By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Shield Addressed Evolution
We've seen it all in the feud between The Shield and Evolution these last two months, but this was a very good promo where each member of The Shield was able to shine on the mic. It was a logical follow-up to the assault they were on the receiving end of on Raw this week and an effective final push for their No Holds Barred Elimination match at Payback. It was a good, straightforward way to kick off the show.
Cesaro def. Kofi Kingston
While this was meant to be nothing more than an enhancement match for Cesaro, I really liked the pre-match interview with Kingston. He established his past rivalry with Cesaro and that he's on his way back to reclaiming the United States Championship. Granted, I don't think he'll be pushed for title contention any time soon, it made him feel more legitimate before beating beaten by Cesaro in what was a nice, little match.
Divas Champion Paige def. Tamina Snuka (Non-title)
It was your typical Divas match in that it wasn't given much time at all. Paige and Tamina proved at Extreme Rules and even on a recent episode of NXT that they can have a very good match when given the proper spotlight, but this match was used to further Paige's momentum going into her upcoming title defense against Alicia Fox. Speaking of whom, she did a nice job of continuing her crazy shtick at ringside by taking the title and posing with it, even though it amounted to nothing since Paige won anyway. I liked that they tried to hype the Divas match for once instead of Fox not bothering to make an appearance at ringside.
Bo Dallas def. Xavier Woods
First off, I'm very glad to see Woods receive new entrance music after being saddled with Brodus Clay's scraps for so long. It could only be heard for a few seconds before Dallas made his entrance, but it's still a vast improvement over "Somebody Call My Momma." It was another fine match from Dallas but nothing new from what we saw in his prior two bouts against Sin Cara. He's still struggling to garner heat from the audience. I think it's partially due to the fact that he comes off as a babyface and are confused as to whether they should cheer or boo him.
El Torito def. Jinder Mahal
Mahal didn't have nearly as much success on his own as Drew McIntyre did, so it was a little less depressing to see him lose to El Torito. All members of 3MB have been treated as jokes for so long that seeing them lose to a masked bull comes as no surprise at this point. This was solely a comedy match to give El Torito a boost going into his Hair vs. Mask match against Hornswoggle. If he's already beaten McIntyre and Mahal, how can fans believe that he could lose to Hornswoggle on Sunday?
United States Champion Sheamus def. Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett in a Champion vs. Champion Match (Non-title)
I really liked treatment the midcard titles received throughout the show. I realize both belt haven't meant much in ages and they'll probably go back to meaning nothing sooner or later, but I still appreciate the effort. As expected, Sheamus and Barrett delivered a great matchup. The action was entertaining and they have proved in the past that they have excellent chemistry together. Paul Heyman was effective on commentary in hyping up the United States Championship match for Payback. Barrett has been on such a roll lately that I felt it was a mistake to have Barrett lose cleanly here, as I felt Barrett could have easily lost via disqualification following interference from Cesaro.
Big E def. Titus O'Neil
Airing footage of Big E's ruthless attack on O'Neil earlier month was a nice touch, but it ultimately did nothing to enhance the match since the focus was on Rusev and Lana on the stage. Lana got more time on the mic than the match did. Then again, it was probably the smartest move because it sold Big E's aggression and made him look strong as he prepares to go up against Rusev at Payback. I was happy to see that match announced for the card in advance and not added as a last minute filler bout.
Adam Rose def. Jack Swagger
It appeared for weeks that the pay-off to this feud would come at Payback, not on SmackDown without any prior hype. The match was more comedy than anything else, but it was harmless and actually enjoyable. Rose picking up the win was a no-brainer since he's the one with the most to gain right now, but it's a shame this match was given away without being advertised beforehand.
Bray Wyatt def. WWE Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso in a Last Man Standing Match
On paper, this looked like a completely one-sided match and I figured Wyatt would dominate a majority of it. Surprisingly enough, Uso was made to look like Wyatt's equal throughout and there were several points were I was doubting that Wyatt would win. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing for Wyatt, but it did wonders for Jimmy Uso and it made him look great in defeat. The only aspect of this match that I didn't understand was that The Wyatt Family was at ringside the whole time and there aren't any disqualifications in a Last Man Standing match. Why did they wait until the very end to aid Wyatt to victory?
I didn't have high hopes for this show since the card didn't feature anything exciting. However, the Barrett vs. Sheamus match as well as the Last Man Standing match were both very good and exceeded expectations. The rest of the show was nothing special and there was a lot to digest in the two hours. However, I thought it hyped the Payback pay-per-view decent enough and almost every advertised match for the event received attention in some form or fashion. I'm extremely excited for Payback and it has the potential to be a stellar show if booked properly.