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Tonight's SmackDown was taped in Newark, New Jersey. Before things get too crazy, let's set the mood with a look back at some wrestling greatness: On this date in wrestling history, Buddy Roberts, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy beat Kerry Von Erich, Kevin Von Erich and Mike Von Erich in two out of three falls. It was 1984 and the event was WCCW's Independence Day Star Wars, held before 12,700 fans at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. How will tonight's show stack up to that kind of precedent? Hey, times and styles change but one thing is for sure: This week's Raw had a lot going for it and there are plenty of possibilities heading into tonight's SmackDown.
Tonight's show opens with a super-patriotic showing if every conceivable American icon and a recap of John Cena's big ol' win at Money in the Bank. Remember when Cena said that he wouldn't drink The Authority's Kool-Aid and then he got booked into that crazy tag match with Reigns versus Orton and Kane? And then Rollins came out to cash in while Cena was laid out but Ambrose chased him away? Remember that? Well sure you do because they just reminded us all of it in living color. Truth be told, it was a scintillating finish and a decent way to bring everyone up to speed for tonight's show.
Rollins greets the live crowd with his golden briefcase and that intro music that sounds like Trent Reznor dropped a typewriter in a blender. Rollins has some great heat with the crowd and no doubt that his dye job gives him that crucial "sinister" look that every great bad guy needs. He's going to cash in the contract someday, folks. Let's hope that he has better luck at it than Mr. Kennedy did when he won the case. Ambrose comes out to talk some smack and he looks like Arthur Fonzarelli as the leading man in an alternate version of the movie Taxi Driver. That's not a bad thing, either. Rollins doesn't like being reminded of the fact that the titles slipped through his fingers earlier this week and Ambrose tells him this will be a recurring pattern from here on out. After a little more jaw-jacking, the guys throw down in an impromptu fight and Orton joins the fray to lay out Ambrose. Roman Reigns beats feet to the ring to save is comrade-in-arms and send the bad guys packing and all seems right until Triple H arrives on the scene. The head cheese announces that Ambrose will take on Orton in a one-on-one match later tonight and he warns Reigns that any interference will cost him his spot in the forthcoming fatal four-way at Battleground. All in all, a great opening segment.
Stay tuned...Y2J is coming up!
Back from the commercial, Cole and JBL are talking about something called the WWE Network. Apparently it's just like Netflix and Hulu, but different. More on this story as it develops. Back in the ring, Sheamus is in a fighting mood but it's probably because Hunico, Drew McIntyre and Yoshi Tatsu aren't around tonight. Yeah, you know what I'm getting at here. Sheamus mixes it up with Alberto Del Rio and the pale paladin dominates for a bit until ADR flips the script and hammers home some offense of his own. The fight spills outside of the ring and ADR is looking like a seriously tough competitor, keeping Sheamus in a prone position as the show heads into a commercial.
Back on the air, Sheamus is firing on all cylinders until ADR slows his roll with a DDT. Looks like ADR has the United States championship won but Sheamus kicks out at the two-count. After gaining the upper hand, Sheamus gets ADR backed into the corner and beats his chest a whole bunch as the audience counts along. Neither guy can seal the deal after trading submission moves and a host of convincingly tough-looking blows both ways. It's the Brogue Kick that ends this one once and for all and Sheamus keeps the strap.
Meanwhile back in the WWE Universe, the Rhodes brothers cut a cosmically creepy promo and things get a tad more tangible with an interview segment featuring Roman Reigns. Reigns says he's going to keep his distance from tonight's main event so that he retains a spot in the Battleground main event. He's going to be cool, just like Yolanda in Pulp Fiction. We can dig it. Cole and JBL talk about the WWE Network again (not that I'm keeping track) and then the SmackDown production crew rolls a recap of Daniel Bryan's verbal fisticuffs with with Bo Dallas. And now, it's magic time as Bo Dallas himself is front and center on your televisions. He says he's going to win the Battleground battler royal for "Little Daniel." That's actually really, really funny. Dallas tells everyone to "BO-Lieve" and he walks to the ring as we have commercial sign.
Bo Dallas fights Diego for some reason that likely involves the verb "squash." Hopefully it's the verb, because if it involved the noun, that'd just be weird. It's kind of a weird match, really. Torito is outside but he's apparently dropped in status from comic relief to scenery for this bout. Post-match, Bo engages in a bit of funny business with Torito before slamming the little guy in the center of the ring and walking down the ramp with a great big smile on his face and a clear imprint of Diego's palm across his chest.
More recapping now as we're looking at Monday's return of The Miz followed by the latest resurrection of Y2J. Things go from lighthearted to serious when the Wyatts come down to snuff out the super-happy fun-time mood. Jericho is coming up next to tell us all what's the what.
Y2J gets a standing ovation as he proclaims that this is his first time on SmackDown in a year. Man, that was like another lifetime ago, wasn't it? I mean, gas was still the same price but WWE was worth like a billion dollars back then. Geez, what the hell happened there? Okay, Y2J is talking about the Wyatts now and he's all "I'm the best in the world at what I do." This may or may not be a reference to Wolverine from the X-Men, but let's just stay in the moment. Jericho says he's going to get old-school crazy on them. The Wyatts talk to Jericho from the Tron and Bray laughs at Y2J's purported badassery. When the house lights come up, Jericho is in the mood to fight but The Miz interrupts the entire milieu by sauntering out to the ring, chatting up Jericho about their last meeting and referring to himself unabashedly as as "The Moneymaker." Y2J responds by clocking Miz in the aforementioned moneymaker and he then steals Miz's sunglasses. Pretty clever. It went from serious to more serious to very serious and then right to frivolous. Break time.
Big E is on the screen after the commercial and he's still speaking in that odd cadence that he picked up somewhere along the line. Looks like he's ready to avenge the sacking of Kofi Kingston by opening up a 2-liter bottle of whoop-ass on the King of Swing. Well, maybe. Cesaro charges Big E and knocks the holy bejeezus out of him as the titans tangle outside the ring. Speaking of rings, there were no rings to signal the beginning of this match so it's all just a barroom brawl without the barroom at this point. Rather than trying to get the guys into the ring to fight, a gaggle of refs come out and restrain Big E as Heyman walks Cesaro up the ramp.
Looking for recaps? Well, here's another one in which we all relive that time that AJ won the Divas title from Paige. Speaking of Paige, she's at the commentary table with the guys and Eva Marie is ready to rumble with AJ. Think Eva has a shot at a clean win over AJ? As Gorilla Monsoon might say, "Highly unlikely." Eva Marie struggles a bit to make it entertaining but AJ brings things to a merciful end with a submission maneuver. Paige walks through the ring giving some accolades to AJ much in the way that Cade and Murdoch used to salute the Hardys leading up to the big feud that only a few of us probably remember. More to come.
Okay, it's now official that Damien Sandow is on the Charlie Haas career path as every show seems to bring about the familiar formula of an absurd impersonation followed by an unceremonious beating. Sandow, dressed as Bruce Springsteen circa 1984, is tossed out of the ring by Rusev and Lana tells the crowd how great Putin is, prompting some patriotic chants. Zeb Coulter arrives on the scene and denounces Lana and Rusev as "Karl Marx-loving thugs," completely ignoring the fact that Russia didn't have an economic system that was firmly based in Marxism-Leninism long before the fall of the USSR in 1992. Maybe Dirty Dutch is just the nostalgic type. Swagger and Coulter tell the un-Americans that they'll slug it out now but Lana and Rusev stand down to fight another day. Hey, it's straight out of Mao's Guerilla Warfare: "The enemy advances, we retreat." Look it up, pilgrims. Time to pay the bills, WWE.
It's main event time and Ambrose takes it to Orton like a drywall saw to Jon Moxley's forehead. Seth Rollins is at ringside on commentary as the entire world collectively realizes that this isn't likely to end well for Ambrose tonight. Rollins is taking credit for every major event in the history of wrestling as he talks to JBL and in the ring, Orton seems to have turned things in his favor. Orton tosses Ambrose out and that gives WWE the golden opportunity to run some more gross anti-smoking PSAs.
Rejoining the fray, Ambrose is getting a little offense in from time to time but Orton has him coming and going. Rollins is playing his part up to the hilt, sitting with the briefcase in his lap, almost as if he's afraid it'll float out of his hands and up to the ceiling at any moment. Dean is doing more with his right arm in this match than a lot of guys can do with all four limbs and he's making it look way convincing. He hits Orton outside the wind with a suicide dive and Cole hails him as "the man on the lunatic fringe." He then switches gears and kicks the crap out of Rollins for the same reason that George Mallory climbed Mount Everest (...because he's there.) Ambrose is positively on fire and he seems to have the match in hand until Rollins waffles him with the MITB briefcase, stopping this one with a DQ. As the two cronies conspire to pick apart their common foe, Roman Reigns comes out to make another save. You see, the match is over so it's all kosher dills for him to get involved. Reigns scares off the bad guys and stands tall as Ambrose strikes a pose much like a wounded but unmistakably dangerous feral cat. This one is history folks. Hey, not a bad way to spend a Friday night. Not bad at all.
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Mike Bessler is a Contributing Writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated.