WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from July 31
The July 31 edition of Friday Night SmackDown promised a pair of major championship matches, as well as a massive return from Mr. Money in the Bank, Otis.
AJ Styles put his WWE Intercontinental Championship on the line against Gran Metalik. The Lucha House Party member had never had an opportunity quite like this. Could he dethrone The Phenomenal One, or would he simply not have the ability to match up to a top star?
Nikki Cross demanded another shot at the SmackDown Women's Championship, and she got it after defeating Alexa Bliss. Bayley laughed at the idea that Cross could ever dethrone her. Would Bliss' best friend prove The Role Model wrong?
After an embarrassing loss to Lacey Evans, the internet got behind Naomi. This week, The Glow had a chance to make The Sassy Southern Belle pay. Would she manage to prove she deserved the spotlight that was finally shining on her?
After a long vacation away from WWE, The Summer of Love returned to the blue brand. Otis and Mandy Rose had plans to continue their story on SmackDown. Could we finally see Mr. Money in the Bank decide what he wanted to do with the briefcase, or would he be too focused on God's Greatest Creation?
It was a night that could change the blue brand completely. Who would stand tall? Who would fall short after vital opportunities?
WWE Intercontinental Champion AJ Styles vs. Gran Metalik (w/ Lince Dorado)
AJ Styles walked too confidently into this match only to have Gran Metalik take the early lead. He tripped The Phenomenal One off the apron then sent his already-injured ankle into the steel barricade.
Slowed by the injury, the luchador was able to run over the champion. Lince Dorado cheered his friend on as Metalik honed in on the victory. However, as the luchador jumped at Styles off the second rope, The Phenomenal One caught him with a shoulder block followed by the Calf Crusher to force a tap out.
Styles had a cheap shot at Dorado from behind after the bell as he was checking on his friend. He followed up with a Styles Clash.
Later in the night, Lucha House Party found Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura celebrating their SmackDown Tag Team Championships victory. The champions sent the potential challengers away as the party was for champions only.
Styles def. Metalik by submission to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Metalik is immensely talented, which led to a fun match throughout. However, there was no drama at any point in this contest. This was about establishing The Phenomenal One as greater than anyone else on SmackDown.
Based on the set-up, it is possible fans will also get a chance to watch Styles vs. Dorado. That should be equally good for wrestling quality, but no one will buy that the luchador can win. The Phenomenal One needs a real rival again soon.
Jeff Hardy Addresses His Future; King Corbin vs. Drew Gulak
King Corbin saw Shorty G backstage, taunting him about watching a match rather than wrestling. He offered to help Shorty get more opportunities if he took out Matt Riddle.
After a replay of the Bar Fight, Jeff Hardy headed to the ring. He explained that he knew he was now on the right path after putting Sheamus behind him. The King arrived to mock The Charismatic Enigma until Drew Gulak attacked Corbin, starting their match early.
The Philadelphia Stretcher had Corbin on the ropes by relying on his speed. However, the power of The King was too much. As Matt Riddle's music hit, Corbin hit the Deep Six followed by the End of Days for the win.
The Original Bro stormed the ring to attack The King. Shorty got involved and planted Riddle with a rolling German suplex before walking off with Corbin.
Corbin def. Gulak by pinfall.
It seems that Corbin needs to be involved with everyone on SmackDown. In particular, his interaction with Hardy made no sense. He is feuding with The Original Bro, who has no connection to The Charismatic Enigma. Hardy also does not have a connection with Gulak, Corbin's opponent for the night.
Corbin vs. Gulak was fine, but the two lack chemistry. It was clearly tough for them to find a rhythm leading to more singular moves than sequences.
Shorty certainly has chemistry with Corbin, but can that translate to a team dynamic? It remains to be seen. At least Shorty is doing something. Maybe he can even get a name change soon.
Big E vs. The Miz
As the night began, Big E promised to make his presence felt when he defeated The Miz. Miz and John Morrison laughed at the idea that E could go on his own.
Morrison attacked Big E outside as The A-Lister distracted the referee early, allowing Miz to get an advantage over the dangerous powerhouse. Miz dodged a Big Ending by raking the eyes of his opponent and hitting a snap DDT.
The big man refused to give up despite taking serious punishment. The referee caught The Shaman of Sexy trying to attack Big E and threw him out. In the commotion, E caught The A-Lister in a stretch muffler, forcing a tap out.
Big E def. Miz by submission.
It was fun to watch E go all out again in the ring. He absolutely has the tools for a major singles run. Adding the stretch muffler as a submission finisher gives him versatility and signals that he is now ready to move beyond a tag team role.
Miz is well suited to put him over. The two men have chemistry and history. Miz and Morrison are singles stars and an impressive tag team, so they can help the big man transition naturally until he is ready to challenge champions like AJ Styles and Braun Strowman.
Naomi vs. Lacey Evans
Lacey Evans promised to embarrass Naomi again despite whatever hashtag Naomi had managed to get trending on Twitter.
The Sassy Southern Belle used Naomi's hair repeatedly to attempt to get one-up on The Glow. However, Naomi was ready for the tactic. She ducked the Woman's Right and caught Evans with a backslide for a surprise three count.
Afterward, The Sassy Southern Belle demanded that Corey Graves get #LaceyDeservesBetter trending.
Naomi def. Evans by pinfall.
This was a fine match but certainly sloppy and massively rushed. It was clear both women were putting more into this, hoping to get people talking. The diving sunset flip would have been impressive, but it did not land.
Both women are talented and can do more, but it is difficult to cram enough into a match to make an impact with barely three minutes to work. After all the talk about Naomi deserving better, this was no different than much of her booking in the past few years.
Sonya Deville Attacks Mandy Rose and Cuts Her Hair
Mandy Rose promised to take Otis out after SmackDown to his favorite barbecue place. First, she needed to freshen up while Otis went to find Tucker.
Sonya Deville ambushed Mandy Rose. She smeared make-up on God's Greatest Creation's face. Finally, she took a pair of scissors to Rose's hair, cutting off chunks. Officials got involved to stop Deville using clippers as well.
The Miz and John Morrison made fun of Rose for losing her best trait with various puns while Otis and Tucker checked on God's Greatest Creation.
Even with time away, Deville is still on the roll of a lifetime. It feels like she can make any segment work at the moment. She sold just how much she hated Rose as she used anything she could to humiliate God's Greatest Creation.
The main problem here was the ridiculous idea that Rose would suddenly become ugly because her hair was cut and she had makeup smeared on her face. While it was certainly a traumatic moment for Rose, everyone selling the hair loss like Deville scarred her permanently was absurd.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley vs. Nikki Cross
At the start of the night, Bray Wyatt explained in the Firefly Fun House that he was still looking for Braun Strowman, who left a piece of his soul in the Wyatt Compound. Until he found The Monster Among Men, no one was safe.
Nikki Cross tried to start this match off fast, but Bayley ducked her repeatedly. The challenger managed to injure the champion by throwing her ribs first into the steel post. This set up Cross to take over the action with a pair of neckbreakers.
The Role Model was just too good to fall this night though. Cross could not get the upper hand for long. As the challenger attempted a backslide, Bayley rolled through and connected on an arm trap headlock driver for the three count.
Cross angrily stewed after the match and walked out on Alexa Bliss. This left her vulnerable as The Fiend hit the ring and caught The Goddess with the mandible claw.
Bayley def. Cross by pinfall to retain the SmackDown Women's Championship.
This was a solid match, but the two could have used more time. The finish was sudden and made it too obvious that Cross was not truly a challenge for Bayley. The drama was lost late in the contest.
It will be interesting to see if there are consequences for The Twisted Sister after losing again and walking out on her friend. Cross seemed to be teasing that the madness that once gripped her in NXT could take back over.
Wyatt attacking Bliss was a shock but does sell how far Wyatt is willing to go to bring Strowman out of hiding. The Goddess had already been brought into the story during the Wyatt Swamp Fight. It only makes sense for her to truly play a role in The Fiend's wrath against The Monster.