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SmackDown #9 [Paris, France]

Updated: Feb 9

To open the night in Paris, General Manager Dusty Rhodes made his way to the ring. After waiting for the reverent chants to subside from the crowd, Rhodes talked in detail about the PPV 2 days ago. He congratulated Eddie Guererro on becoming the first WWE Champion and praised Kevin Owens for the heart he showed during the match, assuring him that it would not be his final opportunity to gain the belt. With that being said, Rhodes looked ahead to Summerslam, which was fast approaching at a little over 4 weeks. He announced first that the Money in the Bank Ladder match would be a staple of this PPV; both a men and women's match would be taking place. Rhodes also announced that qualification matches for the men's ladder match starting next week, announcing the following matches; The newly signed Kurt Angle vs. KUSHIDA

Kassius Ohno vs. Buddy Murphy

Killian Dain vs. Chris Jericho

Cesaro vs. Edge Johnny Gargano vs. Drew McIntyre Bobby Lashley vs. Randy Orton He said that there would also be a title defence for Guererro and that that would be decided tonight in a #1 Contendership 6-Pack Challenge. He went on to announce Sami Zayn, Kofi Kingston, Aleister Black, Sheamus and Tomasso Ciampa as the first 5 competitors, before saying that he had a surprise wildcard entry as the 6th man. After that, Rhodes spoke about the hellacious Steel Cage match-up between Drew McIntyre and Daniel Bryan, explaining that due to the injuries recieved at the hands of BlackHearts after his victory, Bryan was not currently cleared for active competition. He also stated that though he didn't approve of the actions of BlackHearts post-match, he had no control over them being allowed Money in the Bank qualification matches, seemingly alluding to unrest and disagreements backstage at their antics. With that though, he thanked those in attendance and assured them that they were in for an absolute treat this week on Main Event.

Match #1 - Heart & Soul [Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali O] def. Zack Ryder X & Curt Hawkins

The newly formed and exciting team of Heart and Soul - Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali - debuted next against Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. The new team started strongly, but Ryder quickly ended up on top, hitting Saido Supledes and a Snake Eyes as well as striking the upper back of Alexander. Not happy with how he started, Alexander looked to rally, but the wily competitor in Ryder had him stymied at every turn, reversing Irish Whips and a Powerbomb into a Crucifix. Several Suplexes into the ring later, and things weren't looking any better for the new team, but a hot tag to Ali looked to change everything. Ryder tagged out to Hawkins who hit a Necbreaker early, but was quickly on the back foot with Ali launching into a Sitout Powerbomb before executing a perfect top rope Spanish Fly, which Hawkins kicked out of at 2. Fearing he may be out of his depth, Hawkins tagged back out to Ryder who instantly ate a Sunset Flip Powerbomb onto the outside and a Dropkick for good measure. Stunned, Ryder rolled back in, into a knee from Cedric who moved out of the way just in time, as Ali came crashing down with a 054 Senton from the top rope, covering for the victory, the first as Heart & Soul. Setting their stall out early, it was clear that this team could truly become title contenders.

We cut backstage next as Kayla Braxton stood ready to interview WWE United States Heavyweight Champion Roderick Strong, both in reference to his victory and 5th successful title defence over Buddy Murphy at Clash of Champions, and to ask the future of his Open Challenge. However, before the interview could commence, the lights went out. When the came back on, Braxton had disappeared and was instead was replaced with a rocking chair, slowly rocking to and fro. Clearly hugely unnerved, Strong backed away, but straight into the waiting Bray Wyatt and the new World Tag Team Champions; Harper and Rowan. Laughing mercilessly, the group beat down Strong, slamming him into walls, storage crates and savaging him with chairs, until he lay motionless outside the door of Dusty Rhodes. The lights went out again briefly, before coming on once more with the Wyatt Family nowhere to be seen, but with Bray's laughter echoing through the corridors.

Match #2 - Becky Lynch O def. Liv Morgan X

After her showing at the PPV, Liv Morgan was given another chance to shine here in singles action against Becky Lynch, who herself was still seething after Morgan eliminated her in the Championship match. Though flanked by her Riott Squad stablemates, it was The Man who started stronger, landing a DDT and locking in a strong looking Sleeper Hold which Morgan managed to get to the ropes to break. Though a quick rally from Morgan followed with a Hurricanrana and Single Leg Boston Crab, Lynch was on top for the majority of this match, catapulting Morgan around the ring with a variety of Suplexes and DDTs, gaining a close 2 count with a Pumphandle Slam. Morgan managed to escape a second Sleeper Hold, and hit her own Head Scissors followed by a Facebuster to give herself some room. A Guillotine Choke almost gave Morgan a shock victory, but Lynch powered out and followed it with a Bexploder Suplex for the relatively dominant victory and a small semblance of revenge after her elimination at Clash of Champions.

Match #3 - BlackHearts [Drew McIntyre O, Randy Orton & Edge] def. Cesaro, Johnny Gargano X & Bobby Lashley

With the Money in the Bank briefcase a prize at the upcoming Summerslam show, and with the 6 qualification matches announced for the show, the BlackHearts team of McIntyre, Orton and Edge took on the team of Cesaro, Johnny Gargano and Bobby Lashley in an exhibition for three of the matches. The thought of potentially facing each other at Summerslam was apparently not an issue for the BlackHearts team, with McIntyre in particular eager to avenge his currently rather shameful win/loss record, and did this by opening the match and launching Cesaro around the ring. The match did change dynamic however once Cesaro was flung into his own corner and Lashley blind tagged himself in. The stare down between him and McIntyre was enough to get the Paris crowd on their feet and chanting 'This is Awesome!' before the two piled into each other with strikes and exchanging Backbreakers, Release Belly to Bellys, Cutters and Powerslams. Much as he was a much maligned figure on Main Event nowadays, it was still somewhat impressive to see McIntyre hurl Lashley by his neck across the canvas! After obliterating Cesaro and Lashley, nobody expected much from Gargano, noticeably the smallest person in this match, once he was tagged in, though this didn't stop him from Lawn Darting the Scottish Psychopath into the corner. In fact, McIntyre was certainly on the back foot until he managed to tag in Randy Orton to earn a reprieve. Orton planted Gargano with the Draping DDT, but he couldn't fully halt the momentum of Gargano who continued his creative offence, much to the chagrin of Orton and the rest of BlackHearts. However, a step too far it seemed was Gargano hitting his own modified Cutter, which Orton took as a great personal offence, and planted Gargano with a huge Big Boot, leading Johnny Wrestling to finally tag out to Lashley. After throwing Orton around as though he weighed very little, The Viper managed to get a tag to Edge who instantly hit a Bulldog and a Flapjack to level proceedings in the ring. Lashley looked to finish things off several times in the following exchanges with the Rated R Superstar with a Elevated Flatliner and modified Dominator but Edge managed to escape each time. Eventually, McIntyre and Gargano were in the ring with McIntyre's obvious power advantage truly coming to the fore. As Gargano tried in vain to hit the Slingshot Spear, McIntyre caught him in a Futureshock DDT before then lining him up and flattening him with a Claymore Kick with the 3 count finally following. Despite real resolve being shown in the face of obvious disadvantage, the team of Cesaro, Gargano and Lashley couldn't overcome the imperious power of BlackHearts, who stood triumphantly raising each others hands, all the momentum with them heading into the first of the Money in the Bank qualification matches next week.

Match #4 - Kofi Kingston O def. Tomasso Ciampa, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Aleister Black & AJ Styles X

[WWE Championship #1 Contendership 6-Pack Challenge]

To close out the night came the 6-Pack Challenge Match to crown the #1 Contender to Eddie Guererro's newly won WWE Championship for the upcoming Summerslam show. Guererro was out on commentary as Sami Zayn, Aleister Black, Tomasso Ciampa, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus and Dusty Rhodes's aforementioned wildcard, the debuting AJ Styles, looked to become the man to challenge the champion. The match, as you may expect from a match containing 6 competitors, started fast and never let up. Zayn and Styles went at each other like men possessed, with Zayn looking the stronger after 2 successive Falcon Arrows. Ciampa and Kingston engaged in a battle of German Suplexes whilst a vicious striking exchange took place on the outside between Sheamus and Aleister Black. Though there were brief switches, it seemed to be these match-ups that proved the most long term, with Ciampa and Kingston's Suplex War spilling to the outside, while Black laid out Sheamus with a Jumping Knee, and Zayn got the first two count on Styles with a Michinoku Driver. Ciampa was the first to utilise a weapon, swinging wildly at Kingston's head with a Kendo Stick, though missing and then eating a Helluva Kick from Zayn. Another swift Kick to the head from Black laid out Sheamus, while a Saido Suplex on the ring apron and a Blue Thunder Bomb on the outside looked to be all she wrote for Styles. Ciampa managed a 2 count after hitting Kofi with the Air Raid Crash, but was soon on the receiving end of an Avalance Hurricanrana, causing him to roll out of the ring. Styles finally managed to gain the upper hand on Zayn, dodging a Helluva Kick and hitting a Brainbuster and Argentine Facebuster. However, as he turned around, he ate a Trouble in Paradise and with Ciampa and Black embroiled in a vicious striking match in the corner and Zayn unable to get back to the ring in time, Kingston covered Styles for the victory. As the ring emptied of disappointed contenders, Guerrero slid into the ring from commentary smiling and raised the hand of his new challenger, before dropping to his knees and burying his fist into the crotch of Kingston with a Low Blow. Laughing, and leaving the New Day man keeled over in the ring, the Champion left the ring to the appropriate tones of 'I Lie, I Cheat, I Steal' playing as he walked up the ramp.

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