The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown 5/2/14
Just 48 hours away from Extreme Rules, the unpredictable Dean Ambrose found himself on the receiving end of an unfair edict from The Authority as he was forced to defend his United States Championship against Alberto Del Rio, Ryback and Curtis Axel. With the biggest match of his career upcoming this Sunday night, would he be able to focus on the task at hand, or would he drop the title he has held for nearly a year?
Daniel Bryan appeared on this week's broadcast to discuss his WWE World Heavyweight Championship defense against Kane. He addressed the attacks he has suffered at the hands of the Big Red Monster and changed his tone when discussing the events of Monday night and the involvement of his wife, Brie. He promised a war, to which Kane responded with laughter.
In preparation for his steel cage match with John Cena Sunday night, Bray Wyatt teamed with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to take on Sheamus and the Usos in an extremely competitive six-man tag match. The Wyatt Family narrowly avoided a loss and continued to roll heading into this weekend's much-anticipated contest.
Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow helped to fill out the remainder of the card.
In celebration of Extreme Rules weekend, here now is a look back at the best of the best from Friday night's broadcast.
Bryan and Kane's Final Exchange
Days before their match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Daniel Bryan and Kane exchanged words with one another in an attempt to add a little bit of last-minute heat to their clash.
Bryan cut a very basic underdog babyface promo, discussing how much family means to him and how he will summon his heart and determination to leave East Rutherford with the WWE title.
He turned his attention to the fact that Kane put his hands on Brie Bella and that now it is a war between them this Sunday night.
Pyro exploded, and Kane appeared on the video screen. He cut a typical Big Red Monster promo, promising to give Bryan a tour of the Devil's house and introduce him to new depths of depravity. He laughed, the arena was cloaked in red lighting, and everyone had a good time.
The segment was cookie-cutter storytelling, but it did a nice job of getting Bryan on television heading into his first title defense.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien "Magneto" Sandow
At only three minutes, the match between Ziggler and Sandow never really had the opportunity to be good or bad, but what it did was play up the story that began Monday night when Sandow, dressed as Magneto, interrupted Ziggler and Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman.
For the second consecutive time, Ziggler got one over on Sandow. One can only hope that the events of Monday and Friday lead to a character change of sorts for Sandow, who is far too talented to continue being wasted in such a role.
Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger
Just days after dropping a match to Bad News Barrett and missing out on the opportunity to compete for the Intercontinental Championship this Sunday against Big E, thanks to interference from Cesaro and Jack Swagger on Raw, Rob Van Dam met Swagger in singles competition on SmackDown.
The match was competitive, but above all else, it added heat to the match between Van Dam, Swagger and Cesaro at this weekend's Extreme Rules.
Van Dam picked up the win, but it was the Swiss Superman who had reason to celebrate, as he left Mr. Monday Night lying following the Neutralizer.
Could that indicate that Cesaro is not, in fact, the favorite to win Sunday night as WWE's 50/50 booking style dictates? Or will the impressive physical specimen be able to buck the trend and continue his mightily impressive 2014?
Big E vs. Titus O'Neil
Titus O'Neil continued his new aggressive streak on SmackDown, as he and Intercontinental champion Big E had a very intense, very physical match that more closely resembled an all-out brawl than an actual bout.
The action spilled out of the ring, and the competitors beat and battered one another with reckless abandon for one another's health and welfare. The hitting was stiff, the impact was hard, and the crowd responded favorably to what they were seeing.
For the second time this week, the overly aggressive O'Neil wound up on the receiving end of his opponent's finishing move, this time eating a Big Ending from the Intercontinental champion, but he made an indelible mark on the viewing audience, and that is much more than can be said about his first three months as a singles competitor.
Sheamus and The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
Another excellent six-man tag match kicked off this week's broadcast as the Wyatt Family took on "Celtic Warrior" Sheamus and WWE Tag Team champions The Usos in a match set up by the events of this past Tuesday's Main Event.
On that show, Sheamus suffered a loss to the Wyatts in a hard-fought match then found himself on the receiving end of a beatdown by Erick Rowan and Luke Harper. The Usos made the save, necessitating a match between the two sides on Friday night.
The high-energy, frenetically paced match featured Sheamus and the Usos mounting a major comeback late in the match, only for Bray to catch Jey Uso with Sister Abigail for the pinfall victory.
Bray is riding a wave of momentum heading into Sunday's steel cage showdown with John Cena, and Friday's win only helped intensify said momentum.
Whether he can relay that momentum into the biggest win of his career remains a mystery.
At least, for 24 more hours.
Fatal 4-Way for the United States Championship
The match may not have been spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, but the story told was absolutely phenomenal and played into the character of Dean Ambrose as we know him thus far.
Like a yapping Chihuahua, Ambrose does a lot of talking and is very animated but often times receives a tremendous beating before hiding behind the more dynamic and dominant Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
Friday night, he was on his own and suffered quite a bit of abuse at the hands of Alberto Del Rio, Ryback and Curtis Axel. In fact, during the closing moments of the bout, he was lying in the timekeeper's station, completely uninvolved in the action.
After Ryback flattened Del Rio with Shellshock and Axel pulled his partner out of the ring, Ambrose recovered just long enough to catch Axel with a roll-up for what can best be described as an upset.
Here, again, was an Ambrose who took a beating, did nothing of note yet still was capable of capitalizing on an opening and retaining his title. It was superb storytelling and played perfectly into the Ambrose character.