WWE SmackDown Results: Andrade Almas Breaks Out and Top Takeaways
The post-Extreme Rules episode of SmackDown Live was not only a more dynamic and entertaining broadcast than Monday's Raw, it introduced a series of rivalries that will dominate the road to SummerSlam and keep fans invested in the product.
From Randy Orton's sickening assault on Jeff Hardy to Andrade "Cien" Almas breaking out against WWE champion AJ Styles, the show gave fans plenty to be genuinely excited about as the most significant pay-per-view of the season draws near.
In preparation for the weeks to come, relive the July 17 episode of SmackDown Live with these major takeaways and the impact they may have on the brand ahead of the upcoming SummerSlam.
Andrade "Cien" Almas Is SmackDown's Future
Andrade "Cien" Almas is a future WWE champion whose in-ring performance only gets better with every passing match.
Case in point, Tuesday's match against AJ Styles, which opened the July 17 broadcast.
El Idolo took the current champion to the limit, nearly beating him on more than one occasion. Almas was portrayed as Styles' equal, reversing some of his signature maneuvers and escaping every attempt at sustained offense by The Phenomenal One.
It was only after Styles caught him out of nowhere with the Calf Crusher that he was able to score the hard-fought victory, almost out of desperation and luck than pure skill and ability.
It goes without saying that Almas' first few months on the blue brand roster were disappointing, thanks in large part to a rivalry with Sin Cara that was halted due to injury. His victories over the masked babyface and his performance Tuesday, though, will endear him to a fanbase that appreciates performance as much as it does character development in this era of WWE.
A Superstar with the look, charisma, in-ring ability and manager to be the biggest star of Mexican heritage since Rey Mysterio, Almas has a bright future of championships and main events that, hopefully, awaits him sooner rather than later.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz is the Brand's Big Money Match
The hottest rivalry on SmackDown, and the program with the most potential to captivate audiences across the board, is that of Daniel Bryan and The Miz.
Dating back two years to a fiery, passionate promo from Miz in which he took exception to Bryan's classification of him as a coward and lashed out on the then-general manager of the brand, the program has lacked the payoff it deserves.
Bryan's return to the squared circle instantly had fans chomping at the bit for a showdown with Miz, and after Tuesday's USA Network presentation, it appears as though those fans are about to get what they want.
Miz held a funeral for Team Hell No, mockingly eulogizing the team and accusing Bryan of setting goals far too unattainable for himself, all for the sake of glory. Of course, Bryan exploded into the ring, attacking Miz and laying waste to the pallbearers that doubled as security.
If ever there was a heel that fans would want to see kicked three rows into the crowd by Bryan it is The Miz—imagine Bryan is Kylian Mbappe and the Miz is a World Cup soccer ball.
The loudmouth villain, the last great heel in WWE, will talk fans into wanting to see him obliterated by Bryan. The bearded babyface will, hopefully, channel the frustration of years spent on the sideline and bring an intensity to the impending match that will elevate it in terms of significance and quality.
One thing is for certain: there is no rivalry the blue brand can produce right now more emotional and with greater potential to draw viewers and money for SmackDown than Bryan vs. Miz, and their match (presumably) at SummerSlam will be one of the most anticipated on the entire card.
That is a testament to the men involved, the nerve they have struck with audiences and the passion each has brought to their performances.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella Is the Championship Match the Division Needs
The two most prominent stories in the SmackDown women's division are about to collide as Becky Lynch eyes Carmella's championship.
Lynch has been in a bit of a renaissance of late, rebounding after a disappointing 2017 and riding a wave of momentum on the back of numerous victories as SummerSlam approaches.
Carmella's championship reign has been dominated by the re-emergence of James Ellsworth and his incessant interference in her title defenses.
That Lynch is being primed to challenge Carmella is interesting because The Lass Kicker has a storied past with the Princess from Staten Island and the chinless wonder. It was, after all, Carmella and Ellsworth that cost Lynch the Money in the Bank briefcase.
From there, Ellsworth became a thorn in Lynch's side, both on screen and social media, where their banter ultimately culminated with Lynch beating Ellsworth in what was at the time the latter's final WWE match.
Now, Carmella and Ellsworth represent the final hurdle in Lynch's path back to the championship she introduced to the WWE Universe back in September 2016. The underrated wrestler with the fiery orange hair has bided her time, sat back and watched others receive opportunities while she was de-emphasized.
Now back in title contention, the renewal of her rivalry with Carmella and Ellsworth is the most perfect way to elevate Lynch's star and capitalize on the connection she has with audiences. The story is there, the history is there and an audience dying to erupt the moment Lynch climbs back to the top of the division is certainly there.
Evil Randy Orton Is the Best Randy Orton
Randy Orton is back, Randy Orton is evil and Randy Orton is a hell of a lot more interesting as a result.
The Viper returned to SmackDown at Extreme Rules and blasted Jeff Hardy with a low blow as if to one-up Shinsuke Nakamura moments earlier. Tuesday night, he saved Nakamura's United States Championship, pulling Hardy out of the ring just moments before the referee smacked the mat for a three count.
From there, Orton grabbed Hardy's ear, sticking his finger through his spaced-out piercings and ripping at his dangling earlobe. It was a sickening display of savagery that not only left Hardy in pain but gave the WWE Universe a look at what it can expect out of Orton.
The third-generation star and multi-time WWE champion has been in desperate need of a character revamp for the better part of three years. Wyatt Family Orton and babyface Orton did nothing for the SmackDown fans. His feud with Jinder Mahal even further established just how stale and uninteresting The Viper was.
This sudden change in demeanor and attitude will benefit him in the long run and, more importantly, give the brand another quality heel to go alongside Samoa Joe, The Miz and Nakamura.
Above all, it creates a character that can be programmed against Hardy and bring a new edge to that character. It can break him and force him to dig down within himself to become as ruthless and aggressive as Orton if he is to survive.
That makes for interesting stories, memorable angles and a rivalry fans genuinely want to see play out.