- It's amazing how quickly time flies. This time last year, the brand split officially kicked off, and fans were very skeptical (and critical) of Smackdown Live, despite decent episode-to-episode booking and utilizing everyone as well as possible. Now I can barely sit through an episode without banging my head against the wall, but maybe moving forward from one of the least exciting Network Specials will be the shot in the arm to enjoy everything again.
- Live from Richmond, VA, with Tom Phillips, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and Byron Saxton calling the action, unless otherwise noted.
- NEW United States Champion, Kevin Owens, kicks things off. Good thing they didn't change his jumbo-screen and ramp image from the "Face of America holding the US Title" shot. He wastes no time bragging about once again being the United States Champion. He can go back to defending the title with the pride and honor it deserves. The crowd drowns him out with an "A.J. Styles" chant. Tonight, he's reinstating the Kevin Owens U.S. Title Open Challenge, and it begins... next week. A.J. Styles interrupts (WWE Superstars can be very rude). He's here for a rematch for the US Title. Owens says he's not defending the title tonight, period. Chris Jericho makes a surprise return, List of Jericho in hand, and the crowd approves. Jericho trolls Owens with "quiet" to shut him up. He reminds us that Owens had him taken out on a stretcher his last (and first) night on Smackdown Live, and he wants his rematch, TONIGHT. Styles doesn't quite agree with that last statement. Jericho says you know what happens when you try to jump in line ahead of him? A guy at the grocery store did that at checkout, and you know what happened? He punched him in the face and put him in the walls of Jericho in Aisle 7 in front of the cans of corn, but as far as A.J. is concerned, HE JUST MADE THE LIST. Owens bails, but Jericho calls him back (where are you going, you stupid idiot?!). Shane McMahon comes out to cut off Owens' escape, and books a Triple Threat Championship Match for tonight's Main Event.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with the Women's Champion, Naomi. Natalya refused to shake hands at Battleground, and Naomi isn't going to take that kind of disrespect. Natalya pops in and says he's disrespected the Championship by turning it into a kid's toy. At SummerSlam, she's going to restore honor to the Women's Division. Naomi's LIGHT BRIGHT belt is supposed to honor tradition? Carmella comes from behind, wearing a "Free Ellsworth" shirt, and reminds Naomi that her and the MITB contract are looking to the future.
- Jinder Mahal comes out to make his demands for a NEW challenger to his WWE Championship at SummerSlam. No appearance for the Great Khali. I don't know if I want to throw "thankfully" or "unfortunately" with that, which goes to show my frustration with WWE in general. He rubs it in everyone's face that Orton bragged about beating him at his own game, but Orton underestimated the WWE Champion, and he'll stay Champion for as long as he desires. John Cena interrupts the Punjabi portion of the promo (alliteration is fun!). He congratulates Mahal of making the best of his opportunity and getting in the best shape of his life. To make a long story short (too late), Cena doesn't care what Mahal has up his sleeve, because he's going to face Super-Cena at SummerSlam. Daniel Bryan comes out to let us know that while Cena can't make his own matches (Miz disagrees), he'll get his opportunity next week when he faces Shinsuke Nakamura for the #1 Contenders spot at SummerSlam.
- Kevin Owens questions Shane McMahon's decision making in booking him in a title defense against A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho tonight. He could unfairly lose the title without being pinned tonight. Shane says he doesn't care who the Champion is, as long as they're a fighting Champion, but he does care about giving the Smackdown audience what they want. Owens doesn't care about the audience, and if he wasn't the commissioner, he doesn't give a damn about Shane, either.
- The New Day come out for the Championship Celebration, but things don't go as planned. Big E's Big Introduction is interrupted. Woods and Kofi get tossed onto the stage and worked over by the former Champions, Jimmy and Jey Uso. They lay Woods out and drag Kofi down the ramp for a possible curb stomping. Big E recovers, but quickly gets knocked out with a Double Super-Kick. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the rivalry between the Usos and New Day will continue.
- Renee Young is backstage with Shinsuke Nakamura. "Next week, John Cena, you can't see me."
We return from commercial break, with Jericho throwing Styles high in the air for a back drop. Whip to the corner and Jericho follows in with a clothesline. Owens comes back to life to interrupt a Super-Plex. He fights out of the Walls of Jericho, but goes flying over the top rope charging at Styles. Styles with the springboard 450 Splash to Jericho. Owens tosses Styles out and covers for two. Jericho counters the Styles Clash with the Walls of Jericho. Owens tries to break it up and gets sent into Styles before being trapped in the hold. Styles tries to save, but eats a Code Breaker for a near fall. Jericho interrupts the Phenomenal Blitz, but the Lionsault is broken up by Owens. Owens with Cannonballs to both Jericho and Styles. Rapid fire sequence, with everyone laid out from various kicks (KO Super-Kick, Jericho enziguri, and Styles' Pele Kick). Jericho counters the Phenomenal Forearm with the springboard dropkick. Owens with a super-Kick and Pop-Up Powerbomb to Jericho for two. Owens with the Frog Splash. Styles tosses him out and steals the cover to regain the US Championship at 11:22 (shown). ***1/2 Did everyone get orders to tank it at Battleground? Another match that felt more like PPV quality than what the actual PPV delivered. That finish almost makes you suspect something went wrong at Battleground and they never intended to take the title off Styles... or maybe Kevin Owens becomes a 4-time Champion next week as WWE recreates Memphis booking.
- Post-match, Kevin Owens demands his Championship rematch... NEXT WEEK.
Final Thoughts: With the Styles vs. Owens Rematch AND John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, next week looks like a must-see episode of Smackdown Live. Despite the poor handling of the entire Women's roster, things seem to be falling in place for SummerSlam. I don't know what was in the drinking water in Philadelphia that produced so many underwhelming matches, but everyone seemed a bit more motivated here for just another episode of Smackdown. The lack of Randy Orton is probably a good thing, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he's moved to Raw after SummerSlam.