WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 15
The May 15 episode of WWE SmackDown Live rolled into the United Kingdom Tuesday night, and matches with major implications for the June 17 Money in the Bank pay-per-view headlined the show.
Championship-match stipulations were decided, new qualifiers for the ladder matches were determined and a new title bout was added to the card, courtesy of the UK's own Paige.
Who emerged from each of the night's matches, including Andrade "Cien" Almas' in-ring debut on the main roster?
Find out now with this recap of an eventful and high-stakes episode of the Tuesday night staple.
Daniel Bryan Kicks Off SmackDown
Daniel Bryan kicked off this week's episode of SmackDown Live for an in-ring promo with Renee Young. Bryan basked in the incredible ovation he received and then voiced his desire to challenge for the WWE Championship.
Predictably, Big Cass interrupted the proceedings and insulted Bryan.
His trash-talking ended with Bryan unloading on Cass, taking him down and punishing his knee, using the steel post to further damage his limb. Referees and officials hit the ring to break the chaos up, leaving Bryan standing tall as Cass limped his way to the backstage area, his ego bruised and his knee in tremendous pain.
Bryan punked Cass out here and beat him at Backlash, yet the rivalry appears poised to continue. Why? Has Cass not been diminished enough? Have we not already established how awesome Bryan is?
Can we not just get Bryan in the WWE title picture so he and AJ Styles can tear down the house in arenas across the country?
These are the questions that need answering.
Oh, and whether anyone who works for WWE realizes how generic Cass' theme song is. It sounds like something random jobber No. 1 would stomp to the ring to just before getting demolished by Gangrel on a 1999 episode of Sunday Night Heat.
It's that bad.
The New Day vs. The Bar
The New Day and The Bar continued their intensifying rivalry Tuesday, as Big E and Xavier Woods battled Sheamus and Cesaro for the right to choose one member to compete in Money in the Bank.
The heels worked over Big E before a hot tag to Woods sparked a babyface comeback.
Woods' speed and agility proved problematic for Cesaro and Sheamus, but it was Big E's furious spear through the ropes on The Celtic Warrior that allowed Woods to deliver the top-rope elbow drop on Cesaro for the victory.
The New Day defeated The Bar
When New Day is doing something productive, its in-ring work as a tag team is nearly unparalleled. The team has wicked chemistry with Sheamus and Cesaro, and it was on full display here.
Woods has become such a polished pro that the argument can certainly be made that he is the best wrestler of the three. His hot tag is one of the best in the business, and the intensity he shows when the time calls for it is fantastic.
Sheamus and Cesaro feel like they have taken a step back since losing to Braun Strowman and Nicholas at WrestleMania 34, but steady consistency between the ropes, a staple of their work, will only lead to renewed pushes.
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Jake Constantino
Former NXT champion Andrade "Cien" Almas and business associate Zelina Vega made their SmackDown debuts Tuesday. "El Idolo" battled the unknown Jake Constantino.
It was a one-sided demolition, as the Mexican-born competitor overwhelmed his opponent, delivering the running-knee attack in the corner and putting him away with the Hammerlock DDT for his first main roster victory.
After the match, Vega addressed the WWE Universe and touted the successful first appearance of her client.
Almas defeated Constantino
This was a strong and dominant debut for Almas but one can only hope WWE Creative limits the number of squash matches he works before finally moving onward and upward to more competitive matches against more credible opponents.
It will help him, it will lend him legitimacy and most importantly, deliver the quality of matches fans have come to expect from Almas over the last six months.
A Royal Mellabration
A royal proclamation preceded the arrival of SmackDown women's champion Carmella, who entered the arena amid pomp and circumstance befitting royalty.
A braggadocios Carmella was still brimming with pride after defeating Charlotte Flair at Backlash when she turned on the audience, criticizing it for not showing her the respect she thought she deserved, despite the fact that it will flock for the opportunity to get a glimpse of the royal baby.
The Princess of Staten Island claimed she was better than everyone, even claiming to be better than Trish Stratus and Lita...combined.
SmackDown general manager Paige interrupted to a big ovation, her fellow compatriots elated to see her.
Paige said she had a royal proclamation of her own to make: At Money in the Bank, Carmella will defend her title against Asuka.
The Empress of Tomorrow made her way to the ring, and Carmella predictably bailed to end the segment.
Could this not have been set up in another, less-lengthy manner that did not overstay its welcome or accomplish absolutely nothing like this did?
Carmella came off as grating on the nerves rather than effective in her role as a heel, while the reveal of Asuka as the No. 1 contender could have been accomplished in a backstage segment that did not eat up nearly as much television time as this.
Yes, it is nice to spotlight the women, but in a segment this worthless, that does little to help anyone involved; it is not at all worth it.
Money in the Bank Qualifier: Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville
A week after Mandy Rose upset Becky Lynch in singles competition, The Lass Kicker had an opportunity at revenge and a spot in the Money in the Bank match. To accomplish both, she would have to win a Triple Threat match against Rose and Sonya Deville.
Any signs of Absolution were gone, as Deville laid out both Lynch and Rose coming out of a break.
Lynch, a fighter with an unbreakable will, fought from underneath for the majority of the bout. A double dropkick from the top rope left the heels reeling.
A running knee from Rose inadvertently wiped out Deville, allowing Lynch to trap Rose in the Dis-arm-her. A tapout later, and Lynch cashed her ticket to Money in the Bank.
Lynch defeated Rose and Deville
Lynch has repeatedly questioned her own abilities in recent weeks after losing a string of matches. That changed here, as she exorcised the demons that are the duo formerly known as Absolution.
The Lass Kicker is one of the best workers in the entire women's division but has been wildly underutilized for the better part of the last year. It's a shame, but one can only hope this is the start of a renewed push that maybe reintroduces her to prominence on a brand she once championed not all that long ago.
Non-Title Match: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
The pressure was on for AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura Tuesday night, as they battled in a match to determine which Superstar would name the stipulation for their WWE Championship match at Money in the Bank.
Nakamura seized control of the match heading into the break and worked Styles over, maintaining the pace as he saw fit.
Styles' elusiveness eventually allowed him to fight his way back into the match, as he slithered out of Nakamura's grasp and delivered an enzuigiri, followed by a Pele kick.
Chants of "this is awesome" reigned down from the stands, as the Superstars finally had the quality of match the WWE Universe has waited for since the ignition of their rivalry.
Late in the bout, Nakamura finally put Styles down with the Kinshasa, but The Phenomenal One shot his shoulder off the mat at the count of two.
As Styles rolled, he set up for the Phenomenal Forearm. As he launched himself off the top rope, Nakamura moved and Styles pulled up so as not to hit the referee. Nakamura feigned a low blow, claiming Styles had cheap-shotted him. The momentary distraction allowed the No. 1 contender to deliver his reverse exploder suplex and the Kinshasa for the win.
Nakamura defeated Styles
While it was still not without tomfoolery surrounding a low blow, this was by far the best Styles-Nakamura match in WWE to date.
The drama, the crowd and the intensity by the performers came together to create a thing of beauty that one can only hope they improve upon at Money in the Bank.
Nakamura is having more fun as a heel, and it shows in his performances. The mind games he is playing with Styles have made for an intriguing story, even if the execution by WWE Creative has not always been stellar.
Now, it should be interesting to see which stipulation Nakamura chooses for what should be the final match in their series.