The Good, the Great and the Awesome from July 18 SmackDown
On the final stop before Battleground this Sunday, exclusively on the WWE Network, SmackDown hit the SyFy airwaves with two huge main events on July 18.
Chris Jericho squared off against Luke Harper in a match that served as the final hype for Y2J's massive encounter with Bray Wyatt at this weekend's live special. The Superstars tore the house down, delivering a match that exceeded expectations.
Interference from Wyatt, Erick Rowan and WWE tag team champions The Usos marred an otherwise outstanding bout but at the same time put the focus on two of the higher-profile midcard bouts on Sunday's card.
In the main event of the evening, Dean Ambrose returned to action following the despicable assault perpetrated by The Authority's Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and Kane on Monday's Raw. Unfortunately for him, he was tasked with meeting the Big Red Monster while being less than 100 percent.
The Lunatic Fringe fought through pain but again found himself the recipient of a beatdown, this time by Kane and Rollins, whom he will meet at Battleground.
With the road to Battleground ending and the journey to SummerSlam beginning on Sunday, WWE delivered an episode of SmackDown that focused on the undercard of Sunday's extravaganza rather than the main event, which has been hyped nonstop on Raw.
In preparation for Battleground, relive the very best from Friday night's show with this week's edition of The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown!
Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio
Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio have wrestled each other more times than any fan would care to count over the last four years. With that said, those fans would be hard-pressed to find an instance where the two Superstars failed to deliver a solid match. They have the type of chemistry that guarantees a good match at the very least.
Friday night on SmackDown, fans witnessed a very competitive bout that served as a bit of last-minute hype for the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal. It put Del Rio over as a favorite to leave Tampa with a title he has yet to hold.
Michael Cole and JBL did an excellent job of putting Kingston over in defeat, reminding fans of the winning streak he was on coming into the match and his history of impressive performances in Battle Royal settings.
It was a forgettable segment of television but a very well-wrestled match that served its purpose.
Nikki's Punishment, Vol. 2342
Stephanie McMahon continues to torment Nikki Bella for the actions committed by her sister Brie well over a month ago. This week on SmackDown, she ordered the busty Bella to serve as referee for a match between Alicia Fox and Eva Marie.
Unfortunately, Nikki's job would not be as simple as one, two, three.
The Total Divas star found herself on the receiving end of a two-on-one beatdown by the competitors, one that concluded when Alicia hit the ropes and came off with a nasty scissor kick that left Nikki lying in a heap to end the segment.
Say what you will about Nikki Bella, but she has done a very good job of taking a beating and making herself appear sympathetic throughout her current storyline. Feeling bad for John Cena's girlfriend is not something most fans are inclined to do, but she, along with WWE Creative, has done a fine job accomplishing that goal.
It seems likely that Brie will return to defend her sister in some sort of ultimate showdown with McMahon, but one has to wonder if it would be more effective for Nikki to take that role given her improving ring skills, the response she has been able to garner and the fact that Cena has an ongoing program with The Authority, which makes it much easier to tie together the two stories.
Either way, Nikki deserves credit for her recent string of performances—something this writer never imagined he would suggest.
Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz and Fandango
The opening match of the night featured four Superstars who will compete in the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal Sunday night at Battleground. It also featured two midcard rivalries that have incorporated the four very talented competitors in recent weeks.
Dolph Ziggler and Fandango's program has felt very much like a placeholder, something for them to do to give them some television exposure heading into Battleground. With that said, it has been fairly entertaining, thanks in large part to the ongoing saga of the ballroom dancer and his former female companions.
The Miz's return to action, complete with a new character who is desperate to protect his face from any sort of strikes by his opponent, has been somewhat effective in re-establishing him as a threat. His series of matches against Sheamus, one of wrestling's hardest-working Superstars, have been very good and have many wondering if a lengthy feud over the Celtic Warrior's United States Championship may be on the horizon.
The tag match that took place Friday night was a great way to kick off the in-ring portion of the show and helped put some attention on the intercontinental title match this Sunday night. Ziggler pinning Miz clean was a huge surprise but helps establish the Show Off as one of the favorites to emerge with some gold following Battleground.
It was a great way to showcase the talent involved.
The Divas tag match pitting Paige and current Divas champion AJ Lee against Layla and Summer Rae was nothing special from a quality standpoint, but as the latest chapter in the blossoming rivalry between Paige and AJ, it did a fine job of providing a spark for Sunday's championship clash.
After Paige did all of the heavy lifting, AJ tagged herself into the match and scored the win, forcing a tapout with the Black Widow. This understandably infuriated Paige, who looked to be on the verge of snapping before grabbing hold of the champion and embracing her with a big hug.
It was the first time since dropping the title back on June 30 that Paige appeared to be on the brink of breaking down. She has put a smile on her face and done everything she possibly could to remain cool, calm and collected since losing the championship she held so near and dear to her, but after being shown up by her rival again Friday night, she nearly lost it.
That creates some interesting scenarios for Battleground. What if AJ wins again? Does Paige snap and beat her senseless, completing a heel turn that would likely help to better establish her character?
Is their match Sunday night simply the latest chapter in their rivalry?
We will find out then, but for now, WWE Creative are doing a fine job of taking their time in telling the story they want to when it comes to the Divas title.
Chris Jericho vs. Luke Harper
Y2J geared up for his huge showdown against Bray Wyatt this Sunday night with an excellent, highly competitive bout against Luke Harper Friday night on SmackDown.
Proving that a year away from the squared circle could not slow him down, Jericho turned in a strong performance that should erase any doubts or concerns regarding his bout with Wyatt at Battleground. He looked crisp and on point as he and one of the most talented big men in all of professional wrestling delivered the match of the night.
The post-match beatdown by the Wyatts that resulted in the WWE tag team champions The Usos hitting the ring is nothing fans have not seen 100 times over the last three months, but it did manage to put some heat on Sunday's tag title match, so it at least served a purpose.
Jericho and Harper demonstrated some impressive chemistry with each other, which indicates that a program between the two of them, should Harper ever focus on singles competition, could be something quite fun and special to watch unfold.
Spotlight on Ambrose vs. Rollins
The entirety of Friday night's broadcast was built around the program between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. After the injury angle that kicked off Raw necessitated Ambrose's absence for the rest of the show, their influence on SmackDown was key to building what could be the match of the night at Battleground.
Ambrose's vow to avenge the beating he suffered on Raw, coupled with excellent commentary by JBL and Michael Cole as they discussed the Lunatic Fringe's heart being bigger than his brain, helped to put over the "never say die" attitude that the scrappy competitor approaches his work with.
By the end of the night, however, Cole and JBL proved to be right. No matter how tough Ambrose was, he still could not overcome the power of Kane and the interference from Rollins. As a result, he found himself laid out following a vicious Curb Stomp on the ring stairs.
Few expect the heated rivalry between the former Shield members to conclude at Battleground, especially with SummerSlam right around the corner. Thus, the relatively simple build that the company offered up on the go-home edition of SmackDown should be suitable enough for Ambrose and Rollins' match Sunday night.