Similar to last week's episode, this week's WWE Smackdown used the opening segment to book or at least set up, the majority of the matches on the show. I quite like this approach, as you know exactly what you are getting for the rest of the show, as well as giving a reason for the two or more competitors to be having a match, which can only ever be a good thing.
Rob Van Dam
with Ricardo Rodriguez
Smackdown this week kicked off with what was termed a “Town Hall Meeting”, firstly, I'd like to say that they really should've been able to come up with a better name than that! Basically, what this entailed was Chief Operating Officer Triple H standing in the ring, flanked by Raw General Manager Brad Maddox and Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero (who did nothing throughout the segment) asking wrestlers to step up and speak their minds. I thought Triple H played his role fantastically throughout this segment, his character is really developing nicely and he suits the role they've given him, really playing up to the internets perception of The Game. A number of different wrestlers eventually stepped up, first was Damien Sandow, voicing his agreement with Triple H firing Cody Rhodes, only to be instantly be put down by Triple H. I'll talk about the others that stepped up as their matches come along. The final person that stepped up was Rob Van Dam, with his usual relaxed promo style, discussing when Triple H signed him to WWE and how he expected things to be different. Whilst Van Dam isn't the great promo guy in the world, I liked the content here and thought it worked well on some forgotten WWE continuity. For his part in the segment, Triple H gave Rob Van Dam a match against WWE Champion Randy Orton!
Personally, I thought this match with Orton, was Van Dam's best match since returning to WWE. The match started strongly, with Van Dam looking energetic and taking control, until they repeated the excellent Rolling Thunder into a Snap Scoop Powerslam spot from their 6th August Smackdown contest and it just built from their. Orton spent most of the bout in control, but never in over long spells, with Van Dam getting bursts of offence for a near fall, like one off a Split Legged Moonsault, but Orton would quickly gained ground. The match used a number of spots that allowed the bout to grow naturally, with Van Dam missing his spinning kick off the apron with Orton draped over the barricade and Orton tripping Van Dam as he scaled to the top rope standing out for me. For a match that used a lot of spots, there was also a fair amount of chain wrestling, with Van Dam and Orton styles really matching up nicely with good section that saw Orton building for an RKO, only for Van Dam to hit Orton with a Roundhouse Kick and use his legs for a roll up for a near fall.
The finish saw World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, who Van Dam will face at Night of Champions on 15th September, and who was on commentary attack Van Dam's manager Ricardo Rodriguez by sending him into the ringpost in what looked like a really nasty bump for Rodriguez. With Van Dam cannonballing over the top rope onto Del Rio, with Orton taking advantage by hitting an apron hung DDT onto the arena floor on the Whole F'N Show. Orton went on to hit Van Dam with an RKO to pick up the pinfall victory and continue his winning streak. I quite liked the ending, usually I don't like champions or challengers for championships losing, but the way this was done really worked for me, helping to add a little fuel to the simmering Van Dam and Del Rio rivalry, as well as building the relationship between Van Dam and Rodriguez, whilst allowing Orton to look good at the same time and not really costing Van Dam anything after a competitive match against the WWE Champion.
Randy Orton continues to look very good as a heel at the moment, he could easily come across as Triple H's underling, but I don't think he does. Mainly due to the string of strong and exciting matches we've seen him placed in on Raw and Smackdown, against the likes of Van Dam, Christian and Cody Rhodes, which have allowed Orton to look really good, whilst also allowing his heel role to really developed. He comes across as someone who doens't need Triple H to stack the deck for him, but it's much easier when he does. With just one week to go until Night of Champions, the Van Dam and Del Rio feud is actually starting to build quite nicely, it probably isn't quite ready for a pay-per-view match, but with that's one of the downfalls of the WWE schedule. It will be interesting to see if WWE continues the story past Night of Champions, at first I didn't think it would have the legs to do so, but I'm beginning to change my mind.
Tag Team Champion
with The Shield
One of the matches that Triple H made in the opening segment, was Daniel Bryan versus a member of The Shield, with Bryan being able to choose which one he wanted to face. Bryan made his decision in a backstage interview with Renee Young. Bryan, who was at the “Town Hall Meeting”, said he was told by management not to be there, before saying that he knew The Shield wouldn't allow the contest to be one on one later, so there would be no point chosing an opponent, instead saying The Shield could chose who would fight him. It was a decent promo from Bryan, not exactly anything we haven't heard before, but set up what would become the main event of the show well and leaving his opponent open gave the viewer a reason to stay tuned for the closing segments of the show.
Later in the evening with Bryan standing across the ring from The Shield, it was teased that Bryan would be facing Tag Team Champion Roman Reigns, only for fellow Tag Team Champion Seth Rollins to attack Bryan from behind Reigns and reveal himself as the opponent. After two fantastic Bryan vs. Rollins matches on Raw on 10th June and 26th August (in a Gauntlet match) I had fairly high hopes for this bout, and unfortunately the match didn't quite live up to those expectations. This bout was much more ground in storytelling than it's predecessors with Bryan attempting to overcome The Shield at ringside, who were always close to Bryan. There were some nice spots like Rollins powerslam to Bryan over the top rope, but the match didn't really have enough time to tell the story it wanted, going just over five minutes.
The finish saw Bryan catch a diving Rollins in the Yes Lock, but with Reigns and United States Champion Dean Ambrose attempting to interfere Bryan turned his attention to them, taking out Ambrose with a dropkick and levelling Reigns with a Suicide Dive. With the playing field now even, Bryan hit a charging Rollins with an elbow, before hitting a Running Single Legged High Knee to pick up a pinfall victory. It was a nice energetic finish, with Bryan looking especially good on his way to picking up the victory. I don't want it to seem like this match was rubbish, far from it, all the in ring action was sound throughout and the match was extremely pacy, it just needed more time to let it breath and simply couldn't compete with the other match Bryan and Rollins have had against each other in WWE. Giving Bryan a convincing win however was a good decision, as having him beat down every week would have gotten old quickly, so he needed to remind us that he could actually win!
With Bryan celebrating up the ramp, it looked like Bryan would close the show. However, this was not to be the case, with Randy Orton catching Bryan by surprise, hitting him in the back of the head with the WWE Championship. I'm still undecided on this ending the show. I sort of like the idea of Orton continuing to get the upperhand on Bryan heading into Night of Champions, but at the same time I feel that leaving Bryan to celebrate would have been beneficial to the storytelling, as it would give Bryan momentum and hope heading into Night of Champions, which would allow the story to continue even longer. If Bryan continues to end up coming of worse for ware at the end of every show, and then loses at Night of Champions, there isn't anywhere else for the story to go. If Bryan begins to build momentum, and is then screwed out of the title again, then you have something to run with heading into the next pay-per-view.
Best of the Rest (In The World)
After 3MB's Heath Slater spoke up during the “Town Hall Meeting” about Big Show standing by why friends get beaten up, Triple H later granted Big Show a match, with all of 3MB. In a backstage segment, Triple H continued to play on Big Show's emotions, after putting him in the match with 3MB, telling him to ball up his fist and take out his frustrations on 3MB. I quite liked this backstage segment, it continued the story with Triple H and Big Show well, and Big Show continued to do a good job of the big angry giant trying to contain his emotions stuff that we've seen him do recently. Triple H's deadpan delivery didn't quite sit well for me, it was as if he was trying to play for the laughs, when this is where we need him to be at his most serious.
The match was as you would expect, similar to a handicap match 3MB had with Kane on 6th August Smackdown, Big Show just threw Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal around the ring and ringside area for a couple of minutes, looking like a destructive machine. Big Show picked up the pinfall victory after a Double Chokeslam to McIntyre and Mahal, and a Knockout Punch to Slater. It won't be appearing on any Best of... DVD sets anytime soon, but the match was effective in reminding the audience that Big Show is a monster and showing all the pent up rage in that giant. The audience should have been thinking of what Big Show could do to Triple H, when he finally loses it with the Chief Operating Officer.
Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel, accompanied by Paul Heyman, was in action against Kofi Kingston in a good match. The bout started with a lot of mat grappling, before building up nicely with some pacy offense from Kingston. With the hometown crowd really getting behind Axel, we saw Paul Heyman's client show a vicious streak that we haven't seen too often in his match, clubbing away on Kofi in a tree of woe position. The finish saw Axel setting up for the Hangman's Facebuster, only for Kingston to counter with S.O.S to pick up the surprise pinfall victory. I liked the finish, it seemed to come out of nowhere and I didn't expect Kingston to win at all. It looks like they're working on the idea that Axel will most likely lose to CM Punk at Night of Champions in attempt to build up anticipation for when Punk get's his hand on Heyman. Later on Renee Young tried to interview Paul Heyman, who was clearly worried about Night of Champions and ended up walking out of the building
After Ryback had said at the “Town Hall Meeting” that he didn't like being called a bully, he placed in a rematch from this week's Raw against Dolph Ziggler by Triple H. The bout was similar to the one they had on Raw this week, but with more offense from Ziggler seeing as he hadn't been attacked by United States Champion Dean Ambrose beforehand. Talking of Ambrose, he turned up on commentary, and one of my least favourite things about WWE, when the camera is too busy showing the commentary team than showing the action in the ring! With Ziggler looking to gain momentum, he was distracted by Ambrose on commentary chasing him around the announce desk before walking into a clothesline from Ryback, in an enjoyable spot, which led to the finish with Ryback hitting Shellshocked to pick up the pinfall victory. It was decent match between these two with the dynamic working well, hopefully this is leading to a United States Championship match between Ambrose and Ziggler, although Ziggler will have to pick up a win from somewhere to really justify it.
There was also women's action on Smackdown, starting with Diva's Champion AJ Lee approaching Layla, Aksana and Alicia Fox backstage, apparently completely forgetting when Layla and AJ Lee were skipping around ringside about a month back, as they all seemed reluctant to speak to AJ. The match saw The Funkadactly's Naomi taking on Brie Bella, and after some okay action came to a close with a horrible looking spot that saw both women tumble to the outside, Lee, Layla, Aksana and Fox made their presence known by attacking both women and causing a double disqualification. With the heels eventually come off better, AJ Lee celebrated with her Diva's title. Personally, I don't know why Layla, Aksana and Fox need to be involved, and having Aksana as part of the group only helps to dilute the power of Lee's promo on Raw a few weeks ago.
In tag team action, The Real American's Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, accompanied by Zeb Colter, took on The Usos, in decent tag team action. It was pretty basic stuff, mainly due to the time constraints, with Swagger and Cesaro working quick tags and dominating Uso, building up to a hot tag. The finish saw The Usos rolling with some nice pacy high flying action, with an Uso hitting a Superkick on Cesaro, he headed to the top rope, and after some back and forth between the other Uso and Swagger on the outside, Swagger dodged an attack, sending Uso into the barricade, allowing Swagger to push Uso off of the top rope into an Uppercut from Cesaro to win the match for The Real Americans. A good finish, with The Real American's picking up a much needed victory, and keeping the tag team division competitive. It was a decent match, but these teams have had better on Raw before.
They also played the same vignette for Los Matadores, and I cared even less than I did before.
My final thoughts on this week's Smackdown.
1. Randy Orton is his best in ring form in quite some time, with top notch matches against Cody Rhodes and Rob Van Dam this week.
2. Just because a match looks good on a paper, for example, Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins, doesn't mean WWE will give it enough time to be any good.
3. The stuff with Big Show and Triple H is beginning to cloud the story with Daniel Bryan.