Welcome to this week's Smackdown Breakdown! I apologize that that this is up so late this week, but I had a crisis with one of my properties this weekend that had to be taken care of for the health and safety of everyone.
I want to take an opportunity to remember a great local legend in the wrestling business who passed away this past week, Corey Maclin. Corey started with Jerry Lawler's USWA in 1989 at 19 and was an instant hit on the announce team with Dave Brown. He would often times end up at odds with Jerry, as he would often side with the heels. When Lance Russell would return to the promotion in 1992, Maclin would become part of the rotating announce team. As the territorial days came to an end and USWA start to close it's doors, Maclin would depart the company and work around the area for a couple of years before starting Memphis Wrestling in 2003. While not the big success that USWA once was, It did moderately well over the years until around 2007. Maclin would then run for Shelby County Clerk in 2010 and start sportscasting for WATN in Memphis. He would also be embroiled in a lawsuit with Jerry Lawler over the rights to the Memphis Wrestling library. While his on air personality was boisterous and loud, the man was very humble and loved wrestling more than anything else he ever did. And while he may not have made the level of impact other promoters and personalities did, he did have one thing he could be proud of. He hosted what was considered to be the biggest US Indy wrestling event since the demise of the territories with his Clash of Legends event in 2007, which saw a recently released Big Show face Hulk Hogan. My condolences go to his family, as he will be greatly missed.
Break it Down!
In Ring Segment: 8.25
I know it is thanks to his Mexican heritage, but ADR can't pronounce the V sound! Bickie! Bickie! This was your typical ADR promo, although his reveal of Ricardo as his pick to face at SummerSlam was a funny twist! Of course ADR wouldn't want to choose a hard opponent. That's heel tactics 101! Vickie got heat, but she is finally hitting an interesting neutral balance. She gets heat for who she is, but her actions get a mixed reaction closer to Cena. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the heel GM role is vastly overplayed in WWE. Now that is a great match for Smackdown! Looks like WWE is stacking the cards well tonight right at the outset, considering before this segment they announced the Divas Title match and Punk/Fandango!
Cody Rhodes vs. Jack Swagger: 7.75
A-Ry really reminds me of Striker on commentary, and that is a great thing! His analysis of the stars and of holds is something only someone who has been on the roster recently could provide, and he works as a balancing act to Cole's sports entertainment storytelling. While I love Zeb, Cody shutting him up was a blessing! Considering we opened with a promo, I wanted to get to the action. While there wasn't much to this match overall, for the most part it was a solid bit of action that let Cody continue his upswing. I do want to point out Swaggers knees in the corner looked very weak. He was barely connecting with them and they were quite slow compared to how they normally are. Cody using the sunset flip follows a number of stars using it and the small package more and more lately to pick up wins. There is something to be said for a simple finish to a match. Personally, I like the idea, but hope it doesn't get overdone.
Winner: Cody Rhodes (Pin – 1:57)
Backstage Interview: 8
Other than his joke, Cody was really strong on the mic here! Now that he has been given an opportunity to shine once more, he is taking full advantage of it and is really impressing me. And it is nice to be able to hear him say more that one or two measly lines, since when he was in Rhodes Scholars the mic time was dominated by Sandow. Of course, Sandow was going to attack Cody in the back! After throwing Sandow's briefcase into the drink last week, it wouldn't have made much sense for it not to have become physical tonight.
Sin Cara vs. Big E. Langston: 7
Ugh! Sin Cara got his mood lighting again! I swear that one factor, if for no other reason, would make me hate him. It makes even a big company like WWE look like an Indy federation. There was an early mistime between Big E. and Sin Cara, as Big E. went for a flapjack and Cara tried to go into the dropkick, but other than that one hiccup the match was fairly smooth. Big E. showed his dominance throughout the entire match and showed why he is being pushed into this feud with Ziggler. Thankfully, Cara got little offense in and what he did was fairly pathetic. The man has lost whatever spark he had in Mexico that got him signed to WWE and is probably one of the biggest flops in years.
Winner: Big E. Langston (Pin – 3:07)
Wyatt Family Video: 9
The Wyatt Family may be the creepiest faction ever! The evolution of Windham Rotunda from Husky Harris to Bray Wyatt has been absolutely incredible. The man's charisma wasn't allowed to be on display before, but now that he can show he can work the mic well, I want to see more of his ring work now that he is on the main stage. He was very impressive down in NXT, but we all know that there is a substantial difference in working in developmental and on Raw or Smackdown. I have little doubt that he will step up to the plate and perform well, but that doesn't mean that there isn't the possibility of something going wrong.
Backstage Interview: 5
Boy, Layla is reminding me of another recent storyline in another company... Specifically, the Mickie James/Velvet Sky storyline in TNA. Mickie was all nice and complementary of Velvet then turned heel on her. WWE has been trying to catch the lightning in the bottle that the Knockouts have, but copying storylines isn't the way to do it. Other than that one little bit, Kaitlyn was totally forgettable on the mic. Her strong suit is in the ring, let her stay that way.
Backstage Segment: 6
Alberto Del Rio, the greatest champion of all time? Not by a long shot! He doesn't even crack the top 50. Maddox is stepping into his own as the GM of Raw. He's getting that subdued arrogance that any person in a position of power has. I think this will be a great role for him. Just keep him away from long lines on a live mic and we'll be fine!
Fandango vs. CM Punk: 8.75
Fandango got his curtain back! Considering it was missing last week, I half way expected that it was gone for good. Punk and Fandango both looked great! Fandango sold his gimmick well and pulled out some of his best ring work while Punk did what he does best and showed everyone why he is the Best in the World. I do like that they finally acknowledged Fandango's previous stint in WWE. A-Ry's little snippets of information on both Fandango and Big E. earlier about their time in developmental really adds a layer to the commentary. I absolutely loved the suplex driver by Fandango, and I hope that we start seeing that as the setup move for the Legdrop off of the top rope from here on. Punk using the Anaconda Vice after the superplex was a surprise and I hope that he starts to use it more frequently entering into his upcoming match with Lesnar. While I know that he could get The Beast up for and hit a GTS on him, making Lesnar tap out feels like more of a triumph. It brings that real sort of feeling to their fight. During his MMA career, Lesnar only tapped out once to Frank Mir. If Punk could submit Lesnar, it would make him look that much better.
Winner: CM Punk (Sub – 12:22)
Backstage Interview: 7.75
Now this is the RVD I wanted to hear last week! He had the fire that I wanted to hear from him and wasn't severely limited in his vocabulary. RVD and Christian's transfer felt very organic. I honestly wish that this was just a singles match between the two of them, as it could easily tear the house down! Orton's transfer wasn't quite as smooth as the first and RVD's transfer was even worse, but the segment was still fairly good, if not predictable.
Divas Championship Match
AJ Lee (c) vs. Kaitlyn: 7
Kaitlyn was announced as “Houston's own”? That's a sure sign the Hometown Curse is in effect tonight! So now Big E. can't be out at ringside because he scares the other Divas? That's daft! He has been there for 6 months and nothing was said. AJ ragdolls from moves like no one else in the Divas Division! Her selling can be over the top, but with her petite frame, it works very well. Layla stopping Kaitlyn and indirectly costing her the match was a brilliant move! It effectively turned her without feeling overly forced. But I knew it was coming! Divas don't get that complimentary of one another without something being up!
Winner: AJ Lee (Sub – 3:05)
Raw Rebound: 4
This recap felt very inorganic throughout the entire thing. Honestly, I wish that time had gone anywhere else, including to Sin Cara's match!
Triple Threat Match to determine #1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Orton vs. Christian vs. Rob Van Dam: 9.75
With as much as they are showing ADR's Cross Armbreaker being countered, maybe it is time for a change of finishers for him. With him using the Superkick against RVD last week, I have some hope. Really, another ADR promo? ADR has shaky mic skills to begin with, and giving him more time to show that is just going to turn fans off even more. Ricardo can beat any of the men in the ring? Maybe we will see Ricardo in the ring more when he returns from his wellness strike! Considering how well he has done in the past and in NXT, I think he could make a good addition to the roster. But enough of my complaints on ADR! The match was without a shadow of a doubt one of the top, if not the top, match we have seen on Smackdown this year! All three men were at the top of their games and showed why they deserve to be at the pinnacle of this business. RVD has seemingly turned back time! That spinning heel kick to Orton on the barricade was sick! And while he was slower due to his age in spots, he still pulled out all of his classic moves like he hadn't missed a day. The Split Leg Moonsault was a prime example! And Christian with that Tornado DDT! His selling of any move he takes is superb and he has a personality that shows through everything he does. I swear, every time RVD hits the 5 Star Frog Splash, I wince. It looks like he hurts himself just as much as his opponent! Rolling Thunder countered?! I swear in the 17 years I have been watching him, I don't think I have ever seen anything like that! Orton was absolutely brilliant with that move and the way he hit the RKO on RVD as he was setting up for Christian. Christian won with one of the simplest moves in a wrestler's arsenal! Christian gets one more match! I know I seem surprised, but with the way they have been rebuilding Orton, I had it figured that they would have him win here and face ADR at SummerSlam to make his cash in for the WWE Title more of a surprise. The show of respect by Orton and RVD was very classy but has me wondering, could we be seeing the last run of Christian? His body has been pretty banged up and he has spent a lot of time out due to injury. I hope it isn't but if so, I hope he goes out on top.
Winner: Christian (Pin – 18:03)
ADR's Attack: 7
Honestly, who didn't see this coming? Considering the feud that Christian and ADR had over the summer of 2011 with Edge's retirement, I have some high hopes for this one. I just hope it doesn't end in a 5 day title reign for Christian again!
Overall Wrestling Grade: 8
Overall Segment Grade: 7
Overall Show Grade: 7.5
Average Match Time: 7:43
With only two episode of Smackdown until SummerSlam now, I am liking the upward trend they are starting to show with the product. Last week we had great storytelling that showcased a feud that wouldn't normally garner a lot of attention otherwise and this week we had some fantastic wrestling. WWE almost always seems to put its best foot forward when it come to the Big 4 PPVs and this one is no exception. I just hope the trend continues, as WWE needs strong builds to get the fans focus back into their product.
I want to also encourage everyone to read Gesus' excellent counterpoint to the opening to last week's Breakdown. He has honestly convinced me that I may have been a bit harsh in my critique of our current situation with the next wrestling boom. Read it here and I'll see you next week!