Smackdown this week felt like a stacked card with a number of big matches and segments that made the show feel a lot more important than it has over the last few month and that can only be a good thing.
Fiesta Del Rio
I’ve forgotten how long it’s been since the storyline involving the World Heavyweight Championship closed Smackdown. Personally, I think the World Heavyweight Championship should always be the focus of Smackdown for as long as WWE have two world championships. If WWE don’t make the belt feel important by having it the focal point of the show, then there is very little point in having two world title flying around the WWE. Therefore seeing the Fiesta Del Rio segment closing the show, amongst a number of other high profile matches certainly pleased me in that respect.
The celebration aspect is of the segment is something we’ve seen before a number of times, I’m sure Del Rio had a similar thing on previous occasions when he won the major championships. It’s pretty obvious what will happen from the outset, but if worked well can be an enjoyable segment. Ricardo Rodriguez did a good job of warming up for Del Rio, winding up the fans before doing his usual announcing schtick. It would be interesting to see Rodriguez drop the elongated Del Rio catchphrase to help garner extra heat. Del Rio then took down a piñata with Dolph Ziggler’s face on, it was a little bit cheesy but sort of worked with Del Rio comparing it to their match at Payback. Del Rio also spoke a lot of his promo in Spanish which is an easy way to garner more heat, although I couldn’t comment on how good the promo is because I don’t speak Spanish.
In a slight twist on the format, Del Rio called out Ziggler, instead of Ziggler being hidden under a sombrero with a mustache. Ziggler came out and a brawl ensued, with Ziggler eventually taking out both Del Rio and Rodriguez, sending Rodriguez from the top rope and through the table and hitting Del Rio with the Zig Zag. Ziggler finished up by channelling Jeff Jarrett hitting Rodriguez with a Spanish guitar. It was done at such a quick pace that you could really feel the pent up aggression in Ziggler towards Del Rio and that made it easy for me to get behind The Show Off. He proved his face run could be successful without toning the character down, closing the show by playing guitar with Del Rio’s Mexican band.
This segment got me pretty excited to watch Del Rio vs. Ziggler at Money in the Bank, yes it was full of wrestling clichés but was worked well by all individuals and made to feel important. Knowing that both individual are capable of putting on a great match certainly helps to build the interest in the rivalry. Hopefully WWE can keep this up for the next couple of weeks as this build has been very successful, for me anyway, so far.
Kane vs. Randy Orton
Before the match we saw Daniel Bryan and Kane backstage, talking about Bryan’s victory over Randy Orton on Raw last week. Kane congratulated Bryan on the upset victory, causing Bryan to get upset talking once again about being the weak link. While the early part of the segment went over some old ground, the latter half was a bit more interesting with Bryan telling Kane he would be on commentary if he need his help later on. Bryan did some really nice character work here and hopefully he keeps up this side of his character, it’s nice to watch him winding Kane up in such a way. Kane does a good job of being the straight man once again, with Bryan attempting a hug, Kane simply gives nothing back.
Kane dominated most of the match, in what was pretty basic affair with no real talking points in terms of what happened within the ring. Things got a bit more interesting when Daniel Bryan stood on the commentary desk and lead the crowd in chanting his “YES” catchphrase as Kane took control, before chanting “NO” when both men went down. It certainly picked up the action in the ring, with the moves feeling a lot more important from this point onwards, beforehand seemed like merely going through the motions. The biggest spot of the match saw Orton take a bump from the top rope to the outside, after an uppercut from Kane.
The ending was another intriguing one for this story with Bryan “helping” Kane back into the ring, only for Randy Orton to hit the RKO and pick up the victory. Bryan left via the entrance ramp and didn’t appear to show too much concern for Kane. It was a nice ending that furthered the feud well, as well as helping to build for the All-Stars Money in the Bank with three of the participants present. The match itself wasn’t anything special with both Orton and Kane using mainly their signature moves, this was one of the poorest matches we’ve seen from either man for a while. I’m not saying it was terrible, but it was certainly a going through the motions kind of contest.
This story has been running for some time now, and it’s continuing to grow and develop as the weeks go on. I’m not quite sure where the story is heading anymore, but I think this is a good thing, it means that the majority of what happens between these three surprises me and that’s always good for the product. I’d like to see Bryan and Kane positioned in a prominent place on the Summerslam card, and would personally have them take each other out of the Money in the Bank to build for the match.
The Shield were once again in six man tag team action, this time against Christian and the new number one contenders to the tag team championships, The Usos. In comparison to some of the Shield’s epic matches over the last year, this really didn’t stand up very well. The wrestling was good throughout as is to be expected, but it just wasn’t long enough to feel as important and didn’t feel as thought through as the previous matches. The ending of the match however was very good with The Usos taking care of Rollins and Reigns, Ambrose looked to the outside only to run straight into a Spear from Christian for the upset victory. The reason this worked for me was the pacey nature of the finish which felt like how the Shield might have picked up a victory a few months ago, as well as Christian really selling how much the victory meant celebrating with the Usos after wards.
Best of the Rest (in the World)
We also got the culmination of the Sheamus and Damien Sandow rivalry this week on Smackdown. Now this rivalry started off terribly with those awful segments involving the Gordian knot and other strange objects, and got slightly better as it went along. The matches the two have had have been miles better than any storyline they’ve been given to use. This was a “Dublin” Street Fight, with various “Irish” object surrounding ring side, including bars complete with beer pumps and green kendo sticks. Yes, it felt like WWE tried to ruin this one as well with the goofy nature of the match, but Sheamus and Sandow actually managed to pull out an enjoyable contest.
There was some nice spots throughout the contest revolving around what was set up around ringside, including Sheamus clobbering Sandow on one of the bars, as well as the throwing a beer keg at Sandow. One spot that I didn’t care for was when Sheamus used a sack of potatoes, yes you read that correctly, a sack of potatoes to attack Sheamus. It removed from the rivalry between the two and made Sandow look a bit of a joke. Luckily Sandow did a lot of good work during the contest, including a nice dropkick on the outside which looked painful, along with my favourite part of the match, some really well work kendo stick shots making Sandow look incredibly vicious in the process. Sheamus eventually picked up the win after a Brogue Kick whilst Sandow was perched on two chairs, how this hurt more than a regular Brogue Kick I don’t know and it was a bizarre finish for me. Where these two go from here, I haven’t got a clue!
The World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank competitors were also announced on Smackdown. In rare appearance from Mr. McMahon on Smackdown, he came to ask Teddy Long how he was going to compete with the All-Stars match. Long made the match out of what he called up and comers, including Dean Ambrose, Jack Swagger, Fandango, Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett in the contest. I can’t argue with any of those being included in the match, they’ve featured prominently on television over the last few months and could all be capable of making a good ladder match. It was interesting to see Teddy mention Booker T, it would seem they are going to run I program between the two, something I have no desire in seeing.
Ryback was also in action this week against former Nexus stablemate Justin Gabriel. For me, this match was the surprise of the night. I expected Ryback to walk in throw Gabriel around and pick up an easy win, however Justin Gabriel actually got a fair amount of offence in on Ryback, with the match revolving around Ryback sustaining an injury to the knee. Ryback’s only real offense in the match was the finish, seeing him catch Gabriel and hit Shellshock after a surprising amount of struggle. For such a short match, this was an entertaining contest and hopefully Gabriel gets some credit for it. After the match, Ryback’s Money in the Bank opponent Chris Jericho came out and got the crowd to chant “CRYBACK” in some entertaining work from Jericho before storming the ring to go to toe to toe with the Human Wrecking Ball. Jericho got the better of Ryback putting him in the Walls of Jericho before he escaped. It’s an intriguing new way to present Ryback and an intresting twist on the monster heel gimmick. Will it work? I’m not too sure.
Miz TV returned to WWE with Paul Heyman as the guest. The Miz tried to get answers from Heyman about CM Punk and Brock Lesnar, but Heyman brought out Curtis Axel instead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again, The Miz doesn’t work as a face, well not in this current guise and mentioning Curtis Axel’s Dad, Mr. Perfect, made me wish Axel would punch Miz square in the face. It might have been okay if Perfect was still alive, but to bringing up someone’s dead father is not going to make me like you anymore. Luckily my prayers were answered when The Miz went for his catchphrase and Axel hit him with what looked like a new neckbreaker finishing move, it looked impressive and hopefully this is what Axel will be using going forward.
There was also diva’s action pitting champion AJ Lee against Natalya. Before the match got started Kaitlyn came out and in a reverse of this weeks Raw, she was dressed as AJ. It was nice to have Kaitlyn get one over on AJ here, and this is probably the first time we’ve seen Kaitlyn really step up with some good mic work and tons of personality. The content might have been slightly lame but at least it was well delivered. Natalya ended up picking up a roll up victory after AJ was distracted by a skipping Kaitlyn. Surely, Natalya deserves a title shot after beat the Champion?
What have we learnt from Smackdown this week?
1. Dolph Ziggler more than has the ability to get over as a face.
2. We have no clue where Kane/Bryan/Orton are heading but it's great to be surprised whilst watching WWE again.
3. The Irish love beer, potatoes and green kendo sticks.
World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger vs. Fandango vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow vs. Dean Ambrose