WWE SmackDown finally made its debut on the USA Network this week, emanating from Laredo, TX. John Cena provided the show with some much-needed star power, alongside two major championship matches. It’s the SmackDown Report…
John Cena arrived to open the show, putting over Laredo and scoring shamelessly patriotic cheap pops. He said that, with the Intercontinental Championship and Divas Title both on the line, the one person obviously missing was the United States Champion Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio arrived, but refused to be goaded into offering Cena another title match. Del Rio offered to fight anyone on the roster, other than Cena, in a non-title match. Cena said he had just the guy and introduced Kalisto.
1. Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
Del Rio’s early cockiness in the face of Kalisto’s size immediately put him on the back foot when Kalisto exploded in a flurry of high-flying attacks. He shocked the champion with his ability in a solid match that far exceeded the quality of their awkward bout a few months ago during the WWE Championship tournament. The presence of an enjoyably goofy John Cena at ringside added star power and, indeed, proved to be crucial to the match’s finish. Del Rio was far too focused on appearing strong in the face of Cena and therefore took too long to apply the cross armbreaker, allowing Kalisto to counter into a hurricanrana for the upset victory. This was solid booking in a rivalry that would now seem to be scuppered by Cena’s recent injury. It seems as if Kalisto may now enter the championship picture.
The most interesting thing here, though, was the commentary debut of new play-by-play guy Mauro Ranallo, who got the balance between calling the action and telling a story just right. He could be the new voice that WWE desperately needs at this point.
JoJo caught up with Becky Lynch backstage, ahead of her Divas Championship shot against Charlotte. Lynch cut her best main roster promo to date, explaining that Charlotte is the second friend to betray her in the last year and that their match tonight would be anything but friendly.
2. Miz TV: Royal Rumble Special
Like many recent editions of Miz TV, this didn’t exactly go how the host had hoped. He was almost immediately interrupted by New Day, who ran down Chris Jericho. Dolph Ziggler then appeared and was in the middle of promising that this would be his year, when Goldust arrived, closely followed by Neville. Neville said that he was willing to sacrifice anything to get the show cancelled. Just as Miz tried to take back control, R-Truth turned up and said that he was going to accept Alberto Del Rio’s open challenge. Admittedly, Truth’s comic interruptions have started to become quite funny. Unsurprisingly, a brawl broke out and, after the break, there was an impromptu tag team match.
3. New Day and The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Neville and R-Truth
This was about as fun as a generic, tossed together tag team match gets. After the customary break down of order, Goldust and Truth ended up holding Miz so that he could eat a superkick from Ziggler for the pinfall. The interesting bit came after the bell, when Ziggler laid out both Truth and Goldust, reminding everyone that it’s every man for himself when it comes to the Rumble.
Charlotte and Ric Flair were preparing for the championship match, when JoJo caught up with them. Charlotte cut a fairly standard heel promo about how Lynch had been leeching off her and had no idea how to be a champion.
4. Divas Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch
This was a really interesting match that kicked off with an evenly matched mat exchange. The tide turned when Ric Flair got involved at ringside, allowing Charlotte to floor Lynch with a big boot. Charlotte then dominated much of the match with her powerful offense, until Lynch was able to fight back into it. The action was fast-paced and the chemistry between the performers was as good as it has ever been. Lynch seemed poised to win the title late on when she had the Disarmer on Charlotte, but Ric Flair put his daughter’s feet on the ropes just as she tapped out. In a nice touch, it was the same ropes who would scupper Lynch’s ambitions moments later, when Charlotte used them for leverage as she rolled up the Irish challenger. This was another good match between these two women in a feud that is currently being booked very nicely indeed.
Kevin Owens gave a (carefully timed) one-minute interview to Renee Young ahead of his IC Title shot. He called Ambrose a cockroach and pledged to crush him like he had crushed so many cockroaches before. In his own interview with Young, Ambrose spoke about how he had kept Owens at bay before and would again tonight.
5. Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kevin Owens
These two men produce magic when they step into the ring with each other and the same was true in this match. Ambrose and Owens worked a hard-hitting brawl of a match, in which both men knew each other exceptionally well. The highlight was Owens managing to avoid Ambrose’s trademark rebound lariat before mocking the unrealistic rebound motion as Ambrose lay embarrassed at ringside. After a hot sequence of nearfalls, the match spilled to the outside as the competitors threw everything they had at each other. They brawled all of the way through the crowd, then out into the entrance way and onto the sound equipment. After scrapping atop a series of equipment boxes, they both fell through an array of tables and wiring. Both bodies lay broken as SmackDown went off the air.
This was a much better broadcast than what fans have come to expect from SmackDown. There were fewer segments, giving everything necessary breathing room, and the title matches did a solid job of sustaining and developing the storylines currently rumbling around those belts. Add to that the extra star power of having John Cena around, as well as a new commentator with a traditional style, and the result was a good wrestling show. The future seems bright for SmackDown on USA.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.