Forgive us if this sounds like a repeat. But for two hours, a host of angry and arrogant superstars who are getting ready to throw down in a few days' time at SummerSlam took up most of the time on SmackDown Live with their fighting words, rather than actually fighting.
And then there was The New Day, who shined brighter than the rest inside the ring.
Yes, this was pretty much how things unfolded a week ago. Disappointing? Perhaps. But it's also understandable. SmackDown's matches for the upcoming pay-per-view card were, by and large, set some time ago. That left almost nothing new to suss out over the past couple of episodes, other than the top tag contenders and digging deeper into each individual rivalry.
With the goal of the night being not to give away much or any of the physicality we're set to see at SummerSlam, everyone would have to rely on their words. SmackDown women's champion Carmella got into it with her two challengers, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, while AJ Styles responded (again) to Samoa Joe's heartless attack on Styles' family two weeks ago.
But the most prominent clash of personalities came via the slick pre-produced three-part retrospective on the history between Daniel Bryan and The Miz and their respective histories with each other and the wrestling business. While the segments appeared to be something more likely to be seen on the WWE Network than a live broadcast of SmackDown Live, the backstory between the two is fascinating.
We won't go into all the details, but their story dates back to the original NXT reality show, when The Miz was assigned to be Bryan's mentor. At the time, The Miz loudly questioned Bryan's lack of charisma and called him talentless. The Miz reminded everyone that Bryan went 0-10 on the show, a dubious record that ultimately led to his elimination (while conveniently glossing over career-defining moments like Bryan's challenge of then-world champion Chris Jericho). Still, Bryan was irrepressible and refused to go away for good.
Conveniently, Bryan's first WWE win came against Miz, and as time went on, their histories became more entangled as their rivalry deepened. In a 2016 episode of "Talking Smack," Bryan told The Miz he "wrestles like a coward," a stinging sentiment that enraged The Miz. The moment got intensely personal, as Miz channeled his anger from several fronts directly into Bryan's face and verbally slapped him over his temporary forced retirement. "So you call me the coward," said The Miz, "but you're the one who can't get in a WWE ring again!"
Here we are, on the verge of their first televised one-on-one match in three-and-a-half years, and their most highly-anticipated clash, and it's hard to say where things will go from here. While we'll have to wait to see how it plays out, we got a healthy reminder as to why this is one of the deepest and most entertaining rivalries in recent WWE history.
They've each clearly mastered the war of words. But the time for talking is over.
Samoa Joe takes personal attack to new level
Samoa Joe had no aspirations of getting into the ring Tuesday. Instead, donning a sport coat and standing on the top of the stage, Joe continued to pick away at his central point -- that Styles cares more about the WWE championship than his family -- as he read a letter from someone he claimed was part of the WWE Universe.
"Two weeks ago, I heard the things you said about AJ Styles and his family. Your remarks [on Styles not being a family man] were disgusting and made me feel physically ill. Not because they were wrong, but because they were true... It's clear AJ never wanted children. Maybe he never wanted a wife, either. And that's why AJ is such a great champion, because he'll do anything to stay away from his family."
Joe eventually concluded, and with a drum roll-like conclusion, unveiled the letter was from Wendy Styles, AJ's wife.
OK then. Personal attacks aren't exactly revolutionary in the long history of hitting someone below the figurative belt, but this was taking it too far, no? Digging into Styles' marriage is a gratuitous ploy to grab attention, especially when the anticipation of these two colliding in the ring is already sky high. While I like the idea of Joe and Styles not coming to blows until SummerSlam, why not just let one of them get into the ring and beat up on R-Truth or Tye Dillinger. Heck, throw Sheamus in there. Anything to make a point while the other looks on.
I have to imagine some fans, especially the kids in the audience, have to get fed up with all the rhetoric. And how uncomfortable must it have been when the WWE decided it was a bright idea to stoop to the level of intra-family dissension? Poor taste all around.
To make matters worse, the segment (and show) abruptly ended with Styles standing in the ring with a look of bewilderment. As is occasionally the case, the most entertaining and valuable moment in the confrontation happened off the air in a video later released online.
- WWE (@WWE) August 15, 2018
I'm truly hoping this feud pays off in a big way Sunday. Like Styles' clash with Shinsuke Nakamura, the history between Styles and Samoa Joe goes back a long way -- 15 years in fact. This rivalry can be something special.
Just leave it in the ring.
Hits & misses
- Carmella was on her game Monday night and looked every bit the charismatic champion as she went blow-for-blow with her two challengers. Carmella attempted to push the respective buttons of Lynch and Flair in attempt to break their partnership, saying the only reason that Lynch was ever SmackDown champ in the first place, back in 2016, was because Flair was on Raw. But there was no sign of anything but cohesiveness Tuesday as Becky and Charlotte teamed up to beat Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. And wouldn't you know, it was Lynch's Dis-Arm-Her on Rose that won it -- countering Flair's single-minded victory by submission over the IIconics in a previous tag team match.
While we're all waiting to see if there is going to be a dramatic attack from one of the babyfaces on the other, the real question is whether the WWE is ready to hand over the title to Lynch, who until recently found herself resigned to little more than an ancillary storyline. So, will she overcome the odds of beating both a deceitful champ and the WWE's best female wrestler of this generation? I say ... yes.
- The Bludgeon Brothers beat down three nameless jobbers in a handicap match that actually ended before it ever started, thanks to a premature attack. Didn't we sort of see this last week? In what way did this remotely advance the storyline with the New Day? Though I will say, in an effort not to be hypocritical, at least they got into the ring as opposed to spending their time yapping. So kudos to them, I guess.
- The New Day beat SAnitY in easily the best match of the night. Kofi Kingston took down Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe with a top rope twisting splash to the outside of the ring and then Big E and Xavier Woods hit the UpUpDwnDwn on Killian Dain. Day in, Day out, New Day brings it big time. There is still a long way to go this year, but if you allow us to touch on a yearend superlative prematurely, very quickly, New Day is encroaching on Seth Rollins as the most exciting performers of 2018. SAnitY also proved they can hang.
- Jeff Hardy beat Shelton Benjamin relatively routinely Tuesday, then fended off Shinsuke Nakamura, who attempted to blindside the challenger. Hardy landed a Swanton Bomb and Twist of Fate on the United States champion ahead of their rematch. Oddly, as Hardy was making his way back to the locker room, Randy Orton was hiding behind a curtain and watching from afar. This time, instead of another attack on Hardy, nothing happened. Kind of creepy, maybe even stalk-ish. I truly have no idea what role Orton is going to play in the Hardy-Nakamura match Sunday -- except that he will almost certainly have one.
- How the mighty have fallen. Well, not really, but Aiden English was reduced to full jobber status in a quick beatdown by Andrade 'Cien' Almas after a match-ending Hammerlock DDT. Later, Rusev and Lana made their way from backstage only to get a verbal drubbing from Zelina Vega ahead of their mixed tag match in the SummerSlam Kickoff Show. Here's hoping English avenges his missteps from the past few weeks and helps Rusev and Lana to a win, and everyone sings "kumbaya" afterward. It's the only acceptable outcome.