WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from July 3
The July 3 edition of WWE SmackDown was focused on the return of Team Hell No. After last week's surprise reappearance by Kane, it was inevitable that excitement would build for the two men to wrestle together for the first time in years.
However, with WWE Extreme Rules 2018 approaching on July 15, there were many more stories to be told on SmackDown. After it was booked last week, Asuka was set to fight James Ellsworth in a battle of the sexes that only The Chinless Wonder thought he could win.
Other events announced for this show included United States champion Jeff Hardy's Independence Day U.S. title open challenge, The New Day's pancake-eating celebration and AJ Styles vs. Aiden English less than two weeks before The Phenomenal One faces Rusev for the WWE Championship.
The night had many massive moments and quality matches, with everyone at the top of their game on the road to Extreme Rules.
The Usos Challenge Team Hell No for a Tag Team Championship Shot
Renee Young brought out Team Hell No to talk about last week. Kane made clear he had always had Daniel Bryan's back. The Beard questioned this, bringing up their last rivalry, and the two got into an argument that boiled down to "yes" and "no."
The Usos interrupted the fight to question why Bryan and Kane were getting a title opportunity. Bryan was happy to fight them on Tuesday night, but Kane was not sure.
General manager Paige then made the challenge official for the main event, announcing Jimmy and Jey Uso would be added to the Extreme Rules tag team title match against The Bludgeon Brothers if they won.
This was a fun opener overall. Kane and Bryan have the same chemistry they had five years back, which makes for engaging promos. The back-and-forth exchange grew a bit tiring over time, but The Usos brought it back.
The best way to book major TV matches is to give them a purpose. By booking this main event with the promise that The Usos could earn a championship opportunity, it became an exciting return for Team Hell No.
Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz in the Independence Day United States Open Challenge
Hardy showed his American pride with red, white and blue face paint and cut a brief promo on how proud he was to be champion before coming out for his open challenge. The Miz answered the call, hoping to capture his third United States Championship.
A knee to the face and running boot finally gave Miz an advantage in this fight. Hardy fought back with his signature offense only to go crashing into the barricade off a failed Poetry in Motion. The champion did not give up, though, and came back with a Whisper in the Wind.
In a final battle to hit their finishers, The A-Lister rolled up Hardy but was caught with his feet on the ropes. While Miz argued with the referee, the champion caught him with a Twist of Fate into the Swanton Bomb to win.
Hardy def. Miz by pinfall to retain the WWE United States Championship.
TV matches don't get much better than this. Miz took Hardy to the limit, and the two men fought like true veterans with serious gold on the line.
It was not the champion's best outing, as he has looked slow lately, but The A-Lister is on a roll that would lead to great matches with anyone.
Open challenges have gone from a special event to a regular one in WWE, and it's welcome. More title defenses raise the prestige of the championship on the line. The U.S. title needs all the prestige it can get at the moment, especially as Hardy waits for Shinsuke Nakamura to return.
Sanity Ruin the New Day's 3rd of July Pancake-Eating Competition
The New Day held a special pancake-eating contest to finally try to determine who is the best member of the team at eating pancakes, with Byron Saxton hosting the event. However, the arrival of Sanity ruined the trio's fun.
The lights went out before the first pancake could be eaten, and when they came back on, Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe went on the attack. The one-sided assault ended with Young sending Xavier Woods through a table with an elbow drop.
This was simple and effective storytelling that worked. Sanity has been hitting it out of the park every week so far, and it was inevitable the group would be paired with the other major trio in WWE.
While Sanity vs. New Day likely won't fit on the Extreme Rules card, it should be a great contest further down the line.
The stacked SmackDown tag team division needs multiple feuds like this not to waste talent. It is a surprise that Sanity has already moved away from its rivalry with The Usos, but it is always possible the vicious trio can return to the contest later.
Asuka vs. James Ellsworth
Carmella came out to watch this contest on commentary, while Ellsworth tried to show off unsuccessfully and was quickly pushed out of the ring. The one-sided assault continued as The Chinless Wonder could not even touch Asuka in their match.
Eventually, Ellsworth bailed on the contest and ran into the crowd. The chase continued until the referee counted both of them out.
While Asuka got Ellsworth back to the ringside area, he managed to escape after the SmackDown Women's champion shoved the Japanese Superstar into the barricade.
Asuka vs. Ellsworth ends in a double count-out.
While this match couldn't be booked much differently, it was disappointing that the contest was over so quickly with an inconclusive finish. The whole segment came off as a waste of time even if it did its job to keep the story moving.
Now The Empress of Tomorrow has two targets she will continue to pursue. If nothing else, this segment kept the heat between all three wrestlers high.
AJ Styles vs. Aiden English
Styles put over Rusev before his match only to have The Bulgarian Brute interrupt him.
Rusev made clear he is a different wrestler now than he was before, and he would not let this new opportunity slip through his fingers.
Rusev distracted The Phenomenal One to allow English to take over this match right away. It helped The Artiste for a few minutes, but the WWE champion ended up rolling him into a Calf Crusher for the submission.
The Super Athlete immediately attacked Styles after the bell, locking him in the Accolade.
Styles def. English by submission.
The pre-match promo and post-match attack were a bigger deal than the bout itself, which was an extended squash. English was never going to be able to give Styles a real challenge without making the champion look weak.
Rusev's involvement was a big deal, though, as he clearly established himself as a worthy contender to Styles by dominating him.
While he was only able to do so after Styles was worn down and distracted, the image of The Phenomenal One locked in the Accolade will stick all the way to Extreme Rules.
Becky Lynch vs. Peyton Royce
Billie Kay was a constant distraction at ringside, allowing Peyton Royce to trip Becky Lynch on the top rope and hit a rolling fireman's carry slam for the near-fall.
Lynch managed to fight back and reverse another fireman's carry into the Dis-arm-her for a tapout.
Lynch def. Royce by submission.
This bout suffered from limited time on this jam-packed show, turning what could have been a great match into a squash. On the bright side, it was Lynch taking another victory, continuing one of the strongest streaks of her career. It looks like The Irish Lass Kicker is on pace for a title match soon.
It is telling that The IIconics have so quickly fallen into the background after their explosive debut. They are working the same role as The Riott Squad on Raw, who are having more success on that brand.
Perhaps a change in the women's division will eventually give Royce and Kay a chance.
Team Hell No vs. The Usos (If The Usos Win, They Are Added to Extreme Rules)
Bryan and Kane showed off their individual skills early, but The Usos managed to isolate the latter and grind him down with their cohesive teamwork.
The "Yes" Man got off a hot-tag flurry to get back into this, only to take an enzuigiri to the floor.
Kane returned to the action just in time, using his power in impressive fashion.
Even after both members of Team Hell No took double superkicks, Kane still recovered enough to catch the Double Uce, setting up Bryan to hit a running knee on one Uso while The Big Red Machine chokeslammed the other for the win.
As Bryan and Kane tried to celebrate, The Bludgeon Brothers walked out to stare them down from the stage.
Team Hell No def. The Usos by pinfall.
This match was fun for the time it got, though it should have been more exciting. Ultimately, Kane didn't do much, and it showed that he was feeling rusty. Bryan and The Usos carried the heavy load, with Jimmy and Jey showing they still deserve more recognition than they are getting.
Despite the spotlight, it didn't feel like The Usos were in the same league as their opponents, who rarely worked in sync.
It was the right move to keep the Extreme Rules tag team title match two against two, but The Usos deserved a more competitive fight.