WWE SmackDown Results: Jeff Hardy Retains and Top Takeaways

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2018

WWE SmackDown Results: Jeff Hardy Retains and Top Takeaways

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The July 3 episode of SmackDown Live continued the brand's build to the 2018 WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view while spotlighting several of its highest-profile competitors.

    Jeff Hardy delivered another phenomenal performance as he defended his United States Championship against The Miz, Rusev sent a message loudly and clearly to WWE champion AJ Styles, Becky Lynch continued her winning ways, and Sanity made enemies of one of the company's most decorated trios.

    Those four occurrences spawned the night's biggest takeaways, too.

    With SmackDown finally building some momentum for itself, relive Tuesday's USA Network broadcast and find out what fans should be talking about in its wake.

Jeff Hardy Overcomes Injuries, Turns in Another Strong Performance

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    The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com) reported United States champion Jeff Hardy is working through injuries, including a leg problem suffered on the May 17 episode of SmackDown Live. Over the course of the last two weeks, though, he has been a workhorse for the blue brand.

    One week after defending his United States Championship against Eric Young and then teaming with The Usos to defeat Sanity in a Six-Man Tag Team match, Hardy defended his title against The Miz in another United States Championship Open Challenge.

    The match, the first in-ring content of Tuesday's broadcast, was easily the night's best and a testament to Hardy's toughness.

    The Charismatic Enigma has been noticeably hobbled by whatever injury is affecting his lower body, clearly limping through many recent matches. But he has finally found his groove and embraced the opportunity to deliver quality in-ring work as one of the more prominent stars of the SmackDown brand.

    With rival Shinsuke Nakamura sidelined, Hardy has performed admirably, bringing prestige to the United States Championship and holding down the proverbial fort while waiting to resume his feud with The Artist.

    And the overall quality of SmackDown has been better off for it.

Becky Lynch's Popularity Enhanced by Continued in-Ring Presence

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    Much like Hardy has been on the men's side of the SmackDown roster, Becky Lynch has been the workhorse for the women's roster on Tuesday nights, appearing in action nearly every week since before the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on June 17.

    In the midst of a redemption storyline, she has worked everyone from Charlotte Flair to Sonya Deville, and she picked up an impressive victory Tuesday night over The IIconics' Peyton Royce.

    Already popular for her in-ring work and the straight fire she brings to her performances, Lynch's presence between the ropes every week is not only allowing her to build momentum for herself, it is also giving her a stage to showcase herself and enhance that popularity.

    With Flair on hiatus and Asuka busy with Carmella and James Ellsworth, The Irish Lass Kicker has been able to break free of her peers and be at the center of her own story for once.

    No longer the best friend and sacrificial lamb for the booking team to beat every week, she has thrived and the crowd response for her recent winning streak is evidence of that.

    For Lynch and her fans, hopefully the story has the desired pay offanother run with the SmackDown Women's Championship.

New Day Finds Fresh Opposition in Sanity

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    The New Day has been a staple of WWE programming for nearly four years, and as such, the trio has a difficult time finding fresh matchups.

    Thanks to a well-booked beatdown Tuesday night, Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods may have finally found their perfect foil in Sanity.

    Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain obliterated New Day, leaving the pancake-loving babyfaces lying and jumpstarting a rivalry that should produce stellar in-ring content as well as heighten the credibility of the NXT exports at the same time.

    Say what you will of the staleness that had overtaken New Day for a brief period in 2017, but they are still incredibly over with fans, and working with them will do wonders in getting Sanity over with an audience that is largely unfamiliar with them.

    For New Day, the feud brings a sense of seriousness that is not always associated with Kingston, Big E and Woods. A fun-loving group, they will have to dig down within themselves to find an edginess to combat the unpredictable and dangerous Sanity in the weeks to come.

    It is that seriousness which should help New Day freshen things up a bit and become an even more well-rounded group than they already are, all while lending legitimacy to a group in Sanity that needs it.

Rusev Faces Uphill Battle, Lack of Main Event Credibility

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    Speaking of needing some credibility, Rusev beat down WWE champion AJ Styles Tuesday night, leaving him lying following a painful Accolade. It followed The Phenomenal One's victory over Aiden English and was undoubtedly meant to create some credibility for The Bulgarian Brute ahead of his title opportunity at Extreme Rules.

    Unfortunately, Rusev is facing a massive uphill battle in that department following a solid year-long run in the undercard, working and losing tag team matches alongside English.

    Yes, he has become a cult favorite among WWE fans who love the Rusev Day shtick and greet him with thunderous chants in arenas across the country. Loving a gimmick is one thing, but believing he has a chance to beat someone such as Styles for the top prize on the show is another story.

    Rusev won the No. 1 contender's spot from out of nowhere, suddenly leaping into title contention after months spent losing to more prominent stars.

    While it is more than welcome to see his hard work rewarded by WWE Creative, he has such little credibility in the role that booking a beatdown of the champion is not going to make fans believe he has a chance to leave the July 15 pay-per-view with the title.

    Rusev needs wins and a show of faith from the writing team that he is not a placeholder while the brand waits to pull the proverbial trigger on the Styles-Samoa Joe feud.

    Unfortunately, it does not appear as though Rusev will get that, and the result will likely be a very good match at Extreme Rules and a return to midcard reality for the talented competitor. 

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