This week, the WWE started setting up SummerSlam, and Jinder Mahal brought the
The big news this week in the WWE was the announcement that American Alpha’s Jason Jordan is the illegitimate son of Olympic gold medalist, long-time WWE Superstar and now Raw general manager Kurt Angle. Jordan isn’t in real life, but the shared broad cheekbones make the story possible. The story’s the kind that doesn’t move me, and it doesn’t help that it was tied to a performer who had little presence in the WWE Universe before this week. American Alpha was languishing in disuse on the Smackdown Live roster. Jordan’s move to Raw means the tag team is dead and that he’s in a position to raise his profile as the storyline moves forward. For his tag team partner Chad Gable, the future is less clear, though he did have a good solo match with A.J. Styles on the July 4 show.
Raw has started to build toward SummerSlam, and this week that meant Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe meeting to decide who would face Brock Lesnar for the Raw championship belt at SummerSlam. The crowd reaction to the match reiterated the issue the WWE has at the top of its Raw lineup as it’s clotted with face/heels and heel/faces. Lesnar and Samoa Joe are essentially heels who get a lot of love while Reigns is a face who gets a lot of heat. He tried to injure Braun Strowman by backing the ambulance Strowman was in into a semi—a move that the announcers sold as dastardly—but on Monday, he remained a tweener in deed, speech, and audience response.
The match itself between Joe and Reigns was as physical and intense as promised. Both specialize in explosive displays of power, so they took turns blowing each other up. Unfortunately, the match ended the only way it could with the return of Braun Strowman. He wrecked both Joe and Reigns and inserted himself into the title belt picture at SummerSlam, which will now likely feature Lesnar, Joe, Reigns and Strowman.
The Hardy Boyz took one step closer to the “Broken” gimmick as their losing streak continued, this time to The Revival. They’re going to go nuts from all the losing or realize that they need something more and assume their Broken roles—or something like that.
Better drama than Kurt Angle/Jason Jordan spot came when Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose took the first step to temporarily reunite two-thirds of The Shield, the tag team they were a part of with Roman Reigns that split when Rollins turned on them. Rollins and Ambrose face a common enemy in The Miz and his Miztourage—I love typing that word!—so they had an in-ring therapy session with Rollins wanting to make sure that when/if he faces The Miz, he’s not going to have Ambrose against him as well. The spot went better than most like it with Ambrose understandably suspicious and Rollins apologizing for the heel turn that split up The Shield. I’ve been down on Rollins through his boring feud with Bray Wyatt, but characters don’t usually admit that the screwed up that way. He gave Ambrose a folding chair and a free shot at Rollins’ back to make him feel better—a chance Ambrose passed up when he threw away the chair. Team Miz came to the ring with chairs of their own and used them to lay out Rollins and Ambrose. They’ll meet this Monday in a two-on-three handicap match, and since chairs were a big part of this week’s match, I won’t be surprised if we see a tables, ladders and chairs match from Ambrose and Rollins against Miz and the Miztourage at SummerSlam.
The Smackdown Live roster has the “Battleground” pay-per-view coming up this Sunda, and they hyped it from the start on Tuesday by letting us see the “Punjabi Prison” that will enclose Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton. Mahal explained the rules, but he was hard to see in the ring with two sets of bars between him and the camera. Orton came out and climbed the outer structure. They talked a lot. He posed, which outraged Mahal and the Singh Brothers. Next.
The story between Sami Zayn and Mike and Maria Kanellis finally got interesting as it moved to the ring. The Kanellis’ are in love, so much so that Mike took her name when they married, not vice versa. Zayn has awkwardly stumbled into a few of their moments backstage in recent weeks, so of course they had to settle their issues in the ring. Zayn owned the match and largely wailed on Mike Kanellis until Maria climbed into the ring to protect her husband, who appeared helpless in the corner. The referee backed Zayn up, and Kanellis used the momentary distraction to surprise Zayn with a right hand and a Samoan driver for the win.
A.J. Styles will defend his Smackdown title against Kevin Owens at “Battleground,” and Shinsuke Nakamura will face Baron Corbin as well. On Tuesday, Styles and Nakamura met Owens and Corbin in a tag match. Everybody beat on everybody; Owens and Corbin won.
John Cena hyped his flag match against Rusev, which seems like a visit to the WWE’s Days of Yore. The patriotic appeal dates back at least to Wrestlemania I in 1985 when The U.S. Express—Barry Wyndham and Mike Rotunda—faced Nicolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik at Wrestlemania I in 1985, and it patriotism in part fueled Hulk Hogan winning the WWF Championship belt when he beat The Iron Sheik during his WWF debut in 1984. To drive home how dated a flag match feels, I watched the conclusion of the excellent G.L.O.W. a few days after Smackdown Live, and it ended with a patriotism fight. Maybe I’d be more sold on this if Cena had anything concrete to say about his love of the U.S., or if he grounded his thoughts in 2017, or why he distrusts of Bulgaria, which seems low on the list of dangerous foreign powers. In a battle my abstractions vs. your abstractions, it's hard to get excited.
The Smackdown Live spot that had the WTF buzz I’m always looking for from pro wrestling came from Breezango—the tag team of Tyler Breeze and Fandango. Both suffered from mediocre characters—Fandango was a Latin dancer! Scary!—and together, they’re still meh in the ring. But almost everything about Breezango is entertainingly odd starting with the tag team’s name. The skits present the two in low-rent backstage TV show parodies, which they play as if they went to the Derek Zoolander College of Actorating. Awkwardly mannered performances matched with such forced concepts as this week’s “The Fashion X-Files” that attempt to solve a crime that I can’t keep track of are, taken as a whole, so odd that I can’t look away from them.