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Before talking about the show itself, i’m going to share a few words on Smackdown’s re-branding. Well I have to say I like all the new graphics; they stick to the classic blue and white colour-code while really bringing the production forward. The details like the name plates that hint more at the character as well as showing their name etc, and the match graphics which display wrestler’s logos and characteristic graphics on bits of broken glass are really cool. The one downside is the theme song. Is it really going to be that whiny Green Day song? I suppose it will, and it doesn’t have any of the bite of previous theme songs. I’m already counting down the days until they change that. Overall though, very positive.
The show opened with MVP in a title match against Dolph Ziggler. This was a great way to open a première of Smackdown in my opinion. The match was, unfortunately, very short as the Nexus made their way to ringside to assert themselves and their dominance over the show and made it a no contest. I’m OK with this as long as the obvious is done and they book an Intercontinental Championship match at Hell in a Cell between the two. What also impressed me was the way Nexus were described by the announce team; they called them the virus of the WWE and intent on bringing it down. It seems Nexus have gone under some rejuvenation as of late because on RAW, too they were described in similar terms. This is how they should be treated, like a virus and a threat to the whole company. That’s a lot more pungent than them just beating people down (a rut they have gotten in to in recent weeks). Plus, they managed to acquire booking rights to this week’s show, putting both Big Show and John Cena in unenviable positions. This as well is a very interesting potential direction for them; if they are given (or earn) some sort of credible authority, their threat level increases again. This will all depend, of course, on this Sunday.
Natalya looked fantastic in a divas tag match alongside Kelly Kelly and the Bellas against LayCool, Alicia Fox and Maryse, making fellow-Canadian Maryse tap out with ease to the Sharpshooter. Textbook build-up, but well executed nonetheless. Natalya is clearly a league above everyone in that match (or even several leagues in the case of the Bellas), and her being a strong, long-running champion would do no end of good to the divas division.
Jack Swagger gave us one of his best ever promos in my opinion following this, with his Oklahoma Homecoming segment. He got real hot heat after saying he was moving to rival state, Texas because the Okies didn’t appreciate him enough, before crowning himself ‘king of Oklahoma’. It’s certainly hard to get heat in your home-region, but Swagger did it very well. Then, Edge came out, declaring that after his segment with the anonymous GM on RAW, he wanted to put an end to anything ‘stupid’ like that in the WWE, and he was starting here, which he did by attacking Swagger, and Spearing his eagle mascot. This looked like a full-blown babyface Edge, which is somewhat surprising given his recent history of as a shortly-lived face and back to heel, and apparently now as a face again. Perhaps he has so much trouble fully satisfying either position that he’s simply an individual tweener. I’d personally say that a tweener Edge is about right and probably the best for getting most out of the character. I also like his drive to destroy all that is ‘stupid’ in WWE. If he does things like he did this week, no doubt he’ll be very popular with the haters amongst the IWC. It will however, almost necessitate the creation of more ‘stupid’ things for him to take on, and probably as well render him outside of serious feuds for some time to come …
A five-on-one Nexus vs Big Show match was always going to be short (whether Nexus or Big Show won). The Nexus won, but in a very unique way, each having some sort of limb-bar on Show while Barrett himself had a defenceless Big Show in a figure-four head-lock to choke him out. Again, this portrayed them as an unstoppable unit, and one that could again wreak havoc in the WWE.
In our first marquee match of the night was the Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer (w/ urn) against CM Punk. These two offered, as you might expect, a very good match. There was a story to be told though, of ‘Taker with renewed and almost unstoppable powers, so there was only so much they could do (and so long the match could run), and while CM Punk looked good enough, he was overwhelmed by an unstoppable Phenom, who won the match and again posed with Bearer and the urn, showing his renewed power to his brother, Kane.
I quite liked Alberto Del Rio’s promo where he brought out an actual chiwawa dressed as Rey Mysterio (in a mask and bandage) to mock the returning star. What hapenned was pretty standard though, with Mysterio coming out and hitting a 619 on his rival before Del Rio scarpered. Nothing too exciting. Perhaps they will have a match at HIAC (there are certainly some spots left open!) during which this will all take another step forward.
In a match I wasn’t expecting, we saw WWE Champion Randy Orton take on former Legacy ‘brethren’, Cody Rhodes. This was a highlight of the show. Obviously both are very accomplished wrestlers, and for obvious reasons they have a lot of chemistry together. This was no squash match for Orton either (as it may have been), ‘Dashing’ knew Orton’s style and was constantly eluding his more powerful moves while getting in a lot of his own offense. It would have been huge for Rhodes to have won, but at times it seemed relatively possible. Eventually, Rhodes made one mistake which the Viper pounced on with an RKO for the win before taking on Rhodes’ partner, Drew McIntyre to boot. He didn’t take out Sheamus though, who hit him from behind before delivering his Brogue Kick. All the while, Sheamus had red tape on his right hand (which I believed he used to wrestle with) symbolising ‘the red hand of Ulster’. I like that aspect of the story, that Sheamus is inspired from that folk tale from his homeland to do whatever it takes to regain his own prize. Plus, Orton not simply coming out on top again makes for better build-up to the championship match.
Our main event saw Kane trying to make a similar statement to his brother by taking on John Cena with Nexus as lumberjacks. This match was pretty good, but also dominated by Nexus, who as lumberjacks heavily favoured assaulting Cena before simply going after him. Eventually Cena escaped and seemed to be heading for the back (which would have been a huge story in itself, though I don’t think it was intentional) when the lights went out and Undertaker had re-possessed the ring with Kane in it. There them followed a huge brawl through the crowd, with ‘Taker (with Bearer in toe) dominated. Eventually, they made their way back to the ring where Kane received a Chokeslam but managed to avoid a Tombstone Piledriver. That was crucial as it still leaves some doubt as to ‘Taker’s dominance and shows some strength left in Kane. I also liked how this sort of overshadowed the main event. I thought it was important that Smackdown (and Smackdown superstars) should take prominence on the SyFy debut as opposed to RAW superstars, Cena and Nexus. While they got their share of build-up in, it was the Smackdown guys which left the enduring image, with the now familiar sight of Bearer holding the urn aloft to Undertaker after gaining the upper hand.
Now, I did notice something about this episode which had members of both brands on it, i.e. that there was no-one below upper-mid card on the card. Think about that. In the mean time i’ll probably right a separate post about whether the rosters should be merged sometime after the coming RAW, using evidence from this week’s show to colour it.