WWE SmackDown Results: Daniel Bryan Taking AJ Styles' Spot and Top Takeaways
With Extreme Rules fast approaching, the July 10 edition of SmackDown Live was the last major show before the brutal event. This was meant to be the night that built excitement to a fever pitch before Sunday.
While the talk going into the night was focused on one more match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, the WWE champion's latest clash with his rival barely got a spotlight as Daniel Bryan opened the show on Miz TV and ended it with a win again to show his importance to the brand.
The Bludgeon Brothers have benefited greatly from this heavier focus, using their feud with Team Hell No to become more dangerous and vicious. "Dangerous" is not an adjective that would be used to describe James Ellsworth, but The Chinless Wonder did entertain again in his match against Asuka.
Finally, fans got a chance to fully appreciate the power and technique of Andrade "Cien" Almas. His performance against Sin Cara was an important showcase of how important it is that he gets more time to shine sooner rather than later.
On a packed episode of SmackDown Live, these takeaways were defining moments that point to who may be thrust into the spotlight at Extreme Rules for the blue brand.
Daniel Bryan Is Taking AJ Styles' Spot as the Top Star on SmackDown
All the build to SmackDown this week was focused on the next clash of Styles and Nakamura, but the match was not treated as much of a big deal once the show began airing.
This latest well-fought clash of top talent was placed after the opening Miz TV segment, a generally secondary time slot on the card.
While the clash got good time, especially including the following tag team match that added both Jeff Hardy and Rusev to the fray, this could have been treated as much more of a definitive clash of champions and challengers.
The Phenomenal One is clearly well-regarded by WWE. He is the cover star for WWE 2K19 and has been WWE champion for 245 days, but he has not participated in a company show's main event in two months. The only world champion regularly appearing on TV is playing second fiddle, primarily to Bryan.
Team Hell No is clearly the center of SmackDown right now, which cannot be attributed to nostalgia alone. Bryan and Kane were never as highly regarded on WWE programming as they are right now, thanks in large part to The "Yes" Man's undeniable popularity.
It is odd to see such a popular, successful and talented world champion play second fiddle at a crucial moment in his career. Some of this can be attributed to Rusev being treated as a lesser threat to The Phenomenal One, but it seems more obvious that Bryan is taking over Styles' role on SmackDown.
Team Hell No Have Helped Increase the Mystique of the Bludgeon Brothers
One team benefiting from Bryan's rising status on the card is The Bludgeon Brothers.
The SmackDown tag team champions were losing steam fast after they put The Usos behind them, and it was hard to say where they would go next.
Luckily, the return of Team Hell No has brought new attention to the title scene and made the threat of Harper and Rowan much more omnipresent for this roster. If the champions can get to a star such as The Beard, they can take out anyone.
The biggest aspect of Harper and Rowan's characters is their mystique. The more dangerous they feel, the more interesting they can be week-to-week. Right now, The Bludgeon Brothers could not be any more frightening as a force of destruction.
While Bryan and Kane emerged victorious on this episode of SmackDown to make clear they have a chance of winning on Sunday, neither Harper nor Rowan took the pin, protecting their status.
This feud has done wonders for the champions and the prestige of their titles.
James Ellsworth Is Living His Best Life
This week on SmackDown, Ellsworth was destroyed by Asuka in the center of the ring, forced to stay in her path by the women's division, who played lumberjacks at ringside. It was not even close to being a fair fight, but he did manage to help Carmella incapacitate The Empress of Tomorrow afterward.
The honest truth is Pretty Jimmy isn't a great in-ring worker. He's limited in the ring, which showed in this match. However, the silliness and entertainment of the segment was enough to make it work and further cements the legacy of Ellsworth in WWE.
Not many get the chance to stand out in this company. With Ellsworth's stature, appearance and skill set, he should never have made it as far as he has. His charisma and entertaining swagger have helped him form a niche on the product that deserves heavy praise, though.
The Chinless Wonder is a modern-day jobber in a company that has mostly moved past that concept, and he's one of the most enjoyable to watch in that role in WWE's history. It is tough to say how much longer he lasts in this second run, but he's making the most of every second.
It is only right he should spend Extreme Rules in a shark cage, continuing to play his role of entertaining nuisance.
It's Time to Start Relying on Andrade 'Cien' Almas
Finally getting back in the ring, Almas put on a show with Cara in a fast-paced and dangerous contest that showcased just how well the two knew each other despite the former clearly being the more dangerous opponent.
SmackDown slowed the ascent of El Idolo after Cara injured his shoulder, and it has been tough to watch Almas waiting in the background. While his sprint with the luchador was fun, it was not worth waiting a full month to see.
The former NXT champion has much to prove on the main roster, but he is one of the best in-ring workers in the world. His alliance with Zelina Vega has made him one of the most engaging and vicious performers on the roster with a fluid offense that is unparalleled.
Almas can be the missing element in SmackDown's midcard division, putting on great contests against stars ranging from the members of The New Day to the current United States champion.
All he needs is a chance to shine.