Like RAW, Smackdown was characterised this week by the forming of the brand’s Bragging Rights team. This threw up a lot of really interesting booking in my opinion, and much stronger than RAW’s equivalent in that – in most cases – every person competing for a place really could have won.
The first match of the night was Rey Mysterio against Cody Rhodes. These two had a very good match together. Obviously they have very different styles, but obviously they are both very naturally talented. Some nice chemistry was achieved by both guys’ by their mutual use of the ropes in their movesets. This worked well at several points: for especially when Rhodes hit his Beautiful Disaster while Rey was going for a springboard attack. Another great moment saw pure stealth from Mysterio, who pulled Rhodes’ legs from under him while he was applying a hold, and in to an innovative pin. For a while I thought Cody would win through and go on to be joined by Drew McIntyre, while Rey would go on to meet Alberto Del Rio at Bragging Rights. Nonetheless, Rey went on to win, and book his place on Team Smackdown.
At this point Big Show came out to observe those competing to be on team Smackdown and essentially be on color commentary. This turned out really well by the way – I think Big Show could do well as a commentator, though the aesthetics involved would be quite comical. Anyway, the next qualifying match saw MVP take on Jack Swagger; another match from which either could conceivable advance. This was a shorter match, but one that was very good in the time it had. MVP had a lot of early offense, hitting his Drive-By kick in the first minute or so. Swagger went on to win, but not crystal cleanly after taking advantage of the distraction of his mascot and ramming MVP’s knee in to the ring steps before applying the Ankle Lock. I would have liked to have seen MVP hold out longer before tapping, but maybe that’s me being a perfectionist. I have absolutely no problem with Swagger making Bragging Rights; frankly, he needs to stay in the spotlight to keep his role as a top guy. It’s a shame for MVP though. The audience really pop for him, he’s a good wrestler and really charismatic. It’s been said that WWE want a top guy that is black, well … here he is, readymade! He’s certainly no joke, and is probably upper-middle card, but he deserves better.
Alberto Del Rio came next and faced off against Chris Masters. I suppose this was the one really predictable qualifying match of the night. With Rey already in, it made perfect sense to add Del Rio to the mix. As I’ve said in the past, i’m not that high on Masters, but the guy can clearly wrestle, so it was good to see him on TV for that. They had a good match, and it really didn’t turn out the squash viewers might have expected. In fact, Masters was quite ‘game’ and provided a very good story regarding his arm – so crucial for his Masterlock and so vulnerable to Del Rio’s cross-armbreaker. He provided some great moments regarding that, for instance, after Del Rio had attacked his arm for a long time, Masters delivered a scoop slam using just his good arm. Eventually though, Del Rio hit his finisher (a little clumsily) so Masters had no choice to tap out. Throughout the match though, the commentary did a really good job of putting Masters over, talking about his recent achievements – as if he could go on to win the match. I also want to reiterate that I love Ricardo Rodriguez as an addition; the fervour he adds by announcing Del Rio as a winner is great. I’m truly very intrigued to see the chemistry between Del Rio and Mysterio at Bragging Rights that could be $$$.
Next up was Edge against Dolph Ziggler. Another very good match here as Dolph’s exuberance was set off against Edge’s wily veteran instincts. One very good point came when Ziggler hit his Zig Zag on Edge to the steel steps from which Edge just barely recovered from to stop the count-out (the process involving some pretty deft characterising for both guys). Another cool moment came when Edge hit his earthy big boot to Ziggler sending him from the turnbuckle to the floor. But fasting forward to the ending of the match, this was something of a disappointment. I was with it right to the end. Edge set up for a Spear, which Ziggler avoided. Now, I would have liked to have seen Edge just hit him with a Spear after this avoidance, but instead Dolph climbed the turnbuckle and dove into a Spear. It just seemed a little contrived to me. A good match though and now Edge will be meeting his rival at Bragging Rights on his own team. No doubt that will be a big story of the match, with the team struggling to stay united and all the trouble that brings.
Next up was Kaval trying to gain a place on the Bragging Rights team against The Big Show, the idea being that if he could prove to the sceptical captain that he could last five minutes in the ring with him, he would earn his spot on the team – an idea I thought a little patronising given Kaval’s rich experience. Big Show swatted him around a lot, but to his credit, Kavl did gain some offence, stunning Show a couple of times, and made it to the five minutes mark, gaining Show’s respect. At this point I thought, ‘well, they’ve gone out of their way to show Kaval’s aggressive, pioneering spirit – the segment was pretty good.’ Then out came the long missing Tyler Reks, who said he deserved a shot on the team, and that he wanted to beat Kaval for it. Teddy Long said he didn’t believe Kaval was ready, but Kaval, again showing that passion and determination, took the challenge. This wasn’t a long match. Kaval missed his Warriors Way and Reks got the upper-hand, beating him with a cool Torture-Rack into a DDT finisher, thus cementing his place on the Bragging Rights team. Now this may have seemed ridiculous last week, but kudos to the commentary team who really put Reks over as an untapped force, and made his inclusion seem worthy. As for Kaval, I don’t think it was a burial, but a part of an ever-growing story-arc. There has been talk of turning him heel, and maybe he’ll do an anti-MVP and, after a long losing streak, decide that his ‘heart’ and the well-wishing audience isn’t enough to garner him success and he can take out a face to start a feud. This is good, but it means that in the mean-time, he’ll have to go through some pretty demeaning losses. As for Tyler Reks, he’s definitely improved infinitely on the face of it. He looks like a dark, powerful character, but judgement will have to be reserved until Bragging Rights and his first feud.
There were a lot of matches this week, and I think time-constraints may have been an issue, as the final qualifying match seemed pretty short, especially considering those competing in it: future top stars Drew McIntyre and Kofi Kingston. With Rhodes already out, I figured Kofi would go over, though it wasn’t certain. What they did in the match was ok, but as I said, short, and Kofi won with a Trouble in Paradise out of nowhere.
The main event segment featured Kane and Paul Bearer challenging Undertaker (who had been stalking the roof of the arena all night, Batman style) to a Buried Alive match at Bragging Rights. There’s actually not much to say here. Kane cut another good promo before Taker came out to answer the challenge with actions rather than words. Despite not possessing the holy urn, Taker again got the better of his brother and forced him from the ring, where he reversed Kane’s previous power over him by hitting Kane’s pyro, before striking them with a bolt of lightening (more frightening than painful) to close the show. It’s all very pantomime, but them again, both gimmicks (especially ‘Taker’s are like that, and this sort of story suits them, and I like the way they are both acting almost like deities in their wielding of power. It leaves a lot of storytelling scope and makes the whole thing very compelling.