The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown (August 1)
With the programs between John Cena and Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton and Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon dominating headlines coming out of Monday's Raw, this week's SmackDown focused the spotlight on the more prevalent midcard feuds heading into August 17's SummerSlam extravaganza.
Chris Jericho squared off with Erick Rowan in the night's main event and had plenty to wrestle for. A win would mean Rowan would be barred from ringside when Y2J meets Bray Wyatt at the summertime spectacular. Did Jericho succeed in taking one step closer to evening the odds at SummerSlam or did Rowan pick up the biggest singles win of his career?
Dean Ambrose was at a disadvantage when he met Seth Rollins and Kane in a Handicap match. Would this be the night the Lunatic Fringe was left unable to get up or would he fend off both of his rivals, intensifying the feud with Rollins ahead of SummerSlam in the process?
Paige's latest attack on AJ Lee left her immobilized, a brace supporting her neck and preventing further injury as she was stretchered out of the arena. Suddenly, questions surrounding the mental state of the former Divas champion and the extent that she is willing to go to avenge her title loss to AJ over a month ago.
Dolph Ziggler once again lost to Alberto Del Rio, thanks to a distraction from current Intercontinental champion The Miz. The budding rivalry between the Ohioans seemingly sets up a championship bout for SummerSlam, though such a match is unconfirmed. If and when they finally clash, expect the Showoff to do everything in his power to shut the Hollywood Superstar up for good.
Another eventful edition of SmackDown is in the books, meaning WWE has completed one more stop on the road to SummerSlam. Find out everything they did right Friday night with this week's edition of the Good, the Great and the Awesome.
A second consecutive loss for Bo Dallas sent the inspirational Superstar over the edge and resulted in a brutal beating administered to his opponent, R-Truth.
While the match that preceded the post-bell events was far from anything special, the assault added another layer to the Dallas character and showcased an intensity and aggression that few knew he possessed.
By telling the audience that "Bo-lieving is a spiritual experience. I know all of you have not lost faith," Dallas seemed to be reassuring himself as much as he was the WWE Universe.
Where the character goes from here is not readily apparent. At one point it looked like he may be headed for a three-way rivalry with Dolph Ziggler and The Miz over the Intercontinental Championship. That does not appear to be the case anymore.
An expanded feud with R-Truth may be an option, though the former United States champion is hardly over enough at this point in his career to benefit Dallas in any significant way.
Divas champion AJ Lee tore through Rosa Mendes, forcing a tapout to the Black Widow, but her night would not end on a celebratory note. Instead of leaving Corpus Christi satisfied with her dominant performance, Lee was left lying unconscious after being shoved off the stage and to the arena floor.
Paige exclaimed from the stage, "That's my friend!" She repeatedly stated "she's fine," even though it quickly became apparent that was not the case.
The segment was short in length but quite heavy in character and story development.
Paige either lost her mind when she lost her title or is completely disingenuous in her characterization of her relationship with Lee being one of friendship. At first, it seemed like the latter was the case but after watching Friday's show, it appears as though WWE Creative is taking the former approach, crafting yet another mentally unstable female character.
Why they continue to use that booking crutch rather than creating a smart, cerebral female character is unknown. While it may not be the freshest story, Paige's performance thus far has been quite good and the Divas title is at the center of an actual story rather than a series of matches and rematches.
That will help the title and the performers in the long run, but it is a shame it will do so on the back of such repetitive storytelling.
Kane and Seth Rollins tried desperately to put Dean Ambrose permanently out of action Friday night but found out that the guts and determination of the Lunatic Fringe are stronger than any physical assault they could deal out.
Ambrose withstood the onslaught of his opponents, then unloaded with furious vengeance as he grabbed a steel chair and leveled the Big Red Monster with it. Rollins took a shot as well but was able to bail out of the ring and head up the ramp, watching as Ambrose continued his attack on Kane and then stood tall in the center of the ring.
It is interesting that WWE has not officially announced Ambrose vs. Rollins for SummerSlam yet or revealed any sort of stipulation for the bout. It is readily apparent that there is no way the company can present the match as a classic singles match. It absolutely needs a gimmick to capitalize on the hatred between the two competitors, and after Friday night and Ambrose's use of the chairs, that is likely to happen.
With only two weeks until the biggest event of the summer, it is time for WWE to finally announce the match, reveal the stipulation and build the story from there. Otherwise, they risk losing some of the momentum and heat the performers have garnered over the last two months.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio met for what felt like the 1,000th time this year Friday night, and as they have proven several times in the past, the performers have a chemistry with one another that simply does not allow them to have a bad match. Even the most lackluster bout between them is better than many of the Superstars will ever be capable of.
As entertaining as their matches are, the focus was not on the in-ring action. Instead, it was on Intercontinental champion The Miz and his budding feud with Ziggler. The loudmouth, Hollywood star cost Ziggler the match and intensified the feud, which looks headed for a spot on the SummerSlam card.
Thus far, Ziggler and Miz have been perfect enemies for one another. One is an arrogant, braggadocios competitor who believes in his skills and will tell everyone how great he is; the other is The Miz.
Fans have an emotional connection with Ziggler. He is a hard-worker whose determination to prove himself as the most consistently great in-ring performer on television has never wavered, even when his push was seemingly non-existent.
Miz, as the recipient of so many pushes throughout his career, is one of the company's golden boys. His new character makes him that much more unlikable and creates a scenario in which Ziggler will continue to work hard in his quest to capture the Intercontinental Championship while Miz takes every possible shortcut to retain the prestige that comes with wearing the gold around his waist.
Jack Swagger vs. Cesaro: Summertime Showdown With Rusev
Raise your hand if you thought Jack Swagger, not Cesaro, would be a hotter star heading into SummerSlam.
This week's SmackDown kicked off with a very competitive match between the former tag team partners, a match won by Swagger with the Patriot Lock. It was the first time that Swagger got to showcase what kind of worker he will be as a babyface in an expanded match against anyone other than Rusev.
Needless to say, his work was very effective. The crowd was hot and invested in the action, while a win over someone as legitimate and respected as the Swiss Superman was a tremendous boost to Swagger, who has recovered tremendously following an embarrassing few months in post-WrestleMania WWE.
The post-match challenge from Lana for a Flag match between Swagger and Rusev at SummerSlam was perfect and now gives fans another contest to look forward to come August 17. The flag stipulation is exactly what the feud needs given the groundwork that has been laid to this point. More importantly, it sets up a scenario in which Rusev can lose a match without actually being pinned or made to submit.
Randy Orton Promo
The Randy Orton that ran and hid behind Triple H and Stephanie McMahon is no more, as his assault on Roman Reigns on Monday and his promo on Friday's SmackDown proved.
Orton was strong and passionate as he addressed the beatdown from Raw and laid down a challenge for a match at SummerSlam.
The story between The Viper and the juggernaut that is Reigns is absolutely spectacular. They have been entangled in a rivalry for so many months now that they both understand the importance of beating the other and exorcising them from their lives.
Orton knows that he can not refocus his attention on regaining the WWE World Heavyweight Championship until Reigns is out of the picture and unable to adversely affect his quest to wear the gold for a 15th time.
Reigns, conversely, cannot take the next step toward achieving greatness until he defeats Orton and proves his superiority over the third-generation star.
It is simple yet incredibly effective storytelling. They stand in each other's way and the only way to move forward is to clear the remaining hurdle. One man will be able to do that come August 17. The other will have to rehabilitate their ego and career.
Chris Jericho vs. Erick Rowan
Don't look now, but Erick Rowan has developed into quite the talented big man, as evidenced by Friday's main event against Chris Jericho.
Rowan used his considerable power advantage to wear Jericho down, but his inexperience as a singles competitor and lack of partner to tag into the match reared its ugly head. Jericho capitalized on an opening, caught him with the Codebreaker and won a tremendously competitive match.
The loss means Rowan will be barred from ringside for Jericho's battle with Bray Wyatt at SummerSlam. With two weeks to go until that major rematch, expect to see Jericho take on Luke Harper with a similar stipulation.