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The June 6 episode of SmackDown Live may have been headlined by Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and featured support from a rematch between AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler, but the biggest story coming out of the USA Network broadcast was the arrival of Lana, who instantly interjected herself in the Women’s Championship picture.
The former Ravishing Russian cost Naomi a tag team victory, then benefited as she was handed a championship opportunity at Money in the Bank.
Speaking of the upcoming pay-per-view, Nakamura and Owens jockeyed for positioning ahead of the annual ladder match, but it was Baron Corbin who made the loudest statement, leaving The Artist lying to close out the broadcast.
WWE champion Jinder Mahal was in action, and The New Day made its in-ring debut on SmackDown to round out another explosive episode of the blue brand’s weekly show.
How did each match and segment grade out, and how may it affect the future of the brand and its Superstars going forward?
Take a look at this recap of Tuesday’s show.
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One week after a blockbuster announcement of a women’s Money in the Bank ladder match at the upcoming June 18 pay-per-view event, Shane McMahon kicked off this week’s SmackDown Live surrounded by the women who will compete in the annual bout.
The segment broke down into a barrage of comments and insults. James Ellsworth repeatedly interrupted Shane McMahon before the back-and-forth between the women escalated.
SmackDown women’s champion Naomi interrupted but was quickly cut off by the debuting Lana.
The former Ravishing Russian expressed her desire to enter the ladder match but was greeted with laughter by the champion, who did not take the returning Superstar seriously. Even less so when Lana suggested she could beat Naomi.
Ultimately, a frustrated McMahon declared a Women’s Championship match is something Lana must earn. The Total Divas star threw a fit, and the segment came to a close.
This segment accomplished three significant things in a short span.
First, it put heat on all of the moving parts ahead of the upcoming Money in the Bank match. Second, it featured the debut of Lana after weeks of hype. Finally, it introduced a story in which Lana wants championship gold but none of her peers believe she is capable of actually wrestling, let alone winning titles.
That last part bears watching as Lana figures to play a big role in the future of the SmackDown women’s division barring any cold feet by WWE Creative. How she factors into the upcoming ladder match, or does not, is of great interest.
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Becky Lynch and Charlotte took turns frustrating and beating down Carmella at the outset of this six-woman tag team match. A big kick from the Queen of Staten Island sent Lynch to the arena floor and allowed the heels to take over control of the match.
A hot tag to Naomi allowed the women’s champion to generate some momentum for the babyfaces, but it was short-lived as Tamina sent her back-first into the corner and wrestled control back for her team.
Lana made her presence felt late, distracting Naomi, then sweeping her legs out from underneath her and allowing Tamina to blast the champion with a superkick for the win.
Tamina, Carmella and Natalya defeated Naomi, Becky Lynch and Charlotte
While the action was plentiful, it was secondary to the angle within.
Lana’s involvement, just moments after being denied a title opportunity, has this writer thinking she may find different ways to infuriate Naomi before the champion demands a match against the outmatched rookie.
If that is the case, it would provide fans with a second high-profile women’s feud and make Lana look like a star right out of the gate rather than just another face in a crowded ladder match that she probably is not ready for at this point.
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One week after Dolph Ziggler spoiled AJ Styles’ homecoming in Atlanta, The Phenomenal One sought revenge as he squared off with The Showoff in a rematch of last Tuesday’s main event.
Ziggler picked up where he left off last week, scoring a near-fall off a rollup while draping his feet over the ropes. He followed up with a Fameasser as he took control of the bout.
The action spilled to the outside of the ring and back in, where Styles tried for the Phenomenal Forearm.
Ziggler blocked, and the two delivered a series of near-falls. Styles would gain the upper hand and finish Ziggler off with the Styles Clash.
AJ Styles defeated Dolph Ziggler
Yes, WWE booked the match to get Styles his win back after last week’s show, but WWE Creative’s inability to recognize that any momentum Ziggler gathered from last week’s victory was instantly erased Tuesday night after Styles beat him right back.
No one ever gets ahead, and rather than having credible stars the company can build around, everyone is exactly the same.
That is unfortunate for the immensely talented performers who make up the WWE roster.
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As if you needed a reminder that WWE champion Jinder Mahal was a jobber at the bottom of the WWE totem pole mere months ago, he renewed his rivalry with Mojo Rawley in a non-title match Tuesday night.
The sneering heel made his way to the ring, the title draped over his shoulder, in a new entrance that quite literally shined the spotlight solely on him.
Rawley had Mahal reeling early, forcing him to the sanctity of the ring apron. A huge shoulder block sent the champion to the arena floor, a look of disbelief painting his face.
Mahal capitalized on a brief distraction by one of the Singh Brothers and delivered a nasty kick that floored Rawley.
Late, Rawley fought out of a headlock and was rolling until the champion raked his eyes, sent him shoulder-first into the steel post and delivered the Khallas for the win.
After the match, Mahal addressed the WWE Universe and said he would be the antidote to the sickness that is Randy Orton at Money in the Bank. He ended the promo by speaking to his people, in his language of Punjabi.
Jinder Mahal defeated Mojo Rawley
The WWE champion just cheated to beat Mojo Rawley.
Sure, Mahal is a heel and heels cheat, but when one is in the position The Modern Day Maharaja is, he probably should not have to rake the eyes to secure a win over a guy at the bottom of the card like Rawley.
With that said, he recovered a good bit with the post-match promo. Though he still does not have the confidence of a seasoned main event star on the mic, he is discovering it with every opportunity he has to address the WWE Universe.
The closing bit in Punjabi was a nice touch and a reminder that Mahal is not a prototypical foreign heel. He is not so much anti-USA as he is very pro-India. It is a welcome, fresh take on a tired trope.
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Just seven days after a triumphant return on SmackDown Live, The New Day returned to the squared circle as Xavier Woods and Big E battled Epico and Primo.
Woods caught Primo with flashy offense early, but a knee to the midsection cut the early onslaught off and earned the heels control of the match.
Epico could not maintain control, though, as Big E entered the match and trapped him in an agonizing abdominal stretch. The New Day rolled heading into the commercial.
The Colons regained the momentum during the break and worked over Woods as the show returned from commercial. A big head-butt sent Primo to the mat, and a missile dropkick allowed Woods to tag Big E into the match.
He tore through the competition, and New Day netted the win shortly thereafter.
After the bout, The Usos interrupted the celebration and were none too impressed by their top contenders. They sent a warning to the massively popular victors ahead of their Money in the Bank pay-per-view.
The New Day defeated The Colons
This was nothing more than an extended squash to put over New Day ahead of Money in the Bank.
The post-match promo from The Usos did enough to maintain the tone of the rivalry. Given the simplicity with which this segment was constructed, that is good enough.
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Two of the most acclaimed Superstars on the roster squared off as Shinsuke Nakamura battled Kevin Owens in the main event of Tuesday’s show. Owens’ United States title was not up for grabs, but pride and momentum ahead of Money in the Bank was.
Nakamura frustrated Owens early, out-wrestling him and sending him to the arena floor after an enzuigiri kick.
Baron Corbin sat in on commentary, stating his case for being the Money in the Bank winner.
Owens grounded Nakamura with a headlock, but The Artist fought out and unloaded with a knee to the midsection. He battled back and attempted an inverted Exploder suplex, but Owens elbowed out of it. He delivered a cannonball, to which Nakamura answered with a more successful attempt at that suplex.
He caught Owens with The Kinshasa shortly thereafter and scored the victory.
After the match, Corbin delivered End of Days to Nakamura and stood tall to close out the show.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens
Anyone concerned that Nakamura vs. Owens was being wasted on free television can rest peacefully knowing it was but a sample of what the two are capable of. It never once felt like the epic they are capable of but, rather, a small taste of a much better and more epic encounter sometime down the road.
Nakamura winning was likely the right decision, but one has to wonder how many times WWE Creative can sacrifice him to put others over before his own heat is extinguished.
Corbin getting over on Nakamura was a nice touch at the end of the show. Not only does it ignite issues between those two Superstars, it also reminds the audience the danger The Lone Wolf presents his opponents come June 18.