The Not-So Rookie's Guide to Smackdown Vol. 2: How About Something Good For A Change
Mid-July 2015 has been a great time to be a wrestling fan. After three of the four NXT Horsewomen (Pony Gals?) made their game-changing appearance on Monday Night Raw, our Battleground go-home Smackdown now finds itself in a somewhat must-watch situation. This scenario is somewhat exacerbated by reports that two WWE legends are rumored to appear at WWE Battleground.
Whether WWE will be able to capitalize on the hype leading into what has normally been a throw away pay per view has yet to be seen. Although, based on results from this broadcast, WWE finally seems to righted the ship somewhat in terms of superstar momentum (unless of course you're King Barrett) and most importantly giving fans what they want.
What we want of course is more Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns opened the show with a decent by Roman Reigns standards promo regarding his recent feud with Bray Wyatt. Reigns takes time to adequately sell the tag team main event while taking slight shots at Wyatt. Reigns' portion of the opening promo is largely forgettable, thankfully Bray Wyatt was there to save the day.
While only appearing on the Titantron, Wyatt's monologue is everything a good promo should be. Wyatt's cryptic messages such as, “I know why they chose you,” are a great example of a way to blend the “Reality Era” with the last strands of Kayfabe. Wyatt closes the promo with demanding Reigns use his time off to say good byes and I love you to his family and friends because he may not return from Battleground. Excellent work.
The Lucha Dragons vs The New Day
The tag team division has been in a state of flux for sometime, due in part to the injury bug. The Brass Ring Club is likely no more due to Somoa Joe murdering Tyson Kidd. Team Dusty is likely also done due to Golddust's shoulder surgery. Alongside the injury bug, we have teams that are either unpopular and untalented like The Ascension, or popular and very talented like the Lucha Dragons. The problem is, the latter hasn't been given a shot, at least yet.
The New Day continues their impressive climb towards that brass ring, almost solely on the shoulders of Xavier Woods and Big E. Big E in the past has pulled his weight in on the mic and in the ring, tonight though, along with Kofi Kingston the pair put on a great heel tag team performance against the high flyers. Hard strikes dominate this match as New Day holds much of the momentum. After a distraction by way of Woods, New Day hits their finisher for the pin.
During the match, our current champs graced the universe with their presence on commentary. In response to Woods running his mouth post match, The Prime Time Players enter the ring, chasing New Day back to the locker room despite being outnumbering PTP by one man.
While on the subject of PTP, Titus O'Neil in particular,listening to him carry on with fellow shitty commentator Jimmy Uso as though they were two crows sitting on a power line was certainly something to listen to. Free tip WWE, just sent Jimmy Uso home and let him draw a paycheck instead of putting him behind the desk. After this performance, I'm starting to miss JBL.
King Barrett vs Jack Swagger
Like most matches involving Jack Swagger, this one is largely forgettable and by the book. Swagger hits a few hard strikes and gets an opportunity to shout “We the People,” before getting hit with a finisher and getting pinned. Such is the life of a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion from the mid 2000s.
Post match, King "Whats Up" R-Truth appears to continue whatever over the top gimmick he's trying to run with, complete with beach towel, foil crown and soaking wet toilet plunger. King Barrett for his part retorts and thankfully cuts R-Truth's promo short, chastising him for making a mockery of the once prestigious King of the Ring crown and title. Barrett's words hit with a genuine sense of passion and pride for his title of King of the Ring. Sad considering Barrett has been on a losing streak since holding the Intercontinental Championship sometime ago.
Cesaro vs Rusev
For sometime now, Cesaro has been the best physical example of everything wrong with WWE. Cesaro is crazy talented, perhaps the most on the roster. Not only is Cesaro freakishly strong, he is a gifted athlete with fantastic ring presence and a real love for the business. If I was building a federation from scratch, it would rest on the shoulders of a man like Cesaro. Vince McMahon apparently disagrees.
Some time ago, on the inaugural edition of the Stone Cold Podcast, Vince McMahon claimed that guys like Cesaro don't have it, and need to reach for the “Brass Ring”. Vince McMahon couldn't picture Cesaro as a sucessful Superstar, despite a growing and very vocal fan base expressing the contrary on a weekly basis.
On the heels of a fantastic match with John Cena and last week's triple threat vs Kevin Owens and Rusev, Cesaro's journey to main event status appears to have finally begun with this impressive victory over Rusev. With Rusev still being booked as the invincible, vicious heel, Cesaro joins the short list alongside John Cena as the only two men to beat Rusev clean on the main roster.
While some may disagree with the statement, this actually could be a viable contender for match of the year, at the very least match of the quarter. For me, it was a lack of false finishes and a focus on hard hitting ring work instead of high spots that made this a memorable contest. Cesaro and Rusev take time to showcase their technical skills and sheer strength during the match, a welcome surprise in a program that hasn't been watchable in some time. Cesaro claimed in an earlier promo that as long as he's around that wrestling would never die. He proved Thursday he wasn't lying.
Stardust vs Neville
Stardust has returned to action as a full on heel, and that's a great thing for his character. Cody is one of, if not the best talker WWE has right now and that is something that WWE can't afford to not nurture. Contrary to what the keyboard crowd would have you believe, the Stardust gimmick is the second best thing thats happened to Cody Rhodes in his career.
Heel Stardust is the first best thing to have happened to Cody Rhodes in his career, certainly since taking on the Stardust gimmick. Coming off a heelish win a week prior, Stardust turns up the scum factor in this match, again attempting to score a victory via the ropes. After getting into an epic shouting match with the referee, Neville took the opportunity to steal a victory himself, scoring via a roll up pin.
Post match, Stardust would attack Neville in true heel fashion. Stardust is a much needed edition to the roster and I only hope that the rest of the WWE universe comes to their senses soon before the gimmick is dropped. There isn't much of a match here to discuss, but what there is here to grade is Stardust and his amazing ring presence. From his unpredictable mannerisms and odd cryptic promo work, he is running circles around even the best stickmen, even your hero Bray Wyatt.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs Big Show and Sheamus
Operation: Shove Roman Reigns Down Our Throats moves on to day 352 as Reigns attempts to share the spotlight in our main event. As stated on our award winning podcast, Running the Ropes, we believe that Reigns will be our champion soon, whether we like it or not. Although it's not like we've ever really had a say in the matter.
Despite a rough start to 2015 and end to 2014, and a summer of little improvement, Roman Reigns remains on the fast track to stardom. After repeated matches against Big Show, its difficult to feel that Reigns has accomplished anything with another victory. This feeling is compounded by the fact that Big Show has been wrestling for 20 plus years and many men before him have conquered the Giant.
Ambrose sadly, seems to be getting worse and worse with each appearance. Since his somewhat lackluster feud against Seth Rollins, Ambrose appears to have been drifting from opponent to opponent, waiting for creative to put him against the next heel needing a bump. His lack of direction is the reason Shamus is in the match, and not some other random heel.
For what its worth, the match itself was hard hitting and entertaining enough, mostly thanks again to strong booking preference given to Reigns. Sheamus and Big Show get some opportunity to score some hard hits, but Reigns would normally come out ahead. As the match would hit its crescendo, Bray Wyatt would appear to force the DQ. Although Wyatt would attempt to hit the Sister Abigail, Reigns would kick out and send Wyatt to the outside. Of course, Reigns would get the last laugh, hitting Sheamus with a spear for the win.
Despite a lackluster main event and... well... lackluster matches in general, this episode somehow slides its way firmly into the “watch” category. Cesaro/Rusev is a fantasic, must watch match, yes. Yet, there's something more to this Smackdown that makes it more watchable and enjoyable than others before it. Stardust, New Day and King Barrett all play an important role in bailing this sinking ship. While I doubt this a sign of a radical change for Smackdown as a program, this certainly was a welcome Thursday night surprise.
Smackdown Rating: 4/5 Stardust Promos