I have to say that Payback was one of the best PPVs WWE has produced in a very long time. Up and down, the show just flat out delivered quality wrestling. But there was one match, while in retrospect it told an amazing story, just made me physically ill. That match was the World Heavyweight Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. If you have been reading my blog for the past few months, you know how I feel on concussions being used in storylines. WWE crossed a line at Payback that honestly made me question whether or not I could morally watch the show anymore. Thankfully, I had the reassurances of Richard and Kendra, as well as the excellent community here on WNW. My concussion issues, I know, are not typical issues that people deal with. But the fact of the matter is that WWE should have known that concussions can be a disabling condition for some people, myself included. Post concussion syndrome is something that can stick with you for the rest of your life and while WWE has been doing much better in identifying them as they occur, it can take months before the serious side effects begun to appear. I just hope that WWE treads lightly from here on, as no one want to see a match where it looks like someone is about ready to go into a coma
Break it Down!
Opening Video: 5
It was almost the same exact video as they aired at the beginning of Raw this week. While it was a good video, I would have rather had a video package highlighting the pertinent feuds of the Blue Brand. The only difference between this and Monday’s version was the fact that this one focused on ADR at the end of it.
In Ring Segment: 9
Smackdown has been starting off with Daniel Bryan the last two weeks, and I think it really helps elevate the show. Bryan is arguably the #2 face in the company right now and is carrying the show week in and week out with the Shield. And while I agree with WWE’s decision to stop the match on Raw, as I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to injuries, Daniel Bryan was obviously really irked to a point that they did stop it. Remember, this is the same man who wrestled 30 minutes with a detached retina! But the way Bryan twisted this around to be about WWE and Orton perceiving him as the weak link was impeccable! And I know that the hair helps, but Daniel has just been selling the heck out of this crazed personality! A lot of workers lately have been picking up on how important facial expressions are in the ring, but Bryan has something that none of the other have here lately and that is the belief in what he is saying and doing in his eyes. And I have to say that Orton brought this segment up even further! Orton has always done better when he isn’t on a script and it was very clear that this promo was a worked shoot. The only complaint I have is the very end. Orton got a little robotic there, but that tends to happen if he is allowed to cut a longer promo.
I also want to take a moment here and commend Orton for Monday night’s show of class and respect. Considering his history with ego issues and his general attitude, he deserves a round of applause.
Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes: 7.75
You have to love how Sheamus no sold the work Cody did on his arm! Sorry, I know sarcasm does not transfer well in text, but that was a stupid move by Sheamus. Cody worked it over for a solid 2 minutes of the match just for Sheamus to treat it like it didn’t happen in the end. But at least Cody got in a good amount of offense against Sheamus, as he is starting to look good in loss despite of his booking. It was nice to see Sheamus use the cloverleaf again, as it is a logical move to be in his arsenal for a finisher. It gives him more options. Sandow is getting ruthless again! This is reminding me of this time last year with Brodus Clay. I just hope it doesn’t end up like last time, with Sandow getting lost in the shuffle.
Winner: Sheamus (Sub)
Wyatt Family: 8
I’ve been giving these videos high marks over the last few weeks and while I still loved this one, it is time for the videos to end and the destruction to begin. Hopefully, it will be on Raw this week, but I am getting this strange vibe that they may debut on Smackdown.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Curtis Axel (c) vs. Wade Barrett: 7.5
I know that Barrett had a rematch for the title since he lost it, but after Monday night I really don’t think he was a justifiable opponent for Axel. He lost to a returning Christian and while that may seem like a minor loss due to Christian’s main event status, it really is telling of how WWE thinks of the former Intercontinental champion. Sadly, this match was just a platform to begin a program between Miz and Axel, and thus was nothing really memorable.
Winner: Curtis Axel (Pin)
Mark Henry Recap: 9
While I normally hate any recaps of Raw that aren’t important to Smackdown’s storyline, this was such a well executed twist on Raw that I didn’t mind watching it again. Henry has been in a major upswing ever since he went over Ryback at WrestleMania despite some seriously poor booking against Sheamus. I can only hope that it ends in at least a short WWE Championship run for him, as he has at least earned that in his 17 year career.
AJ Lee vs. Natalya: 8
I love Natalya’s quick thinking when she couldn’t lock in the Sharpshooter by using an inverted surfboard. It just shows what a student of the game she had to be in the Hart Family. I also have to say that AJ’s Black Widow is a nice way to incorporate an old move like the Octopus Stretch to a modern audience. While this was a short match, it is a much better direction than the Divas have been booked over past few years. I just hope that it is the start of a Divas revival, not just some half hearted pet project of a McMahon like the Tag Team Division was last year.
Winner: AJ Lee (Sub)
Kaitlyn is breaking down worse than Daniel Bryan! Maybe I am looking a bit too far into it and down the line, but I think it would be interesting if Ziggler recaptured the WHC and feuded with Bryan, which would lead to Kaitlyn and Bryan joining forces against Ziggler and AJ.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Jericho: 7
First off, I have to say it is a little perturbing that Del Rio is now a 4 time World Champion, twice with the WHC and twice with the WWE Title in less than 3 years. That shows 2 things. First, that WWE doesn’t trust him with a Title for a long period of time. Second, that Del Rio has not truly broken through that glass ceiling yet of being a true main event talent. While he has consistent ring work, albeit a little botchy, he just does not have that believable persona that makes him a must-see superstar.
I have to say that it is nice that they turned Ricardo full heel with Del Rio, considering the last time Del Rio was a heel Ricardo seemed to be just a subservient face. Its little things like that which has been missing in WWE’s booking lately. But what irked me here was that there was tremendous talent in the ring with both ADR and Jericho, yet this was a very formulaic match. It felt like they were just going through each other’s high spots. But at least things picked up after the match with Ziggler’s attack! Of course, Jericho took offense to Ziggler costing him the match and delivered a Codebreaker to him, which opened Ziggler up to that kick to the head from ADR. And while it was predictable, it did help solidify Del Rio’s turn. I just hope that we keep getting the surprises like we had on Monday.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio (DQ)
Drew McIntyre vs. Christian: 8
Captain Charisma is finally back! And while I hate the fact that McIntyre was the one fed to Christian for his return to the Blue Brand, I know that there are very few people who could hide any ring rust Christian may have had as well as McIntyre. And on top of that, he looked good in defeat, so it wasn’t a total loss for him. The only thing that got on my nerves here was the obnoxious fan that seems to be in every audience was really loud during a section of this match with a “You’re a Jobber” chant. McIntyre knows his status at the moment, there is no need to degrade the man.
Winner: Christian (Pin)
Post Match Segment: 8.5
Christian hasn’t missed a beat! I can’t wait for more promos from him. But I should have guessed that The Shield would want to add another name to their already impressive tally of superstars that they have decimated. I hope that Christian starts a feud with Ambrose over the US Title, as that can only help the prestige of the belt. But why did The Shield run down the ramp? Did they miss their staging cue for the crowd entrance? All I know is that it looked weird.
CM Punk Recap: 6
As I said earlier, I really hate recaps that don’t flow with the show. This is a prime example of one, even though it helped segue way into the next segment. It just further slowed down the show.
Heyman Interview: 4
Heyman actually made me uncomfortable by dredging up Renee Young’s personal life here, and I know that was the point. But this really felt more like WWE bullying the new girl on national TV and that is a shame, considering how much of a slimeball Heyman showed he could be in this segment.
Don’t Try This At Home Video: 10
I know that some may not agree with me here, but I think WWE never should have stopped airing these on the mainline programs. Children are creatures that will try to do anything that they think they can get away with, especially if they see it on TV. I have 2 boys myself, a 6 year old and a 2 year old, and I know that anytime I let my oldest son watch WWE (TNA is a bit too violent for him with A’s and 8’s at the moment) with me, I explain that the people in the ring have undergone training to learn how to do this sport for our entertainment. I hate to hear that any child may have been injured or killed by mimicking what was performed on WWE programming, but there is almost always more to the story than just what is initially reported. My thoughts and prayers go to Viloude Louis’ family.
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan: 8.75
I know Bryan got his entrance earlier in the night, but I hate the fact that we came back from commercial with him already in the ring. Bryan has been showing us something different in submissions every couple of matches lately! That leglock he pulled out early in this match was quite nice! This was a great back and forth match with plenty of momentum shifts and a lot of hard-hitting action throughout the bout, but it just seemed to be missing that little extra spark it had on Monday. I do like how they had Bryan arguing with the ref to restart the match after he won, but I think WWE dropped the ball here by having Smackdown end the way they did. I wanted to see the match get a clean finish!
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Countout)
Overall Wrestling Grade: 7.75
Overall Segment Grade: 7.75
Overall Show Grade: 7.75
Overall, I wasn’t surprised by the average grades this week, as this show left me feeling that it was just slightly above average. Honestly, I’m more disappointed in the fact that the originally planned main event of Bryan vs. Ambrose did not occur, as that could have easily stolen the entire show! But what really surprised me was the fact that we had 6 matches on the show, but none of them looked really bad. Sure, Sheamus pulled a stupid mistake, but the match was good otherwise. But we had a solid Divas match and no Teddy Long Specials! Now all we need to make these shows great is for them to give us some major storyline progression and for WWE treat Smackdown as an equal to Raw and stop recapping it 2-4 times a show.
While I know it will be a disappointment to some of my readers, I have decided to temporarily suspend the trivia questions. I feel like we need to focus on the product at this time and want to hear your opinions about it. Also, I have a big announcement that I will be making in the next few days, so stay tuned!