Hello there. We’re always looking for new ways to approach discussing wrestling and figured we’d try something different when it comes to talking about Raw. We talk about all sorts of wrestling in the Wrestling With Words Slack and we thought it’d be cool to turn that into something. So, inspired by a similar regular column that runs on FiveThirtyEight, what follows is a discussion that took place on the WWW Slack (edited and tidied a little for the sake of clarity and readability) about everything that went down on the August 1, 2017 episode of SmackDown Live. Joining you tonight are:
elweston1: This week’s SmackDown Live was nearly advertised in full a week ahead of time, centered around the dream encounter of John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens’ rematch for the United States Championship against AJ Styles. Let’s start with the main event, which is already receiving rave reviews and which saw Nakamura defeat Cena clean with the Kinshasa knee strike for the biggest win of his WWE career. What were your thoughts on the match and the moment?
corwo: The atmosphere for the main event could’ve been better, but Nakamura is a made man. The best he’s looked in a long time.
brady17: Just the moment of both men standing in the ring was enough for me to enjoy this match and they ended up doing a great job. Though it wasn’t long and what seemed like an awful lot of commercials during the match, it was great. Hoping these two meet again in the future. If tonight was any indication, they could keep us entertained for 15 more minutes. Very good stuff.
elweston1: Once they came back from the feeling out section and commercial I thought it was virtually flawless. It was a match that proved if you build two guys well enough you don’t need a super long match or tons of moves to do something great.
elweston1: Cena continues to have incredible matches in his 16th year on the main roster, cementing himself as an upper tier all-time great.
elweston1: Were either of you surprised that Nakamura went over that cleanly? He took two AAs but only needed one Kinshasa to win. I think most (myself included) were expecting a triple threat match.
corwo: I was expecting the all-too-telegraphed “DQ finish in a #1 contender’s match” but I’m glad they didn’t go in that direction. Nakamura taking two AAs and only needing one Kinshasha just goes to show how unselfish/giving Cena has been as WWE’s top guy. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Nak/Jinder, personally, but it’s something different.
brady17: I figured some sneaking things would happen but after seeing the finish for the United States title, I knew there would be no way the main event could have a screwy finish. Yet, yes, I was still shocked Nakamura went over Cena clean.
elweston1: That’s a good point Brady, the United States title finish definitely gave away a clean ending to this match, and there was no way Cena was winning clean (what a time this is that we can say that).
elweston1: And it’s a good segue to the show’s other big segment, Styles vs. Owens. These two had yet another disappointing match and just don’t appear to have all that much chemistry, but we’re getting it at least one more time, as their final encounter at SummerSlam will be refereed by Shane McMahon. Did you guys like this more than I did?
corwo: No, I didn’t particularly care for it. Watching the recent U.S. Title matches between Owens and Styles, it definitely feels like they’ve been holding back to go all out at SummerSlam. I’m hoping that’s the case and they keep the Shane shenanigans to a minimum. Of course, they’ve been planting the seeds for a feud between Owens and Shane for awhile now, so the chances of that match ending cleanly seem slim.
brady17: Very much, I enjoyed this match probably better than the others. I thought it was well done. Though I didn’t like the screwy finish, it happened. The ref was punched in the left eye and sold the right eye to block Owens right shoulder being up, it was weird. Very blah ending but I thought the match itself was good.
elweston1: This was evidently the finish they had planned for Battleground before the botch. Just an oddly disappointing feud.
elweston1: With Shane being a babyface and Owens a heel, I think it leaves the door open for Styles to win cleanly and Owens to claim Shane had a fast count or something, thereby setting up the Shane/Owens feud for HIAC and getting Styles the clean win he’s desperately needed since WrestleMania. But they’re walking a tightrope.
elweston1: There’s a lot of pressure on both of them to deliver in Brooklyn.
corwo: Where do we think Styles goes from there? A return to the Jericho feud?
elweston1: Jericho is touring with Fozzy starting in mid-September, so probably not. The best case scenario would be Randy Orton, but a mid-card heel opponent like Baron Corbin or Rusev seems far more likely.
brady17: It’s hard to say. Jericho maybe. Maybe a return to the Cena feud. Maybe someone like Gable.
elweston1: They don’t seem to think highly of Gable, but I’d certainly enjoy that more than Rusev or Corbin, which would feel tired.
brady17: Maybe by that time the brand shake up will happen and someone not on the blue brand will be next.
corwo: Gable has all the potential in the world. I’ve always liked him, but he’s really stepped up his game since the American Alpha split. An eventual mid-card title reign doesn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility. A series of matches with Styles would do wonders for his career.
elweston1: There were two other SummerSlam match-ups set up tonight that dovetail nicely here. First, Rusev defeated Gable in a very fun match and demanded an opponent for Brooklyn, and Orton answered the call. Later, on WWE Network following SmackDown Live, Corbin attacked Nakamura only to go through a table courtesy of Cena. You guys like the way these were set up? Looking forward to either?
brady17: Both were set up fine. Odd that the Corbin vs. Cena starter was on the Network but I can’t complain about that. Cena and Corbin will probably have a decent match. Not looking forward to Rusev vs. Orton but I hope it turns out alright.
corwo: A feud with Orton is the last thing Rusev needs after losing to Cena at Battleground. The thought of those two battling it out in front of a (presumably apathetic) Brooklyn crowd doesn’t appeal to me.
elweston1: I’m a huge Randy Orton mark, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with Rusev. The winner could end up with Styles. Cena and Corbin had a rushed TV affair in January, but I’m sure they’ll do much better in a PPV setting.
elweston1: I do agree that the Brooklyn crowd is likely to sit on their hands during Orton/Rusev, but they are about as atypical a crowd as it gets, so I don’t view that as a huge issue.
corwo: As for Cena vs. Corbin, I don’t feel too strongly about it either way. Corbin picking up a hard-fought victory seems to be the right call.
elweston1: I would have Cena win unless Corbin cheats. You can’t have too many people beat Cena clean or else it doesn’t mean as much as it did for Nakamura tonight.
elweston1: Look at how little beating HHH did for Seth Rollins, for instance.
corwo: I do think that, with Rollins, his win over HHH came too late into the feud. Obviously, you don’t want Corbin pinning Cena cleanly in their first match, but depending on how the feud goes, maybe he could pick up the win down the line to gain some much-needed credibility.
elweston1: That’s fair. It should be noted that Cena is rumored to go to Raw after SummerSlam and is advertised for their No Mercy PPV on 9/24.
elweston1: Beyond Nakamura/Cena and Rusev/Gable, the other highlight of the show was this week’s Fashion Files, riffing on the David Lynch hit Twin Peaks. I enjoy the Lynch show and Breeze’s antics and thus found this super entertaining. To play Devil’s Advocate, though, is WWE dragging this mystery out too long? Or are Breezango still as entertaining as ever for you?
corwo: “The Fashion Files” is the best thing going on SD by a wide margin. Immensely entertaining TV and Breeze/Dango have impeccable comedic timing. My only complaint, as you mentioned, would be the length. At some point, it just becomes tiresome and dilutes interest in the mystery.
elweston1: It’s at the point where the payoff almost has to be something big like an NXT call-up. SAnitY doesn’t do much for me, but that would have the right amount of oomph. The rumored Harper/Rowan return would be a bit weak.
brady17: Okay so the Fashion Files thing, I don’t want to say it’s become tiresome because it is funny, but they hyped up that we’d see who the attackers were at Battleground, that didn’t happen. Instead, they were attacked again. Then they weren’t on the SmackDown after Battleground, now tonight we still don’t know who the attackers are and they’re teasing the Ascension continuously, it’s just like — hurry up and reveal it already so then we can get to the in-ring feud. If it is SAnitY, maybe they’re holding off until they’re done in NXT and finish up everything so probably after NXT Brooklyn. If it isn’t SAnitY, then I have no clue and I really hope it isn’t a disappointing reveal. We’ve waited a while now and if it’s someone disappointing, that’s going to suck.
elweston1: I agree that they can’t whiff on the reveal.
elweston1: As long as they continue to knock these segments out of the park, though, it’s difficult to complain.
brady17: I’m just scared that at this point, they don’t even know who they are going to use as the attackers. They might wing it and it could be the Hype Bros.
elweston1: Other happenings on the show: Naomi and Becky Lynch beat Natalya and Carmella when Miss Money in the Bank tagged into the match against Nattie’s wishes and got caught in the champ’s submission. Aiden English finally got to do his whole song and then beat Sami Zayn, who was mocked by the Kanellis’ after the match. The Usos pretended to be Big E, then cut a spoken word promo running down New Day. Any of this stick out to you guys? I thought the women’s tag was fun and a good bit of storytelling. Naomi is a great champion.
brady17: The women’s tag match was solid stuff and we now know that Naomi will go one-on-one with Carmella next week which is interesting. The Zayn stuff is getting out of hand with him losing, but I guess maybe Mike vs. Zayn again at SummerSlam? Who knows at this point. The Usos are my favorite team going right now and they place their role so good. Also, their new remixed theme is amazing.
corwo: The Carmella/Naomi match on next week’s show feels like an obvious fake-out. Don’t think they’re *quite* ready to pull the trigger on Carmella. English continues to impress, though I am baffled by the continued poor treatment of Zayn. There’s a guy who always gives the maximum effort and gets very little in return. On a more positive note, Zayn makes his opponents look good, so he has that going for him.
elweston1: Zayn being so good at making his opponents look great is why he’s used the way he is, I think.
elweston1: Wrapping things up, the AJ/KO feud continuing to falter hurt the first hour badly for me, but Rusev vs. Gable turned things around and, if this is the only Cena vs. Nakamura match we end up getting, I’m satisfied with it. Thumbs up overall for me.
corwo: A pretty good show, with the clear standouts being Gable vs. Rusev and Cena vs. Nakamura. Solid build-up to all of the SummerSlam matches and little to no filler on the card.
brady17: Breaking news~! Lana has challenged Charlotte to a match next week on SmackDown.
elweston1: So SummerSlam on the SmackDown side appears to be Mahal vs. Nakamura for the WWE title, Styles vs. Owens for the US title with Shane as the special guest referee, Cena vs. Corbin, Orton vs. Rusev, Naomi vs. Natalya for the SD women’s title, and New Day vs. Usos for the SD tag titles. Does this card do it for you guys?
corwo: I’m dreading Nakamura/Mahal and will probably go out of my way to avoid it, mainly due to the issues I have with Shinsuke at the moment. With the exception of New Day/Usos and Styles/Owens, nothing really stands out.
elweston1: Styles/Owens is a fascinating match for me, as I’ve found it a Worst Feud of the Year contender relative to expectations and I’m desperately hoping they have even a good match in them. The SD side of the card could hinge on that match’s quality.
brady17: Overall thoughts: the show dipped low at times but it was worth it seeing the big matches. Nakamura and Cena was incredible and worth sitting through the show for.