WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from June 26
Rusev looked to continue his winning ways against Xavier Woods, Jeff Hardy issued a United States Championship Open Challenge and Daniel Bryan battled Harper in an action-packed episode of SmackDown Tuesday night.
With Extreme Rules drawing near, fans of the blue brand got a taste of the feuds that will dominate the USA Network airwaves leading into the July 15 pay-per-view event.
What else went down on this week's show?
Find out with this look at the June 26 episode of SmackDown Live.
Miz TV Featuring The Bludgeon Brothers
The Miz was noticeably terrified of his guests, SmackDown tag team champions The Bludgeon Brothers, as Miz TV kicked off the episode.
He attempted to butter them up, siding against Daniel Bryan, whom Harper and Rowan brutally assaulted and cost a shot at the WWE Championship a week ago.
As the daunting duo inched closer to the Hollywood A-Lister, Bryan's music played and he demanded a match against one of them tonight.
Harper accepted the challenge and promised the bearded wonder would learn a lesson later tonight.
This promo segment accomplished nothing. At all.
That is, except for the announcement of tonight's main event between Bryan and Harper.
Again, a WWE program falls into the familiar and tired formula of using a promo segment to announce a match rather than just advertising the damn thing right out of the gate.
About the only good thing to come out of this was Miz's spectacular mic work and expressions while dealing with the imposing team sharing the ring with him.
Xavier Woods vs. Rusev
A week after cashing his ticket to Extreme Rules and a showdown with AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, Rusev battled a familiar foe in Xavier Woods to kick off the in-ring portion of the broadcast.
Rusev dominated the early portion of the match, using his strength and newfound momentum to take down his smaller opponent. He worked a rear chinlock during the commercial, no doubt hoping to keep his faster and agiler opponent grounded.
In a dominant position, Rusev toyed with Woods, kicking at him, almost daring him to get up. When the host of UpUpDownDown finally made it to his feet, the No. 1 contender cut him off.
Woods delivered a jawbreaker, unloaded with kicks to the tree trunk legs of Rusev and followed with some chops. A big running forearm popped the crowd and knocked Rusev off his feet. He lifted Rusev up in a fireman's carry, but Rusev powered out. He tried for a Machka Kick, but Woods answered with one of his own.
A great exchange that showed the speed of the competitors gave way to that vaunted Machka Kick and led to the Accolade as Rusev continued his winning ways. After the match, he cut a brief promo on Styles.
Rusev defeated Woods
Two of the most underrated Superstars on the WWE roster did battle here, and they did not disappoint. The NXT exports delivered an athletic, fast-paced match that kept the fans on their feet.
Woods impressed as the underdog fighting from underneath, but it was Rusev's fury and aggression that stood out.
He looked every bit the motivated monster he was early in his career with WWE, and that bodes very well for fans hoping he makes the most of his WWE Championship opportunity.
A great way to set the tone for the remainder of the matches on this show.
United States Championship Open Challenge
The news of Shinsuke Nakamura's injury forced a change to United States champion Jeff Hardy's plans for Tuesday night. Not content to sit back, he issued an open challenge to anyone in the SmackDown locker room.
Sanity's Eric Young answered, just one week after arriving on the blue brand.
A botched Twist of Fate attempt by Hardy was followed by an attempt at a quick Swanton Bomb, but Young rolled out of the ring and to the arena floor as the show headed to break.
Back from the break, Hardy was reeling, caught in the grasp of his unstable and unpredictable opponent. Young grabbed the champion in a dragon sleeper and pulled him from the mat to the top rope, essentially hanging him for a brief moment as announcer Corey Graves asked if this was about winning or maiming Hardy.
Young continued to work the neck of his opponent, creating doubt in the minds of the commentary team that Hardy could turn it around and retain his title.
Hardy finally fought out of a sleeper and delivered a jawbreaker. A running forearm, atomic drop and double leg drop to the midsection continued to spark his comeback. A Twist of Fate led to a dual clothesline spot that left both men on their backs.
The crowd came alive as The Usos appeared at ringside and brawled with Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe. Young bailed out of the ring and began battling Jey Uso before a six-man brawl broke out. The babyfaces cleared the ring heading into the break.
After a rough, rushed start to the match, this turned out to be a solid bout.
Young was legitimized in the eyes of those unfamiliar with his work thanks to getting as much of this match as he did. He dominated Hardy and only looked to be in jeopardy late.
Following the finish and the involvement of The Usos, this writer smells a Six-Man Tag Team match.
Six-Man Tag Team Match
And, following the finish to the United States Championship match, Hardy and The Usos teamed up to battle Sanity at the insistence of general manager Paige.
The massive Killian Dain controlled the match for the heels, using his size and strength to dominate Jey Uso. The popular babyface nearly made the much-needed tag to his brother, but Dain cut it off and drove his opponent into the corner as Young took over.
Uso finally created separation, shoving Young out of the ring. Before he could tag in Hardy, Young made a desperate grab for Hardy's foot, pulling him off the apron and preventing the tag in what Graves referred to as "great situational awareness."
Jimmy Uso finally received the tag and exploded into the match. He dropped Alexander Wolfe with a Samoan Drop.
Moments later, after the action broke down, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to score the victory.
Hardy and The Usos defeated Sanity
Byron Saxton suggested Sanity's defeat here only temporarily thwarted its quest to introduce anarchy to SmackDown. It felt very much like a seed planted by Vince McMahon backstage that is meant to prevent any complaints or concerns about the future of Young, Dain and Wolfe.
With that said, it is interesting that they would lose this match so close to their first appearance.
It makes sense that management does not want Hardy to lose when he is perceived as one of the biggest stars on the show and the current United States champion, but beating him, a Superstar bulletproof in terms of overness, would have meant a lot for Sanity as it attempts to get over with a new audience.
Becky Lynch vs. Sonya Deville
Becky Lynch's redemption tour continued Tuesday night as she battled Sonya Deville, accompanied by Mandy Rose, in a match set up earlier in the day during a WWE.com exclusive video.
Lynch frustrated Deville early and continued to do so heading into the break, tossing the lesser experienced competitor over the announce table and daring her to step back into the ring.
Deville dominated the contest, rebounding from her rough start. A late-match collision with Rose led to Lynch applying the Dis-Arm-Her for the tapout victory.
Lynch defeated Deville
There was not a ton to the match, hence the slightly above-average grade.
With that said, Deville continues to improve with every match and will be a star if and when WWE puts its machine behind her.
Lynch, though, continues to win matches after a disappointing last year and finally appears to be en route to a push. Arguably the most underrated competitor on the women's roster, she certainly has earned it on the strength of her performances alone.
James Ellsworth Promo
A chorus of boos greeted James Ellsworth as he made his way to the ring.
The insufferable bad guy played up the misogynist character until Paige made her way to the ring.
She announced Carmella vs. Asuka for Extreme Rules, but Ellsworth cut her off. The loudmouthed heel said Paige was only out there to ask him on a date, to which the authority figure confirmed.
Not a date with her, though. Instead, it would be a match with Asuka.
Ellsworth playing up some of the male supremacy stuff he did during his intergender work on the independent scene was, maybe, a hint at things to come from his character. Paige announcing that he will battle Asuka next week seems to confirm as much.
He was good here, but this really could have been accomplished backstage in a quick vignette rather than a full in-ring promo.
Daniel Bryan vs. Harper
Daniel Bryan and Luke Harper spent their pre-WWE careers battling in buildings around the globe, but Tuesday night they did so under the bright lights and on the big stage of SmackDown Live in what was the latest chapter of Bryan's budding rivalry with tag team champions The Bludgeon Brothers.
Bryan spent the match trying to fight from underneath, his body wracked with pain from his bigger, angrier and stronger opponent.
Every chance he had to fight back, Harper cut him off.
A big tornado DDT allowed Bryan to find separation, though, and apply his Yes Lock. Before Harper could tap out, Rowan hit the ring, drawing the disqualification.
The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Bryan, beating him down and leaving him in a heap. Before they could execute a double-team move that would have put the popular babyface out of action, Kane's music played, and The Big Red Monster made his way to the ring.
He came face-to-face with the champions and then unloaded on them. The champions fought back, but a double dropkick by Bryan allowed Kane to recover and deliver a chokeslam.
Kane and Bryan exchanged a look as the crowd came alive, eager to root for the duo formerly known as Team Hell No. Kane opened his arms for a hug, but a confused Bryan shook his head. He finally embraced Kane to a huge ovation.
A "YES!" chant followed, as did an announcement by Paige that Team Hell No would challenge The Bludgeon Brothers at Extreme Rules.
Bryan defeated Harper via disqualification
What a mark-out moment to close out this show.
Rarely does WWE surprise its fans, but Kane returning and re-forming Team Hell No was a great surprise.
Where that leaves Bryan's singles aspirations going forward is a mystery, but at a time when he is still getting his feet back under him following three years on the sideline, there are worse uses of him than in a tag team where he will not be asked to do quite as much of the work.
The match between Harper and Bryan was good for what it was but will not be remembered beyond tonight following the explosive conclusion to this show.