May 18th's edition of SmackDown! was the final show before the next PPV, Over the Limit. In my opinion, WWE hasn't pushed this PPV as well as they should have. Three weeks isn't long to build up any PPV, especially one that doesn't have any built-in gimmicks.
There is some legitimate heat building up for the Fatal Four-Way, and at least some interest in John vs. John, but they could have done much better with the other matches--or at least announced a full card.
This is WWE's last chance to pique our interest, and I don't have high hopes. I think the PPV should be fine, but the weak build-up has failed to make us really hungry for it.
Let's break down Friday's results and make some predictions for Sunday.
The show starts with a recap of John Cena and John Laurinaitis (I refuse to type that last name more than once, so he will be referred to as Johnny Ace for the rest of this slideshow) over the last couple of weeks. I've said this before, but who watches SmackDown! and not Raw? We all know the story. Stop wasting our time.
After the video package, Johnny Ace makes his way to the ring. He begins to back-pedal regarding his match with Cena, saying he feels like a lamb being led to the slaughter. He asks the WWE Universe to support him. They refuse to rise above hate and shower him with verbal disapproval.
Enter CM Punk. He tells Johnny Ace that he's getting his just desserts, and makes a pretty specific claim about celebrating Johnny's termination starting on Raw and ending on next week's SmackDown! The verbiage seemed too specific, so I gotta believe it was some foreshadowing. Expect to hear those exact words on next Monday's video package.
Johnny Ace has incredible heat, especially with the young crowd. But more on that later.
The first match of the night has the Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth up against Titus O'Neal and Darren Young. Ziggler, Swagger, and Vicki all fail to make any appearance whatsoever. Nor does anyone mention the horrible booking on Superstars when they lost cleanly to the Usos. The champions get the win without the youngsters getting much offense in at all.
Prediction: The Tag Team Championship Match at Over the Limit is going to be a complete flop. Granted, these four wrestlers have the potential to put on a five-star classic, but I just don't have that kind of faith in this particular match.
As far as the booking goes, it hasn't made much sense at all. Swagger and Ziggler lose all the time. Even after being granted a title shot, they lost on Superstars just days before their big PPV match.
If the WWE was trying to send some message about the state of flux that the tag team division is in, then maybe the champs losing to the newbies would have been a way to go with SmackDown!, giving the implication that anyone could win the titles at any time. But the champs continue to dominate and the challengers continue to be dominated.
Either Swagger and Ziggler pull off a huge upset that makes no sense, or the champs retain in a match that should have been on free TV, if not a house show. A total bust, one way or the other.
To let us know that Damien Sandow is up next, we see him backstage disapproving of Zack Ryder. After the commercial break, he makes his way to the ring for a scheduled match against Yoshi Tatsu. He gives another delightful speech on the way to the ring, and just like last week, refuses to wrestle his opponent.
Yoshi calls him a chicken, and Sandow charges the ring and destroys Tatsu in a non-match. Not a horrible segment, but definitely some horrible tights!
Matt Striker is backstage with both Randy Orton and Sheamus, interviewing them at the same time. I liked it. I hope they do interviews like this more often, especially if two faces have a match together.
Our next match is Zack Ryder vs. Daniel Bryan. Iced Z only gets a few offensive moves in before he taps out to the Yes Lock. Otherwise, this just served as an opportunity for the commentators to talk about Daniel Bryan's match against CM Punk. At the time, I wasn't aware that Kane vs. CM Punk was up next, so this segment and match felt really pointless.
Prediction: Two years from now, we will look back on the WWE Championship Match at Over the Limit and realize that it was just a tease for some of the classic matches we will get as these two remain at the top of Mt. WWE.
Although the next segment does show at least a little effort on the part of WWE Creative, it's too little, too late in my book. I can't imagine the match will be bad, but the feud isn't very hot. Punk retains in a match that will be completely forgotten once these two have a long-term, in-depth feud with some good story progression and development.
I liked the way Kane vs. CM Punk was booked, as Kane still looked like a monster and CM Punk didn't look weak as champion. With a pro like Punk and a veteran like Kane, this match was as good as you could expect for free TV.
Daniel Bryan causes a No Contest when he hits Kane with a chair but makes Kane think it was CM Punk. Shades of Eddie Guerrero. I really liked the segment, but as I have already said, they should have been pushing the WWE Championship Match much harder and much sooner.
Up next we have champion vs. champion, when Cody Rhodes takes on Santino Marella. During the match, Booker T admits that he feels the Intercontinental Title is more prestigious than the US Title.
I always thought they were supposed to be considered equal, like the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles. Maybe I just don't get it. Santino gets the win and Cody can't believe it.
PREDICTION: With only five matches booked for the PPV (six if you count the pre-show) and neither of these titles on the line, I've gotta believe that Cody will exact his revenge on Santino at Over the Limit, one way or another.
Before we get to the main event, we get a replay of The Big Show's termination from Monday. He sure knows how to turn on the water works, doesn't he?
I assume that most of the readers here at Bleacher Report are adults, teenagers at least. Therefore, if you're reading this, you likely understand the necessity of a villain such as John Laurinaitis.
Depending on your particular taste, you may hate him, but chances are, you love to hate him. But the little kids, the ones barely old enough to understand that wrestling is "fake," have a completely different take.
Case 1: My co-worker has a nine-year-old that watches WWE religiously. As she informed me of this, she really drove the point home when she talked about this week's episode of Raw. After The Big Show was fired, her son was literally crying about it. When she asked him about it, he expressed as much disdain for Johnny Ace as he did affection for The Big Show.
Case 2: SmackDown! is a tradition in my family, in that it is the one time every week I visit my nephews and spend time with them. When Caleb, age five, watched this Raw Rewind, he, too, started leaking from the eyes. He then listed several violent things he wanted to do to Johnny Ace that I legally can't print here. Although he is fully aware that the show is "fake," his feelings for Johnny Ace are anything but.
I can't remember any wrestler of the last few years who got as much heat as Johnny gets. He's too hot of a commodity to take off of television now, which is just one of the reasons I think WWE has a swerve planned for his match at OTL.
PREDICTION: The stipulations for John vs. John at OTL have been stated very clearly: if Johnny loses, he's terminated. If anyone interferes, they're terminated. But you can't terminate someone for interfering if they've already been terminated, right?
After Cena plays around with Johnny for a few minutes, The Big Show storms to the ring to destroy the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations. After he chokeslams his former boss in the middle of the ring, John Cena is disqualified.
Johnny Ace wins, Cena doesn't have to lay down for him, and The Big Show isn't currently employed so he can't be fired. Seems to me to be a perfect fit.
[Ed: per the comments left, this match can't end with Cena getting disqualified. Read my updated prediction for the end of John vs. John here.
During the main event, I kept expecting an appearance by Albert Del Rio. After all, Y2J was part of the mix on Monday, so it only seemed fair that ADR get involved with this match. But his absolute absence from SmackDown! wasn't the only surprise.
After last week's episode, crammed with squash matches, I was surprised that the main event lasted long enough to be interrupted by a commercial break. The match was worthy of being the main event, and I was pleasantly surprised that it got the amount of time that it deserved. Kudos to WWE for that.
And not only did it get a decent amount of time, there was a clear winner with a clean finish. Although both Sheamus and Orton managed to avoid falling victim to the other's finisher, the victory went to the champ who simply rolled up his opponent for the win. When was the last time anyone defeated the likes of Randy Orton with such a simple move?
But there was yet another surprise. After the match was over, Randy offered his hand to Sheamus. After the standard hesitation, Sheamus accepted Orton's gracious offer...and then ate an RKO.
This brings up the question: is Orton turning heel, or just embracing his DGAF attitude regarding anyone other than himself? It put a nice twist at the last possible moment for one of the two matches for Sunday's card that has any respectable build-up.
Prediction: The WWE is still cultivating the sinister side of Orton, and I don't think he'll capture the title until that transformation is complete. As often as they cram the idea of "Franchise Player" down our throats, they can't leave his waist bare for long.
I can't imagine they'd leave ADR off the show completely if he's set to take the title 48 hours later, and I just don't see the WWE wanting to let Y2J run with the gold, since he still focuses much of his energy on Fozzy.
I see Sheamus retaining, forcing his doubters (myself included) to reconsider whether he's more than a paper champion.