WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from Sept. 18
On the heels of an explosive Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the SmackDown brand sought to continue its streak of strong television offerings with a show headlined by AJ Styles vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas and the coronation of new SmackDown women's champion Becky Lynch.
How insufferable would Lynch be in the wake of her victory Sunday night, and would Charlotte Flair appear to ruin her grand moment?
Could Styles shake off a controversial victory over Samoa Joe Sunday and defeat the red-hot Almas, or would El Idolo notch his most impressive win to date?
Find out with this recap of Tuesday's USA Network presentation.
The Miz Kicks Off SmackDown
The Miz kicked off SmackDown Live, 48 hours after teaming with wife Maryse to defeat Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella at Hell in a Cell. His guest Tuesday night, the aforementioned Maryse, greeted him with a kiss as she entered the squared circle.
Maryse implied Bella was no longer invested in her marriage with Bryan, saying she only married him to stay relevant in WWE. She then announced her departure from SmackDown.
Bryan interrupted the proceedings. He charged the ring and took the fight to Miz, bumping Maryse in the process. EMTs hit the ring to check on her, and Miz tried to take advantage of the distraction, setting up the Skull-Crushing Finale.
Maryse recovered and laughed at Bryan. The former WWE world heavyweight champion recovered and sent Miz into his wife, knocking her to the arena floor as the crowd erupted. He stood tall to close out the segment.
Bryan and Miz have lost all of the real heat that had accompanied their rivalry, with the intensity now nonexistent.
This may have written Maryse out of the show, but beyond that, it was but another reminder of how poorly written the feud has been since SummerSlam, which is a major disappointment given the overall quality of the blue brand in that span.
Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro
The Bar has yet to win the No. 1 Contenders' series of matches to earn a shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, but Sheamus and Cesaro took one step closer Tuesday as The Swiss Superman battled New Day's Kofi Kingston in singles competition.
Cesaro wore down the knee of Kingston during the break and controlled the match coming out of it. Kingston fought back, though, and delivered a senton to the floor, wiping out his opponent.
A big Tornado DDT had Kingston rolling late, but Cesaro was ultimately able to deliver the Neutralizer to score a rare singles victory.
Cesaro defeated Kofi Kingston
These two have had better matches earlier in their WWE careers, but this was still a fun little sprint of a bout that should set the stage for a tag team rivalry over the gold.
Given the quality of their match two months ago, The New Day vs. The Bar has the potential to steal any and all pay-per-view cards on which it appears. Both teams are that good, and the chemistry is that off-the-charts.
United States Championship Match: Rusev vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Rusev may not have made it out of San Antonio with the SmackDown Tag Team Championships Sunday night, but The Bulgarian Brute had the chance to battle Shinsuke Nakamura Tuesday for the United States Championship in singles competition.
With Aiden English rooting for Rusev over the microphone at ringside, Rusev fought out of a front face lock and delivered a flurry that included a big boot, a running corner attack and a spinning heel kick for two.
An exchange of kick attempts gave way to a nasty kick to the side of the head by the challenger, who put Nakamura down for a close near-fall.
The champion tried to slow his opponent's offense, but Rusev countered his corner knee attack and then blocked the Kinshasa with a Machka Kick.
Unfortunately, a distraction from English allowed Nakamura to roll up Rusev and score the successful title defense.
After the match, English turned heel, laying out Rusev and standing tall, as his frustration finally boiled over.
Nakamura defeated Rusev
Rusev was fantastic here, totally stealing the spotlight between the ropes. The post-match heel turn, though, is the moment fans have been waiting for.
English was integral to the Rusev Day package, and to break him off on his own without any obvious direction for his character is a dangerous risk for the SmackDown writing crew.
This is especially true since Rusev was not nearly as over to the extent that he is now before he teamed up with English. They had chemistry, and to choose to split them up suddenly could prove problematic for both.
The execution here was spectacular, though, and the match was good enough for the segment to earn an "A" grade.
AJ Styles vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
Andrade "Cien" Almas took advantage of an AJ Styles still reeling from his physical war with Samoa Joe at Hell in a Cell, attacking before the bell.
Styles opted to fight and immediately fell prey to a targeted attack by the former NXT champion. Almas caught him with a particularly sick back elbow that left the champion stumbling as he tried to get back to his feet.
Styles mounted a comeback, getting his knees up on a moonsault attempt by Almas.
As he tried for the Phenomenal Forearm, though, Almas knocked him off the ropes and followed with a top-rope double knee attack to the arena floor.
Back from the break, The Phenomenal One was on the offensive when he delivered a springboard forearm to the back of Almas' head. El Idolo countered one attempt at the Styles Clash and delivered a big dropkick for a near-fall.
The hammerlock DDT was countered and Styles rolled through, delivered the Styles Clash and scored the hard-fought win.
After the match, Samoa Joe attacked. He tried to send Styles into the steps, but AJ countered and sent Joe scurrying into the crowd.
Styles defeated Almas
Can we just get an extended rivalry out of Styles and Almas already?
The in-ring chemistry between them has been extraordinary every time they have gotten the opportunity to work together.
Almas, in particular, continues to prove he can hang with Superstars widely considered to be among the best in the world. For a guy who was once overlooked in NXT, he has strung together one of the best in-ring years WWE has seen in quite some time.
The question is whether it leads him to a sustained push or if he is always going to be the midcard guy tasked with carrying the in-ring product, not unlike former intercontinental champions of a bygone era such as Mr. Perfect and Randy Savage.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay
Asuka hit Billie Kay with an array of quick strikes early in their singles match as Naomi and Peyton Royce watched from the arena floor, rooting on their respective tag team partners.
Kay took advantage of a brief distraction from Royce but eventually succumbed to the Asuka Lock from The Empress of Tomorrow for the win.
Asuka defeated Kay
This is a no-good, very bad rivalry that does nothing for Asuka but further diminish her star power and credibility. It is a major disappointment considering how hot she entered the company off a monumentally awesome NXT run.
Royce and Kay, fun characters, are hardly the two for Asuka to showcase the totality of her in-ring abilities against.
Becky Lynch's Championship Coronation
SmackDown Live general manager Paige introduced new women's champion Becky Lynch for her in-ring coronation, drawing a big pop from the blue brand faithful.
Before The Irish Lass Kicker could say anything of substance, Charlotte Flair interrupted the proceedings and promised Paige she was not there to fight.
"I'm sorry, I stopped listening when you said I was the better woman," Lynch said in response to Charlotte giving her props for her victory.
The Lass Kicker went on to say she wanted to be recognized by her former friend as "queen." She threw in a little something else that instigated a brawl between them.
Lynch got the upper hand and ended the segment with a Bexploder suplex and Dis-arm-her before closing out the broadcast with her title held high overhead.
As the petty, insulting, cocky, arrogant heel, Lynch is thriving. She is so good in this role that it is hard to believe WWE officials waited as long as they did to turn her.
Her work here, turning Charlotte's sincere words against her, mocking the second-generation star, was simply fantastic.
The beatdown was a nice exclamation point on a great show-closing segment.