Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre kick things off to proclaim themselves the greatest three-man team in history, which is a bit of a stretch but will probably be true in a few years with the WWE’s tendency towards revisionist history. While Dolph and Drew again teased a bit of dissension, as there’s a possibility they’ll fight in the “World Cup”, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins interrupted to claim that the Shield are as strong as ever. This bled into a “World Cup” qualifier between Rollins and McIntyre, with Dolph at ringside to interfere and cause shenanigans. Things were really starting to heat up when they spilled to the outside and Dean Ambrose arrived to take out Ziggler. Seth ended up hitting the Blackout and dashing back to the ring just in time to beat the ten count; afterwards, Dean and Seth have words backstage, which all makes me think that the final of this “World Cup” may come down to Dean vs. Reigns.
Nia Jax and Ember Moon teamed up again to take on Dana Brooke and Tamina; glad to see they dusted her off in time for Evolution, however, if this match is anything to go by, they should maybe stuff her back in the broom closet. Nia and Ember picked up the win and then they all started chucking each other over the top rope, because there will now be a battle royal at Evolution in a desperate attempt to get every woman ever on the card…which would probably be easier if Lita, Brie Bella, and Trish Stratus weren’t taking prime spots.
Speaking of which, super-happy-super-smiley Ronda Rousey came to the ring to vent her frustrations about the Bellas’ betrayal last week, this, of course, brings out the Bellas and they have a good old bitch-fest about how the Bellas were “divas” and now we’re all about “women”, or something. Things got a little heated when Ronda claimed Nikki only got where she is because of John Cena, which led to security separating them all, with mild success.
Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler locked up in another “World Cup” qualifier, which was less of a sprint and more of a methodical, perhaps “safe” match; Ziggler played a slower game, trying to ground Dean and stay in control with limited fast-paced, high-flying offense and Dean answered back with a Cloverleaf and fighting dirty. Drew and Seth crashed the party near the end and, when Dean shoved Seth away, this led to him getting hit with a Superkick and losing the match. After the match, Reigns came down to play peacemaker and Baron Corbin booked another six-man tag team match between them all, because we simply must see that match three times in a row!
Finn Balor decimated Jinder Mahal in less than two minutes, which was even faster than Bobby Lashley took to squash Tyler Breeze and further emphasise that he’s a bad guy now, before Trish and Lita popped out to hype their tag match against Alexa Bliss and Mickie James at Evolution. Again, this descended into a bitch-fest with no payoff, since Alexa and Mickie didn’t dare try and enter the ring; I guess we’re supposed to be excited to see them get beaten on the night but hasn’t Alexa already had her comeuppance a few times already against Nia and Ronda?
Yet another squash match followed, this time with the Authors of Pain destroying the Conquistador in a handicap match. Afterwards, it turned out to not be Kurt Angle in disguise and the real Angle snuck up from behind to hit an Angle Slam on Corbin on the outside. So it really seems like we might be going down the Angle vs. Corbin route, which I am happy about as I do like Corbin and feel he can do better, but at the same time it feels like Corbin is a bit beneath him; similar to when he feuded with Balor, you know?
Ruby Riott and Natalya were up next but things never really got a chance to go anywhere as Sarah Logan got involved and it all degenerated into a brawl because…Evolution is coming! Apparently Elias has learned his lesson because, this week, he played his little “insulting the home town” song after the women’s segments; unfortunately for him, this brought out…Apollo Crews…? Okay…who hit him with a Press Slam and scared him away. So I guess that mini storyline about the breakup of Titus Worldwide is over and we’re now supposed to buy Apollo as a beloved heel? Here’s an idea: why not turn Apollo heel, give him Leo Rush as a manager, and continue the Lashley/Elias feud instead?
Anyway, the now-traditional six-man tag team contest between the Shield and Braun and his boys ended the show; Braun ordered Dolph to kick things off, continuing the idea that Dolph isn’t pulling his weight (again, wasn’t he the Intercontinental Champion not that long ago? When’s the last time McIntyre won any gold? Or Braun, for that matter?). Dolph took a bit of a beating and then shoved Rollins into Ambrose, which Reigns again had to calm down by tagging in. this, of course, led to a long stretch where Braun, Dolph, and Drew took turns beating Reigns down and keeping him in the ring as the face-in-peril. After the Claymore/Zig-Zag hit, Rollins and Ambrose decided to actually help, which allowed Reigns to tag out to Rollins. After Dean tagged in, Dolph again shoved Rollins into him to break up a pin attempt, which led to a bit of an argument between the two. Braun looked like a complete moron when he again ran into the ring post, then McIntyre accidentally hit him with the Claymore, which allowed the Shield to win after hitting the Triple Powerbomb on Dolph. After the match, with the Shield apparently all okay now, Braun hit the Powerslam on Dolph and then got laid out with the Claymore; so the outcome of this appears to be that Braun and his buddies will finally part ways, or possibly Braun will feud against one (or both) of them while someone else challenges Reigns…or maybe we’ll get a Shield triple threat again.
Truth TV was back on the air…which was weird because I could’ve sworn that R-Truth lost a match to the Miz and therefore got his talk show cancelled? Maybe I missed something somewhere. Anyway, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Vince McMahon all show up to have a bit of banter and a dance because it’s the 1000th episode of SmackDown!, I guess.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan teamed up against the Usos for the first match of the night; it’s been a while since we’ve seen the Usos, which means it’s nice to see them back on television rather than being shoved down our throats nonstop. It was a kind of basic but still entertaining contest between these two that laid the seeds for Brayn and AJ’s feud turning a bit nasty as Bryan got pushed into AJ and then Superkicked to give the Usos the win.
Evolution was back in town as Randy Orton, Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista pop out to hype the show and, of course, themselves. Batista teased wanting to face Triple H again but it all ended in a proper manly hug-fest; considering Batista has been very vocal about wanting to have one last run against Triple H, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this revisited about three weeks before WrestleMania.
Afterwards, Aiden English distracted Rusev and cost him his match against the Miz, meaning that Rusev won’t be in the “World Cup”. Oh, and the match was, like, less than a minute long because we needed to make time for the Cutting Edge. Tony Chimmel got wheeled out again to introduce Edge, which is always a nice tough. Edge brings out Becky Lynch for a chat and tries to put over her actions as being those of a heel but, again, the crowd is having none of that. This ended in a pull-apart-brawl when Charlotte Flair tried to play the conquering hero; it’s actually astounding how crazy the WWE is sometimes.
The SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships were on the line in the first match of any real substantial length. Things were going quite well, which isn’t surprising as the Bar and the New Day always work really well together, but then the Big Show crashed the part and attacked Kofi Kingston, which allowed Sheamus to hit the Brogue Kick on Big E and regain the titles. I guess we can look forward to a whole mess of six-man tag team matches between these guys going forward; if only there was already another three man stable on SmackDown! Live for the New Day to feud with…
Rey Mysterio was back in action following this; he took on Shinsuke Nakamura for a spot in the “World Cup”. Rey ran through his traditional moveset but, since we haven’t seen him for a while, it’s all fresh and new and exciting; he stumbled a bit on a Headscissors in the early going but the two recovered enough to pull out a pretty decent match. Rey got the win after the 619-Frog Splash combination. As long as the WWE gives Nakamura someone to defend against at Crown Jewel, I’m okay with this, but it doesn’t look likely at this point.
The main event of the evening went to the Undertaker, who simply came out to accept D-Generation X’s challenge with his catchphrase. Gotta say that it was a far more coherent and relevant anniversary show compared to Raw 25 but far from an all-out celebration; SmackDown! Has always been treated as second-rate and, despite all the big stars returning, this show didn’t really change that.