John Cena Returns
Cena came out to a big pop but the crowd seemed to quiet quickly after the first rush (could also be the sound production). He allowed the crowd to battle between “Let’s go Cena – Cena Sucks” before talking about Independence Day, America, and the wrestlers in the WWE.
He mentioned that some have said he is a ‘part-time mascot’, to which the crowd chanted “YES YES YES”.
Cena responded by saying he’s a full-timer and that means RAW and Smackdown.
Our first look at Rusev in an arena and he’s right back to confronting Cena? What a lazy way to capitalize on Independence Day, we’ve seen this way too much.
Cena says Rusev isn’t back in “Bulge-area”, and offers “for Old Glory, I’ll punch you right in the mouth”.
Cena proposes a Flag match, is this WCW? Rusev reiterates he won’t be bossed around. Cena starts a U-S-A chant and his music plays us out.
A lazy segment we’ve seen four billion times. What a complete waste of two huge returns.
AJ Styles vs Chad Gable
Win And You’re In the Independence Day Battle Royal
Gable’s wrestling ability vs Styles versatility and strikes leads to mostly an even matchup, highlighted by a great exchange of submissions and reversals.
Style’s reverses Gable’s roll-up-German-Suplex, hits a Pelé kick and sets up for the Phenomenal Forearm and the three-count.
Gable gave Styles a competitive – if short – match, with the announcers putting him over and Styles helping him up to shake his hand afterwards.
I would love the WWE to book many more matches like this: Different pairings with real consequences for winning and losing. Tournaments, battle royals, anything that gives importance to the wins and losses and brings an element of competition.
Carmella and Ellsworth Promo
Ellsworth is cancelling Independence Day for something ‘more important’, a ‘Carmella-bration’. Carmella gloats about the briefcase
Naomi interrupts (with a new blacklight belt?)
Naomi gets in Carmella’s face and tells Ellsworth-less someone else wants words with him
Daniel Bryan joins the fun
Sweet Beets bans Ellsworth from the area, who responds with “oh how will I ever get back in? (alluding to how easily he came back last week to help Carmella).
DB fines Ellsworth $10,000, suspends him from pay for a month and will strip Carmella’s MitB contract if Ellsworth doesn’t comply
This needed to be addressed after Carmella raised great points about breaking rules in a ‘no rules’ match as well as how often wrestlers ignore an arena-ban. Wrestling plays by a different set of rules than reality obviously, but it’s important to uphold those rules and play within them.
Lana vs Naomi
Lana tweeted a photo of her shoulder not on the mat while being pinned in their last match, and was awarded her third chance at the title.
Naomi booted a rushing Lana and converted a sunset flip into a submission for an immediate tap-out.
Tamina comes to the ring
Tamina orders Lana to get up and follow her to the back.
Squashing Lana to make the Women’s Champion look stronger makes sense for Naomi and the WWE, but where does it leave Lana? While she’s obviously learned a lot in a short time, she still looks outclassed in the ring and hearkens back to the dark days of Women’s wrestling.
Perhaps WWE has given up on her as an in-ring talent and will repackage her as a manager again? If they want her to continue wrestling they’ll have to start building her up all over again….unless they pull a Jinder.
Rap Battle Hosted by WALE
The New Day bust out Nursery-level insult rhymes. The Usos aren’t professional, but bring a much more creative rythm and drop a “Rated R” reference about Xavier Woods’ recent sex tape with Paige. (They repeat the line as if they forgot).
Kofi Kingston does better, attacking the Usos for wearing shirts to cover up their guts and having their guts stick out more than “their weeny do”.
The Usos come back saying Kofi was Ja-fakin being Jamaican, and that his forehead looks like a back of a hand.
Xavier Woods comes back strong saying the Usos dress like recently divorced dads and that they were nothing until their wives put them on Total Divas. He closes by saying they should get back to carrying bags for their cousin Roman.
The Usos shove Woods and WALE disqualifies them, awarding the Rap Battle to The New Day.
This could have been terrible, but there were enough great lines to make up for the lame ones. Would have been cool if WALE closed out with a pro-level verse, but that might have outshined the two tag-teams in a bad way.
Aidan English vs Randy Orton
After getting an RKO last week during Orton’s mild rampage, English sings until Orton’s music interrupts him.
English interrupts Orton’s turnbuckle pose and attacks him with the microphone and tossing RO into the steel steps, appearing to injure him.
English heads back to the ring to finish singing! I love this.
Awkard Commercial Break
The announcers tell us it was all Aidan English in the break, but once the cameras are back on, Orton starts stomping the singer. English does a great job of flying into the ringside barrier and ringpost. He has the perfect look of the level 1 opponent in a video game designed to give the player confidence.
Orton DDTs English from the announcer table to the outside floor, and smashes him with the steel steps, earning a DQ.
English wins! (via DQ)
I usually find Orton boring so it’s nice to see something different that builds up his ruthless aggression leading up to the Punjabi Prison match that needs all the help it can get.
Jinder Mahal appears
Mahal says the USA is prejudiced and ignorant.
Orton interupts Mahal’s usual Punjabi address to say he’ll RKO him back to India.
Mahal is smooth on the mic but he lacks the superstar charisma. That’s not his fault, but this whole feud has made the World title feel like the mid-card.
Breezango go undercover to get info on Tye Dillinger’s Battle Royal strategy
Breeze dresses like Renee Young (calling himself Tenay Young) while Fandango wears a sloppy moustache to pose a maintenance man. Tye sees through the disguise and brings up the question of Breezango facing each other in the Battle Royal.
Renee Young interviews Maria and Mike Kanelis
The two talk about the power of love until Sami Zayn interrupts them for the second week in a row. He apologizes for both interruptions and goes on a dorky rant before his music hits and he runs off to the ring for the battle royal.
Battle Royal for US Championship #1 Contender
Ziggler is the first one out, eliminated by Luke Harper.
After commercial we see an eliminated Fandango catch Breeze and throw him back in, only to be eliminated immediately by Erik Rowan.
Kevin Owens correctly reprimands the ansmackdown commentaror team
Harper eliminates Ascension Connor and Rawley eliminates him.
Rawley and Ryder face off but Rowan goes after both of them, only to be eliminated by the Hype Bros, and then Rawley eliminates Ryder!
Rawly is eliminated by a combined effort from Dillinger, Styles, and Zayn.
Dillinger goes to town on both Zayn and Styles, hitting them both with his finisher and trying to eliminate both at the same time.
He gets both on the other side of the ropes, but Zayn back body drops him to the floor, leaving only Zayn and Styles.
Zayn misses his Helluva Kick and nearly eliminates himself.
Zayn goes for the suplex to the ourside but Styles counters it with a rising knee and knocks Zayn to the floor with a Pele kick.
Owens goes after Styles
Owens’ sneak attack gives him control for only a minute before Styles gets the upper hand, sending Owens running while Styles stands tall in the ring holding the US title.
Once again, I’d love to see more matches that affect the rankings. Wins and losses should mean something and it automatically lends importance to a match (like real sports!).
Battle Royals are usually a cluster for the first half as the audience tries to guess which wrestlers are the first to pop out like balls from a bingo hopper. Seeing Ziggler eliminated first would be an insult if he didn’t already seem so complacent with his wrestling career.
Harper and Rowan were the strongest of the middle pack, and could both use something new to do. The crowd still reacts strongly to them and Harper especially is a fantastic performer, moving very well for a big man.
Dillinger’s late match offense against Zayn and Styles, coupled with his pre-match interview makes me think WWE is high on him a little further down the road. The crowd loves him and he doesn’t look out of place.
A Battle Royal is also a great place to have a top dog like Styles lose and still look strong. We’ve already seen Styles vs Owens this year so this result feels like a safe bet and a wasted opportunity. Dillinger squeaking out the win would have been a much more interesting story.
WWE played it safe on Independence Day, with few highlights. RAW has had the upper hand the past few weeks and Smackdown needs to shakeup the formula to return to dominance.