The Fiend Attacks Alexa Bliss, Solo Big E Impresses and More Smackdown Fallout
WWE packed a lot into two hours for Friday's SmackDown, including two title matches, a couple of new pushes and some surprising attacks.
Gran Metalik challenged AJ Styles in a match for the Intercontinental Championship, while Nikki Cross faced Bayley for the SmackDown women's title in the main event.
We also saw Big E take on The Miz in his first singles match since Kofi Kingston went down with an injury, Baron Corbin continue to offer a bounty on Matt Riddle and Sonya Deville attack Mandy Rose in a violent backstage encounter.
As WWE prepares for SummerSlam on August 23, we should start to see the emergence of the storylines that will dominate the pay-per-view in the coming weeks. Let's take a look at some of the biggest segments from Friday's SmackDown.
Gran Metalik Gets a Rare Opportunity
On the previous week's SmackDown, Gran Metalik won a Fatal 4-Way to earn a shot at Styles' Intercontinental Championship in a rare singles opportunity for the luchador.
For most of his WWE career, Metalik has either been relegated to 205 Live or competed exclusively as part of Lucha House Party, but anyone who has paid attention to his career knows just how good he is by himself.
The King of the Ropes may not have come out of the match with the title, but he impressed a lot of people by keeping up with one of the best in the business.
This kind of opportunity could lead to more down the line if management feels like Metalik proved he is just as valuable a solo act as he is with a tag team.
He could be a great challenger for Santos Escobar's cruiserweight title, the United States Championship once the rightful champion has the belt back, or even one of the singles titles in NXT.
He probably isn't leaving Lucha House Party anytime soon, but if WWE doesn't have anything for the team to be involved with right now, it's good the promotion is finding other ways to use Metalik and Lince Dorado while Kalisto is out with an injury. Expect to see both luchadors used as singles competitors more in the coming weeks.
Baron Corbin Drags Jeff Hardy and Chad Gable into His Feud with Matt Riddle
King Corbin wasn't making many friends Friday. Not only did he have a match with Drew Gulak, but he also insulted Jeff Hardy while he was speaking about his sobriety. Add all of this to the bounty he's placed on Matt Riddle, and The King has more going on than anyone else on the blue brand.
The Charismatic Enigma seems ready to move on from Sheamus, and if he isn't going to be pursuing a title right away, Corbin would make a great rival.
The King might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is one of the better heels in WWE today because he can get heat easier than anyone else, even when there is no crowd.
Once Riddle gets through with Corbin, which will probably happen at SummerSlam or before, The King and Hardy will end up on opposite sides of the ring for a showdown.
Incidentally, Chad Gable appeared to make a heel turn after Corbin talked him into going after Riddle, so we will almost certainly see Riddle and Hardy team up to take them on before we see any of these guys have singles matches together.
Big E Is All Alone and Ready to Shine
After Kingston informed Big E of his injury on the previous week's show, he told the powerhouse that he and Xavier Woods wanted him to take this opportunity to see what he could do as a singles competitor.
The New Day has been together for more than six years, and in that time, Kingston is the only one who has held a title other than one of the Raw or SmackDown Tag Team Championships. It's time for Big E to get the same opportunity.
For the past few years, he has been one of the most entertaining stars in the industry. Whether he is trying to get laughs, be serious or just shaking his hips, you can't help but cheer for him.
Some people may forget that not only did he defeat Seth Rollins to become the second NXT champion, but he also held the IC title. The Miz served as his first opponent without his teammates there to provide support. With John Morrison at ringside, the powerhouse was at a disadvantage.
Once Charles Robinson caught JoMo trying to cheat, he sent him to the back. This gave Big E the chance he needed to make The Miz submit to a stretch muffler submission.
This might just seem like a random singles match on the surface, but it is actually a great sign that WWE is taking Big E's push seriously. He not only bested two men, but he also kicked out of The Miz's finisher and escaped the Figure Four. Creative made sure he looked good with the way he was booked.
The next few weeks are going to be vital. As long as E can continue producing great performances like he always has, he should be competing for a singles title within a month or two.
The Women's Division Runs the Show and Bray Wyatt Sets His Sights on Alexa Bliss
Friday's show ended with three successive segments dedicated to the women's division. Naomi took on Lacey Evans, Deville brutally attacked Rose backstage and Cross challenge Bayley for the SmackDown Women's Championship in the main event.
Naomi picked up a win in her match with The Sassy Southern Belle, but this feud is not done. Evans was visibly upset after failing to kick out of a pinning combination and will not just let this go. We should expect this storyline to continue through SummerSlam at the very least.
Deville looked more dangerous than ever when she went after The Golden Goddess with a pair of scissors and clippers. She wanted to take away Rose's beauty, and while she only succeeded in cutting off a little hair and smearing some lipstick, the segment still made this feud feel important. Daddy Deville has been phenomenal since going solo.
The main event between Cross and Bayley was as competitive as you would expect it to be with these two involved. Unfortunately for Cross, The Role Model retained. Cross shoved Bliss to the mat before leaving. And then Wyatt showed up.
He stood over Bliss, whom he used as part of his mind games against Braun Strowman at Extreme Rules, and proceeded to apply The Mandible Claw. This was a jarring way to end the show, but the motivation for this attack is clear.
Strowman and Bliss are friends going back to their days as Team Little Big during the Mixed Match Challenge. The Fiend is using this bond as a way to bring back The Monster Among Men from wherever he has been since July 19. We can expect to see Strowman return to address this soon.