With the recent success of Total Divas on the E! Network fully realized by the audience increase and E!'s own admission that the audience was greater than any other premiere on E this year, one has to wonder if there are other areas that WWE is missing the boat with their programing. The first piece that immediately come to mind is NXT. Fans are always clamoring for a more wrestling focused product, since out of the 2:15:XX of Raw and 1:26:XX of Smackdown that isn't commercials only about 50 minutes of Raw and 35 minutes of Smackdown is actually wrestling. That means we get over an hour of talking and recaps on each show! But on each episode of NXT, we get a good 20-30 minutes of action and the show is only 45 minutes long. Plus, you get to see the growth of these young men and women as well as help establish a fan base for them before they get on the main roster. That's at least part of the reason I think Bray Wyatt is doing as well as he is, because some of the fans already know of his work. Another area I can think of is with the AM Raw show that airs every week on USA at Midnight CST. I remember growing up that they would have a host who would somewhat analyze some of the most important segments of the show and show the highlights. Why not take the concept that they are using for the preshow panels on PPVs and apply it to this show? Treat it as a sort of SportsCenter for WWE programming with Josh Mathews moderating it and have a rotating panel of Superstars give their analysis. It would be a great way to let some of these younger workers get some mic time in a controlled environment as well. Finally, I look at the YouTube show Outside the Ring and see where WWE could expand that into a 30 minute reality show taking a behind the scenes look into their Superstars lives. Put it on E! as well in a block with Total Divas and you have a guaranteed smash hit on your hands.
Break it Down!
Randy Orton vs. Rob Van Dam: 8.75
One thing I love about Smackdown lately is that it frequently starts with a match. Call it the old-school mentality I have, but It starting a show with a promo kills some of the momentum. Titus O'Neil's white cousin was in the front row! But after Gesus and I talked about it, I realized it was a guy trying to bring back the Bill Alfonso whistle cheering for RVD. It's a nice piece of nostalgia, but I hope that it doesn't catch on as a consistent thing. That was quite annoying. And while there were quite a few recycled spots from last week's Triple Threat match, Orton and RVD did bring us some variety. There's something we haven't seen from Orton in a while! That corner backbreaker was nasty! It looked somewhat off, but still powerful. RVD pulling out the bridging suplex was excellent! Rolling thunder was botched, but the production crew tried to cover it with the camera angle. Orton needed to pick up the win here to continue his rebuilding process for his cash in of Money in the Bank, but it also hurts the momentum RVD has been building since his return. I can't believe they had this match open the show though! This could have been the main event, but it worked perfectly for getting a crowd hot.
Winner: Randy Orton (Pin – 13:10)
Miz TV: 7.75
Boy, Miz has fallen. Now he is regulated to hosting SummerSlam... Miz needs to get away from hosting Miz TV and other segments such as this and get back to working his way back up the card. Big E is AJ's best friend? Uh-oh! Anytime she has a best friend they get stabbed in the back! At least Big E has some longer ring gear this week! And AJ said that there aren't any heroes in the world. AJ sounds like she has been drinking the Wyatt Family's Kool-Aid! Dolph got a great reaction! His face turn is working perfectly. Kaitlyn, however, flopped horribly on the mic yet again. She only had one good line, and that was after Miz made his announcement. And speaking of it, when did Miz get authority?! As far as I remember, hosts don't have any booking power! We may have seen it coming, but at least we get an interesting match!
Raw Rebound: 8
While I don't typically like these recaps, Lesnar and Punk are telling such a great story that I just want more and more from them each week! And we are getting even more of it tonight!
Backstage Segment: 7
Del Rio is really taking up the slimy heel mantle, isn't he? Whatever he feels works for him, I guess, but ADR just has no appeal for me anymore. He doesn't seem like he should be a World Champion, especially when he can't elicit a reaction from the crowds unless he beats on Ricardo or goes against a massive face. Vickie's neutrality is great. I know I have been saying every week, but her no nonsense attitude is really helping establish that she is trying to be a truly professional GM now. Personally, it is about time we got a GM who is willing to keep order on their show!
Fandango vs. Kofi Kingston: 6.75
I hate it when we get rematches from Raw on Smackdown or vice-versa. It just cheapens the viewing experience for me. I'm not saying we need new matches every week like some people do, but I don't want to see the same match multiple times in a few weeks. Why the heck was there a USA chant? Fandango was the only US born wrestler in the match! Kofi's kick through the ropes shows why he won't go beyond the midcard. I know you could attribute it to ring rust, but it is par for the course for him on most weeks. Summer Rae pulled out the fake injury again! Her smile is infectious and she is starting to grow on me. So we are getting a small feud between Fandango and Kofi. That might be interesting but I don't see Kofi going under that much during it. He just returned from injury and I will guarantee WWE will try to push him at least to a midcard title with this.
Winner: Fandango (Pin – 4:50)
Bryan Interview: 7
Bryan was solid here. It wasn't anything really special, but it let him say a few things on his current feud to help progress things along for Raw.
Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett: 8.25
Barrett looks so funny without his facial hair! I had flashbacks to NXT Season 1! He and Bryan are both alike in that they don't look right without their beards. This is the match between the two of them I wanted to see three weeks ago! They were given a decent amount of time and were able to showcase their talents. And with the involvement of the clippers, they were able to have a story involved with the match. But one of the biggest things was that Barrett looked great even in a loss. He finally pushed beyond the lackluster performances he has put out of late and brought himself back to what made him look like a future World Champion 3 years ago. Maybe losing the beard was a good thing for him!
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Sub – 4:08)
Backstage Interview: 8
I want Sandow's case! That brown leather works well for him, as it is a professional looking case compared to the standard one. But why did it take him 2 weeks to realize he could have the contract reprinted and a new case made? For being the “Intellectual Savior”, he sure didn't use much logic there! Also, seeing that he has a custom case now, I expect that he will be holding on to it for a good while. The only person that I remember that cashed in a custom case quickly was RVD and that was after 3 months.
Wyatt Family Recap: 8
With every passing week, I get more and more enthralled with this storyline and faction! And it isn't just me, as my wife, who refuses to watch most WWE programming other than Total Divas, now watches Raw or Smackdown segments that involve them because she is intrigued with them. Granted, she does gravitate to the supernatural or stranger gimmicks, as the first thing that ever appealed to her in wrestling was the Undertaker, but that also shows WWE is doing something right with them. It's a true character, not just another “tough” guy with a slightly different attitude.
3-on-1 Handicap Match
3MB vs. Kane: 6
At least we got some confirmation on what the Ring of Fire match will be. Basically, just an Inferno match without lighting someone on fire to win. But did we honestly expect that WWE would give us that kind of barbaric match in the PG setting? So we now get to see Kane destroy the three lowest workers on the roster to prove that he can beat three people at once... Yawn. At least it was short and Jinder Mahal took the pin. Otherwise, will anyone remember this match after 10 minutes?
Winner: Kane (Pin – 1:36)
Bray Wyatt Promo: 8.75
Wow! Bray's promo started really slow and I questioned whether this may have been a miss on his part, but he wrapped it up with his charisma well and left us questioning where he is going! “I am already dead.” This may be the start of something huge, something that finally breaks molds in WWE. We may very well be seeing the birth of the next big superstar before our eyes.
Brock Lesnar Interview: 7.75
Lesnar felt oddly real here. Sure, he did read it off of a teleprompter, but he felt like he meant what he said about Punk. The best way I can put it is that this interview was like a UFC prefight interview segment. Lesnar seems to really want to take Punk down a few pegs and show why he thinks he became the best after going to UFC.
Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio: 9.25
Is it just me or does this encounter further cheapen their upcoming match at SummerSlam? The World Heavyweight Championship match should be one of the three marquee matches on the card, but is treated as if it was an undercard match. At the rate the WHC is going, it might as well be the Intercontinental Title. This is the real reason that WWE should have kept the Brand Extention. Wow! JBL's old heel side came out about Ricardo! Considering ADR is the poor man's JBL, that shouldn't surprise me. The fans really were disinterested at the beginning and showed it with the JBL chant! Granted, the obnoxious ones in the front row didn't help matters either, but as I have always said, they paid for a ticket so they can act how they want within reason. But towards the end of this match they used another USA chant! Neither Christian or ADR are from here! This match had so many great points after the early lull they had that I can't list them all, but suffice to say they put it all on the line out there! I know that they will put on a great match at SummerSlam, but after tonight and on Raw a couple of weeks ago, I have to wonder how much more they have that they can show us. The Cross Armbreaker is quickly becoming an ineffectual finisher for ADR, as it is countered in almost every match these days. I hope that ADR either slowly starts to phase it out and use it on special occasions like Punk does the Anaconda Vice or that he starts using the Superkick more often. Christian won with a possum pin! I said last week how using simple finishes can pay off big time and this one is no exception! After the go home sequence that we were treated to, the simple pin to pick up a win made it feel like an even bigger win for Captain Charisma.
As a side note, Cole inadvertently hit a great point during this match. ADR needs a mouthpiece desperately. His use of Ricardo for so long to gain any sort of reaction proves that point, and ADR seems to have issues with delivering a believable promo. And considering they had similar gimmicks, JBL would make a great one for him.
Winner: Christian (Pin – 20:22)
Post Match Segment: 9.5
The Tron went out as ADR was throwing his tantrum! I couldn't help but wonder if someone in the production truck messed that one up or if they just had a malfuction. Of course ADR was going to go back after his fit to try to soften up Christian before their match at SummerSlam, but when he ate a Killswitch for his trouble, I got out of my chair as I thought for sure Sandow was about to successfully cash in Money in the Bank! But Cody was there to thwart it and continue the tensions between him and Sandow! What a way to end the show!
Overall Wrestling Grade: 7.75
Overall Segment Grade: 8
Overall Show Grade: 8.25
Average Match Time – 8:37
Wow, what a difference one match can make on the averages! If Kane's match hadn't been on here, the average match time would have been 10:22 and an overall grade of 8.25! But even though it didn't help in those respects, it did help further along his storyline. In fact, just about everything on the show helped to further the Road to SummerSlam. And with only one week left until the PPV, WWE has shown that they can build a compelling show while keeping equal focus on all of the feuds they are trying to build. And the writing is becoming more cohesive by the week. With a bit more time and energy, we might just be finding a great stride to ride for a while.