Happy 4th of July to all of our readers in the United States. This Smackdown was taped in Newark, New Jersey, home of the most disproportionately tiny-for-its-needs and freakin’ hot airport. I made a connection there in December, and the terminal was packed tight with folks who had stripped down to almost nothing. It was like an experiment.
Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio (United States Championship)
What are your thoughts on this title? I understand its heritage, but I don’t see a place for the U.S. title in today’s (non-brand-extension) WWE. If they want to have a 3rd-tier title - which is how I see it - I’d rather the Cruiserweight or even the Hardcore belt come back (I realize the latter is nigh-impossible with a PG rating, but it’s just an example). A title that caters to a specific segment of the roster, different from the Intercontinental belt. The U.S. Title feels like a meaningless gesture, although I imagine it gets dangled around backstage as a token reward to placate disgruntled wrestlers.
Regardless, this is a snappy opening match, just the thing to kick off Smackdown. Del Rio gives Sheamus a backstabber on the ring apron that looked most unpleasant for both of them. Later, Sheamus tries to clothesline Del Rio over the top rope, but Del Rio uses the momentum to propel Sheamus out instead. And there are several instances of counter moves that renewed my appreciation for ADR. Worth a watch in full, because I don’t fancy the 2-minute clip that WWE excerpted.
In-Ring Promo: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose
Rollins makes his first Smackdown appearance since winning the Money In The Bank briefcase last week. He recounts his attempt to cash in on Cena at Raw, thwarted by Dean Ambrose. He says that he will soon get that title.
Dean Ambrose interrupts, and I love to watch him grasp that microphone like a delicate champagne coup, savoring his own words as they spill out at his adversary. He is finally getting the chance to really sink his teeth into a solo situation, and he is knocking it out of the park. “That briefcase is every excuse I need to ruin your life, ruin your future, and ruin your precious face.” Interestingly, Rollins retorts by saying “I know you, and I know you can’t keep this up for the next year.” It’s a great comeback from his former brother-in-arms, and it gets me excited to see Dean Ambrose do just that, for a whole damn year. Bring it on.
He tries to attack Rollins, but Randy Orton jumps him before he can do any damage. Roman Reigns’ music hits to a BIG reaction, and he helps Ambrose clear the ring. And since Teddy Long is now making tag matches on a shuffleboard court somewhere, Triple H comes out to make a match: Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton later tonight. If Reigns interferes, he will be removed from the Championship Fatal Four-Way at Battleground.
Backstage Promo: Stardust and Goldust
Midsummer Night's Dream on acid. I want to love this gimmick because I love Cody Rhodes. I like the comic bookishness of Stardust, but not the beat poetry that’s been tacked on to make him “eclectic” and “weird like his brother”. On Cody, it doesn’t fit. I’m more than willing to wait it out in hopes that Stardust evolves into something more representative of the man beneath the makeup. *video blocked by WWE; it directs you to their YouTube channel*
Byron Saxton Interviews Roman Reigns
This is a stock “tell us how you feel about tonight’s stipulation” interview, so that Roman Reigns can beef about Triple H threatening to pull him from Battleground. I wouldn’t even mention it here, except that I am fascinated by each (former) Shield member’s exit strategy from stardom to possible superstardom.
Even with the heroic positioning, Roman Reigns has always been the riskiest spin-off of The Shield. He was practically monosyllabic until a few weeks ago, which was fine in a group of three. He had the least amount of prior wrestling experience (read: none) before NXT. He had the WWE Look, and has demonstrated a tremendous aptitude both in and out of the ring. I may be grading him on the curve here, given my predilection for spicy Samoans, but Reigns hit every single bullet point that he needed to get across in this interview, without faltering, and without breaking the smolder.
I won’t think about how many takes it may have required.
Bo Dallas vs. Diego of Los Matadores
They preface Bo’s entrance with the clip from Money In the Bank when Daniel Bryan insulted him with a boner joke. Bo takes a few days to make his witty comeback, saying that despite Bryan’s “shortcomings”, he’s a “special little guy”. And then Bo announces his entry into the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal.
Diego is not great. I am happy to see the Bo-Dog and the end of this match so quickly. After his victory lap, Bo addresses El Torito: “You know, you’re a bo-vine. But if you want to grow taller, all you have to do is BO-LIEVE!” Then El Torito charges him, and Bo body slams him to big boos. Skip this mess.
In-Ring Promo: Chris Jericho
I was on the edge of my seat as Jericho came down the ramp, given the article I’d written with high hopes for his return. He opens with his usual Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla stuff, saying how good it felt to come back. He gives credit to the Wyatt Family for becoming such a dominant force in his absence, and now he has one thing to say: “Thank you.”
I sit forward in my seat even more, as Chris Jericho’s face turns solemn. You can watch the rest in the clip above, it’s worthwhile. *video blocked by WWE; it directs you to their YouTube channel*
I have to note that while Jericho opened his promo using the expected tone of his babyface pep talks, he did not revert back to it once he got serious. Even though he said “never- EVER!” he resisted the urge to emphasize it in his usual goofy way. I really liked that.
I got a sinking feeling when The Miz came out instead of Bray, but hats off to Miz, he is working the Hollywood Star gimmick like a mofo STAR. He says just enough to make me laugh, and give Jericho the opportunity to Code Breaker him into slack-jawed notoriety. The segment ends on a high note, with Y2J posing with Miz’s sunglasses on. Are they going to make this about Miz/Jericho, Bray/Jericho, or one and then the other?
Big E vs. Cesaro
This picture makes my knees hurt. Looks like Big E has had surgery on both of his, and I’m envisioning him lifting those heavy barbells in weightlifting competitions and his knees just going YEEEOWCH!!
Preacher Voice Big E is here to stay, and he wants to avenge Cesaro’s post-match attack on Kofi Kingston from Raw. Cesaro is up for the challenge, and uses the element of surprise by jumping Big E immediately. It turns into a tables and chairs situation, with Cesaro doing a lot of damage to Big E before the bell can ring. Big E finally counters with a suplex on the floor, so that both men look wound up and ready to battle it out in the Battle Royal at Battleground. The refs break them up without an official match.
Eva Marie vs. AJ
Paige sits in at the announce table, but makes a point of not wearing a headset so that she can just focus on watching the match. Eva Marie does a lot of throwing AJ around, but it doesn’t take long at all before AJ crawls her way around the red-headed bombshell to lock in the Black Widow. Paige enters the ring to congratulate her, flipping the script on what would usually happen, because she does not turn the handshake into a clothesline. She smiles, nods, and leaves. And THAT is perhaps more unnerving to AJ than the clothesline would have been.
Welcome back, AJ! And welcome to your first feud on the main roster, Paige.
Damien Sandow vs. Rusev
Sandow is rocking these character portrayals. His Vince McMahon impression was really funny on Raw, and his Bruce Springsteen (in honor of being in New Jersey) is cracking me up as well. I had to post a picture of him to represent this match, even though WWE.com refers to this segment as “Rusev and Swagger’s Cold War Comes To Smackdown”.
Rusev kicks Sandow out of the ring right away, so that Lana can cut a promo about Independence Day being a pointless celebration. Everyone is waiting for Jack Swagger to interrupt, given his (and really, Zeb Coulter’s) face turn on Raw. When they do come out, Zeb shows what old-timer fans have known for a long time: he is the master of promo psychology. He whips the arena into a patriotic frenzy, and unnerves the (honorary) Russians enough to back out of the ring.
Sorry for your loss I guess, Sandow.
Randy Orton vs. Dean Ambrose
Seth Rollins sits in at the announce table, and does a great job of fleshing out his rivalry with Ambrose. They are giving him a LOT of mic time, and I’m personally seeing improvements already. He addresses Michael Cole’s questions and comments with intelligent replies – something that many wrestlers have a hard time rolling with at the announce table. He’ll never have Ambrose’s creativity or Reigns’ magnetism, but maybe his “speaking role” will also be that of an architect.
Meanwhile, in the ring, Orton works Ambrose’s shoulder, which was injured at Money In The Bank. Just like last week, Ambrose earns his paycheque by getting beat up with conviction. I do see now that one of his trademarks must be bashing his own injured body parts in an effort to appear crazy. I think he and Orton are a good combination – Orton looks to be having his version of a good time. When Ambrose makes his comeback, he first attacks Rollins in the announce chair. He gets the upper hand on Orton, but Rollins recovers just in time to interfere. DQ!
The crowd immediately chants “Ro-man!” in hopes that Reigns will rescue Ambrose, and because the bell has rung, Reigns is free of the stipulation and makes the save. The show closes with The Shield’s music, which makes me realize that in their divorce, Reigns got to keep the outfit and the theme. Lucky duck.
Signs of the Night
I couldn’t choose between these two.
The colors, the sad-face exclamation marks, and the disappointed eyes. I love kids.
The extreme nature of the statement, the exuberant pose, and the lamination. I love this lady.
Quote of the Night:
“That doesn’t bode too well for you, John. Because on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. What that means, is sooner rather than later, I will cash in this contract and become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion!” – Seth Rollins, who may have just said that John Cena is going to die soon, and then he will cash in his contract?
I did not count how many segments from Raw were replayed on Smackdown tonight, but it was a LOT. It’s gotten to the point where you may not have to watch Raw anymore. You can save the 3 hours, and just watch the 2 hours of Smackdown to see the highlights of both. I’m half serious, since I do enjoy the live aspect of Raw, and would not want to spend the week avoiding spoilers before Smackdown. There are simply too many Raw replays this time, maybe because there were quite a few notable events on Raw this week. Announced for next week’s Raw: a match between Chris Jericho and The Miz.