Thanks for clicking on this ultra-zesty Smackdown recap! I want to say thanks to TJR readers and writers alike for sending me feedback last week. Let me know what you like and don't like about this recap format and content. An additional thanks to Steve "Melo Man" Melo for the cool banner, above. With all the pleasantries out of the way, it’s time to take the red pill.
In-Ring Promo: Triple H and Seth Rollins
While Smackdown has been the show to watch for decent wrestling (especially during the brand extension), it has rarely been positioned as a must-see show in terms of storyline drama. Well that sound you hear is the record scratching to a halt, as Seth Rollins makes his first appearance here since Raw. The show opens with flashbacks to Batista quitting, and Rollins sneak-attacking Ambrose and Reigns. I was curious as to how they’d plot his next move.
They definitely take the safe route, with Triple H escorting him to the ring and doing almost all of the talking. He builds up The Shield, then credits Rollins for their being so good, and himself for knowing which member to poach. Their appearance gets the biggest reaction of the night, with lots of emphatic thumbs down, booing, and “WHY SETH WHY” signs. It should be noted that Seth looks the same after turning on The Shield – same two-toned hair and ring gear, but with more of a self-satisfied smirk. I also noticed that he is about the same height as Triple H, even though I know under that gear he isn’t as bulky. I expected him to be smaller, but maybe Triple H just isn’t that tall either.
Rollins gets but one line, saying that he doesn’t owe anyone anything, but himself. Which seems to have become his trademark, saying stuff that is both obvious and nonsensical all at once. I look forward to more of the same, because I am a sucker for Owen Hart-style promos.
He is interrupted by Dolph Ziggler, who is sure he’ll be punished for coming out to criticize them, but he does so anyways. Now sending out Dolph was an interesting choice, in that he fits the role of fed-up agitator, but one who will once again be made an example of.
Skip This: It’s not very interesting after all, and I suspect was a dress rehearsal for Raw.
Seth Rollins Pins Dolph Ziggler
Two salesmen walk into a ring. One beats up the other, and the other sells it like a champ. And then they switch, with the first guy selling like his career depends upon it. But make no mistake, the offense is just as good. They start off with an angry series of blows: fists and knees and body slams that go back and forth as both guys demonstrate how fired up they are. I really like it, because as fast as they work, they are also very precise in their movements.
At first, I thought it was going to be a bit of a squash, with Ziggler getting only a glimpse of the upper hand. But it’s an even-looking battle, and I admire how adaptable and comfortable they are, just go-go-go like an instinctive, brutal bit of fun. I went into this thinking that Ziggler was the sacrificial lamb - and he does get pinned (after Rollins’ underwhelming curb stomp finisher) - but I came away from it feeling good about his showing.
Watch This: It’s two talented guys out to prove themselves, for very different reasons.
Backstage: Triple H and Seth Rollins
Pleased with themselves after the match, Hunter and Seth run into Randy Orton backstage. Orton is more animated than usual, welcoming Rollins to the dark side (and Rollins quipping that he never left). Big Show saunters over to re-iterate Dolph Ziggler’s sentiments, and so Triple H puts him in the main event against Orton. Yawn.
The Usos Pin Rybaxel
I love Rybaxel, the buddies, but no one really shines in this bout. It’s a short filler match, and that’s fine. Perhaps I’m feeling less generous after watching Ziggler and Rollins, who shouldn’t be compared to Rybaxel, but for that reason make Rybaxel appear lacking. Rybaxel has a niche, and maybe the answer is to add more personality – their borderline-giddy camaraderie would at least add more flavor to their rather rudimentary move set. I’m happy to see The Usos as regulars on these shows, and perhaps the match just needed more time.
Skip This: I’ve shown you the matching toques and that’s all you need to see.
Rusev Submits Xavier Woods
Just in case you don’t believe me, I have photographic evidence. Xavier Woods comes out to patriotic marching band music, sporting a huge Uncle Sam hat, which he takes off to reveal… a tiny Uncle Sam hat.
Ding ding! Rusev crush! “What in the?!” says JBL, as the Russian flag comes down.
Skip This: I guess we’re supposed to feel like Rusev is taking it to the next level - by residing in Russia, a more stereotypically hate-worthy place than Bulgaria, and by wrestling a guy who’s wearing stars and stripes – but he’s still just squashing Xavier Woods.
Bad News Barrett Pins Rob Van Dam (Triple Threat with Cesaro for IC Title)
Well it didn’t take long for Cesaro’s No Chance In Hell walk to grow on me. And I’d be lying if I said that Heyman’s greasy replica of it doesn’t add to the charm. Heyman struts on over to the announce table, to our benefit, since JBL gets extra acidic with Cole whenever he feels like someone else is listening to him. I love them ganging up on Cole for not calling the match, then teasing him for saying that he’s only supposed to do sound bites.
But oh my goodness, one of these things is not like the others in the ring. Rob Van Dam pulls out all the stops, such as they are, and I do give him credit for making the most of what he’s got. Unfortunately, what’s he’s got is the body of a giant toddler, lumbering around doing these asthmatic-looking acrobatics. Even Cesaro struggles to sell his monkey flip. A monkey flip!
It’s an unremarkable match. At one point I felt like I had highway hypnosis, then realized I wasn’t driving late at night, but watching Rob Van Dam. The triple threat stipulation is good for him, but I think we’ve all seen enough. I’m not saying run him out of town, but just out of a title picture.
Skip This: Unless you’re dying to see how it ends (Bull Hammer!).
TitanTron Promo: Bray Wyatt
It speaks volumes about how little they care about Smackdown, even though they threw us a bone by putting Seth Rollins on the show. This is also Bray Wyatt’s first “appearance” since we last saw him being thrown into a box at Payback. But it’s a recorded promo shown on the screen, and I’m not sure whether it holds any promise.
Wyatt says that he had some haunting memories while trapped in the box, and he realized that death was real. He vows to become a leader, and ends with, “Brothers and sisters, I am reborn. Join me.”
Sooooo… losing to John Cena has made him stronger? It’s official, they won’t be doing anything mind-blowing with Bray Wyatt; this is the end of the line, creatively. I’m surprising myself by making such a definitive statement, but now I’m halfway to acceptance. Will he move on? To whom? Or will he keep coming at Cena, who has already busied himself with nosing into Daniel Bryan’s business? I’m still curious, but I need to adjust my expectations.
Skip This: It should have been an important promo heralding Wyatt’s next move, but it left me unmoved.
Natalya Pins Alicia Fox
Once again, the announce team explores all the ways to express that Alicia Fox is crazy. I wish they’d let her focus on wrestling, and save the theatrics (particularly the screaming) for after the match (or in the case of the screaming, never). Natalya starts sassing her back, which seems to get the crowd’s attention, but there is very little wrestling to speak of. I did love how Alicia offered a cute little “I’m sorry” to the ref when he asked her to break a hold. That’s more of what I’d like to see, if they insist on her being “crazy”. Show some quirky personality traits. Get flirty and confrontational with Lillian, ring the bell, whatever. But there’s no reason why she can’t also have the same decent matches that she was having a few weeks ago. How many temper tantrums do we need to see?
Skip This: The screaming is intolerable.
Bo Dallas Pins Santino
Santino and Emma come out to Santino’s music, Emma’s bubbles, and a hybrid of her pointy-dance and his race-walk. It’s a real shit stew. Bo’s now being introduced as “The Inspirational Bo Dallas!” which I like, and which Santino also appreciates because he is a blockhead. They trade crappy moves and it’s really too bad, because I enjoyed Bo’s previous matches against Sin Cara and Xavier Woods.
I do like Bo’s joyous “FIVE AND O!” proclamation after he pins Santino with the Bo-Dog. It’s the only thing worth mentioning about this match, otherwise:
Randy Orton DQ against Big Show
Punching, shoving, head butts and head locks. I’m guessing Randy Orton wasn’t feeling as animated by the end of this match, especially after Seth Rollins had that sweet match with Ziggler. Orton did manage to squeeze in a drop-kick and a lacklustre DDT on Show. Big Show speared Orton, but it was the equivalent of taking a bow and losing his balance.
Seth Rollins injects some energy into the match (and the audience) by attacking Show mid-match, and curb-stomping him onto a steel chair twice. The program ends with the new Evolution standing proud.
Skip This: I can’t believe it’s an almost-unanimous Skip This for every segment of Smackdown. And if you know my views on wrestling, I’m generally able to see the good or the purpose in most matches. I just wasn’t feeling this show.
Sign of the Night
Smackdown fans: why do you phone it in when it’s time to make a sign? Raw is rife with signs, as are the Pay-Per-Views, such as the Payback Pay-Per-View™ which featured this gem. Credit to The Blarg blog for the screen cap:
Which was based on this event:
Quote of the Night:
JBL: My first big cricket match for charity is tomorrow! I’m gonna be really good in it; I was good at Little League baseball. It’s the same, isn’t it?
Cole: You’re playing 11-year olds.
JBL: [Pause] Technically that’s correct. But they’re like, national champions.
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