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Sin Cara and Shinsuke Nakamura are back in action from their injuries, and Nakamura once again faced AJ Styles.

WWE SmackDown Live aired from the SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. This week’s SmackDown was the go-home show for Extreme Rules, but the WWE didn’t do anything to elevate the importance of the upcoming pay-per-view.

Miz TV

The WWE “A-Lister” kicked off SmackDown Live with Miz TV, and his guests were Team Hell No. This segment involving The Miz, Kane, and Daniel Bryan was arguably the most entertaining moment of the night, and that’s a shame since it opened the show. Fans have been waiting for a program with Bryan and Miz, and this segment started to build on that, though only slightly.

The “A-Lister” feigned respect toward Team Hell No, but of course, it was a setup; Miz said he had a video package to tribute the team’s success, and the footage shown was that of Kane repeatedly attacking Bryan from their past feud. Just when Kane was about to chokeslam Miz, The Bludgeon Brothers came out followed by Sanity and then The New Day. All 10 WWE superstars fought in the ring, but it would be the heels that stood tall at the end. SmackDown general manager Paige announced that all 10 superstars would square off later in a 10-man tag team match.

AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

AJ Styles is the WWE champion, so what does the company do to highlight the importance of the champ and the title? They put him in the curtain-jerker spot against an opponent he’s faced five times over the last two months. Of course, the wrestling was great in this one, as the two superstars are phenomenal workers, but it’s still the same old, same old booking.

Rusev, Styles’ opponent at Extreme Rules, was on commentary with Aiden English at his side, so we knew right off the bat that this contest was going to end with shenanigans, like many of AJ’s and Nakamura’s previous matches. For the finish, Styles won via a disqualification thanks to Rusev interfering. Rusev and Nakamura continued to pound AJ, and then Jeff Hardy made his way to the ring. Predictably, like the WWE has done on SmackDown over the past year, this brawl was turned into an official tag team match.

AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy vs. Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura

This was a brief bout. Styles, already beaten up, took some heat from Rusev. “The Bulgarian Brute” missed a splash on “The Phenomenal One” in the corner, and AJ got the hot tag to Hardy. For the finish, Nakamura delivered a low blow on Jeff while he was on the top rope, and a machka kick from Rusev followed for the three-count.

Overall, these two opening matches on SmackDown were solid for sure, but the whole thing was way too predictable. The WWE did little to nothing to add to the intensity of the WWE Championship match at Extreme Rules. It’s interesting that Rusev pinned Hardy and not his opponent at Extreme Rules, and this could be an indicator that the title will change hands.

Lumberjack Match: James Ellsworth vs. Asuka

Well, at least this week’s battle of the sexes was better than the last one. Several WWE female superstars surrounded the ring, and before the match, Ellsworth talked trash on the mic and infuriated the women at ringside. This was basically a bout where James ran away a lot, the women would throw him back in the ring, and Asuka would pummel him. Ellsworth would end up tapping out, but after the match, he sprayed “The Empress of Tomorrow” in the face with a mysterious liquid, and Carmella delivered a sharp superkick to Asuka’s head.

Unlike the previous one, at least this built the upcoming championship match at Extreme Rules. It was announced shortly after the bout that James Ellsworth will be suspended in a shark cage above the ring at Extreme Rules when Carmella defends the women’s title against Asuka.

Sin Cara vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Sin Cara is back and looks sharper than ever and way less botchy. This was the match of the night. As expected, this was a fast-paced contest between the former friends turned rivals. In one of the high spots, Sin Cara delivered a wicked reverse hurricanrana. For the finish, “Cien” nailed the masked wrestler with a double knee strike in the corner for the three-count. Hopefully, these two superstars will meet again in the near future as this was a picture-perfect match.

Team Hell No and The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brother and Sanity

Sanity teaming with The Bludgeon Brothers is a natural fit. It would be nice if Harper and Rowan would lose those ridiculous looking hammers, but other than that, the WWE SmackDown tag team champions are an impressive sight to behold.

This was an underwhelming 10-man tag with largely formulaic spots that one would expect to see, though Kofi had some nice high spots. It’s a shame that all these talented superstars were wasted in a contest like this, especially before Extreme Rules. For the finish, Bryan delivered his patented running knee on Eric Young to secure the victory. Team Hell No then celebrated at the top of the ramp, and absolutely nothing happened to hype their championship match against The Bludgeon Brothers at Extreme Rules.

Overall, this show would have been fairly solid if it were just a regular SmackDown Live episode, but as a go-home show for Extreme Rules, it largely failed to elevate the pay-per-view that’s just days away.

WWE SmackDown Live airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on the USA Network.

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