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WWE Smackdown LIVE!- July 25, 2017

by Scrooge McSuck

Kevin Owens

- It's amazing how quickly time flies. This time last year, the brand split officially kicked off, and fans were very skeptical (and critical) of Smackdown Live, despite decent episode-to-episode booking and utilizing everyone as well as possible. Now I can barely sit through an episode without banging my head against the wall, but maybe moving forward from one of the least exciting Network Specials will be the shot in the arm to enjoy everything again.

- Live from Richmond, VA, with Tom Phillips, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and Byron Saxton calling the action, unless otherwise noted.

- NEW United States Champion, Kevin Owens, kicks things off. Good thing they didn't change his jumbo-screen and ramp image from the "Face of America holding the US Title" shot. He wastes no time bragging about once again being the United States Champion. He can go back to defending the title with the pride and honor it deserves. The crowd drowns him out with an "A.J. Styles" chant. Tonight, he's reinstating the Kevin Owens U.S. Title Open Challenge, and it begins... next week. A.J. Styles interrupts (WWE Superstars can be very rude). He's here for a rematch for the US Title. Owens says he's not defending the title tonight, period. Chris Jericho makes a surprise return, List of Jericho in hand, and the crowd approves. Jericho trolls Owens with "quiet" to shut him up. He reminds us that Owens had him taken out on a stretcher his last (and first) night on Smackdown Live, and he wants his rematch, TONIGHT. Styles doesn't quite agree with that last statement. Jericho says you know what happens when you try to jump in line ahead of him? A guy at the grocery store did that at checkout, and you know what happened? He punched him in the face and put him in the walls of Jericho in Aisle 7 in front of the cans of corn, but as far as A.J. is concerned, HE JUST MADE THE LIST. Owens bails, but Jericho calls him back (where are you going, you stupid idiot?!). Shane McMahon comes out to cut off Owens' escape, and books a Triple Threat Championship Match for tonight's Main Event.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin:

Looks like we're getting the least-anticipated rematch in recent months. It couldn't be any more boring than what was delivered at Battleground. Nakamura opens up with strikes and Corbin swinging and missing like he's Aaron Judge. Nakamura with a running knee lift and knee drop across the back of the head. He gets a running start from the ramp and is greeted with a brutal clothesline that turns him inside out. We return from break with Corbin in control of a half-nelson chin-lock. Corbin does his in-and-out spot, but gets caught with a running high knee. Nakamura with kicks to the chest. They trade blows, with Nakamura putting Corbin down with a straight kick. He drives a series of knees into the body, sets Corbin across the top rope, and connects with the running knee lift. Flying Knee Strike from the middle rope gets two. Corbin avoids the Kinshasa, ducks the roundhouse kick, and connects with a modified back breaker for two. Corbin gives Shinsuke a pair of knees and mocks his unique gesturing. Nakamura ducks a clothesline, but walks into Deep Six for another near fall. Nakamura counters End of Days. He avoids the low-blow, clips the knee, and connects with a knee to the back of the head before finishing with the Kinshasa at 6:06 (shown). **1/2 Why couldn't they work THIS match on the PPV? It wasn't great, but seemed like it had energy and didn't rely on 6-minutes of resting.

- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with the Women's Champion, Naomi. Natalya refused to shake hands at Battleground, and Naomi isn't going to take that kind of disrespect. Natalya pops in and says he's disrespected the Championship by turning it into a kid's toy. At SummerSlam, she's going to restore honor to the Women's Division. Naomi's LIGHT BRIGHT belt is supposed to honor tradition? Carmella comes from behind, wearing a "Free Ellsworth" shirt, and reminds Naomi that her and the MITB contract are looking to the future.

Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair vs. Tamina & Lana:

This might be the most one-sided match I've seen in forever that wasn't 13-on-3 or something ridiculous like that. Lana's entrance plays second fiddle to SummerSlam sponsor announcements, so you can see the bloom is already off that rose. Tamina has a new duster, so maybe she's getting pushed. Becky and Charlotte do their "tea time" thing that makes me want to hang myself. Becky and Lana start. Becky goes for the Disarm-Her, but Lana tags out to Tamina. Becky with a school boy and Super-Kick. Tamina fights off the Disarm-Her and sweeps Becky off the middle rope. Lana wants back in and continues to show off her G.L.O.W. offensive skills. Crowd chants "You Can't Wrestle". Tamina in with a clothesline. Becky fights out of the corner and hot tag to Charlotte. She runs wild with chops to Tamina. Knee to the back of the head for two. Lana tags herself in and is quickly met with the running boot for the finish at 4:27. Tamina doesn't seem too pleased. ½* This was what it was. It wasn't good, but it was kept short.

- Jinder Mahal comes out to make his demands for a NEW challenger to his WWE Championship at SummerSlam. No appearance for the Great Khali. I don't know if I want to throw "thankfully" or "unfortunately" with that, which goes to show my frustration with WWE in general. He rubs it in everyone's face that Orton bragged about beating him at his own game, but Orton underestimated the WWE Champion, and he'll stay Champion for as long as he desires. John Cena interrupts the Punjabi portion of the promo (alliteration is fun!). He congratulates Mahal of making the best of his opportunity and getting in the best shape of his life. To make a long story short (too late), Cena doesn't care what Mahal has up his sleeve, because he's going to face Super-Cena at SummerSlam. Daniel Bryan comes out to let us know that while Cena can't make his own matches (Miz disagrees), he'll get his opportunity next week when he faces Shinsuke Nakamura for the #1 Contenders spot at SummerSlam.

- Kevin Owens questions Shane McMahon's decision making in booking him in a title defense against A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho tonight. He could unfairly lose the title without being pinned tonight. Shane says he doesn't care who the Champion is, as long as they're a fighting Champion, but he does care about giving the Smackdown audience what they want. Owens doesn't care about the audience, and if he wasn't the commissioner, he doesn't give a damn about Shane, either.

Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English & Mike Kanellis (w/ Maria Kanellis):

It's a "Battleground Hangover" as they say. English defeated Dillinger and Zayn defeated Kanellis, so it seems likely someone is returning the job. We get yet another recap from two weeks ago where the Kanellis' gave Zayn a taste of the Power of Love ("sometimes love hurts"). I wouldn't be surprised if all four entrances combined for a longer duration than the match itself. English and Dillinger start. Dillinger catches a boot and unloads with chops. Zayn comes off the top as we take a break. We come back, with English in control of Sami Wow-Wow with a chin-lock. During the break, Maria created a distraction to help turn the tide. Kanellis sends Zayn to the corner and follows in with a clothesline, followed by a running boot for two. Zayn fights off English and dumps him to the floor. Dillinger with the hot tag, coming off the ropes with a diving forearm. Kanellis tags in and gets caught with a knee lift and clothesline. Zayn in with the Helluva Kick to Kanellis to finish at 3:07 ("love is dead"). * Just a short match to pad the show out.

- The New Day come out for the Championship Celebration, but things don't go as planned. Big E's Big Introduction is interrupted. Woods and Kofi get tossed onto the stage and worked over by the former Champions, Jimmy and Jey Uso. They lay Woods out and drag Kofi down the ramp for a possible curb stomping. Big E recovers, but quickly gets knocked out with a Double Super-Kick. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the rivalry between the Usos and New Day will continue.

- Renee Young is backstage with Shinsuke Nakamura. "Next week, John Cena, you can't see me."

WWE United States Championship Match:
Kevin Owens © vs. Chris Jericho vs. A.J. Styles:

TV Main Event. The US Title has been a hot potato since WrestleMania, with five title changes since that night (Jericho to Owens to Jericho to Owens to A.J. to Owens). Jericho and Styles go for Owens at the bell, and he quickly bails. Jericho and Styles go through a series of pinning combinations until Owens sucker punches Styles and sends him to the floor. KO and Jericho do the hockey-brawl slugfest and waste no time countering each other's signature spots. Jericho with a missile dropkick, but Styles breaks the pin attempt. Jericho gets dumped and KO flattens Styles with a charging clothesline. Hard whip to the corner and running senton for a pair of near falls. Owens takes a timeout in the ring to stomp on Jericho at ringside. Whip and Owens with an elbow for two. Styles surprises Owens with the Calf-Crusher, but Jericho saves with the Lionsault.

We return from commercial break, with Jericho throwing Styles high in the air for a back drop. Whip to the corner and Jericho follows in with a clothesline. Owens comes back to life to interrupt a Super-Plex. He fights out of the Walls of Jericho, but goes flying over the top rope charging at Styles. Styles with the springboard 450 Splash to Jericho. Owens tosses Styles out and covers for two. Jericho counters the Styles Clash with the Walls of Jericho. Owens tries to break it up and gets sent into Styles before being trapped in the hold. Styles tries to save, but eats a Code Breaker for a near fall. Jericho interrupts the Phenomenal Blitz, but the Lionsault is broken up by Owens. Owens with Cannonballs to both Jericho and Styles. Rapid fire sequence, with everyone laid out from various kicks (KO Super-Kick, Jericho enziguri, and Styles' Pele Kick). Jericho counters the Phenomenal Forearm with the springboard dropkick. Owens with a super-Kick and Pop-Up Powerbomb to Jericho for two. Owens with the Frog Splash. Styles tosses him out and steals the cover to regain the US Championship at 11:22 (shown). ***1/2 Did everyone get orders to tank it at Battleground? Another match that felt more like PPV quality than what the actual PPV delivered. That finish almost makes you suspect something went wrong at Battleground and they never intended to take the title off Styles... or maybe Kevin Owens becomes a 4-time Champion next week as WWE recreates Memphis booking.

- Post-match, Kevin Owens demands his Championship rematch... NEXT WEEK.

Final Thoughts: With the Styles vs. Owens Rematch AND John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, next week looks like a must-see episode of Smackdown Live. Despite the poor handling of the entire Women's roster, things seem to be falling in place for SummerSlam. I don't know what was in the drinking water in Philadelphia that produced so many underwhelming matches, but everyone seemed a bit more motivated here for just another episode of Smackdown. The lack of Randy Orton is probably a good thing, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he's moved to Raw after SummerSlam.

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