Featuring Big E hopefully starting his big run, and a match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship and the Intercontinental Championship, this July 31 episode of SmackDown has a lot of potential for big changes.

We start off the show with Bray announcing that nobody is safe until the Fiend gets his hands on the Universal Championship. This is a chance to rectify a mistake on WWE’s part. He never should have lost it to Goldberg.

Intercontinental Champion AJ Styles VS Gran Metalik (w/ Lince Dorado) for the Intercontinental Championship

Now when they say that a win for Metalik would be an upset, this time I agree with them. Styles is much more experienced, and has been a very dominant champ so far.

The match starts out with AJ beating down the challenger with solid kicks, punches, and a big backbreaker. He delivers a clean suplex for a 2 count. AJ unsurprisingly targets the legs of the high flying Metalik. Metalik fights back with a headscissors, but when he tries to capitalize, the champ drops him to ringside. Metalik answers with his own reversal and drives Styles to the ground with a hurricanrana as we go to commercial.

When we come back, AJ is preventing Metalik from jumping off the top rope. Metalik shoves him away and delivers a crossbody for 2. Styles quickly turns the match back on his favour with a spinebuster and some vicious kicks to the gut and leg.

Styles really focuses on the leg now, putting him in a leg hook submission. He transitions into a half-crab, but Metalik gets to the ropes. Styles tries for a dragon screw, but Metalik rolls him up for 2. Metalik gets his second wind and hits Styles with a solid DDT for another 2. Metalik gets yet another 2 count from an impressive rope-walking missile dropkick.

AJ Styles cranks the leg of the challenger Gran Metalik, and it looks like something is broken.

He tries to pick Styles up but his leg gives out, and Styles immediately capitalizes with the Phenomenal Blitz. He tries for the Phenomenal Forearm but gets met with an enziguri, and both men go down.

Styles drops Metalik with a chop block, and gets him in the Calf Crusher in the middle of the ring. Metalik has no choice but to tap out. After the match, Styles attacks Lince Dorado with a Styles Clash, hopefully signifying that we’ll see some more Metalik versus Styles.

Winner via pinfall and still Intercontinental Champion: AJ Styles

Match Rating: 3.5/5

Backstage, we see King Corbin approaching Shorty G, or, as he calls him, “Chad”, about maybe taking advantage of the King’s Ransom, an apparently large sum of cash that Corbin will bestow upon the person who teaches Matt Riddle a lesson. Looks like Corbin is desperate already, seeing as how he’s crawling back to old enemies for help.

We get a recap of the Bar Fight and the news that Jeff has something to say. Jeff is walking around backstage and gets a huge bear hug from a very happy Otis. Jeff Hardy comes out and talks about how great he feels, which is great to hear. He thanks his fans for the support, and promises to never let them or his family down again.

He is unfortunately interrupted by King Corbin, who tells Hardy that he’s done listening to him. He goes on and on about how disappointed he is in Hardy until Gulak attacks him from behind to lead into their match as we go to commercial.

Drew Gulak VS King Corbin

When we come back, Gulak is in control, using his technical advantage to keep Corbin controlled, attacking the legs and arms of the bigger man. Corbin fights back with a big ol’ punch, and traps Gulk in a working hold.

He slams Gulak down hard and traps him in a half crab in the middle of the ring. The technician Gulak reverses it into the LeBell Lock, but Corbin makes it to the ropes. Gulak goes crazy, taking down the King with some missile dropkicks and a flying clothesline for 2. Corbin fights back with Deep Six, but before he can capitalize, Matt Riddle makes his very chill entrance.

Corbin very nearly gets pinned when Gulak rolls him up from behind, but he kicks out and delivers the End of Days for the win. Matt Riddle quickly enters and beats Corbin down, hitting him with a Final Flash before Shorty G shuts Riddle down with Chaos Theory. It seems like Shorty has taken the King up on his ransom, as he’s asking for the money as the two leave Riddle hurt in the ring.

Shorty G tosses Matt Riddle with Chaos Theory, which is still a crazy cool move. Photo: WWE

Winner via pinfall: King Corbin

Match Rating: 3/5

Big E VS The Miz (w/ John Morrison)

The two lock up, and Big E easily shoves The Miz around with his obvious power advantage. The Miz attempts to beat Big E down, but E gets him in a spank-dominal stretch, and then hits MC Miz with an elbow for 2. The Miz gets in Langston’s face (just reminding everyone that he still has a real name) and slaps him, which was a spectacularly dumb move as it only fires the big guy up.

Big E throws The Miz to ringside and slams him against the table, the ringpost, and the barricade, before throwing him back into the ring. Morrison helps his tag partner out with a crazy parkour-style kick, and The Miz delivers a wrecking ball dropkick. The Awesome One drops a top-rope axe-handle for 2 and then locks him in a headlock.

Big E gets out of it easily and sends The Miz to the apron, and clotheslines him hard. He tries to drop his big splash on The Miz while he’s on the apron, but nobody’s home and Big E crashes to the apron as we go to commercial.

When we come back, Big E is fighting to get out of a sleeper hold. He uses the old “slam him into the corner”, but The Miz answers with a kick that echoes throughout the Performance Centre for a 2 count. Big E starts firing up, blocking The Miz’s punches and answering with his own.

The Miz goes for his neckbreaker, but Big E destroys him with some suplexes and his big splash for 2. Both trade finisher attempts, but The Miz gets the better of Big E with a DDT for 2. The Miz delivers some It Kicks and a basement dropkick. He focuses on the leg he dropkicked, and delivers some running knees in the corner, but Big E delivers a uranage.

The Miz hits Big E with the It Kicks that I think I’m starting to forget he stole. Petition to start calling them the Gaslight Kicks? Photo: WWE

Morrison interferes with an enziguri and The Miz delivers a Skull Crushing Finale, but Big E kicks out. The Miz transitions smoothly into a figure-four leglock, putting pressure on the already damaged leg of Big E, but he makes it to the ropes.

The ref finally catches Morrison trying to interfere and throws him out. While The Miz is distracted, Big E rolls him up for 2 and then forces him to tap out to the Stretch Muffler submission hold. Great match, great start to what will hopefully be a great run for Big E.

Winner via pinfall: Big E

Match Rating: 4/5

Backstage, we see the SmackDown Tag Team Champions, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura, making fun of Gran Metalik for his loss and drinking champagne. Looks like their win against the New Day at Extreme Rules went straight to their heads.

We also see that Sheamus is not letting go of the Hardy feud, saying its only a matter of time before Hardy becomes an alcoholic again, and that now he’s the SmackDown locker room’s problem.

Naomi VS Lacey Evans

Lacey Evans comes out and talks first, as she often does, saying she’ll make people really sorry for Naomi in this match. The match starts out quick, with Lacey shoving the smaller woman around. Naomi goes for a headscissors and gets planted with a powerbomb.

Evans drives Naomi to the mat and then rolls her over to the ringpost to bend her body around it. Naomi fights back briefly but is put down quick when Evans slams her headfirst into the ringpost.

Evans tosses Naomi to the other side of the ring, but Naomi fights back with two solid kicks, and hits Evans with a Canadian Destroyer type move on the outside. She rolls her back in and pins her for a 2 count, and then gets slammed off of a bulldog reversal. Evans goes for the Women’s Right, but Naomi counters with a backslide for the 1-2-3. Someday, Naomi’ll get the full-length match and decisive win she deserves. At least they’ve got her in a storyline.

Winner via pinfall: Naomi

Match Rating: 2/5

Backstage, we see Otis and Mandy Rose planning a date. They both head off to get ready, and we see Sonya Deville lurking in the background. When we come back from commercial, Sonya is absolutely destroying Mandy, throwing her around and cutting her hair. Sonya finds an electric razor, but gets stopped before she can take the rest of what she came for.

Miz and Morrison come to the back and make probably the most aggressive series of hair puns ever, and I realize how much I hate them and love them at the same time. The intensity of Sonya and the legitimate fear in Rose’s eyes during this segment have solidly convinced me that this feud is going to be worth it all the way.

SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley VS Nikki Cross for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Nikki Cross comes hot out of the gates and she pays for it, being beat down by Bayley. She quickly gets back into it with some mounted punches in the corner and a basement dropkick. She delivers a monkey flip and looks to end it early with The Purge, but Bayley reverses it, but gets caught with a Thesz press.

Bayley takes a quick break outside the ring, but Cross isn’t having it. She runs out to get her, but Bayley gets back in the ring and delivers a hard legdrop onto the challenger for 2. Bayley beats down Cross, but pays when she gets sent into the post. Cross delivers a crossbody to the floor as we go to commercial.

When we come back, Cross is in a headlock, and is dropped with an STO for 2 when she tries to escape. Bayley slams the challenger’s head into a turnbuckle and delivers a suplex for another 2 count.  Cross evades an elbow by the champ and fights back with a throat chop and a gut punch.

She bounces off the ropes and delivers a crossbody for 2, and then a tornado DDT for another 2. Both fighters roll to the apron, which was a mistake for Bayley, as she gets slammed on the apron with a reverse DDT. Bayley falls to the ground, where she is given the bejewelled BOSS knuckles by her friend Sasha Banks, but she misses the punch and gets dropped with a neckbreaker for 2.

Cross takes the knuckles and considers using them, but instead chucks them at Banks and then drops the champ with a back suplex for another 2. Bayley escapes to the outside, where she climbs up on the table to mock Cross. This surprisingly turns out to be a bad idea (I know, right? This was the most solid, fool-proof plan of psychological torture any champ has ever had!) as she gets slammed hard on the table by Cross.

She gets slammed into the barricade by Cross and thrown back inside, but Banks distracts Cross. Her friend Alexa Bliss comes to the rescue, pulling Banks off the apron, and Cross takes Banks out with a wrecking ball dropkick.

Cross climbs up to the top and delivers a crossbody, but Bayley reverses the pin for 2. Cross reverses it into her own pin for another 2 count, and Cross rolls the champ up twice more before Bayley hits her unnamed, less cool-looking version of Matt Taven’s Climax for the win.

Winner via pinfall and still SmackDown Women’s Champion: Bayley

Match Rating: 3/5

After the match, Cross gets mad and shoves Bliss, walking off in a fit of disappointment, leaving Bliss alone in the ring. Suddenly, the lights shut off, and we hear a familiar high-pitched whine. When the lights come back on, they’re quite a few shades redder, and The Fiend is standing behind Bliss.

He walks around her for a bit, enjoying her fear. He slowly moves his hand closer and closer to her before locking in the Mandible Claw. She struggles for a bit, as they all do, but eventually passes out, and the lights go dark.

The Fiend puts the Mandible Claw on Alexa Bliss. Photo: WWE

It was a great bit, Bray is just as messed up as he always was, but I had one problem with it: the planted crowd. If there were real fans in attendance, the arena would’ve been dead silent, and that’s part of what makes the Fiend so good.

Still, a great progression in the Strowman-Wyatt story. And if this means that we’ll be getting a Sister Abigail that isn’t just Bray in a veil, well, then that’s even better.



SmackDown July 31

Some great matches, some shorter matches in the name of storyline development, and a great ending. All in all, an exceptionally good episode of SmackDown.