WWE SmackDown Live REVIEW: Full Results, Grades & Highlights 05/23/18

Almas debuted, Joe vs. Bryan was announced, and Nakamura chose the stipulation for the match between he and Styles on the latest SmackDown Live.

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SmackDown seems like it’s headed to a new home – and possibly a new day – on American television. WWE is finalizing an agreement with the Fox network to run SmackDown beginning in October 2019. This deal would bring SmackDown to broadcast television for a five-year period. The catch is that Fox would likely run the show on Friday nights. And, if that switch is indeed made, you wonder if WWE would bother to broadcast the show live anymore. These are, however, questions for another day. Now, it’s time to see if SmackDown can produce anything as enjoyably terrible as Sami Zayn interviewing Lashley’s three sisters Monday night on Raw.

Intro: We join SmackDown via cold open in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tom Phillips excitedly tells us that we’re going to find out the stipulation tonight for the AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura WWE title match at Money in the Bank. Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy will wrestle each other for the first time tonight; the winner will compete against Samoa Joe in a Money in the Bank qualifying match.

The Miz stands mid-ring in his Cobra Kai sensei outfit. It’s time for Miz TV. He gives the Cleveland Cavaliers a shout-out; the Boston-area crowd doesn’t like this jibe, as their beloved Celtics are facing the Cavs in the NBA playoffs. See, British fans, this is how I feel when someone makes an EPL soccer reference on SmackDown.

Miz promises us two exclusives tonight. The first scoop is that his new docuseries, Miz and Mrs., will debut July 24. He starts a desultory chant for his upcoming show, then smirks, “God, I can get you to do anything tonight.”

Our 2nd exclusive will be delivered via The New Day. They Frisbee-toss pancakes at their fans, then sit down for an interview. Miz asks if they are excited for Miz and Mrs. New Day lets out a high-pitched demurral. He asks if they’re going to watch it, or even DVR it. They look mildly uncomfortable and do the high-pitched demurral noise again. Pretty great that New Day is disrespecting a debuting show while appearing on the television network that’s going to run it in two months.

A perturbed Miz asks which New Day member will compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match. They get N’Sync by simultaneously announcing, “It’s gonna be me.” Woods says it’s got to be Big E, who suggests Kofi, who recommends Woods. Miz loses his cool and yells that he can beat any member of New Day any day of the week. The trio huddles up to conference. Kingston definitively says it’s going to be Big E. The Miz trumpets his exclusive scoop. New Day clarifies that they’re talking about a singles match for tonight’s show. But, since the Miz didn’t receive his exclusive, he’s not giving New Day the match they want.

New Day shames Miz while flipping pancakes at him. Miz abandons his talk show and runs backstage, where Paige commands him to fight Big E.

Big E vs. The Miz

Miz tries for a go-behind on Big E, who hip-swivels his way out of it and tosses his opponent. E hooks an abdominal stretch and spanks Miz as he works it. As Miz absorbs an elbow and crawls to the apron, Big E stomps him in time to the “New Day Rocks” chant. So, yeah, lots of comedic offense in this opening match.

And that theme continues. Big E splashes Miz on the apron, which is a great-looking move. Then New Day turns to the sweet science of boxing. Woods leaves his guest commentary spot to rub petroleum jelly on E’s face while Kingston pours maple syrup into their teammate’s mouth and holds a spit-bucket. I’ve often thought it would be great to have a manager or teammate who gave you a towel and water during your matches. With the second round apparently ready to start, Big E vacates his stool (phrasing) and pursues his opponent.

Miz takes advantage of this goofiness to trip Big E off the apron, then hurl him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Miz strikes Big E with two boots to the face. When E catches a third boot attempt, Miz escapes a powerbomb attempt, then hits his backbreaker/neckbreaker combination for a one-count. Miz lands his corner clothesline, but gets socked in the gut when he attempts his top-rope double ax-handle. Big E can’t sustain momentum, though, as Miz catches him with a knee to the midsection as E sprints toward him.

Miz jumps onto Big E’s back to apply a sleeper. E breaks the hold, then throws him with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Two more suplexes set the A-Lister down, and Big E takes advantage to hit the running splash. While Miz creates separation with a boot, he then runs into a one-armed uranage for a near-fall.

Big E goes for his running shoulder-tackle through the ropes. Miz side-steps him, hits two kicks, then hooks his DDT for a two-count. With E back up, both wrestlers take out each other with a double-clothesline. At this point, the Bar runs to ringside and ambushes Woods from behind. Kingston leaves his guest commentary spot to leap off the stairs, springboard off Cesaro’s shoulder, and crash into Sheamus. That’s an eye-popping move even by his standards. Kofi lays into Cesaro with right hands until Sheamus snaps back with a Brogue Kick.

Cesaro distracts Big E, who relinquishes Miz from the Big Ending position. E chases Cesaro away, then eats a Skullcrushing Finale.

Result: The Miz pinned Big E following a Skullcrushing Finale.

Grade: B

We watch a replay of Daniel Bryan kicking the tar out of Big Cass last week. Live, Cass hobbles backstage on crutches. The announce team draws a line between that beating and Cass eventually breaking down on the European tour. His injury opens up a Money in the Bank opportunity for Bryan and Hardy, who already lost their qualifiers. Frankly, neither man should be losing two of these qualifying matches.

Bryan warms up backstage as Dasha Fuentes approaches to ask about his second chance. Bryan briefly throws shade at Cass, then calls Hardy a legend and revolutionary. He vows to tap out that legend tonight.

Aiden English plays hype man for Lana, getting the crowd to chant, “Lana is the best, Lana number one.” While changing Rusev Day’s face/heel ideology every single week is novel, it still feels like WWE is missing the boat with this crew. Lana comes out and shows off some hip-hop dancing, then … another unknown type of movement. She’s smiling broadly, which makes her a face, probably? Why is Rusev absent from ringside when English (whom she implied needs to be jettisoned) accompanies her?

The IIconics walk out and deliver a vocal duet. Their lyric is “Lana is a loser”; their range is exceedingly soprano. Phillips notes that Lana has never won a one-on-one match in WWE. Great point. So why is she getting this Money in the Bank qualifying opportunity?

Lana vs. Billie Kay (Money in the Bank qualifying match)

The bell rings. English clears his throat and parades around with a “Lana Day” sign that prompts a crowd chant. Peyton Royce challenges this commemoration of Lana Day by slapping English. Lana leaves the ring to slap Royce and heave her into the barricade. Billie Kay grabs Lana and throws her into the ring.

As an angry Kay gets back in the ring, Lana stuns her with a roundhouse kick. Yelling out, “Machka”, Lana executes a sit-down face-slam to win her first WWE singles match.

Result: Lana pinned Billie Kay after a sit-down face-slam. She qualifies for the Money in the Bank ladder match.

Grade: D

Backstage, Zelina Vega touts the cosmopolitan experience of Andrade “Cien” Almas. She pouts that Almas received no special treatment during his SmackDown debut. If he doesn’t receive what he deserves, she warns, then they’re just going to take it. Almas grins and stays silent.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Some Guy

The jobber gets no name or introduction. But he does get several rights from Almas, who stomps him down in the corner. This enhancement talent looks like a semi-athletic Alan Tudyk. Look up Firefly if you haven’t seen him/it. Surprisingly, the jobber fights back with several strikes. Unsurprisingly, the jobber then gets waffled with a spinning back-elbow. Almas hits the double-knees to Not Tudyk’s neck in the corner, then plants him with the Hammerlock-DDT.

Result: Andrade “Cien” Almas pinned Some Guy with a Hammerlock DDT.

Extreme close-up of Asuka’s mask in a backstage shot. That’s creepy. Ah, it’s Carmella donning it. She tells Fuentes that she’s not afraid of Asuka, and makes the obligatory mention of beating Charlotte Flair twice. Carmella brags that she’ll moonwalk all over Asuka at Money in the Bank.

Styles and Nakamura join Renee Young in the ring. Nakamura’s music features a piercing violin slide this week instead of the band tune-up video. You’re welcome for that nugget of info. Styles cuts off Young’s first question to ask Nakamura what the stipulation will be for their WWE championship match. Nakamura orders Styles to relax, and remember why he gets to choose the stip. We watch the video of Shinsuke beating AJ last week.

Styles tells him to remember that match, because it won’t happen again. Nakamura interrupts Styles to instruct him to “Be quiet!” Then he makes a threat.

FIGHTING WORDS: “I will not just beat you. I will dishonor you.” – Shinsuke Nakamura to AJ Styles

Nakamura predicts that Styles will never be the same, and the house that AJ built will belong to Nakamura. Styles blows off that pronouncement, again requesting the stipulation. Nakamura says something unintelligible that sounds like, “Bill White.” Styles clarifies that he said, “Pillow fight.” Nakamura laughs and jives around. His heel persona works because he can butcher a line like that, yet still look cool. Styles fires back by calling Shinsuke the “King of Soft Style.” The writing staff hands him the worst punchlines of any main-event superstar.

Nakamura turns serious, claiming that Styles jokes because he’s afraid. He starts up again with the knee-to-face stuff. Styles informs Nakamura that the stipulation doesn’t matter because Shinsuke can’t beat him when it matters. Furthermore, “You’re not the Shinsuke Nakamura we wanted on SmackDown Live.” I really hope that line didn’t come directly from the boss.

Nakamura tries to cheap-shot Styles. AJ blocks the strike, then takes the fight to Nakamura. He tosses him over the barricade into the timekeeper’s area. As AJ clears the announce table, Nakamura runs a steel chair into his midsection. Styles avoids a second chairshot, then fights Nakamura into the crowd and back to ringside. When AJ tries to springboard off the barricade at Nakamura, Shinsuke clobbers him again with the chair. Nakamura counts Styles down like a referee. When AJ stands back up, he drops him with a facebuster onto the announce table’s edge. That looked painful. A Kinshasa follows. Nakamura resumes his ten-count, then grabs a microphone to confirm we’re getting a Last Man Standing match at Money in the Bank.

After this segment aired, WWE.com ran its top story with the headline, “Shinsuke Nakamura intends to be the Land Man Standing against AJ Styles.” Get that WWE title, Land Man! I guess Nakamura’s “No speak English” slogan now applies to WWE’s website.

The Usos vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (SmackDown Tag Team Championship Number One Contenders Match)

The Club-mates don’t get a televised ring entrance, but they do get mic-time. Karl Anderson tells The Usos that, “when y’all had y’all’s shot” against the Bludgeon Brothers, they blew it. Luke Gallows calls them nerds, and fisticuffs ensue.

The brawl briefly spills outside, with the official calling for the bell soon after the two teams bring it back inside the ring. The Usos outmaneuver Gallows and Anderson, knocking them back to ringside. Jey Uso leaps over the top rope to crush both of them. The Usos double-team Gallows, driving him back-first into the ring-post.

The Usos continue their tandem offense in the ring, flooring Gallows with a running forearm, then wrenching him with a wishbone. Gallows makes the hot tag after back-suplexing Jimmy Uso, and Anderson clocks Jey with a European uppercut, clothesline, and running forearm. Anderson nails his “Hi-yah” kick in the corner, then gets a near-fall via that nifty neckbreaker off the middle-turnbuckle.

Anderson goes for a top-rope move on Jey, who knocks him down and goes for his own high-risk move. Jey vaults over Anderson from up top, then hits an enziguri. Gallows tags in, only to miss a corner charge and get kicked in stereo by both Usos. Jimmy lands two kicks to Gallows, and Jey flies off the top-rope with a splash for a convincing near-fall.

Jimmy tags back as the Usos climb the turnbuckles on opposing sides of the ring. Anderson reemerges to shove Jey to the arena floor. Gallows takes advantage of the distraction, catching Jimmy by the throat as he jumps. Jimmy fights back with a superkick, only for Gallows to respond with his own thrust kick. Gallows and Anderson unleash the Magic Killer to win an important victory on their new brand.

Result: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat The Usos when Anderson pinned Jimmy Uso following a Magic Killer. Gallows and Anderson will face The Bludgeon Brothers at Money in the Bank in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship match.

Grade: B-

Naomi vs. Sonya Deville (Money in the Bank qualifying match)

Sonya Deville controls Naomi with mat wrestling early, forcing the veteran to kick out of two pinning combinations. Naomi executes a victory roll for a one-count, then, strangely, holds two fingers apart to show that she was “this close” to winning. Both women miss leg sweeps and roundhouse kicks. That sequence reminds me of playing Mortal Kombat very poorly in the 90s.

Naomi dekes out Deville by doing the splits, avoiding a kick, then leapfrogging over her opponent. Deville has enough and double-legs Naomi hard for a two-count. Sonya throws fists to Naomi’s body, then rams a sliding knee into her spine. Deville could be pushed more strongly as a hybrid fighter if the most-famous female MMA fighter in history wasn’t already signed to WWE.

Deville slams Naomi with a spinebuster, then kicks away at her ribs. Naomi boots Devile in the corner, and the two exchange kicks to the legs and ribs as they wince in pain. Naomi and Deville just start kicking each other at the same time, then simultaneously attempt enziguris. Naomi’s strike looked like it landed more effectively, but Deville regains the edge when they make it to their feet. Sonya lays in Muay Thai knees to the body. She misses a superman punch, however, and Naomi utilizes a modified roll-up to earn the victory. There’s no way she wasn’t going to be featured in a women’s ladder match.

Result: Naomi pinned Sonya Deville with a modified roll-up. She qualifies for the Money in the Bank ladder match.

Grade: C+

Hardy tells Young backstage that his “synapses fired up” when he heard he’d be wrestling Bryan tonight. He advises us that he and Bryan are about to “scorch your cerebrum.”

Samoa Joe walks to ringside to provide guest commentary. I’m sure he’ll keep it professional.

U.S. Champion Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan (non-title)

These two faces shake hands to start. Hardy applies a headlock, then shoulder-blocks Bryan. They engage in a test of strength. Hardy wins, then Bryan takes over with scientific wrestling, working Hardy’s left arm. Bryan hits his own shoulder-block for a two-count. The two competitors trade arm ringers. When Bryan tries to pick up the pace, Hardy stops him with an inverted atomic-drop, double leg-drop, and low dropkick. Bryan rolls to ringside to recuperate.

Back from break, Bryan wrings Hardy’s left arm and Irish whips him. Bryan can’t corral Hardy, however, and both men collide with cross-body-blocks. Great commentary by Samoa Joe, who says he likes to study what he hunts, and that seeing these two thrash each other “warms the cockles.”

Both men trade strikes, with Bryan nailing Hardy with an enziguri to knock him to ringside. Bryan revs up and bashes Hardy with a running wrecking-ball dropkick, sending Jeff tumbling neck-first into the barricade. Back on the apron, Bryan misses a flying knee, allowing Hardy time to connect on his own flying clothesline. With Bryan back in the ring, Jeff goes up top. Bryan swipes his legs, causing Jeff to land hard on the top turnbuckle. DB hangs Hardy in the tree of woe, punishing him with Yes Kicks to the gut and a baseball slide to the face.

Bryan perches Hardy on the top turnbuckle and attempts a back-suplex. Hardy elbows Bryan to the mat, then delivers the Whisper in the Wind for a two-count. When Jeff tries to follow up with a Twist of Fate, Bryan pushes him away, then targets his left knee with a low dropkick. Bryan snaps off several Yes Kicks. Hardy ducks the roundhouse kick, though, and executes the Twist of Fate (Stunner Style).

Hardy goes for the Swanton Bomb, but Bryan gets his knees up to block the move. Bryan hits the roundhouse kick for a near-fall. He calls for the running knee. Hardy dodges that move and rolls up Bryan for another near-fall. Back up, Hardy ducks a roundhouse kick and schoolboys Bryan unsuccessfully. Bryan counters a backslide, slips out of a second Twist of Fate, and wrangles Hardy for a deep dragon-screw leg-whip. He applies the heel-hook. That is a really nasty-looking submission, and Hardy taps out.

Result: Daniel Bryan tapped out Jeff Hardy with a heel-hook submission.

Grade: B+

Samoe Joe yells Bryan’s name over the microphone, and enters the ring. He ends the celebration by reminding Bryan that he just “won” a fight against Joe next week. Joe walks backstage, and tells Young that Bryan is going to sleep in seven days.

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