WWE Smackdown: Rusev earns WWE title shot

By Wade Sheridan  |  June 20, 2018 at 7:06 AM
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June 20 (UPI) -- Five Superstars competed in a Gauntlet Match on Smackdown Live Tuesday to determine who will be the next opponent to face AJ Styles for his WWE Championship.

The Gauntlet Match included Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Samoa Joe, Rusev and Big E of The New Day. The mini-tournament involved two competitors starting things off with a new Superstar entering the match each time someone was defeated.

Bryan and Big E started things off with Bryan getting into a tense stare down with Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers on his way to the ring as Harper and Rowan were on their way to the back after successfully defending their titles against Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.

Bryan and Big E enjoyed a fast-paced and hard-hitting match with The Yes Man getting the win after connecting with his Running Knee. Next in was Samoa Joe who brought Bryan's offense to a halt with a number of excruciating submission holds.

Joe seemed poised to eliminate Bryan when he brought him outside the ring and locked in his dreaded Coquina Clutch as the referee began his 10 count. Bryan, however, was able to slip out of the hold just in time for him to get back into the ring before Joe as the referee reached 10, making him the winner.

Bryan, depleted, was then suddenly attacked by the Bludgeon Brothers who had returned to exact revenge for the stare down earlier.

It was then that Bryan's longtime arch-nemesis The Miz quickly ran to the ring and delivered his Skull-Crushing Finale to defeat Bryan and move into the finals of the Gauntlet Match.

The Miz then faced off against Rusev who was accompanied to the ring by his personal singer, Aiden English. Throughout the bout, The Miz continually mocked Bryan by copying his moves and even started doing the Yes chant as he prepared to deliver his rival's Running Knee attack.

The A-lister's antics were foiled by Rusev, however, as The Super Athlete countered the Running Knee with a kick that was followed by his Accolade submission hold. The Miz quickly tapped out, giving Rusev a title match against AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules on July 15.

Styles then entered the ring and laid down his WWE Championship as he shook Rusev's hand. English also offered to shake Styles' hand but then quickly pulled his hand away. This lead to The Phenomenal One knocking down English with a swift punch as Smackdown went off the air.

Other moments from Smackdown included Smackdown Women's Champion Carmella and her side piece James Ellsworth celebrating her victory at Money in the Bank before being confronted by Asuka; Becky Lynch defeating Billie Kay; and SAnitY making their debut by attacking and laying out The Usos.

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