Heath Slater w/ Curtis Axel and Adam Rose def. Zack Ryder via pinfall
I had feared that this week’s Main Event would be a write-off, given the light crew that the WWE took to the Smackdown tapings. This opening contest did absolutely nothing to dispel that fear, notwithstanding a fine effort from Ryder.
Jerry Lawler shocks me with his powers of recall by reminding us that Zack once “made a reputation out of social media”, referring to his spell as the self-proclaimed “Internet champion”. Rich Brennan, on the other hand, is the “Waffle House champion” apparently.
Ryder benefits from the goodwill of a fresh crowd at the beginning of the match, managing to get himself a pretty loud “Woo! Woo! Woo!” chant going. Then, the stalling begins, as these guys figure out a way to fill the 15 minutes they’ve been allotted; Slater twice rolling out of the ring to go on celebratory Bo Train (sans Bo) victory laps in the opening minutes.
Typical idiotic babyface booking in this one, as Ryder unnecessarily concerns himself with the dual “distraction” of “Axel Rose” on the outside, to his own detriment. He takes a big bump off the ropes to the floor before the mid-match commercial break, when Rose’s mere presence gives him the yips and allows Slater to push him off.
Slater’s heat shows why anyone wondering why this guy hasn’t been elevated above the role of comedy jobber needs their head examined. He has always been awful on offence and has unquestionably regressed in that regard in the last couple of years. Two godawfully long headlock segments here prove my point.
More hard work from Ryder during his comeback sees him hit a slingshot splash from the apron. A Rich Brennan flub follows, as the announcer erroneously reckons that Axel was responsible for pulling Slater out of the way of the Broski Boot. He wasn’t.
Tope con hilo from Ryder takes out the other two geeks on the outside. But, upon re-entry, he gets a kick in the gut and an Impaler DDT to punish his stupidity. I’d love to know when Slater last won a televised match with that move. Answers on a postcard, please.
– Recap of the Reigns/Ambrose/Lesnar interactions from RAW. I couldn’t possibly care less about any of this, as the storyline rationale for the match makes absolutely no sense. That backstage face-to-face between HHH and Lesnar from RAW two weeks ago tells you all you need to know about why that is the case. I can 100% guarantee that no other heel in the company would have been written to no-sell the threat of Brock (the man who broke his arm in kayfabe) in that manner. All we need now is for the egomaniac to don the bicycle shorts and pin Reigns at ‘Mania. Because, you know, the money is in the chase with Roman. Like it was with Goldberg.
Natalya def. Alicia Fox via submission
Alicia Fox worked heel here, continuing the Big Show-esque face/heel oscillations of Team Bella. She also appears to have reverted to her “crazy” gimmick, which was hinted at on RAW when she screamed the house down after her loss to Charlotte.
This contest ran a little bit longer than the second match usually does, at five minutes. It was notable only for the return of the catchphrase that defined an era, as Lawler responds to Brennan’s reference to Nattie’s cat-fancying with the revelation that Foxy, like him “prefers puppies!”. “Oh no…” says a despairing Brennan.
The finish saw Nattie roll-through off a sunset flip attempt to secure the Sharpshooter for the submission victory. Fox refused to accept a handshake in the aftermath, opting to storm off instead. Nattie did the universally-accepted gesture for “she’s crazy”, to which Fox shouted back “You’re crazy!”. Good comeback.
– Video aired of Bryan’s incredible retirement speech from Monday night, spliced with sections of the wonderful retrospective video that preceded it. I highly doubt that the man will read this, but I’d nonetheless like to express my “gratitude” to the wrestler who made me fall in love with the product all over again four years ago. I returned in early 2012 for The Rock, but stayed for Bryan’s heel character, watching as the “Yes!” chant built momentum leading into the unfortunate (but ultimately career-making) events of Wrestlemania 28. He has rightly removed himself from the fray all too soon, to safeguard his health. But we will always have that wonderful moment when he reached the top of tree two years ago. The very best to him in whatever endeavours he chooses to pursue going forward.
Mark Henry and Darren Young def. Fandango and Damien Sandow via pinfall
An unusually brief featured contest, clocking in at only five minutes and most notable for the return to WWE television of one Damien Sandow – complete with robe and “Hallelujah!” theme.
Despite an apparent return to the Intellectual Saviour gimmick (complete with shouting “You’re Welcome!” after an early headlock takeover), Sandow is clearly positioned as a babyface. Which is weird. The goal here appears to be the rekindling of the dynamic Sandow had with The Miz, as he trades “boo/yay” poses with Fandango before the match begins.
This tension continues throughout the match, with Fandango blind-tagging himself in, before teasing the fans with faked attempts to bring his partner back into the action. This has the desired effect, prompting the now long-forgotten “We Want Sandow!” chants to ring out around the arena.
Sandow eventually loses his patience and tags himself in, hitting a side russian leg sweep on Young. But, before he can follow up with the ol’ Elbow of Disdain, Fandango again enacts an unwanted tag to cut him off.
The two then bicker near the ropes, which allows Young to push Fandango into Sandow and crawl to hot-tag Mark Henry. The finish arrives quickly from there, with Henry catching Fandango off a second-rope cross body attempt. World’s Strongest Slam gets the pin.
The company may have worked wonders with a depleted roster on Smackdown, but the knock-on effect on its sister show was not pretty. Nobody needs to see a 15 minute match between Heath Slater and Zack Ryder, regardless of how hard the latter tried to make it watchable. However, it was interesting to see Sandow make a rare televised appearance. Revisiting the heel/face tag-team dynamic that he had with The Miz may have potential, but I’m not sure Fandango is the correct foil. Meanwhile, Lawler’s heel metamorphosis continues, as he resurrects his Divas obsession and that long-lost buzzword, “puppies!”.