By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Kane Interrupted WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins
Kane continues to impress me with how relevant he's become within the mere matter of weeks. My only fear is that he becomes the focus of the Steel Cage match at Extreme Rules as the "guardian of the gate," or worse yet, all of this turns out to be a red herring and he remains with The Authority. He's been showing great fire these last few weeks and his interaction with Seth Rollins was well done. Normally I'm not a fan of long talking segments opening shows, but I didn't mind this one too much. Plus, it also set up the tag team main event for the night.
Dolph Ziggler and Neville def. Sheamus and Bad News Barrett
It's a shame that Daniel Bryan vs. Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules has hardly gotten any hype, but Bryan's current condition might prevent it from happening, anyway. Nevertheless, this was a good match that featured entertaining action and helped further the feud between Ziggler and Sheamus. It was nice to see Neville mix it up with some established names and actually score a pinfall win for once. A Neville vs. Barrett feud down the line (barring Barrett still means something) could be something special.
Naomi def. Natalya
I'm sorry, but I simply can't take Naomi seriously with that damn "funk" theme. It has overstayed its welcome and it's even worse now that she's a heel. Turning her must have been a last minute decision, otherwise they would have had new music and new attire ready for her. While it was a well-wrestled match, it was hard to invest in either of them because Naomi is still developing her character and Natayla isn't a clear-cut face or heel. It was a decent match, but Naomi hitting the Rearview for her finisher killed it for me. In addition to a new theme, she needs a new finisher that would actually be effective as well.
Ryback def. Rusev by Disqualification
In all honesty, this is the match we should have seen over the United States Championship at WrestleMania 31. It wasn't a five star mat classic, but it was quite good while it lasted and showed that these two can have solid in-ring chemistry together. The disqualification, albeit predictable, was smart booking as it protected both men and put over the Russian chain stipulation for Rusev's upcoming encounter against John Cena. Meanwhile, I hope to see Ryback featured in a substantial storyline sooner rather than later.
Kofi Kingston def. WWE Tag Team Champion Cesaro
Given their history of having great matches together, I was looking forward to another barn burner of a bout from these two, but what we got instead was a one minute match that featured only a handful of moves. What a disappointment. I didn't really care that Kingston won since The New Day needs the heat going into Extreme Rules, but the brevity of the match goes to show how little WWE thinks of their tag team division these days. Hopefully they're given the time to shine on Sunday.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and Luke Harper
Although Reigns and Rollins' opponents at Extreme Rules weren't involved, it was still cool to see all three former Shield members (and Harper, of course) share the same ring as that doesn't happen often. Furthermore, I'm really liking how more fresh faces are being featured in the main event of SmackDown each week. We might not have the Brand Split anymore, but this is the next best thing. The match itself was very enjoyable as all four competitors were showcased like stars and the in-ring action was excellent. The final few minutes were very fun and it was awesome to see even the heels looking strong in defeat. Reigns pinning Rollins to win was interesting, which leads me to believe we might be seeing them clash over the world title in the near future. Kane teased tension with Rollins toward the end, so it also effectively helped hype Sunday's pay-per-view.
This was an above average edition of SmackDown with more in-ring action than usual and all of it was exceptional on the whole. There were a few matches (Cesaro vs. Kingston and Naomi vs. Natalya) I could have done without, but even those served a purpose in relation to Extreme Rules. I don't if I walked away from this show any more excited for Sunday than I already was, but it was refreshing to see WWE take the go-home episode of SmackDown seriously for once and it succeeded in building up the event.