Smackdown last night was the perfect way to end a great week of WWE programming. Between the well-paced PPV this past Sunday, the number of great surprises on Raw, and the wrestling-heavy focus of Friday Night Smackdown, wrestling fans should feel pretty satisfied.
Opening Segment w/ Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton: Fantastic opening segment. Daniel Bryan came out and talked about how upset he was that his match against Orton on Monday night was stopped due to (legitimate) injury, and how he’s NEVER had a match stopped before. He did a great job of tying this into the idea of being the weak link.
Randy Orton was the superstar here, though. His intensity when he came out to confront Bryan was palpable. I also really liked how Orton’s character was sympathetic at first, but then switched back into viper mode whenever he promised to injure Bryan again. These guys gave viewers a reason to stick around for the main event and, more importantly, they sold the storyline.
Sheamus def. Cody Rhodes via submission: A very entertaining, physical match. These guys fought both inside the ring and outside the ring, and mixed it up with a variety of holds, punches, and power moves. Sheamus won with the cloverleaf, which I’m okay with because Rhodes worked out of the White Noise and just happened to get caught, so he didn’t look as weak. Also because Sandow got the upper-hand after the match.
Curtis Axel def. Wade Barrett for the IC Championship: This match started off with a big-fight feel, due in part to the classic “challenger vs. champion” introductions. While I’m never happy to see Wade Barrett go down fairly easily, I think this victory did a lot for the rising stock of Curtis Axel. Also, it allowed WWE to move Barrett out of the picture, and go forward with what looks like an Axel-Miz feud.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Jericho ends in DQ (Ziggler interfered): Jericho is worth every single penny of his contract – he can have an exciting, entertaining match with almost anybody on the roster. These guys clicked in the ring, and the near-falls down the stretch made things exciting. I loved the submission transitions (submisison attempt, to cross-arm breaker, into a walls of Jericho) Although the interference by Ziggler was expected, Jericho’s codebreaker to Ziggler (and his expression afterwards) had “heel” written all over it.
Daniel Bryan def. Randy Orton by count-out: Orton looked dominant throughout most of the match, but Daniel Bryan put together a few painful-looking submission holds. These guys slowed the pace when they needed to, and jacked up the intensity when the match called for it. They drew the (rather small) audience into everything. I like the finish – it delivered on the promise of the match while not making either man look weak, and it left the door open for this promising feud to carry on. Nice work by everybody involved.
AJ def. Natalya via submission: Natalya deserves more chances to shine. Her early submission attempt looked legitimately pauful, and she seems to have a great in-ring instincts. Unfortunately, this match only lasted approximately 30 seconds (with a commercial break in the middle). And the backstage attack by Kaitlyn on Aksana just seemed… unnecessary.
Christian def. Drew Mcintyre: The match itself was too short to matter, and just felt like filler. Why can’t the return the former 2-time World Champion with a decent feud?
Then, The Shield interrupted and beat up Christian. This didn’t feel compelling to me in the slightest – we’ve seen this before a thousand times. My hope is that they use this as a segue to let Christian challenge The Shield alongside Kane. However, I suspect this was just an excuse for the creative team to get everybody on the show. Until I see more, I’m not buying it.