You’re going to hear my say this a lot over the course of the next three weeks, but the benefit of having a pay-per-view like Night of Champions on the horizon (the one night of the year where every title in the WWE has to be on the line) is that the focus of matches and storylines on both Raw and Smackdown are, for the most center, revolve around the various champions. That held true on WWE Smackdown tonight, as all but two matches had to do who will be facing the various champions for their respective championships next.
The focus of the show, as it should be, was the World Heavyweight Championship, which was the focal point of two matches and an in-ring segment. WWE Smackdown kicked off with Randy Orton in the ring noting that he should be the #1 contender for the title because Alberto Del Rio has already had multiple opportunities (Editors Note: He has challenged for the title, and lost, at the last four PPVs). Sheamus came out to say that he loved the idea and would welcome the challenge and he was followed by Smackdown General Manager Booker T, who was interrupted by Del Rio. Del Rio noted that Orton is an uncontrollable animal (true) and that Sheamus is a criminal (true) and a cheater (true). Del Rio noted that the referee had admitted to messing up his match at SummerSlam and that he deserved one more shot. Booker T said that he would have agreed with him before he went off and ran his mouth, so instead, Del Rio and Orton would face off in the main event to determine the new #1 contender. Teddy Long then announced later on backstage that if Dolph Ziggler thought he was as good as he says he is – as he had been bragging to Vickie Guerrero about ending Chris Jericho’s career and eventually cashing in his MITB briefcase and becoming the next world champion – then he would be facing Sheamus in a non-title match later in the show.
The Ziggler/Sheamus match took place at the top of the hour and it was nice to see Ziggler get in so much offense against the world champion after weeks and weeks of trying to cash in the MITB briefcase and having his attempts thwarted. In fact, before defeating Jericho this past Monday night on Raw, Ziggler had been on a bit of a losing streak. Unfortunately, that losing streak resumed tonight, but at least Ziggler looked smart in the process. After ducking a Brogue Kick, Vickie threw Ziggler the MITB briefcase, who used it to smash Sheamus in the arm and back. Ziggler then started to cash it in, but Sheamus quickly recovered and so Ziggler decided to leave the ring instead.
The Orton/Del Rio match closed the show and was a very good one, with Sheamus providing commentary at ringside (the running theme of the show was that each match had its own guest commentator since Josh Mathews was out with injuries sustained at the hands of Kane at SummerSlam). In a complete and total shocked, Del Rio blocked the RKO and then forced Orton into the Cross Armbreaker, forcing Orton to tap out. After months and months of unsuccessfully challenging for the WHC, not only is Del Rio going to get yet another title shot (presumably at Night of Champions) but he earned that right be defeating Orton cleanly in the ring. After the match, Del Rio threw a show at Sheamus which prompted the champion to get in the ring, where he was quickly taken down by Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez. Del Rio left the ring with both Orton and Sheamus laid out, and as he was making his way up the ramp, Ziggler’s music hit and he ran down to the ring to try and cash in the MITB briefcase yet again. Unfortunately, before he could even hand it to the referee, Orton had recovered and hit Ziggler with an RKO. The show ended with Del Rio standing tall at the top of the ramp and Sheamus and Orton staring each other down in the ring.
Since Del Rio is now facing Sheamus for the title, I assume this means that Orton and Ziggler will start a program together. This would be fine, except I have to assume that Orton will eventually win that war, which makes Ziggler (the MITB holder and therefore most likely a future world champion) look weak, as if he didn’t already after tonight. Plus, as far as tonight is concerned, what purpose did it serve Orton to attack Ziggler? He already lost his shot at the world title, so it’s of no consequence to him if Ziggler had cashed in the briefcase and won. In fact, if Orton is supposed to be a “viper” that only cares about himself, why would he save Sheamus?
Anyway, here are my quick thoughts on the rest of the show:
In the first match of the night, Ryback defeated Jindar Mahal pretty easily, although Mahal did get in more offense than any of Ryback’s previous opponents. I assume this is the end of this short feud since Ryback won cleanly, so now the only question is what each Superstar does from here. If I had to guess, I would assume Ryback goes back to defeating jobbers (contracted or otherwise) in handicap matches and we rarely hear from Mahal again.
The Divas Champion, Layla, faced and defeated Alicia Fox in a non-title match while Kaitlyn (who won the right to face Layla for the title by winning the battle royal on Raw) provided commentary at ringside. After the match, Kaitlyn went into the ring to she Layla’s hand and hug her. They were interrupted by Eve Torres, but surprisingly all Eve did was come down to the ring and raise both Divas’s hands in victory. It was nice having Kaitlyn on commentary, but that did mean not actually seeing her on TV as much as if she had been in a match. Hopefully, when this is all said and done, Kaitlyn is your new Divas Champion.
Heath Slater defeated Sin Cara thanks to outside interference by Cody Rhodes, who, while the referee was distracted, got hold of Sin Cara’s mask and turned it around so Sin Cara could not see. This marks Slater’s first win in at least 2-3 months (unless you count the win over Doink The Clown in the lead-up to Raw 1,000) and he was tweeting all night about how this was the start of an undefeated streak. As for Rhodes and Sin Cara, I don’t see this ending well for Rhodes in the end because in real life Sin Cara would quit the company before agreeing to be unmasked.
After losing the United States Championship to Antonio Cesaro on the SummerSlam pre-show, Santino Marella had a segment in the ring where he talked to his cobra puppet and forgave him for costing them the match by being distracted by Aksana. Yup, you read that right. In fact, Marella talking to a puppet is just a prime example of why I wanted him to drop the title for so long. He was interrupted by Cesaro and Aksana, who insulted Marella, which prompted the former champion to charge up the ramp and attack Cesaro. Marella was about to hit Cesaro with The Cobra, but once again the puppet was distracted by Aksana which allowed Cesaro to get the upper hand and take Cesaro out. So instead of building up the US Championship by taking on an onslaught of legitimate challengers, or even dumping the title and reviving the European Championship as I and so many writers have suggested, Cesaro is forced to continue a feud with a guy who talks to a puppet. Hopefully this does not all lead to Marella reclaiming his title.
Kofi Kingston & R-Truth defeated Primo & Epico in a great tag team match, the last match of the night before the aforementioned main event. At first I was upset that the Tag Team Champions had beaten their opponents so easily, but I felt a lot better after the next two backstage segments. First, while Kingston and R-Truth were being interviewed about who the next challengers for the titles should be, they were interrupted by The Prime Time Players, The Usos, Primo & Epico and even Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel, who all claimed that they should get the next title shot before a huge fight broke out. Then, later on in Booker T’s office, Eve provided Booker T with a detailed spreadsheet laying out her suggestions for who the challengers should be. I would love to either see a huge tournament to determine the #1 contenders for the titles, or even take the opportunity of having to have a match at Night of Champions and have a huge match with multiple teams involved (e.g., a ladder match).
On a side note, I wrote a blog back in July about how WWE had re-launched the NXT show and that what little information I could find about it online led me to believe that it was an awesome show highlighting a number of up and coming Superstars down in Florida Championship Wrestling. However, I noted there was no point in even having the show at all because no one outside the state of Florida could watch it on TV, shows were not being recorded and posted online and there wasn’t even any mention of the show on the WWE website. Well, earlier this week the WWE posted a video from a recent NXT show where, after CM Punk won a match (it looks like he was tagging with the NXT Champion), his celebration was interrupted by John Cena, who announced that he would be at the next NXT taping in September. I hope that at least this acknowledgement that NXT exists (the first one ever on the WWE website since the show show was launched) leads to more recognition of the show and even videos from the events posted online, that is at least until the WWE Network launched and it is actually put on TV.