and went for the superkick. Roode caught his leg and rolled him over for a schoolboy pinning combination. He got two. Roode went back after Ziggler, and was sent face-first into the top turnbuckle. Ziggler executed another schoolboy combination, and held the tights with both hands for the victory.
Result: Dolph Ziggler pinned Bobby Roode with a schoolboy pinning combination.
Cole announced that Lesnar would respond to Mahal’s Survivor Series challenge at Raw on Monday. Backstage, a resplendent Aiden English serenaded various WWE staffers. The New Day came crashing through a nearby door. Xavier Woods blared his trombone as Kofi Kingston and Big E yelled and threw cereal in the air. New Day told English he looked like the Gershwin of Grumpy. Rusev walked in to quash the fun. He said there would be no more New Day; only Rusev Day matters now. New Day agreed that it’s time to celebrate Rusev Day. Woods played his entrance theme as Big E intently tossed cereal into the air. Rusev said his day is not a joke. English began singing the Rusev Day theme; Rusev humorously said it wasn’t the time.
Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Sami and Shinsuke start us off, bringing back memories of their match-of-their-year candidate in NXT last year. Zayn started with a top-wristlock. Nakamura cartwheeled out of it and applied his own wristlock. He whipped Zayn into the ropes; Sami leapfrogged over Nakamura and applied an armbar. Nakamura pushed Zayn to the ropes and did his headrest/arm-wave taunt. He implored Zayn to bring it. Sami charged and absorbed a knee. Zayn avoided two kicks but absorbed the third strike. Nakamura stepped into Good Vibrations in the corner and tagged Orton.
Owens also tagged in and took some rights from Orton. He met Orton with a boot in the corner, then had to shove Orton away from an RKO attempt before fleeing to ringside. Orton pursued his opponent. He knocked down Zayn before Owens did the same to Orton. KO threw Orton face-first into the ringpost before tossing him into the barricade. We go to break.
Back from commercial, Nakamura struck Owens with a knee in the corner. Shinsuke went for the running knee on Owens when KO was draped over the top rope. Zayn freed his friend, causing Nakamura to slam his knee into the top turnbuckle. Owens followed up with a chop-block to that left knee. Owens kicked away at Shinsuke’s leg, then dropped his weight across it. Zayn tagged in and stood on Nakamura’s leg. He set up Owens to stomp Nakamura. KO landed more shots to the knee before scoring on a running senton for a two-count. Owens took us to Chinlock City. Nakamura battled out of it, but one kick to his knee halted Shinsuke’s momentum.
Owens sent Nakamura to the turnbuckles. Shinsuke sidestepped Owens, this time landing the running knee to the gut. Nakamura and Owens both made tags. Orton exploded onto Zayn with two clotheslines. When Sami held the ropes to avoid a powerslam, Orton caught his follow-up move, and overhead-suplexed Zayn. Orton turned his attention to Owens, knocking him off the ring apron and dropping him back-first onto the top of the barricade. Zayn took the opportunity to kick Orton into the announce table. Smiling, he ran off the ropes for a high-risk maneuver. Orton stuffed that attempt with a right hand, then went for the rope-drape DDT onto the concrete. Sami scrambled out, but Orton grabbed him and dropped him through the table with a back suplex.
Orton rolled Zayn into the ring for a cover, which Owens broke up. Nakamura evened the odds by ejecting Owens from the ring. Orton and Zayn recovered in opposite corners. They ran at each other, and Orton got the better of the exchange with a powerslam for a near-fall. Zayn rolled to the ring apron. As Orton pulled him up for the DDT, KO recovered and flung Nakamura into the steel stairs. Owens attempted to get into the ring, distracting the referee and allowing Zayn to low-blow Orton. Zayn nailed Orton with the Helluva Kick for the win.
Grade: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens beat Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura when Zayn pinned Orton following a Helluva Kick.
Zayn and Owens celebrated their victory as they walked up the ramp. Backstage, Bryan was there to “greet” them. Zayn informed Bryan that they just beaten the top two guys on SmackDown. He asked what the GM had in store for them next week. Bryan said their match next week wasn’t up to him; it would be Shane McMahon’s decision. The Canadians got sobered up real quick by the news of Shane’s pending return.
Nakamura and Orton stood at ringside looking ticked off. Owens and Zayn walked back out to exult some more on the ramp. KO bragged that the duo IS SmackDown Live, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Owens embraced his “best friend” Zayn as he loudly commanded Sami to hold him tight.