WWE SmackDown results, recap, grades: Braun Strowman gets unique challenge, IC title semifinals set –

While not delivering the splashy headlines of many WWE television efforts, SmackDown did come through with a solid top-to-bottom night of wrestling action on Friday. The biggest note coming out of this week’s edition of the blue brand may be a universal championship match set for the upcoming Backlash pay-per-view where Braun Strowman will defend his title in a handicap match against The Miz and John Morrison. The match was set after Strowman downed Miz in an impromptu singles match to kick off Smackdown.

Also on the show, Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles advanced to the semifinals of the intercontinental championship tournament with wins over Sheamus and Shinsuke Nakamura, respectively. Next week, Hardy will face Daniel Bryan and Styles will face Elias as the tournament rolls along.

SmackDown women’s champion Bayley came out on top of a champion vs. champion battle with NXT champ Charlotte Flair. While Bayley’s win came courtesy of some underhanded tactics, it also came without her best friend, Sasha Banks, at ringside. Bayley had asked Banks to remain backstage to prove she was able to pick up a big win solo, doing just that and creeping ever-closer to a long-teased showdown between the friends.

CBS Sports was with you all night, providing results and highlights to all the action. You can see all of that and more below.

WWE SmackDown results, grades

John Morrison and The Miz hosted an episode of “The Dirt Sheet” to open the show. As was the case last week, the former tag champs took shots at Otis. They then turned their attention to the “enablers” of Otis, including universal champion Braun Strowman, citing the champ teaming with Otis to beat them in tag action last week. The duo then introduced puppets that were “rejected” by Bray Wyatt but still chosen instead of Strowman. Of course, Strowman interrupted, saying “The Dirt Sheet” wasn’t “half bad” and telling Miz and Morrison to interview him about Wyatt. Morrison then insulted Strowman in support of Miz, leading to a match between Strowman and Miz — a match made despite The Miz’s protests. This was a surprisingly tight opening segment that walked the razor’s edge between good promo work and falling into “Bad Braun” but managed to get by mostly on the strength of Morrison. Grade: B

Braun Strowman def. The Miz via pinfall after a running powerslam. Miz gave it a go, looking to take shortcuts like raking Strowman’s eyes. Ultimately, Strowman was too much for Miz and ran through him in fairly short order, finishing him off with his signature running powerslam. Following the match, John Morrison threw down a challenge for a handicap match opposite the universal champion at Backlash. Grade: B-

Intercontinental Championship Tournament — AJ Styles def. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall with a Phenomenal Forearm to advance. It was announced during the match that Styles was officially a permanent member of SmackDown after being acquired from Raw in a trade for “future considerations.” Styles and Nakamura in WWE will never live up to the expectations they set with their Wrestle Kingdom 10 match in January 2016, but this was more than acceptable as a match on weekly TV in front of no fans. There was a brilliant sequence with Styles countering a Kinshasa before getting locked in a triangle choke which he then countered into a Styles Clash for a near-fall. Styles managed to pick up the win with a Phenomenal Forearm moments later to advance in the tournament. He will now face Elias in the semifinals. Grade: B+

Bayley (c) def. Charlotte Flair(c) via pinfall with a rope-assisted pin in a non-title match. As Flair took over the match in the middle stretch, she grabbed the house mic and called Banks out to ringside, but Bayley’s best friend did not make her way to the ring. Bayley would eventually deliver a series of chops to Flair, drawing a laugh from the NXT champion. Flair came back firing with her own signature chops before going for a roll-up near the ropes. Bayley reversed the pin and held on to the middle rope to secure the pin and the victory — all without Banks at ringside, adding a new wrinkle to the slow build taking place leading to the imminent Banks vs. Bayley rivalry. With plenty of history and familiarity between Flair and Bayley, this delivered another solid match, though not the epic the two women are capable of. Grade: B

Sonya Deville & Dolph Ziggler def. Mandy Rose & Otis via pinfall after Deville hit Rose with a knee to the back of the head. Ziggler took Otis down early in the match, throwing him into the ring steps as the women were legal inside the ring. Deville dominated the majority of the action when she and Rose were in the ring together. That eventually led to Ziggler tying Otis up on the outside while Deville finished off her former best friend with a knee to the back of the head. After the match was over and Otis was tending to Rose, Ziggler would sneak into the ring and deliver a cheap superkick from behind, making it very clear things are not settled between these four. Grade: B-

Intercontinental Championship Tournament — Jeff Hardy def. Sheamus via pinfall after a roll-up to advance. Sheamus dominated the majority of the match, brutalizing Hardy much the way he had promised to over the weeks leading to Hardy’s in-ring return. By late in the match, Sheamus was fully taunting Hardy, bouncing in the ring and yelling to Michael Cole at ringside, “Best shape of my life, Cole. Best shape of my life.” As Hardy attempted his big comeback, a Swanton Bomb attempt was countered when Sheamus got his knees up. A big knee to the head only resulted in a two-count for Sheamus. He followed up with a Brogue Kick attempt, and moments later found himself rolled up by Hardy for the pinfall. This was classic Hardy underdog stuff, with him overcoming the odds and a much larger man to punch his ticket to the semifinals against Daniel Bryan. Grade: B

WWE SmackDown highlights

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