The Independence Day edition of WWE Smackdown Live was a fun show featuring a battle royal in the main event and the much-anticipated television return of John Cena. It was also a big night for the best wrestler on Smackdown, AJ Styles. Styles wrestled twice and won both times to set up a US Title match against champion the “Face of America,” Kevin Owens, at the Battleground pay-per-view later this month.

Early in the show, there was a scene with Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan along with Chad Gable and AJ Styles. Bryan noted that Kevin Owens didn’t want either man in the battle royal, so Bryan decided to put them in a singles match instead. The winner of that match got to be in the battle royal and the loser was out. Both guys agreed to it.

AJ Styles defeated Chad Gable to enter Independence Day Battle Royal

This was a great match from the start that only got eight minutes with a commercial in between. In the US, you got to see the action during the break but in Canada, we don’t get that. I got to see about five minutes and I loved it. Gable was impressive as he busted out the Ankle Lock submission at one point while also nailing Styles with a German Suplex that Styles sold by flipping over onto his stomach. Styles ended up winning with a Pele Kick to the head followed by the Phenomenal Forearm. After the match, Styles also nodded to Gable as if to say “good job” for the performance. A handshake would have worked better.

Styles also put over Gable on Twitter for being the “real winner” of that match because of how impressive Gable looked.

I hope Gable continues teaming with tag team partner Jason Jordan, but I think it’s obvious that WWE management is high on Gable as a singles wrestler too. Both guys could be huge singles stars one day. There’s no rush on that, though. Keep the American Alpha team together and see how much farther they can go as a cohesive unit.

AJ Styles won the Independence Day Battle Royal to earn a shot at US Champion Kevin Owens

This was the main event. The winner of the match earned the right to challenge Kevin Owens for the US Title at Battleground on July 23. The outcome of the match was never in doubt as soon as the bell rang, but I thought it was well done. Owens was also entertaining on commentary for the match.

One of the big moments in the match saw the Hype Bros duo of Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley eliminate Erick Rowan together. Moments later, Rawley eliminated Ryder much to Zack’s surprise. I have written for weeks that I think Ryder is going to turn heel on Rawley. Having Rawley eliminate him could mean it’s Rawley who goes heel, but I think Ryder turning makes more sense and he would have a reason to do it since Mojo eliminated him.

The final four men in the match were Rawley, Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn and AJ Styles, so all four of them were faces. Rawley tried to fight off the three guys, but Zayn hit him with a Helluva Kick to knock him out of the ring. Dillinger ended up getting dumped out by Zayn with a back body drop. That led to Styles and Zayn as the final two. Zayn went for a Helluva Kick, Styles moved, so Zayn went over the top and onto the apron. They battled for a suplex, but Styles broke free to hit a knee and a Pele Kick to eliminate Zayn. It went about 10 minutes.

After the match, Owens went into the ring to try to attack Styles. It didn’t work because Styles came back with a kick to the head. Styles wanted the Styles Clash, Owens bailed to the floor and Styles held up the US Title as the show ended.

Good battle royal with the right guy going over because Styles vs. Owens makes sense for another PPV match. Their last PPV match at Backlash two months ago ended in controversy, so they might as well do it again. I could see Styles winning the title this time although I love the “Face of America” gimmick for Owens and would hate to see that end. I thought Mike Kanellis would cost Zayn the match, but they held off on that and gave the clean win to Styles, which is fine.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

AJ Styles got most of the spotlight in the house that he built, but here are the other two matches from Tuesday night.

Naomi defeated Lana to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship

This was quick! The bell rang, Naomi kicked her in the stomach, flipped over and slapped on a head/arm submission. Lana tapped and the match was over in about seven seconds. That was the third time Lana lost to Naomi in a Women’s Title match, so that should be the end of it.

Post-match, Tamina showed up and told Lana to come with her. Looks like a new heel pairing with Tamina working with Lana to try to toughen her up. Fine with me.

Aiden English defeated Randy Orton by disqualification because Randy didn’t care

English did his singing routine, which Orton interrupted and English attacked him with a microphone. Orton made the comeback and destroyed English outside the ring. Orton sent him into the barricade, tossed him onto the announce table and hit the draping DDT on the floor. Orton grabbed the steel steps, the ref warned him he would be disqualified and Orton didn’t care. Orton hit English in the head with the steel steps leading to the disqualification win by English after about five minutes of action. After the bell rang, they went back in the ring and Orton hit English with a RKO.

While I’m not a huge fan of booking a guy to lose a match like that, it continued the story that Orton is very angry after what Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers did to his dad at Money in the Bank when they put their hands on him. Wrestlers should care about match results, but in this case Orton clearly did not.

After the match, WWE Champion Jinder Mahal showed up to do the same promo he always does talking about how the people hate him because of how he speaks and looks. He said he wanted to put them in the Punjabi Prison to teach them a lesson. Orton fired back by noting that Mahal makes up reasons for people to hate him, but the truth is Mahal is just a jackass and that’s why people don’t like him. The crowd cheered and that was it.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

This is one of those weeks where this section is much busier than the matches.

1. John Cena’s return was interrupted by a returning Rusev

The show began with John Cena making his WWE TV return after three months off. He talked about how America was a place where hard-working people could become successful and said WWE is like that too. He spoke about how some people think of him as a part-timer or like a mascot, but he said he’s an all-timer meaning an all-time great performer.

Cena spoke about being a free agent and said that if his time is limited, then he’s going to go down in a blaze of glory. Cena referenced the big names on both shows while finishing off with Roman Reigns, which drew huge boos. I think it’s right to assume Cena vs. Reigns will happen at some point in the next year, so it’s smart to have him mention it already.

Rusev interrupted the promo with the Bulgarian flag in his hand. He wondered where his videos were hyping his return, while claiming that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan ignored his messages. Rusev ripped on the fans for celebrating Independence Day with hamburgers and hot dogs, which led to the crowd chanting “Yes!” and Rusev yelled at them that it wasn’t a compliment. That was funny. Anyway, it led to Cena challenging Rusev to a Flag Match on Smackdown. Rusev said not tonight and left as the crowd chanted “USA” at him. The Flag Match was made for Battleground on July 23.

I thought Cena did a good job in speaking with passion about how much he loves the business. I don’t think anybody can question that about him, but the reality is that Cena *is* a part-timer. A guy who is around for a few months, then leaves for a few months is a part-timer. That’s not a statement of disrespect. Just saying how it is for him as a 40-year-old wrestler that has been doing it for 15 years.

2. The Usos and New Day had a battle rap hosted by rapper Wale

I thought this was great for the most part. I laughed a lot as Jimmy & Jey Uso took shots at the three New Day guys while Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods fired back as well. The most noteworthy part was when The Usos delivered these lines:

Jey: “Big E, let’s just keep it PG, you know what’s good.”

Jimmy: “Just don’t get all rated R like your boy Xavier Woods.”

There was a big “OOOOHHHH” type of reaction from the crowd. The line was about a hacked video where Paige had sex with former WWE star Brad Maddox and also featured Xavier Woods. The crowd was very aware of it because they reacted to it in a big way. I should also add that in the YouTube video above, that line is edited out of the promo.

Kofi ripped on The Usos for not being in great shape and wrestling in t-shirts saying they were “weeny-do” because their guts hang out more than their “weeny do.” It led to a “weeny-do” chant too. The Usos also mocked Kofi Kingston for once having a Jamaican accent and then adding that it was “Jafaican.”

The whole thing ended when The Usos shoved New Day, so Wale said New Day were the winners even though the crowd didn’t seem to agree. I didn’t agree either. I thought The Usos were outstanding and clearly were better at that battle rap, but it’s WWE TV and they want to put over the faces New Day in that scenario.

3. Daniel Bryan suspended James Ellsworth for the next 30 days

Carmella was in the ring with her buddy James Ellsworth doing a promo bragging about the Money in the Bank win. Naomi cut them off to say that she’s ready for all challengers. By the way, Naomi’s belt has the “glow” on it to match her entrance. It looks cool and makes her stand out.

Daniel Bryan entered the ring to deliver some news to James Ellsworth. Bryan said he would ban Ellsworth from the building and Ellsworth laughed about it, so Bryan added that he’s fining him $10,000 and Bryan laughed at that. Bryan also told Ellsworth to not expect a paycheck for 30 days because he’s suspended for 30 days. The crowd chanted “Yes!” for it and Bryan told Ellsworth if he doesn’t abide by the suspension, then Bryan would strip Carmella of the briefcase. That led to Carmella walking out with Ellsworth.

I like the suspension story because it follows what happened last week when Ellsworth interfered, even though he was kicked out of the building. It was the second time Ellsworth interfered in Money in the Bank too, so having Bryan make him pay for his actions makes a lot of sense. I don’t think Ellsworth will be missed too much either and it will give Carmella a chance to do more on her own.

4. Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura got into a fight backstage

Nakamura was being interviewed backstage. Before he could say a word, Corbin attacked with the briefcase. Nakamura fired back with a forearm and they were split up. This should lead to a match at Battleground on July 23. I’m disappointed that they were only on for about 40 seconds of the show because they are key players on Smackdown who should be featured more.

5. Sami Zayn interrupted Mike & Maria Kanellis again

Maria and Mike Kanellis were interviewed by Renee Young (who had just witnessed Tyler Breeze as “Tenee Young”) when they were interrupted by Sami Zayn, who knocked over some pipes while he was stretching. Zayn apologized for that and for interrupting them last week. Zayn said he liked their “Power of Love” message and quoted a Huey Lewis song, but then his music played and off he went for the battle royal.

I assume this will lead to Mike Kanellis vs. Sami Zayn at Battleground. No matches for Mike on WWE TV yet, so it would make sense for his debut match to be at that PPV.

Looking Ahead to WWE Battleground

The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Battleground on July 23 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton

Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev

United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day

Other likely matches are Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis. There should be one or two women’s matches as well.  

In Closing

It was a pretty good show, which is a regular thing for the Smackdown brand. I thought there were too many promos and not enough in-ring action, but I liked the promos, so it’s not like that is a major complaint. They do a good job of utilizing most of the roster every week, even though sometimes some people barely appear and this week women like Natalya, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch weren’t even on. That’s okay because they were in the main event last week. You can’t push everybody every week.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back on Friday with an in-depth preview of WWE Great Balls of Fire presented by the Raw brand.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at Cheap pop!