If you missed Smackdown last night, you missed the best (major) wrestling show of the week. WWE put together a fun, athletic two hours for Friday Night that delivered from top to bottom. Let’s check it out.
Opening Match – Sheamus def. Damien Sandown in a “Dublin Street Fight”: Really love that this rivalry, and this culminating match in-particular, were highlighted as a way to kick-off the show. This street fight was a lot of fun overall. I was glad to see the green theme for “Dublin,” and thought that both of these guys brought a tough, hardcore-style presence to the match. Fans have been begging for a return of the “extreme” – and while this was nowhere near the insanity of the Attitude Era, I think the modern WWE product has finally managed to find a extreme style that fits (without needing blood or gratuity to sell it).
Sheamus had to be the obvious pick here, and while I’ll alway lament a Sandow lost, I think the real takeaway is that Sandow held his own. Even Michael Cole put Sandow over in a pretty big way. I think this is proof that Damien Sandow is on his way up; just keep in mind he doesn’t have to win to improve his status.
MizTV with Paul Heyman: Good segment. I liked the transition from Paul Heyman to Intercontinental Feud, and felt like both of these guys stepped up their game in moving towards an eventual matchup. Curtis Axel continued to impress, and The Miz was smart to cut out his “entertainer persona” and match Axel with some intensity of his own. Glad to see mid-card storylines getting some real attention.
Natalya def. AJ: Kaitlyn camed out to impersonate/mock AJ at the beginning of the match, and it really seemed to click (a lot better, in my opinion, than AJ’s segment from Monday Night). AJ did a great job here of reacting to the moment, and it made Natalya’s surprise win much more believable. Great way to step-up this rivalry.
World Heavyweight Championship MITB Participants: Dean Ambrose, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro, and Fandango. I like the idea of having an “All Star” Money in the Bank match against a “rising star” match, but it just further proves that the World Heavyweight Championship isn’t on the same playing field anymore.
Randy Orton vs. Kane: Daniel Bryan on commentary here was great. I loved his “cheerleading” for Kane throughout the entire segment. Also, his constant “well, it wouldn’t be as great as my win over Orton on Monday night” comments were golden. Overall, this was a solid match between two veteran performers, with a few big high spots and some entertaining near-falls. The finish with Bryan’s “accidental interference” that cost Kane the match was a good way to build this story, as was his smirk (I’m sensing a Kane-Bryan match in the near future). Also, this whole segment was a smart way to promote the “All-Star” Money in the Bank match.
Ryback def. Justin Gabriel: Remember when these guys were both “equals” back in the Nexus? I would love to see Gabriel spotlighted in a new cruiserweight division. Anywho, standard Ryback fare, but Jericho’s post-match promo was entertaining. Unique twist by creative to put Ryback on the defensive. Short, but effective.
Christian and The Usos def. The Shield: I liked the matchup quite a bit – it was a smart way to give Christian a small taste of revenge and further promote The Usos as legitimate championship contenders. Ambrose and Christian were especially entertaining in the ring together, and I’d love to see these two engage in a meaningful feud further down the line. The victory here made sense from a booking perspective (especially since The Shield has already lost its luster), I just hope things improve for Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns.
Alberto Del Rio’s Championship Celebration: Ricardo Rodriguez is the perfect funnyman counterpiece to Del Rios snarky heel, and his South Carolina southern drawl impression was very hilarious last night (even if it did hit a little close to home). Ricardo Rodriguez continued to draw the heat, and while I have an issue with WWE promoting Del Rio as a heel because he speaks spanish (and the USA chants from the crowd didn’t help any), I think Del Rio really clicks in his current role whenever he acts like he’s superior to the audience.
Dolph Ziggler showed a lot of great intensity last night, and continued to reaffirm his status at the top of the card. The post-celebration beat-down was predictable, but made the type of impact it needed to. And having Del Rio sneak away was the perfect way to leave fans wanting more.
Smart Booking: Last night’s show was great, and all the credit goes to WWE Creative and the intelligent way they booked this show. Every single segment was purposeful, there was a great balance of comedy and intensity, and the actual wrestling itself was used as more than just a time filler. Kudos, WWE.
Teddy Long Logic: So let me get this straight – he thought that NOT picking the top superstars for his match was the best decision? Bad logic does not equal “thinking outside the box.”