Howdy ladies and gentlemen and welcome to my first night on the job as the official Smackdown recapper. You may know me from the video reviews section or my work recapping the TNA PPVs as well as WWE RAW in the last few weeks, but I'll be taking over the Smackdown duties here from the wonderful Nick Bazar from now and into the foreseeable future. Because of all the feedback in the comments of last week's report, I've decided to keep up with Bazar's system of keeping track of everyone's Wins/Losses on Smackdown, so that will stay, but everything else will be in my usual reviewing format. Anyways, we're less than a week removed from Summerslam where Randy Orton defeated Christian to win back the World Heavyweight title, so tonight we can expect to see all of the fallout from that show and hopefully a hint of where the brand is headed going into the fall.
WWE Friday Night Smackdown 8/19/11
August 19th, 2011
Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield, California
Attendance: Unknown at this time
August 19th, 2011
Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield, California
Attendance: Unknown at this time
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews
We open the show with Randy Orton making his way out to the ring to a nice pop with his newly won World Heavyweight title. Teddy Long is in the ring. He talks about how Christian normally starts off the show whining, but tonight he gets to start off the show because he's the new champ. He claims that Christian isn't here tonight to face him or ask for another match because the feud is all over and Orton won. I'm glad that great feud is finally coming to an end, but you didn't actually need to come out and just basically say that Orton man. Long announces a 20 man over-the-top battle royal tonight to determine a new number one contender to Orton's title, but before he can finish his thought Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase come out and hit the ring.
Cody has a mic of his own and facetiously declares this a Legacy reunion in the ring. Cody sounds downright Shakespearean in his promo work these days, and that's a massive compliment. He goes over the history of Legacy and how things have changed since then. Big "You suck!" chant at Cody (and not a piped-in one either). Cody says he's going to win the battle royal tonight so he can take the title from Orton. Even DiBiase gets some good (real) heat when he takes the mic from Cody. Before he can say anything though, Orton RKOs him out of nowhere! I'm not exactly a huge Randy Orton fan, but that was awesome and reminded me of when Austin used to just show up in random matches at a few different points when he was really pissed off and just give random people a stunner and then casually leave like it was normal business. Same kind of vibe here. Orton exits and Cody demands that Teddy do something about what just happened, so Teddy says he'll have Orton sit in the corner and write 100 times "I will not RKO Ted DiBiase" on a piece of paper as punishment and then tells Cody that he's going to have to defend his IC title against Ezekiel Jackson...next.
WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes © (12-10) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (12-9)
Jackson earns the honor of first sadly piped-in fake pop of the night. Good thing they moved the belt to Cody last week, because despite Jackson's impressive size it doesn't seem like the fans are ever going to care about him enough to be a successful IC champion. They lock up and Zeke overpowers Rhodes early, obviously. He hits a spinning sidewalk slam but Cody kicks out at one. Cody tries to work over Zeke's arm but it doesn't get him very far. Rhodes escapes a torture rack attempt and then nails Zeke in the face with a stiff knee. He delivers the Cross Rhodes to Zeke and pins him clean at 3:34. Not much of a match obviously, but that was exactly what needed to happen here with Cody dispatching of Big Zeke with relative ease to establish that Rhodes is above Zeke's level right now, as he should be. *
Backstage Zack Ryder informs Teddy Long that the WWE champion Alberto Del Rio is on his way to Smackdown tonight just like he asked for. Long was hoping it would've been Punk or Cena though. Ryder claims he's going to win the battle royal later tonight as well before Aksana, still with the black hair comes in to interrupt and sexually harass Teddy Long and make really bad puns for a bit. Aksana's easy on the eyes and all, but where exactly could this angle with the GM be going?
We get the same video package of Justin Gabriel returning home to South Africa during a recent tour, playing up the whole hometown kid makes good deal going on here. Nice package and I'm glad the WWE has decided to apparently give Gabriel a serious singles push as a face now, the guy's extraordinarily talented and could be a potential young future star for the company.
Justin Gabriel (7-12) vs. Tyson Kidd (0-4)
Oh my goodness yes. These two fought on NXT a week ago and it was easily the best match in NXT history, and I love that the WWE sees that and decides to book these guys against each-other once again. They do a nice shoulder-block/leapfrog sequence running the ropes to start before Gabriel grabs an armbar. Kidd hurricanranas Gabriel into the second turnbuckle and then dropkicks him for only a one count. Gabriel fights out of a headlock and misses a few spin kick attempts before nailing Kidd in the mouth with one. He lays in a flurry of more kicks to the chest and then takes him out with a high spin kick and a roaring elbow for two. Gabriel springboards onto Kidd and rolls through a submission attempt to deliver an STO takedown instead. Gabriel blocks a superplex and then hits Kidd with the 450 splash to pick up the win at 4:20. I so badly wish they could have given these guys another five minutes, but the idea they wanted to put across again here is that Gabriel is above Kidd's level, and again that's probably as it should be right now. Fun while it lasted though. **1/2
Backstage Matt Striker is with Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali to ask them about the big battle royal tonight. Mahal interrupts Khali and says that they both agree that Mahal will win tonight.
Alberto Del Rio's music hits and he makes his way out to the ring with the WWE title around his waist and a microphone in his hand. He introduces himself as the new WWE champion and reminds everyone that he had talked about this destiny for months and how it all came true for him. He mentions how he debuted a year ago on Smackdown by defeating Rey Mysterio and how things have changed since then, yet he's still beating Mysterio these days too. Minor 619 chant as we see highlights of his title defense against Rey from RAW this week. He lays out an open challenge asking who is brave enough to face him, and his challenge is promptly answered by the other Money in the Bank Winner, Daniel Bryan to a decent pop.
Bryan, with briefcase in hand, asks if Del Rio is so special than why did he cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase in the same manner that everyone else did. He calls Del Rio's actions pathetic and then makes his way down to the ring as we cut to commercial. When we return, we have a (non-title) match on our hands.
Daniel Bryan (8-6-1) vs. Alberto Del Rio (7-7)
Del Rio defeated Bryan on Smackdown last week, but that was before Alberto won the title. Big "Let's go Bryan!" chant as they lock-up to start. Bryan takes it to Del Rio in the corner so Alberto bails and lures Bryan back into the ring to pounce him from behind. Del Rio works an armbar as Cole whines about Bryan's ego and the fans continue to loudly chant for Bryan (real heat too as we get several close-up shots of members in the audience participating in the chant). Del Rio switches to a side headlock and Bryan escapes and knees him in the gut. He lays in Kawada-esque kicks to Del Rio and then elbows Alberto. Del Rio grabs Bryan on the top rope and hits a falling armbreaker on him for a near fall before again going back to the armbar. Del Rio seems to be improving in the ring. Cole compares Bryan's YouTube wrestling education series to watching paint dry. You wouldn't want to hear what we think of your work then bud. Bryan takes the Bret Hart bump into the corner turnbuckle and it's back to the armwork again, but god bless this crowd they're still hot for it all, rallying behind Bryan as Del Rio chips away on the arm. Bryan fights him off though and blasts away at Del Rio in the corner with a huge flurry of high kicks. Bryan does the back-flip spot and then takes Del Rio out with a flying forearm. He sends Del Rio out to the floor and then nails him with a running knee strike off of the apron! Back in the ring Del Rio evades a top rope move from Bryan and then promptly German suplexes him right on his neck with a bridge for a near fall. Great sequence there. Del Rio delivers a top rope back-drop suplex to Bryan, but it appears that Del Rio gets the worst of it as we cut to commercial. When we return both men are trading blows until Bryan nails a dropkick. Bryan hits a beautiful missile dropkick off the top (while still selling the armwork from Del Rio earlier in the match) and hooks the leg, but Del Rio still kicks out! They do some nice counter wrestling and Bryan locks Del Rio into the guillotine choke, but Alberto rams him into the corner turnbuckle and delivers a snap suplex before transitioning right into the flying armbar submission and Bryan has no choice but to tap out at 11:53 (shown)! Wow, that was one hell of a match and a big step up from their already solid match last week. Both guys looked great in the match, Del Rio's psychology was perfect, Bryan's selling was perfect, and they threw in a few creative spots of their own. One of the better Smackdown matches I've seen in months. ***1/2
After the match Del Rio won't quit on the armbar, so Sin Cara (played this evening by the talented Hunico and not Mistico) comes out and makes the save. He checks up on Daniel Bryan as Del Rio and Ricardo take off.
Backstage Mark Henry promises to win the battle royal tonight. Well his argument is certainly more convincing than Zack Ryder or Jinder Mahal's was.
Kelly Kelly (5-4)/AJ Lee (2-6) vs. Natalya (2-3)/Alicia Fox (4-1)
Anytime we get to see AJ Lee, it's a fine occasion. She's cute in that Ellen Page sort of way. Natalya tosses her around like a ragdoll to start though, talking trash while she does it. Natalya catches AJ off the top rope and gives her an elbow before AJ snaps off a sloppy headscissors takedown on her. AJ gets caught in the corner and has her head smashed against the mat while Alicia Fox tags in and slaps on a tight chinlock. They isolate AJ for a bit in their corner, trading quick tags and working her over, which works well because she's do darned cute you actually do want to see her get out of this okay. She fights back with a few forearms and then gets the hot tag to Kelly Kelly, who hits a sort of Lou Thesz press on Fox and then delivers a nice flying headscissors followed by a bulldog. Kelly gives her the (dreaded?) stinkface and rolls up Alicia, but Natalya breaks it up. Fox misses a scissors kick and Kelly gives her the old Rocker Dropper to pick up the win at 4:32. This was actually pretty good, AJ's heat segment was done well and the heels worked well together. Kelly looked great again too. Shockingly watchable. **1/4
After the match Natalaya and Fox argue, so Nattie jumps her and beats her down before taking off with a crazed look on her face. Imagine that look in bed. I can't tell if I'm scared or aroused.
We get the same Summerslam Fan Axxess video package we've seen all week. Afterwards the World champ Randy Orton makes his way out to ringside to watch the big battle royal about to take place.
World Heavyweight Title #1 Contendership Battle Royal Match
(Featuring Sin Cara, Mark Henry, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, WILLIAM F'N REGAL, The Great Khali, Jinder Mahal, Heath Slater, Yoshi Tatsu, Trent Barreta, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, Tyson Kidd, Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson, and Johnny Curtis)
Everybody jumps Mark Henry to start but he fights them all off quickly and Trent Barreta winds up being the first guy tossed. I really hope one of these days Barreta gets a push of his own instead of just being enhancement talent. Tatsu gets tossed next and Curtis is out right after him. By GOD is that William Regal in there? I had no idea he had returned to in-ring action, right on. Typical battle royal match here with everyone brawling in little groups in the corners while people get tossed. Ryder is tossed next by the way. Rhodes skins the cat but Big Zeke eliminates him anyways with a clothesline to try and get some of his heat back after losing to Rhodes so quickly earlier tonight. Jackson takes it to Khali and Mahal in the corner, but Khali hits him with the judo chop of doom and then tosses Zeke out of the ring. Khali and Henry face off in the middle of the ring and Henry lifts Khali over the top rope and eliminates him next, much to Jinder Mahal's chagrin. Slater eats a sick Brogue Kick from Sheamus on the apron to be eliminated, and Henry tosses him onto the stairs afterwards to add insult to injury as we cut to commercial break. When we return we see Sheamus struggling to stay in the ring. Kids have been chanting Sin Cara sporadically throughout the match it seems, not sure if it's piped in or not. Gabriel is the next out and Henry continues to beat up everyone who gets eliminated outside of the ring, but because he went out under the bottom rope he hasn't been eliminated yet. Both of the Usos get tossed next and Henry throws them around too. This is kind of fun watching Henry just toss these kids all over the place like a mad man. Finally he returns to the ring and tosses Jinder Mahal out with ease, followed by Ted DiBiase. Cara eliminates Kidd and we're down to the final four of Henry, Sheamus, Barrett, and Sin Cara. They all try teaming up on Henry and Sheamus stomps a mudhole in him in the corner before Barrett gives him a lariat. Both guys fight to the apron and Sheamus eliminates Barrett with another brogue kick. Cara goes to dropkick Sheamus through the ropes but he moves and Cara's goes through the middle rope, so he's still in it. Sheamus hangs him up on the top rope but he still won't go out. Henry grabs Sheamus from behind and tosses him out before turning around to eat a big cross-body from Sin Cara. Cara tries laying in some kicks but Henry catches him off a springboard into the World's Strongest Slam. He tosses Cara out to win the battle royal and become the new number one contender at 12:46 (shown). I'm the kind of guy who can enjoy a well-worked and thought-out battle royal, but this wasn't anything special here. Just your typical battle royal stuff, but Sheamus and Sin Cara both had great showings before Henry won. **
After the match Mark Henry celebrates his victory and we go off the air as he gets into Orton's face at ringside.
Bottom Line: Pretty damn good show tonight. I don't mind Christian's absence since he just lost the big blow-off match in the Orton feud, and everyone picked up the slack this week anyways. Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio had one hell of a TV match here with some rock-solid psychology and selling, that's well worth going out of your way to see and everything else seemed to move along nicely enough leading up to Henry winning the battle royal. I'm indifferent really to Mark at this stage in his career, but he does seem a bit more motivated with his umpteenth monster heel push this year and if he does truly plan to retire next year as he's hinted at, I don't mind seeing him work a program with Orton, so long as they keep it short. Overall just a solid show and one of the better Smackdowns in recent memory, so it's an easy Thumbs Up.