The first match that aired on this week’s Smackdown was a re-match from RAW pitting Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan & Ezekiel Jackson against Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase & Wade Barrett. These guys have been tearing it up of late and i’ve really enjoyedtheir matches (Zeke aside). Thiw was another quality match, though it did seem to have lost a bit of the cutting edge that has been apparent in their earlier matches, perhaps because they’ve been booked together for so long. Nonetheless,there weres some nice moments. Early on, with Sin Cara charging him, Rhodes connected with a perfectly timed Beautiful Disaster. Otherwise, Ted DiBiase had some nice progressions with Sin Cara while Daniel Bryan showed his intense aggressiveness well in the ring, darting about and making heavy contact with his opponents. It was, in fact, Bryan who scored the ‘pin’ in this match, after hitting a huge clothesline to DiBiase followed by a brutal dropkick in the corner. With DiBiase down, Bryan went for the cover and indeed got the three at a seemingly slightly unnatural time and despite the fact that DiBiase seemed to kick out just in time. At first I thought this was a botch, but I’m not so sure now given that WWE decided to highlight the incident and the announcers questioned the decision. Maybe this was just to cover their asses, and if so kudos, but I hope that indeed it is a storyline thing (or at least something that can evolve in to one), because while i’ve enjoyed this feud, it has been lacking a storyline which would make it a PPV-worthy match, something all involved (again, bar Zeke) deserve.
Next up was the exciting prospect of Jinder Mahal to take on Vladimir Kozlov. My first reaction was to Mahal’s music, which I think has been changed or tweaked and toned down somewhat. It’s not quite as sinister and has lost the chanting. Despite that, it’s still good. Mahal is on his way up, and Kozlov isn’t, and so this was something of a squash. At least Kozlov took a lot to get beaten, receiving a bit of a pithy chop from Khali before walking in to Mahal’s full nelson slam finisher. Kozlov also essentially jobbed on RAW. Without Santino, you’d have to wonder where he’d be in his career. As for Mahal, he continues to look strong, but he’s the sort of guy who needs to enter a proper feud soon, prabably after Capitol Punishment.
When Big Show came out, I was initially pretty unhappy seen as he’s a RAW guy, but I have to admit, the build that came out of his angles on Smackdown was the best his and Del Rio’s feud has received. First off, Show was interviewed in the ring, and he did a good job of coming across as still in shock from being ran down and unable to express his fury about what happened. This was followed by an impromptu match with Mark Henry, a match which didn’t actually get going because despite the fact that Show didn’t seem to want to, he seemed compelled to attack Henry as he entered the ring, beating him down brutally and eventually straight knocking him out, to the point where he had to be carried up the ramp on a stretcher. Seems like Henry’s push is over! Later on, feeling safe because Teddy Long had threatened to fire Del Rio if he used such violence again, Del Rio came out threatening Show, talking – interestingly – about how Ricardo Rodriguez is his best friend and how he would spit in Big Show’s face if he saw him. He did see him sooner than he thought as he came out to face Del Rio. Luckily for both of them, Del Rio flew to the stands and left alone, Show, after breaking the bottom rope upon entering the ring, started defacing the ringside area Nexus style, tearing the announce booth apart and picking up and throwing down the barricade (remarkably). This violence, when not happening to Del Rio, only makes up anticipate their match more. We were left with this image of violent carnage with Del Rio looking down from the stands, looking understandably worried about his immediate future, which was a great image building for the PPV.
The divas match was ok but regrettably short. I liked the finish though, with AJ going for a crucifix pin, but because of her size, only receiving a Samoan Drop for the loss to Tamina. I liked this because, despite the fact that AJ was probably the best wrestler out there, it told a story of her and Kaitlyn being green (which Kaitlyn is) and being in the process of being taught by Natalya. What is needed, however, is for these divas to stop being booked together and for them (especially AJ and Kaitlyn) to be entered in to a proper storyline.
The tag team division received a boost when The Usos were given their first serious match in a very long time against the newly Corre-less team of Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. These two teams had a pretty nice match, but I was kinda surprised to see the Usos working as faces against the newly free Slater and Gabriel (thinking that them leaving Barrett would get them pops). This was one of the first tag matches i’ve seen in a while that was wrestled as a tag match, with specific tag spots. Both teams worked this well and really impressed me, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that The Usos went over – not because I dislike Slater and Gabriel, but because they’ve had a good spot for some time while the Usos haven’t, and they did so in style. Their throw into a Samoan Drop is amazing and following that we saw a Superfly Splash for the victory. Hopefully these guys get to keep working together and with the tag champions as well. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but suddenly there is a tag division emerging, and maybe this could be the start of something good for the division.
Our main event was Christian against Sheamus in a match which would place Sheamus in to the main event at Capitol Punishment if he won. I thought Sheamus was a lock for this – partly because Orton was not yet cleared to wrestle Sunday, and partly because it’s odd to provide the opportunity for that sort of stipulation without pursuing it. The match itself was unspectactular in terms of moves and spots, but had a very natural back and forth and some nice progressions. The real intrigue came from Randy Orton being at ringside. This manifested early when Christian was dumped out of the ring and was confronted (unphysically) by Orton; this put Christian off his game and he walked in to a kick from the Celtic Warrior. Orton also took a closer look at several other points in the match, sending a message to both, but mostly, obviously, Christian. The finish of the math was pretty good, as with Orton looking on, there was a scramble to hit finishers, which started after Christian seemed to look for the Spear (his use of the move now seeming very sinister, rather than euphoric like it was when he was a face). Neither man was successful however, in hitting their respective finisher. The finish came, instead, when Sheamus was, again, distracted by Orton’s presence while he was going for a superplex. This distraction allowed Christian to slip loose and push Sheamus on to the actual ring post which knocked him out and gained Christian the pin. The only problem I had with this was i’d have liked to see Sheamus stumble in to a Killswitch, just to make his loss seem less weak (not that he seemed that way, but this would have helped even more). Following the victory, Christian was forced to flee after Orton charged the ring. Staring Christian down, Orton familarly realised that Sheamus was still in the ring and he went to take his frustrations out on Sheamus (as well as do what he likes best: hurt people). Orton was successful at hitting the punt on Sheamus, which was another thing that sort of surprised me, simply because a punt usually means at least a month away from the ring, so it will be interesting to see whether this is an angle or whether Sheamus is injured. Anyway, like with Big Show and Del Rio, the amping up of tension as well as the rejection of the confrontation made for great build for the PPV.
Don’t forget, if you enjoyed this post, my thoughts can also be found in bite-size form on twitter, where I give my reactions to current wrestling events as well as live-tweeting RAW and PPVs. If that interests you, you can find me at @RTVWOW