WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from July 17
SmackDown Live had a strong showing at WWE Extreme Rules 2018, with AJ Styles and Rusev stealing the show with arguably the best match of the night, Daniel Bryan putting on the fight of his life alone against The Bludgeon Brothers and Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura bringing multiple surprising moments.
This left the July 17 edition of SmackDown picking up the pieces with SummerSlam on the horizon. Hardy invoked his rematch clause for the main event, knowing Randy Orton could be watching, while Andrade "Cien" Almas was the first to step up to be the next challenger to the WWE champion.
This still left many questions with major consequences, though. No one knew if Kane was healthy or how Bryan would recover from his loss on Sunday. Asuka had failed twice against Carmella thanks to James Ellsworth, and it was not clear how she would respond.
These were just a few of the potential stories coming into this Tuesday's SmackDown Live, promising an event that would finally begin to reveal what would come at SummerSlam on Aug. 19.
Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura Both Promise Victory
The former U.S. champion made it clear his heart was broken after losing the WWE United States Championship. He called out Shinsuke Nakamura for his moral turpitude before promising to win his title back in the main event.
The Artist was shown backstage and interviewed by Renee Young, calling The Daredevil a clown.
The main problem with this whole segment was that it felt unnecessary. It took Hardy less time to get to the ring than cut his promo, and Nakamura similarly did not have much more to say. The main surprise that came from all this was Randy Orton not even being mentioned.
It would have been more interesting to just interview the two later in the night before their match while opening the show with Styles vs. Almas.
AJ Styles vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
A confident Almas quickly took over this match, taking advantage of how beat up Styles was from Extreme Rules. He brought the champion to the limit, even hitting a diving double foot stomp and double running knees in the corner.
However, after The Phenomenal One kicked out of another vicious shot from El Idolo, he rolled him right into position for a Calf Crusher and a quick tapout.
AJ Styles def. Almas by submission
This was a great showcase of what these two could do together in the future. It was a fairly simple match for two of the best in the business, so there's still room for improvement. But that didn't stop this from being a quality TV match.
Almas was made to look like a true threat to the champion without being quite ready for that spotlight. When he is built up as a top talent on SmackDown, he and Styles could steal the show on any night.
Becky Lynch vs. Mandy Rose
Mandy Rose came out strong in this bout before Becky Lynch got rolling.
The Irish Lass Kicker managed to catch The Golden Goddess with the Bexploder and Dis-arm-her for a submission victory.
Afterward, Lynch stated she was coming after Carmella next and general manager Paige told the women's champion in her office they would have a match next week.
If the champion wins, she can throw another Mellabration, but a loss will give The Irish Lass Kicker a title match at SummerSlam.
Lynch def. Rose
This match accomplished what it needed to, but it wasn't all that interesting. Where this segment worked was in completing Lynch's journey to championship contention. She has finally been able to build momentum and is now the top face in the women's division until Charlotte Flair returns.
Samoa Joe vs. Tye Dillinger
After Samoa Joe assaulted Tye Dillinger before SmackDown last week, The Perfect 10 demanded revenge against Joe.
He came out firing and assaulted Joe with his knee outside the ring, but The Destroyer knocked Dillinger into the post to stop his momentum.
Joe then quickly locked in the Coquina Clutch for the win.
Joe def. Dillinger by submission
This was a squash match, but it was done well from start to finish.
Dillinger has rarely been treated like a true star on the main roster, but here he was aggressive and fun to watch. He frustrated an overconfident Joe until the dominant heavyweight was forced to take the threat seriously and destroy The Perfect 10.
Daniel Bryan Crashes The Miz's Funeral for Team Hell No
The Miz held a funeral for Team Hell No, making fun of Bryan and Kane for their loss at Extreme Rules.
Eventually, the facade wore thin, as Miz just went on a tirade about The Beard's best days being behind him.
This brought out Bryan, who attacked The A-Lister before hitting a pallbearer with a running knee.
It has taken a while to get to this point, but it has been worth it.
Bryan and Miz are finally ready to come to blows. A match with The Awesome One was the highest-priority contest for The American Phoenix after his return, and it should be an absolute show stealer.
As always, Miz was great here, and his mocking tone was perfect to finally set off Bryan, who had lost on Sunday and seen his good friend injured.
This could easily be SmackDown's biggest match at SummerSlam.
Kofi Kingston vs. Eric Young
Kofi Kingston's explosiveness seemed to be too much for Eric Young, who struggled to slow the pace throughout this bout.
However, Young relied on his Sanity teammates to turn the tide. A fight broke out outside that distracted Kofi.
Killian Dain then threw Xavier Woods into Kofi, which set up Young to hit a wheelbarrow neckbreaker for the big victory.
Young def. Kofi by pinfall
Sanity needed to start stacking up victories, so this was another moment for the trio following the tables-match win on Sunday. Young is a veteran who can put on a solid bout with anyone, so he and Kofi were good together even if this was a fairly simple performance.
This could be a long rivalry, with Sanity not likely to get a shot at the titles until after The Bludgeon Brothers lose them. This gives Young, Dain and Alexander Wolfe time to build their standing in SmackDown.
United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Jeff Hardy
After an early flurry from Hardy, Nakamura grounded him, mocking the veteran as he wore him down with kicks. Repeatedly, The Rockstar refused to show any mercy in his brutal and nefarious tactics against The Daredevil.
Hardy refused to stay down, though, and turned a Kinshasa into a Twist of Fate and then a Swanton Bomb.
However, as he went for the pin, Orton appeared to pull off Hardy and cause a disqualification. He viciously assaulted The Charismatic Enigma, even trying to rip his earlobe before hitting a DDT off the announce table.
Hardy def. Nakamura by disqualification; Nakamura retained the United States Championship
Nakamura and Hardy used their spotlight in the main event well, putting on the best match of the night and one of the better contests of the entire week. The heel side of The Artist has brought out his best work, and the same can be said for The Viper.
Orton's vicious attack is the most interesting he has been in years while clearly being far more engaged in this role. His assault on The Daredevil was brutal and unrelenting in a way we rarely see in WWE.