As SmackDown hit the airwaves from Louisville, Kentucky, Batista made his way to the ring, no doubts with thoughts on his #1 Contender match with Rey Mysterio, as well as the actions of the masked star from last week, which cost Batista that spot outright. Demanding an explanation from General Manager Teddy Long, the big man instead got Mysterio who, wisely staying on the stage, tried to turn the mindgames around on his erstwhile best friend, saying it seemed to him that he was afraid of Mysterio pulling out another victory this week! Saying not only that he would win, but he would make sure Mysterio did not even walk away from the match, Batista put his challenger on notice that there would be no more games in this evening's main event.
In a rematch from last week's Beat the Clock Challenge, Kane and Dolph Ziggler picked up where their excellent match from last Friday left off. Starting out strong, the Big Red Machine battered the young superstar with hard right hands and impact moves, looking to set and keep his own pace in the early goings. Battling back, Ziggler went with the sleeper again this week, putting Kane on the defensive as his struggled to gain a second wind. Going back to the vintage Kane playbook, the momentum had clearly shifted to the direction of the former WWE Champion, but a Zig Zag combined with a second sleeper put Ziggler back in the driver's seat. Being behind the wheel does not always guarantee a straight line, as Kane, desperate to shake his opponent, toppled from the ring, taking Ziggler along for the ride. Showing tenacity reminiscent of another former WWE star (you know, Chris Benoit, the guy the WWE no longer acknowledges), Ziggler maintained a death grip on his sleeper through eight on the referee's count, not only wearing down the big man, but insuring a quick count-out victory for the quick-thinking Ziggler, who beat the ten count back in as a dazed Kane could not regain his bearings in time. I like the direction this program is heading. It reminds me a lot of Chris Jericho's feud with Kane a few years back. The way they are playing this, I can see a push for Ziggler, regardless of what some overindulged members of the SmackDown roster would prefer to see. Keep your eyes on Ziggler in 2010, people.
In six-man tag action, R-Truth wasted another minute or so of the WWE Universe's life with his entrance, as he teamed with Cryme Tyme to face The Hart Dynasty and Chris Jericho. Still stinging from his ouster on RAW this past Monday night, Jericho was ideally looking for the Dynasty to continue "making an impact" in the course of this contest. Starting out with quick tags and a fluid pace, Truth and Cryme Tyme were firmly in charge, and very little had changed when action resumed from the commerical break, although Jericho and company soon employed the numbers game, repeatedly using the referee's distraction to grind down Shad Gaspard. The big man would make the hot tag to spark a rally, but the experience of Jericho would tilt the scales in his team's favor, as he caught JTG off the middle rope to lock in the Walls of Jericho, leaving JTG no other option but to tap out. Yet another sign of the consistently better action being taped on Tuesday after they finish phoning it in on Mondays. Look for the Hart Dynasty to start making a real impact in the coming weeks, cause Lord knows we will not be seeing it from Cryme Tyme, that is, unless they get a new series of backstage skits with Eve Torres...
CM Punk and Luke Gallows then hit the ring, with the anticipated "salvation" of a member of the Louisville audience. "James," was then brought into the ring by Gallows, finding himself smack dab in the middle of a straight-edge intervention. Never thought I would see the day when "Just Say No" would be part of a promo in the WWE. Before James could take his place in the Straight-Edge Society, however, there was one rite of passage left- getting his head shaved. While James was not entirely feeling this, Punk was there to convince him, sternly, to take a seat. While straight-edge may be well and good for some people, the one question I have left is why didn't they shave his whole head?
Since he was already in the ring, why not have Luke Gallows make his singles in-ring debut? While he had the overly-moral support of CM Punk on the outside, Gallows had no pushover for an opponent in Matt Hardy, who is still in the running for an ECW title match. This clearly came down to the experience and speed of Hardy versus the pure raw strength of Gallows. While Hardy held his own in the opening minutes of the match, once Gallows found an opening, he pressed his advantage hard, combining impact moves and ground holds to keep Hardy both off-balance and on the defensive. Providing just enough of a distraction to draw Hardy's attention off his opponent, Punk looked on with great delight as Gallows planted Hardy with the 12th Step (or the Gallows Pole...not quite sure which one they are formally going with). Whatever the move's name, it was once again brutally effective, as three seconds later, Gallows was a winner in his SmackDown singles debut.
In no mood for apologies from last week's run-in with Women's Champion Michelle McCool and Layla from last week, Beth Phoenix was all business as this match got underway, much to the chagrin of Layla, her opponent for the evening. This one was all Glamazon, and it didn't last long, either. After the bell, Layla and McCool jumped Phoenix, apparently no longer willing to make friends, but this week, it was Mickie James to make the save, although payback was saved for all parties involved, as after clearing the ring, James left Phoenix laying with a spin kick to return the favor from last week.
In a backstage interview, Intercontinental Champion Drew McIntyre spun questions on his two controversial wins in recent weeks over John Morrison, adding that he was going to be the first reigning IC Champ to win the Royal Rumble, which brought Morrison into the picture, trying his level-headed best to get under the champ's skin. When McIntyre failed to take the bait, Morrison instead slapped him, touching off a quick brawl that referees and road agents were attempting to break up when the segment ended. Remember the good old days when this sort of thing happened on a regular basis? No midgets, no schilling, no clueless celebrities goofing the names of the wrestlers, pay-per-views...this segment reminded me of those days, and how I miss them.
With a World Heavyweight Title match with The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble on the line, my hopes were not big for this match. You either had A- another undeserved World title shot for Rey Mysterio, or B- yet another Batista-Taker pay-per-view match-up. Still personally hoping on Batista as the introductions were made, as I would rather see anyone...Slam Master J, the Brooklyn Brawler, hell, even Michael Cole get a World Heavyweight title shot than Rey Mysterio.
At the bell, Batista swarmed and overwhelmed Mysterio, putting his unbelievable strength on display as he tossed Mysterio around the ring at will. Mysterio would try in vain to battle back, only to have Batista catch a cross body block and drive his back in to the ringpost. Coming back from the break, both men were dialing it up a notch, but after a failed frog splash left them struggling for control, it looked to be Batista's match to lose, after two big spinebusters and a bone-rattling spear. From out of nowhere, the Undertaker's oh so familiar music chimed as the lights but out, and when they came back up, Batista had joined Mysterio on the canvas, laid out by forces unseen. Seizing the moment to set Bastista up for the 619, Mysterio then fell victim to the lights cutting out, followed once again by the Undertaker's music. Once again, both men were flat on their backs as the lights came back up. As SmackDown ended this week, the Undertaker's entrance started up a third time, with the number one contendership still very much in doubt!
Bottom Line: B. This is obviously the brand that tries harder. Maybe it's because they have the underdog image in the company, maybe it's because people with wrestling experience are writing the shows, who knows, but the simple fact has been this is the show not to miss during the week. You have storylines being extended and even created, and with the traditional trimmings one would expect.