After AJ Styles regained the United States Championship from Kevin Owens last week in a high-octane Triple Threat Match that also included Chris Jericho, The Phenomenal One immediately went from hunter to hunted as Kevin Owens invoked his rematch clause to kick things off on SmackDown LIVE.
The two fierce rivals held nothing back, giving the WWE Universe a dazzling show of athleticism and grit in equal measure. However, much like their match at WWE Battleground, this contest wasn’t without controversy, as the referee was accidentally knocked down by a brutal haymaker from Owens, and Styles caught KO in a rollup to score the three-count. However, because of the damage he sustained earlier in the match, the referee never saw that Owens’ shoulder was up before his hand hit the mat for the third time.
Styles celebrated the victory and KO flipped out, heading backstage to look for SmackDown LIVE Commissioner management.
When Owens found both Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, the irate former U.S. Champion shoved the referee before Shane-O-Mac intervened. The result of the match was deemed final, but even amidst all the chaos, Owens was granted a rematch for the United States Title at SummerSlam. However, Owens, now weary of the refereeing of the last several weeks, made a point to say that he didn’t trust the current crop of officials. The Team Blue front office yet again agreed, and Bryan said he would provide Owens a referee who would meet his lofty standards … and his name was Shane McMahon.
The dream match no one ever thought they’d see became reality, as John Cena clashed against Shinsuke Nakamura in a monumental Team Blue main event, with the winner going on to SummerSlam to face WWE Champion Jinder Mahal.
The Modern-Day Maharaja and The Singh Brothers watched the action from high above in a luxurious skybox as The Cenation Leader and The King of Strong Style matched might in the squared circle. The atmosphere in Cleveland was electric as the two combatted one another with a barrage of strikes, high-impact maneuvers and excruciating submission holds.
Cena looked to have the match won when he planted WWE’s Rockstar with a thunderous Attitude Adjustment, then rolled through and attempted to seal the victory by once again hitting his signature move.
The ever-resilient Nakamura wiggled free, however, and The King of Strong Style hit Cena with a devastating Reverse Exploder followed by a head-ringing Kinshasa, allowing WWE’s Rockstar to book his next major gig — a WWE Championship Match against The Modern-Day Maharaja at The Biggest Event of Summer.
After the contest, the two Superstars shook hands in a well-earned showing of mutual respect.
After SmackDown LIVE went off the air, Baron Corbin tried to ruin Shinsuke Nakamura’s victory party, exclusively on WWE Network, with a blindside attack on The King of Strong Style just moments after his nemesis defeated John Cena to earn the right to challenge WWE Champion Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam.
However, Mr. Money in the Bank’s attempt to take out his rival was quickly dashed by Cena, who ran to the aid of his opponent from moment’s prior and began combatting The Lone Wolf. The two jockeyed for position both in and out of the ring, but Cena stood tall after sending Corbin crashing through the announce table with a massive Attitude Adjustment off the steel steps.
After he vanquished Corbin (at least for now), The Cenation Leader returned to the ring and raised the hand of the recovering Nakamura while WWE Champion Jinder Mahal observed from his luxurious skybox.
What will happen next in the chaotic main event scene of SmackDown LIVE? Find out next week!
In other action … The Usos mocked The New Day … Aiden English def. Sami Zayn … Naomi & Becky Lynch def. Carmella & Natalya … and Rusev def. Chad Gable.