Friday Night SmackDown was taped from the Performance Center, still with a crowd of “NXT kids,” like the late Dusty Rhodes loved to call them. Backlash PPV is now one week away. The show is stacked, as Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles will come face-to-face ahead of their Intercontinental Championship clash. Alexa Bliss and her best friend Nikki Cross are putting the Women’s Tag Team Titles on the line against Bayley and her best friend, sorry lackey, Sasha Banks. Miz and Morrison (hé-hé, ho-ho) will reveal their plans for Braun Strowman ahead of Backlash Universal Championship Handicap Match. Also, Jeff Hardy is set to share his side of the story after last week’s accident. Let’s get into it.
- After a video recap of what happened last week on the WWE Performance Center parking lot, Jeff Hardy made his way to the ring. He said everyone witnessed something awful last week, the show was thrown into chaos, and a very good man, Elias, walked away with serious injuries that could have been worse. Hardy decided to paint his own portrait of the situation. Hardy said he pulled up to the Performance Center parking lot, excited for the show, got out of the car but was then hit with something big. When he came to, police were everywhere, he reeked of alcohol, he was out of it and in trouble with the law. He started to question everything he’s fought for in recent months, his family. Hardy said it’s all good because he’s here for a reason and in WWE for a reason. Hardy is on this path alone, so he knew deep in his heart that he didn’t slip last week.
He recalled being in the police department, passing all tests they threw at him, and then a witness came in to say that the culprit had red hair and a red beard. Hardy was free to go but furious. He couldn’t wait to get back to SmackDown because we all know who fits that description. He addressed Sheamus and said he will be damned if he lets Sheamus get away with what he did. Out came Sheamus who said Hardy is blaming other people for his problems and finding excuses for his actions. He asked Jeff to be a man for once in his life and admit what he did. Sheamus hit below the belt when talking about Jeff’s wife and daughters. Hardy attacked him on the ramp but Sheamus sent him into the Plexiglass barriers over and over. Sheamus stood tall next to Hardy’s lying body.
- Otis, his Peach, and his suitcase found King Corbin’s crown backstage. Corbin appeared after and yelled at everyone about his crown missing.
- Otis w/ Mandy Rose defeated King Corbin via DQ when he hit Otis with a chair. Corbin kept attacking, but Otis no-sold it and sent Corbin into the ring. He hit the Worm and celebrated with Mandy.
- The Miz and John Morrison were filming Braun Strowman from a van as he was entering the PC. After the commercial break, they talked about how everyone has criticized them since they challenged WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman to a Handicap Match. They warned that some people won’t like what we’re about to see, some will think it’s low-blow and juvenile, but it’s actually strategic. By the time they get to Backlash, Strowman’s life will be a living hell. The camera showed Strowman inside filling up his cup with water but it sends liquid flying everywhere. Strowman fumed as Miz and Morrison laughed in the van. “Wash these hands!” yelled the Miz.
- Mojo Rawley interrupted Shorty G’s interview. He, in fact, distracted Shorty to let Cesaro and Nakamura attack him. Kofi and Big E came to make the save.
- In a rematch of last week, Lacey Evans defeated Sonya Deville. There was an issue with the referee during the match, as Deville rolled into him, and a new one was called in. Later, Mandy appeared on screen and distracted Sonya.
- Another vignette on Matt Riddle coming to SmackDown.
- Braun Strowman was interviewed by Kayla Braxton when she received some kind of green slime from the roof, courtesy of Miz and Morrison. Braun was very angry.
- Renee Young welcomed Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles in the ring. They had some words over last week’s tournament finals. AJ said if Jeff Hardy didn’t interfere last week, Sheamus would’ve won and be where Bryan is standing tonight. AJ added Bryan will call him a coward for taking the bye in the tournament to get to next week’s finals. Renee asked Bryan if AJ is a coward. Bryan said AJ is but they both have different ways of thinking. AJ says he did the smart thing when Renee asked if he took the bye because he’s never been Intercontinental Champion. AJ said he sees himself as a champion, the greatest WWE’s ever had. Bryan is all heart. Yeah, he’s doing the right thing but it’s stupid. Bryan said AJ is trying to get under his skin and it’s not working. They’ve known each other for a long time, long enough to know they both have different world views and views of what it means to be Intercontinental Champion. Bryan said AJ would probably only defend against a select few that he felt worthy when Bryan would defend the title every single week, whether it’s against a veteran or up and comer. AJ started speaking of opportunities and how Drew Gulak got the chance to be Bryan’s coach, or even work in WWE at all. AJ said that sounds like a handout. If they can’t agree on what their visions are, AJ believed it’s a handout and Bryan believed it’s an opportunity, so how about AJ reach across the aisle and do something unexpected, give Gulak an opportunity tonight. AJ knew Gulak is in the back and called him to come to the ring to get his handout, aka his ass-whooping. Out came Gulak as AJ and Bryan were still having words in the ring. Gulak immediately hit the ring and attacked AJ, taking him down.
- Drew Gulak defeated AJ Styles. Big surprise but excellent match.
- Miz and Morrison destroyed Braun Strowman’s car with a golf club and a wooden baseball bat. They went back to their van so they could wait and watch the look on Strowman’s face when he came back out.
- Shorty G and The New Day defeated Mojo Rawley, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Braun Strowman snapped on the parking lot. He asked a security guard where Miz and Morrison were and he pointed to the van. Braun rocked it and lift the van up on its side. Strowman added they’re not funny but that was funny.
- Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles for the Intercontinental Championship will take place next week on Friday Night SmackDown. Also, Jeff Hardy will face Sheamus at Backlash.
- SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley & Sasha Banks defeated Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss to become the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. There was some tension between Banks and Bayley during the match but they disappeared as soon as Banks pinned Cross. The Boss and Bayley celebrated on the ramp.
This episode was a strange mix of highs and lows, great matches in a mess of promos. Because last week’s Jeff Hardy segment was not particularly appreciated by the fans, the storyline was cut short. Sheamus may be guilty or not, whatever, the goal was to make Hardy and him fight. And that will happen at Backlash in 8 days.
Morrison and Miz’s version of Swerved is something you hate or you like. And I didn’t particularly like it. The green slime on Kayla, DX did that prank in 2006 on The Spirit Squad and the McMahons. We have seen Strowman lift dozens of vehicles before. As soon as Miz and Morrison appeared on-screen in that van, it was obvious the lift would happen. This doesn’t make of Miz or Morrison more “legit” contenders for the belt but, in wrestling or pranks, they are the best partners in crime.
As a member of Fire & Desire, I was feeling like Sonya Deville was shadowed by Mandy. Since her heel turn, I have been positively surprised by Deville. If Michael Cole is pretty insisting on the fact she is a former MMA fighter, Deville is an excellent wrestler and a real good heel. Her match against Lacey Evans was stiff but very good, despite the ending.
AJ Styles vs Drew Gulak was an excellent match but I ask myself where all of this will go. Gulak as the underdog winning against Styles was predictable but what does this mean in the current Intercontinental Championship storyline and Bryan/Gulak partnership?
The Women’s Tag Team titles have created some friendships or revealed some tensions. And Banks and Bayley’s win showed a team with dissension winning the titles. Bayley’s celebration was hilarious but the dissension turns the titles into something that matters very little. We have been looking forward to the moment where Bayley will betray Sasha or Sasha will backstab Bayley. WWE have been making us wait for quite a while now.
When it comes to Shorty G, he seems to be the new target backstage, the man to kill. After Cesaro, this week it was Mojo Rawley to attack him. The Otis vs Corbin bout was predictable and bringing us nowhere. We can ask ourselves when Matt Riddle will debut on SmackDown but I’m sure, somewhere only he knows, a mysterious hacker we haven’t seen for a while now already has the answer.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE