The Aug. 8, 2017, edition of SmackDown Live was going to have to be an amazing show to live up to the quality of the previous week's program. Coming off two five-star matches and advancing SummerSlam in a significant way, how was Shinsuke Nakamura going to respond to being the number one contender for the WWE Championship? How would John Cena respond to losing?
The WWE Universe learned that Cena wasn't going to be without a match at the summer's biggest party. The WWE also advanced the A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens dynamic effectively, did the opposite with Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal and made Lana remotely interesting for the first time.
The idea behind this week's SmackDown Live was to make SummerSlam a show you wanted to watch. In some ways, it succeeded. In other's it flopped. Here are your 5 Winners and 5 Losers from SmackDown Live August 8, 2017.
5. Loser - John Cena
Cena started the show with an in-ring interview that reminded everyone how awkward it is after he loses a big match. His character doesn't come out and cite revenge, he doesn't act mad or feel slighted, Cena awkwardly congratulates his opponent in a way that feels phony and ingenuine. He did the same with Nakamura and was then interrupted by Baron Corbin who was then forced into a match at SummerSlam with Cena that Corbin will never win. The WWE wouldn't dare have Cena lose clean twice.
If the WWE was smart, they'd put Corbin over by simply coming out to SummerSlam and destroying Cena before the match starts and putting Cena on the shelf (a reason to give him time off to film Bumblebee).
5. Winner - New Day
It was nice to see a change of pace in the New Day versus Uso's war. Stealing a page out of the Uso's book, New Day set up the Samoans by drawing their attention to the stage with a Big E introduction, only for the Uso's to be blindsided and attacked from behind. When you put these two teams together as often as the WWE has, you need fresh ways to make the battle interesting. The WWE succeeded on this night.
There isn't a clear favorite in this match, and that's what you want leading into the pay-per-view.
4. Loser - Sami Zayn
Once again being used as an enhancement for stories that don't really involve him, Zayn was teamed with Ty Dillinger and used to advance the New Day and Uso storyline. It just doesn't seem right the way the WWE is misusing Zayn and his feud with Mike Kanellis is already old news and Zayn has no spot on the card for SummerSlam. Even if they throw him on the undercard somewhere, it will be one of those moments to take a bathroom break or grab something to eat. It's unfortunate for Zayn who deserves better.
4. Winner - Kevin Owens
Owens is repeatedly proving he's the best part of the show each week. This week, he played off the often uncooperative Toronto and Canadian crowd wonderfully, capping it off with a slight against the McMahons who know how to "screw over" Canadian legends. Owens got major cheers for that. Then, staying in complete character, he immediately turned them into boos by suggesting Bret Hart deserved what he got. Owens was the strongest of the three mic workers in that segment and had everyone eating out of the palm of his hands. There's arguably no better worker in the WWE right now.
3. Loser - Lana
She's still not in a position that anyone cares that she's a wrestler, but at the very least, the WWE is trying to do something with her character. She's growing frustrated with her lack of success in the ring, and it's leading to her downfall. Slapping Charlotte only to get destroyed adds a quiet layer of depth and her relationship with Tamina is something the WWE Universe might be interested in. Will it lead anywhere relevant? Maybe not, but at least the company is trying. The fact that Charlotte is being used to put over Lana's development is also kind of sad.
3. Winner - A.J. Styles / Kevin Owens
The in-ring segment between Owens, Styles and Shane McMahon was wonderfully done. Instead of everyone believing that McMahon would be partial to Styles, the WWE made fans remember how not long ago Styles and Shane-O-Mac had a real beef. By then adding an accidental Pele Kick to the story and the look on McMahon's face, everything is up in the air now. This should be the match that steals the pay-per-view from a blue brand perspective.
2. Loser - Rusev
This is the second week in a row now that Rusev has been used to start a war with Randy Orton that most believe he can't finish. It seems clear that with Orton's failure to regain the title against Mahal, he's being set up for a clean win and Rusev is his victim. The WWE must truly have it in for Rusev who gets only as a far as putting up a fight, but never winning.
He's the WWE monster, who isn't actually a monster at all.
2. Winner - Carmella and James Ellsworth
There may not be a lot of James Ellsworth fans, but if there's one thing he does properly, it's that he makes Carmella a bit more watchable and jumps her up into being an actual threat to hold the title. His surprise return was a nice twist and he adds an extra layer of depth to the Natalia and Naomi match that makes you believe Carmella might walk out with the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Up to this point, there was never really a moment to believe Carmella might cash in her Money in the Bank case. Now, one can never be sure how and when that might unfold.
1. Loser - Jinder Mahal
In one night, sorry, one match, the WWE took away any and all momentum Mahal might have had going into SummerSlam and killed it by having him lose clean to Randy Orton in a match that meant absolutely nothing. What sense does it make to have Orton pin the champion in this manner? None. Mahal will need to come out next week and do something extremely emphatic to make anyone believe he's got a prayer in this SummerSlam match versus Nakamura.
Perhaps the Nakamura Dynasty is about to begin.
1. Winner - Toronto Crowd
Unlike at Raw, where the crowd was an absolute train wreck that managed to ruin some pretty significant moments on the show, the crowd at SmackDown Live was much better. From a "Dumpster Fire" chant for Baron Corbin to giving such an ovation to Daniel Bryan he had to acknowledge their actions, to actually getting behind John Cena, they made the show more entertaining and didn't hijack it. One side of the arena also happened to get a full moon by Charlotte which I'm sure didn't leave them upset.
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