I bet when Aksana taped this episode of Smackdown, she had no idea how inauspicious the air date would be: Friday the 13th marks her final televised appearance after being released by WWE. Many of this week’s cuts were unsurprising choices, especially in light of Vince having to show shareholders that he means business in “tough” times. But I wouldn’t wish a layoff on anyone, particularly folks whose ability to do a good job is in large part controlled by a fickle fairy godfather who fancies chortling at lame jokes.
I am most saddened by the release of Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, who also made their final appearance on Smackdown. Considering that in the past, Mahal faced Seth Rollins to crown the first NXT Champion, and McIntyre was lauded as Vince’s Chosen One, these guys carried a dead-end gimmick with dignity. They probably had to powder up their damn legs to get into John Morrison’s hand-me-downs, but they air guitared down that ramp with so much earnest gusto that you couldn’t help but be won over.
For all of you joining me in mourning, might I recommend that you watch this while listening to “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” by the original Diva, Whitney Houston. I’ll wait for you here while you go and get that tub of ice cream from the freezer.
Erick Rowan pinned Jey Uso
The Usos and Wyatts are a great way to start the show, and I will use a restaurant analogy to explain why. Whenever you go to a restaurant, you can usually predict if it’s going to be decent based on whether the menu sticks to a theme. The better restaurants will do but one thing, generally speaking, and do it well. For example, you shouldn’t order the salmon and rice from a place called Bubba’s Burgers, because Bubba is scared that the gluten-free millenials won’t want a burger, so he bought some scary old freezer-burnt salmon and threw it on the menu. Stick to what you’re good at, Bubba, and you’ll be fine.
I’ve said all this because both the Usos and the Wyatts stick to a theme. In one corner, we have colorful, high-flying Samoans. They are bursting with energy and a desire to honor their wrestling heritage. In the other corner, we have gruff and tough hillbillies. From their attire to their facial expressions to their hard-hitting moves, the Wyatts deliver. Every time any of them comes to the ring or gives a promo, you know what you’re going to get, and it’s going to be high quality, and that’s a good thing.
This match was surprisingly short, and I think that was also good thing. Jey is just so bouncy, and Rowan’s style is that of a brick wall. It wasn’t a terrible match, but it shows that one Uso and one Wyatt may not be as good an idea as expected. Rowan doesn’t have Harper’s finesse, and the Usos are truly tag specialists. They needed more time and their partners to really balance this out.
In-Ring Promo: Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose
After his blistering promo on Raw this week, Dean Ambrose had a lot to live up to. Instead of trying to outdo himself, he keeps it short this time. He calls Triple H “kiddo” and Seth Rollins a “puppet suit”, and uses Rollins’ recent snubs as fuel for his anger. Reigns speaks a little more than usual, dropping some textbook WWE one-liners like “I hope you’re enjoying your night off, Orton, because soon you’ll be on a permanent vacation!” and “You say you’re the face of the WWE, when really you’re the ass!” But it doesn’t matter too much (at this point, at least) how original Roman Reigns is on the microphone. This is a good place for him to practice just saying more words, and finding his pace and tone. He has perfected the smolder, or so my loins tell me, and now it’s time to take it to the next level.
Triple H comes up on the Tron, and flips a coin to determine that between the two of them, Dean Ambrose will face Bray Wyatt in a Money In The Bank qualifier. But right now, Reigns will face Bad News Barrett.
Roman Reigns vs. Bad News Barrett (ends in a DQ, I think)
Fist pump for Barrett, who comes out looking every bit the big-name opponent for Roman Reigns. All the better to make Reigns look good, as they have a textbook match that showcases Reigns’ repertoire, and then some. They both like to hit hard, but they also dish out bodyslams and neckbreakers to address any concerns that Reigns can’t carry a match on his own (though I’m sure Barrett had a lot to do with this one looking so solid). My only critique would be that Reigns has to work on selling a reverse chin-lock, especially if he’s going to be working with Randy Orton. The jiggling looks more like a tic than summoning his hot Samoan powers.
Barrett can’t be faulted for looking like he’s about to be pinned, but then 3MB interferes to beat up Reigns. I guess if you’re going to go out, do so by being speared by The Next Chosen One. And not only does Reigns put on a good match without Dean Ambrose anywhere in sight, but he hits every moving target in the aftermath, and looks very comfortable posing for the crowd. That being said, I personally hope that they keep him paired with Ambrose through the summer. And raise your glass to 3MB.
Bo Dallas pins R-Truth
The Inspirational Bo Dallas? More like the Perspirational Bo Dallas, because he’s so MOIST, right? Bo starts white-man shoulder-shimmying and having a stupendous time trying to sing along to “What’s Up?” as R-Truth comes down the aisle. I will complain about Santino’s shenanigans, but I love Bo Dallas! There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to comedy in wrestling. I just hope that they stick to Bo doing his schtick before and after matches, and only sprinkling in a bit of character while wrestling. Because I think he’s a pretty good wrestler, so far.
He and Truth have a short match, not worth watching, but it was nice to see the Bo-Dog executed without calling for it first. He had an opportunity, then just locked it in and finished the match. I would be interested to see if he can put a bit more stank on it, maybe accelerate the Bo-Dog a bit. Because I am a wrestling expert and should totally be giving Bo Dallas notes.
In-Ring Promo: Paul Heyman and Cesaro
Bahahaha! Okay, so they’ve got Cesaro speaking Swiss-German again, because people who don’t speak English must be booed! It only serves to make him cooler in my books. Heyman starts off in the usual fashion, giving a shout-out to his clients’ respective achievements at WrestleMania, and then he administers a healthy dose of incisive observations.
“My client will not grapple tonight under Greco Roman or freestyle or even sports entertainment rules. My client is here for a FIGHT. A fight against Sheamus the Shameless, a man who brings an inside cradle, a Greco Roman small package, a WRESTLING move, to a FIGHT!”
I don’t know why, but it really cracked me up that Heyman was dissing the small package finish. Cesaro promises to beat Sheamus to the point that the referee will have to stop the match. Sheamus immediately comes out, and the two men start pounding the movesets right out of each other.
Cesaro pins Sheamus (Non-Title Match)
Aside from punching, there are big boots and clotheslines and high knees and stomps. Sheamus dares to dole out a suplex, but after a two count reverts back to punching. This reminds me of a Finlay match, because even though there are few moves to speak of - as promised - there is still a lot of action. In how many different scenarios can one throw a punch? Apparently quite a few.
It gets to the point where Cesaro clearly has the upper hand, but out of nowhere Sheamus starts to go all Rocky III on him, “Come on, hit me again!” until he is miraculously rejuvenated by each blow. While I can appreciate any match that keeps me guessing at who might win, I hate the “all of a sudden I’m feeling much better, thanks” type turn of events. Even though Cesaro sneaks in a Super Uppercut, Sheamus gets the better of him, and cues him up for White Noise. And I have to laugh again, as Cesaro counters with – what else? – a small package for the win. Paul Heyman leaves us with one of his trademark shit-eating grins, and a huge thanks to WWE for posting a super Muppety picture of it!
On-Screen Promo: The Wyatt Family
Bray talks about having picturesque dreams as a child, but then waking to the rotten prison that is reality. Until he met “her” - we assume Sister Abigail - who predicted that people would bow to Bray. “Above that ladder lies my power… unfortunately for Dean Ambrose, he stands in my way. Those who stand in my way will burn.” It’s so frustrating that Bray’s recent memory-wiped feud with Cena detracts from his threats here. If losing that Last Man Standing match was like Bray’s resurrection, I’d love for Bray to just close the loop with one final message to Cena that his time will come.
Adam Rose pins Fandango
I guess Summer Rae’s impy-skimpy dance costumes and her fake-it-til-you-make-it dance moves just weren’t titillating enough, because Layla (ironically, a legitimate dancer) has come out looking and dancing like a stripper. Fan-DANG-girl!
The Banana from the Exotic Express has an unfortunately-placed floppy stem. Maybe don’t hop around so much, Banana.
The bell rings; Fandango and Adam Rose have a gimmick-off that results in Fandango losing his temper. He gets in three moves before Rose lamely executes a Party Favor. One of the members of the Exotic Express lingers behind, and slowly enters the ring. The costume is removed to reveal Summer Rae, who abuses Layla once again. I LOATHE (in Jim Carrey as The Grinch voice) this storyline.
“We just witnessed a chicken that turned into a chick!” And I loathe everyone on commentary whenever a woman is on screen. LOATHE.
Big E pins Jack Swagger
It’s patriot versus patriot, even though Big E has thankfully left his big cauldron-stirring flag pole backstage. I think Big E also has new music and a new shirt. Check me on this.
Swagger clotheslines Big E all over the place. They might be a little ungainly to work together, just tossing each other around until Lana comes out. At first, her appearance distracts Big E, who eats a big boot. And then, while Zeb is trying to get Lana to leave, Jack Swagger is distracted into a Big Ending. Does this mean that Rusev will move up the ranks to face Jack Swagger? I’m trying to care over here!
Alicia Fox pins Aksana
Alicia attacked her sidekick Aksana with popcorn on Raw, hence the match. This seems like a good time to mention that I turned down a drink at a friend’s place tonight, citing that I had to recap Smackdown. I am not feeling so noble about that choice right now.
A good snap suplex by Aksana, but in general she is pretty sloppy in the ring. What a difference between this match and Alicia’s match against Paige on Raw. I feel so happy and relieved to see Alicia win, because the match is over, and her celebrations are much more entertaining than her tantrums. Warning to my family and friends: I now have the idea that handstand bicycle kicks are awesome and funny, and it’s very possible that I may try to bust one out in a fit of overconfidence someday soon.
Sėkmės, Aksana. Good luck.
Bray Wyatt pins Seth Rollins (Money In The Bank Qualifier)
Main event time! You can tell by the twinkle in their eyes just before they lock up that Ambrose and Wyatt are looking forward to strutting their stuff. Their respective partners are banned from ringside.
After feeling each other out with a few strikes, Ambrose attacks with a front dropkick with Wyatt against the ropes. But it doesn’t slow Wyatt down for long, and he smashes Ambrose’s back against the ring apron on the floor. Back from commercial, Wyatt is working on Ambrose’s shoulder, but Ambrose buys some recovery time with a nice DDT.
I love how Ambrose shows us how much pain his shoulder is in, because it’s totally in keeping with his lunatic personality. He bangs on his own shoulder, maybe trying to get it back in place or restore feeling to it. He’s distracted by the discomfort, as he fights his way through Bray’s punishment. Bray looks great here too, matching Ambrose’s intensity and showing us some new ways to fight someone who’s just as crazy as he is. They make it look like the match of their lives, and after a series of near falls, Ambrose finally hits the Dirty Deeds!
Before he can make the pin, he sees Seth Rollins taunting him while standing on the announce table. Dang it. Ambrose chases him off the table, and Rollins leads him right back into the waiting arms of Sister Abigail. Great match, boys. See you at Money In The Bank, Bray.
Sign of the Night
I bet Fandango wishes his biggest problem was people mispronouncing his name, instead of having to perch on the top turnbuckle, awkwardly waiting for Adam Rose to get up and Party Favor him, and then find his ex-girlfriend dressed as a Poncho Chicken, awkwardly waiting to beat up his current girlfriend. Actually, all of that sounds right up Fandango’s alley.
Quote of the Night:
“HE ATTACKED ME!” – Bo Dallas protests his opponent trying to wrestle him during their match.
Time for YOU to weigh in on this week’s Smackdown, and my recap thereof. I took out the “Skip This” and “Watch This” after each segment. I wasn’t sure if it painted too broad a stroke on everything, or if readers found it to be a helpful/necessary guide. Post your feedback in the Comments below, on twitter @kickyhick or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend!