Welcome to the Smackdown Review, where TJR writers go to die. It’s a tricky gig, covering a show that airs on Friday nights. And now I’m giving it a go, making myself vulnerable to comparisons against the writers who’ve done it before me, and making public the fact that I have nothing else to do on a Friday night. Compare and ridicule to your heart’s content; in exchange I ask that you share this column on your social media habit of choice.
Note: I will recap in chronological fashion, according to the Smackdown that aired on SyFy - the SkySports playback showed the segments in a different order.
“The end of Evolution will be extinction.”
I still love The Shield. A wrestler’s shelf life seems to get shorter and shorter, just ask Davy Crockett, and so credit must go to The Shield for performing at such a consistent, exciting level, and credit to the company for giving them the platform to do so.
Because I love The Shield so much, I give them a lot of leeway when they are trotted out to do the requisite “This Sunday at Payback” promo. Rollins explains how the elimination match will work; Ambrose makes threats; Reigns drops a line from Pretty Woman, when he says that the triple power bomb on him was a “Big mistake”. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who’ve been wondering why there have never been any references from the Julia Roberts canon.
Skip This: Unless you really need to see the live-action version of Dean Ambrose cradling a microphone and Roman Reigns smoldering.
You’ve Got: No Chance!
Kofi does not get a televised entrance, nor does anyone else who’s introduced first this week on Smackdown (except for the Sheamus/Barrett match, perhaps because they are both champions). For his entrance, Cesaro has adopted a horrendous goofy walk down the aisle, like a puffed-up peacock that has pooped its pants. It’s almost… Vince McMahon like.
There’s no doubt who’ll win, but it’s the mark of an unexpectedly good match that I still enjoy the journey to Cesaro’s victory. It turns out to be a neat clash of bounce versus strength. They play well together, with Kofi using the element of surprise at many turns, none of which look too rehearsed or telegraphed. While the finish doesn’t sparkle as they probably envisioned, it doesn’t tarnish the rest of the match.
Watch This: If you’re not a big Kofi fan and want to see his energy put to good use.
I’m afraid I’VE got some bad news.
That is not a shadow of his beard, that’s his whole beard, man! Wade Barrett isn’t exactly a gent of diminutive features, and I really don’t think his Edge-tastic chin is helped by that beard. A scruff, sure: it lends to the devilish twinkle in his eyes. A proper beard, fine: it’s in keeping with his cape handles. But this is threatening to turn into Straight Edge Society CM Punk’s terrifying goatee that he grew out of that lucha mask to compensate for Rey Mysterio shaving his hair off.
Watch This: If you want to see Wade Barrett belittle RVD as being nothing more than a pathetic hand gesture and a desperate attempt to cling to his past. Maniacal laugh!
Next Week on Raw: The Selfie-Wedgie
Alicia Fox is running out of ways to act crazy while insisting that she’s not crazy. This was supposed to be a match between Tamina and Paige, but not even I – tasked with recapping the show, and a Paige fan – could focus on the wrestling. I don’t know what happened, aside from Alicia taking selfies with the fans, and prancing around with Paige’s title. One item of note, they are now calling Paige’s scorpion cross-lock submission the “PTO”, which I hate. I’m not sure there’s a cooler-sounding string of wrestling words than “scorpion cross-lock” and I guess that was the problem.
Skip This: It pains me to say it, but I’d be doing you a disservice otherwise.
“Just give in to it, Woods. You know we’ll have to do this all again on Monday.”
It was at this point that I noticed Jerry Lawler is not on commentary with JBL and Cole. It is sweet, sweet serenity to not hear his stupid voice making painful jokes. And JBL seems a lot more engaged. I’m so glad I canceled my hot date to watch this Smackdown!
I like how Bo Dallas is exuberant but doesn’t go full-on clown with his gimmick. When he needs to be, he’s focused, and I love his classic pro wrestling style. This second-generation guy is honoring his roots, and giving younger fans a taste of what most WWF matches used to be like. His matches against Sin Cara on Smackdown and Raw were better than this one against Woods, but I do love the Bo-Dog – from the way he calls for it with a Jake Roberts-style lariat, to the actual execution. I also enjoy the way that he comforts and encourages his opponents. Give this man less generic music, I feel like I’m at the Hall of Fame!
Skip This: If you plan to watch Raw on Monday.
What’s the Statute of Limitations on Barber Gimmicks?
Because he is participating in a Hair vs. Mask match against Hornswoggle at Payback, El Torito scurried into the props department and dusted off Brutus Beefcake’s old hedge clippers, clearly the only way to signify hair cutting in pro wrestling. For the match itself, Torito faced the final member of 3MB in this captivating three-part series. After a lot of wild gesturing and madcap buffoonery, Jinder makes it a hat trick in the loss column.
Skip This: Because Jinder wants you to.
Oh yeah, that’s snug.
This is a feud that I wanted for a long time, and check me on this, but I don’t think we ever got it. Nor will we likely after this, since both men are moving on to their respective title matches at Payback. But this was an excellent story and match, thanks to a fabricated debate over which title was more prestigious, strong commentary, and great wrestling.
Not only did they spend time building the match during the previous hour, using vignettes about the titles and backstage interviews with each man, but they called it in a much more authentic fashion. They referred to Sheamus being worse for wear after receiving multiple head shots from Alberto Del Rio on Raw, then being attacked by Cesaro. They even referred to Atlanta as being the home of the U.S. Title. It is a true knock-down, drag-out fight, peppered with some clever moves. These guys are clearly having fun, and the Atlanta crowd is HOT.
Paul Heyman joins the announce team, to help hype his man Cesaro’s match against Sheamus on Sunday, and hypes it thus: “I believe in Sheamus; I just believe in Cesaro more.” That’s why Heyman gets sent out there, and that’s why Sheamus wins. Will they put the U.S. Title back on the Swiss waist?
Watch This: If you’ve been hoping for Barrett and Sheamus to get it on!
It’s a Waving Flag-Off
Big E waves a flag now, because he’s in feud with Rusev that seems to be based solely upon flag waving. Before his match against Titus O’Neil begins, Lana and Rusev come out to taunt Big E. Titus tries to take advantage of the tiresome trick, but Big E still manages to make quick work of him. He does look quite impressive delivering a Big Ending to O’Neil. Ever since another blogger (Brandon Stroud) pointed out how awkward Big E looks when he’s waving his flag, I have noticed that it is waaaay awkward. I think the mast is too long, so it looks like he’s frantically stirring a giant cauldron.
Skip This: Because not even Lana can save this mess, and I’m so depressed that Big E’s personality was never cultivated when they had a chance.
I believe El Torito pinning Jinder before I believe this.
I’m not against the idea of Adam Rose, and I like seeing him pitted against the humorless jock and his crusty friend Zeb. Rose and Swagger are wrestling here because on Raw this week, Swagger and Zeb kidnapped the Lemon from the Exotic Express, while Rose was trying to pin Damien Sandow, who was trying to keep his coonskin cap on, which is all you need to know about how terrible Raw was this week.
Alas, the match doesn’t go any further than the superficial clash of gimmicks, as Rose playfully jumps into Swagger’s arms, and Swagger storms out of the ring, screaming “What just happened??” That is followed by a piss-poor combination and a pin that even Kelly Kelly would look down upon.
Skip This: It helps no one’s cause.
This is the kind of stuff that sets WWE apart
As the go-home match to Payback, they went with a Last Man Standing bout between Bray Wyatt and Jimmy Uso. I was turned off the idea at first, as I was just waiting for Harper and Rowan to interfere, and Cena to save the day. I was also turned off by Bray Wyatt not getting an entrance, and them throwing it to commercial shortly after the match started. It made the action very disjointed, with no replay to explain what had happened.
But they won me over. Jimmy Uso gave a nuanced performance, toning down his bounce and looking more intense than usual. He represented himself very well during the match, and they put together an efficient, effective story, given how little time was allotted for a Last Man Standing stipulation. The crowd was enthusiastic, chanting for the Usos and at one point breaking into Wyatt’s song, “The Whole World In His Hands”. Wyatt showed a hint of acknowledgement when that happened, just enough for Jimmy to capitalize on it. Cue the attack from Harper and Rowan, at which point I was sure Cena would show up.
But he didn’t, and the match continued, with both men pulling out some big moves, culminating in the haunting visual pictured above. Bray was the winner, which doesn’t bode well for his chances on Sunday.
Watch This: Because I know you like to be pleasantly surprised.
Sign of the Night
There were very few signs at this show, but I wish I was a fly on the wall while this sign was being made.
“It should be plural, you know, it’s not Triple H Rule.”
“Yeah well I’ve run out of purple marker, see I couldn’t even color it in!”
“Just use the black one, who cares?”
“Let me just fix it for you!”
“NO WAIT DON’T GOD LOOK AT THAT ‘S’ IT’S HUGE NOW YOU STUPID @#$$%@!”
Quote of the Night
“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! Every one of those gluten-free millennials there, they don’t have a job.” – Zeb Colter, on the members of the Exotic Express
I’ll be mostly taking a hiatus from my Thursday columns for the next little while, unless a topic really inspires me and I can make the time to write it. I am very excited to recap Smackdown, as it represents a new challenge that must be completed in a fairly finite period of time. Post your feedback in the Comments below, on twitter @kickyhick or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend!