The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown (July 4)
A holiday episode of Raw or SmackDown can typically take one of two paths. It can either be a solid show featuring great wrestling, or it can descend into silliness and feature all sorts of gimmick matches pertaining to said holiday.
Friday night, WWE presented an episode of SmackDown that featured brief tributes to the United States and a strong statement from Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter to Rusev and Lana, but it was largely a show that featured good wrestling and the advancement of several programs.
There were no comedy skits, no backstage barbecue parties or extravagant displays of American pride. Instead, everything stayed on task and meant something in relation to top stories and building toward the July 20 Battleground event.
Dean Ambrose finished off his monumental week with a great performance against Randy Orton. Roman Reigns provided backup for his friend in the face of a beatdown by The Viper and Seth Rollins.
Sheamus appropriately defended the United States Championship on the country's birthday, taking on Alberto Del Rio as they renewed their rivalry.
Paige had the best seat in the house as she watched AJ Lee take on a Total Divas star, the red-hot Eva Marie, while Bo Dallas dedicated his match against Diego to former WWE World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan.
It was a solid placeholder episode of SmackDown as we gear up for what should be a very eventful episode of Monday Night Raw.
Relive the very best of the best from the July 4 broadcast now with The Good, the Great and the Awesome!
Mutual Respect or Mind Games?
Just days after losing the Divas Championship to the returning AJ Lee, Paige sat ringside and watched as the new champion made quick work of Eva Marie.
After the match, the Norwich, England, native calmly entered the ring and extended her hand to AJ. The champion was cautious, unsure of Paige's intentions. She accepted the sign of respect before the younger Diva stepped aside and let her have the spotlight.
The viewer could see the wheels turning in Paige's head. There was more to her display of respect than just wanting to congratulate the woman who took her title and rendered all of her hard work over the last two months meaningless. She has a plan, and whether that plan includes a heel turn for the company's resident Anti-Diva remains to be seen.
That Paige and AJ are working together in a storyline over the Divas Championship is exactly what the division needs. Both ladies are incredibly talented workers and have proven as much over the last year, working great matches against a myriad of opponents in both NXT and WWE. Putting them against one another, perhaps as soon as Battleground, and letting them have time to deliver a quality match could be the long-awaited spark that the Divas division needs.
Cesaro and Big E Brawl
Prior to a scheduled match against Cesaro, Big E stated that he was fighting on behalf of his friend Kofi Kingston, who was the victim of a heinous and violent assault at the hands of the Swiss Superman. It was a simple explanation for Big E and Cesaro's match and gave fans watching at home a reason to be emotionally invested in the match.
It was a little thing that WWE Creative should do more often to explain why two guys are wrestling one another rather than just throwing them together.
The brawl that ensued between the competitors was very well done and helped make both look like favorites in the upcoming Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal at Battleground.
A well-executed segment that served a purpose and put heat on the upcoming pay-per-view bout.
Chris Jericho made his first appearance on SmackDown in over a year and addressed his return to WWE this past Monday night. He turned his attention to Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family, who spoiled what should have been a triumphant moment.
"You want to get crazy? I can get crazy!" Jericho warned. This brought about a promo from Wyatt, who spoke from the TitanTron. He introduced himself to Jericho, running down some of the names he is recognized by. "I am the color red in a world of black and white," he said.
Wyatt told Jericho that the world needs a savior and mocked the "Save Us Y2J" catchphrase before telling Jericho to save himself.
With Jericho's blood boiling, The Miz made the unfortunate mistake of interrupting the first WWE Undisputed champion and paid for it with a Codebreaker. Jericho had a look of intensity on his face, putting over the psychological effect Wyatt's attack Monday and his promo Friday night had.
The Jericho-Wyatt feud is an excellent way to reintroduce Y2J. It keeps the spotlight on the excellent Wyatt and gives the future Hall of Famer Jericho something meaningful, something interesting to sink his teeth into.
If their match in NXT in 2013 is any indication, the ring work should be phenomenal. Given the quality of their work on the microphone, the promos may even exceed expectations, which will be incredibly high.
A repeat of Jericho's disappointing 2013 run is not likely.
Jack Swagger: Real American
For the second time this week, Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter interrupted Rusev and Lana's pro-Russia promo. The crowd responded favorably, and the build to an eventual Swagger and Rusev match intensified.
Colter's promo was largely unimpressive and mostly a retread of what he said Monday, but the impressive image of Swagger staring down Rusev, unflinching in the face of the intense Bulgarian Brute, helped make the segment work as well as it did.
The brilliance in the entire ordeal is the reaction Swagger has had to being face-to-face with his new rival. While Big E was incredibly intense and physically confronted Rusev on numerous occasions, Swagger looked unaffected by Rusev, almost unimpressed.
To look unfazed by someone was intimidating as Rusev is a hell of a mind game to play, and Swagger did it magnificently.
Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton
While the country celebrated its independence Friday night, Dean Ambrose capped off his monumental star-making week with a huge main event match on SmackDown.
The Lunatic Fringe not only had to combat the "The Viper" Randy Orton, but he also had to keep an eye on Money in the Bank winner Seth Rollins at ringside and battle through the tremendous pain in his shoulder. Despite Orton targeting his injury, Ambrose remained competitive and was able to hang blow-for-blow with the former WWE World Heavyweight champion.
The temptation proved to be too much, and Ambrose attacked Rollins at ringside. When he re-entered the ring, he was re-energized and had Orton on the ropes. Unfortunately for him, Rollins blasted him in the shoulder with the Money in the Bank briefcase, drawing a disqualification decision and robbing Ambrose of what would have been the biggest win of his career.
Roman Reigns came to his partner's aid, sending Orton and Rollins scurrying and setting up a potential blockbuster tag match as soon as Monday's Raw.
The main event was a great way to finish out a spectacular week of World Wrestling Entertainment television. It continued to spotlight the three former Shield members as they embark on their singles career, and it reminded fans of just how good and underrated a worker Randy Orton is.
"I'm gonna do it for little Daniel!"
There were a lot of concerns about Bo Dallas and whether or not the second-generation star would be able to succeed in World Wrestling Entertainment after his main roster call-up. After all, the gimmick worked in front of the smaller, more intimate NXT crowd but so did Adam Rose, who has failed miserably.
Friday night was a perfect example of why Dallas has succeeded. He is a compelling character who is hilarious but looks like he has a dark side just waiting to emerge if the opportunity presents itself.
The promo he cut on Daniel Bryan and how he was going to win "for little Daniel" was outstanding. Rather than cut a typical heel promo after being humiliated Sunday night during the Money in the Bank, he belittled Bryan and did so in the most backhanded manner.
In the ring, he mocked Los Matadores' Diego, then proceeded to beat him. When El Torito tried to attack him after the match, he momentarily lost his cool and delivered a big press slam, eliciting a chorus of boos from an audience otherwise behind him.
It was that brief moment in which anger took over Dallas and he did something the crowd did not appreciate. Whether that is an element of the character that will be explored more over the next few weeks remains to be seen, but if it is, expect the Bo Dallas character to get even more interesting and over than he already is.
Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio
The United States Championship match between Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio kicked off the in-ring portion of this week's show and did so quite effectively.
The two Superstars have competed against each other a number of times over the last two years, and it showed as the chemistry again proved to be strong.
Del Rio pulling off a rare moonsault from the middle rope was unexpected and proved to be the Mexican aristocrat's downfall. Sheamus rolled out of the way, Del Rio tumbled to the mat and proceeded to run directly into a Brogue Kick from the Celtic Warrior.
Sheamus continues to be a workhorse for WWE, oftentimes turning in the best matches of any given week. While his character is hardly appealing at this point, it is hard to deny that he is one of the best workers of 2014 through the first six months of the year.