In a rematch from Extreme Rules, Shinsuke Nakamura retained the United States Championship versus Jeff Hardy via disqualification on Tuesday's episode of SmackDown Live.
Hardy appeared to be in control of the match after delivering a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb. With The Charismatic Enigma in position to land the pin, Randy Orton interfered to spark the DQ.
For the second time in three days, Orton attacked Hardy. This time around, the attack was even more brutal, highlighted by The Viper attempting to pull his foe's earlobe off:
Due to the controversial circumstances surrounding Nakamura's win over Hardy at Extreme Rules, SmackDown Live general manager Paige booked an immediate rematch for Tuesday night.
At Extreme Rules, Nakamura hit Hardy with a low blow before the bell rang to begin the match. Although he was in obvious pain, he told the referee he was fine and implored him to call for the bell.
That ended up being a costly decision on Hardy's part, as Nakamura immediately knocked him out with a Kinshasa and pinned him in just six seconds to become the new U.S. champion. After the match, it was Orton who emerged to deliver even more pain to Hardy.
For Nakamura, it marked his first title win on the main roster after falling short in several opportunities against AJ Styles for the WWE Championship.
The manner in which The Artist beat Hardy at Extreme Rules played perfectly to the sadistic character he has built since turning heel on Styles at WrestleMania 34.
With The Phenomenal One continuing to dominate the main event scene on the blue brand, the door was open for Nakamura to move into a different program.
While feuding with Hardy over the U.S. title could be viewed as a step down, Nakamura did well at Extreme Rules to rebuild much of the credibility he may have lost from dropping so many matches in a row to Styles.
After winning the United States Championship, the challenge for Nakamura shifted toward maintaining the momentum and making the title feel prestigious once again.
By retaining the strap over Hardy in the rematch on SmackDown, it suggests WWE is looking for Nakamura to take the ball and run with it.
It can be argued Nakamura is the most effective heel on the WWE main roster currently, and that puts him in position to do something big with the midcard title at SummerSlam on Aug. 19.
Meanwhile, it seems Hardy and Orton will embark on a feud that suddenly has some serious heat after the grotesque beating from The Viper on Tuesday night.
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