Cesaro trades in his brass rings for a trip to the Gathering of Juggalos.
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Worst: Anything But This Opening
Oh no. No, no, no. Can we get Seth Rollins out to cut a 20-minute promo about what happened on Raw? Randy Orton to drone about how he’s going to make Sheamus entertaining? Anything?
Yes, Smackdown kicked off with Roman Reigns/Bray Wyatt verbal jousting. Jesus. Roman was his usual deluded self, going on about how Bray Wyatt has never made him lose his focus. Motherf*cker, are you serious? He’s broken your focus and ruined every one of your matches for the past month. My cat is more focused around a plastic grocery bag.
Bray then popped up on the big screen, and he was in total self-parody mode. Gesticulating and calling Roman a fool in full southern dandy voice. Worse, this segment just went on and on. Bray would spit some nonsense, Roman would get red in the face and yell, and then they’d repeat, seemingly forever. It was that awkward conversation at a party or family dinner that everyone wishes would stop, but it won’t because one party is a little drunk, and the other is a little stupid, and neither is capable of pulling out of the nosedive. So yeah, welcome to Smackdown, folks!
Best: Angry Positivity
The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons wasn’t necessarily your usual New Day segment. There wasn’t a lot of fun and games from New Day. Hell, even the Titus and Darren on commentary weren’t terribly funny or noteworthy (Titus needs to get a little angry before that switch flips). What this was, was a good, solid tag match that actually made The New Day look like efficient, tough pro wrestlers for once. It was actually a nice change of pace. After a bit of back and forth action, Big E just plucked Kalisto out of the sky, walked him into position for he and Kofi’s double-team finisher, and that was that.
After the match, The New Day got all riled up, while of course remaining positive. They’re riding that train of positivity and nobody can stop them! The Prime Time Players then hit the ring, and yeah, I actually felt a little heat here. A bit of a spark. Honestly, I’d love if after all the wackiness, the Tag Title match at Battleground unexpectedly becomes a Pier 6 bloodbath. Clap the Prime Time Players’ teeth right out of their heads New Day.
Best: Playtime Is Over
A King Barrett/Jack Swagger match featuring an appearance by King Whassup? That’s automatic Worst fodder, right? Well, actually, no.
The match was what most Barrett matches should be. The King was taking care of business. Whenever Barrett took control, he did it in a sudden, straightforward, violent way. Swagger charges, so Barrett just knees him in the face, follows up with his elbow and wins. This is what Barrett needs to be, the guy who can shoot you out of the sky in violent fashion at any time.
R-Truth comes out after the match, and instead of just standing in the ring looking bitchy while the face prattles on, Barrett shouts Truth down, then verbally dismantles him. He rightfully calls bullsh*t on the justification that Truth is “just having fun.” Underneath the smiling and dancing, R-Truth is a passive-aggressive child, kicking the board over because he didn’t win. Just look at R-Truth’s face after Barrett is done with him.
That’s a man who suddenly isn’t so proud to be walking around in a bed sheet cape. Of course, Truth is probably still going to win at Battleground, and Barrett will be hanging out with Macho Mandow and Axelmania as Wade “The Snake” by the end of the month, but, if his reign has to end, at least he got one moment of dignity.
Best: Cesaro vs. Rusev
Cesaro vs. Rusev wasn’t quite as good as their match on Raw, but it was still pretty freakin’ good. After the last couple weeks, I think we need to be careful to not fall into the trap of expecting Cesaro to deliver match of the year candidates every night. That’s kind of what happened with Daniel Bryan. Unless he was killing himself or actively asking the audience to do Yes! chants, a lot of fans would sit on their hands, and, well, we know how that ended up. Cesaro can’t do what he did Monday every night. He shouldn’t have to.
But again, this was a really fun little 10-minute match, with a lot of good moments. The sequence where Rusev reversed to Neutralizer into a backdrop, Cesaro landed on his feet, then Rusev nailed him with a superkick was fantastic. The match also told a nice, simple story. Rusev nailed another big superkick, not unlike the one that won him the match on Raw, but they were outside the ring, and Rusev couldn’t capitalize. Frustrated by that, Rusev made the rash decision to go up top, got caught by an uppercut and got beat.
Yes, Rusev lost to somebody other than SuperCena, which I’m fine with. I’m ready for Rusev to become a real character who’s allowed to have highs and lows and wins and losses, and Cesaro has certainly earned a big victory win over the last couple weeks. I don’t know where they’re going with Cesaro, and I don’t think WWE knows, either, but there’s no turning back now.
Worst: Sheamus’ Face Dingleberries Are Multiplying
My God, I didn’t think it was possible, but Sheamus somehow made this beard look even more gross. God bless you, Sheamus, for making men with mediocre beard growing abilities everywhere feel better about themselves.
When I saw the comic book-style intro for Neville vs. Stardust on Raw, I immediately feared that we’d be seeing this match on every show for a month, just so WWE can justify springing for some original art, and it looks like those fears were well-founded.
That said, I’m not sick of this pairing quite yet, and this version of Neville vs. Stardust was actually better than the match on Raw. The match was quick as a hiccup, and featured a few nice touches. I also liked Lawler using the superhero theme of the match as grounds to brag about owning the Batmobile. Lawler would be one of my favorite announcers if he eliminated all his bathroom joke book one-liners in favor of talk about how he drives Adam West’s friggin’ Batmobile around town. After the match, Stardust attacked Neville backstage, and I’m fine with this being a trilogy, everything is these days, but then let’s leave it at that.
Best: Best At Dominating
So, after the shocking, game-changing NXT women’s revolution on Raw, WWE followed up with… nothing on Smackdown. I know WWE is probably saving the next step in the rebuilding of the Divas division for Battleground, but couldn’t they have sent Sasha Banks out to playfully eviscerate Rosa Mendes or something? Sigh. The Divas division is officially too important for Smackdown.
We did at least a brief backstage bit with Team BAD. Sasha Banks only got a few lines, but damn if she wasn’t beaming charisma the whole time. They also got her some pretty out of control lifts for her boots, or found her a milk crate to stand on or something, because she was a good three-inches taller than Naomi, and Sasha Banks ain’t taller than anybody.
Best: Unexpected Announce Table Destruction
The main-event tag match between Reigns & Ambrose and Big Show & Sheamus was about as standard issue as you can get. To give you an idea, Dean Ambrose went for a rebound clothesline, and Roman Reigns hit his apron dropkick within the first 90 seconds of the match. We then got a very long heat segment on Ambrose and when Reigns finally got the hot tag he straight-up Hoganed it. Non-stop goofy faces, throwing windmill punches, the whole bit. Not a lot of attention being paid to psychology or careful storytelling for most of this match.
Then, something unexpected happened. Ambrose and Big Show are fighting outside, and, out of nowhere, Ambrose DDTs Show through the announce table. Say whaaat? Meanwhile back in the ring, Reigns and Sheamus are all sweaty and intense and trading bombs, and wait a just a second, am I getting into this this thing? Yes, yes I am. It’s amazing what sudden, unforeseen furniture abuse can do for a match.
Worst: Fugetyo Sister Abigail! Fugetyo Brogue Kick!
Unfortunately, the excitement doesn’t last long, because Bray comes OUTTA NOWHERE (slightly off camera right), resulting in a DQ. But wait! Roman Reigns foils Bray’s cunning “jump in ring and hit Roman with my finisher” plan by punching him in the face! Come on, WWE. Enough with this cerebral stuff. Keep it simple.