After a brief segment between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens where Shane would ask Kevin to leave the building, and a video package of the Reigns/Taker vs. McMahon/McIntyre match at Extreme Rules, Smackdown (In the age of Bischoff) would open up with the very first “town hall” meeting where Shane would allow the Smackdown roster to air their adulation or grievances.
Up first was Roman Reigns, telling Shane nobody respects him. Charlotte Flair would praise Shane, pushing the walking personification of every annoying pink-haired anime girl, Liv Morgan, to call her a phony. Buddy Murphy would tell Kevin Owens to keep his name out of his mouth or he’d slap it out of his mouth (not sure where else he’d slap it from). Apollo Crews would agree with Owens, prompting Zelina Vega and Andrrrrade (that was on purpose) to challenge him to another match. Andrrrrade would then challenge Apollo in Espanol, showing his English lessons are going along fantastically. Elias would rub his ego and then get interrupted by The New Day with Kofi talking about himself and how anyone in the back should have an opportunity to shine. Shane would cut his mic off and end the first town hall event. Suddenly Cesaro would show up and challenge Aleister Black to a rematch. Shane would allow it and as he began his Jerry Springer-style final thoughts, Kevin Owens would sneak up behind him and drop the Stunner.
The first match of the night was Aleister Black vs. Cesaro in an Extreme Rules rematch. And just like their match at Extreme Rules, it was hard-hitting, and despite a handful of rest holds, this match was a great way to kick-off Smackdown properly. Aleister Black would once again pick up the win with the Black Mass, continuing his streak, and showing what a powerhouse he is.
After their brief tit-for-tat at the start of the show, Charlotte Flair would face off against Liv Morgan in a brief and predictable one-on-one. Liv would get a handful of solid shots in on Charlotte with her blue tongue sticking out, but Charlotte would pick up the win after a powerbomb and Figure Eight. Liv would then rip the headset off Corey Graves and telling everyone when she comes back she’s going to be “real.” Not quite sure what that means, but fingers crossed this Avril Lavigne The Best Damn Thing phase will officially be over.
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville would face off against Ember Moon and her mystery partner, Bayley. It would be a quick match with Bayley delivering the Bayley to Belly on Sonya Deville and Ember dropping The Eclipse on Mandy Rose. In a brief interview afterward, Bayley would challenge Ember to a title match at Summerslam.
Finally, Ember is getting the push she deserves.
Nakamura would have a brief interview where he promised to rain chaos, which I guess would make him a heel? Ali would walk in the same way Nakamura did Balor weeks ago.
The New Day would come out and announce they have accepted Daniel Bryan’s challenge to a rematch, prompting the former tag-team champions to come out. Daniel Bryan would look like he had something to say, but would then turn around and leave, then come back out once more, then turn around and leave, then return for a third time, and leave again. All of this would lead to Samoa Joe, Elias, and Randy Orton to challenge for Kofi Kingston’s belt. Instead, it would turn into a single fall (very important to mention) six-man tag match between The New Day and the team of Joe, Elias, and Orton.
The match was a surprisingly standard and well-paced match, given the talent in the ring. The team of Orton, Elias, and Joe would do a phenomenal job playing the heels and keeping Xavier Woods separated from his team for most of the match. Once the hot tag was made to Kofi and Orton though, that’s when everything turned chaotic. The match would spill out of the ring, but after a poorly aimed Trouble In Paradise to Elias’s ribs, Randy Orton would jump in with the RKO and pick up the win.
A segment with Carmella searching for and finding R-Truth hiding in a fake laundry machine would lead to a match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. It would be the IIconics vs. the Kabuki Warriors (God, I hate that name) and it would be over before I could finish the first sentence as The IIconics forced a count-out on themselves to maintain their titles. This was an absolute waste of time and a slap in the face of the WWE fans who are tired of The IIconics as champions and want fresh blood. Obviously, WWE is building up to a Summerslam victory for the Kabuki Warriors, but that only means we have another three weeks of build before we get there.
Apollo Crews would face off against Adrrrrade (no longer Cien Almas) in another short match. Before the bell could ring, Andrade would attack Apollo to try to get the upper hand, but after delivering the double knees to Apollo, Apollo would counter his pin with a pin of his own and steal the win.
For the main event, it would be Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens. Dolph would spend the whole show trying to get Kevin back in the stadium for their match to get revenge after his seventeen-second loss to Kevin at Extreme Rules, and as Kevin walked down the ramp, he kept his eyes behind him, concerned for a sneak attack.
This match would be another typical Ziggler match that we’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of times before, with all the same spots in nearly the same order. Despite Kevin Owens laying down some new moves like the Senton from the top rope, and even jumping over the top rope, this match would be stifled with the obvious shadow of Shane McMahon looming in the back.
Sure enough, Shane would come down to the ring with a dozen of his supporters, effectively turning the match into a Lumberjack Match. In a distraction, Dolph would hit the Zig Zag on Owens, but he would kick out, and land the Stunner on Dolph. Before Kevin could get the three count, Shane would pull him from the ring, but Kevin would deliver a second Stunner on Shane before getting up and running away from the ring with the other superstars in hot pursuit.
Charly Caruso would then interview Shane as he was getting to his feet, and Shane would promise Kevin Owens will get what’s coming to him.
This was a great start to the Era of Bischoff, pushing drama into all of his matches. Every match had some sort of conflict or issue attached to it, making me get more invested in the performers. There was, however, one slight snag. Ever since Raw last night, WWE has been pushing this “career changing” announcement from Daniel Bryan, but we never received it. Obviously, this was WWE trying to boost their ratings once more by promising something that was never delivered, but eventually, we, the WWE Universe, are going to stop falling for this. As the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me five-hundred times, shame on you.
I give this episode of Smackdown Live a very high 3.5 out of 5 stars.