WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from October 18
For the first time in this post-draft era of WWE, the Superstars of Friday Night SmackDown hit the Fox airwaves for an episode headlined by a blockbuster contest for the Intercontinental Championship, pitting Roman Reigns against champion Shinsuke Nakamura.
That bout, born of a social media spat, joined a Six-Pack Challenge match to determine the No. 1 contender to Bayley's SmackDown Women's Championship and a massive eight-man tag team match featuring The New Day and Heavy Machinery taking on tag team champions The Revival, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.
Who emerged victorious, which Superstars earned momentum with Crown Jewel on the horizon and how did it all affect a brand looking to establish its identity on its new network home?
Find out with this recap of Friday's show.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Roman Reigns vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
The night's action kicked off with SmackDown's No. 1 pick, Roman Reigns, challenging Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship.
Any momentum Reigns built for himself early was negated when he attempted a Drive-By, only to see Sami Zayn pull Nakamura to safety. The distraction allowed the IC champion to blast Reigns with a kick to the side of the skull heading into the break.
Nakamura controlled the pace, wearing down Reigns and trapping him in a triangle choke. The Big Dog powered out with a sit-out powerbomb and appeared to be on his way to winning the title when King Corbin interfered, drawing a disqualification.
A three-on-one beatdown ensued before Daniel Bryan made the save. The former WWE champion exploded into the ring, but the numbers game proved insurmountable. Nakamura, Zayn and Corbin made their way to the back, leaving the top two babyfaces on the brand lying.
Reigns defeated Nakamura via DQ.
Reigns vs. Nakamura could be a damn good pay-per-view match given some more time, less interference and a genuine feud to back it up. They have solid chemistry, and a program with Reigns would do wonders for The Artist's legitimacy as a potential main event attraction.
As it is, the match was an energetic way to kick off the show but did little more than serve as a backdrop for the post-match events, which further established Bryan as an unlikely ally of Reigns and set up a feud with Corbin, Zayn and the IC champion that may manifest in some sort of match at Crown Jewel.
Shorty Gable vs. Curtis Axel
So Shorty Gable is a thing WWE is actually going with. Insert facepalm emoji here.
The former Olympian battled third-generation star Curtis Axel in singles competition Friday, looking to rebuild momentum following a recent loss to King Corbin.
Gable made quick work of the former tag team champion, tapping him out to an ankle lock in under two minutes.
After the match, Kayla Braxton joined Gable for an interview in which the 2019 King of the Ring runner-up embraced his size and new name, referring to himself as "Shorty G."
Gable defeated Axel.
Shorty friggin' G?
Any and all credibility Gable had as a potential underdog upper-midcarder or main event attraction has effectively been erased. No matter how great a performer he is or how strong his performances in big spots may be, that name puts him in an unenviable position.
Shorty G is not a name that will ever appear on a marquee. Nor is it one that is at all marketable this side of 2000.
Management fired Eric Bischoff and then implemented this.
And before anyone implies it will get Gable over more than he was, go watch that KotR final against Corbin and listen to how invested the audience was in him in that match. He did not need a gimmicky name to retain that connection. He just needed a creative team that would not fail him.
New Day and Heavy Machinery vs. The Revival, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
The tag teams took center stage Friday, as Heavy Machinery's Tucker and Otis teamed with The New Day's Xavier Woods and Big E to battle The Revival's Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode in an eight-man tag team match.
The heels slowed the pace of the match heading into the break, grounding Xavier Woods and working over him with a concentrated beatdown that continued through the commercial. Every time it appeared Woods would break free of their control, the heels grounded him again, utilizing a lightning-quick tag strategy.
Woods finally created separation, taking down Ziggler and tagging in big man Otis, who leveled all in front of him. He pancaked Ziggler and Roode, but Dawson, who had tagged in blindly, attacked from behind. Otis fought him off, delivered the Caterpillar to Roode and caught Dawson in mid-air.
The heels finally took down Otis, but Dawson could not put him away for the win. An ill-fated suplex attempt by Dawson allowed the big man to tag in New Day. Big E and Woods put away Dawson with the Midnight Hour for the win.
New Day and Heavy Machinery defeated The Revival, Ziggler and Roode.
WWE is ridiculously good at delivering high-energy multi-man tag matches that allow everyone involved to shine before delivering a finish that sets up whatever match, segment or angle it desires. This was no exception.
With a massive Tag Team Turmoil match to determine the best tag team in the world slated for Crown Jewel, this was a great way to feature four tandems that figure to be prominent fixtures on Friday nights as a way to properly sell that bout.
New Day's win didn't reinvent the wheel, especially considering how established they already are, but it does put the two heel teams at a disadvantage from a momentum standpoint, perhaps making their victory in said turmoil bout slightly less expected.
The commentary team put over Ziggler being more focused than he has been of late, perhaps signaling that he and Roode could be in line for a renewed push in their new home.
Bayley Joins Miz TV
The Miz introduced new SmackDown women's champion, complete with a new entrance, to Friday's edition of Miz TV. The champion made her way to the squared circle, accompanied by best friend Sasha Banks.
The Blueprint interrupted the beginning of the segment, reminding fans she is the first women's grand slam champion. From there, a video package relived the events of the previous week's show, complete with children crying at the sight of Bayley destroying her blow-up characters.
Miz said Bayley doesn't owe him an explanation but what about the kids. She showed little emotion.
She brought up the events of Hell in a Cell, where she lost the championship and was left heartbroken. She asked whether anyone was there for her, hugging her and consoling her. They were nowhere, she said, leaving her alone in her emotional agony.
She called the women's division lazy, claimed it lacked desire and passion. "I used to try to be what they wanted me to be," she said. "So you guys want some inspiration? Life sucks, and then you die."
Nikki Cross' music played, and the former tag team champion appeared, mic in hand. She said the time for talking is over and the time for action is now. She promised to win the No. 1 contender's match and vowed to give Bayley a great, big, huge hug.
Dana Brooke interrupted proceedings. She said being underutilized and overlooked killed her passion but now she has new opportunity. Lacey Evans entered the arena as the show headed to break.
This was some solid promo work from Bayley, who did a strong job of conveying her character's frustration and disgust for an audience that did not return the same passion and love she showed them over the course of her career.
So often, the motivations of characters are underwritten to the extent that the explanation for their actions are underwhelming and unbelievable. This was pitch-perfect and put over Bayley almost as a vengeful, petulant heel fans will be inclined to boo.
The interruptions after her promo were an OK lead-in to the Six-Pack Challenge, if nothing else.
6-Pack Challenge Match to Determine No. 1 Contender to Women's Title
Nikki Cross, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Dana Brooke, Carmella and Lacey Evans squared off for the right to challenge Bayley while the women's champion and Sasha Banks watched from ringside.
Rose and Deville paired off on Cross while Evans watched from the floor, not eager to join the fray. Fire and Desire laid out Carmella at ringside, sending her into the announce position. Brooke halted their momentum, dropping them with a double handspring back elbow.
Carmella recovered and took out Deville and Rose with a crossbody block while Evans taunted Bayley and Banks as the show headed to another break.
Back from the commercial, Fire and Desire reestablished control of the bout, finding strength in numbers. They took the fight to Carmella, who withstood their onslaught and delivered a double Bronco Buster. Cross reappeared and rolled up The Princess from Staten Island for a near-fall.
Throwing caution to the wind, Cross dived from the top rope, wiping out everyone but Evans at ringside. The Sassy Southern Belle seized an opening, sending Cross into the steel steps. Back inside the squared circle, Brooke delivered a sit-out powerbomb to Evans and executed a senton bomb for a strong near-fall, with the pin broken up by Rose and Carmella.
Carmella nearly made Rose tap out, but Deville broke it up. The action broke down, with the women hitting their signature offense until Cross delivered the twisting neckbreaker on Rose to score the win.
Cross defeated Carmella, Rose, Deville, Evans and Brooke.
The effort here was strong, as six women who have either been overshadowed, underutilized or not handed the opportunity to shine in prime spots like this excelled under the bright lights. Brooke, in particular, maximized her minutes and looked like a competitor who could benefit exponentially from the lack of singles bayfaces on the women's roster.
From a credibility standpoint, it makes sense that Cross would win this to set up a quality match with Bayley. As a showcase, though, the competitors seized the spotlight and delivered a fun, energetic bout that proves the blue brand's women's division may not be as in dire straits as it appeared on paper.
Braun Strowman vs. Drew Gulak
Former cruiserweight champion Drew Gulak introduced himself to Braun Strowman as the preeminent combat sports historian and warned Strowman that if he does what he has been doing, he will be knocked out by Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia.
Gulak introduced a slideshow Strowman was not at all interested in paying any mind to.
Strowman answered the criticism by manhandling Gulak and dropping him with a headbutt.
Back in the ring, he finished off Gulak for the uncontested victory.
Strowman defeated Gulak.
This was what it was meant to be: A showcase for Strowman ahead of his match with Fury at Crown Jewel on Oct. 31.
Whether diehard fans who appreciate his work like it or not, it was also an indicator of how WWE may present the talented Gulak on SmackDown.
He was a glorified enhancement talent here, bumping for Strowman all over the place despite a relatively impressive reign as cruiserweight champion this past summer.
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. King Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura
Prior to the night's main event, it was announced Roman Reigns would captain Team Hogan at Crown Jewel, with Ali also added to the team earlier in the evening.
Bryan and Reigns found themselves on the defensive for the majority of the bout, enduring a physical beatdown at the hands of Corbin and Nakamura that the heels established during the break. Corbin dropped Bryan with Deep Six after the commercial and continued to control the pace of the bout.
A hot tag to Reigns was wiped out when Corbin pulled Reigns from the apron and threw him into the stairs.
The Big Dog recovered and obliterated the King of the Ring with a spear through the timekeeper's position. Back in the ring, Bryan wore out Nakamura with a series of kicks.
He survived one last-gasp kick from the IC champion and delivered the running knee to score the pin.
The babyfaces celebrated to close out the show.
Bryan and Reigns defeated Corbin and Nakamura.
This was an abbreviated main event that brought the show to an end five minutes prematurely. Furthermore, it accomplished nothing of note besides further establishing the whacky partnership between Reigns and Bryan.
At a time when SmackDown is trying to connect with a new audience, the last thing it can afford is to have a meaningless tag team match headlining the show.
Worse yet? It erased any momentum the heels built for themselves earlier on.
At least the action itself was solid, if not out of the norm.