In some ways, it was the least appealing match on the SummerSlam card.
While the rebirth of Becky Lynch has been one of the more notable summer narratives, the idea of her taking center stage in the SmackDown women's championship bout against Carmella wasn't exactly water-cooler discourse. The feud simply couldn't compete with their counterparts on Raw, especially not with Ronda Rousey involved and set to face Alexa Bliss. But that all changed Tuesday night, when Charlotte Flair returned to the ring and added a welcome dynamic to the women's title picture. Out with an injury for more than six weeks, she made an appearance on television for the first time since Money in the Bank. Thanks to a mandate from general manager Paige, Charlotte was given an opportunity to thrust herself into the championship match at SummerSlam, thereby making it a triple-threat, if she were to beat Carmella.
While the heel controlled a good portion of the encounter -- including tossing Flair over the barricade and landing a nasty superkick -- Charlotte needed only one Figure Eight to force her opponent to tap out. Just like that, Charlotte is back in the spotlight and ready for more gold.
The rumors of Charlotte's return had been surfacing lately, but it was unclear when she would actually show up again on live television. The timing -- two weeks ahead of SummerSlam -- couldn't be more ideal. She is the most accomplished female performer of this generation and a big enough star that she can only help Becky and Carmella grab some of the headlines in the next couple of weeks. Of course, this isn't great news as far as Becky's solo act -- not when she has waited as she has for her return to relevancy.
"Sometimes you doubt it's ever going to happen," Becky said of her renewed success in a promo Tuesday to open the show and before she knew of Charlotte's return. "I knew if I kept pushing I would be back."
Whatever obstacles Becky -- who hasn't held a women's title since 2016 -- is going to have now that this is a triple-threat match, she has to understand Charlotte is the most recognizable women's name on SmackDown. The addition of Charlotte undoubtedly changes the narrative from the Becky renaissance to a three-way tango that could ultimately lead to another chapter in their longtime feud that dates back to 2014 when they were part of the "Four Horsewomen" on NXT. Twice Charlotte beat Becky to win the Divas championship and has (in)famously turned heel on The Lass Kicker since joining the main roster.
While they've had a strong bond for some time now, this is a friendship that looks more tenuous given the latest circumstances. On Tuesday night, as Charlotte finished off Carmella to make her way into the SummerSlam matrix, Becky was backstage looking on with an undeniable look of discontentment. What now between Charlotte and Becky? Maintain a mutual respect through SummerSlam, while simultaneously working individually to usurp Carmella as the leading lady on SmackDown?
- WWE (@WWE) August 1, 2018
Will one of them completely turn on the other? Will they merely squabble long enough at SummerSlam that it allows Carmella to pick up a fluke win and retain the title? Lost in the latest twist is the champ herself. In the opening segment, she delivered a well-designed promo in which she feigned humility in being part of the first-ever women's pay-per-view, Evolution, as well as pretending to be humbled by her rise to the top of SmackDown.
"We will be representing every woman who has ever walked into the ring," she said as Becky watched on, unsure how to react. "We shouldn't tear each other down; we build each other up." Carmella conceded she was riding the coattails of the more accomplished Becky.
It started with the draft in 2016 when Carmella was the dead last pick, while Becky was thriving in the business. Carmella acknowledged she is largely loathed by the WWE Universe and that she tries to block out the unrelenting, unruly noise. As Carmella continued her plea for sympathy, James Ellsworth's music hit, only James -- who was fired a week ago -- was nowhere to be seen. It was meant as a distraction for Becky, and the plan worked.
Carmella clobbered Becky until Charlotte came ringside, playing the role of Becky's savior, an act that, whether you call it karma or merely good luck, later got Charlotte inserted into the SmackDown women's title picture come SummerSlam. And if you don't believe it was either karma or luck, you certainly can't deny it was the right decision to give this title match the notoriety it deserves.
Hits & misses
Impressive win for The Bar, who like Charlotte, returned to live television Tuesday for the first time in a while. Sheamus and Cesaro will take on the New Day next week to decide which team gets a shot at the Bludgeon Brothers' gold at SummerSlam. It's nice to see The Bar back in the spotlight, but let's hope this isn't a permanent setback one for The Usos, who were at their high-flying best. No team brings the wow factor quite like Jimmy and Jey.
Samoa Joe got personal with AJ Styles on Tuesday, delivering a scathing promo that took some swipes at the champ's soul. "You put the championship in front of everything, including [your] own family," Joe said. "Last week, you told a story about how you can stare into your daughter's eyes and tell her she can do anything she puts her mind to. But you're not home enough to even look her in the eyes. In your heart, you know you are more comfortable being on road and living out of a suitcase than being a husband to your wife [and a father to your daughter]." Ouch. Styles was not in the house Tuesday, but you can bet he'll have something to say about Joe's words next week ahead of their SummerSlam showdown.
Randy Orton was at it again. This time he confronted Jeff Hardy, who called out Orton, only for Shinsuke Nakamura to sneak into the ring and beat down Hardy. While there was a weird gamesmanship between Orton and Nakamura as well, Orton ultimately allowed Nakamura to strike Hardy with a Kinshasa before unleashing his own vile attack on Hardy. This time Orton symbolically tried to take away Hardy's identity by ripping off his shirt and necklace before washing away the paint from his face. And this doesn't include the DDTs, including one onto the floor. While not official, it looks almost certain that these three will go at it in a triple-threat match at SummerSlam for the United States championship.
The long-awaited Daniel Bryan-Miz showdown is almost a done deal, so it would seem. Bryan came to the ring and berated The Miz for his antics a week ago, then promised to destroy him if they ever met. The Miz, who was on the big screen, ostensibly on set for the next episode of "Miz & Mrs.," was at his patronizing best, telling Bryan the only reason he wants to tangle with Miz is to make him famous. Back and forth they went before The Miz ended the smack talk by mocking Bryan with a barrage of screaming babies over the big screen.
Not a bad in-ring debut for Zelina Vega, who scored a win over Lana, thanks (predictably) to an outside distraction from Aiden English, whose well-intended interference again cost either Rusev or Lana the win. Rusev later called out English backstage, but the latter was long gone. Lana also scolded her husband for not being ringside when she needed him most. Could this be the outset of a Lana-English partnership conspiring against Rusev? At least English made an attempt to help Lana. Hmmm?
- WWE (@WWE) August 1, 2018