Every week here on Bleacher Report, I will take an in-depth look at SmackDown, recapping all of the action, offering analysis and grading the matches, segments and anything else that takes place on the show, as well as provide some predictions on the direction of storylines.
Night of Champions is in the past, and WWE is wasting no time preparing for Battleground, which is good to see since it is only three weeks after NOC.
The main focus of this week's show revolved around Triple H punishing those who helped Daniel Bryan on Monday during the attack from The Shield.
Some of the other minor storylines were touched on, but Triple H, Randy Orton and Bryan dominated the show by being involved in the opening promo, backstage segments throughout the night, Orton's match with R-Truth and the main event.
Let's get right into the it with the opening segment involving Vickie Guerrero and Bryan.
Guerrero opened the show in the ring, bragging about what an entertaining show she has set up for us Friday night.
She brought out Bryan, but not before she insulted him and says he went from hero to zero. Bryan came out and said he would rather be champion for one day than be a corporate suck-up like Vickie is.
Vickie ran down a list of the Superstars who came to Bryan's aid on Monday. She puts them all in a gauntlet match against The Shield where The Shield will take on one Superstar at a time.
This segment was pretty dull, but at least it set up a match for later in the evening.
Some notes from the segment:
- Did Vickie actually pay someone for that haircut and dye-job?
- Bryan is usually pretty awesome, but even he couldn't make me care about this segment.
- WWE fans are getting pretty creative with their signs. I especially liked the sign where the guy cut out a face and drew a beard around it so when he held it up he looked like Bryan.
- WWE didn't post a video of this segment, but it did post a video of Battle Kat's debut 23 years ago. Watch and be amazed by the skill of the late Dean Peters. This guy had all the right skills, but WWE put him in a cat mask and ruined any chance he had at success.
This was an above-average Divas match, but that isn't saying much since the average Divas match isn't that great to begin with.
Naomi and AJ did not seem to have that great of chemistry in the ring, but Naomi was able to use her athleticism to get a few small pops from the crowd.
AJ rolling from a sleeper hold into The Black Widow was cool looking, and it helped to illustrate her versatility a bit.
These two women could have a great match if they took a few more chances, but both of them seemed a little hesitant during this bout. They even seemed like they were being more careful when bouncing off the ring ropes.
AJ and Natalya will be the money feud going forward, and having Natalya on commentary for this match helps to plant the seeds for a Divas title match between her and AJ at Battleground
Some notes from the match:
- Naomi is ridiculously athletic. When was the last time you saw a Diva do a springboard?
- I was happy to see Naomi use an atomic drop. It is one of those classic wrestling moves people don't use that often anymore.
Swagger used his strength to take control of the match early on, but Santino countered a hip toss with a cartwheel.
The match only lasted a couple of minutes, with Santino getting a quick win with a backslide. Both men looked decent in the ring, but there just wasn't enough time to do anything to make this match memorable.
Some notes form the match:
- Swagger looks a lot younger without his beard. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing.
- Zeb Colter saying "I am going to give you a pizza my mind" made me laugh out loud, and I do not know why. It isn't that funny and I have heard that joke many times since my childhood, but for some reason Colter's delivery made it work.
- After the match, we saw Curtis Axel wheeling Paul Heyman down the hall while Ryback walked beside him. The way Heyman was looking at Ryback adoringly was unintentionally hilarious.
Usually SmackDown is the show that produces the best wrestling every week, but the first three matches from this week's episode were lackluster at best.
Ryback won the match before I could even finish typing that first sentence, and I can type pretty quick.
If you pick and choose which matches to watch on YouTube instead of watching the show, you can skip this one.
Some notes from the match:
- Ryback claims to hate bullies while being a bully. Does this remind anyone else of Dave Chappelle's skit about an African-American who is a blind white supremacist?
Finally, something I can wrap my head around. Orton as a heel is going to be so good for WWE, and his short but effective promo on SmackDown should be a good sign that he is settling back into his old heel role just fine.
Orton seemed believable in his disdain for both Bryan and the WWE fans, and that can often be the determining factor in whether or not a heel turn goes over well.
Orton is going to be the top heel for a long time, and it will be a welcome change after seeing him as a babyface for so long.
Some notes from the promo:
- Why would Orton throw away the key after ripping a door open? Doesn't it make more sense to throw it away once it's locked?
Darren Young was the unlucky first entrant for his team in this match, and he suffered for it. He was destroyed and eliminated within about a minute.
Big Titus O'Neil came out next, and he had a much better showing, putting all three men down at least once before he was eventually taken off his feet and pinned by The Shield.
Dolph Ziggler came out third, and he rushed the ring and went right for Dean Ambrose. The Shield got the advantage right away, but Ziggler ended up putting up a great fight.
Ziggler managed to take out Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins before he took both himself and Ambrose over the top rope with a clothesline. Unfortunately for Ziggler, Reigns was there to deliver a Spear that would keep Ziggler down for the 10-count.
Kofi was out fourth, and he had a flurry of offense before The Shield systematically took him out, as well. RVD came out next to the biggest pop out of anyone.
RVD was able to benefit from Kofi hitting Reign with Trouble in Paradise. He looked at one point like he was about to win with a Five-Star Frog Splash, but Triple H's music distracted RVD long enough for Reigns to knock him from the top rope to the floor.
Triple H came out and reprimanded Vickie for making this match before shutting it down and taking her to the back to yell at her and force her to make a six-man tag match for later.
This segment lasted exactly the right amount of time, and it came across very well on TV. Every participant did their job the way they were supposed to, and that is all you can ask when you have a situation like an 11-on-3 handicap gauntlet match that had the potential to be one big mess.
Some notes from the match:
- Why do The Shield get to leave their titles by the corner while everyone else has to give them to the timekeeper?
- All Ziggler needs is one big match where he is against the wall and comes out on top to solidify himself as a top star.
- The pop RVD gets every time he comes out is something you really have to experience in person. He might even be able to challenge Bryan when it comes to the frequency and volume of the crowd's chants.
This was another match that did not last long and certainly didn't stick out as anything special or memorable.
The Wyatt Family are always creepy and entertaining, but even their signature brand of strange couldn't turn this into a great segment.
JBL's reaction to the clothesline that ended the match was probably the most entertaining thing that happened. Not the clothesline, just JBL's reaction.
Some notes from the match:
- Some people might be upset that Wyatt never wrestles while Harper and Rowan do all the heavy lifting, but that is actually one of the better things about their gimmick. As a leader, he should only be fighting when the fight is important, otherwise it's up to his underlings to do his bidding.
- I really hope some big Hollywood director sees the immense talent Wyatt has and puts him in the role of a psychopath in a movie. It's really amazing how far he has come since being on NXT season two.
- Ryder and Gabriel could make a good tag team, but I would rather see Gabriel paired back up with Tyson Kidd.
Triple H went to the trainer's room where RVD was being looked at, and he apologized to RVD for being put in the handicap match in the first place. He gave RVD a rematch for the World title at Battleground and then left.
RVD seemed happy, but a few seconds later he was brutally attacked by Alberto Del Rio, which led to Michael Cole questioning if Triple H had set up the attack as revenge for RVD helping Bryan on Monday.
Triple H's new gimmick of the slimy businessman is really making his character feel fresh again, and this attack re-established the feud between RVD and Del Rio nicely.
Clearly, this is being done so Ricardo Rodriguez can be kept in the mix until RVD goes on hiatus, but I don't care. They will have a great match just like they did at Night of Champions, but RVD will probably come up short again since he might be taking a break soon.
Some notes from the segment:
- Where was Del Rio hiding, behind the cameraman? I assume the room only had one door, and he came from the opposite end of the room when he attacked RVD.
- Did anyone else laugh when Del Rio grabbed the box and threw it at RVD to get one last hit in before leaving?
- That trainer was a coward.
On any other night this would have been a throwaway match, but on a night where most of the matches were short and dull, this stood out as one of the better bouts.
Truth and Del Rio are similar in a lot of ways. They are similar in size. They both use their feet as much as their fists. They both have the ability to wrestle you or take the air, and it was clear that these two had great ring chemistry.
I wish the match had lasted a little longer, but I will take what I can get at this point.
- Someone should tell Del Rio that he isn't cut enough to do the peck bounce. It just looks like he has a flabby chest when he does it.
- Was that a 1980s-style Motorola pager on Truth's belt during his entrance? If so, then I want to know where he got it so I can get one. I am sick of my cell phone and being so accessible all the time.
- I never thought I would say this, but I miss Little Jimmy. Truth has literally gone backward in his career to the point where I do not think he will ever be in WWE title matches ever again, which is unfortunate because he is really talented in all the right ways.
I don't have to tell you that this ended up being the match of the night because it should be obvious after the rest of the show.
Bryan picked up the pin and the win for his team after hitting the running knee to Ambrose. The show ended with Bryan and The Usos celebrating in the ring.
It's too bad the whole show wasn't as good as the main event.
Some notes from the match:
- One of the best things about Daniel Bryan is that he keeps bringing new moves into his arsenal. Adding the top-rope hurricanrana was a great decision as it is always an exciting move to witness.
- At one point I imagine this exact conversation took place between The Usos and Vince McMahon.
"Jon, Josh. It's great to sign you to a contract. We're happy to have the sons of Rikishi on the roster"—Vince McMahon.
"Thanks for the opportunity, Mr. McMahon."—The Usos
"We love that you're twins with alliterative names, but instead of Jon and Josh we are going to call you Jimmy and Jay, but we will spell Jay with an E so it's different."—Vince McMahon
"Can't we just keep our real names?"—The Usos
"This is WWE, dammit! We're the people who changed Bryan Danielson to Daniel Bryan. Of course you can't keep your real names. Now get out of my office before I rename you both Michael McGillicutty!"—Vince McMahon
When the non-wrestling segments outshine most of the matches, you know there is something wrong.
This week's episode of SmackDown was somewhat of a letdown. Most of the matches were short and did more to advance the WWE title storyline than they did entertain the fans.
Triple H, Orton and Bryan all gave great performances throughout the night, but everything else was just filler and garbage.
As a longtime WWE fan, it pains me to give such a negative review of an entire show. I want WWE to be great every week, but it's bound to drop the ball from time to time. Let's hope it picks it back up for next week.
- Randy Orton will win the WWE title at Battleground.
- Natalya will win the Divas title at Battleground.
- Rey Mysterio will return to feud with Alberto Del Rio for the World title, and Ricardo Rodriguez will join Mysterio as his personal ring announcer to keep him involved with ADR.
- The Shield will start to show cracks in their foundation after they lose one of their titles at Battleground.
- Triple H will end up in a match with Daniel Bryan at Hell in a Cell or Survivor Series.
- Curtis Axel will become jealous of Paul Heyman paying attention to Ryback, turn babyface and then face Ryback at a PPV for the IC title in the near future.
- Santino will become irrelevant again after Battleground.
- Xavier Woods will be wasted just like R-Truth, Kaval and most of the other people WWE has poached from TNA over the years. I hope I am wrong about this one, but I am probably right.
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.