This episode of SmackDown Live featured the long-awaited debut of Shelton Benjamin as well as a main event that featured Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura taking on Rusev and WWE Champion Jinder Mahal. Here’s this week’s SmackDown Live recap:
We kick things off with Jinder Mahal, who, once again, is doing his “everybody is xenophobic” shtick. The Singh Brothers are with him, and they decide that they must kiss Jinder Mahal’s “royal feet” as an apology for losing to Shinsuke Nakamura last week. Shinsuke interrupts, and gets into a brawl with the three men. Shinsuke gets overwhelmed, but Randy Orton runs in for the rescue. Rusev runs in, and it’s a full out brawl. The heels have the numbers, and they are able to take control. The segment ends with the heels standing tall.
REACTION: Well, this was about as generic of an opening as you can have. Classic heels versus faces brawl. Nothing was accomplished in this segment.
BENJAMIN & GABLE DEBUT
It’s The Ascension vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable and boy, is it nice to see Benjamin back in a WWE ring. Benjamin and Gable also have their own tag team theme music, which is slightly unfortunate because many people wanted to hear the classic “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me Now!” music.
Benjamin gets a nice pop from the Arkansas crowd as he is tagged in. The two teams battle it out and make tags to their respective partners for a couple minutes before The Ascension take control over Gable.
Konnor and Viktor put in a solid few minutes of offense into Gable, but he eventually finds a way to tag in Benjamin. Benjamin capitalizes off the hot tag and runs rampant on The Ascension. Shelton hits Konnor with his finishing maneuver to get the pinfall win after a solid eight minute match.
REACTION: Shelton Benjamin looks as mobile and agile as ever. A tag team championship match between Benjamin/Gable and The Usos could be a lot of fun.
After the match in a backstage interview, Baron Corbin says that is still angry with John Cena, and claims he’s gonna take out his anger on AJ Styles tonight and become the new United States Champion.
AJ STYLES’ OPEN CHALLENGE
Tye Dillinger answers the challenge and it’s raining 10’s in Little Rock. Corbin confronts Tye before he’s able to make it to the ring, and the two get into a brawl before the match. Dillinger is able to get into the ring for the match to start, and the bell rings.
The two have a brief, but action-packed fight, and AJ picks up the win with the Calf Crusher. Corbin attacks Tye after the match and stares down AJ to end the segment.
Backstage, we oversee a conversation between Rusev and Jinder Mahal. Mahal is excited that the two are able to unite as foreigners to beat up Nakamura and Orton later tonight. Rusev makes it clear that he is not Jinder’s friend and is going to be coming after Jinder’s WWE title, to the delight of the Little Rock crowd.
REACTION: I’m glad Tye Dillinger was given the opportunity to be in the same segment as upper guys like Styles and Corbin. He got a number over for goodness sake; he deserves opportunities. I’m also glad Rusev made his intentions clear that he will be coming after the WWE Championship. Rusev is a lot better than the what he has been given from WWE as of late. Perhaps this is a sign of a future Rusev face turn? Rusev has shown he can be entertaining and lovable; just watch Southpaw Regional Wrestling or Total Divas for verification.
BOBBY ROODE DEF. MIKE KANELLIS
Bobby Roode defeated Kanellis with a Glorious DDT after just a couple of minutes.
KEVIN OWENS IS NOT HAPPY
The next segment is kicked off with Aiden English and his singing. Kevin Owens quickly interrupts, and says that these “Arkansas hillbillies” don’t have the mental capacity to appreciate English’s singing. He then commands English to leave the ring, and he abides.
Kevin is furious with Shane McMahon’s involvement in last week’s main event which featured Owens facing Styles for the US Championship with Baron Corbin as the special guest referee. Shane interrupts Kevin, and explains that it’s Kevin’s own fault for last week’s antics as Kevin was the one that chose Baron Corbin as the special guest referee. He further explains that Baron Corbin was a biased referee, and that Corbin quit being a ref midway through the match, so he had to step in.
Shane then tells English to get back into the ring, as he has a match against Sami Zayn. Kevin Owens will be a guest commentator for this match.
Not long into the match, Owens enters the ring and strips the referee shirt off of the match official. He puts on the shirt and forcefully makes himself the referee for this match. He delivers a pop-up powerbomb to Zayn, and counts to three fast as English pins Zayn.
Post-match in a backstage interview, Shane McMahon lets Renee Young know that English’s win will be scrapped from the record books.
REACTION: This clearly appears to be leading to a McMahon/Owens fight of some sort, and I don’t have any complaints about that. The storyline has been solid, Shane’s wrestling ability continues to be impressive for his age, and anything Kevin Owens touches turns to gold.
DOLPH ZIGGLER CONTINUES TO TEASE HIS “NEW SIDE”
Dolph Ziggler says in a backstage interview that this “new side” of Dolph will not be unveiled tonight because they are in Little Rock. He then proceeds to complain about all sorts of past and present gimmicks that have been used in WWE. Dolph says that since people prefer “all flash and no substance”, and that’s exactly what he’ll be doing.
REACTION: I really hope this doesn’t become a Curt Hawkins or an Emmalina type of thing, where the debut (or in this case, re-debut) is teased for weeks upon weeks, only for an extremely disappointing end result. Ziggler is very talented, so I just hope this is leading up to something not horrible.
THE USOS DEF. THE NEW DAY
The Usos and The New Day are fighting next in a non-title match, and the winner chooses the stipulation for the championship match at No Mercy. Xavier Woods is wearing a posterboard with the words “It’s Sore” written on it, likely in response to the rumors that Woods injured his knee at a recent live event.
The bell rings and the teams go back-and-forth for a few minutes, with ending when Jimmy Uso was able to get a roll-up pinfall by holding Kofi Kingston’s tights.
REACTION: I wonder what stipulation the Usos will choose for their championship match at Hell In A Cell. Hmmmm. Also, it appears that Xavier’s injury is nothing too serious, so that’s good.
Carmella and James Ellsworth are backstage talking, and Carmella is mad at him for telling Natalya all about her plans to cash-in her Money In The Bank briefcase last week. Natalya interrupts the conversation, letting Carmella know that if she were to ever cash in on her, she will make Carmella the “Baron Corbin of the women’s division.”
Poor Baron Corbin.
Carmella and Ellsworth walk off, but Naomi walks in to let Natalya know that she’s getting her rematch for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in two weeks.
TAMINA DEF. JOBBER
After a commercial break, Lana is in the ring to introduce Tamina. Tamina is fighting against a local jobber.
Tamina puts away the local jobber with a superkick after about one minute.
REACTION: Well, would you look at that! A superkick can still be used as a finisher. Take notes, Young Bucks.
SEASON 2 OF “FASHION FILES” DEBUTS
Tonight’s episode of “Fashion Files” featured Fandango and Tyler Breeze overlooking some “new technology from the boys in the lab” that will help them solve crimes. These items are a pair of headphones, a flashlight, a belt (which Fandango refers to as a “title”), and a couple of friendship bracelets. They look around the room with the flashlights and discover that the poster with “Two B” written on it, also has “or not to be” written under it in secret writing. They eventually come to the conclusion that it must be Aiden English behind the antics surrounding the Fashion Police and the string of office destruction incidents.
REACTION: Despite being stuck in a storyline that just continues to get longer, these guys manage to remain as entertaining and humorous as ever.
ORTON & NAKAMURA DEF. R– USEV & MAHAL
It’s main event time in Little Rock and it will be the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton taking on the team of Rusev and WWE Champion Jinder Mahal. The two teams brawl before the bell is rung, and the faces take control early.
The bell is eventually rung, and the teams go at it for a solid ten minutes. The finish consisted of Shinsuke Nakamura holding Rusev in an armbar, only to be broken up by Jinder. Randy runs in, and tries to set up Jinder for the rope DDT, but Jinder avoids it. Orton settles for a regular DDT instead.
Orton then turns around and hits Rusev with a big boot, which causes Rusev to stumble into a knee strike off the top rope by Nakamura. Shinsuke then hits the Kinshasa and gets the 1-2-3.
Next week, it will be Randy Orton vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, and the winner is named #1 contender to Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship.
Post-match, Randy hits Shinsuke with an RKO out of nowhere and poses on the middle rope to end the show.
REACTION: Well, this match was pointless. It was fun, but essentially meaningless. The finish was interesting though and it has me interested in next week’s Orton/Nakamura match.
OVERALL REACTION: This episode of SmackDown wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really live up to the high standard that SmackDown has set for itself in recent weeks. With that said, I am excited that Shelton Benjamin is back and I’m interested to see where this McMahon/Owens storyline goes next as they build up for a probable Hell In A Cell match.
What did you think of tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live? Be sure to voice your opinions in the comments below!