CM Punk made his way to ringside, not only to face Matt Hardy in the first of four "Beat the Clock" matches to establish a #1 Contender for Undertaker's World Heavyweight Championship, but to work his way through the same promo he has been cutting for week on end. How to eliminate the boredom, why, you work a little old school interactivity into the mix, as next week, Punk will "save" a member of the audience. Guess that makes Luke Gallows the new Virgil, doesn't it? Think someone should tell him that is not a good thing for his career path...
Anyhow, on to the match...The sheep that mostly comprised the audience were apparently either sitting on their hands as the show got under way, or they were busy texting their BFFs, as this match kicked off with some solid matwork, only to be drowned out by the sounds of silence. While trying to set the pace for the Beat the Clock Challenge, Punk and Hardy almost seemed to go a couple minutes longer than they should have. The sad part is, given what we have been subjected to lately, the 7:20 match time almost seems like Flair-Steamboat from the 80s. The attack by Punk and Gallows after the bell was a little anti-climatic, kind of like going through the motions to further a program with little to nothing at stake between these two men.
As little as WWE utilizes their tag team division, the way they use their big men is equally laughable, so any optimism that Kane was involved in the Beat the Clock Challenge should have been quickly extinguished. Opposing the Big Red Machine tonight was Dolph Ziggler, a man without a push, thanks to some masked chump on a drug suspension at the time. The deafening silence that met Punk and Matt Hardy in the opener carried over, even with Ziggler and Kane chain wrestling to start the match. Yes, I said CHAIN WRESTLNG! Any doubts that Ziggler can't be a big timer in this company should have been wiped away watching him and the big man trade moves the way it used to be done, before T-shirt sales began doing the booker's work for them. While neither man managed to top CM Punk's time from the opening contest, a solid match with a little extra credit thrown my way for the sleeper spot they used to run out the timer!
It's getting pretty damn bad when they are going to have to start piping in the cheers like a laugh track, which seems only inevitable when the fans are getting more conditioned to a variety show product than wrestling matches on a regular basis.
The Great Khali lumbered out to dispose of "The Carolina Panther" in a mere twenty-six seconds. Who is the Carolina Panther. you ask? Does it matter? At any rate, it was better than watching a guy in a tiger suit outrun a hired blonde swinging an iron and gamely running in heels...
The much-anticipated rematch between John Morrison and Drew McIntyre for the Intercontinental title kicked off the second hour, and this was a better match than most would give it credit for. Maybe if there were more tag team title matches like this, I keep telling myself that, over and over, but to no avail...This was a compact little match that did a better job of continuing a storyline than anything taking place in the mysterious "land under the ring." The finish, which saw McIntyre shove Morrison into the referee to trigger a DQ for the challenger, was nothing groundbreaking, but at the same time was more clever than anything we've seen in the Land of Cena.
The second of the evening's throwaway matches featured Beth Phoenix once again battling Mickie James, with Layla and Michelle McCool at ringside to continue the "Sweet Valley High" make fun of the other girl's figure antics. This attempt to craft a counterpiece for the Beautiful People in TNA is half-assed at best, not even good parody at worst. Believe me folks, this is as insightful as you will find my commentary on the Divas scene, and this is AFTER they quit raiding all the strippers' closets instead of training.
The best heel in World Wrestling Entertainment then hit the ring to square off with the face with the cardboard knees, as Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio were set for the evening's third Beat the Clock Challenge match. I have never been a big fan of Mysterio, recent revelations about his work ethic aside, but the simularities and contrasts between both men's style were firmly on display in what had to be, for my money, the best TV match WWE offered this week. There were, of course, no massive surprises in this, a hard-fought match coming down to another "miracle" win for Mysterio, with one second to spare.
They wasted 1:20 on R-Truth's entrance. Normally, I would say that was eighty seconds of my life I would never get back, but with R-Truth, it has been downgraded to the unpleasantness I can imagine one suffers during a prostate exam. Just keep telling yourself, "it will be over soon, it will be over soon." Not that I was expecting much in the way of a mat classic with Truth facing Batista, but with Rey Mysterio in the driver's seat for the #1 Contendership, the smart money said this whole show length set-up would be for naught.
How close I was. While R-Truth struggled to fire off some token offensive moves, this was clearly Batista's match to lose, and they were playing it to the bone, with Batista working the clock to make a statement to his former BFF. The surprise of having Mysterio drag the ref from the ring to prevent Batista from advancing was nice, although the match for next week with Mysterio and Batista, to establish a "true" number one contender hardly detracted from the evening's action on a whole. God knows we are not going to see Mysterio in the World Title match at the Rumble, but the whole program between these two is in danger of becoming Friday night's version of Cena-Orton. Or is that Taker-Batista? Hard to keep track of all the same ole same ole creative is churning out these days...
- CM Punk pinned Matt Hardy at 7:20 following the GTS to take the Beat the Clock lead.
- Kane and Dolph Ziggler failed to Beat the Clock
- The Great Khali crushed The Carolina Panther
- Intercontinental Champion Drew McIntyre defeated John Morrison by DQ to retain the title
- Mickie James pinned Beth Phoenix.
- Rey Mysterio pinned Chris Jericho at 7:19 with a small package to take the Beat the Clock lead.
- Batista and R-Truth failed to Beat the Clock
Bottom Line: B. A far better show this week than RAW, in every sense of the word. No backstage shenanigans overshadowing the in-ring action. The matches felt less like time fillers or stall tactics to help the guest host learn the name of the wrestlers or pay-per-views. There was more than twice as much wrestling as compared to Monday night, and that is the math speaking there, plain and simple. SmackDown felt like a show trying to prove to the sheep that WWE can put out wrestling product when they are not trying to compete with Saturday Night Live for the comedy audience.