Tonight will see a triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Title. Triple threat title matches? We haven't seen that in...oh wait, they open with a replay of the Kane/Punk/Bryan triple threat from Monday. Okay, technically that wasn't for the title, but we've seen the match enough times by now that it barely matters. Remember, this match ends with Bryan kicking Punk's head off and stealing the win, granting him a WWE Title match at Money in the Bank.
Match 1: AJ vs Layla (Diva's Champion), non-title
Winner: Layla via pinfall
AJ skips down to the ring, all smiles and gets a warm welcome from the crowd. Layla enters to a new song. AJ offers a hand shake and Layla accepts - Code of Honor in WWE? Layla with a headlock takeover and AJ with a headscissors. Back on their feet, AJ takes her turn with the headlock takeover and Layla rolls out to a front facelock for a quick pin attempt. Layla knocks AJ down with a shoulder and then armdrags into a roll up for one. AJ fights out of a wrist lock with elbows and a drop toe hold, then a front dropkick. AJ with a running body attack into the corner on the champ and gets a one count. Layla fights out with a spin kick, a cross body and a running face buster for two on AJ. AJ counters a running Layla with a spinning kick to the jaw and Daniel Bryan's music hits, leading the Yesman of the WWE down to ringside. Mic in hand, he shuffles clear around the ring shouting YES and in the distraction, Layla rolls AJ up for the win.
AJ immediately goes after Layla and lays into her. The referee separates them and AJ turns to Bryan, who is standing on the apron. Bryan tells AJ to calm down and says it's not fun to be distracted, is it? Bryan isn't out because he craves attention; he's out to discuss something important. Bryan says he will not leave until Vickie Guerrero (still the interim GM) gives him what he wants. As Bryan kills time, AJ mocks his YES arm motion. Vickie has not come out yet and Bryan says he's left with one choice - Which is apparently to chant YES. AJ joins in, as does the crowd and Bryan is none too happy about it. Back from a commercial, AJ and Bryan are having a dueling YES chant and Vickie finally comes out to break it up. Vickie says the crowd is tired of Bryan repeating his catchphrase, then screams "Excuse me". Cute. Bryan says he will soon be the new WWE Champion, but needs to show everyone that both Raw and Smackdown will soon revolve around him. Bryan wants to applaud Vickie for her quick action in giving him his title match so quickly. Bryan says he will need to work together with Vickie if she becomes the permanent GM and offers an idea to bring to the Board of Directors - The WWE Title match should have AJ banned from ringside. Vickie agrees and goes off on AJ, but Bryan breaks up the verbal assault. Apparently a poll on wwe.com ran this week for what role AJ would play in the match, and the Board of Directors agrees with what the fans said: AJ will be the guest referee when Bryan faces CM Punk for the WWE Title. AJ laughs at Bryan, YES's at Vickie and leaves the ring. Bryan goes into a fit of "NO"'s and heads to the back. Vickie brown noses the Board of Directors.
This is a good way to open the show with a short match. The chat afterwards was productive, explained WHY there will be a special referee and allowed AJ to show some more personality. Good job all around, and a competent match out of the girls. AJ won a battle royal and got pinned after a distraction by the champion - We know she'll be the special referee at Money in the Bank, but perhaps soon before or after, we'll see AJ get her shot at the Diva's Title.
Vickie goes on to explain that Smackdown's Money in the Bank will be decided by qualifier matches over the next two weeks, starting with Zack Ryder vs Damien Sandow
Match 2: Zack Ryder vs Damien Sandow, Money in the Bank qualifier
Winner: Damien Sandow via pinfall
Sandow says he will help his opponent tonight - The WWE's ambassador of mediocrity and stupidity. Sandow says that's no different than the members of the crowd. Sandow will be the champion to shepherd the WWE universe forward. Booker T drops a Lanny Poffo reference for Sandow and Ryder opens up with a forearm and flapjack; more offense than we've seen anyone get on Sandow. Sandow comes back, throwing him into a turnbuckle and stomping away. Sandow lands a russian leg sweep and a big elbow, then puts Ryder in a full nelson and bashes his head into the turnbuckle. Ryder counters a whip with a facebuster and hits Sandow with a back elbow, then double knees in the corner. Ryder continues the attack with a middle rope missile dropkick for two. Ryder hits the Broski Boot and readies for the Rough Ryder, but Sandow tosses him over, then wraps him up for the Cross Arm Neckbreaker and the win.
Still a quick match, but we see Sandow can handle getting it as well as giving it. I'm glad to see a bit of a change to Sandow' routine; this is what has to happen to get people to care about his matches. Good effort from Ryder, but Sandow is the first man to qualify for Smackdown's Money in the Bank ladder match.
Bryan is in the back and bangs on the Diva's door, then gently knocks, with a softer call for AJ. Kaitlyn comes out and says AJ isn't inside. Kaitlyn says Bryan should get on AJ's good side, because she's a "little mentally unstable". Bryan wants more help to find her, likely to suck up, since she'll be deciding his fate at Money in the Bank.
Match 3: Tyson Kidd vs Jack Swagger, Money in the Bank qualifier
Winner: Tyson Kidd via pinfall
Kidd is in the ring as they come back from another recap of Cena's 300th Make a Wish wish. That doesn't bode well for the most underutilized talent in the WWE. Kidd tries a quick go behind, but the much larger Swagger reverses, only to be rolled up by Kidd. From the apron, Kidd checks Swagger in the gut and leapfrogs over for another roll up and another quick count. Swagger rolls to the outside for space, but Kidd follows with a baseball slide. Kidd flips over Swagger, but stumbles, catching himself with a shoulder roll and tries a lucha-style move, but Swagger catches him with a wheelbarrow suplex for two. Great save from Kidd on that stumble - These are the little things that separate the mediocre from the very good.
Swagger takes the attack to Kidd's arm and lands a leg drop to it as well, getting a near fall. Swagger bars the arm of Kidd and Kidd fights up to his feet, then rolls up Swagger off the ropes. Swagger throws a body attack in the corner and biels Kidd half way across the ring. Swagger lands his version of the Vader Bomb and gets another two. Swagger stays on the arm on the mat, but Kidd fights up again and kicks Swagger, then lands a huge DDT. Kidd is slow to capitalize and ducks a clothesline, then lays into Swagger with kicks and a low dropkick to the head for two. Kidd elbows out of the corner, climbs on Swagger's shoulders and takes a fall from the electric chair, ending up in the Ankle Lock. Kidd climbs the ropes with his hands to escape, lands a kick to Swagger from the apron and hits a top rope Blockbuster and a roll up for the win.
I'm happy to see Kidd win this kind of match on TV, but it's bittersweet - He'll be playing the role of Evan Bourne/Justin Gabriel in this Money in the Bank. He'll be there for one or two huge spots to pop the crowd, and Kidd will no doubt deliver, but what's more important is if WWE keeps some confidence in him after the PPV. If they were smart, they would - even when he stumbles mid match, he looks smoother than half the roster. But this is WWE and Kidd is 5'10" - We have to hope WWE hasn't had their fill of guys that "don't fit the mold" with Punk and Bryan. Kidd deserves some spotlight.
Raw 1000 Moment with Jerry Lawler - Austin and McMahon with the bedpan attack in the hopsital. We've seen this one; why not just get more people to record these?
A recap is shown of the contract on a pole match from Monday night, setting up tonight's triple threat World Heavyweight Title match.
Ziggler is in the back with Vickie and Dolph says she needs to take more advantage of the position she's in right now. Ziggler wants Vickie to ban the Brough Kick and the Cross Armbreaker. Dolph goes off, saying that Vickie only thinks of herself and Vickie slaps him. Dolph says he still wants Vickie to introduce him tonight and raise his hand when he wins. We've got the AJ deal for lovey dovey drama - Do we really need this too?
Match 4 - Santino Marella (United States Champion) and Christian (Intercontinental Champion) vs David Otunga and Cody Rhodes, Money in the Bank qualifier
Winners: Santino Marella and Christian via pinfall
So both midcard champs vs two other guys for spots in an every man for himself match at a PPV. It's like WWE took over for TNA on the dumbass ideas rota. A spotlight hits Otunga in the ring and he gets different music to pose. Otunga, of anyone on this roster, doesn't at all deserve this time wasted on him. Santino and Rhodes start out and Rhodes goes into a hammerlock, which Santino reverses and quickly tags in Christian. Christian wrings Rhodes' arm and then slaps the taste out of his mouth. Rhodes puts a knee into the gut of Christian off the ropes then delivers a front suplex. Otunga tags in delivers a scoop slam and a low shoulder block. Rhodes comes back in and settles into a chinlock. Christian fights up and whips Rhodes to the corner, but he kicks out and climbs to the middle rope. Rhodes jumps into a right hand from Christian and tags on both sides lead to Santino running wild on Otunga. Santino pulls out the Cobra and tags Otunga, but Rhodes drags him out so that he can't be pinned. Rhodes rolls him back in and tags himself in, then strikes at Santino. Rhodes tries a jackknife pin but only gets two, then throws the Cobra out of the ring. Rhodes stands on the face of Santino, using the ropes for leverage. Otunga tags back in, apparently having shaken off the effects of the Cobra. Otunga drops a Scott Steiner-style elbow onto Santino and slaps on a chinlock, which Santino fights out of with a saito suplex. Tags on both sides again and Christian lays into Rhodes, who fights back but takes a flapjack. Christian hops to the middle rope and hits the diving European uppercut. Rhodes avoids the Killswitch, but Christian drops him back first across the top rope and wants the Killswitch. Rhodes avoids but takes a diving reverse DDT. Christian wants a spear, but Otunga distracts, allowing a tag. Otunga punches Rhodes by mistake and Santino knocks him out. Otunga disposes of Santino, but turns around into a Spear and Christian and Santino win.
I refuse to believe Rhodes won't be involved in Money in the Bank in some fashion. Rhodes goes ballistic in the ring screaming that HE didn't lose, Otunga did. My guess? Rhodes gets next week's GM to give him one more shot in a one on one match.
Sheamus is in the back and says that he isn't worried about tonight. Sheamus says he doesn't worry about what if's - If he retains tonight and at the PPV, he'll have to deal with the looming shadow of the Money in the Bank briefcase owner. But he's okay with that: Sheamus doesn't worry, he just kicks arse.
AJ is in the back, contemplating being the special guest referee and Bryan finally finds her. Bryan says he's concerned about AJ's well being - Attacking Layla isn't like her. Bryan says AJ should seek professional help, because he cares for her. He wants to help her. AJ just smiles at him, and when Bryan asks if she wants a doctor's number, she says yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Then she skips off. Bryan is left flustered.
Match 5: Dan Barone and Brendan Burke vs Ryback
Winner: Ryback via pinfall
The goofs rap. I've never wanted to see Ryback destroy two guys more than right at this moment. Ryback's tights now say "Finish It" on the shoulders and "Feed me more" on the back. Goof 1 takes a crazy high spinebuster and Goof 2 bails and tries to run - Ryback cuts him off with the boot to the neck, pining him to the floor. Goof 2 gets thrown back in the ring and tries to kick Ryback. He pays for it. Goof 1 locks in a hold and climbs Ryback's back - Ryback answers with a backpack chinbreaker. Goof 2 takes the biggest powerbomb I've ever seen and 1 gets the big Ryback lariat. Time to finish it and Ryback readies for the stacked Fisherman Samoan Buster Drop, then lands it.
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Another fun Ryback squash. Biggest powerbomb ever, Ryback calling a guy climbing on his back "stupid" then chin-checking him for his efforts. This squash being so fun is why guys like Sandow should have "real" five-eight minute matches; to keep these special and unique.
Antonio Cesaro and Aksana are in the back and Teddy Long interrupts. He says he doesn't harbor bad feelings, and that he'll be the GM for Raw and Smackdown next week. Tuesday night, on the live Great American Bash Smackdown, Cesaro and Aksana will team against Layla and Khali. Almost, Teddy - You almost made a good match.
Match 6: Justin Gabriel vs Tensai, Money in the Bank qualifier
Winner: Tensai via pinfall
Sakamoto still leads Tensai to the ring, despite the beating Tensai handed him a few weeks back. Tensai gets in Sakamoto's face as he enters. Weird pair. Gabriel strikes early, but Tensai isn't having any of it. Tensai drives Gabriel to the floor by his head, but fights back in, diving into a big right fist from Tensai. Tensai follows with elbows and strikes to the back of his head. Announced while this goes on: Cody Rhodes filing an official complaint about what happened tonight - There's how he'll get his second chance.
Tensai lands the stalling butterfly suplex, grinds his forearm into Gabrien's face and then locks in a bear hug. Gabriel fights and ties a sunset flip, but Tensai stops it. Gabirel lays in with kicks and Tensai blocks some, but takes an enzuigiri and Gabriel lands a missile dropkick and the springboards off the top rope for a moonsault. Gabriel dives into a double handed diving chokeslam and Tensai lands a senton for good measure, then pins him.
Tensai in a Money in the Bank is a weird choice, but they usually elect one "big" guy to take ladder sandwich hits and toss guys like Kidd around. Tensai gets a bum rap, but he has his good points and worked incredibly well in Japan - He just hasn't quite gotten out of the gate in his most recent run in WWE. That said, Gabriel not being included is a shame. He's fun as hell to watch and MITB is where he has the opportunity to shine.
Raw 1000 Moment with HHH: His return to Raw after a brutal quadriceps injury. Again, we've seen this one. There's a whole roster of guys, talk to all of them.
Match 7: Alberto del Rio vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus (c), World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match
Winner: Sheamus via pinfall
ADR says that despite being forced into a Triple Threat, he will leave tonight as the new World Heavyweight Champion. Vickie Guerrero interrupts Alberto to a chorus of boos and says that Dolph Ziggler will be leaving tonight as the champ. Sheamus comes right out of the gate, attacking both opponents, and clotheslines Ziggler over the top rope to the floor, leaving del Rio to take control with kicks to the champion. Sheamus hits the rolling fireman's carry early again and takes a forearm to the back from Ziggler, then turns around and Ziggler bolts out of the ring. Back in, Sheamus knocks down del Rio and pancakes Ziggler. Alberto takes exception and starts to weaken the arm of Sheamus for his Cross Armbreaker. Sheamus stands up and punches his way out of the hold, but Ziggler pulls down the top rope, leading to Sheamus tumbling out. Ziggler slides back in and rushes ADR, who tries a tilt a whirl backbreaker, but Ziggler lands on his feet and dropkicks him. They end up on the floor fighting and Ziggler rolls ADR in after bouncing his head off the steel steps, then baseball slides Sheamus to keep him out of the fold. Ziggler keeps the pressure on Alberto in the corner and sits him on the top rope, aiming for a superplex, but del Rio tries to counter. Ziggler punches him in the head and he spills to the outside, then Sheamus gets Ziggler up on his shoulders and Ziggler takes a trip to the mat via the electric chair and all three men are down.
Back from break, del Rio dropkicks Sheamus in the back of the head and then boots him to the floor. On the floor, del Rio kicks Sheamus in the head and Ziggler lays boots to him, soon joined by ADR. Sheamus tries to fight up, but both challengers keep him grounded. Now behind the commentary table, they continue the assault. Sheamus head to the ring to escape and after a snapmare from del Rio, he calls for Ziggler to climb to the top to attack Sheamus, then del Rio quickly tries to cover Sheamus. Ziggler gets mad and they start throwing right hands. In the confusion, Sheamus has climbed to the top and hits both men with a diving shoulder. Sheamus starts up with the axe handles and knee lifts, followed by a powerslam on del Rio, but Ziggler breaks up the pin. For his efforts, Ziggler gets the ten forearms to the chest. Sheamus dodges ADR's attempt at a double knee arm breaker and gives him the Irish Curse, but Ziggler breaks the pin up again. Ziggler tries the Fameasser, but Sheamus dodges and delivers White Noise. Sheamus calls for the Brough Kick, but Alberto drops his arm across the top rope and lands the double knee armbreaker while Sheamus was pounding his chest. Sheamus stops the Cross Armbreaker, but dives shoulder first into the ring post. Ziggler dropkicks his shoulder while he is pinned to the ringpost, but ADR delivers a big enzuigiri to Ziggler as he tries to get back in and locks the Cross Armbreaker in on Sheamus. Ziggler breaks it up and lands the Fameasser on del Rio for a very close two, then runs ADR into Ricardo who is on the apron and ties him up with an okana roll, but Sheamus hits the ring quick and lands a Brough Kick on Ziggler who is wide open for it. Sheamus disposes of ADR over the top rope and pins Ziggler to retain.
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Fun triple threat - Everyone looked good and the Brough Kick while Ziggler had del Rio tied up was more interesting than the usual wind up or "outta nowhere". Curious to see what we get for the World Title at Money in the Bank - I suspect a build to Alberto del Rio's one on one shot he still hasn't gotten. If Ziggler doesn't have a title shot, he should be one of the last participants in Money in the Bank. Next week it's safe to expect something comes of Rhodes' official complaint; likely a one on one shot to be in the big ladder match.
This is the type of Smackdown that keeps the faith. Matches had meaning and logical conclusions, the action was good and the non-wrestling parts with Bryan and AJ were productive and entertaining. Now, just keep doing that every week, WWE. And for the love of god, please just give this 'extra' hour of Raw to the young up and comers who need a spotlight - Two hour Raws dragged out into three hours are just going to drive away the fans.