The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown (July 11)
The July 11 episode of SmackDown was not necessarily what one would call WWE's finest two hours of programming.
Most of the matches were incredibly short, the wrestling was average in most cases and there was very little action of any real importance. For the most part, the show played out like a placeholder as WWE gears up for its Battleground pay-per-view on July 20.
That does not mean everything was bad.
Chris Jericho and Randy Orton delivered the match of the night in a great, old-school-style wrestling match that showcased the talents of two of this generation's best performers.
Cody Rhodes continued to amaze as Stardust, an absolutely ridiculous gimmick that the talented second-generation star has managed to get over against all odds.
Roman Reigns and Rusev capped off the show in a clash of dominant heavyweights. Both men worked hard and delivered a bout that proved they not only had chemistry together but also are capable of something special in the future.
Bo Dallas continued to entertain audiences across the globe, while Summer Rae and Layla turned the tables on their chauvinistic dance partner, Fandango.
With this week's broadcast in the books and WWE Battleground on the horizon, relive the very best of SmackDown with The Good, the Great and the Awesome.
Breaking the Love Triangle
The feud between Summer Rae and Layla was actually quite entertaining in the buildup to Money in the Bank, but coming out of that pay-per-view, it became apparent rather quickly that WWE Creative had run out of ideas for the program. So rather than allowing it to stretch on another month, thus diminishing its effectiveness, it concluded the story Friday night.
Earlier in the night, Summer Rae and Layla fought at ringside, costing Fandango a match to Adam Rose via countout. Moments later, Michael Cole announced that the Divas would clash in a match just added to the night's card.
Rather than focusing their aggression on one another, they turned it on Fandango. Summer Rae and Layla unleashed on their dance partner, pounding away on him. The Superstar fled from the ring and was forced to watch as Summer and Layla danced together in the middle of the squared circle, much to the delight of Ottawa fans.
"I made you!" Fandango was overheard screaming.
The events of Friday night create several questions in relation to both the Divas and Fandango.
Where does this leave the ballroom dancer, whose beautiful partners have been as much a part of his act as anything he has done? Will he replace them with another gorgeous young woman? Could this be the beginning of the end of the Fandango character? Expect answers in due time.
As for Summer Rae and Layla, are they babyfaces now? Will they became a team of dancers to replace the recently split Funkadactyls? Why is Summer Rae portrayed as a fan favorite on Raw and SmackDown but a heel in NXT?
Questions are not necessarily a bad thing as they create intrigue. If they go unanswered for too long, however, irreparable damage can be done to the performers. Hopefully, WWE Creative has a plan for all involved.
Kudos to Cody Rhodes for getting another absurd character over. Stardust should have never worked, but it is thanks to Rhodes' willingness to go the extra mile to help make it a success. Rhodes is one of the most underrated performers in all of WWE, and his ability to get the ludicrous Stardust character over to the extent that he has done is all the proof that anyone needs to back that claim up.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev
The opening promo of the night might have been a bit shaky for Reigns, who was not nearly as effective on the mic as he was Monday on Raw, but he made up for it in the main event. For the first time since he and the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev, clashed in the Money in the Bank Battle Royal, the two of them squared off in a huge main-event match.
Why WWE wasted such a potential money bout on an episode of SmackDown in front of a crowd in Ottawa, which was not particularly loud or excited for anything, is a mystery. Still, that did not affect the work of either Reigns or Rusev, who both delivered fine performances during a quality contest.
Rusev looked very good, taking down a Superstar who had been portrayed as invincible for the last month, keeping him grounded for the most part. Reigns, facing very real adversity for the first time in quite a while, did a solid job of selling his opponent's onslaught.
The story was incredibly effective. Here you had the tale of the unstoppable force and the immovable object coming together in a titanic clash. Something had to give, and while Reigns appeared to be on his way to dealing Rusev his first loss, the interference from Randy Orton and the disqualification finish leave many questions as to who would have won had it reached its conclusion.
The outcome creates a scenario where WWE can save the match for further down the line, perhaps after Reigns captures the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and is legitimized as a main-event star. Hopefully, Rusev can maintain momentum until then.
Frequent readers of the Good, the Great and the Awesome know of this writer's affinity for the Bo Dallas character. Friday night was the perfect example of why said affinity exists.
With El Torito lying face down, obviously hurt, Dallas could be overheard asking: "Is he hurt?" He feigned showing concern, trying to help the mascot up, then proceeded to lay him out with a Bo-Dog. While the intention was to get the crowd to boo his actions, it was clear that the canned heat did not match the very obvious cheers from the crowd.
WWE has to be very careful with how they book Dallas. So desperate are they to make him a heel that they are resorting to cheap villainous activities straight out of the 1980s. The problem is that Dallas is so invested in his character and so effective in the role that fans recognize how good he is.
They appreciate his dedication to the inspirational gimmick and are likely to cheer him regardless of what he does.
At this point, WWE Creative would be wise to let the fans dictate which course the Bo Dallas character takes.
Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton
The best match of the night served two purposes: It allowed Orton to get a fairly clean victory over a fellow future Hall of Famer heading into his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Battleground, while simultaneously continuing to fuel the Chris Jericho-Bray Wyatt feud that will intensify with a match at the same show.
Jericho and Orton are among the best workers in professional wrestling today, so given the time that was extended to them, great things were to be expected. Neither really broke out anything more or less than they typically do, but even the most basic of stuff from those two is better than what most others are capable of delivering at any given time.
The finish, which saw Orton capitalize on a distraction by the Wyatt Family and deliver the RKO for the victory, was done well and did nothing to hurt Y2J in the eyes of the fans.
While most of the attention was on Jericho and the Battleground match with Wyatt, enough cannot be said about The Viper and the workhorse he has been for WWE over the last three years. The guy consistently appears on Raw and SmackDown, wrestles on both shows, makes most of the house-show tours and never seems to complain.
More importantly, he is often part of the best matches. That he works as hard and as much as he does is something that is criminally underrated by fans when discussing his greatness. While his booking may be as bad as it's ever been right now, he has not allowed that to affect his work rate.
And that is more commendable than anything.