Two nights until Summerslam - Will we have a World Heavyweight Title match on Sunday? That will be up to new General Manager Booker T to determine, among the other action tonight.
To open, Alberto del Rio approaches the ring in street clothes to address the WWE Universe. Del Rio demands his title match back. ADR calls out Sheamus for "whining" to the GM and says Booker T isn't doing his job by cancelling the match. On cue, Booker T heads out to address his disgruntled employee...er, independent contractor. ADR says that he made Sheamus pay for messing his property up, just like a man should. Booker T says a man wouldn't hire five guys dressed as cops to beat up one guy. Apparently that's where Booker T draws the line. Alberto says he's spoken with his lawyers...and Chris Jericho interrupts. Y2J tells ADR to please shut...the hell...up! Jericho runs down ADR's entire existence and calls him a chihuahua. Time for Spanish lessons with Jericho. Jericho says that since ADR isn't getting a title shot, maybe after he beats Dolph Ziggler, Jericho should take the World Heavyweight Title shot. Booker interjects and says Sheamus is not competing at Summerslam and sets tonight's main event as Chris Jericho vs Alberto del Rio.
Match 1: Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs Cody Rhodes and The Miz (Intercontinental Champion)
Winners: Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara via pinfall
Rhodes continues his campaign for proving that Sin Cara is ugly underneath his mask, by telling small children and those with heart conditions to avert their eyes, then shows a silly caricature. Michael Cole pipes in with "haha thats what he really looks like. I've seen it." Awful as usual. Early on, Miz and Rhodes get dumped to the floor and take a tandem senton and suicide dive, but just a one on Rhodes in the ring. Cara runs to the top and hits a spiraling arm drag, but gets distracted by Miz and takes a clothesline from Rhodes. Now the Miz tags in and punches away at Sin Cara. Rhodes back in and tearing at the mask of Cara; he delivers a gourdbuster and tags Miz back in. Cara tries to fight back with leg kicks, but Miz puts a stop to it and settles on a chin lock. Rhodes takes a tag back in and delivers a snapmare, then goes after the mask again. Cara hits an elevated snapmare and tags in Mysterio who runs in with a headscissors, then counters a sunset flip with a kick to the head and a jackknife pin. Off the ropes, Mysterio hits a kick and a lucha-style bulldog - Miz breaks up the pinfall, but takes a hurricanrana from Sin Cara. Rhodes tries to remove the mask again while he's in the ropes, but takes the 619 and a top rope splash for the loss.
Fun opening match for the kids seeing their masked heroes get the best of the bad guys, and Miz takes a 619 after trying a cheap shot, leading to some tension for the Mysterio/Miz IC Title match at Summerslam. No sloppiness from anyone, but too short a match to showcase four relatively high profile roster members.
Match 2: Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins vs Two Unnamed Goofs
Winners: Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins via pinfall
Reks and Hawkins come out in suits to no music; they're apparently now male strippers and the crowd doesn't at all approve. Hawkins with a snapmare and a kick to the spine, then tags in Reks. Reks boots the little fella in the ribs, then lands a jumping elbow drop. Reks beils the opponent across the ring and he tags in his partner. The new guy gets tossed into the corner and then takes a lariat from Hawkins. Hawkins his his swinging scoop slam and gyrates, then kicks the guy across the ring. Reks back in and they hit their tandem powerslam/neckbreaker for the win.
The crowd seems to hate the bit, but you can't trust crowd sounds on Smackdown since WWE fights so fervently to tell us how to feel about members of the roster. Regardless, Cole plays up Booker T telling Reks and Hawkins to "get themselves noticed", which is why they're doing this. Still a pointless change, at least as of now.
Recap of Punk winning the WWE Title at Survivor Series last year and why he'll be facing Cena and Big Show in a triple threat at Summerslam. Cena shows him disrespect by not shaking his hand at the end of Raw.
William Regal catches Eve in the back and wishes her luck tonight. Regal remembers being in charge of Raw, but is no longer the powerful man he was. Someone on the backstage crew hands him two bags of trash to take out. "Work is work".
Video package for Wade Barrett's return plays again. Barrett feels he fell into a civilized, easy life. He has returned to his roots...just to return back to the easy life again?
Match 3: Eve Torres vs Kaitlyn, winner is Booker T's assistant
Winner: Eve via pinfall
Teddy Long, senior adviser to the GM, is out on commentary. Shouldn't the women rather be wrestlers than a GM's assistant? Odd thing to wrestle for. Eve backs Kaitlyn into the ropes then takes her down. Eve moves from a chancery into a fujiwara armbar and lets go after putting her own foot on the rope. Kaitlyn fights back to her feet and delivers a back body drop and a Cena-style shoulder block. Kaitlyn with a roll up, but Eve out at two. Eve drops Kaitlyn across the middle rope and wants a suplex, but Kaitlyn ties her up with a small package for two. Eve kicks her way out of the corner and clubs away at Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn ends up on the apron and climbs to the top, but Eve drags her off by her arm. Eve brings Kaitlyn to her feet and delivers a spinning neckbreaker to pin Kaitlyn.
Long isn't happy with the result and Eve exits the ring to gloat. Eve is happy with herself earning the privilege of being Booker's assistant. It'd be more worth it to win a match for a title match, but to each their own, I guess. After a commercial, Eve meets her new boss and Booker congratulates her. Booker asks if Eve will be able to get along with Teddy Long and she says yes. Eve says she's at Booker's disposal, and he gets a wild look in his eye.
Match 4: Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton
Winner: Randy Orton via pinfall
The crowd opens right up with YES chants. Orton right into a headlock and a shoulder block. Once again on both counts. Bryan comes back with a kick and strikes to the head, but gets whipped to the corner and flips over Orton, but gets a dropkick to the beard. Bryan bails to the outside and has a YES/NO war with a fan. Back to the ring, Orton hits a back body drop and a set of stomps, then stomps the midsection of Bryan. Bryan avoids the knee drop and then dropkicks Orton in the knee to take a bit of control back. Bryan goes right to work on the knee, but Orton kicks his way out of the corner, only to take a European uppercut and end up in a leg lock on the mat. Bryan releases and stomps the leg. Orton starts to fight back with rights, but Bryan back to the leg and hits a head and arm suplex, then up to the top rope. Orton with a right fist and a headbutt to stop Bryan's progress. Orton meets Bryan up top and hits a superplex, leaving both men on the mat.
Back from a commercial, Orton is fighting back as the men exchange strikes. Bryan with a trip and he runs the knee right into the mat with a variant on a dragon screw. Bryan ties Orton's leg in the ropes and kicks at it, then hits a running dropkick to it. Bryan rushes Orton in the corner but ends up shoulder first in the ringpost. Orton with a rolling schoolboy from the top rope and a pair of clotheslines, followed by a powerslam. Orton grabs Bryan and puts him on the apron. Bryan fights out of the DDT attempt and pulls him to the floor. Orton reverses a whip and sends Bryan into the barricade. Orton rolls Bryan in the ring, but he rolls all the way out to the other side; Orton gives chase but ends up getting thrown into the steel steps and back into the ring. Bryan covers and Orton is out at two. Back to his feet, Bryan kicks Orton in the chest repeatedly but misses the head kick. Orton hits his backbreaker to even the playing field. Bryan kicks out in two and Orton is first to his feet. Bryan kicks out of the corner and hops up top, but Orton punches him in the head repeatedly. Orton drags Bryan out by his head and hits the spike DDT out of the corner. Orton coils on the mat, calling for the RKO. Bryan counters and tries the Nolock, but Orton fights it. Bryan finally puts Orton down by his leg and locks in the Nolcok mid ring. Kane's pyro, lights and music hits and Bryan breaks the hold and bails from the ring, selling panic. The music and lights stop and Bryan gets back in the ring, walking directly into an RKO for the win.
At the least, this is one of those "protecting" endings - Bryan lost, but he had the man locked dead center in his finishing hold which is a visual win. This continues toward Summerslam's Bryan/Kane match and gives everyone the RKO they came to Smackdown to see. As Orton celebrates, Kane walks out on the stage smiling and nodding. No physical contact between the Summerslam combatants, which is a smart choice. Good match with Bryan in control for the vast majority of it. Bryan's repertoire continues to be WWE-ified: His chest kicks to a kneeling opponent always end with an attempted head shot which is now almost always dodged.
Match 5: Antonio Cesaro vs Zack Ryder
Winner: Antonio Cesaro via pinfall
Santino Marella is at the commentary table for this one, as he defends the US Title against Cesaro on Sunday. Cesaro still has his silly generic music; he really needs a new entrance. Aksana takes the mic to re-introduce Cesaro and says he will speak in five languages. Swiss, Italian, German, French and finally English: "Loser". Cesaro immediately delivers a knee to the gut and a deadlift gutwrench. Cesaro delivers a series of headbutts and a chinlock. Ryder fights out and hits a facebuster and a pair of clotheslines, then a forearm in the corner. Ryder delivers the Broski Boot, but Cesaro is out at two. Cesaro with an overhead snake eyes and the Neutralizer for the win.
Cesaro immediately hits the floor and smacks Santino, then tosses him over the announce table. Santino is livid. Not much to say, as the match was just another display of Cesaro's strength and basic repertoire. They should really let him use the UFO, as it's a great visual. And there's no way WWE could say it's "too silly" when NXT this week had Scotty 2 Hottie return and deliver the Worm chop, not to mention Marella's Cobra.
Recap of Lesnar/HHH and HBK's arm broken from Monday Night Raw. I still say that HBK's arm being broken would have been far more dramatic if HHH hadn't suffered the exact same fate a couple months ago and returned 100% better.
Match 6: Alberto del Rio vs Chris Jericho
Winner: Alberto del Rio via pinfall
Before Jericho can make his entrance, Dolph Ziggler beans Jericho with the MITB briefcase and rams him with a tool rack against the wall. Ziggler screams not to overlook him and Booker T hits the scene to call in a trainer. ADR is all smiles after seeing what happened and grabs a mic. ADR declares himself the winner via forfeit and demands Booker T grant him his Summerslam match. Jericho's music hits and he enters clutching his midsection. ADR mocks Jericho and takes a forearm to the face for it. ADR puts Jericho into the ropes and hits a knee to the gut, then a jumping stomp to the hurt midsection. Jericho is sent chest first into the turnbuckle, which puts him on his back. ADR with a double stomp to the midsection for two. Del Rio chokes Jericho in the ropes, but Jericho starts to fight back with chops. Off the ropes, ADR hits another knee to the gut and a sliding dropkick to keep the onslaught going. Del Rio wants the Cross Armbreaker, but Jericho hits an enzuigiri to take a bit of control back. Jericho gets sent to the apron and takes a kick to the midsection, then gets rammed off the apron rib first into the commentary table, leading to a commercial.
On the return, del Rio has a bodyscissors and chinlock cinched in. Jericho fights his way out but walks into a tilt a whirl backbreaker for two. ADR rushes Jericho in the corner for his usual step up enzuigiri, but delivers it to the ribs instead of the head for a two count. Del Rio climbs to the middle rope but whiffs a double stomp attempt. Jericho with kicks to the legs of ADR and a pair of shoulder blocks. On the third try, del Rio hits a back kick to the gut, but Jericho hits a back elbow and Lionsault. Jericho takes just as much damage on the Lionsault, which leads to a delayed cover and a two count. Alberto with a trio of headbutts and an attempt at the double knee arm breaker. Jericho counters it into the Walls of Jericho, but del Rio forces his way out. ADR kicks Jericho off and Ziggler appears out of nowhere to pull the top rop down, which forces Jericho to fall to the floor. Ziggler throws Jericho back in and ADR hits a low step up enzuigiri for the win.
Good match with a good story, showing Jericho will fight in any state to win and that del Rio will take any shortcuts necessary. ADR slaps on the Cross Armbreaker and Dolph hits the mat to talk trash. Sheamus' music hits and he rushes the ring to take out Alberto. Sheamus' arm is heavily taped, which will play up the Cross Armbreaker as a factor at Summerslam. The fight spills outside and del Rio runs into the crowd to escape. Booker T enters and asks Sheamus why he's here. Sheamus wants the match with del Rio back on, despite his injuries. Sheamus is really pulling a Cena on this one - Has to be the hero, has to be the tough guy. Realistically, he's an idiot for not waiting to heal up, but if we went by realism, pro wrestling would be all kinds of boring. Sheamus takes on Alberto del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam.
Much better job of leading into a PPV than normal for Smackdown. The focus of the show is obviously still on Brock/HHH and the WWE Title triple threat, but I don't think anyone expected Sheamus to not be in action at Summerslam. Bryan/Kane would best be suited to end after Summerslam, as there are better things for Bryan to do. There's always the possibility of a Ziggler cash-in attempt, as he hasn't done the "try to cash-in but get foiled" bit for a while now. Things progressed, matches had purpose - That's all we really ask for and it seems like since the move to three hour Raws, WWE is getting back to providing that. Maybe it's a result of seeing how focused TNA seems to be lately; it surely didn't require a third hour on Mondays to make things focused. On to Summerslam!