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With Backlash in the books, WWE is now dedicated to setting up its next pay-per-view: Extreme Rules on July 19.
Friday’s SmackDown featured Matt Riddle’s debut on the blue brand in a non-title match against the intercontinental champion, AJ Styles.
We also saw The New Day take on Lucha House Party in an exciting tag team bout, Bayley put best friend Sasha Banks up for a match once again and Chad Gable defeated Mojo Rawley.
The Miz and John Morrison also provoked a fight between Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, and Bray Wyatt took Braun Strowman on a trip down memory lane in the final segment of the night.
Let’s look at some of the biggest moments from SmackDown and what they mean for the show’s future.
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After weeks of WWE hyping his full main-roster debut, Matt Riddle made his first appearance on SmackDown during a segment also involving AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan.
The Original Bro immediately earned himself a non-title match against the intercontinental champion and proceeded to pick up the win while several Superstars watched from around the ring.
The bout was hard-hitting and featured some great feats of physicality from both men. Styles is a veteran who knows how to make anyone look good, which is exactly what he did with Riddle.
Defeating someone as high-profile as The Phenomenal One just a week after he beat Bryan for the IC title indicates management sees Riddle as a future star.
However, accusations of sexual assault from Candy Cartwright have cast a shadow over his debut. Riddle has denied the allegations, and his lawyer, David Rose, released the following statement, per Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc:
“The allegations by this independent female performer are completely false and another attempt to harass and humiliate Mr. and Mrs. Riddle and to try to tarnish their reputation in the community.
“We have been aware for the last two years of this performer stalking the Riddle family. In 2019, our firm had drafted a pleading against this performer to seek an injunction for cyberstalking in the Circuit Court for Orange County, Florida.“
The past couple of days have seen dozens of people come forward with stories of harassment and abuse at the hands of people in the wrestling industry while using the hashtag #SpeakingOut.
It should be noted that WWE had already filmed Friday’s episode of SmackDown before the allegations surfaced, and it is unknown how WWE plans to proceed with Riddle’s push.
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The Miz and John Morrison hosted a special episode of MizTV on Friday featuring Mandy Rose and surprise guest Sonya Deville.
The former best friends immediately started arguing and insulting each other before The Golden Goddess finally asked what it is Deville really wants. Predictably, they started brawling as The Miz and Morrison tried to get between them. Deville left the ring while Rose slapped the taste out of Miz’s mouth for getting in her way.
This is one of the longest-running storylines in WWE, and it’s great that the company isn’t rushing it by having match after match between them every week.
Extreme Rules is coming up July 19. These two are perfect candidates for some kind of hardcore match so they can settle their feud once and for all.
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The New Day picked up a non-title win over Lucha House Party on Friday in an exciting tag team match, but it’s what came after that sets up the next possible feud for the champions.
Immediately after Big E pinned Lince Dorado, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro hit the ring and took them out with a few well-placed maneuvers. That duo defeated The New Day recently, so this attack was likely their way of staking their claim at the next shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.
With Sami Zayn choosing not to compete because of concerns over the coronavirus, Cesaro and Nakamura are beginning to make a name for themselves as a tag team instead of just being followers.
Kofi Kingston, Big E, Cesaro and Nakamura are four of the most consistent and talented workers on the blue brand. If WWE books them in a match at Extreme Rules, they will tear the house down.
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Bray Wyatt hasn’t appeared on WWE television since he lost to Braun Strowman at Money in the Bank on May 10, but he returned Friday with his sights still firmly on the Universal Championship.
He appeared in the Firefly Fun House and spoke about what he has been up to. He mentioned joining a book club before Ramblin’ Rabbit called him out for lying.
As The Monster Among Men watched, Wyatt transformed into the original version of his character, who brought Strowman into his family. The champion looked a little uncomfortable as Wyatt promised him their story was far from over.
It was only a matter of time before this feud started up again. Wyatt and Strowman have a lot of shared history WWE can use for the storyline, but it isn’t treading any new ground yet. We saw all of this during the buildup to their MITB showdown.
This is another feud that will almost definitely end up on the Extreme Rules card. It could even be the second Firefly Fun House match in WWE history if management thinks it’s worth using the gimmick again so soon after WrestleMania 36.
Friday’s show was a little light on matches, but it made up for that with several non-wrestling segments that advanced a few storylines in meaningful ways.