It was an explosive night on SmackDown, and not just what happened in the ring. It’s hard to ignore what WWE did in relation to Jeff Hardy’s history being incorporated into a current storyline, and having it broadcast in such a brazen and unforgiving way, as America’s police force is in the spotlight, felt like bad taste. It’s a shame really, as the rest of the evening was excellent. A Moment of Bliss, Mandy Rose and Otis’ holiday, and the main event were all fantastic, but this was all overshadowed by the events that transpired right at the beginning.
Sheamus won a 10-Man Battle Royal to advance to the finals of the Intercontinental Championship Tournament
Lacey Evans vs Sonya Deville ended via double count-out
Sasha Banks def. Alexa Bliss via pinfall
Shorty G def. Cesaro via pinfall
Daniel Bryan def. Sheamus via pinfall
Art Imitating Life
Vince McMahon has always had a penchant for using his Superstars’ personal struggles outside of the ring, and more often than not it’s uncomfortable to watch. Jeff Hardy’s “demons” have been brought up a lot recently, with him only making his return a few weeks ago. I honestly thought that was the extent of WWE’s plans to bring his real-life into his current run, but Vince had other ideas. Things started off with Renee Young saying there had been some kind of accident. Elias had allegedly been involved in a hit-and-run, with a rental car all smashed up and empty next to her.
It was all very serious, but clearly part of a storyline. Whilst Jeff Hardy’s name hadn’t been mentioned at this point, I had a feeling he’d be involved in some way. A cop looked into the car and saw a document from the rental company that noted it belonged to a man named Jeff Hardy. Braun Strowman was by the accident and said he saw someone hit Elias then disappear. The next thing we saw was a bunch of cops find someone who seemed to be inebriated by some bushes. Ding, ding, ding! Of course, it was Jeff Hardy.
Although the cops claimed he smelled like alcohol, he swore he hadn’t been drinking. Regardless, they shoved him in the back of their police car and drove off, with Jamie Noble saying he’d follow Jeff down to the station. It was all very surreal. This had been the first big story to dig into a Superstar’s real-life past for some time, but with his alcohol abuse so recent, it felt rather unnecessary to turn it into a storyline in such a graphic way. The crashed car, Elias lying on the ground, and Jeff Hardy looking so disorientated felt wrong. It really doesn’t help with what happened in Minnesota this week, either.
Backstage, lots of Superstars were talking about what happened, when Adam Pearce announced that Hardy had been arrested, and there would be a new plan for the Intercontinental Championship tournament. Sheamus called Hardy a “pathetic junkie,” saying he should face Daniel Bryan in the semi-final tonight. King Corbin also said he should be considered, as did Dolph Ziggler and Jey Uso. AJ Styles told everyone that he was getting a free pass to the finals, and he wouldn’t be getting a replacement for Elias.
Daniel Bryan, being the honest competitor, wanted a match, and so a 10-Man Battle Royal was announced to take place next, which led all the arguing superstars to the ring. AJ Styles was brilliant here, calling Bryan an idiot for not taking the free pass. The question has to be asked why we couldn’t just have Jeff Hardy face Daniel Bryan without all this forced drama. If this is indeed Jeff Hardy’s final hurrah with WWE, it should be to prove he can still compete with the best, and that his problems are well and truly over. Instead, it feels like he’s being punished for the mistakes he’s made.
10-Man Battle Royal: Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik, Drew Gulak, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, Dolph Ziggler, King Corbin, Sheamus, Jey Uso, Shorty G
As exciting as Battle Royal’s go, this was pretty good, but having Sheamus win seemed like yet another wasted opportunity. It’s not that I’m unhappy with him winning, but WWE could have just booked him in a match against Daniel Bryan. Instead, Superstars like Cesaro and Drew Gulak got buried again, rather than allowing them to shine in singles competition.
King Corbin seemed like the early favourite, eliminating four Superstars in a row. Dorado, Gulak, Gran Metalik, and Dolph Ziggler were all thrown over the top rope then, in a huge surprise to proceedings, Jey Uso got rid of Corbin thanks to a nicely delivered superkick. Cesaro was the next to be eliminated, courtesy of Shorty G. Enraged he was no longer in the match, Cesaro went crazy at ringside. Back in the ring, Shorty G got rid of Nakamura, but whilst the referee was distracted, Cesaro ran in and threw Gable out. Illegal as it may have been, it was allowed, leaving Sheamus and Jey Uso as the last two standing.
The action spilled out onto the apron, and Jey almost got rid of Sheamus, however, his power was too much. He slammed Jey into the ring post, then struck him with a Brogue Kick which sent him crashing to the outside. Sheamus would go on to face Daniel Bryan in the main event to see who would face AJ Styles in the finals of the Intercontinental Championship tournament final.
Cesaro vs Shorty G
After the events in the Battle Royal, Cesaro told Shorty G backstage he wasn’t fit to be an Intercontinental Champion, saying he should walk away before he gets another beating. Shorty G refused, leading to a match between the two. Gable came out the gate swinging, who landed a spinning heel kick followed by a moonsault.
Cesaro fought back and hit a huge clothesline, then caught Shorty G with a gut-wrench suplex. He continued to destroy Gable, hitting one hell of a powerbomb, but after another attempted powerbomb shortly after, Gable managed to use the swinging momentum to roll up Cesaro for the victory.
Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus
This was an excellent match, with both men showcasing their individual styles to try and get the victory. Bryan started off with some groundwork, but Sheamus was able to overwhelm Bryan with his power. Sheamus got some vicious elbow strikes on Bryan’s head, before shouting, “are you not entertained?” He then landed a clothesline from the top rope. Continuing to dominate, Sheamus hit an Irish Curse backbreaker and attempted to lock in the Texas Cloverleaf, but Bryan managed to get to the ropes.
Bryan fought back, using his quick feet and agility to hit a perfect missile dropkick from the top rope. After hitting a double axe handle on Bryan, Sheamus was all set to deliver a Brogue Kick, when Jeff Hardy appeared (he was in fact perfectly sober, as revealed by WWE during the episode). This distracted Sheamus long enough for Bryan to hit a running knee and pick up the three-count. Jeff then ran into the ring and unleashed a number of punches on Sheamus, but he managed to break free, with Hardy standing tall in the ring as the show finished.
Going forward, it looks as though WWE is pushing for a PPV match between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus. Up until tonight, their feud had been built really well. Since Sheamus came back, he’s played a huge role in getting SmackDown back on top form. The whole opening to tonight came at the wrong time, and many will find it distasteful, not just because of Hardy’s past struggles, but also because of the events involving the police and George Floyd.
A Moment Of Bliss For Nikki Cross
This was by far the best thing that happened on this week’s SmackDown. Nikki Cross has fitted so well into her role as friend and partner to Alexa Bliss, and tonight was no different. The Women’s Tag Team Champions hosted A Moment of Bliss with The New Day being their guests. Cross gave Kofi Kingston and Big E some Scottish Pancakes as a gift. Big E ended up giving them a present of their own by reaching into his ring attire and pulling out some coffee beans. He stirred them into a mug of water with a big wooden spoon and passed it to Alexa. Quickly changing the subject, she asked who they thought was competition for their tag team gold.
They brought up the Forgotten Sons, then asked Bliss and Cross the same question. Naturally, they said The Iiconics, but Bayley’s music hit and out walked the SmackDown Women’s Champion with her lackey, Sasha Banks. Alexa Bliss pointed out that Banks was the only person not wearing any championship gold in the ring. Banks took exception to that, saying they could win those titles back at any time, and that they put those titles on the map. Bayley nominated Banks to face Alexa Bliss, but the Boss didn’t seem happy about it at all.
Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss
These two had a decent match, but the highlight was what was going down on commentary. Both Bayley and Cross had headsets on and helped to cheer on their partners. Cross was jumping up and down on the table, chanting for Alexa, and kept telling Bayley to shut up every time she had a go at her for knocking the table. Michael Cole lost it at one point, laughing at how excitable Cross was getting, and it was brilliant. Back in the ring, Alexa was setting up for Twisted Bliss when Bayley got involved. She shoved Cross into her, which knocked Bliss off the turnbuckle. This allowed Banks to hit Bliss with her knee and covered her for the pin.
The Highs And Lows From The Rest Of The Show
Sonya Deville is on fire as of late, and it only continued to burn bright this week. Before her match with Lacey Evans, she delivered a promo on the Sassy Southern Belle, but Evans was stood behind her. She knocked Deville down then headed to the ring. After some great back and forth between the two, Evans gator-rolled Deville onto the apron, smothering her with the SmackDown fabric. Deville recovered and both Superstars fought each other until the referee counted them both out. We’re going to get more from these two, and after their encounter tonight, I’ll happily watch them go at each other’s throats again.
Mandy Rose and Otis killed it again tonight. Their romance has been the highlight on SmackDown for some time, and tonight was no different. They were drinking peach champagne and enjoying some fruit by the pool. Mandy said she was going to take a nap, so Otis decided he was going to go for a swim. In a dream sequence, Mandy Rose imagined Otis in the pool, emerging from underwater and shaking his long hair in slow motion. He then ripped off his top and kissed Rose. In reality, Otis did a huge cannonball and splashed Rose, waking her up from her dream. He apologised but she didn’t mind, then got in the pool with him and shared another passionate kiss.
Kurt Angle appeared to announce that SmackDown would be getting a new Superstar. He went on to say he’s been getting to know him quite well over the last few months, even officiating a match of his this past Wednesday on NXT. That new Superstar is indeed Matt Riddle, and he’s coming to the blue brand. This is amazing news. Riddle is one of the best in-ring competitors in the entirety of WWE, and he’s also great on the mic. We then saw a video package featuring some of Riddle’s highlights so far. SmackDown is continually getting better, and with the addition of Riddle, the show is only going to improve.
The Forgotten Sons delivered another promo, but it was almost identical to last week’s. Please, WWE, get them in the ring and allow them to prove to the WWE Universe why they were called up to SmackDown. Their mic skills are generic, and at present, they’ve made no impact whatsoever.
If it wasn’t for the unsettling opening to this week’s show, I’d happily go as far as to say it’s one of the best SmackDowns we have seen all year. Unfortunately, Jeff Hardy’s ‘arrest’ dampened the mood somewhat. Sheamus and Hardy’s business is far from over, and it looks as though Sheamus will be revealed as the person responsible for framing him.
Nikki Cross was amazing, and I’m so excited to see her and Bliss defend the titles against Sasha Banks and Bayley next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see The Iiconics get involved somehow either. It won’t be long before Banks finally snaps, but it might not be until after next week’s title match, especially if they end up winning.
Otis and Mandy Rose have become the power couple of WWE, and their video tonight was a much-needed escape from the Jeff Hardy storyline. Finally, Matt Riddle being brought to SmackDown is potentially going to give us some excellent matches. The prospect of Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro facing the Stallion is too much to take.
All images and video courtesy of WWE