It was the Blue Brand’s last chance to shine Tuesday night as it looked to establish one final push ahead of Stomping Grounds on Sunday, and to offer up something different from last night’s decent Raw offering.
New Day Kick off SmackDown
Talking of doing something different…The New Day are massively over with the WWE Universe, are arguably the most entertaining and popular tag team of the past decade, and are a particular favourite stable of this writer. However, their numerous appearances on Raw last night and them opening this show has not only over used the trio this week but has also exposed the lack of trust the WWE currently has in portions of the roster to carry fresh storylines or programmes.
Anyhow, it is always a treat to see Big E and gang, but they were cut off as they were still warming up as Dolph Ziggler interrupted, The Showoff imperious as usual on the mic but offering up nothing different from what he has already said during his feud with Kingston; how WWE Champ Kofi is nothing without The New Day and how he deserves to be champion. Ziggler referenced Woods’ interference costing him the title at Super Showdown, which was a nice call back, and this set up the evening’s first clash…
Xavier Woods vs. Dolph Ziggler
Woods and Ziggler engaged in some mat based grappling to the backdrop of ‘New Day Rocks’ chants, as Kingston and E looked on from ringside. Woods hit a toe hold and a dropkick, nearly putting away Ziggler, who kicked out at two. The Showoff responded with a big boot to the face before Owens and Zayn, so bereft of a meaningful programme of their own at the moment that they again inserted themselves into this one, rushed the ring to take out Big E and Kingston, all men being banished to the back by the ref. The distraction allowed Ziggler to gain the upper hand with a DDT for a near fall. Woods battled back bravely, but took a superkick to the face on the apron, allowing Dolph to strike with the Zig Zag and another lethal superkick to score the pin in a dominant showing.
Ziggler was made to look strong here, the right move going into his clash with Kingston on Sunday. There was an edge and a brutality to his performance, and the way he despatched of a Woods standing alone from his New Day partners played into the narrative referred to by Ziggler, in which he said The New Day as a collective are greater than the sum of their parts, and once singled out, are vulnerable. This could be an important factor in the steel cage stipulation, with Kingston not able to rely on his Power of Positivity pals to bail him out, seemingly giving the Showoff the edge.
‘A Moment of Bliss’ with Bayley
The heat in this feud was turned up a few notches on Bliss’ chat show, as personal jibes and references steeped in reality were traded by the two women. This is a tactic rarely seen outside of a John Cena promo, but it was what this rivalry needed to elevate from what has been a flat programme thus far.
Bayley said Bliss was entitled and didn’t deserve the monster push she has received since stepping up from NXT, while a brilliant, impassioned Bliss claimed Bayley has stagnated since being promoted to the main roster. This elicited a fervent response from the Hugger as a brawl broke out. Nikki Cross, accompanying Bliss, broke it off, allowing the Goddess to attack Bayley and stand tall to see out the segment. The intensity having been turned right up, this promises to be a quality match up on Sunday, with the added component that is Cross ensuring that the Smackdown Women’s champion come Monday morning is far from a foregone conclusion.
Heavy Machinery vs. The B Team
With Smackdown tag team champions Rowan and Bryan joining the commentary team, it was announced that Heavy Machinery would get a shot at the gold at Stomping Grounds. Bryan always excels at the announcers table, and compared Otis and Tucker to the Bushwackers. He did give credit where it was due, though, and begrudgingly praised the raw power displayed by Heavy Machinery as they dominated Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a one-sided affair. They tossed the B-Team round the squared circle before Otis executed the ever-popular Caterpillar, before a Compactor scored the win.
Elimination Tag Match: The Miz and R Truth vs. Drew McIntyre and Elias
Shane McMahon, McIntyre and Elias hit the ring to discuss their beating at the hands of Roman Reigns the previous night on Raw, and the Scottish Psychopath promised that he would end Reigns’ career in their bout on Sunday night at Stomping Grounds. The Miz spoiled the party and showed footage of McIntyre and McMahon getting their asses handed to them by the Big Dog, much to the delight of the WWE Universe. McMahon again called Miz’ dad a potato and told him he had ten seconds to find a partner to face McIntyre and Elias immediately. On cue, an elusive R Truth, sneaking around the arena trying to avoid detection from pretenders to his 24/7 crown, was recruited by the A-Lister to be his partner and help to silence the snarling heels.
Miz and Elias started off as Truth warmed up the Ontario crowd. The Drifter shoulder barged Miz to the ground before falling victim to a knee. Truth entered proceedings, working with Miz as the former tag team partners showed they still had chemistry. McIntyre wasn’t impressed by Truth though and flung him across the ring with a belly to belly. A snap suplex followed for a two-fall. Elias tagged back in and continued the beating of thee 24/7 champ, pinning Truth with a running knee to score the first elimination.
R Truth had little time to recover, as half the lower card, led by Shelton Benjamin, chased Truth out of the arena, all after his 24/7 title. Back in the ring, The Miz initially defied the numbers disadvantage by bravely taking the fight to Elias, hitting a DDT and a series of ‘Yes’ kicks. It is such a testament to the Miz as a worker that, although a genius as the cowardly heel, he is equally as impressive as the plucky babyface, showing resilience and courage in the face of adversity. The heel tactics of McIntyre and Elias proved too much, ultimately, as a Glasgow Kiss and a Claymore Kick from the big Scot put paid to Miz’ valiant showing. The heels then systematically beat down Miz to compound his humiliation.
2 Out of 3 Falls Match: Kofi Kingston and Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
In a match announced earlier in the evening by Shane McMahon, the company’s two top guys teamed up to take on a pair of equally talented performers who are quickly losing credibility with their poor booking. Though it could sound harsh, in recent weeks KO and Zayn have basically been jobbed out to make other stars look good, but with no real rhyme or reason for them even being involved. They quickly need a programme of their own to stop the rot, but first they had to contend with Rollins and Kingston.
To completely back up these sentiments, straight from the bell, Kingston stunned Zayn with a Trouble in Paradise to put the babyfaces 1-0 up. Zayn and Owens regrouped and did, in fact, look sharper in the second phase of the match, Owens furiously unloading on The Beast Slayer. Rollins and Kingston responded and worked well as a tandem, wearing down Owens. The Prizefighter, though, fought back, slapping on the DDT and attempting to level the scores, as a grinning Paul Heyman looked on backstage. Zayn entered and continued the pounding of Rollins. He slowed the pace with a sleeper hold and responded to a fired up Kofi with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall. Rollins entered following the hot tag and finished Owens with the stomp. The second fall was significantly more even, though the fact that Owens and Zayn couldn’t even score a fall was telling indeed, and speaks volumes for the aforementioned rut Owens and Zayn currently find themselves in. Furthermore, the two babyface champs stood tall to close the segment and end the Smackdown before Stomping Grounds in victorious fashion, but is it really all that noteworthy considering the lowly opposition they bested?
The Smackdown before Stomping Grounds was successful in that it created intrigue for how the PPV may play out on Sunday. It asked the question of whether Ziggler may finally get the better of Kingston after he decimated Xavier Woods and it also ramped up the intensity of the Bayley and Bliss feud. It wasn’t without its flaws though, Zayn and Owens are ‘making use’ of the wildcard rule but to the complete detriment of their credibility, as it just means they are getting humiliated on both brands. Furthermore, the wildcard rule as a whole is also getting a little out of hand, making a mockery of having a brand division if each show can’t operate alone without bringing the top stars over from each brand every night. That aside, Stomping Grounds is currently slated to be a decent show, and the odds are that not every champion walking in to the PPV will wake up with their championship the next morning.