A lot has been said about WWE's creative direction over the last few months. Between a lackluster WrestleMania and predictable PPVs, if WWE wanted to wow us, it has done a poor job of doing so until Money in the Bank, where everything up until now was shown to be a window dressing for a much bigger set of stories. And I for one am glad that WWE is seeming to find this sort of direction, even if it is due to their own internal hiccups. But all growth is subject to some growing pains and looking back now, WWE has been no different. But we fans aren't the only ones noticing these changes, as investors who have been very cautious on WWE's stock have finally started seeing a price jump of about a $1 a share over the last month and $3 a share over the last year. And in addition to all of these factors, WWE has developed a massive talent pool that hasn't been seen in a company since the Attitude Era. We could very well be on the cusp of a revolution, but there is one catalyst that is missing: competition. Without it, no matter what WWE tries to do it cannot recapture the spark it once held. And while TNA is currently the best poised to be in that position, they have too many flaws to make up the ground needed to actually perform at WWE's high level. Sadly, until another mad scientist like Paul Heyman comes along and reshapes what it means to be a wrestling company, I think we may be stuck in this holding pattern for years to come.
Break it Down!
Randy Orton vs. Damien Sandow: 8.25
Sandow got some serious heat during his entrance! That goes to show how one severely heelish action can turn the corner for a character. And it's good to see Orton wasn't as badly hurt as WWE thought he was. I may not be his most ardent supporter, but he has been on quite the hot streak with his in ring work. Orton tossing Sandow to the outside looked like they were a second off, but other wise this was an incredibly fluid and well paced match, with both men looking very strong throughout. However, a match like this wouldn't be complete without some gamesmanship by Cody Rhodes! I love that they are pushing both Cody and Sandow to greater heights with this feud. We fans have been clamoring for this for the past year and it looks like WWE isn't disappointing us. Let's just hope it is a sign of a new direction for WWE's creative department.
Winner: Randy Orton (Pin) 14:25
In Ring Segment: 8.25
Punk is on Smackdown again! Considering Smackdown's past issues of drawing low live audiences, I have to wonder if this a ploy to get attendance up. Punk draws, especially when he is involved in a personal feud like this one with Heyman. And it doesn't get much more personal than this feud! Punk has shown emotion and passion that we have sorely missed from him since he lost the WWE Championship with this feud and this promo was no exception. But why kick Lesnar in the face? His guts are his weak point, as his UFC fight with Alistair Overeem proved! Fandango's big set was missing from his entrance! And considering the fact the fans are seeming to cool on him and that he was just fed to Punk here, I have to wonder if WWE has decided to pull in the reigns on him. If so, it is a shame because he just showed last Monday that he could hang with the top stars in the company.
These videos were cute at first, but WWE is really starting to run them into the ground.
Wade Barrett and the Primetime Players vs. Mark Henry and the Usos: 6
Honestly, there wasn't a lot to this match that felt right, starting with the pairing of Barrett and the Primetime Players. Other than the fact that all three of them are heels, what sense did this pairing make? Titus was just off a step most of the match and it really showed against Henry. The one thing I liked out of this whole match was ironically what happened directly following it. Henry showed that he hasn't totally transitioned into a face with his interactions with the Usos.
Winners: Mark Henry and the Usos (Pin) 3:28
Backstage Segment: 6
The “Real Deal” Alberto Del Rio? That has to be one of the worst nicknames I have heard in a while! And RVD's first chance on the stick back in WWE and I thought I was back in 2003 due to the fact that he had a very limited vocabulary. It just felt very wrong for him to be so limited. I hope that this isn't a sign of what's to come with him.
Sandow's Search: 5
Is Sin Cara searching through the trash for his talent? I think it left years ago! Otherwise, this was a completely forgettable segment that only served to waste our time.
Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio: 4
Wow... That was a poor excuse of a match! The only positive out of it was that ADR used the Superkick to win it. ADR seems to be taking strides in the right direction, but with every step forward, he takes one or two backwards in another way. Right now, he is finally discovering what it takes to get a good reaction out of the fans, but his ring work is starting to suffer for it. And it's not that I don't understand that ADR has a broken rib that he wants to nurse to keep his injury from getting worse, but there is no excuse for a poor match such as this, where the majority of it was spent with ADR outside of the ring. Even the fans were getting tired of it!
Winner: Alberto Del Rio (Pin) 2:30
Sandow's Search Part Duex: 7.75
“I look like a snitch?” Henry's deadpan made this segment much more enjoyable than if it had been almost any other star. And him working off Booker T was even better! Sandow brought out Booker's crazy eyes and that was all she wrote. At this point, it looks like this going to be a recurring segment through Smackdown and I am not opposed. That is basically pushing both of these men into the main event, as WWE only allots multiple segments to who they think is the most deserving stars. Well played WWE!
AJ Lee's State of Her Mind Address: 9.25
A gentle nudge is all AJ needs to be pushed over the edge? I think it's more like a sight breath! Her hair is a disheveled, she looks like she isn't sleeping well, and her voice is so shaky that Japan might be worried of another earthquake! She's a testament to what the Diva division can become with a bit more work. And Dolph's reactions to her though out this segment has me wondering if he hasn't actually been down this road on more than one occasion! Although my nightmare will now be haunted with the thought for AJ coming at me with scissors in her mouth... But couldn't WWE have mocked a better fake driver's license for her to destroy? There isn't a state out there that I know of that has a completely blank back to their licenses. But Ziggler's reaction to the passport was priceless! Of course, I love any digs that superstars take at PG. But his comment about having money in his pockets and he doesn't have pockets! I knew he stuffed! And you have to love the you are psycho chant! Between AJ's reaction to it, which was a classic AJ meltdown, and the fact that the fans cared enough to start it shows that they appreciate the fact that there is a Diva who isn't just a pretty face. Of course, things had to get physical here, but Kaitlyn nearly snapped AJ in half! And Ziggler's Famouser on Big E Langston has finally helped turn the tide for this entire feud to his favor. And I have to say that this breakup has also really solidified his face turn and let him keep the very best aspects of his heel persona.
Raw Rebound: 5
Yet again, we get a Raw Recap that has absolutely nothing to do with the current storylines on Smackdown. And while I don't mind seeing the high spots from Bryan's matches on Raw, I had to watch a similar recap earlier in the night via the Raw Rewind advertisement. But what irked me the most was seeing the very obvious botch Ryback pulled twice. I have said for months that Ryback is too fast and loose with his ring work and that he is reckless. If that didn't prove my points, I don't know what will. Bryan was very lucky to have escaped that without a broken neck or other serious injury. Coupled with his obviously failed heel turn and his ego backstage, Ryback would be on my short list to cut at the next roster purge.
The Wyatt Family vs. Tons of Funk: 5.75
While I know that there are very few face tag teams in WWE currently, Tons of Funk was a bad match up for The Wyatt Family to be placed against in their debut. Their styles are too similar to really let the Wyatts show just what led WWE to choose to bring them up with Bray Wyatt. On top of that, the match felt very rushed, as they were expected to show the fans their chops with less than 2 minutes of action. Hopefully, we will get some longer matches in the near future so they can show the fans who aren't acquainted with them already what they can do.
Winners: The Wyatt Family (Pin) 1:05
In Ring Segment: 8
Bray's promo was short, sweet, and to the point. Bray can elocute his points in as many or few words as needed and it always seems to turn out very well. And while his his Sister Abigail finisher is simple, the psychological factor behind it speaks volumes for his character.
Backstage Segment: 8
Sandow is falling off of the deep end with this search! Demanding charges be brought against Cody Rhodes and wigging out on Vickie Guerrero was an absolutely perfect way to continue to evolve this situation. While the first segment in this series may not have left much of an impression, the evolution of it was very organic, which is something storylines and characters seem to lack these days.
Christian vs. Jack Swagger: 8
I catch a lot of flack for my views on Swagger's personal life and recent in ring hiccups, but this match showed the side of him I love: the in ring technician. His moves were crisp and he showed that fire in his ring work that so few have these days. He wants to be here, he just keeps making stupid errors. And what else can be said about Christian that hasn't been said already? Since his return, he hasn't missed a beat. His promos and ring work have all been spot on and this match further showed why he is one of the unsung ring generals in WWE. He has worked his way into prominence with WWE and is easily one of the short list of people who the WWE machine never thought should make it into the big time. And while the match itself wasn't anything overly spectacular, it showed precisely what happens when two excellent ring workers are allowed to showcase their talent.
Winner: Christian (Pin) 8:36
In Ring/Gulf of Mexico Segment: 9
Boy, Sandow hasn't ever watched WWE! Anytime a superstar taunts his opponent near a body of water, someone always ends up in the drink! And while he ended up there voluntarily, his briefcase sure didn't! Sandow's sold his desperation to get his case back very well with both his actions and his words. The flattery that spewed from his mouth, hoping that Cody would just give him the case back was brilliant. And Cody twisting Sandow's words from last week, telling Sandow he deserved this, was a subtly brilliant move. This is the one of the best feuds in WWE right now, which says a lot about the quality of work they are putting out. Hopefully, WWE will play this smart and let this feud continue for a few months. With Sandow having the case, they could easily have him cash in only to be screwed over by Cody or have him win and continue their feud with the World Heavyweight Title in the midst.
Overall Wrestling Grade: 6.5
Overall Segment Grade: 7
Overall Show Grade: 6
Average Match Time – 6:01
There's a lot to be said of how tonight was booked, as the show was just miss after miss on the action in the ring! This was one of the worst shows we have had in a very long time in that regard, and there wasn't even a Divas or a Khali match to place the blame on here! But not only was it light on the in ring action, but there were way too many points in this broadcast where we were being forced to listen to promos! I don't know about anyone else, but I tune in for wrestling! If I want talking heads, I'll watch C-Span!