THE superstars of SmackDown LIVE were back in action last night at Battleground – the last pay-per- view stop for WWE before SummerSlam, which takes place next month.
Here are seven important things we learnt from Battleground.
SmackDown has new Tag Team Champions
The New Day have had the upper hand in most exchanges in recent weeks, in both verbal confrontations and in-ring action.
But The Usos dominated the cocky New Day in their opening match last night – perhaps the most convincing performance from Jimmy and Jey to date.
They isolated Xavier Woods and nailed Kofi with a double power bomb on the outside, leaving Woods with no one to tag for long section of the match.
In one great-looking spot, Jimmy clobbered Woods with a hard super kick as Woods flew through the air – then locked in a painful-looking half crab.
But Kofi sprung (quite literally) back to life, hitting his trouble in paradise kick and setting up for Woods’ giant flying elbow for the win – making The New Day three-time champs.
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Nakamura and Corbin are a bad fit
It’s been hard to get excited from the Shinsuke Nakamura v Baron Corbin feud, which doesn’t feel like the right thing for either man at the moment.
Their match didn’t do much to dial up the excitement levels. A clash of styles made it a plodding battle that never got out of second gear.
The finish was similarly uninspired, as Corbin hit a low blow for a disqualification.
It’s a finish designed to protect both men and prolong the rivalry, but was just a damp squib of an ending.
Natalya is number one contender for the Women’s Championship
Natalya, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lycnh, Tamina, and Lana put on an entertaining show in their number one contender’s fatal five-way elimination match.
Tamina and Lana worked together, before both tapping in quick succession to Becky Lynch’s Dis Arm Her submission (so much for Tamina’s unstoppable monster push).
Natalya then craftily rolled up Becky to make it one-on- one with Charlotte Flair.
Charlotte showed her strength with a hard-hitting power bomb – but then missed a huge moonsault, allowing Natalya to ram Charlotte’s head into the turnbuckle for the pin.
Will Natalya defeat Naomi for the title and SummerSlam? Or will it be her umpteenth unsuccessful attempt at championship gold?
KO is the new face of America (again)
AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens for the US Championship just two weeks ago – setting up yet another match in their strangely lukewarm feud.
The action was better than their match at Backlash, which ended in a controversial count out – but the finish was just as dodgy.
AJ’s shoulders were counted down while he locked KO in a submission. It’s technically a clean win for Owens, but makes AJ look stupid (didn’t he hear the ref counting?).
Expect a deciding match between these two at SummerSlam.
USA is still the best
At least, that’s the message John Cena hammered home in his dull flag match against the “Bulgarian Brute” Rusev.
The flag match stipulation was presumably concocted to save Rusev from suffering a pinfall or submission, though Rusev (forgetting the rules?) still to tapped to Cena’s weak STF.
The match ended when Cena hit an AA off the flag podium in the aisle and put Rusev through some tables – allowing Cena to stick Old Glory in the podium for the win.
It was a senseless burial of poor Rusev by Super Cena, stopping dead any momentum – and main event potential – the returning heel might have had.
Mike Kanellis doesn’t like it on the kisser
After Mike and Maria Kanellis screwed Sami Zayn on SmackDown last week – with Maria climbing in the ring to cause a distraction – Sami got revenge on the lovebirds last night.
Mike and Maria tried the same trick, but Sami was wise to it – and hit Mike with a Helluva Kick to the face for the win.
It was a surprising decision, especially if WWE is looking to get Mike and Maria Kanellis over as heels.
But it’s always heartening to see that the hugely talented-but- underused Sami Zayn isn’t just being used to get other talent over.
Someone needs to throw away the key to the Punjabi Prison
By which me mean, WWE needs to close the door on this dreadful match gimmick.
Preferably with Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal locked inside, so they can’t bore us to death with any more of their matches.
And as if the bamboo structure wasn’t enough, the Singh brothers got inside the cage (rendering it pointless) to interfere and cause further distractions.
But Orton tore through the useless brothers and hit Samir off the top of the cage, crashing through the announce table below.
Just when it looked like Orton was about to climb out and win – and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse – the Great Khali made a surprise return.
Khali – the originator of the Punjabi Prison – choked out Orton through the bars while Jinder clambered out of the cage to retain his title.
Is Khali now a permanent part of Jinder’s entourage? Who’s next, Tiger Ali Singh? And will any of them be able to survive John Cena at SummerSlam?
Watch Battleground on the WWE Network
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