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On the heels of a monumental SummerSlam pay-per-view that saw the returns of Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar, WWE hit the Fox airwaves with an episode of SmackDown that promised an appearance from at least one of them.
Lynch defeated Bianca Belair in mere seconds to win the blue brand’s women’s title. What did The Man have to say to the WWE Universe when she made her first televised appearance in 16 months?
Would Lesnar appear, ruining Roman Reigns’ celebration of his latest Universal Championship defense?
Find out with this recap of the August 27 episode.
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Already scheduled for Friday’s show are:
- Roman Reigns celebrates his Universal Championship defense
- Becky Lynch returns
- Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
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New SmackDown women’s champion Becky Lynch made her first appearance since her shocking return at SummerSlam, drawing a huge ovation from the fans in Little Rock, Arkansas. She admitted she missed the fans and said handing over the Raw women’s title was the hardest thing she ever had to do.
“If you thought I was bad before, when I was just fighting for myself, you have no idea how deadly I’m about to be,” she said. Lynch apologized for nothing, saying preparedness met opportunity when she beat Bianca Belair for the title Saturday.
This brought out The EST to an equally strong reaction. Belair said she won’t make excuses before issuing a last-minute challenge, just like Lynch’s, for tonight’s show. Before The Man could answer, Zelina Vega interrupted. Then Carmella. Eventually, Liv Morgan joined the fray, rightly pointing out that Vega and Carmella lose every week.
Belair brushed them all off and reiterated her challenge to Lynch. The champ denied it and walked off, leaving the four women in the center of the ring. A brawl ensued and Morgan stood tall.
This was a clunky opening segment that provided the anticipated return of Lynch but little else.
Why did it have to involve Vega and Carmella, who have lost repeatedly in recent weeks, and Morgan, who has not been featured since prior to Money in the Bank? The fatal 4-way that will ensue after the break is nonsensical in that only Belair really has an argument for a title opportunity.
And where the hell is Toni Storm, who debuted back in July but has not been seen since?
The women’s division desperately needs depth, something it will not get if the plan is for everyone outside of Belair and Lynch to lose every week.
Becky hinting at her full heel turn by denying Belair a match was the silver lining in this one.
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Belair, Carmella, Vega and Morgan battled in a fatal 4-way elimination match following the break.
Moments after breaking a partnership that had proven moderately successful, Vega fell prey to the Kiss of Death by Belair. Shortly thereafter, Morgan sent Carmella packing. The show went to another commercial with Morgan and Belair the final two competitors in the high-stakes match, a championship opportunity at stake.
Belair thwarted a game Morgan, using her power to offset her opponent’s drive. Still, Morgan delivered a codebreaker for a near-fall. Belair recovered, sent Morgan face-first into the top turnbuckle and delivered the KOD for the hard-fought victory.
Belair defeated Morgan, Carmella and Vega to earn a title shot
The match was better than it had any right to be, thanks to the bit of storytelling involving Vega and Carmella, then the babyface battle between Belair and Morgan that had fans invested all the way to the finish.
The outcome was never really in doubt but the crowd’s reaction for Morgan really should force WWE officials to re-examine her placement (or lack thereof) on the show. She is so passionate, and fans genuinely care about her. Give her something to do, even if it is outside of the title picture.
The one big issue with this entire setup is that, by way of her win here, Belair proves she can be ready for anything, including an impromptu four-way bout. So, if that is the case, any attempt made by WWE to spin her loss to Lynch as her not being ready or prepared loses its credibility.
Those penning this story need to think about it before throwing this sort of self-defeating segment on television.
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Backstage, Paul Heyman found himself locked out of Roman Reigns’ locker room. When The Usos emerged moments later and confronted him, they accused him of knowing Brock Lesnar would be at SummerSlam and shut him out.
Back in the arena, Chad Gable and Otis made their way to the ring for the former’s singles match with Cesaro. After several moments of technical mat wrestling, Cesaro appeared to have momentum on his side. Otis attacked, though, drawing the disqualification.
Alpha Academy laid out The Swiss Cyborg and stood tall to close out the segment.
Cesaro defeated Gable via DQ
Remember that time Cesaro feuded with Seth Rollins, then challenged Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship in a pay-per-view main event?
Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Why sacrifice his heat for a beatdown at the hands of a tag team that still has unfinished business with The Street Profits? Unless this is the start of an undercard feud, this served no purpose. Even if that was the case, what is Cesaro doing back in the midcard abyss when he should be strengthening the top of the card?
This felt like a major step back for one participant and more of the status quo for the other two.
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Baron Corbin, fresh off a life-changing string of success in Las Vegas, returned to SmackDown clean, kempt and going by the moniker “Happy Corbin.” He touted his riches, his wardrobe and an expensive watch before calling Big E to the ring.
After asking to purchase the Money in the Bank briefcase and having his offers rebuffed, Corbin said he is too happy and rich for this. Big E threatened an ass-kicking before Corbin exited the squared circle and left the arena.
Corbin is challenging for the best thing in WWE right now, thanks to character work infinitely better than anyone knew to expect from him. The “bum-ass” Corbin was fun television that saw one of the most hated heels in the company get his comeuppance. Now, the redeemed Corbin, still a bad guy but happier, is equally as fun.
The idea that money makes him happy and he’s too rich for negativity is a great bit and should help him continue to stay over with audiences that have taken to his character more in this last two months than it had during his entire run as the King of the Ring.
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Edge spoke on his SummerSlam victory over Seth Rollins. The Architect responded, thanking The Rated R Superstar for teaching him he must be more like Edge to get ahead.
Back in the arena, Rick Boogs and intercontinental champion Shinsuke Nakamura battled Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode in a tag team match. Boogs frustrated Ziggler early but the former world champ turned the tide in his team’s favor. The heels worked over the guitar-playing fan-favorite until a hot tag to Nakamura sparked the comeback.
A Zig-Zag by Ziggler to Nakamura behind the referee’s back allowed the heels to halt the momentum and allowed them to re-establish control during the break. Another hot tag, this one to Boogs, highlighted the charismatic babyface. He picked up the pinfall victory on Ziggler following a slam.
Boogs and Nakamura defeated Ziggler and Roode
A good, solid, inoffensive tag team match, this put the spotlight on a popular midcard babyface act in Nakamura and Boogs without taking anything away from the team they beat.
Ziggler and Roode are great professional wrestlers and absolutely have earned better than what they have been given of late but they are pros’ pros who can be counted on to make opponents look good without diminishing themselves.
This was a lot of that and little more as SmackDown officials appear to be smitten over Boogs’ act.
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Backstage, Naomi made her SmackDown return but official Sonya Deville appeared disinterested and said they would discuss it next week.
Elsewhere, Rey Mysterio told son Dominik that he would be seeping back and letting him be his own man, starting with a match against a mystery opponent. Sami Zayn would be revealed as that opponent.
Dominik set the pace early but an alert Zayn pulled down the rope during a 619 attempt and the first-year competitor crashed to the floor. Zayn controlled during the break but a resilient Dominik fought his way back into the match and delivered the 619. He scaled the ropes for the frog splash but Zayn rolled out of the way.
Zayn delivered an exploder into the corner and added the Helluva Kick for the pinfall victory.
Zayn defeated Dominik
Don’t look now but Zayn actually won a match clean, without cheating or controversy.
This was a great start to Dominik’s road to singles glory. For a young Superstar who has not had a ton of experience in one-on-one action to this point, a win over an accomplished in-ring competitor like Zayn should not be expected. Sure, Sami has seen his role on the show diminished of late, but he is still a former IC champion whose in-ring skills are never in question.
Being a relative rookie and beating him is nearly impossible.
This story still feels like one destined to end with Rey and Dominik embroiled in a heated father vs. son feud but for now, the idea of Rey giving Dominik the opportunity to be his own man is a nice start.
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Roman Reigns, The Usos and Paul Heyman made their way to the ring for a special championship celebration. After a few minutes of Heyman speaking on behalf of The Tribal Chief, Finn Balor interrupted the proceedings.
Frustrated after being screwed out of his championship opportunity by John Cena, and with the return of Brock Lesnar, he doesn’t trust anyone. He challenged Reigns to a title match on next week’s show, live from Jacksonville.
He took a shot at Reigns before The Street Profits hit the ring to back him up. The babyfaces stood tall, a disdained Reigns heading to the locker room to close out the show.
And just like that, we have two feuds to build around on the road to Extreme Rules on September 26.
Not only is Balor vs. Reigns a world title feud that can dominate the top of the blue brand while WWE waits to book the Tribal Chief against Brock Lesnar, but the Profits against The Usos is a relatively fresh program that can rejuvenate a tag team division that was bogged down by repetitive rematches.
An energetic, eventful end to the show is what this week’s broadcast needed. While it may not have featured Lesnar to payoff his shocking return at SummerSlam, it does plant the seeds for the upcoming pay-per-view and that is always a good thing.