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In the wake of a grueling SummerSlam victory over Brock Lesnar in a Last Man Standing match, Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns rolled into Friday’s SmackDown and addressed his upcoming title defense against Drew McIntyre at Clash at the Castle.
The main event of the historic September 3 premium live event from Cardiff, Wales, was not the only focal point of this week’s broadcast as the brand crowned a new No. 1 contender to Liv Morgan’s women’s title and Shinsuke Nakamura competed for the right to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship.
Find out what went down with this recap of this week’s Fox broadcast.
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In a match made backstage following Ricochet’s reaction to Pat McAfee’s recap of his win over Happy Corbin, The One and Only battled Corbin in singles competition to kick off Friday’s show.
Ricochet used his speed and agility to frustrate the former King of the Ring early but the bigger, stronger, former Golden Gloves boxer flattened him with a hard right hand to turn the tide in his favor entering the commercial break.
Corbin overwhelmed his opponent with his size advantage, delivering a torture rack neckbreaker for a count of two. Unfortunately, he allowed his vendetta against McAfee to distract him. Ricochet capitalized, delivered the Recoil and scored the win with the 630 splash.
Maybe you should have focused on <a href=”https://twitter.com/KingRicochet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@KingRicochet</a> instead of <a href=”https://twitter.com/PatMcAfeeShow?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@PatMcAfeeShow</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/BaronCorbinWWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BaronCorbinWWE</a> 🤷♂️<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SmackDown</a> <a href=”https://t.co/omeTNfX0Cw”>pic.twitter.com/omeTNfX0Cw</a>
This was a fun, somewhat unexpected way to kick off the show.
McAfee is so likable and is a mainstream media personality, so it would make sense that the creative team would want to capitalize on his popularity among the WWE fans and feature him early.
It came at the expense of a top heel who is perpetually over with fans and featured Ricochet, one of the many underutilized talents of his generation, scoring a much-needed win.
The One and Only is one of Triple H’s guys dating back to his days in NXT. He is the former United States and Intercontinental champion but somehow, feels like he has only scratched the surface of what he is capable of achieving in WWE.
His utilization in hyping the crowd off and creating energy from the opening match may prove telling of the new Head of Creative’s plans for him moving forward.
Ricochet pinned Corbin
- The Bloodline arrived backstage, ahead of Roman Reigns addressing his upcoming title defense against Drew McIntyre.
- Pat McAfee started the show by recapping his ball-kicking victory over Happy Corbin in a fun change of pace.
- After Corbin vowed to wipe the smile off Ricochet’s face, the confident One and Only told the heel he (and his smile) would be waiting for him in the ring.
- Corbin launched Ricochet high in the air with a nasty back body drop.
- McAfee and Ricochet played catch before the former punted a NERF football into the stands.
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For Shinsuke Nakamura, a win over Ludwig Kaiser Friday night would earn him a shot at Gunther’s Intercontinental Championship. For Kaiser, a loss would net him another verbal dressing down and a few breathtaking chops from his charge.
A sense of urgency set in for both men and they engaged in a hard-fought match that saw the German competitor establish control on a few occasions, only to have the grizzled veteran Nakamura fight his way back into the match.
Ludwig presented one last, late-match surge but Nakamura put him down with the Kinshasa to set up the championship clash against Gunther next Friday night.
NEXT WEEK on <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SmackDown</a><a href=”https://twitter.com/ShinsukeN?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ShinsukeN</a> vs. <a href=”https://twitter.com/Gunther_AUT?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Gunther_AUT</a> for the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ICTitle?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ICTitle</a>! <a href=”https://t.co/w7WiPXbb2U”>pic.twitter.com/w7WiPXbb2U</a>
The match was perfectly acceptable wrestling that was hampered by the untimely commercial break midway through. Kaiser never had the chance to establish a real heat period because so much of his stuff occurred off-camera.
Nakamura winning not only sets up the title match that had been teased for the last month but ensures Gunther’s mistreatment of Kaiser will continue. It and Kaiser eventually standing up for himself is the real money program, not the Nakamura match. Hopefully, Triple H and Co. recognize that.
This was the second longer match on the show, something a long time coming. The talent is there, why not let them do what they do?
Nakamura defeated Kaiser to earn the IC title opportunity
- Nakamura taunted Gunther after the match, defiantly standing face-to-face with his opponent on next week’s show.
- Kofi Kingston cut a backstage promo after the match, hyping his upcoming bout against Erik of The Viking Raiders (still new and vicious despite the change in regimes) later in the night.
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SmackDown Women’s Champion Liv Morgan attempted to defend the outcome of her SummerSlam title defense against Ronda Rousey and was soundly booed out of the building by fans who sided with the injustice suffered by The Baddest Woman on the Planet.
Sonya Deville made her way to the ring and cut a heel promo on Morgan that segued into the start of the Gauntlet Match to determine the champion’s next challenger.
Deville established herself as a threat early by pinning Aliyah following her Deville’s Advocate finisher. From there, though, it was all Raquel Rodriguez, who entered the match third and proceeded to eliminate the former WWE official, then Shotzi, Xia Li and Natalya, all with variations of a powerbomb and while fighting a banged-up knee.
The arrival of Shayna Baszler brought about the end of Rodriguez’s run as The Queen of Spades scored the win off a pinfall counter.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/QoSBaszler?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@QoSBaszler</a> has her eyes set on that <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SmackDown</a> Women’s Championship and <a href=”https://twitter.com/YaOnlyLivvOnce?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@YaOnlyLivvOnce</a>’s injured arm at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWECastle?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WWECastle</a>. <a href=”https://t.co/a6zG2gshAh”>pic.twitter.com/a6zG2gshAh</a>
Baszler has been such a non-factor outside of a so-so tag team title run that it is easy to forget that she was once one of the most dominant women in the industry. Her run in NXT ranks as one of the best in that brand’s history and helped further elevate its women’s title.
Her main roster struggles have more to do about how management viewed her than her ability to thrive on Raw or SmackDown. Her win here, achieved by outwrestling an opponent who was red-hot and coming off a slew of wins over the course of the gauntlet match, should be a sign of renewed interest in pushing her from the new creative regime.
The match itself, as a whole, was fine. Some of the falls were a bit too short to matter and Rodriguez’s inconsistent selling hurt the psychology of the match at times, but the story of her dominance and Baszler outwrestling her in the final seconds made up for it.
Baszler defeated Rodriguez, Natalya, Li, Shotzi, Deville and Aliyah to earn a shot at the SmackDown Women’s Championship
- Morgan wore a brace on her left arm, selling the effects of the arm bar by Rhonda Rousey Saturday at SummerSlam.
- The fans chanted “you tapped out” in response to the controversial finish to match in Nashville. “It’s ok, I appreciate you calling me out on my s**t,” Morgan responded.
- On more than one occasion, Rodriguez no-sold the knee injury that was supposed to be a key story element of the gauntlet match.
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The new, vicious Viking Raiders made short work of Tommy Gibson and Jim Mulkey Friday night, but quickly found themselves on the receiving end of a sneak attack by the kendo stick-wielding Kofi Kingston.
Seeking revenge for the beating that left him lying and partner Xavier Woods out of action, the former WWE champion battled Erik in a singles bout after a short break.
The bigger, stronger Erik utilized his advantage but Kingston scored the victory, keeping the rivalry between the Raiders and New Day alive for another week.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/TrueKofi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TrueKofi</a> is looking for some payback but <a href=”https://twitter.com/Erik_WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Erik_WWE</a> has other ideas. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SmackDown</a> <a href=”https://t.co/OPm0gwfTb6″>pic.twitter.com/OPm0gwfTb6</a>
The Raiders obliterating the jobbers was a fun throwback, as were the last names of the opposition. It was straight out of 80s and 90s Saturday morning wrestling and it worked in establishing them as the vicious entity the commentary team keeps hyping them as.
It was great to see Kingston pick up the win over Erik, especially since singles victories are few and far between for the former WWE champion of late, but it probably should have happened a week from now, if only to give the Raiders’ wins from last week and tonight time to breathe.
The Viking Raiders defeated Mulkey and Gibson
Kingston pinned Erik
- WWE using Mulkey and Gibson as odes to both the Mulkey Brothers and Robert Gibson of the Rock N Roll Express (presumably) was a fun bit of business.
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Roman Reigns and The Usos made their way to the ring to wrap up tonight’s show, The Tribal Chief scheduled to address his Clash at the Castle match against Drew McIntyre for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
Instead, he was interrupted early on by the No. 1 contender, who saw no reason to wait until September 2 and expressed his desire to fight tonight.
Instead of a physical showdown between The Scottish Warrior and The Head of the Table, a familiar theme played throughout the arena and black and white engulfed the television screen.
From out of nowhere, Karrion Kross made his debut, attacking McIntyre and leaving him lying before expressing his desire to be champion.
Doomsday has arrived.<a href=”https://twitter.com/realKILLERkross?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@realKILLERkross</a> sends a message to <a href=”https://twitter.com/WWERomanReigns?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WWERomanReigns</a>! <a href=”https://twitter.com/Lady_Scarlett13?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Lady_Scarlett13</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SmackDown</a> <a href=”https://t.co/2CS3x0GZS8″>pic.twitter.com/2CS3x0GZS8</a>
That is how you make an impactful debut.
Not by overhauling a character that worked in NXT by throwing a skirt or a helmet on him, but by letting him explode from out of nowhere and beat the hell out of a top star.
Kross instantly staked his claim to the main event scene and a potential shot at the top prize in the company all in one fell swoop. That Scarlett was by his side rights another wrong with the presentation of the character during his last run on the main roster.
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select reported earlier in the day that the company was interested in bringing Kross back but few expected it so soon and in such an enormous role.
Suddenly, what felt like a rather one-dimensional title program has had life injected into it in the form of a wildcard in Kross, who should freshen things up and provide SmackDown with some much-needed main event depth.
This was a fantastic, noteworthy close to the first real SmackDown of the Triple H regime and his fingerprints were all over it.
- The return of the dragon graphic across the stage, the presence of Scarlett and the hard-edged look of Kross made the angle. If Kross had simply attacked McIntyre, it would not have worked. This was an emphatic statement by management that this is the Kross who wreaked havoc in NXT, not the caricature that failed on Raw.
- Scarlett producing the hourglass and taunting Reigns, as if to say it is only a matter of time before his run comes to an end, made for a great visual. The Head of the Table’s unfazed look hammered home just how unbothered by everything he is at this point.