We kicked things off tonight with an announcement by Vickie Guerrero that Smackdown will be involved in the Championship Scramble at Unforgiven. She also discussed how Edge was responsible for the Vickie that everyone hated and now that she’s free of him she can go back to being the real, “benevolent” Vickie. I really liked this speech. It was well written, succinct, and Vickie pulled it off. She seems to be testing out a face turn which seems not only logical but would give her a much needed character make-over.
After a quick commercial break, we’re introduced to our opening bout of the evening, Maria vs Natalya. I have been extremely hard on Maria lately because it seemed like in her time off before debuting on Smackdown she digressed quite a bit as a wrestler. Not that she was ever that good to begin with, but her matches of late have been embarrassing. Tonight, however, Maria turned in a decent performance. Her pace was on, she showcased some nice acrobatic offense, and came off as a credible opponent to the very skilled Natalya. Although the finish made sense story wise, considering Maria did break Maryse’s nose, it wasn’t handled very creatively. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give this opening contest 4.5 stars.
We then head to the back where The Big Show finds out he does not have a qualifying match for the scramble tonight. He then makes his way out to ringside where a 10 man battle royal is set to take place to determine the first participant in the scramble. The over-the-top-rope contest consists of The Brian Kendrick, Hawkins and Ryder, Scott Goldman, Super Crazy, Funaki, Jimmy Wang Yang, Vladimir Kozlov and Armando Estrada with the last man left in the ring being declared the winner. This was a good idea for a match, the problem however was that The Big Show interfered way too soon. The match should have lasted longer, giving the impression that the important thing here was the bout rather than Show beating up a bunch of guys in 30 seconds. That said I thought the end was fun with Kendrick picking up the win after being caught on the outside by Ezekiel. 5 Stars.
A new R-Truth video short aired next, hyping his imminent debut on Smackdown. These vignettes have been great, they’re well shot, well written, and are hyping Killings perfectly. They’re starting to become a bit redundant, however, and I think it’s time to debut the guy already.
Next up was our second scramble qualifying match featuring MVP vs Festus. This was a solid match, and I like that Festus is getting more time as a singles wrestler. I’m not a huge fan of the Jesse and Festus team, as Jesse lacks the ability in the ring to impress, and more often than not I (and it seems like fans as well) are just waiting for the tag to Festus. I have to say I am getting a little burned out on Festus’ gimmick, however, as it hasn’t developed at all since day one. The announcers put over his “transformation” every week like it’s the first time they’ve ever seen it, but it’s starting to bore me. Now would be a great time for creative to start adding some depth to his character, and take it down some new roads. The match tonight, however, was a good showcase of back and forth action, and I’m glad to see MVP earning a spot in the scramble. 6.5 Stars.
Back from commercial break and we headed right into our next qualifying match, Shelton Benjamin vs Finlay. This was a tremendous match. It was a PPV quality offering from two of WWE’s best wrestlers. Great back and forth action with some really excellent mat wrestling from both superstars. Benjamin continues to explore his technical mat game which is a nice expansion to his already impressive arsenal. I would have preferred this match end without the Mike Knox distraction, as every match so far has had some kind of non-clean finish, but despite that it was great from bell to bell. 8 Stars.
Following the match they aired a replay of the Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho incident from Summerslam. Why? This isn’t Raw.
We then cut backstage where Chavo tells Vickie that it would have been cool if she had put him in a qualifying match for the scramble. I’m glad he brought this up because I was wondering why she wouldn’t throw him a bone for always being by her side. It would have been nice for her to have actually explained why she didn’t give him a match instead of the shrug she gave, but it’s a minor gripe. They then wonder why Undertaker hasn’t shown up yet and decide to offer him an apology for all they’ve put him through in recent months. Eh, what can I say? It was an ok bit. Neither Chavo nor Vickie are good actors, so these backstage scenes between the two tend to get dull.
Triple H’s music hits and The Game makes his way to the announce table to join JR and Tazz in calling the main event of the evening, Jeff Hardy vs The Great Khali. God Khali is bad. He looked terrible in this match. It’s a true testament to HHH’s ability that he could get a good match out of Khali at Summerslam because he was bumbling around the ring tonight like a clown on stilts. The finish saw yet another interference scenario, with Hardy picking up the pin fall after an assist from Triple H. 5 Stars.
Back from break and Triple H is in the ring to give us his thoughts on the 4 guys he’ll be facing in the scramble match at Unforgiven. He reminds everyone that he is The Game and that he’s the best in the biz. No argument from me there Trips. Kenny Dykstra hits the ring, tells us all that he’s tired of not being taken seriously and then eats a Pedigree from the champ. A fun little segment, but here’s what I don’t like about the booking of the SD! scramble match: it appears as if no one but Triple H has a chance in hell of winning the title. Benjamin and Kendrick, as pleased as I am to see them in this match, have no chance of walking out with the strap. Jeff Hardy most likely hasn’t earned the trust of management at this point to carry the responsibility of a title run, so that leaves us with HHH or MVP. If this were 3 months ago I’d say MVP has a zero percent chance of winning the title, however since creative has gotten gutsier lately with their booking, examples being Punk as champion, the drastic moves in the draft, and Batista/Cena at Summerslam, there’s a small possibility they might be willing to take a chance on an MVP title run. The problem is, however, that Smackdown moves to MyNetwork in October, and WWE will most likely want a star of Triple H’s caliber to be holding the strap when it makes its move. I could be wrong, and hope I am, but this match seems to have been booked with too much predictability in its hands.
It’s now time for Vickie’s apology to The Undertaker, which although was a nice segment, was misplaced in the show. Creative feels the need to book a returning Undertaker in the final segment of whatever show he’s appearing on, and the problem with that is The Undertaker returns so many times that it feels out of place. This segment should have been before the main event, with Vickie left wondering what the Dead Man will do to her in the future. I did like that ‘Taker refused the nice guy approach to her apology and instead staked claim to her soul, which should make for some fun programming down the line. The only question is, what kind of money match will this lead to? Who’s really interested in watching a handicap match with ‘Taker wrestling Bam, Chavo, Hawkins and Ryder at the same time? I’m not.
Overall this was a solid edition of Smackdown. It had a nice blend of good wrestling, fallout from Summerslam, and a good push toward Unforgiven. My only overall complaint, however, is that every match ended with some type of interference which became tiresome by the third match. I felt like I was watching a smart version of a TNA show. Out of a possible 9 stars, I give Friday Night Smackdown 6 Stars.
-Why aren’t they doing more with Michelle McCool considering she’s the Diva’s Champion? Are they ever going to build a competitive program for her to work?
-What are they doing with Big Show? This guy hasn’t been used in anything meaningful since his match against Mayweather. I understand his pending feud with Umaga was put on hold due to injury, but considering Show’s popularity with the live crowd you’d think creative would find something for him. He’s arguably in the best shape of his career, so why not let him and Kozlov really battle each other in some intense bouts?
-I really hate Festus’ “finisher,” if you can call it that, where he basically rams his crotch into his opponents face. What is that move supposed to be doing? He seems to never actually make contact with his opponent, so the severity of the move is weak. Does it have a name? How about the Sausage and Gravy?
-Shelton Banjamin is brilliant.
-Mike Knox looks like Jesus on steroids and cocaine.
-That final segment was fun and all, but it SORELY missed Edge. His work on Smackdown in the past month has been amazing. Here’s to hoping creative resurrects him from “hell” sooner rather than later.
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