The go-home edition of SmackDown before Super Show-Down in Saudi Arabia this Friday looked to inject some excitement into a number of feuds that have felt flat in recent weeks, and have been given little time to develop ahead of what is now deemed, rightly or wrongly, a major PPV. Will Goldberg answer the Deadman’s call? Will Brock Lesnar tease another cash-in before Friday? And will R-Truth still be 24/7 champion when the rosters travel to Jeddah?
Kofi Kingston Kicks Off The Show
The Smackdown champ, with New Day stablemate Xavier Woods by his side, kicked off the show with an impassioned reflection of his recent trip back to his birthplace of Ghana and his fairytale ascension to the top. Dolph Ziggler interrupted, The Showoff stating that his own ‘journey’ has been neglected whilst Kingston has been catapulted to superstardom. He presented the WWE Universe with a video package showing how he has been constantly overlooked during his lengthy tenure with the company. Ziggler pulls off the embittered heel role so well, and the intensity between the two men hints at them stealing the show come Friday.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods
Best of ‘frenemies’ Zayn and Owens are back singing from the same hymn sheet, and have a common enemy in the New Day. Zayn and Woods locked up, going back and forth in the early exchanges, before the truncated version of the New Day gained the upper hand, double teaming both Owens and Zayn, pummelling Zayn with the ‘Unicorn Stampede.’ The heels’ attempt at catching their breath on the outside was cut short as Woods and Kofi hit a couple of high risk dives over the ropes. Only dirty tactics (Owens grabbing Woods’ leg as he looked to climb back in the ring) gave the Canadian natives the upper hand, Owens in particular leading an assault rich with brutality and athleticism. Woods countered with a dropkick from the top turnbuckle and had the wherewithal to make the hot tag to Kofi, who unloaded on Zayn, finishing him with a Trouble in Paradise. A solid, if unspectacular match, was bookended by a menacing Ziggler who, mere seconds after the bell rang, laid out both Woods and Kingston with a superkick apiece to close the segment.
A Moment Of Bliss w/ Bayley
The always-entertaining Bliss presented another version of her ‘talk show.’ Given the immense talent of Bliss on the mic, it’s surprising this segment hasn’t gotten as over as one would have expected. She introduced Smackdown Women’s champ Bayley, cutting off ‘The Hugger’ as she played down her recent achievements at Money in the Bank as merely ‘one good night’, instead bigging up her own experiences of sitting atop the women’s division. Bayley responded to the baiting with a slap, before the bickering was interrupted by Carmella, staking her claim to be the next challenger to Bayley’s strap. Nine-time champ Charlotte Flair also threw her hat in the ring to set up a triple threat number one contender’s match for later in the night.
24/7 Championship Lumberjack Match
R-Truth (C) vs. Elias
A group of lower-card talent gathered around the ring with the facet that they were not allowed to try and capture the championship during the match. The likes of the underused EC3 and Jinder Mahal looked as Truth was unsuccessful with a quick roll up. As Truth was tossed outside, he was set upon by four of the lumberjacks and then ran into an Elias knee to concede a pinfall and the title. As Elias celebrated being the two-time champ, the Lumberjacks all climbed to the apron, eyeing the prize. They all began brawling in the centre of the ring, in what is surely a precursor to the Battle Royal at the Super Showdown on Friday. Indeed, as the talent in the ring became pre-occupied with tossing each other over the top rope, Elias scuttled away from the melee and to apparent safety, only to be greeted by Truth, who crawled after him under the ring and pinned him to quickly regain the title.
Shane O Mac Calls Out The Big Dog
In building on another lukewarm Super Show-Down feud, McMahon addressed Roman Reigns, flanked by his new cohorts, The Revival. Dawson and Wilder are super talented and deserve more than being caught up in what is a mess of a programme, a feud nobody wants, and a conflict that should hopefully be Superman-punched to bed by Reigns come Friday. McMahon talked of putting the Big Dog in his place, again revelling in the moniker of ‘best in the world’. Reigns had heard enough and, as his music hit, made quick work of the Revival, before Drew McIntyre blindsided him with an impressive Claymore Kick. McMahon then mockingly hit a spear, a staple of Reigns’ offence, as he and the Scottish Psychopath stood tall.
#1 Contender’s Match
Alexa Bliss vs. Charlotte vs. Carmella
Bliss impressed in the early exchanges, especially with a sunset flip powerbomb to the Queen for a near-fall. Carmella then took over, despatching of Little Miss Bliss and very nearly pinning Charlotte, also hitting her with a couple of superkicks. ‘Mella was momentarily distracted by an interrupting Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, long enough for Bliss to ram her into the barricade. Charlotte then pummelled Bliss with a series of chops to a chorus of ‘Wooooos’. As is often the case with WWE programming, the commercial break hurt the flow of the match, and on return, Carmella was in charge, hitting Charlotte with a mightily impressive hurricarana off the top rope. The Queen responded with a figure 8 lock, only to be stopped by a Twisted Bliss from the recovering Alexa. Carmella saved what was surely destined to be a 3 count. All three were spent, laid out, while Rose and Deville looked on. Interference from the two distracted Carmella long enough for Bliss to strike with a DDT and earn the right to face Bayley at the new, poorly named PPV Stomping Grounds. Great Balls of Fire now sounds an innovative name for a PPV. Carmella improves every match and Flair rarely fails to impress, and this was reflected in a decent match. But Bliss going on to face The Hugger should be loads of fun, especially if Bliss is given ample time to be her antagonising best on the mic.
Lars Sullivan Interview
The divisive Sullivan went ‘all poetic on our asses’ when asked his rationale behind the recent beatdowns he’s been doling out to the Lucha House Party. ‘Would you ask a nightingale why they sing their sweet song?’ was one of his retorts. No, me neither! Sullivan has cut a controversial figure since his much-hyped debut on the main roster, and the upper echelons of WWE are clearly still high on him. He didn’t really explain why he is hellbent on decimating Kalisto and his pals in recent weeks, and odds are nobody will care when they all square off in a handicap match at Super Showdown. ‘The Freak’ finished with a disturbing rendition of Three Blind Mice to end a creepy and arguably pointless promo.
Goldberg kicked off his first ever SmackDown appearance with his iconic entrance to respond to Undertaker’s appearance on Raw last night. He got the pop of the night – with the WWE Universe chanting “Goldberg! Goldberg!” – as he looked to sell his upcoming match with the Phenom at Super Show-Down. He talked about his desire to face the Deadman and promised to bring the ‘badass’ Goldberg to the squared circle in Saudi Arabia. As he stated “Taker would rest in peace”, the lights dropped, the bells tolled and the two icons came face-to-face to close the show.
It is undeniable that a match up between two legends of the business will not be unbelievable to witness. However, with both men years past their prime, the match will hardly be a clinic, and will likely not last long. In some respects, this match represents what the controversial PPV is all about. It is a money-spinner, and is relying heavily on these two, plus others like Triple H, to draw interest and put bums on seats. And although it is billed as a ‘WrestleMania-worthy card’, to invested fans, it is merely a placeholder before feuds and programmes begin in earnest for the busy summer months. As a result, build up to matches has been lacklustre, and this edition of SmackDown proved as much.