The May 22 episode of SmackDown hit the Fox airwaves with a jam-packed card full of championship implications.
NXT women's champion Charlotte Flair battled blue brand women's champion Bayley in the night's main event, but it was hardly the only high-stakes contest of the evening. Also on the night's lineup were the following:
Who advanced to the next competition as the blue brand seeks to crown a new IC champion, and which duo settled their differences as Mr. Money in the Bank looked to continue his recent roll?
Find out with this recap of this week's broadcast.
John Morrison and The Miz kicked off this week’s SmackDown with another edition of The Dirt Show, wasting little time bringing up universal champion Braun Strowman and how he got in their business a week ago.
The former tag team champions mocked Strowman for being replaced by puppets in The Wyatt Family and took exception to Strowman receiving the universal title match against Goldberg at WrestleMania 36 without earning it.
Strowman interrupted the proceedings, and after some back and forth, during which Miz warned The Monster Among Men that Bray Wyatt is not finished with him, Morrison got fired up and inadvertently issued a challenge on behalf of his partner that Strowman quickly accepted.
What could have been just another in-ring promo leading to a match was instead a welcome bit of storyline continuity.
Miz has, as he pointed out, battled Wyatt before and dealt with the mind games that terrified both him and his family. Issuing the warning to Strowman that Wyatt is not finished with him was a nice touch by WWE Creative ahead of their match.
Whether it leads to any retribution by Wyatt on Friday's broadcast remains to be seen, but it was good to see the writing team tie the Superstars' similar issues with Wyatt together.
The Miz survived an early onslaught by Strowman and capitalized on well-timed interference from Morrison to gain a short-lived upper hand.
The universal champion powered his way back into the match, dropping Morrison with a hard right hand that knocked him off the apron and pinning Miz after a running powerslam to pick up the extended squash.
Strowman defeated Miz.
And...this was more along the lines of what one would expect from this cast of characters.
Strowman dominated, the former tag team champions looked like fools, and Miz ate the pinfall.
A nice change of pace? WWE letting Strowman vs. Wyatt breathe a bit before rushing into a rematch by booking a handicap match pitting The Monster Among Men against Miz and Morrison at Backlash in June? Is that match super appealing?
Not really, but at least it leaves more time for Strowman and Wyatt to build toward a more significant, higher-profile rematch.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura renewed their rivalry in the quarterfinals of the Intercontinental Championship Tournament Friday night.
Prior to the match, Michael Cole dropped a bombshell on commentary, announcing Styles had been traded back to SmackDown in exchange for Superstars to be named later.
Nakamura took control of the match away from The Phenomenal One entering the break, but Styles fought back and powered him down with a hellish clothesline for a near-fall. The Artist answered with a Michinoku Driver for a two-count of his own.
A running knee by Nakamura earned another near-fall. He attempted the Kinshasa, but Styles countered. Nakamura countered that into a triangle choke. Styles escaped, dropped his opponent and delivered the Phenomenal Forearm for the hard-fought victory.
Styles defeated Nakamura
Without all of the overbooking and unnecessary low blows that plagued their 2018 series, this was a damn fun match and one of the best Styles and Nakamura have had under the WWE umbrella.
It was hard-hitting, physical and reintroduced Nakamura the wrestler to fans who have become accustomed to him in the sidekick role. He was outstanding here and really looked every bit of Styles' equal.
As for Styles, it was nice to see him back in a SmackDown ring. Though he has floated between brands before, he has been synonymous with the blue brand, enjoying his greatest moments with SmackDown. Hopefully this roster move benefits both the performer and the show—even if the idea of a trade is asinine because even the Universal champion Strowman is not as valuable as The Phenomenal One, leaving equal value impossible.
Insisting Sasha Banks remain in the locker room, SmackDown women's champion Bayley made her way to the ring for her match with NXT women's champion Charlotte Flair hellbent on proving she was every bit as good as The Queen.
She struggled early, eating a nasty clothesline by the second-generation star on the floor, then crashing over the barricade and to the arena floor. "Sasha Banks, come out here so I can kick both of your asses!" Flair exclaimed over Michael Cole's headset as the show entered a commercial break.
The back-and-forth battle continued after the timeout, with Bayley capitalizing on a momentarily hobbled Flair and driving her into the ring apron. Bayley's hubris proved costly as Flair interrupted her mockery and delivered a big fallaway slam.
The opportunistic Bayley recovered and stunned Flair on the middle rope. A running knee in the corner followed, and the blue brand champion set up for her top-rope elbow drop. Flair got her knees up, though, turning the tide in her favor.
Bayley unloaded with a series of chops and tried for a Figure Four. Flair fended her off and delivered chops of her own. Her emotions got the best of her, though, and Bayley scored the win with a rollup, holding the ropes for added leverage.
Bayley defeated Flair
That was Bayley's best match since her series with Flair last year.
It was competitive, physical and showcased the arrogance of her character. It almost cost her, but Bayley was able to use Flair's own familial tricks against her en route to a victory that will end the doubts about her ability to win without Banks at her side.
Furthermore, the outcome seems to suggest the issues between the two are far from over. Given the quality of this one, that is hardly a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how creative convinces the audience that Bayley needs Banks now.
The latest chapter in the disintegrating relationship between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville was written in a Mixed Tag Team Match that pitted The Golden Goddess and Otis against The Pride Fighter and Dolph Ziggler.
Prior to the break, Ziggler sent Otis into the steel ring steps. Mr. Money in the Bank insisted Rose get back in the ring and fight for the team. She did, but she found herself on the defensive against the physically superior Deville.
Rose finally created some separation, and Deville made the tag to Ziggler. Otis exploded into the match, overpowering Ziggler and tossing him around like a ragdoll.
As Otis rolled, an alert Deville made the tag. As the men fought at ringside, Deville delivered a big running knee to the back of the head for the win.
Otis checked on Rose after the bell, allowing Ziggler to deliver a cheap superkick.
Deville and Ziggler defeated Otis and Rose
Deville continues to get the best of Rose, leading to what is an inevitable blowoff match between the two. Otis and Ziggler were largely dressing here, hitting their signature stuff but playing second-fiddle to the women. And rightfully so.
Otis has beaten Ziggler enough. Their feud is almost exclusively based on their relationship with Rose and Deville at this point, though The Showoff's superkick after the match suggests WWE Creative has not beaten him enough and a pay-per-view contest cannot be ruled out.
Still, the heat and money is in the final showdown between Rose and Deville, which, if handled correctly, can be a genuinely high-profile match on one of the upcoming WWE Network extravaganzas.
Kudos to WWE's writing team for keeping things fresh, interesting and getting all four involved over with fans to the extent that it has throughout this program.
The escalating tensions between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy came to a head in the main event of the show, with a spot in the semifinals of the Intercontinental Championship Tournament at stake. Determined to turn Hardy's dreams of a storybook comeback into a nightmare, The Celtic Warrior took the fight to The Charismatic Enigma early and often.
Hardy fought back, driving Sheamus into the announce table, but suffered the same fate as the Irishman slammed him into Michael Cole and Corey Graves' laps heading into the commercial.
Sheamus overwhelmed Hardy as the commentary team questioned how much ring rust was proving detrimental in the babyface's quest for victory. Overconfidence cost Sheamus, though, as Hardy seized an opening and delivered Whisper in the Wind for a near-fall.
Sheamus regained control until a blind charge into the corner left him crashing shoulder-first into the ring post.
He recovered and set up for the Brogue Kick, but Hardy ducked. Sheamus tried for White Noise, but Hardy countered into a rollup for the pinfall victory.
Hardy defeated Sheamus
Hardy's match with Cesaro on the Money in the Bank Kickoff Show was better. With that said, this felt like the first taste of a better match to be had, presumably on pay-per-view.
The finish was great, with Sheamus' injured shoulder preventing him from holding on to the White Noise finisher, allowing Hardy to score the rollup. Everything that came before it was solid enough, but it lacked the energy you come to expect from matches involving Hardy.
Next week, The Charismatic Enigma battles Daniel Bryan in the semifinals of the tournament, and as much as a win would be one step closer to that sought-after magic comeback, it would make sense for him to lose there and set up another showdown with Sheamus—especially with The Celtic Warrior almost certain to be seeking a measure of painful revenge.