Daniel Bryan forces Seth Rollins to submit to the No Lock.
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Team Hell No and Randy Orton Argued
There was plenty of solid mic work to go around between Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and Kane. I enjoyed the dynamic between Bryan and Kane, acting as if they had just broken up in the midst of a middle school relationship. They teased tension enough to make viewers question if Bryan and Orton can truly coexist in their tag title match at Payback, so this segment was successful in that aspect. They continued to foreshadow a potential Bryan heel turn, which I hope ultimately doesn't come to fruition. He is just way too over with the live crowds at the moment to be a heel, so WWE should make the right decision by not turning him at this point in time.
Sheamus def. Antonio Cesaro
These two always work well together and this match was no exception. Similar to their match on WWE Main Event last week, this bout was full of physicality and hard-hitting action. Cesaro hasn't meant anything in ages, so I didn't at all expect him to pull out a victory here. However, he took Sheamus to the limit with his impressive impressive, so at least he looked good in defeat. Damien Sandow's post-match attack on The Celtic Warrior was a nice boost of momentum for Sandow going into their Kickoff match at Payback.
Heath Slater w/3MB def. The Great Khali w/Natalya and Hornswoggle
This was an absolute waste of a match. I couldn't care less about anyone involved and the bout accomplished nothing at all. If nothing else, it was only a mere minute long and it was cool to see Slater pin a former World Heavyweight Champion. Aside from that, though, this bout was meaningless and served no purpose on a go-home show for a pay-per-view in two days.
Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho w/Ricardo Rodriguez def. World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston w/AJ Lee
Although their feud has hardly any build-up due to Dolph Ziggler's recent absence from television, you can always count on Alberto Del Rio and Ziggler to put on good matches. This tag bout was a nice preview of what we're going to get on Sunday. Jericho and Langston had enjoyable chemistry and were logical participants following their match against one another on Raw this week. Del Rio seems to winning by roll-up quite a bit lately, which is nice to see given the fact he doesn't have a finisher outside of the arm breaker. I'm not usually accepting towards champions losing non-title matches, but this was an obvious exception in order to have Ziggler looking like a threat to the title going into Sunday. I do question the move to put Ziggler back in the ring so close to the pending pay-per-view, but at least he was somewhat limited with this being a tag team match.
Divas Champion Kaitlyn vs. Aksana Went to a No Contest (Non-title)
Well, I'm glad the match never actually came to fruition, as that would have been atrocious. Kaitlyn's attack on Aksana, on the other hand, was very well done and was a good way of giving her an edge going into her upcoming title defense against AJ Lee. Did the referee seriously fine Kaitlyn $10,000 (in story-line) for slapping him? That's rather embarrassing if you ask me.
Curtis Axel w/Paul Heyman def. Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett (Non-title)
Heel vs. heel matches rarely ever work, so Barrett trying to talk Axel out of fighting prior to the bout made sense. The Miz's eventual interference was also logical. Barrett has lost so many matches by this point that a win over him means virtually nothing, but it was still cool to see Axel continue his winning streak with a win over the Intercontinental Champion.
Team Hell No and Randy Orton def. The Shield
Did anyone honestly expect anything less from these six valiant competitors? This match was just as great as their six-man encounter from last week's Raw, receiving just enough time to shine and every participant getting their signature spots in. The finish was far and away the highlight the night, with Orton nailing a flying RKO on Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan following up with the No Lock. The crowd popped huge for their victory, which can only mean big things for Bryan going forward. Normally, I would be upset that The Shield suffered their first official loss in six-man action, but it came after such an excellent match and fantastic finish that I don't mind at all. Bryan earned this honor and it's good to see he was the one to put an end to the undefeated streak. My only complaint is that this happened on SmackDown, so not many people were tuned in to see it. That being said, Lillian Garcia making the announcement that The Shield had just lost their first match was a nice touch.
We've seen better editions of SmackDown in recent means, but this specific episode wasn't bad by any means. Sure, it had its fair share of filler, but most of the matches were worthwhile and well wrestled. Furthermore, there was a significant amount of hype for Sunday's Payback pay-per-view, which is shaping up to be a strong show. If you have time to watch only one match from this week's SmackDown, I would highly suggest checking out the main event.