The Not-So Rookie's Guide to Smackdown Vol. 3: Sleep. Sleep. Break the Streak.
Some short time ago, I had the difficult task of opening a wrestling review with a brief remembrance of the legend, Dusty Rhodes. Sadly, history chose to repeat itself much too quickly, as we send our deepest condolences to the family of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a legend who was taken far too soon.
So many stars of today and yesteryear owe their careers to Piper. Hogan, Jericho, Austin, The Rock, Kevin Owens, The Miz, all take ques and traits from Hot Rod. Without Piper's Pit there would be no Highlight Reel, no Miz TV. Without Piper's legendary feud vs Cyndi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano, there wouldn't be a mainstream build to Wrestlemania. Forget Hulk Hogan and Mr.T, Piper made WWE. The real tragedy is that his death comes directly on the heels of his spat with Steve Austin and Podcast One. Piper was a rare breed of celebrity, one that even post stardom deserved every bit of a the spotlight he received.
Like most of my generation, I had missed most of Roddy Piper's run in WWE. My memories of Piper come courtesy of the WWE Network. While not introduced to his career directly, its not difficult to recognize how powerful and influential his contributions to the industry were. His mic work is far and away some of the greatest in the business, and if it currently isn't, it should serve as required training for anyone even considering a career in professional wrestling.
We'll miss you Hot Rod.
Strange things have taken place on WWE programming as of late, as longtime whipping boy, Smackdown, has taken the lead as must-watch television for fans, while NXT and Raw continue to slide into mediocrity. While having two back to back good episodes is hardly worthy of being deemed a “streak”, it's been refreshing to not have to report week after week that this week's Smackdown was like the last one.
Does Smackdown score a hat trick and give us another great installment, or does this middle child join the rest of the family in giving us a yawner?
Cesaro vs Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins opens our show as he would an edition of Raw, with an opening tirade. While this is standard procedure in WWE, and has been for years, seeing our heels come out week after week and give these long winded soliloquies about how they're not chicken shits or pussies is getting quite tiring. This one was a bit different though. With the backdrop of Rollins smashing John Cena's face in on this week's Raw, Rollins was able to interject a bit of passion and realism into his tirade.
Cesaro would enter to stifle his speech, and the two get their advertised match underway earlier than expected. Much like their match a week prior, the two show off their amazing chemistry together early on in the bout. Early in the fight, Kevin Owens enters to join the commentary desk; it doesn't take a genius to figure out what is about to happen.
After a decent, hard-hitting match, and after it appears that Rollins is sure to lose, KO interferes and forces the disqualification. Kevin Owens's character is in the strangest place currently and its getting a tad sad to watch. After running into the Acme brand “John Cena Brick Wall”, Owens floated a feud with Rusev and Cesaro, and is now teaming with Seth Rollins. Teaming with Rollins is an even odder choice considering he has called himself a prize fighter, and Rollins has the biggest prize of them all. Why Owens has any vested interest in Rollins saving face is a mystery to me.
KO's interference is our backdrop to the main event: Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins vs Cesaro and a partner of his choosing. If you were able to deduce that KO was going to interfere in the match during his time on commentary, then you should probably be able to figure out who Cesaro's tag team partner is going to be.
The Ascension and The New Day vs Los Matadores and The Lucha Dragons
Multi-man tag matches are among my least favorite to watch in WWE for multiple reasons. Its nearly impossible for each member of a given team to get any amount of screen time, and it almost always devolves into either a total mess or a disqualification. This match suffered a tad extra due to the inclusion of the Prime Time Players on commentary, although they were no where near as annoying as they were their last stint on the commentary desk. Extra points go to Darren Young and his awesome reading glasses.
The actual match was adequate enough but nothing spectacular. Lucha Dragons spent much of the match in the ring, with El Torito stealing much of the spotlight away from Los Matadores, scoring a 619. Team Kalisto would eventually score the victory after Sin Cara spent most of the match getting his ass kicked in typical Lucha Dragon fashion.
Tag team wrestling in WWE is in a really good spot right now. The division is full of unique and diverse characters, but slamming them all together and putting one of the champs on commentary is too much. So much in fact, aside from Young and his cute glasses, and a midget in a bull costume, there's not much exciting to recall during the match.
Rusev vs Jack Swagger
With all of the chatter of Swagger being unhappy with his current push in WWE, its nice to see him back on WWE programming, and against what has been one of his strongest opponents, Rusev. Sadly, Zeb Coulter is no longer with us, and Swagger is a far cry from his days as champion, but hopefully Swagger is on the road to recovery.
As is the case in their prior contests, the pair put on a decent match. Their chemistry and their high comfort level show, as their hits connected with high impact. Swagger would spend much of the match on offense, a role reversal from the same time last year.
Despite Swagger appearing much stronger against Rusev than in prior matches, Rusev would come away with the win via The Accolade. Although Swagger would make a valid attempt to break the hold, he would eventually tap, a sad fate for a man wrestling with home field advantage. Swagger would come away with the last laugh though, as Rusev would fail at a post match assault. Rusev's aggression was rewarded in the form of a sloppy and quick Patriot Lock.
R-Truth vs Stardust
R-Truth finds himself square in the middle of our latest framing device for the Neville and Green Arrow vs Stardust feud in a throwaway match that existed solely to burn time off the clock. Speaking of the Green Arrow, During this entire feud, I feel like Neville was inserted in case of the likely event that Steven Amell backs out Summer Slam.
Stardust has always been at the top of the promo game in modern WWE, and this feud is no different. Stardust has completely bought into the character, and its showing in this “Super Villain” feud against Neville. Neville, on the other hand can't keep up, and its showing in embarrassing fashion. On Smackdown a week prior, after Stardust's amazing promo Neville's response was to simply shrug his shoulders and shake his head. Don't understand a character? Or can't buy into a character better than yours? Simply dismiss it, and you become a babyface.
After hitting The Queen's Crossbow and scoring the victory, Neville would rush the ring post-match to settle the score from a week prior. Seeing as it's not a WWE program without a heel turning tail through the crowd, or without getting Red Hat Guy on camera, Stardust accomplishes both as he flees through the audience to fight another day.
Cesaro and Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens
I'm guessing that you were able to figure out Cesaro's partner, and if you weren't then I sincerely envy the obliviousness towards the product. Dean Ambrose in this match was absolute dead weight, much as he's been since his feud with Bray Wyatt. Hopefully my malaise towards Ambrose is temporary, but he reminds me of John Cena in the ring, and I don't like it.
Most standard matches involving Dean Ambrose tend to go down in the same fashion. Hard clothesline, fall-away clothesline, Bionic Elbow/Flying Elbow, Failed Dirty Deeds, loss. While every wrestler has their own end of match sequence, watching stars like Ambrose as of late, it feels like they just go through the motions. While Cena has the Five Moves of Doom, at least he occasionally innovates his move set. Have you ever seen the Springboard Stunner, or the sort of Canadian Destroyer on WWE television? Neither had I.
Frankly, this match would have been better suited as a straight up rematch rather than a tag match, as KO and Ambrose simply weighed the other two down. Cesaro is white hot and needs to be in a program with either KO or Rollins, and it needs to be soon. Putting him with Ambrose occasionally isn't enough to give either any amount of credibility.
Despite Owens and Rollins getting much of the time on offense, it would be Cesaro who would score the victory on KO in an interesting fashion. Just as Ambrose had missed his finisher, Owens took to him to finish the match. After Owens sent Ambrose in the air for the Pop Up Powerbomb, Cesaro dashed in from the near side of the ring, hitting Owens into the far ropes, and rolling him up on the rebound for a quick pinfall. While the "good guys" arguably stole the victory, it was a pretty neat and unexpected series of events that was fun to watch.
While an unexpected victory was fun and great to see, it wasn't enough to save this promo heavy, and solely average Smackdown. With Becky Lynch's match canceled, WWE saw fit to give us promos. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper cut a decent promo, while Sheamus didn't fare quite as positive in his. In the absence of a women's match, Becky Lynch got a video that I spent getting beer. Back to business as usual as WWE didn't see fit to actually give any of the Divas a chance, but instead chose to roll a clip reel. #Knowyourrole.
Sadly, our past two weeks appeared to be a fluke, as little meaningful story progression or must see ring work took place on Smackdown Thursday. If our Raw Review is to be believed, there may soon be an opening for a Raw analyst if things don't change post Summerslam, he just may have some company.
Smackdown Rating: 2 out of 5 Sloppy Patriot Locks