WWE Smackdown last night was good in that we got six quality matches, including a tag team match and a Divas match, and the other four all promoted tomorrow’s SummerSlam pay-per-view in some way. However, it was strange because I feel like the WWE really missed an opportunity to make “The Biggest Party of the Summer” feel even bigger by changing around the World Heavyweight Championship picture just days before the show.
Last week, Alberto Del Rio hired a group of men dressed as police officers to attack Sheamus as retaliation for Sheamus stealing and destroying his Ferrari. In response to these actions, Smackdown General Manger Booker T announced online later in the night that Del Rio would no longer be facing Sheamus for the WHC at SummerSlam. Now initially, I was livid at this decision, because in my mind it made no sense at all. First, Sheamus stole Del Rio’s car (which is not only a crime but very unbecoming of a face champion) but face no repercussions whatsoever. Second, it’s not like this is the first time a wrestler has had his opponent attacked before a big match; in fact, it is such a common occurrence, it happened on Smackdown last night and almost ruined the main event (more on that later). However, the more I thought about it during the week, the more I saw it as an opportunity for the WWE to do something really special heading into SummerSlam, one last blockbuster announcement to drive the buyrates through the roof. Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho could have been inserted into the match, either as a fatal fourway with Del Rio or a triple threat without him; there could have been a battle royal to determine a new #1 contender; Del Rio could have had to fight to earn his way back into the title match; and you could have even left it as a mystery opponent. Of course, this would have all been easier to do two weeks ago versus two days before the PPV, so the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Del Rio would probably just get his title match back.
Sure enough, he did, and the match at SummerSlam will still be Sheamus vs. Del Rio for the title. WWE Smackdown kicked off with Del Rio in the ring demanding his title match, but Booker T came out and said that he would not allow any Superstar to be above the law (we’ll see how often Booker T actually stick to that mantra, because if he does 100% of the time, every PPV match during his reign as GM will have to be canceled). Chris Jericho interrupted and said that since Sheamus didn’t have an opponent at SummerSlam, maybe he should wrestle for the title after defeating Dolph Ziggler earlier in the night. Booker T then announced the main event for the night would be Del Rio vs. Jericho, which at the time on paper seemingly had nothing to do with SummerSlam. That all quickly changed, however, when right before the match Ziggler attacked Jericho backstage and told Jericho to never overlook him again. Despite his injuries, the match still went on and, with some assistance from Ziggler while the referee was distracted, Del Rio won. After the match, Del Rio locked Jericho in the Cross Armbreaker while Ziggler yelled in his face, prompting the injured Sheamus to come out and make the save, sending Del Rio running off into the crowd. Sheamus got on a microphone and told Booker T to come out and reinstate the original world title match for SummerSlam, because the only person who wanted the match more than Del Rio was himself. Booker T agreed, and we were left with the same match originally scheduled.
The first match of the night saw Rey Mysterio team up with Sin Cara to take on Cody Rhodes and The Miz. This was a good match for three reasons – first, Miz and Rhodes are phenomenal in the ring and Mysterio and Sin Cara are fun to watch, making it a great wrestling match; second, Mysterio will challenge Miz for the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday, thus promoting that match and the PPV; and third, Mysterio and Sin Cara really should be joined as a permanent tag team to add even more depth to the growing division. The Prime Time Players (Darren Young & Titus O’Neil) could beat the champions on Sunday and win the titles and then a face team like Mysterio & Sin Cara could challenge them for the titles. As for the match last night, Rhodes once again was more interested in unmasking Sin Cara than winning the match, and took a 619 and top rope splash from Mysterio for his troubles and the loss. After the match, Miz tried to attack Mysterio from behind with the title, but Mysterio ducked and and hit him with a 619 as well.
Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins defeated a local jobber tag team, but that was not the “big” story coming out of their match. Instead, it was that the two Superstars debuted a new gimmick before their match, that of male strippers a la the new movie “Magic Mike.” So let me get this straight – Vince McMahon and the rest of the powers that be at the WWE not only think it’s a good idea to rip off a movie that only the adult women who watch their show have seen, but that it’s a good idea to have a male stripper gimmick on a PG show? For those of you keeping score at home, the rules in the PG Era of WWE are that blood, bikinis and bra & panties match are bad, but grand theft auto and male strippers are okay. On the bright side of things, Reks & Hawkins getting a new gimmick and defeating a jobber team means they are getting a push which means another legitimate tag team for the division.
Kaitlyn and Eve faced each other to determine who would become Booker T’s assistant. This was a win-win situation for the fans going in because seeing either one of these two Divas on TV on a regular basis is a treat, but I wanted Eve to win because the dynamic between her, Booker T and Teddy Long would be more interesting than with Kaitlyn. Well, my wish came true as Eve won the match. Hopefully Eve still continues to have a presence in the ring as she is one of the better wrestlers in the Divas division and hopefully this is not the last time we see Kaitlyn in the ring as she is the second strongest Divas in the WWE today (behind only Beth Phoenix). Hopefully these two will also start wrestling for the Divas Championship and not just a backstage job. Before the match, William Regal stopped Eve on her way to the ring to remind her that he was in charge of Raw once but that power is fleeting, evidenced by the fact that they were interrupted when a worker told Regal to take out the trash. I wonder if that was just a random segment or if this is actually going somewhere. I hope it’s the latter because Regal needs to be on TV more in some capacity.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton was a good match that, once again, on paper had nothing to do with SummerSlam. After all, Bryan is facing Kane and Orton isn’t on the card at all. But, the two of them had the match of the night (as you would expect) and SummerSlam was promoted in the end when Bryan had Orton in the No Lock but let it go when Kane’s music and pyro went off. The distraction allowed Orton to hit Bryan with an RKO for the win and after the match Kane finally made his way out but stayed at the top of the ramp and just laughed at Bryan.
Antonio Cesaro made quick work of Zack Ryder while Santino Marella did commentary, building up the Cesaro/Marella match for the United States Championship on the SummerSlam pre-show on YouTube. By the way, the only thing worse than Santino Marella in a match is Santino Marella on commmentary.
Check back later today (but more likely tomorrow afternoon) for my full SummerSlam preview and predictions post.