WWE SmackDown Results: Biggest Winners, Losers and Moments from July 4
The SmackDown Live brand could have taken the easy way out Tuesday night, resting on its laurels while its viewing audience celebrated Independence Day. Instead, the blue brand presented a broadcast that laid the foundation for the July 23 Battleground pay-per-view and featured the return of John Cena.
One Superstar not thrilled by the re-emergence of the franchise star was Rusev, whose own return to the broadcast was overshadowed by the 16-time world champion.
The manner in which his own return was handled earned Rusev "loser" status, but he was not the only former United States champion to suffer that indignity as Dolph Ziggler joined him, his embarrassing performance in the Independence Day Battle Royal unbefitting a Superstar of his resume.
Naomi and Chad Gable had a much more successful and exciting July 4.
The SmackDown women's champion continued to establish herself as one of the better-booked champions on the entire WWE roster, while Gable continued to breakout, working AJ Styles in a potentially star-making performance.
Find out exactly what led to those distinctions for the aforementioned star and why with this recap of the July 4 episode of SmackDown Live.
Winner: Chad Gable
Chad Gable followed up his impressive match with Kevin Owens two weeks earlier with another, potentially star-making performance against AJ Styles Tuesday night.
The Phenomenal One may have defeated the former Olympian, but it was Gable who benefited most from the bout.
A young star who was allowed to hang with Styles, just barely losing to the all-time great, Gable looked every bit a star on the verge of breaking out. His skill and ability between the ropes are undeniable. They were on full display Tuesday as he countered, reversed and escaped several of Styles' trademark offense.
The most significant moment of his night came after the bout, when the victor walked up to Gable and shook his hand, a sign of respect and recognition from, arguably, the best wrestler on the planet to a young, up-and-coming star.
Gable noted in a post-match, YouTube exclusive video that American Alpha is not breaking up. If he can continue building momentum for himself through convincing, impressive individual performances, his partnership with Jason Jordan may become a thing of the past much sooner than later.
Styles, himself, took to Twitter to dub Gable the "real winner" of the night.
Loser: Dolph Ziggler
A year ago at this time, Dolph Ziggler was re-establishing himself as a threat to the world championship. He was on his way to SummerSlam to challenge Dean Ambrose, the recipient of a renewed push.
One year later, he was the first Superstar eliminated from an Independence Day Battle Royal designed to decide a new No. 1 contender to Kevin Owens' United States Championship.
The same match that featured such world renowned stars as Jason Jordan and Epico.
Yes, Ziggler staved off elimination right from the bell, only to be the first Superstars dispatched of in a match lacking the star power he could have lent it.
Instead, he was sent packing early, leaving many to wonder what exactly is left for him to accomplish.
After all, it has become painfully obvious that no number of show-stealing performances or unquestionable consistency is going to return him, permanently, to the top of the card. That leaves main event matches he never wins and midcard titles he wins too often.
Ziggler has done everything under the WWE umbrella. Perhaps it is time for a change of scenery and opportunities elsewhere.
SmackDown women's champion Naomi told the world from the moment Lana was announced as her No. 1 contender that The Ravishing Russian did not belong in the same ring as her. Nor would she have any problem dispatching of her.
At Money in the Bank, she beat her. A week later on SmackDown Live, she pinned her.
Tuesday night, she made it a trifecta, tapping Lana out in seconds.
Rarely in today's WWE are champions booked so credible and strong. Naomi made a claim, backed it up and moved on. Three times.
Now, she turns her attention to Miss Money in the Bank Carmella, who already made it known that she will pick the perfect opportunity to try to cash in on Naomi. Will it matter, though?
No matter what has been thrown at the champion, she continues to glow, retaining her title with relative ease.
In a day and age where effective booking of champions is routinely called into question, Naomi bucks the trend and stands atop the women's division on Tuesday nights.
The Bulgarian Brute interrupted John Cena's homecoming and took exception to the pomp, circumstance and hype that accompanied the franchise star's return Tuesday night.
Jealous and unwilling to accept such blatant disrespect and disregard, he called Cena out before settling into his anti-American shtick. This led to a challenge from Cena for a Flag match, to which Rusev backed down, instead vowing to have the match on his terms.
It was a cowardly way to get out of the match and, unfortunately, the perfect cap to an uneventful return to TV.
Rather than exploding back on to the scene as a prominent member of the SmackDown Live roster, Rusev is poised to be the first villain Cena rolls over in his renewed push.
That does nothing to help a multi-talented super athlete, who is desperately in need of a spark after seeing championship plans diminish earlier this summer.