Throughout this week’s episode of Smackdown, the World Heavyweight Championship was symbolically hanging above the ring, which was a nice touch as it made the title seem really special and prestigious. The night was dubbed a ‘night of champions’, which is ridiculous seen as they have a PPV on that concept. Nonetheless, it brings a certain prestige to the episode.
Rhodes provided the first promo of the night, and in many ways, this was my favourite part of the show. At first I thought he was churning out an identikit heel promo on Mysterio and hiding behind a mask (which we’ve heard at least once), but when he started handed out the paper bags with different expressions on them was brilliant, and a lot of people at ring-side (at least for a time, some longer than others) kept them on, making for a very striking image. It was incredibly sinister to see so many people potentially showing solidarity with this violently deranged character. He’s really started to carry this well in his movement and in the sound of his voice, as well as in his match. For a guy who I suppose is best described as a technical wrestler, he has taken on more elements of a brawler. He was, at times, beating Mysterio down and it was difficult to watch in the exact way it was supposed to be. He and Mysterio went back and forth, though usually with Rhodes on top, using the light-weight Mysterio in innovative ways (his torture-rack style back-breaker being really cool, for instance). The end came when Mysterio reversed a powerbomb attempt in to a sit down pin for the win. Rhodes, who had been on top, felt aggrieved at not being vindicated in victory, attacked Mysterio post-match, and a drawn-out brawl ensued. This was good, and kept up the level of intensity between them, with the moral stances of either man turning to shades of grey as both men were aggressors in this post-match brawl. They could have used the environment better, but it was all a set-up for booking a falls-count-anywhere match between the two, so maybe some action was being saved for next week and the PPV.
Great to see Barreta on TV, but equally good to see Swagger looking strong. Fans of Barreta may not like it, but at this point, just being on TV is good for him. He could be a big deal in the future, but for now, it’s important for Swagger to look strong, and he did.
Kane and Big Show had a nice match with Gabriel and Slater of Corre, going over and winning the Tag Titles. There’s not much to say about this really, other than the fact that it seems to be part of big changes, and possibly the end of the Corre. For the record, I will again state that Corre, before WrestleMania, were looking strong and that they should be allowed to continue for longer than it seems they are going to. After the match, Slater and Gabriel criticised Jackson for not being effective at ringside before Slater pushed Gabriel over. A lot still up in the air, and it could be good, but they would do well to keep Corre together.
There was another LayCool ‘couples therapy’ segment. This was cool enough, and they went a ways to really set up the face/heel demarcations, with Layla being emotionally hurt by a cold Michelle McCool to the point where she actually cried (very hard for me to watch!) before McCool attacked Layla from behind after initially apologising. Though the attack wasn’t that brutal or lengthy, it surely has to mark the end of the very successful LayCool partnership. Layla has come such a long way in the past 1/2 years, and I think she’ll get over as a face very easily, and surely feuding with McCool, this will be one of the best addressed and closely thought out diva storylines in a long time. That, in itself, makes it very important, and I hope it’s, indeed, given good thought and time, and hopefully lasts for a good few months.
It would have been easy for Barrett to drop the Intercontinental Championship after his Corre brethren dropped the tag titles, but thankfully he didn’t. Nice stuff from both guys here, but again the story was surrounded by Corre. Ringside, Ezekiel Jackson was attempting to help Barrett, but instead ended up clotheslining Barrett brutally (though that spot wasn’t that well realised as Jackson only ever looked like hitting Barrett). It was interesting that Barrett sent Jackson to the back and went on to pin Kingston relatively clean and without any help. Could this hint at a Barrett face-turn? I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea, but again, it could be realised well.
The final segment was very nice. It was Alberto Del Rio’s ‘Retirement Party’ for Edge, which is obviously an easy heat-drawer. But this was funny as well as brutal in it’s awkward honesty about Edge’s situation. He revealed several ‘presents’ for Edge, including a grandfather clock, ‘to watch the time go by’, adult diapers to compensate for the consequences of the damage to his body, a stroller, and an electric mobility scooter, driven by Ricardo Rodriguez, who still used Edge’s pyro, which was hilariously brilliant. Then out came Edge to challenge Del Rio, who set Brodus Clay after the now vulnerable Rated R Superstar, which turned out to be a trap when Christian blindsided Clay with a ladder and turned to fend off Del Rio, again using the weapon he is so associated with and symbolic of his main event at Extreme Rules. This gave him the time to set the ladder up, and again, symbolically take the World Title down from the noose to send a message of intent to Del Rio while sharing a look of approval from Edge. This was good build for the Extreme Rules match, but part of me thinks that Edge needs to stop being involved in this angle. Had Christian be the one for his music to hit and confront the heels, maybe he would have been able to steal more of the limelight for himself and make more impact than perhaps he did. Nonetheless, pretty good stuff.