Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– Sorry for the introduction that isn’t just kicking off the recap of the event, but I feel like I need to tap into my 2009-self and begin with a long-winded rant about whatever. As much as I enjoyed watching Smackdown Live every week… until around WrestleMania, I’m feeling the exact opposite lately. It’s not just Smackdown, it’s everything. NXT is still tolerable because of the hour run time and knowing things can fall into place without worries. The roster shakeup really wrecked a good thing, and now there’s rumors of doing it again, FOUR MONTHS LATER, and doing it annually after SummerSlam and WrestleMania. I’ve also been going through some personal problems, emotionally, mentally, whatever classification you want to use. It’s made watching wrestling or doing anything of enjoyment a chore. I ended up working this past Sunday, and caught some of Battleground, and wow, how could I pass up watching this entire show? Sometimes negativity makes for a bad time, but this show deserves a Scrooge Return to Form™.
– Presented on the WWE Network on July 23rd, 2017, from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. Tom Phillips, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Byron Saxton are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Aiden English pinned Tye Dillinger clean on the Kickoff Show, so there’s one thing for smart fans to get pissed off about, even if the writing was on the wall months ago.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day:
(Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods)
Big E. must be injured, or maybe they threw Woods in there as a red herring since he’s usually the go-to job guy on the team whenever he’s an active participant. One of the few bright spots in recent weeks? Their “Rap Battle”, and of course, the replays all omit the line about Xavier Woods being R-rated. New Day is decked out in patriotic colors… did 4th of July get pushed back three weeks? Kofi greets Jey at the bell with a dropkick. New Day with a combo of offense for a near fall. Jimmy hooks Xavier in the ropes, allowing Jey to retaliate. Jey with a roundhouse enzuigiri for two. Jimmy with the running hip attack for two. Usos with a modified Demolition Decapitation, but no cover. Jey climbs up to the top for a super-plex, but Woods fights him off and comes flying off with a missile dropkick. Kofi runs wild on both Usos. Jumping clothesline and Boom Drop to Jimmy. He teases Trouble in Paradise, but Jimmy avoids it. Kofi with the Trust Fall high-spot, but the Usos catch and kill him with a Powerbomb on the floor (that’s what he gets, going for a move called THE TRUST FALL).
Woods gets laid out with an uppercut, and Kofi plays dead. Safe to say New Day is in trouble. Back inside, Jimmy comes off the top, but Woods rolls out of the way and plants him with a modified Code Red (think wheel barrow motion, ending with a victory roll face-buster). Jimmy counters the Honor Roll, running Woods into the turnbuckle. Body press into a Samoan Drop for a near fall. Woods valiantly fights off the 2-on-1. He walks the ropes for the elbow, but gets KILLED with a Super-Kick in mid-air, so of course he kicks out at two. I thought that had to be the finish. Tequila Surprise by Jimmy, but Xavier fights to the ropes to force the break. Kofi comes back to life and the Midnight Hour seemingly out of nowhere gets another near fall. Jimmy with a Super-Kick, and Jey hits Kofi with the Flying Splash (BALL GAME) FOR TWO! The Usos climb opposite corners, but Xavier pushes Jey down, and Jimmy misses a second splash. Kofi with Trouble in Paradise, and Woods drops the elbow across the entire ring for the three count and Tag Titles at 13:45 to become the 5th Tag Champions of the Smackdown Live Era. **** A tale of two matches. Basic formula match at first, but with an outstanding second half to close it out to make it worth checking out. It almost felt like I was watching two different matches. This is one of those times WWE manages to “get it right” with a mid-card match with modest expectations (at best), and probably the best Xavier Woods has looked in a WWE match.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin:
This has “Styles Clash” written all over it like it were A.J. Styles’ tights. Corbin won the Money in the Bank CONTRACT (can’t say briefcase, unless you do), and spent the next few weeks randomly attacked Nakamura from behind, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Weak build, if you ask me. Shinsuke no-sells Corbin’s trash talk and lays into him with strikes. JBL dares to call this a “dream match-up.” Corbin bails, so Nakamura taunts him. They reverse roles and Nakamura hangs out on the floor for a while. He picks the leg of Corbin, and it looks like they messed something up. We waste little time hitting the bear-hug spot. Nakamura escapes with elbows and goes for a triangle choke. Corbin breaks and lays Shinsuke out with a boot for two. To the floor and Corbin continues to work the back. Weak “Corbin Sucks” chant that he acknowledges (probably pissing Vince off because of random rule #581) before going back to the bear-hug. Nakamura counters a Choke-Slam and hits the roundhouse heel kick. Nakamura with a variety of kicks to take Corbin off his feet. Good Vibrations and a running knee to the midsection for two. Whip reversed and Corbin slides in-and-out for a vicious clothesline. Nakamura with a knee to counter a suplex (a spot done so much lately, probably because it’s a basic counter in the WWE video games). Nakamura with knees and a gourd buster. He sets up for the Kinshasa, but Corbin counters with Deep Six for two. They trade strikes until Nakamura takes Corbin down with a back stabber. He sets up in the corner again, but Corbin stays down. Instead of going for the cover, Nakamura picks him up to go for a reverse exploder, but Corbin kicks him low for the DQ at 12:27. Post-match, Corbin with a briefcase blow and End of Days to get his heat back. *1/2 Terrible finish to what was a lackluster match.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana:
Elimination Rules, with the winner earning a title match at SummerSlam. Naomi joins the commentary team, as her terrible reign continues. Four months as Champion, and what to show for it? Three defenses against Lana? It might be the worst booked Championship reign in recent years. Tamina and Lana have some weird relationship going that doesn’t seem to have any momentum. It’s a donnybrook early. Charlotte targets Lana, but Natalya “saves”. Tamina throws Becky into Charlotte and covers for two. Lana pulls Becky to the floor and sends her into the table. Tamina and Lana work over Charlotte while the others play dead. Lana with some awful kicks to the head. There’s a lot of dead air from commentary. Becky helps even things out and takes Lana over with an Exploder. Becky and Charlotte evolves amateur hour into an actual wrestling match. Natalya comes in and surprises Charlotte with a basement dropkick for two. Lana runs back in and takes another Exploder. Tamina with a Super-Kick to Becky and Samoan drop on Natalya. Charlotte with a Figure-Four attempt, but Nattie cradles her for two. Nattie with a Discus Clothesline and Sharpshooter, but Lana SAVES?! Becky with the Disarm-Her, but Tamina saves. Spear to Charlotte, and Tamina almost lands on her head on the landing. Becky with the Disarm-Her again, with Tamina saving a second time. Becky’s all “screw it” and taps out Tamina with the Disarm-Her at 8:06. Disarm-Her to Lana and she taps too at 8:25. Natalya sneaks in to cradle Becky for three at 8:37. Charlotte with the running boot for two. Natalya with a cross arm-breaker, but Charlotte escapes. Charlotte goes to the top, but a moonsault meets knees. Natalya with a school boy, throwing Charlotte into the turnbuckle, and that finishes at 10:54. NATALYA vs. NAOMI at SummerSlam. Was their goal going with the least interesting option, besides Tamina, of course. *1/2 This was a mess except for the 90-second sequence with Charlotte, Becky, and Natalya, and some decent action at the end.
WWE United States Championship Match:
A.J. Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens:
Styles captured the US Championship at Madison Square Garden in a rare switch on a non-televised event shortly after winning the contender’s spot in a July 4th Battle Royal. How can Owens be the New Face of America if he isn’t the U.S. Champion? Where’s the logic!? Owens with strikes and a side headlock. They fight over a waist-lock, with Styles sending Owens out of the ring. Owens with an elbow to counter a German Suplex, and Styles quickly responds with a dropkick. Styles follows him to the floor and sends him into the barricade. Owens side-steps a dive and straddles Styles on the ring post. Back inside and a running senton gets two. We slow things down with a long chin-lock. Owens goes for another senton, but meets the knees. Styles with the Phenomenal Blitz, but KO interrupts with a DDT for two. Styles escapes another chin-lock and completes the Blitz, followed by a sliding forearm. Styles with a seated face-buster (after three attempts) for a near fall. Styles blocks a Super-Kick, Owens avoids the Styles Clash and rolls him up for two. Styles with the Ushigoroshi for two. Owens gets the knees up to counter the springboard 450 splash. Owens with the cannonball for two. Styles blocks the Super-Plex and turns a sunset Powerbomb into a Torture Rack and modified TKO for two. Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens slides to the floor and sweeps the legs for a crash landing. Owens with an arm-breaker and Styles comes back with the Pele Kick. Owens blocks the Styles Clash and tosses him into the referee. Somehow, it’s not an automatic DQ. Styles counters the Pop-Up Powerbomb with the Calf Crusher. They trade cross-face locks until Owens rolls on top of Styles, and the referee counts three at 17:47, despite the shoulder possibly being up. **1/2 This was paint-by-numbers “filler match on free TV” quality, with another questionable finish. I don’t know if they were going for a screw-job finish or not based on that ending.
Flag Mach: John Cena vs. Rusev:
You only have John Cena so many dates a year, and you waste him on this microwaved left-over from 2015? Rules of the match: retrieve the flag from the turnbuckle, walk it up the aisle, and place it into the holder on the top of the platform. Rusev makes a quick dash for the corner, but Cena pulls him back. Cena with a bulldog from the top rope. Rusev prevents a climb with an electric chair drop. Rusev with a short-arm clothesline and Cena’s selling like it’s 30-minutes into a WWE Title Match. Cena stops another climb attempt and eats a DDT for it. Cena comes back with his five moves of doom (Vintage!), capped off with the Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Rusev escapes the AA and connects with a spine-buster. Rusev gets the Bulgarian flag, but now he needs to make the 8 mile walk up the ramp (based on traveling speed). Rusev catches Cena climbing, but Cena turns the Powerbomb into an STF via sunset flip. Rusev taps, but it’s meaningless in the usual context. The damage to the knee, though, is what’s important. Cena gets the flag and instantly murdered with a jumping Super-Kick. Cena cuts off Rusev’s escape route and throws him into the steps. Cena with the American flag for the slow walk up the aisle, and you know the rest. They brawl up the aisle, with Rusev planting Cena with a fall-away slam. Rusev with a pair of tables, and you know those are getting broken eventually. Rusev goes for the AA, but Cena shoves him off the podium. Double clothesline and both men are laid out on the ramp. Rusev whacks Cena with the world’s largest candle-stick and locks him in the Accolade. Cena blocks the flag entering the stand. Rusev with a roundhouse kick and the Accolade, but this time Cena powers out, walks him up the podium, and hits the AA through the tables, and the rest (CenaWinsLOL) is academic at 21:03. ** I don’t even know how to rate a Flag Match. They did a good job of building suspense, but the rest was just a lull of waiting for something to happen.
– The Fashion X Files, with Tyler Breeze in drag as Agent Scully. God, he dresses up as Nikki Bella once and he’s the go-to-drag-queen of WWE. The Ascension arrive to take credit for the disfiguring of their horse, but the evidence and their reaction proves otherwise. That, and they were at an Eddie Money concert the night in question (making them both wussies and fans of wussy music). The lights go out, and both are laid out, with Fandango being dragged off. TO BE CONTINUED!
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis (w/ Maria Kanellis):
Welcome to the Death Slot. Kanellis is immediately presented as a huge geek, with the backstory being he was a Hallmark store manager before Maria met him and brought him into wrestling. At least the entrance music is all kinds of awesome. Sami Wow-Wow did the job on Smackdown, so the law of 50/50 booking should come into effect. Zayn blocks a boot and sweeps the legs for some ground n’ pound. Crisscross and Zayn with a spinning head scissors. Zayn with a clothesline, sending Kanellis to the floor. He sets up for the tope, but Maria saves her husband from further punishment. Kanellis with the super-punch of doom, SHADES of this past Tuesday night. We get Eskimo kissing between moves. Back inside, and a running clothesline gets two. Kanellis with the Kiss-Catch Punch for two. Running boot to the head for two. He takes a mid-match break for a kiss and goes to work with a surfboard. Zayn with the comeback. Whip to the ropes, Zayn tosses Kanellis to the floor and this time hits the somersault plancha. Zayn with a flying body press for two. Series of counters leads to a Tornado DDT. Maria gets in the way of the Exploder, allowing Mike to recover. He goes for the Power of Love (modified Michinoku Driver), but Sami hits the Exploder Suplex and Helluva Kick for three at 7:17. ** Decent mid-card filler, but the crowd was mostly napping.
WWE Championship; Punjabi Prison Match:
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton:
People, please stop comparing Mahal to JBL… JBL could cut decent promos that weren’t one dimensional. This is only something like the 3rd Punjabi Prison Match of all-time, and for good reason. Great Khali is long gone and the gimmick is terrible. There’s absolutely no way to view the match unless the camera man is inside the cage. There’s just too much shit to look through if you attended the show live. They waste no time signaling the opening of a door, and wouldn’t you know it, neither man escapes. Mahal works the arm and drops a series of knees across the chest. The second of four doors open and closes without an escape. Orton gets sent into the cage, and the lack of sound hitting it really takes away from the spot. Door #3? Still no luck. Orton with the draping DDT. The 4th door opens (we’re 12:00 in) and Mahal goes for the Khallas, but Orton counters with an RKO… Out of Nowhere, the Singh Brothers come from under the ring and pull Mahal through the door, leaving Orton trapped with all four doors locked! Good thing he can just CLIMB OUT. Orton casually steps over to the outer-structure to catch up with Mahal, and they fight back down to ground level.
Orton fights off the Singh Brothers and pulls Mahal from another escape attempt. Mahal finds a Singapore cane and plays Orton like he’s a Piata. Orton fights out of another Khallas attempt, ramming Mahal into the cage. Orton needlessly finds a second Singapore cane, with the other RIGHT AT HIS FEET, and gives Mahal a receipt. Orton climbs, but one of the Singh’s goes THROUGH THE BARS to climb up the outside to cut him off. Orton fights free and knocks the poor sucker off, going through a nearby announcers table. I hope these guys were getting paid well, taking horrific bumps to give these matches some energy. Orton goes to work on Mahal and the Other Singh with a chair. Orton seems to have the match won, but wouldn’t you know it, THE GREAT KHALI RETURNS! He shakes the cage, giving Orton a chance to do a great dare-devil balancing act. Khali CLIMBS UP the cage (three steps, but still, he climbed up) to choke Orton through the bars, and Mahal uses this to escape and retain the title at * The positive: This was better than the House of Horrors fiasco. The negative: This was an unwatchable mess with a dead crowd. The work was fine, but when the work is barely visible and the crowd doesn’t react, does it matter? They rehashed the exact same scenario for the 3rd time (Orton fights off Mahal’s goon squad), only this time we were surprised with a returning Great Khali.
Final Thoughts: This wasn’t close to all-time awful, but easily, without a doubt, the worst since the New Era Brand Split. Only one match met and/or exceeded expectations, that being the opener. It wasn’t so much that everything was bad, but underwhelming with uninspired booking. Who books a heel to win a title with a disputed shoulder down? 15-minutes just for a cheap DQ? A 5-Women Elimination Match where all the eliminations were rapid fire and the match barely exceeded 10 minutes? The work in the gimmick matches tried to make up for the handicap, but there’s just no way to truly be invested in a Flag Match, and the Punjabi Prison was too long. Worst of all, the crowd was mostly dead after the opener. Did I mention this show went 10-minutes OVER the 3-hour mark? Trimming the fat isn’t helping, but this was a boring show that somehow killed a Philadelphia crowd. Strongest recommendation to avoid.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.