WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from July 24
The road to SummerSlam is upon us, and the Superstars of SmackDown Live presented a show Tuesday night that brought the brand's top rivalries to the forefront.
Samoa Joe attacked AJ Styles and set up the WWE Championship match for the August 19 show.
Daniel Bryan and The Miz found themselves embroiled in another heated segment of television, while Becky Lynch cashed her ticket to SummerSlam and a women's title opportunity against Carmella.
Throw in a promo from a more dangerous and motivated Randy Orton, and you have a show that set the stage for the next month of television.
Relive the July 24 episode of the blue brand and find out how each segment and match graded out and what they mean for the stories and Superstars involved.
Randy Orton Promo
A week after a sickening attack on Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton kicked off the broadcast.
Orton credited the lack of respect he receives from the fans to his attack on Hardy. It was not because of unfinished business but rather the fact he is not as appreciated or respected as the indie darlings.
He ended the promo by vowing to lay waste to every Superstar fans blindly throw their faith and admiration behind, beginning with Hardy.
Orton exited without music.
Orton as the disrespected veteran who has given everything he has to the industry only to be cast aside in favor of flavors of the month, is a character that suits him.
He has been so stale for so long that freshening him up in even the slightest helps both him and the quality of the show. Introducing this new heel persona in a feud with a Superstar as popular and beloved as Hardy not only gives gravity to his words but also ensures he will be as over as possible in his role.
Orton has always been at his best when he can speak with a hint of honesty and a ton of realism. That was the case here, and the result was a quality promo.
Rusev vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
In a rare match between heels, the two most recent Superstars to fall to AJ Styles battled in singles competition, as Rusev squared off with Andrade "Cien" Almas.
A focused and determined Rusev had Almas reeling early, sending him to the sanctuary of the arena floor, where Zelina Vega checked on him.
Almas wrested control of the match but was not able to convincingly hold it. Rusev survived a hammerlock DDT attempt but found himself stunned by his alert opponent.
Chants of "Rusev Day" rained from the stands as The Bulgarian Brute delivered a Machka Kick.
At ringside, Vega and Lana argued before a physical brawl broke out between them. Aiden English intervened, but Vega hopped on his back. Distracted, Rusev fell prey to the hammerlock DDT as Almas scored his biggest main roster victory to date.
Almas defeated Rusev
Not only did Almas pick up a quality win over a Superstar who is as over now as he has been since 2015, but the match also provided the latest chapter in the ever-growing schism between Rusev, English and Lana.
At Extreme Rules, English's involvement arguably halted Rusev's momentum and was partially responsible for The Bulgarian Brute's downfall. Here, he was directly responsible for the distraction that ultimately cost Rusev the win.
The group so responsible for the growth of Rusev Day is nearing its end and, at least on the surface, it appears as though Rusev and Lana will reunite the duo that led the former to his greatest success as a singles competitor.
R-Truth vs. Samoa Joe
R-Truth returned to action Tuesday night for the first time in quite a while.
Unfortunately for the man who pep-talked Tye Dillinger right into an ass-kicking a week ago, his opponent this week was Samoa Joe.
The Samoan Submission Machine sustained damage early on the strength of a fast-paced offensive onslaught by the veteran competitor, but Joe gained control.
Ultimately, the Coquina Clutch finished off Truth and continued Joe's winning ways.
Joe defeated Truth
The match at least gets points for making sense within the context of the story told a week ago, where Truth psyched up Dillinger ahead of his loss to Joe.
Beyond that, though, this was another one-sided butt-kicking designed to put Joe over and move the dangerous competitor to the front of the line for a shot at WWE champion AJ Styles.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay
Asuka sought to get back to winning ways after a frustrating night at WWE Extreme Rules on July 15. To do so, she would have to defeat Billie Kay of The IIconics.
That would not prove problematic.
Despite an early onslaught by Kay, Asuka shook it off, thwarted interference from Peyton Royce and ended Kay's night with a nasty kick to the head.
Asuka defeated Kay
WWE has wasted Asuka's potential star power on the main roster to such an extent it is almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which she ever fully recovers.
Sure, she picked up a win here, but it does not make up for the two losses to Carmella or the WrestleMania 34 defeat at the hands of Charlotte Flair. Yes, she had to lose at some point, but that honor really should have been reserved for Ronda Rousey.
Without the story of her undefeated streak, she appears lost in the shuffle, the victim of the writing team's apparent creative bankruptcy.
WWE Championship Contract Signing
SmackDown general manager Paige put over the excitement surrounding WWE Evolution on October 28 before introducing WWE champion AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One took to the ring amid a chant of his name, with the respect the fans have for him being obvious.
Styles touted the WWE Championship as the most prestigious title in wrestling and eagerly signed the contract for the match at SummerSlam.
Before Paige could introduce the new No. 1 contender, James Ellsworth appeared and reminded fans he had beaten Styles three times in the past.
Paige called Ellsworth a joke, to which the pipsqueak responded by insulting the GM.
Paige fired Ellsworth, who was escorted out of the arena. As she followed security, Samoa Joe attacked Styles from behind, applying the Coquina Clutch.
With the SummerSlam contract still displayed on the table, Joe signed it, seemingly making a match between the longtime rivals official for August 19.
This accomplished two things: the dismissal of Ellsworth and the instigation of the Styles-Joe rivalry fans have been waiting for since the two ended up on the same brand earlier this year.
Styles and Joe have had many a physical war in TNA Wrestling but have yet to mix it up on the big stage in WWE.
Programming them against each other is not only the most logical next step for Styles, but it also allows Joe to prove his worth to fans unfamiliar with his greatness against a more traditional worker.
As for Ellsworth, it remains to be seen if his firing holds. It would, after all, seem a bit weird to have him return to significant hype only to fire him a month or so later.
In the short term, it at least created a fair one-on-one match between Becky Lynch and Carmella for later in the night.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella
With an opportunity to climb back into title contention awaiting, Becky Lynch took to the squared circle for a non-title match with SmackDown women's champion Carmella.
Without Ellsworth lurking around ringside, Lynch was able to focus on the goal at hand: tap out The Princess of Staten Island with her vaunted Dis-arm-her.
Lynch looked for her finisher early, but Carmella flattened her momentarily.
The disrespect showed to her at points throughout the match fired up Lynch, sparking a comeback from the beloved babyface that saw her unload with uppercuts. A flatliner by Carmella earned the champion a quick two-count. A tornado DDT was reversed into a Bex-ploder. Carmella delivered a headscissors from the ropes, scoring another near-fall.
She tried to cheat, using the ropes for leverage, but Lynch kicked out at the last second. The Irish Lass Kicker recovered and tried for the top-rope leg drop, but Carmella moved out of the way and delivered a superkick for yet another two-count.
Lynch recovered and applied her submission hold, tapping out Carmella and cashing her ticket to SummerSlam.
Lynch defeated Carmella
The match was exactly what it needed to be and—actually, far better than anything Carmella has been involved in from an in-ring perspective in recent months.
She cut off Lynch at every turn, but when frustration set in, she paid for it dearly and now will have to defend her title against the red-hot Irishwoman at SummerSlam without the presence of Ellsworth to help her retain a title she probably should not have to this point.
Lynch has been so good for so long, and so underutilized over the last year, that it is about time she got the push and championship opportunity she deserves.
Tag Team No. 1 Contender's Tournament, First Round: The New Day vs. Sanity
For the second time in nine days, The New Day and Sanity squared off, this time with the right to advance in the tournament to determine the No. 1 contenders to the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at stake.
Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain dominated the early portion of the match, isolating Xavier Woods for the majority of the bout. The hot tag to Big E, though, sparked the babyface comeback.
At one point, it appeared as though Eric Young would get involved, but an alert Kofi Kingston wiped him out at ringside.
Back inside the squared circle, Woods delivered Up Up, Down Down to score the pinfall victory for New Day.
After the match, Sheamus and Cesaro returned to television and reminded the victors and The Usos, who had been on commentary for the match, that they do not just set the bar, they are The Bar.
New Day defeated Sanity
New Day and Sanity have wicked in-ring chemistry to the point that one has to wonder what excellence they could achieve without the constraints of television time or a Kickoff Show spot on them.
It is almost a shame The Bar's return had to be wasted on a tournament they are unlikely to win, especially when they could have been kept off television until returning to save the division from the otherwise insurmountable Bludgeon Brothers.
It is what it is, though, and the match against The Usos on next week's show should be an extraordinary one.
'Miz & Mrs.' Premiere Party
In celebration of the debut of Miz & Mrs. immediately following SmackDown, The Miz and Maryse (along with their daughter, Monroe Sky) made their way to the ring to a chorus of boos.
Miz glossed over Daniel Bryan's failures and the unsuccessful reunion of Team Hell No before hyping his family, starting with Maryse.
The French Canadian took credit for the Women's Revolution before Miz resorted to getting heat by claiming his daughter accomplished more in her short life than Bryan has in his three decades.
After airing a mockery of the Miz & Mrs. trailer he had thrown together by the production team, Bryan appeared on screen and said he would apologize to Miz in person.
Security tried to keep Bryan from entering the ring, and they suffered for it, eating hard right hands to the face. Crossing the velvet rope, The Beard stepped into the ring and came face-to-face with the man who has tormented him for nearly two years.
Tossing what was revealed to be a baby doll at him, Miz capitalized on Bryan's disbelief and blasted him with a boot to the face. Miz left Bryan lying as his reality show prepared to debut.
Miz and Bryan have been part of so many more entertaining and fruitful segments than this, which was essentially an extended promo for the debut of Miz's new show.
The ploy with the baby made for a solid enough angle, but this entire segment felt flat, from the fans to the execution to the content.
A disappointment, to say the least.