Written by Michael Vacchiano
WWE closed out July of this lamented and woeful year as the Friday Night Smackdown 7/31 episode came to us once again from the WWE Performance Center. Many fans of professional wrestling’s biggest company have been extremely critical of the product these last several months, and it has admittedly been stale to a certain degree. However, yours truly always prefers to be an optimist, and will discuss the highlights and hints of promise of this week’s show instead of doing a straightforward recap.
The House That A.J. Styles Built is damn lucky to have him, as the Phenomenal One successfully defended the Intercontinental championship against Gran Metallik in a solid contest. While his opponent is certainly no slouch, the veteran Styles continues to prove his value as a man who gets great matches out of whomever he faces. Even though we all clearly knew he wasn’t going to get the upset and the title, the King of the Ropes hit some nice trademark offense including a rana off the apron on the outside and a nasty looking satellite DDT on the champ. A.J. soon recovered to unleash the Phenomenal Blitz flurry of strikes and the Calf Crusher for the tap out victory. He even planted Metallik’s Lucha House Party partner Lince Dorado with a Styles Clash afterward.
Always more known for his aerial and technical skills, Styles got to play the role of the powerful, oversized bully in this one. He continues to improve all aspects of his game even 20 plus years into his career, and he may be the best person to hold the unofficial “working man’s championship” of WWE. While it’s arguable that he should only be facing main event or upper card talent, I’d personally like to see him do with the IC title what John Cena did for the U.S. title a few years back. Let him defend it against all challengers, including those on Raw and NXT, and see what magic they can put together. The man can work with any type of opponent, and plenty of younger guys would kill for the rub and chance of 10-15 minutes in the ring with the Phenomenal One.
Everyone’s favorite uber-heel King Corbin defeated Drew Gulak with the End of Days (still love that finisher). But to me, the real news occurred post-match when Shorty G (still hate that name) saved Corbin from an attack by Matt Riddle, planting the Original Bro with a beautiful rolling German suplex. Earlier in the night, Corbin gave a pep talk to the undersized grappler that he deserves more opportunity. Whether it’s motivation or manipulation, G heeded the King’s words and appears to be his new sidekick. Corbin haters may roll their eyes, but I’m actually on board with this plan for the sole purpose of seeing the former Olympian get more air time. One of the great pure wrestlers in WWE, G is supremely talented and definitely deserves to be featured more. Mixing it up with fellow awesome grapplers like Riddle and Gulak would be a great step. But first, please let him go back to being CHAD GABLE….for the love of God!!
Highlights of last week’s Bar Fight between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus were shown, as the Irish pub was the latest film set for one of WWE’s “cinematches.” The Charismatic Enigma got the duke after unleashing his Demon persona on the red-haired fella. Their feud now appears to be over, as the popular veteran Hardy will look toward his next challenger. But I’m more interested in the future plans of the now fedora-wearing, suspender-clad Celtic Warrior, who now looks like a cool henchman in a Guy Ritchie movie. If I’m playing fantasy booker here, I’d now move him to Raw to begin a mouth-watering feud with a certain Scotsman.
Yes, we all know WWE Champion Drew McIntyre will face Randy Orton at Summerslam. After he retains, which I predict he will, Sheamus should be the next man to step up and start a rivalry with his longtime real-life friend. Wrestling enthusiasts know the history between McIntyre and Sheamus, who followed similar career trajectories before making their way to the States. Having been adversaries as well as tag team partners during their early years in Europe, both men came to WWE around the same time. We know the company can introduce this to the common fan with spectacular video packages detailing their relationship. Leave the in-ring work to the two big brawlers who know each other so well, and be amazed. This is what should happen, but I’m doubtful it will.
Some quick hits from Friday Night Smackdown 7/31…
**Naomi defeated Lacey Evans with a surprise roll-up. Fan of both of these ladies, but why is the former Marine back to being a heel? The dominant Bayley/Sasha Banks alliance needs some threatening competition.
**Big E is solo now that his fellow New Day members are out with injury. However, he earned a hard-fought win against The Miz, defeating the Awesome One with a Stretch Muffler submission! Credit to the former powerlifter for bringing out some new tricks.
**Nikki Cross lost her rematch for the Smackdown Women’s Title against Bayley Dos Straps. After shoving and leaving her BFF Alexa Bliss in the ring in frustration, the Goddess soon found herself alone with a certain Fiend. Bliss soon found herself tasting some Mandible Claw to the shock of all witnesses on hand. Will Universal Champion Braun Strowman get revenge against Bray Wyatt for attacking the “object of his affection”? Or is he still trapped in the Firefly Swamp or whatever? Not sure about that, and also not sure if I even care. Sorry, WWE.