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After weeks of heartfelt stories and reintroduction promos, Lacey Evans made her return to the squared circle Friday, battling fellow NXT alum Xia Li in a women’s Money in the Bank ladder match qualifier that rounded out a jam-packed episode of WWE SmackDown on Fox.
Also on tap for the show was a blockbuster Intercontinental Championship defense by Ricochet, the first men’s Money in the Bank qualifier, and the latest in the feud between Riddle and The Bloodline.
What went down, did any titles change hands, and how did the latest developments help shape the road to Money in the Bank on July 2?
Find out now with this recap of the June 10 broadcast.
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A hard-hitting battle for the right to advance to Las Vegas for the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match kicked off Friday’s show as Drew McIntyre squared off with former-friend-turned-hated-rival Sheamus, who had Butch at ringside with him while Ridge Holland stayed home to recover from a knee injury suffered a week ago.
Chants of “let’s go Drew” rang out as the former WWE champion fought his way back into the match, going as far as to use The Celtic Warrior’s own White Noise against him, this one from the middle rope. Sheamus answered with a jumping knee, neither crushing blow enough to put the other away.
The battle intensified, leading to a non-finish that left fans unsatisfied but still solidly behind the Scottish babyface. Cole Pat McAfe the outcome meant for Money in the Bank
If the idea was to create a cliffhanger of sorts that will keep fans more intrigued than a clean finish would have, WWE Creative might well find out the hard way that fans don’t want to dedicate 20 minutes of television time to a match that ends with no victor or any real conclusion to the contest they just invested in.
Booking decision aside, this was a really strong match by two double-tough competitors who have a history of beating the unholy hell out of each other. McIntyre is clearly in line for an Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match, but an actual feud with The Celtic Warrior is hardly a bad way to keep him busy until that inevitable showdown with Reigns occurs.
Hopefully, further matches will have more of an outcome, though.
- Backstage, McIntyre tossed Butch aside on his way to the ring, setting the tone for the night’s opening match before it even took to the squared circle.
- Sheamus’ chest welted up early on, proof of the physicality on display between the former friends.
- Butch provided the distraction that allowed Sheamus to turn the tide in his favor by way of White Noise on the ring apron.
- The brawl that just abruptly ended as the announce team threw to a Cody Rhodes-Seth Rollins video package was certainly a choice by WWE Creative. Instead of creating buzz, it only highlighted what was questionable booking in the first place.
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Lacey Evans made her first in-ring appearance since February 15, 2021, battling Xia Li for a spot in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
Li appeared to have Evans’ number, ready to ensure her return to the squared circle culminated in a devastating loss. Instead, the woman once known as the Sassy Southern Belle rocked Li with the Woman’s Right from out of nowhere for a definitive victory.
The match was too short to be great and too predictable to mean anything in the long run.
It was nice to see Evans back in the ring and continuing her quest for women’s championship glory, but the win and the manner in which it was achieved only serves to highlight how poorly WWE Creative has utilized Li. Arriving with a stunning entrance before fading into obscurity, she has been woefully handled and is in danger of becoming just another NXT export to fail on the main roster.
Evans is going to be a favorite to win the ladder match because of the effort that has gone into her return, but WWE must do a better job of building the talent around her so wins like this actually mean something.
- Evans cut a pre-match promo putting over her resiliency and dedication to keep fighting.
- McAfee did more to put over Li’s evolving skill set than WWE has since the former NXT star’s main roster debut.
- Backstage, both McIntyre and Sheamus made it clear that they expect to be in the men’s ladder match at Money in the Bank.
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Shotzi interrupted the promo by SmackDown women’s champion Ronda Rousey and challenged the Baddest Woman on the Planet to a fight. Rousey, who is very comfortable with throwing fists, accepted.
What ensued was the best showing from Shotzi yet.
WWE’s resident mistress of the macabre took Rousey to the limit, outwrestling her for a large portion of the match and targeting her left shoulder in the process. At one point, Shotzi had her opponent trapped in a submission, daring the titleholder to try to fight her way back into the match.
Rousey did just that before tapping Shotzi out to the cross armbreaker. The celebration was short-lived, though, as Natalya attacked from out of nowhere and applied the Sharpshooter to Rousey.
This was a surprisingly competitive match that may have ended with Rousey’s arm raised in victory but had social media buzzing about Shotzi’s performance. More than once she could be seen guiding Rousey through, and when she was not, she rocked the champion with a picture-perfect kick.
Shotzi has always been one of those characters that felt underserved by a lack of creative focus, so to see her have the opportunity to shine against Rousey—and taking into consideration her increased presence on SmackDown of late—one can only hope that is changing sooner rather than later.
Natalya’s attack was predictable, but she will need more of those—and a few quality beatdowns—to convince fans she has a chance in hell of beating Rousey beyond her family’s last name.
- “What I do have is serious aggression and a killer instinct,” Shotzi said, providing more insight into her character than the writing team has in months.
- Shotzi obliterated Rousey with a kick that is absolutely going to be all over social media. It was perfect.
- After the break, it was teased that Rousey suffered a significant injury and may miss Money in the Bank.
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Gunther needed exactly one championship match to strike gold on the WWE main roster.
Friday night, The Ring General paid off an impressive run of dominance with a victory over Ricochet in a match that was every bit as good as one would have imagined given the talent involved.
Every time The One and Only mustered the resiliency that has defined him and managed to fight from underneath, Gunther cut him off. Despite a valiant effort that saw him thwart an attempt at outside interference from Ludwig Kaiser, Ricochet fell prey to the same shotgun dropkick and powerbomb combination that had felled so many other Superstars as Gunther earned his first main roster title.
The match was excellent, with Ricochet throwing everything he had at Gunther, only to meet a similar fate to that of his peers. He was physically dominated throughout but managed to keep fighting until he appeared to have victory in hand.
He did not.
Gunther’s win was expected and the right call. WWE was noncommital to Ricochet creatively, so it makes sense that, when a talent the likes of Gunther himself presents as an alternative, the writing team jumped at the opportunity to switch the title.
Given the chemistry on display, it may be worth revisiting this match down the line as it feels as though there is an even better match to be had here.
- Gunther obliterated Ricochet during a comeback attempt with a big boot to the face.
- Kaiser’s sell job of Ricochet’s kick to the face on the floor was great stuff and one of the tangibles that make him such a great second for Gunther.
- Gunther’s dropkick into the corner is always impressive, and Ricochet’s sell of it only made it look that much better.
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A win for Sami Zayn would bar Riddle from WWE SmackDown. A loss and The Original Bro would earn the right to challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
It was against that backdrop that Zayn and Riddle took to the squared circle for the main event of Friday night’s broadcast—the special counsel for The Tribal Chief, Paul Heyman, joined the commentary team for the contest.
Zayn controlled a large portion of the match, giving the impression he might make good on his vow to rid the blue brand of Riddle. His own hubris proved costly, though, the attempts at mocking Randy Orton infuriated Riddle and fueled his comeback.
Back and forth action down the stretch gave way to Riddle catching Zayn with the RKO for the win. The Usos attacked following the bell, but Riddle responded with a kendo stick attack that left the unified tag champs reeling to close the show.
Like him or not, Riddle has quickly become the worker of WWE. He often competes across Raw and SmackDown, shows out every time he sets foot inside the squared circle and can regularly be counted on to deliver in big spots.
That was the case again Friday night, as he and the perpetually extraordinary Zayn executed a competitive, back-and-forth, highly dramatic match that saw Riddle score the win and set up a huge main event for next week’s show. Reigns’ title defense on that broadcast will mark the first time he has defended the unified WWE Universal Championship since defeating Brock Lesnar back at WrestleMania.
That is ungodly long in today’s wrestling landscape and, if nothing else, the match on next week’s show should draw viewers to the Friday night broadcast.
- Heyman issued an ominous warning to Zayn on what awaited if he failed to win the match.
- Heyman put over Riddle’s status as a genuine challenge to anyone in WWE.
- Zayn and Riddle played up the former’s history of countout copouts, with The Original Bro narrowly beating the referee’s count to stay in the fight.
- Zayn mocked Orton’s trademark offense, pissing off Riddle and sparking the comeback.
- Riddle lit up the Usos with a kendo stick, proving he can negate a numbers disadvantage, with or without Orton backing him up.