Watch: USA Network
June 23, 2016
Tucson Convention Center – Tucson, AZ
This is Al Getz filling in for your regular SmackDown reviewer. The last time I reviewed a wrestling TV show like this, I think it was a live Monday Nitro. So please bear with me, as I’m probaby rusty.
No no no, rusty. Not Rusty.
I’m not capitalizing the “r”. Not a person.
NOT THE KID FROM ANY OF THOSE MOVIES!
Dangit, he’s not a kid, should have seen that one coming. Well played.
Okay, it looks like we got that out of the way. Now, on to SmackDown!
We open with a recap within a recap, a nested recap if you will. Footage is shown from Raw recapping both the Money in the Bank Match and the main event from this past Sunday, which saw Dean Ambrose capture the briefcase,and then successfully cash it in at the end of the evening after Seth Rollins won the WWE World Heavyweight championship from Roman Reigns. Then we see highlights of Raw’s main event, which saw Reigns and Rollins battle it out for the right to get the first crack at Ambrose. After the match ended with no winner, Shane McMahon made a triple threat match for Battleground.
Smackdown proper opens with Seth Rollins coming to the ring. He addresses the WWE Universe, saying our parents told us we could do anything we wanted to if we set our minds to it. But then he says MITB taught him that our parents were big, fat liars (well, at least he didn’t call them stupid idiots). He then called Dean Ambrose a thief and a scumbug (but again, NOT a stupid idiot). Tonight he wants to prove he is more of a man than Ambrose, so he issues an open challenge. Sami Zayn’s music hits, and as he comes to the ring I couldn’t help but notice a quick cut to a young kid in the crowd wearing the new Cena PBR shirt, which got a chuckle out of me. Anyhoo, Sami’s in the ring, but here comes Dean Ambrose. He quickly calls crew members into the ring to set up an impromptu Ambrose Asylum. They even bring Mitch the cactus (or is it Mitch II?). They trade (semi)witty repartee, and tonight our main event is Seth Rollins going one-on-one with Sami Zayn in their first-ever meeting in a WWE (including NXT) ring.
We cut to the announce table, where Mauro Ranallo is joined by Byron Saxton and David Otunga (!) on commentary. In his first appearance as a commentator on Smackdown, Otunga – who has wrestled exactly 7 times in the last 39 months – was better than Saxton. So there’s that.
The weekly “Did You Know” segment talks about something that is 42 feet wide, 25 feet tall, weighs four tons, and has over 1,000,000 LED lights. No, it’s not a new light-up jacket that Jericho bought for the Big Show, it’s the WWE Titan-Tron.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Cesaro
Al Gets Factual: In straight up singles matches on TV and PPV, they’ve wrestled each other 3 times, with Del Rio winning twice. On the house show loop, Cesaro is 4-1, and has won the last 4.
Both men are shown in pre-taped inset interviews, with Del Rio blaming Cesaro for his not winning the Money in the Bank match. Early on, Del Rio hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but after playing to the crowd, Cesaro responds with two of his own. An uppercut party causes Del Rio to poweder to the floor to regroup. Back in the ring, Del Rio focuses on the perpetually taped left shoulder of Cesaro. The finish sees Cesaro roll through a cross armbreaker attempt and hit the Neutralizer for the win.
Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus
Al Gets Factual: In straight up singles matches on TV and PPV, this is their second meeting, Crews having won the first this past Sunday at MITB. On the house show loop, Crews is 5-0 against Sheamus.
Both men brawl on the floor early, with Apollo controlling the early portion of the in-ring until running into a double boot in the corner. Apollo later hits an enzuigiri followed by a standing moonsault, but Sheamus kicks out at 2. Back to the floor they go, where Apollo stands one of the steel ring steps up on its end; before he can do anything with it, Sheamus takes over and ends up giving Crews a Brogue Kick right into the steel steps. Crews, hoisted by his own petard, is counted out of the ring. An official tends to the left shoulder of Crews after the bout.
They show media coverage of the impending brand split and draft, followed by still shots of the AJ Styles vs John Cena match from MITB, and footage of The Club attacking Cena on Raw. Backstage, The Club discuss the events of the last several days, but are very rudely interrupted by Jimmy & Jey Uso. Jimmy challenged AJ to a one-on-one match TONIGHT, and says he wants AJ to promise there will be no interference from Gallows & Anderson. AJ agrees, and just like that, the match is not only on, but is NEXT.
A.J. Styles vs. Jimmy Uso
Al Gets Factual: This is a first-time singles matchup. They have been on opposite sides of 3 six-man tag team matches, with Uso’s team winning twice.
The match is joined in progress after a commercial break. On commentary, David Otunga says that in a strict one-on-one match with no interference, he picks Jimmy to win. While I understand you don’t want to position him as “beneath” AJ, saying this just days after a heavily-hyped dream match ’15 years in the making’ is one of the little things WWE constantly does that just pushes everybody towards the middle of the pack. Jimmy is in control early in the match, but when going for a baseball slide to the floor, is caught and has his head slammed into the ring steps. Jimmy milks the count before rolling in at 9. Later, Jimmy hits an enzuigiri, but it only staggers Styles and he responds with the Pele kick. He goes to the ropes for the Phenomenal Forearm but Jimmy kicks him off the ropes to the floor. A Samoan drop only gets a 2 count. Gallows & Anderson attack Jey on the outside. Jimmy dives onto them to break it up, then AJ dives onto the Usos. He throws Jimmy back in the ring and hits the Phenomenal Forearm for the victory.
Mauro tells us to set our DVRs because coming up later, it’s Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn. If I’m already watching, why do I need to set my DVR? I guess perhaps he is saying I should record the match for posterity, but it still seems weird to me.
The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains
Al Gets Factual: These teams have met in straight-up tag team matches 9 times (this includes any combination of the 3 New Day members), and The New Day has won all 9 bouts.
The Vaudevillains are shown already in the ring as we come back from commercial. I am starting to feel a bit sour over them not getting their full entrance, but then a booming voice from the heavens tells me I shouldn’t dare be sour. Here comes The New Day. Footage is shown from Monday of them interrupting the Wyatt Family on Raw. The match is short and sweet, with Kofi Kingston pinning Simon Gotch after The Midnight Hour. As they celebrate in the ring, the Wyatt Family appears on the Titan-Tron. Wyatt again says “New … Day … Falls”. Is there anyone on the main roster in a worse position than The Vaudevillains right now?
Before I can even finish writing the above question, it is answered affirmatively as we get a Life Lessons with Coach Backlund featuring Darren Young. All of a sudden, losing 9 matches in a row to the same team is looking pretty good!
Stills are shown from MITB of the women’s tag team match with Charlotte & Dana Brooke getting the win over Becky Lynch & Natalya, and of Natalya attacking her partner after the match. Then she attacks her again on Raw. Renee Young catches up with Charlotte & Dana backstage, and after Charlotte applauds Natalya for coming to her senses, Renee mentions Sasha Banks returning this past Monday.
Becky Lynch vs. Dana Brooke
Al Gets Factual: These women have wrestled each other 3 times in the past, with Dana winning twice and Becky winning once. The two were frequent tag team partners in NXT prior to Becky’s callup last summer.
Dana uses her strength early, but after Becky takes control she looks to be in trouble. Charlotte jumps up on the ring apron, but Becky knocks her to the floor. She then however turns around into a rollup and Dana gets the three-count. Dana continues to attack after the match, but Becky fights her off. Charlotte gets involved as well, and then Sasha Banks’ music hits. She slowly makes her way to the ring to face off with Charlotte. Right when it looks like they will throw down, Charlotte bails from the ring. Dana then attacks Sasha from behind, but Banks quickly turns the tables on her and puts her in the Bank Statement as Charlotte looks on.
Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins
Al Gets Factual: This is the first time these two men have been in the ring together in WWE/NXT in any capacity. They have had 3 prior singles bouts, 2 in Ring of Honor and 1 in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Zayn (then known as El Generico) beat Rollins (then known as Tyler Black) all three times, with the last one happening in May 2010.
Dean Ambrose is on commentary for this match. Rollins showboats early, but Zayn takes over with a sweet flying headscissors. He goes for a springboard move from the outside but Rollins nails him with a forearm. There are duelling chants coming from the crowd on more than one occasion during the match. Back from a commercial, Zayn kicks out at 2 after a Falcon Arrow, and then again after Sling Blade. Rollins heads to the floor as Zayn makes his comeback, but Zayn nails him with a flying clothesline outside the ring. A crossbody from the top rope only gets Zayn a two count. Seth kicks out after a Blue Thunder Bomb. Seth hits the running buckle bomb, but then a Pedigree attempt is countered by Zayn, who runs up the ropes and hits a DDT. Sami goes for the Helluva Kick but Rollins rolls out of the ring. Sami chases him, and as Rollins gets back in the ring Sami follows, enabling Seth to hit him with the Pedigree, leading to a three-count and a victory.
After the match, Rollins faces off with Ambrose at the announce table. Rollins starts to walk away, but then attacks Dean. Ambrose quickly fires up and gets the better of Seth after a brief scuffle. The announcers remind us of the upcoming triple-threat match at Battleground. For the record, they do mention Roman Reigns by name several times during the show.
This was the first time I have watched a complete Smackdown episode in many years. The first match and the last match were very good, but from an “episodic television” standpoint, no storylines advances in any real fashion. I can see why many people, myself included, make the choice to skip Smackdown. Obviously, if the brand split is done properly, it could alleviate that problem and lead to renewed interest in Smackdown starting on July 19th.