May 7, 2015
It’s my first week as Smackdown reviewer for Voices of Wrestling and Smackdown is main evented by a contract signing!
King Barrett Interview
The show opens with Jerry Lawler in the ring, which is never a particularly welcome sight. He invites King Barrett to the ring, who is wearing trunks with his new moniker hastily daubed on the back, presumably in some kind of paint marker, to discuss his win at King of The Ring last week. Barrett is still trying to get the crowd behind “all hail King Barrett,”, which isn’t a shade on “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news” as catchphrases go, but at least he’s being persistent. Barrett lays into Lawler, criticizing his claim to the title of “King”, and refusing to view them as equals, saying “The trailer parks of Memphis don’t have any castles”.
Lawler sulks and won’t hail Barrett despite emphasizing how important and honorable it is to win the KOTR tournament just a few seconds ago. Just as it looks like Lawler’s going to be taking a bull hammer to the face, Dolph Ziggler appears to challenge Barrett for getting too big for his britches. The message appears to be that you should be proud of winning KOTR, but not too proud, because that deserves a beatdown.
King Barrett vs Dolph Ziggler
Sheamus interferes before this match gains any steam, and keeps the legacy of the Kiss Me Arse match alive (sigh). Sheamus and Barrett tie up Ziggler in the ropes before Neville materializes out of thin air mid-dropkick for the save, so then this becomes…
King Barrett and Sheamus vs Dolph Ziggler and Neville
Neville is a welcome fresh face in these sorts of matchups lately, and has slipped into his role in the main roster seamlessly; while he doesn’t seem an obvious partner for Dolph, their offence works well together. He’s excellent against these bigger brawlers who were thin on the ground in NXT, Neville makes their offence look meaningful. This match starts slow and then finishes with a very fun hot tag leading into an awesome Barrett and Ziggler sequence of reversals at an impossibly fast pace. There’s a chaotic finish featuring a typically great Neville dive to distract Sheamus, while Dolph hits a Zigzag to pin Barrett.
Luke Harper vs Fandango
I’m not a fan of Fandango “fandangoing” on his way to the ring. It’s a massive step down from his proper entrance with a dance partner, and it just seems a bit embarrassing and desperate. Then, unsettlingly, Harper decided to do it too. Other than that, an unmemorable squash: Luke Harper defeated Fandango with the discus clothesline.
Erick Rowan’s jangly theme hits immediately after the pinfall, and he unexpectedly starts initiating a beatdown of his own on the crumpled body of Fandango, which leaves Harper bemused. Or at least, that’s the emotion I was picking up through the beard. Like Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Harper and Rowan is an obvious feud that never really got satisfying closure, so could be picked up at any time.
Rusev promises to confront John Cena
I’m really upset by Lana’s transition from dominant, powerful manager of Rusev to subservient, downtrodden girlfriend. She used to control Rusev’s finisher with her fist, and now she’s being ordered about and saying sadly “Don’t cheer me, it angers Rusev” while staring at her feet. It’s infuriating, and I hate that this relationship apparently needs to turn abusive to make Lana face, or whatever’s going on. It undermines her character, which has been really solid and well received since NXT.
Rusev cuts a promo on Cena, and promises an in-ring verbal confrontation on RAW, because he was clearly too important to show up here. I don’t even know. I was too distraught about Lana to pay attention.
The New Day vs Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Ryback
The New Day have made a total U-turn in the last few weeks, particularly winning hearts and minds on Raw on Monday where they celebrated a handicap fluky victory backstage for seemingly the entire show. The crowd hasn’t quite decided whether “New Day Sucks,” or “New Day Rocks,” so the overall impression of the chant is “New Day Socks.”
Ryback turns out to be the Swiss Kitties’ third, which is a bit confusing alignment-wise. He’s also wearing his most lurid primary-colored singlet to destroy the team aesthetic. The whole thing is further lampshaded by Byron adding “Ryback could sympathize with Big E… he’s all about turning positives into negatives.” Lawler incredulously squawks “He is?” betraying the fact that he doesn’t watch RAW anymore now that he’s not on it.
The match itself was fairly good. There was a cute triple delayed suplex spot, and the return of the “New Day Sucks” stomps in the corner: Ryback even had a go. Ryback was the least dynamic part of this match but the crowd still seemed firmly behind him.
Cesaro did his running turnbuckle uppercuts and teased the swing, then positions Kidd standing on his shoulders for a seriously impressive elbow drop. The match seems won, but then there is a mysterious Bray Wyatt interruption in the form of distracting video clip which causes Ryback’s entire team to become disorientated and outrageously vulnerable. Kofi gets a roll up victory on Kidd.
Emma vs Naomi
Naomi is accompanied by her badass leather jacket-wearing bodyguard, Tamina, and it’s refreshing that the pair look genuinely unique and different from the usual catty, smiling, skipping Divas. Naomi’s “new attitude” was abrupt and jarring, but now it might be fitting into place. Sadly, Emma has no joie de vivre here. Naomi gets the win with the rear view.
Lucha Dragons vs Los Matadores
The Matadores are sporting the most ostentatious, fur-trimmed, Smackdown blue-and-white outfits ever, so not to be outdone, the Lucha Dragons opt for purple and lime zebra print gear. This match is sort of a shambles. It starts off with the Dragons running circles round the Matadores, but there’s some weird and inconsistent selling, and the high spots are a little messy. Kalisto looks briefly impressive, but then the Dragons go for their move where Kalisto stands, legs spread, on the middle rope, and Sin Cara dives between them to the outside. Cara misjudged it wildly, and ended up kind of ramming his head into Kalisto’s crotch on the way out, then flopping face-first to the floor, which Tom Phillips diplomatically described as “getting caught up in the ropes”. A total embarrassment. Sin Cara got the pin with a small package
Diego then throws El Torito across the ring when he tries to console him, which is fairly unforgivable.
The Payback Contract Signing
Kane is the organizer of this event, because of course he is. I was half expecting him to offer up another app vote or No. 1 Contender’s match so that the match at Payback could grow comically large.
Seth initially refuses to come into the ring, so there’s an awkward few minutes where Dean, Roman Reigns and a trouserless Randy Orton are all seated in big comfy chairs in the ring, throwing inane insults towards the ramp. Seth is great here, outshining Ambrose, who is the usual master of the mic in these sorts of segments, by a mile. When the Shield were together I used to dread Seth getting handed the microphone because he would take a long time to say very little, and never sounded particularly convincing, but now his confidence is through the roof, and he’s a joy to listen to. He masterfully starts tension between the two potential allies in this match, with comments like “Roman can’t wrestle his way out of a paper bag…that was always the joke between us, wasn’t it, Dean?” but then pushes it too far in his characteristic bratty Rollins style.
Dean seems to be the only one who understands the tropes at play here so he lets the others argue while he props up the table against the turnbuckle and starts the inevitable brawl by tossing Joey Mercury into it. The ensuing melee is a lot of fun. Seth stands tall after taking advantage of his previously sown seeds of dissent.
I enjoyed this a lot, and the four men have great chemistry, but can’t help thinking that the timing is a little weird, as there’s still another week of build for this match and they’ve burned themselves out early.
Final Thoughts: After a top-to-bottom excellent Raw on Monday, I was harboring hopes that maybe the momentum would carry over to SmackDown, but it was a real mixed bag. Definitely catch the six man tag for some solid Cesaro/Kidd awesomeness, and the Matadores/Dragons match for the schadenfreude if you’re inclined that way.