There was only so much momentum SmackDown could carry in the remaining weeks leading to SummerSlam.
We wondered two weeks ago whether things had peaked too early with SummerSlam a month away at the time, and even last week, those sentiments resurfaced when John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura squared off for the first time ever in a riveting No. 1 contender's bout.
So, really, how in the world was Tuesday night's show going to deliver another spectacle that lived up to the hype?
Predictably, it didn't. It wasn't exactly two hours of filler time, but there was an awful lot of verbal altercation -- and not a lot of payoff.
The exception was once again Cena, who kicked off the show lauding the work of Nakamura from last week, while also patting his own back for the sportsmanship he displayed afterward. But during Cena's long, passionate soliloquy, Baron Corbin interrupted, delivered a few fighting words and, voila, another big-time match was added to the SummerSlam card.
The groundwork was laid a week ago after SmackDown went off the air as Corbin attacked Nakamura, only for Cena to return to the ring and assist his recent in-ring foe.
Corbin, the current Money in the Bank holder, has taken a few losses since getting his hands on the briefcase, but he hasn't lost much in the way of cache while facing down some of the best talent WWE has to offer. There's no rush for him to successfully cash in and, for now, he gets a match against the company's most legendary active competitor.
- WWE (@WWE) August 9, 2017
Oh, and who doesn't want to hear Cena call Corbin a "skinny-fat, overrated loudmouth dumpster fire" like he did Tuesday night? That line alone was worth the price of admission.
Dumpster fire might be a little extreme, but there's little question Corbin has been mishandled and misused by creative at several turns since being elevated into the main event picture late in 2016. But with the briefcase in hand and an upcoming date with Cena, Corbin's finally starting to feel like main event material.
More Orton-Mahal ... say it ain't so
But here they were again, facing off in a non-title, main-event grudge match. First things first: the performances and all-around action far exceeded what they did in the Punjabi Prison match at Battleground. The two competitors were ruthless from start to finish, with some pretty nasty spots.
Still, the question is: What was the point? It's like reading the first eight chapters of a book, skipping ahead to the 10th (Battleground) and then circling back to catch up on the ninth.
Mahal's focus should squarely be on his SummerSlam opponent, Nakamura who, by the way, was without a match Tuesday, while Orton is beginning a beef against Rusev. Perhaps it was a way to give Orton a win back after all of the losses he took along the way, but at this point in their respective careers, it does far more to hurt Mahal then it does to help Orton. Without the Singh brothers at his side, he ended up looking fairly hapless.
- WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) August 9, 2017
It wasn't all positive for Orton, though, as the WWE production crew lulled us into a false sense of security by rolling the credits just before Rusev crept up from behind and laid Orton out as SmackDown went off the air. This feels like a match and rivalry that could do something positive for Rusev in the long-term, but for the time being, this match feels like mere filler for SummerSlam.
Hits and misses
While the Kevin Owens-AJ Styles rivalry seems worn at this point, the addition of Shane McMahon as guest referee will keep us guessing whether he will have any role in the outcome, especially given the assumption that an Owens-McMahon battle is in the offing. In an entertaining segment Tuesday, KO showed footage of Styles viciously attacking McMahon ahead of their WrestleMania encounter, and then triggered a flashback to the 1998 Survivor Series, when the commissioner, also acting as an official, cheated Stone Cold Steve Austin out of a win against Mankind.
The heated dialogue ended when fisticuffs broke out, and Styles inadvertently Pele-kicked Shane-O-Mac. Will this sequence aggravate McMahon enough that any impartiality toward Styles is out of the question? Seems as though that's what the creative team wants us to believe, anyway.
- WWE (@WWE) August 9, 2017
The Usos looked as strong as ever in a high-flying, clean victory against the newly formed duo of Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger. We learned over the weekend that The Usos will get their rematch for the tag-team titles at SummerSlam against The New Day, who attacked them after the match. Still, having Zayn and Dillinger lose so meekly, when the overall pool of tag teams has waned, won't do the show any favors long term. We'd like to think these two struggling singles competitors could make for a formidable pairing that helps round out a division in desperate need of some depth.
So this is what it has come to for Charlotte Flair, once the biggest name in the women's division. She beat down Lana in a matter of minutes, taunting the Ravishing Russian one along the way. While the match did little to re-establish Flair's credence, it did present a question as to what the plan is for Lana, who wants to be a more beautiful version of her ruthless mentor, Tamina, down the road. Still, heading into SummerSlam, Flair has no legit storyline with anyone else on the roster. And for that matter, neither does Becky Lynch. Hmmm.
- WWE (@WWE) August 9, 2017
Hard to believe, but James Ellsworth was almost a forgotten man until he snuck into the ringside area and shoved current women's champ Naomi off the top rope to help his gal pal, Carmella, get the non-title win. Really good chemistry between Naomi and Money in the Bank winner Carmella, to the point that it seems as though No. 1 contender Natalya, who was watching backstage, seems irrelevant to a greater storyline in this fiasco.