WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from June 12
The final hype for Money in the Bank took over SmackDown this week as the men and women's matches were spotlighted, as was the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura.
A show much better and more effective than its Monday night counterpart, it was more focused thanks to the two-hour run time.
What went down when Shinsuke Nakamura battled Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe squared off with Rusev?
Find out now with this recap of the June 12 episode.
Women's Money in the Bank Summit
SmackDown general manager Paige kicked off the show, surrounded by Naomi, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Lana, all of whom will compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match this Sunday night.
Paige admitted that she does not care who wins as long as the briefcase comes to SmackDown.
Charlotte and Lynch, two close friends, argued back and forth until Naomi casually reminded them that there are six other women in the match, too.
Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville all interrupted the proceedings, and a brawl between the eight women erupted. An Eight-Woman Tag Team match was booked for the night's main event.
Would you look at that: a promo segment that sets up a match.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
WWE Creative leans so heavily on that crutch that it wonders why some of its shows are so poorly received. Perhaps it can be attributed to the creative bankruptcy?
On a positive note, Rose and Deville speaking out against Paige, their former mentor, is full of untapped story potential, while Lana's silence here spoke volumes.
The Ravishing Russian did not say much, has had her involvement downplayed to such an extent and is overshadowed by so many of the other women in the match that it would not at all be a surprise if she wins the briefcase in a massive shocker.
Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin
Sunday night, Daniel Bryan will square off against Big Cass in a rematch from Backlash, but Tuesday he battled someone with a completely different skill set in Shelton Benjamin.
Bryan was ferocious from the opening bell, taking the fight to Benjamin. His intensity proved costly, though, because it hampered his focus and opened him up to a knee-focused attack by the former NCAA wrestling champion. Benjamin worked the knee during the break.
Benjamin continued to control the bout until Bryan fought his way back with a dragon screw leg whip and a series of kicks about the chest. The former intercontinental champion thwarted Bryan's comeback attempt with a big superplex that did further damage to the popular babyface's injured knee.
Bryan caught Benjamin in the YES Lock, but the heel broke free and applied his own half Boston crab. Ultimately, Bryan scored the victory with a heel hook and gained momentum heading into his showdown with Cass.
Bryan defeated Benjamin
This felt like a match just finding its groove when it came to its conclusion.
Bryan and Benjamin have excellent in-ring chemistry, and the reversal work here was fantastic. Putting them in the ring, giving them 20 minutes on a throwaway episode of SmackDown and letting them tear the house down would be a hell of a lot more fun than whatever it is WWE Creative is doing with Bryan at this point.
Bryan looked good here, but how this is supposed to prepare him to battle a seven-foot-tall monster like Cass is a question left unanswered.
Jerry Lawler Interviews AJ Styles
WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler, positioned to the side of the ramp, introduced WWE champion AJ Styles for a special interview segment.
Lawler asked Styles what led him to slap Shinsuke Nakamura during last week's contract signing. The Phenomenal One asked if he should apologize to his Money in the Bank opponent.
He said the only thing he apologizes for is not obliterating Nakamura.
He vowed to be the better man and leave Money in the Bank with the WWE Championship intact.
This could have been accomplished in a brief backstage promo rather than an overhyped in-ring segment that did nothing to add anything whatsoever to Sunday's WWE title match.
With that said, this was a nice throwback to the old Saturday morning WWE shows where Gene Okerlund would be stationed in the back of the audience, interviewing the top stars of the company in an attempt to put over their stories and feuds.
Samoa Joe vs. Rusev
A week after Rusev and Samoa Joe came to blows with tag team partner The Miz in a Six-Man Tag Team main event, The Hollywood A-Lister served as the special guest referee for a showdown between The Bulgarian Brute and The Destroyer.
Joe controlled the action coming out of the break, scoring a close two-count on his opponent and working a neck cravat. Rusev fought out and began mounting a comeback. Along the way, Joe bumped Miz, who refused to count a fall for the former NXT champion.
The momentary distraction allowed Rusev to deliver the Machka Kick and score the upset victory. After the match, he ordered Aiden English to grab a ladder.
As Rusev scaled the ladder to retrieve the briefcase, Miz pulled him off and delivered the Skull-Crushing Finale. He grabbed the briefcase and paraded around the squared circle with it. At ringside, Byron Saxton revealed the briefcase was full of pancakes.
An irate Miz unloaded as The New Day was shown backstage cracking up.
Rusev defeated Joe
A fresh match, solid interactions between the three Superstars and a surprise outcome helped make this one of the better pre-Money in the Bank ladder match segments this week.
Rusev feels like a performer on the right side of momentum for once, while Miz was excellent as the antagonist of this entire ordeal.
The New Day remained involved in an unpredictable way, wrapping the segment up nicely.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
United States champion Jeff Hardy returned to the squared circle this week, battling Shinsuke Nakamura in singles competition just five days before The Artist challenges for the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing match at Money in the Bank.
Nakamura taunted Hardy, who responded with a clothesline off the ring apron heading into the break.
Back from the commercial, Hardy fought out of a headlock with a jawbreaker and took the fight to Nakamura. The top contender to AJ Styles' WWE title fought off an onslaught with a double kick to the midsection and a heel kick.
Hardy answered with a Whisper in the Wind for two.
Hardy delivered a stunner and the Swanton, but his injured back and hip prevented him from covering in time, allowing Nakamura to get his foot on the bottom rope and break up the count.
A low blow from Nakamura led to a disqualification and drew tremendous heat from the fans.
The Kinshasa followed, leaving Hardy in a heap. Nakamura then mimicked the official's 10, something he hopes will lead him to the WWE Championship Sunday.
Hardy defeated Nakamura via disqualification
It was apparent Hardy was in pain here throughout this match, and it severely hurt his performance overall. He looked slow, heavy and pained as he struggled to execute some of his trademark stuff.
Say what you will about the low-blow angle, but it is getting over with audiences and building heat for Nakamura. It will almost certainly be an element of Sunday's match, for better or worse, and possibly a signature of heel Nakamura going forward.
Do not be surprised if WWE revisits this match at some point in the near future if Nakamura is unsuccessful Sunday. This felt very much like the ignition of a program rather than a one-off.
Eight-Woman Tag Team Match
Charlotte, Naomi, Becky Lynch and Lana were forced to band together and put their differences aside as they teamed with Asuka to battle SmackDown women's champion Carmella, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay in a massive Eight-Woman Tag Team match to cap off Tuesday's broadcast.
The heels isolated Lana and beat her down in the corner before a tag to Lynch sparked the babyfaces. That rush of energy was short-lived, as Royce and Kay took the fight to The Lass Kicker ahead of the break.
The heels continued to control the bout until Charlotte was able to break free and tag Asuka. The hot tag ignited chaos that included all of the competitors hitting the ring. Each delivered some form of trademark offense before Asuka and Carmella were left alone in the center of the ring.
The Empress of Tomorrow countered a roll-up attempt and forced the champion to tap out to the Asuka Lock for the win.
Charlotte, Lynch, Lana, Naomi and Asuka defeated Carmella, Deville, Rose, Royce and Kay
The action here was really solid late in the bout, particularly once each woman was spotlighted, regardless of how long. Deville, Rose, Royce and Kay continue to impress with every passing week. Booking them to work with the likes of Charlotte and Lynch certainly helps.
Asuka going over Carmella almost certainly solidifies a successful defense for The Princess of Staten Island Sunday, while any potential winner of the ladder match from SmackDown remains clouded in mystery.
With the exception of Lana, who is awesome and should totally win, if only for the storytelling potential.