Entertaining edition of WWE Friday Night Smackdown. While the build for Smackdown’s own Money in the Bank match continued to be lackluster, a solid wrestling card and other final pushes made this a go-home show worth watching. Take a look: [Read more...]
A lot of stuff happened last night on Smackdown. That’s not to say a lot of important stuff happened – outside of a great Randy Orton v Christian match, and an interesting main event angle, most of the stuff was pretty standard fare. Still, it wasn’t a bad way to spend two hours. Let’s take a look:
Opening w/ CM Punk: “If I was John Cena…” was a great opening line. While I thought his attempt at relating Independence Day to his own individual independence was a bit out-of-character, his focus on winning Money in the Bank was strong. Alberto Del Rio interrupted him about halfway through, looking slick in an all-black suit. He claimed that it was “his show,” and proceeded to insulted America, Independence Day, and Dolph Ziggler. This gave CM Punk the chance to look intelligent here, by calling Del Rio out for his phony patriotism earlier in 2013.
It was an obvious a way to set up CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio for the main event, but it worked. Both guys looked game, and it allowed Smackdown to capitalize on the (rare) advertised apperance of CM Punk. By the numbers, but effective.
Punk – Heyman Backstage Segment: Heyman argued that Punk had nothing to gain from this match, being only 9 days from MITB. Punk ended up telling Heyman to just stay out of it. This segment served its purpose of furthering the divide between the two men.
The Usos def. Team Rhodes Scholars: Damien Sandow put over MITB before the match, and argued that Rhodes Scholars is not falling apart, contrary to what some people think. The Usos showed a lot of unity throughout the 25 second match. They hit a double-splash from opposite corners to finally put Damien Sandow away.
The Shield cut a solid promo after the match, putting over their unity, and planting the idea of Dean Ambrose “lurking” around with the Money in the Bank contract.
AJ Lee/Big E Langston Backstage Segment: After running away from Kaitlyn, AJ told Big E to get the car ready. He asked about Dolph Ziggler, to which AJ said she’d text him from the car. The beginning of the end for this power couple? Intriguing.
Randy Orton def. Christian: I really liked the backstage interview beforehand with both men, as it put this match in perspective (from their rivalry back in 2011), while also giving Orton and Christian the chance to state their case for Money in the Bank.
In-ring, these two got off to a slow start. After the commercial break, they amped things up quite a bit. A lot of great reversals by both men, and a good way to play off the fact that they’ve fought each other a number of times. Christian hit a sphere late in the match, and Randy Orton sold it like a champ.”Vintage” Orton psyched up the crowd, and after one reversed RKO, he finally nailed the second one.
If you missed Smackdown, this is THE match to check out. Orton and Christian have incredible in-ring chemistry, and while this didn’t live up to the hype of their great 2011 summer feud, it was the most entertaining match of the evening.
Dolph Ziggler def. Drew McIntyre: Ziggler cut an excellent promo before the match, commenting on how winning the World Heavyweight Championship was the biggest night of his career, and mocking Del Rio for his phony patriotism. Once the match started, McIntyre got a surprising amount of offense. He missed a running knee into the ring pole, which gave Dolph a chance to fight back into the match. Dolph hit the Zig-Zag and scored the win. Match was nothing special, but the overall segment clicked.
CM Punk vs. Alberto Del RIo (with Paul Heyman on commentary) ends in a no-contest:
Heyman, who had been ordered earlier in the night by Teddy Long to provide commentary during the match, added a lot to this segment. Both Punk and Del Rio matched up well inside the ring, and I appreciated all the subtle things both of these veterans added (like Del Rio’s focus on Punks arm, and the way Punk sold the injury).
After things sprawled outside the ring, Heyman getting involved was obvious. However, I did not expect Del Rio to punch Heyman, or Punk to look so incensed. I liked the ending here – Punk helping Heyman makes sense since they’re still friends, and it sets up a great next chapter between the two men. And while Del Rio ended up getting the short end of the stick, I don’t think he loses much for it. Entertaining segment.
Kaitlyn vs Alicia Fox: Solid in-ring work by both of these ladies. Alicia Fox showed a few good holds, and Kaitlyn stepped up the intensity. AJ Interrupted and distracted Kaitlyn, giving Alicia Fox the chance to steal a pin. I guess it works to further the feud, but the segment just felt missable by all accounts. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a dozen times.
Fandango def. Justin Gabriel: Gabriel was just getting started before Fandango caught him with a kick and scored his patented leg drop from the top rope. It was good to see Fandango in action again, but this match did very little to convince me that Fandango is going to win Money in the Bank. These two could put together an interesting match. As it was, this segment was a complete throwaway.
Zeb Coulter/Jack Swagger/ Antonio Cesaro Video: Another one of the “We The People” videos, with the added bonus of Cesaro in a KGB hat. Coulter said a lot of hogwash about Americans not taking July 4th seriously, blah blah blah. Next, please.
“In accordance with its Talent Wellness Program, WWE has suspended Jesús Rodríguez (Ricardo Rodriguez) for 30 days effective immediately for his first violation of the company’s policy.”
Rodriguez is the manager of current manager of World Champion Alberto Del Rio. Rodriguez was last seen on Friday Night Smackdown when he was put through a table by Dolph Ziggler. Rodriguez appeared at live events this past weekend and WWE claimed on last night’s Monday Night Raw that he was injured during the table spot with Ziggler.
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Another show of baby steps tonight on Raw. WWE seems stuck right in-between two major events, and creative seems reluctant to move forward with any real consistency. Let’s look a little closer. [Read more...]
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. [Read more...]
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. [Read more...]
Payback Match Kickoff – Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
Brian Fritz: Sheamus is really caught in limbo right now when it comes to his place in the pecking order. While Sandow should win here and get a bigger push, I think Sheamus comes away with the win.
Steve Muehlhausen: This match will be on the kickoff portion of the show starting at 7:30 ET on basically every platform known to man. The feud has been scuttled as it is hard to believe what Shaemus is saying while Sandow has been carrying this feud. Sheamus doesn’t need the win here as Sandow wins in an upset.
Michael A. Wiseman: I think Sandow wins this match, though I think he cheats to win (or otherwise resorts to heel-like tactics). But I don’t expect much out of this one. WWE never gives their pre-shows matches much time to breathe, and this feud, despite the long(ish) build, is booked to be forgettable. Sheamus gets his revenge the next night on ‘Raw.’
Marshall Bowen: Sheamus wins this one to get the night started and get the crowd rowdy and energetic for the night to come.
United States Championship – Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
Brian: Dean Ambrose should retain the title. The Shield is the hottest act in the WWE right now and all of them have belts and rightfully so. Hopefully, Ambrose and Kane will be able to crank it up more than their recent match on Raw.
Steve: They had a lackluster match on Raw with Kane winning by DQ, which was the reason Vickie Guerrero gave Kane a rematch. Ambrose will retain here as they should have more time here.
Michael: Dean Ambrose is the obvious pick here. I expect an entertaining product from these two – Ambrose can go in the ring, and Kane is a very capable veteran. The fact that this match was added less than a week out says that creative isn’t taking the possibility of a title change seriously. Also, WWE would be foolish to start breaking down The Shield just one month after they regained a lot of momentum. Then again, the company isn’t know for putting a lot of thought into these decisions.
Marshall: Kane is Ambrose’s monster to prove himself with in his young U.S. title reign and will prove the dominance that The Shield will continue to have over the summer.
Divas Championship – Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee
Brian: For a few months now it seems that AJ would eventually win the Divas Championship only for it not to happen. That should end here with AJ finally get a title to match her Ziggy’s. She’ll probably get some help from Big E at ringside but AJ finally get the Divas championship.
Steve: We have seen this story play out over the last month as the secret admirer storyline has started. A great promo on Monday’s Raw by Lee as Big E Langston came to reveal he was the secret admirer. It ended up being a ruse with Lee behind the ruse. Lee should win the title here but I feel Kaitlyn will win here to advance the feud for another month.
Michael: AJ wins cleanly and finally takes home the Divas Championship. Her promo this past Monday on Raw was money, and she is primed to be the spark the Divas Division so desperately needs. The storyline coming out of this Sunday will be that the numerous distractions cost Kaitlyn her championship.
Marshall: AJ takes this one with some help from Dolph and Big E. AJ has been building to this moment for well over a year now and this is finally the time to pull the trigger.
Intercontinental Championship – Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
Brian: With Curtis Axel being inserted into the match for Fandango who is sidelined with a concussion, it makes sense that the latest Paul Heyman guy win the title here. I think Axel will win the title but I wonder what this means to how he is perceived in the company. Rather than being a main-event level guy, I think he is a notch down. By the way, I think his feud with Triple H is over already with Hunter having bigger things to deal with.
Steve: This match was supposed to be a three way with Fandango in the match but he suffered a concussion about two weeks during a Smackdown taping. Surprised WWE inserted Axel in the match considering where he has been positioned so far. Have Axel winning the match here as it will build him up more and be like his father in winning the IC Title.
Michael: Most people seem to be in agreement that Curtis Axel was added to this match so WWE could immediately quickly build on his hot debut with an Intercontinental Championship reign. And while I agree, I think it’s the wrong decision. Axel has been hanging around the upper mid-card since his debut, so this feud just feels like a step back. Hopefully they give him a real storyline coming out of Sunday.
Marshall: I’m going out on a limb and saying Curtis Axel gets the win and the 2-0 for the night for Paul Heyman. Part of this prediction comes from the rapid fire re-debut Axel has had in these past few weeks.
WWE Tag Team Titles – The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
Brian: The obvious thing to happen here would be The Shield retaining the title and Orton and Bryan having issues during the match leading to a feud between the two. I’ll go with that scenario because I believe sometimes the obvious thing to do is also the right thing. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong and too bad if the audience sees it coming as long as you still make it entertaining. The real question will be is Orton or Bryan turning heel or could neither and they feud as babyfaces.
Steve: This was the last match I was expecting going into Raw last week. Seemed like WWE was heading towards an Orton/Bryan showdown. WWE flipped things and decided to go this route. This should one of the two best matches on the show considering the workers in the ring. The intriguing part will the Orton/Bryan dynamic. Have Reigns and Rollins retaining with Orton turning on Bryan.
Michael: Orton and Bryan have no business winning the titles. That’s exactly why I’m going to predict that they win here. WWE seems to like Daniel Bryan in this position, and the company has always found success with the oddball pairings. While I don’t think they’ll hold the championship for very long (maybe not even past the next night on Raw), I think Orton finally cements his heel turn whenever they lose the titles back in the eventual rematch. On the down side, creative seems to be cooling on The Shield.
Marshall: The Shield retain against the former champ and his new partner, the combination of Bryan and Orton is not as fluid as a team as Rollins and Reigns.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Brian: I think CM Punk wins the match but there are a lot of different directions they can go here when it comes to Punk, Jericho and Heyman during and following the match. Punk should get a hero’s welcome by the hometown crowd for what should be the best match on the card.
Steve: This should be the match on the card. Everytime these two step into the ring, the matches are top notch. Like how the match has been built with Paul Heyman representing Punk. WWE did a good job here in not bringing Punk back until Payback. Jericho wins the match as Heyman will accidentally cost Punk the match as the build will start of the breakup between Punk and Heyman.
Michael: Punk has to win here. It’s unfortunate for Jericho, who rarely ever seems to string together more than two victories in a row, but Punk’s hometown crowd would likely riot if he failed to win. I’m more curious to see how the company positions Punk coming out of this match. Is he coming back to stay? I’m not sure. I do think, though, that his turn against Paul Heyman starts this Sunday.
Marshall: In his return to Chi-Town Punk defeats Jericho to kick off his summer as one of the top heels.
World Heavyweight Championship – Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
Brian: This should be a very good, under the radar match with Ziggler retaining the title. I hope he gets a pinfall victory rather than there being a cheap DQ finish to the match and the feud continuing. It’s time for both parties to move on even though Ziggler was sidelined with a concussion. They both need fresh feuds at this point.
Steve: A late add to this event since Ziggler was only cleared about 10 days ago to return to the ring. Ziggler had been out since May 7 when he suffered a concussion. Del Rio became the number one contender when he defeated Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules last month. Hard to build a match with this short notice but a story is there for the match. Ziggler should go over here to help build him through the summer.
Michael: Alberto Del Rio has been the unfortunate victim of circumstance here. While waiting on Ziggler to return, he’s been given very little to sink his teeth into. These two will put together an entertaining 12-15 minutes (if WWE gives them that long), but Big E will distract and the champion will retain. I think Ziggler moves on to a bigger challenge from here (Sheamus or Punk) while Del Rio finds himself back in the mid-card.
Marshall: Dolph wins this match, Del Rio will be the step in his title reign that really helps to establish his reign and guarantees a great match for the crowd and the audience.
WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell match)
Brian: As much as the WWE has tried to make Ryback into a monster, it really hasn’t caught on. And this match just doesn’t have the feel of a scary, crazy match. Instead, it feels like the next step in a feud that has been pretty pedestrian. Cena walks away the title here and I hope he walks away from this feud although I could see it going one more month. But this should be the end.
Steve: This match is a three stages of hell match with the first match being a lumberjack match, the second being a tables match and if it goes to a third fall an ambulance match. This is coming off an actual pretty good match they had at Extreme Rules. It will be hard to take this match as three stages of hell considering none of the matches are that brutal. It will be interesting to see how Ryback does here as this match should go between 40-45 minutes. This match will go all three falls as Cena will win the first fall, Ryback the second and Cena will win the third fall to retain the WWE championship.
Michael: Let’s get this out of the way: Cena wins. He pins Ryback in the Lumberjack Match, Ryback evens the score with the Table Match, and Cena finishes things off in the Ambulance Match. I don’t see a scenario where Ryback walks out with the championship (or why WWE would even want Ryback, a man who has to be prompted to finish his sentences, as their top guy). Unfortunately, there’s not much to get excited about with this one. The stipulations suck, the feud has been tame, and the outcome doesn’t seem in doubt at all. Think about this: CM Punk hasn’t been on WWE Television since the night after Wrestlemania, but his match this Sunday feels like a much bigger deal. Oh well.
Marshall: This match will go to John Cena after going through all three stages of the match. Ryback still isn’t established enough for the championship and seems like he’s there to be the giant Cena decimates in this current title run.
Dolph Ziggler has been cleared to get back in the ring and wrestling according to Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline.com.
Ziggler has been sidelined since May 7 when he suffered a concussion after getting kicked in the face by Jack Swagger in a match that was taped for Smackdown.
The World Heavyweight Champion has finally passed an impact test and can once again wrestle. He will likely square off against Alberto Del Rio on the WWE Payback pay-per-view on June 16.