By Graham "GSM" Matthews
SmackDown General Manager Called Out Daniel Bryan
It is always nice to see Raw's top-tier storylines carried over to SmackDown, especially when Bryan is involved. It makes the blue brand feel important, although sometimes overexposure can hinder a storyline. Regardless, both Vickie and Bryan played their respective roles well here, which helped hype the gauntlet match for later in the night.
Divas Champion AJ Lee def. Naomi (Non-title)
These two always work well together and this match was no expection. Namoi is still somewhat green in the ring, but her amazing athletic abilities more than make up for it. AJ always seems to bring the best out of Naomi, thus making for a fun match in the process. Natalya's logic on commentary was a bit flawed when she said AJ resorts to dirty tactics to win matches despite the fact she defeated Naomi clean on this show. Nonetheless, the eventual AJ vs. Natalya matchup for the title should be a good one.
Santino Marella def. Jack Swagger
I honestly don't see the point in having Santino stack up wins over credible mid-card heels. Granted, the people he has defeated thus far (Swagger, Antonio Cesaro, and Damien Sandow) have nothing going for them at the moment, but I guess it is because Santino is still crazy over with crowds, which is understandable. However, he isn't championship material (as a face, at least), so the momentum he has been building will more than likely amount to nothing. If nothing else, it was a cool moment when Santino scored the upset victory and the commentators reacted accordingly instead of undermining the moment.
Ryback def. Local Competitor
This brought back bad memories of when Ryback used to squash local athletes on a weekly basis on months on end. Thank the lord that time has come and gone. The pre-match promo was longer than the actual match, so there isn't much to say outside of the fact that I enjoy Ryback's newfound hypocritical views on bullying. His pairing with Paul Heyman has worked well thus far and I look forward to their upcoming interactions with CM Punk.
Randy Orton Addressed the WWE Universe
I was thrilled to first see Orton turn heel at last month's SummerSlam event, but I was even more thrilled to see him revert back to his psychotic ways this past week on Raw. I have been long awaited this particular promo from Orton explaining his "turn to the dark side", and he delivered it with perfection. I love the fact that he is bringing back his sadistic side for the first time in years and it will make his feud with Bryan feel much more personal.
Triple H Stopped a 11-on-3 Handicap Gauntlet Match
Between WWE and TNA, I have seen enough gauntlet matches to last me the next few years. This match was basically what one would expect it to be, in that The Shield dominated everyone they encountered early on. It was nice to see Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston put forth a strong effort against The Shield before being ultimately annihilated. Triple H ending the match just as Rob Van Dam was about to win garnered him good heat, but bickering with Vickie Guerrero did not. Can WWE make up its mind already on whether HHH should be face or heel?
Luke Harper and Erik Rowan def. Zack Ryder and Justin Gabriel
Did anyone expect this match to exceed two minutes? Ryder and Gabriel sold well for The Wyatt Family and the loss doesn't damage them since they aren't much of a team anyway. It is mind boggling to me that WWE has yet to find something substantial to do with The Wyatt Family. These wins over makeshift teams are all right, but they need to find real direction and fast.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio def. R-Truth (Non-title)
It was a fine match for what it was worth, but it was hard to get invested in the action due to Truth being as irrelevant as he is. The pure purpose of this match was to highlight the aggressiveness of Del Rio, so at least it was successful in that aspect. It also served as a nice follow-up to Del Rio's strong backstage attack on Rob Van Dam prior to the bout.
Daniel Bryan and The Usos def. The Shield
The action early was pretty solid, but nothing all that exciting. However, they certainly picked up the pace down the stretch and delivered some suspenseful near-falls in the final few minutes. The finishing sequence was very well done and packed a punch since The Shield has lost very few six-man tag team matches over the last year. I was also pleasantly surprised by just how much time this match ended up getting. It was a refreshing change of pace for Bryan to end the show victorious instead of being beaten up by Orton. There is still plenty of time to build towards the WWE Championship match at WWE Battleground.
This show was primarily focused on the drama surrounding Bryan and the power struggle, which was to be expected following the conclusion of this week's Raw. None of the matches were particularly memorable, but the main event was rather entertaining and Orton's promo was also worth going out of your way to see. All in all, though, this edition of SmackDown was decent at best and kept viewers in suspense going into the upcoming episode of Raw.