WWE is loading up next week’s edition of SmackDown Live, headlining the show with a U.S. Title rematch between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens as well as what WWE is billing as a “dream match” between John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura with the winner moving on to face Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam.
Certainly Cena-Shinsuke is somewhat of a dream match. I’m not sure hardcore wrestling fans — fans of the indie style — are going to go nuts over Shinsuke-Cena like they would Shinsuke-Styles, but this is still one of the biggest matches WWE can book at this point in time.
It’s interesting the choice, too.
Perhaps this move was made out of the struggling ratings, with the company looking for a boost. You could argue that they’ve misused Nakamura to a certain extent, and this could be a vehicle to get him back on track against the company’s biggest star.
It also tells me that Cena isn’t going to be around for long. We sort of knew that, but this almost certainly confirms it.
WWE is trying to cram as much as they can into Cena’s limited run before he goes off to do more television or movies. Funny, didn’t he blast The Rock for doing the same a few years ago?
Anyway, Cena-Shinsuke is going to lead to the SummerSlam main event. My guess is that Cena wins, but not without some shenanigans. Shinsuke can’t be beaten clean right now. Not even by Cena. He’s been so unprotected that he needs to start being protected … now.
So where do they go? Shinsuke-Styles is the real dream match that would have every corner of the internet buzzing. Is next week’s show a way of setting that up? Styles loses the title to Owens and Shinsuke somehow loses to Cena, setting up that match.
But then, why put the title back on Styles to begin with? They had the belt off of him after Sunday’s Battleground pay-per-view. Why unnecessarily go back?
It would be an incredibly bold prediction to say that SmackDown draws more eyeballs than Raw next week … but given what has been advertised on both shows, I think it could come close.
Shinsuke Nakamura beat Baron Corbin
This was a much better match than they had at Battleground on Sunday. I thought that they clicked better and the match was more exciting and had more fire behind it, whereas Sunday’s match was a little more slow and plodding, with delays. Nakamura also looked strong here, and that was obviously done because we learned later in the show what he might be doing at SummerSlam, and at the very least, what he’s doing next week.
Charlotte & Becky Lynch beat Lana & Tamina
This match was very strange, in that you had two very strong wrestlers on one team (Charlotte and Becky) and two relatively weak wrestlers on the other side.
That being said, I am encouraged that they seem to be sticking with Natalya vs. Naomi in a one-on-one match for SummerSlam, rather than watering it down with more than one wrestler.
Tye Dillinger & Sami Zayn beat Aiden English & Mike Kanellis
I’m torn on this match. Kanellis seems like he’s going to get lost very quickly, even losing in a tag team match here. Watching him in TNA last year, I feel he has a lot more to offer than midcard heel who loses all the time. Basically, he should be positioned higher than Curt Hawkins, let’s say.
That being said, I’m encouraged to see them team Dillinger and Zayn together. Right now, they need some more tag teams on the SmackDown roster that have a legitimate shot challenging either New Day or the Usos for the tag team titles. I wrote this after Battleground, but I felt like they might need to take two singles wrestlers and pair them into a tag team for a while, and Dillinger and Sami, who are both floundering to a certain extent, are a good pairing.
AJ Styles beat Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in a triple threat match to win the U.S. Championship
This was a terrific match! I can’t overstate it, this match was absolutely excellent. These are the types of matches that SmackDown needs in order to separate itself from Raw. It’s why Jinder Mahal, who is not this style of wrestler, being on top right now is not a good thing. It’s not working. SmackDown has some of the best wrestlers in the world on its roster right now, and they need to be the center of attention.
In a way, the style of those guys and the fan perception is elevating the U.S. Title.
For next week, Kevin Owens challenged AJ Styles to a rematch for the U.S. Title. So, next week we’ll have Cena vs. Nakamura and Styles vs. Owens. Those are two premiere-level matches.