WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from June 24
The Era of Gunther swept over SmackDown two weeks ago by way of his victory over Ricochet for the Intercontinental Championship.
Friday night The Ring General defended his title in a rematch against The One and Only, looking to further establish dominance over the brand and eliminate the threat of Ricochet regaining the title all at the same time.
The return bout headlined a broadcast that also featured Drew McIntyre laying out his road to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship and the latest Money in the Bank qualifying match between two familiar foes.
- Intercontinental Championship Match: Ricochet vs. Gunther (with Ludwig Kaiser)
- Drew McIntyre's road to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship
- Money in the Bank Qualifier: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
Drew McIntyre Kicked Off SmackDown
Drew McIntyre kicked off SmackDown with the goal of laying out his path to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. Sheamus and The Brawling Brutes interrupted, though, leading to a back-and-forth between the rivals.
Paul Heyman and WWE official Adam Pearce joined the festivities next, with the latter revealing his decision to add McIntyre and Sheamus to Money in the Bank and that, to earn their way to the high-stakes ladder match, they must coexist and defeat The Usos in tonight's main event.
Ah, the old "tag team partners who hate each other" trope, popularized at the height of Vince Russo's Attitude Era booking. Of all the things to survive that magical time period of chaos and unpredictability, it is that storytelling crutch.
That is not to say the match itself will not be good because the talent involved can turn in a Match of the Year candidate anytime it damn so pleases. It is just a shame that such a convoluted setup that makes no sense and did not need to exist has to get us there.
- McIntyre pointed out that Brock Lesnar came back and was gifted a championship opportunity, then vowed to Claymore whoever won the match between The Beast and Roman Reigns.
- Sheamus bashed Arch Manning, the newest University of Texas football recruit and son of Fox's Cooper.
- The Celtic Warrior rightly reminded the WWE Universe that he cashed in on Reigns to win the WWE Championship the last time he won Money in the Bank.
- Pearce revealed that his decision to add both McIntyre and Sheamus to Money in the Bank had been overturned by WWE management.
Money in the Bank Qualifier: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn—insisting that he was merely protecting Roman Reigns by vying for a spot in Money in the Bank match—battled longtime rival Shinsuke Nakamura in a qualifying match.
The Honorary Uce downed The Artist twice at ringside, nearly winning once by countout and seizing control of the bout throughout the commercial break as a result of the other. Nakamura overcame the onslaught of his opponent and fought back into the match, making it more competitive down the stretch.
Driven by the promise to protect his Bloodline leader, Zayn thwarted the comeback and scored the clean victory with the Helluva Kick to cash his ticket to Money in the Bank on July 2.
Zayn and Nakamura can have a good match with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs. They have incredible in-ring chemistry, to the point that a merely good match is still better than many that lesser-talented competitors may have.
This was no different. While it was nowhere near their NXT classic from 2016, it was still above average and had the fans in Texas invested. Zayn winning is the right call in that he has more to do creatively right now, but one has to wonder exactly what the point of presenting Nakamura as a potential challenger to Reigns is, only to back off of that and leave him in limbo.
Zayn pinned Nakamura
- "I'm not going to cash in on Roman Reigns. I'm doing this to protect him," Zayn told Kayla Braxton, who asked if he would be tempted to betray The Tribal Chief should he make it to the ladder match and win the guaranteed title opportunity.
- Nakamura narrowly made it back into the squared circle to avoid a countout loss.
- Michael Cole calling Pat McAfee out for forgetting the name of the arena was good fun and highlighted their chemistry on the mic.
New Day vs. Shanky and Jinder Mahal In...a Dance-Off; Viking Raiders Return
Shanky and Jinder Mahal took to the squared circle for a dance-off with New Day's Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston.
Woods made fun of WWE's propensity for rematches, and Shanky danced to the dismay of Mahal. The Viking Raiders then made their return and left New Day lying to a chorus of boos.
The dancing stuff is bad. Sure, it generates a bit of amusement from fans, but we have seen this before with Great Khali and fully understand there is a real ceiling for the big man in that particular role. So, while it may appear as though it will help him get over with audiences now, it will ultimately prevent him from achieving true greatness in WWE.
New Day is better than this, too. Luckily, the silver lining came in the form of the Viking Raiders and a heel turn that not only benefits Erik and Ivar but also freshens up a tag team division desperately in need of it.
The matches between those two tandems should be damn good if nothing else.
- Xavier Woods claiming New Day isn't about rematch after rematch after rematch, after spending months repeatedly fighting The Brawling Brutes, was a nice tongue-in-cheek promo bit.
- "I'm glad we didn't get a rematch and got this instead," McAfee said as Shanky danced, most definitely coming across as more sarcastic than anything.
- Sonya Deville ran down Adam Pearce, only to be booked in a handicap match against Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez.
Raquel Rodriguez and Lacey Evans vs. Sonya Deville; Natalya Mocks Ronda Rousey
Backstage trash-talking ended with former WWE official Sonya Deville booked in a two-on-one handicap match against Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez.
The Pride Fighter fought admirably, but the two babyfaces—who have both qualified for the Money in the Bank ladder match,—ultimately scored the win by way of Evans' Woman's Right.
After the match, Xia Li and Shayna Baszler jumped the babyfaces but found themselves dropped by Rodriguez and Evans, who stood tall to close out the segment.
Deville felt too much like the babyface here, resiliently fending off both women before succumbing to the numbers game. Any chance of rekindling heat with a post-match beatdown came to a screeching halt when she, Li and Baszler were beaten down by the victorious babyfaces and driven from the ring.
If there was one positive to come out of this, it was that the heels make for a great trio. Deville, Li and Baszler could prove to be a dominant faction and the perfect foils for a babyface champion like Ronda Rousey.
Speaking of Rousey, No. 1 contender to the SmackDown Women's Championship Natalya dressed up like her and cut a mocking promo. The UFC Hall of Famer interrupted and tore her down verbally, then thwarted a sneak attack before sending the heel scurrying.
It was a segment that was unneeded and, worse yet, was one-sided in favor of Rousey. The verbiage, designed to raise eyebrows and generate discussion, came across as plain mean more than anything and made Rousey look like a bully.
Sure, both women have traded insults on social media, but in this context, it was mainly Rousey who came across as the aggressor.
The match at Money in the Bank will be very good but, like most everything else on the show, will be so despite the creative.
Rodriguez and Evans defeated Deville via pinfall
C for the handicap match, C- for the promo segment
- Rodriguez and Evans cleared the ring of Deville, Li and Baszler in a moment that did more harm than good for the heels.
- "The closest you'll ever get to being a main attraction in this company is dressing up like me," Rousey told Natalya following a barrage of insults directed at the latter's appearance, presentation and the Hart family.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Ricochet vs. Gunther
Two weeks ago, Gunther added his first main roster championship to his impressive resume by defeating Ricochet. Friday, they met in a much-hyped rematch.
It should not have been.
Gunther cut down The One and Only, preventing a comeback attempt with a wicked clothesline and following up with a jaw-dropping shotgun dropkick into the corner. The powerbomb finished a much less-competitive match than their previous encounter.
This was a massive letdown based on what the competitors delivered the last time they shared the squared circle. It was too short and too one-sided to amount to much. It was, though, a quality win for Gunther as he continues to establish dominance as the next unstoppable force in WWE.
Unfortunately, his usage suggests Ricochet is once again an immensely talented wrestler without a direction, just three months after it appeared as though he had earned a rejuvenated push.
Gunther pinned Ricochet to retain
- The wicked clothesline by Gunther completely turned Ricochet inside out. The babyface sold it perfectly.
- Backstage, Sami Zayn interrupted an interview conducted by Kayla Braxton with Paul Heyman and accused the former of stirring the pot. He then proceeded to put his foot in his mouth, saying he would be cashing in on Brock Lesnar, as if to suggest Roman Reigns will not retain at SummerSlam. The death stare directed at him by Heyman was brilliant and the latest in excellent storytelling from The Great Liberator and the special counsel.
Money in the Bank Qualifier: Tamina vs. Shotzi; the Latest Between McAfee and Corbin
Tamina filled in for an injured Aliyah, battling Shotzi in a Money in the Bank qualifying match Friday night.
In what was hardly a pretty match by any stretch of the imagination, the second-generation star appear to have victory in hand, only for Shotzi to get her foot under the bottom rope and force the break.
Moments later, Shotzi sent her into the ring post and followed with a modified DDT for the pinfall victory.
While not much from an in-ring perspective, the match at least gave Shotzi a key victory after being utilized so inconsistently since her heel turn last year. Hopefully, this win and the other handful of appearances she has compiled of late are proof of an expanded role on Friday nights.
She is far too unique a performer (with a larger-than-life personality) with too much potential to be wasted as she had been.
Back in the arena, Pat McAfee challenged Happy Corbin to a match that should be enormously fun, if nothing else. The color commentator has gleefully talked trash on the villain for the last year, and paying that off with a high-profile match is exactly what WWE needs to beef up the SummerSlam card.
McAfee is a star beyond WWE. Capitalizing on that and pairing him with someone he will work so well with from a character standpoint, if nothing else, is great booking.
Shotzi pinned Tamina
C- for the match; A+ for the McAfee-Corbin challenge
- Pat McAfee calling out the referee for botching a count was interesting but warranted as it did appear Jason Ayers' hand slapped the mat three times.
- Shotzi appeared to be genuinely ecstatic over her win, as she should be. After so many months of minimal usage, she is seeing a sizable opportunity.
- Backstage, Max Dupri chastised Adam Pearce for not providing suitable accommodations for his Maximum Male Models. He promised they would debut next week.
Drew McIntyre and Sheamus vs. The Usos
With their Money in the Bank fates tied to their ability to coexist, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus took the fight to The Usos early in Friday's main event. Egos got in the way, though, allowing The Usos to seize control of the bout leading into the final commercial break of the night.
After several moments on the defensive, Sheamus made the hot tag to McIntyre, who exploded into the match.
The Scottish Warrior downed his opponents but found himself on the receiving end of stereo superkicks. He recovered, wiped the Usos out at ringside following the tag champions' argument with The Street Profits, and put Jimmy down with the Claymore for the win.
The mid-match commercial break hurt it, but this was still a very good main event that highlighted the raw energy that McIntyre brings to his performances and Sheamus' ability to portray both babyface and heel, depending on the situation.
The Usos are clearly the unsung MVPs of WWE, holding down the fort in the absence of Roman Reigns but also consistently delivering in the ring. They are extraordinary talents and deserve all of the television exposure and hype sent their way over the last year-plus.
How Reigns reacts to the high-profile loss and the prospects of having both McIntyre and Sheamus chasing his title will be worth watching in the coming weeks.
McIntyre and Sheamus defeated The Usos (McIntyre pinned Jimmy)
- Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford joined the commentary team to hype their tag title match against The Usos at Money in the Bank.
- An early disagreement between Sheamus and McIntyre allowed The Usos to seize control.
- The late-match trading of strikes, including the heels' own superkick party of sorts, made for some great drama.
- Sami Zayn tried to get involved but paid for it.