When Erick Rowan grabbed his mallet in an act of desperation and assaulted the New Day at SummerSlam, it was the first sign the seemingly insurmountable Bludgeon Brothers had become unglued. Rowan and Luke Harper, who had not lost a straight tag-team match via pinfall since their rebranding late last year, had risen to the top of SmackDown quickly, notably winning the titles at WrestleMania 34.
While not a team that delighted fans with daredevil moves, they were bigger, stronger and more brutal than any team on either brand. But their mojo was weakening, if only so slightly, as we saw Sunday night after Rowan resorted to cheating tactics -- a last-ditch effort that resulted in a disqualification and one that allowed them to retain their titles. So when it was announced the New Day was going to get a shot at Harper and Rowan again -- this time in a no-disqualification match Tuesday on SmackDown Live -- there was more than a feeling that a full transfer of power was on its way. Turns out that feeling had merit.
Without Big E, who suffered a rib injury Sunday, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston outmaneuvered the Bludgeon Brothers and survived a slew of tables and chairs, and even another mallet, for an electrifying win to claim the SmackDown tag-team championships.
- WWE (@WWE) August 22, 2018
That title win makes five overall and three reigns on the blue brand for a trio who were nothing short of stellar inside the ring for the weeks leading up to SummerSlam, while a majority of their contemporaries spent their time attempting to create heat with their menacing words.
It's easy to take an accomplished team like the New Day for granted. Perched atop the tag-team pantheon is nothing new for them. From 2015 to 2016, Woods, Kingston and Big E held the titles for a record 483 consecutive days. But as the days passed and the pancake-throwing antics increased, the New Day at one point appeared to be better served as playful halftime acts.
The team was given a renewed sense of purpose when it moved to SmackDown in April 2017, notably engaging in a stirring back-and-forth rivalry with The Usos and trading titles multiple times.
Before the match there were reports that Rowan injured his biceps at SummerSlam, unfortunate news that indicated the team would likely drop its belt. While nothing visible stood out as far as his performance, the New Day withstood another powerhouse beating for a majority of their bout, including a suicide dive by Harper that took out both Kingston and Woods, and Kingston getting pummeled through a ladder that lay across two chairs for a near fall.
Not surprisingly, the match ended in spectacular fashion. With Harper now sprawled across another ladder, Woods -- doing his best Shane McMahon impersonation -- dove three-quarters of the way across the ring and struck the heel with his elbow with enough force that it sent Harper through the ladder. The ref counted to three, and that was it.
Woods and Kingston, along with Big E (who'd run to the ring to join his exulting team), are again the top team on SmackDown, and by all accounts the best faction in the WWE. Whomever they battle next, whether it's The Bar, Gallows & Anderson or The Usos, The New Day are unquestionably going to put on a memorable show.
Hits & misses
As he has done so many times in the past, The Miz kicked off SmackDown with a heated, antagonistic and mocking promo in which he told Daniel Bryan their rivalry is done. Over. Finished. Miz spouted that there would be no more chances for Bryan, who fell to The Miz at SummerSlam thanks to a deceitful brass-knuckle tactic between Maryse and Miz. Bryan cut off Miz and stormed from the backstage, repeatedly calling Miz a coward. Ultimately, Brie Bella came out as well, made a beeline to the ring and cleaned house before Bryan announced that he was given the green light to team up with Bella to face Miz and Maryse in a mixed-tag match at Hell in a Cell. Perhaps not the most appealing showdown compared with a straight one-on-one rematch, but kudos to the creative team for not rushing this rivalry.
Really disappointed, but not surprised, with the promo from Becky Lynch, who came to the ring to explain her double-cross on Charlotte at SummerSlam. Lynch said she was fed up with the new women's champ, then proceeded to malign the crowd in an obvious attempt to garner heel heat. But it wasn't happening. As they did at SummerSlam, the crowd went crazy over her antics. Creative team, listen up: Just go with it. Let Becky be your Stone Cold. No need to force her villainous side. Give the fans every reason to embrace her -- forcing them to side with Charlotte is a fraught exercise. Don't believe us? We'll just have to wait and see.
Samoa Joe continued to torture AJ Styles. As Styles was being interviewed about his meltdown Sunday at SummerSlam, Joe snuck up behind the champ and locked him in a Coquina Clutch, rendering Styles unconscious. Joe then spit out a few below-the-belt words toward Styles' family before the segment ended. Joe's actions are bold enough, and good enough, to carry the feud alone. There's no need for the personal attacks.
Even though the feud feels forced, loved the idea to let Jeff Hardy beat the stuffing out of Randy Orton on Tuesday -- a beatdown that was all about payback after weeks of torture. This was exactly what Hardy needed to regain his diminishing aura. In a one-on-one match that quickly unraveled, thanks to a kick-to-the-midsection DQ by Hardy, he took things outside the ring, over the barricade and deep into the crowd. Hardy ultimately scaled an anvil case and struck Orton with a Swanton Bomb. Safe to say this is the next phase in what will likely culminate at Hell in a Cell, no?
- WWE (@WWE) August 22, 2018
Solid teamwork from Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, even though the former had a singles match against Naomi. Together, they threw Naomi off her game enough to secure the win for Royce. Perhaps this is another sign The IIconics are going to get a legit push, especially now that Carmella no longer has the women's championship.
But ... Carmella has a rematch next week against Charlotte to regain the title. No doubt Becky will be a part of that match in some fashion, likely breaking up the battle and beating down Charlotte again. As mentioned above, once that happens, you can expect a massive pop from the crowd.
With so much hate and animosity for two hours of SmackDown Live, we're proud to end this article with a feel-good story. Yes, Aiden English came to the aid of Rusev and Lana in a rematch of their mixed-tag match against Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega at SummerSlam by swiping away a chair from Almas before he could strike Rusev. The heroic act allowed Rusev to put Almas in an inescapable Accolade. As Rusev and Lana celebrated, they each pointed to English -- who retreated to the backstage, happy as can be, with his chest puffed out -- in gratitude. Together again. Together again. We hope.