WWE SmackDown Live REVIEW: Full Results, Grades & Highlights 06/12/18

WWE Smackdown Live
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With Raw grabbing the wrestling world’s attention through the long-awaited sight of Baron Corbin finally sporting a shaved head, SmackDown will look to counteract the flagship show’s momentum as we head into Sunday night’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view. We’ll need the entertainment. Just before this telecast aired, a cologne commercial repurposed my second favorite Bowie song (“Starman”) to sell its fragrance. This truly is the worst timeline. Thankfully, SmackDown tries to alleviate the pain by giving us some enticing singles matches. Daniel Bryan wrestles Shelton Benjamin, while Jeff Hardy takes on Shinsuke Nakamura. And, in a match that may determine his face/heel ideology (for this week), Rusev battles Samoa Joe.

Intro: Paige kicks off SmackDown by hosting a Money in the Bank “summit”. The four female competitors from the blue brand (Naomi, Lana, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch) flank the general manager, as opposed to perching on ladders like stooges. Paige introduces each of them to allow the crowd to cheer for their favorites. All four wrestlers receive strong reactions. That’s a welcome sign, although it does illustrate that, for better or worse, there is relatively little ground between the top-level and bottom-level female superstars in WWE. For example, there is a mile of difference between fans’ perceptions of Braun Strowman and Curt Hawkins. In the women’s division, however, Carmella can represent SmackDown as women’s champion for 3-4 months just as easily as Lynch, Naomi, or almost anyone else. Unless you’re an outside star like Ronda Rousey, it’s incredibly difficult to break from the pack and establish yourself as the standout star of that roster.

Paige tells her wrestlers that she doesn’t care who wins, as long as one of them brings that MITB contract back “to my house.” Eschewing her Russian accent, Lana assures Paige she’ll bring it home. So she’s back to having no accent? Like the past four years of being the Ravishing Russian never happened? Why even bother at this point? Given how badly WWE has bungled the Rusev Day ensemble, she’ll probably be back speaking Russian next week like nothing happened. Anyway, the newly American Lana jaws with Naomi, who threatens to snatch her bald. Flair and Lynch summarize their resumes and vow to win Money in the Bank. Lynch gets off a good line about being tired of saying, “I was”, in regards to her successes, and claims she’ll start saying, “I am”, when she wins Money in the Bank and becomes SmackDown women’s champion again.

The IIconics walk out to do horrible, baby-voice impressions of the MITB competitors. These two serve their purpose because Peyton Royce and Billie Kay have chemistry, and they go all-in regardless of how stupid their remarks are. Anyway, we apparently need more wrestlers talking here, so Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville make their entrance. Deville tells Paige that the talent standing outside the ring is superior to the talent standing inside it. Lynch does a horrible, baby-voice impression of Royce and Kay, and the eight women start brawling at ringside. I think former SmackDown GM Teddy Long has shown us the path forward here.

As we return to air, Phillips announces that Paige booked an eight tag-team match for tonight’s event. Holla holla! We watch a prerecorded video from Bryan, who threatens to injure Big Cass at MITB. Strong, intense promo from DB.

Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin

Benjamin blocks an early Yes Lock attempt by taking Bryan to the mat, where DB counters his counter into a hammerlock. Bryan turns that hold into a unique pinning combination. After landing a kick to Benjamin, Bryan gets backdropped to the apron, then booted in the left quadricep to the arena floor. Shelton targets that leg by dropping Bryan’s knee across the announce table, then slamming it into the barricade.

When Bryan tries to climb back in the ring, Benjamin charges him. Bryan moves a few inches and Benjamin crashes through the ropes to the floor. Bryan runs off the apron and nails Benjamin with a flying knee. When the match returns to the ring, however, Bryan misses a top-rope dive. Benjamin seizes the advantage, applying a single-leg crab to Bryan’s left leg. When Bryan breaks the hold and throws some punches, Benjamin trips him with a drop-toehold and reapplies the half-crab.

Benjamin can’t force the submission, then can’t execute a belly-to-back suplex as Bryan flips out of it. Bryan avoids a spin-kick and takes out Benjamin’s left knee with a low dropkick. He executes a dragon-screw leg-whip, then throws Yes Kicks into Benjamin in the corner. Bryan stays on Benjamin’s left leg with a running strike. But the turnbuckle turns against him once more, as Benjamin evades a top-rope move, then dazes Bryan with a running knee-strike to the skull. Benjamin superplexes Bryan for a two-count; DB sells the impact to his left knee.

Shelton measures Bryan for Paydirt. Bryan holds onto the ropes to counter the finisher, then goes for the Yes Lock. Benjamin shows tenacity in blocking the move, eventually turning Bryan over and hooking that half-crab again. As Benjamin attempts to maneuver Bryan mid-ring, Bryan rolls through onto his back and applies the Heel Hook. Benjamin fights it briefly, then taps out.

Result: Daniel Bryan submitted Shelton Benjamin with the Heel Hook.

Grade: B

Paige walks alone backstage. Fortunately, she chances upon Asuka and starts a conversation. Otherwise, it would’ve been a waste of everyone’s time to air footage of someone wandering around backstage doing and saying nothing. Asuka says, “I want Carmella tonight.” Paige offers to include Asuka and Carmella in what is now a ten-woman tag-team match tonight. The GM then finds Miz wearing a referee’s shirt and officiating a non-existent match. He explains that he’s preparing for a movie about a dog that officiates at WrestleMania. Miz has gotten goofy the last few weeks. He asks to serve as special guest referee for the Rusev vs. Samoa Joe match tonight. Paige nicks Miz’s hand-goes-up mouth-goes-shut line, then agrees to his request.

We watch a recap package of the AJ Styles/Nakamura feud. In real-time, Memphis kingpin Jerry Lawler makes his way to a platform near the entrance ramp. Polite applause. He looks to the crowd for a chant, doesn’t get it, and introduces Styles. Lawler tells AJ that he slapped Nakamura last week “like I slapped Andy Kaufman.” Styles admits to losing his cool, then apologizes … for not knocking Shinsuke’s head off with his fist. He tells us he’s walking out of MITB with the WWE championship as the last man standing. Succinct message from the Phenomenal One, who definitely didn’t overstay his welcome. Lawler was confident and competent in his role.

Backstage, Miz listens to a tutorial from an actual official on how much power he will have as special guest referee. When Miz proceeds to enter the ring, he’s forced to listen to a garbage rap from Aiden English. A minute later, Joe’s entrance includes several grown men chanting his name in time with his theme song. People believe in this guy as a legit asskicker; it will be interesting to see where he progresses as we move toward SummerSlam.

Rusev vs. Samoa Joe

Joe and Rusev batter each other in the corner to start. They trade shots and take the fight outside. Rusev throws Joe back into the ring, where Joe cuts off his opponent’s reentry, then bashes him with a flying forearm through the ropes. We go to break, and return to find Joe wrapping his arms around Rusev’s head mid-ring. When Rusev gets up, Joe sets him back down with a back elbow. Somehow, Corey Graves is still referencing the Miz’s imagined movie about a dog official, “Ruff Ruff Ref.”

Joe applies an arm bar to Rusev, then snapmares him into a modified headlock. These rest-holds are taking me back to Joe’s interminable Saudi Sausagefest main event against Roman Reigns. Rusev punches his way free, whipping Miz into the turnbuckle and following up with a body avalanche. Joe declines to stay on defense, though, and just winds up a clothesline that knocks Rusev down. The Bulgarian Brute responds with right hands, then throws two kicks into Joe’s chest, knocking him down with both strikes.

Rusev lands a spinning heel-kick and basks in “Rusev Day” chants. He calls for the Machka Kick, which Joe sidesteps as he applies the Coquina Clutch. English gets on the apron to distract Miz. After Rusev cleanly counters the hold, he dodges another attack from Joe, who barrels into Miz in the corner. Joe kicks English to the floor, then slams Rusev hard with a uranage. He covers Rusev, but Miz refuses to count as he clutches at his sore ribs. Joe commandeers Miz’s right hand to coerce his participation, but he leaves himself open to a Machka Kick. Miz makes a normal count to end what was a somewhat plodding affair.

Result: Rusev pinned Samoa Joe following a Machka Kick.

Grade: C+

After the match, English finds a ladder under the ring and gives it to Rusev, who rams it into Joe. Rusev sets up the ladder beneath the MITB briefcases and starts to climb it. Miz doesn’t indulge this fantasy, knocking English off the apron and then toppling Rusev with a Skullcrushing Finale. He climbs the ladder and seizes the green briefcase. Miz places the briefcase on the announce table, opens it, and orders the broadcasters to read it and weep. The briefcase contains pancakes, not a contract. Miz flips out for no discernable reason, screaming, “Where’s the contract!?” as he crushes pancakes in both fists. Backstage, New Day is seen whooping it up, also for no discernable reason. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are sharing one t-shirt like they’re conjoined twins, so there’s that.

We see a replay of Jeff Hardy performing a swanton bomb off a ladder at WrestleMania 33. His upcoming opponent, Nakamura, grimaces at us menacingly backstage. Their match is next.

U.S. Champion Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (non-title)

It’s striking how much Hardy’s U.S. title gets downplayed on SmackDown as compared to the other secondary singles title, which Seth Rollins is turning into the centerpiece of Raw. Jeff’s chances look poor against Nakamura, whose entrance is singular and great. As the bell rings, Hardy plays to the crowd with some “Delete” hand motions, which he’s doing very incorrectly (he looks like he’s auditioning for a Leni Riefenstahl documentary). Thankfully, the match starts to move us forward out of 1933 (or 2017, if you live in America).

A prolonged lock-up leads to the head-rest/arm-swaying taunt from Nakamura. Jeff dislikes the taunt and beats on Nakamura. Shinsuke counters an Irish whip by sliding under the bottom rope and throwing up Hardy’s hand sign. He beckons Jeff to “come on”. Hardy accepts the challenge. He exits the ring, rams Nakamura head-first into the barricade, then leaps off the apron to deck him with a clothesline.

Back in the ring, Jeff stays on offense. But, when Nakamura reverses a whip into the corner, Jeff inexplicably crumbles before even hitting the turnbuckles, holding his right hand to his lower back. Nakamura targets Hardy’s right hip with kicks. He gets a near-fall off a jumping knee-drop. Nakamura mocks Hardy again by doing his Charismatic Enigma dance before stepping into Good Vibrations.

Shinsuke grounds Hardy with a submission. Jeff fights out with a sit-down jawbreaker, then assails Nakamura with a running forearm, inverted atomic-drop, and double leg-drop. A basement dropkick nets a two-count. Hardy goes for the Twist of Fate. Nakamura shoves him toward the corner, then misses a running strike, allowing Jeff to mule-kick him against the turnbuckles. Shinsuke prevents the Hardiac Arrest by leg-pressing Hardy with both boots, then catches his foe with a spinning heel-kick.

Nakamura places Hardy across the top turnbuckle. Jeff moves to avoid the running knee, however, and snaps Nakamura’s throat down across the rope. He hits the Whisper in the Wind flush for a near-fall. As Jeff climbs up top again, Nakamura just flat-out walks into the ropes with his arms by his sides, splaying Hardy over the turnbuckles. Nakamura connects on a running knee into Hardy’s spine. He signals for the Kinshasa. Hardy stuffs that attempt with a kick, then executes the Twist of Fate (Stunner version). The crowd pops as he flattens Nakamura with the Swanton Bomb. But Jeff can’t make the cover, selling his unexplained lower-back injury. When he finally crawls over to Nakamura, Shinsuke breaks the count by placing his leg on the rope just before three.

Nakamura rolls from the ring. Jeff throws him back inside, then removes his shirt. He calls for the Twist of Fate. Nakamura spins through that attempt, then uppercuts Hardy in the groin. Not this crap again.

Result: U.S. Champion Jeff Hardy defeated Shinsuke Nakamura by disqualification after a low blow.

Grade: B-

Following the bell, Nakamura blasts Hardy with a Kinshasa. He ecstatically counts to ten and applauds his own actions.

Backstage, SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella gets her make-up done. Renee Young enters the scene, only to get chastised for trying to photo-bomb Mella’s Instagram selfie. Carmella denies she’s concerned about Asuka. In fact, Asuka should be “straight-up scared.” Because Mella. Is. Money.

Stephanie McMahon will be featured on the American television series Celebrity Undercover Boss, disguised as a blogger who wants to learn more about WWE. I’m sure that every WWE corporate employee that had to deal with a “blogger” who looked exactly like the chairman’s daughter found this stunt amusing and worthwhile.

Young introduces Big Cass backstage. He cuts off her first question, tells her to leave, then talks to the camera without using a microphone. Cass informs us that he “earned” approximately $25,000 to appear at the Memphis County Fair today. Cass stands next to a “Height Requirement” sign that he stole from the fairgrounds. He claims that Bryan doesn’t meet the 4’8 minimum height for the crazy clown rollercoaster. Cass promises that Bryan will come crashing back down if DB tries to ascend to his level. Now routinely sporting a three-piece suit, Cass benefits when he comes off as entitled and superior to the average person.

Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Lana, Naomi, and Asuka vs. The IIconics, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, and Carmella

Naomi starts off quickly, snaring Deville with a hurricanrana. She makes a quick tag to Lana, who yells “Machka!” before executing a neckbreaker. Deville bulls Lana into her team’s corner. Carmella tags in and doles out kicks to the erstwhile Russian. Mella moonwalks toward the opposing corner, then misses a Bronco Buster. Too bad CM Punk didn’t try that sequence during his UFC fight Saturday night.

Lynch tags in to light up Lana with kicks and a flying forearm. A Becksploder suplex gets a two-count. With the entire heel corner trying to interfere, Lynch fails to hook the Dis-Arm-Her onto Carmella, and Royce tags in to rock her with a spin kick. Kay tags in, allowing the IIconics to execute a double-team kick to Lynch’s back for a two-count. Deville tags back in to bury right hands into Lynch’s stomach as we take our final break.

Back from commercial, Lynch is still getting beaten down in Team Mella’s corner. Smart strategy from that squad to cut the ring in half. Trying to defend herself, Becky inside-cradles Deville, who kicks out and roars back with a spear. Deville impresses me with her offense every week. She tags Kay, who trash-talks Lynch before getting beaned with an enziguri. Both women tag out. Charlotte Flair enters to level Royce with a clothesline and chops. Kay tries to help her partner, only to get thrown with an overhead suplex.

Royce temporarily stymies Charlotte with boots in the corner, but stumbles into a spear when she tries to press her advantage. Flair sets up for a top-rope moonsault. Carmella provides a minute distraction, just enough to allow Royce to lift her knees and block the maneuver. Royce tags Deville, who tags Rose. Mandy wallops Flair with a pump-knee, and Sonya follows with a sliding knee. No cover as Rose and Deville pick up Flair for a double suplex. Flair flips forward to escape that move, and tags in Asuka.

The Empress of Tomorrow immediately goes for broke with a top-rope missile dropkick into Rose. When Mandy blocks a German suplex and goes for her face-slam finisher, Asuka counters into the Asuka Lock. The IIconics and Deville storm the ring to save their partner. Lynch, Lana, and Naomi join the fray and a brawl breaks out. As the illegal combatants spill out of the ring, Carmella tags Rose, then gets knocked to the floor by an Asuka hip attack. In the midst of the chaos, Flair moonsaults off the top rope onto the IIConics at ringside. Rose and Deville stick together, teaming to hurl Lynch into the barricade. The teammates are separated, however, by Naomi, who flies through the ropes to smash Deville as Rose scampers away.

Back in the ring, Asuka kicks Rose, then absorbs a thrust kick from a returning Carmella. The women’s champion covers Asuka, who is saved by Lana. Carmella dumps Lana from the ring. She and Asuka both miss kicks. Carmella attempts an O’Connor Roll, which Asuka turns into the Asuka Lock. Mella flails and eventually taps.

Result: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Lana, Naomi, and Asuka beat The IIconics, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, and Carmella when Asuka tapped out Carmella via the Asuka Lock

Grade: B

After the match, Asuka stands under the MITB briefcases. Her four teammates surround her, looking up at the contract while knowing that their partner (who challenges for the women’s title Sunday) may soon turn into their prey. Nice touch on that visual.