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The John Report: WWE Smackdown Review 06/30/16

It’s the end of an era as WWE is wrapping up with taped Smackdown shows. After this week, there are only two more taped editions of Smackdown before live Smackdown begins on Tuesdays starting on July 19. I’m looking forward to it because the show has been pretty average for a while and I think going live will be the spark that Smackdown needs to improve.

Before I start, it should be noted that many big name performers weren’t at the taping because of WWE events in Hawaii and Japan, so they had a limited roster here.

Taped in Miami, Florida this is Smackdown for episode #880.

As the show came on the air, it was advertised that a fatal fourway match would take place for a shot at the US Title later in the show. The match is Apollo Crews vs. Cesaro vs. Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio.

There was an “Earlier Today” clip of Cesaro arriving in a car talking about how he was hosting an Uppercut Party later. Apollo Crews did a promo about how was the underdog, but sometimes the impossible becomes possible. Sheamus complained about Crews being in the match, but he’s going to have fun beating him up. Alberto Del Rio talked about winning the four way match and beating his old amigo Rusev to become champion.

The Smackdown intro video played.

Cesaro made his entrance. The announce team is Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton and David Otunga, who is in the chair for Jerry Lawler for the second week in a row. No word on when or if Lawler will return after the domestic incident from a couple weeks ago, but charges have been dropped, so he’s likely back next week.

Cesaro vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus

The winner of this match earns a US Title shot against Rusev later on Smackdown.

There was a lot of action right away. Cesaro was aggressive early with a cannonball attack on the floor. Del Rio argued with Sheamus a bit, but then they took turn s working over Cesaro as Del Rio hit a suplex and Sheamus hit a back suplex on Cesaro. Crews with a cross body block on Sheamus and Del Rio, then Sheamus knocked Crews to the floor. Cesaro with a boot to Del Rio, Sheamus kicked Cesaro to the floor and Del Rio hit a Backstabber on Sheamus. Del Rio was alone in the ring as they went to break.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Crews flipped Del Rio off the top rope. Cesaro with a cross body block took out Del Rio for two. Sheamus with the backbreaker on Cesaro gets two, then a Cloverleaf submission by Sheamus and Del Rio kicked Sheamus to break that up. Del Rio with a Cross Armbreaker on Sheamus, Crews hits a moonsault on Del Rio and a two count. Cesaro dropkick on Crews. Three guys were against the turnbuckle, so Cesaro did an Uppercut Party spot with uppercuts for all three guys and a clothesline on Crews. Sheamus with a powerslam on Cesaro. Crews with a cross body block on Sheamus sent them both over the top to the floor. Del Rio with a step up enziguri on Cesaro gets two. Cesaro Swing by Cesaro on Del Rio and then Cesaro applied the Sharpshooter. Del Rio tapped out, so Cesaro gets the submission win after 9 minutes.

Winner by submission: Cesaro

Analysis: *** That was a damn good match in under ten minutes with a fast pace and all four guys timed things perfectly throughout the match. It’s hard for a less than ten-minute match to hit the three-star level, but this was non-stop action and that always helps. I was a bit surprised by the finish because I thought Crews and Sheamus were on the floor a bit longer than you would think for a spot like that. Good ending with Cesaro winning clean over Del Rio.

Post match, Cesaro left the ring and Del Rio shoved him into the ring steps. Del Rio set up Cesaro on the apron and then Del Rio jumped off the apron with a double foot stomp, so Cesaro took the hard bump on the floor.

Analysis: I’m not sure if this will lead to a Battleground match on July 24, but it might happen. It gives them something to do.

Rusev walked out with the United States Title. He congratulated Cesaro on the win and having the honor of facing Rusev for the title. Then Rusev said he wants the match now. Show went to break with referees checking on Cesaro at ringside.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Cesaro was still getting helped out by referees. Rusev stood in the ring calling him a coward. Cesaro looked back at him. Cesaro told referees: “Let me go.” He went into the ring.

United States Championship: Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Cesaro

There’s the lovely Lana at ringside. Cesaro with uppercuts, but then Rusev kicked him in the ribs and seized control. He kept on punching the left side of Cesaro. After Rusev said he was the best US Champion ever, Cesaro came back with a suplex. Rusev applied a bearhug in the middle of the ring. Cesaro fought out of it and nailed a springboard uppercut. Cesaro with another uppercut and dropkick sent Rusev to the floor. Cannonball attack on the floor by Cesaro. Back in the ring, Cesaro jumped off the top, Rusev caught him and nailed a powerslam. That was sweet. Rusev with a somersault senton splash earned him a two count. Cesaro was selling a lot of pain as the referee continued to check on him. Fans chanted “Rusev sucks” at the champ. Cesaro came back with uppercuts and a clothesline for two. Rusev tossed him in the ropes, tossed him up in the air and nailed a knee to the ribs. Cesaro came back with a Sharpshooter attempt, but Rusev fought out of it by attacking the ribs. Rusev went for the Accolade, Cesaro rolled through to a pinning attempt and Rusev got out at two. Rusev with a hard kick to the head. Rusev with the Accolade submission and Cesaro tapped out to lose after 7 minutes.

Winner by submission: Rusev

Post match, Rusev celebrated with the US Title while Cesaro was in pain holding his ribs.

Analysis: **3/4 That was a good match that left me wanting to see more from them. The heel champion won, but the face challenger came very close to winning. Cesaro did an excellent job of selling the pain of the ribs throughout the match. The story is that Rusev won, but it was only after Cesaro was injured in the match before it. Would he have won if Cesaro was healthy? I’d like to see the match again soon. I think the presentation of Rusev has changed for the better in the last few months. Two years ago they pushed Lana so much as the woman that controlled him and things like that. Now, they let Rusev speak a lot more and he looks like more of a star. He’s improved as a performer while showing a lot more confidence as well.

Later in the show it’s Miz TV with Dean Ambrose as the guest.

(Commercial)

Rusev was shown walking with Lana. Renee Young interviewed him. Rusev said that they should rename July 4th Independence Day as Rusev Day. He said that while people will eat their processed food and play with fireworks, he’ll take Lana to a luxurious island. Renee said this coming Monday July 4th he’ll defend the US Title against Titus O’Neil. He looked mad, so Lana said “Rusev Crush” and he left.

Analysis: It’s nice that they are having a title match on Monday. This was also an example of how they still have no authority figure on this show and that’s fine because they can use an interviewer like Renee to spread the message. They could have Rusev end the feud with O’Neil on Monday, which would probably lead to Rusev vs. Cesaro for the US Title. That would be better.

A video package aired about WWE’s work with Special Olympics and Play Unified. Same thing that was on Raw.

Dana Brooke is shown walking backstage.

(Commercial)

PLUG TIME: Just a reminder that we have TJRWrestling shirts available for purchase at ProWrestlingTees.com/TJRWrestling. There’s been a 20% off sale all week that ends on Tuesday July 5th, so you have a few more days to take advantage of the great deal. If you want to help out TJRWrestling and me, I’d really appreciate you getting a shirt. Thank you to those that have already bought them as well. Obviously I’d love it if you got one of TJR shirts, but they have a lot of other great options too.

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Brooke walked out alone. No Charlotte because she was on the Hawaii/Japan shows. Billie Kaye was in the ring. She’s from NXT although hasn’t been used that much there.

Dana Brooke vs. Billie Kaye

Brooke said “playtime is over” twice in the first 20 seconds. Brooke dropped her with a flapjack. She said her catchphrase again for the third time in one minute. Brooke with a clothesline. Brooke with a cartwheel into a splash for two. Kaye with a flying headscissors, then a punch to the face and a boot to the face gets two. Brooke came back with a jawbreaker, then a Samoan Driver (thanks Mauro) for the win after three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Dana Brooke

Analysis: * A simple match to put over Brooke because she’s a regular on the main roster with a bright future. I’m not sure if this match means that Kaye is on the main roster full time. I doubt it because it was likely just a case of WWE wanting to have a face out there for Brooke to beat.

Sasha Banks was interviewed by Renee Young. Banks said that “The Boss” is more than just a nickname – it’s legit. She said that everybody knows that she’s got a lot of history with Charlotte, but she won’t be the champ for long. She said she’ll hunt Charlotte down and become…here’s Summer Rae texting on her phone. Summer said that everybody is sick of this whole “Boss” thing. Summer said hopefully they are drafted to different brands. Banks said Smackdown is live in less than three weeks, but she’ll be happy to show her what happens when you disrespect the boss tonight.

Analysis: That was a good promo from Banks showing a lot of confidence and reminding us why we like her so much.

Miz TV up next with Ambrose as the guest.

(Commercial)

Miz TV with Dean Ambrose as the guest

The Intercontinental Champion The Miz was in the ring with Maryse, who introduced him as the sexiest man alive and the IC Champion. He said this could be the last Miz TV on Smackdown or Miz TV could be the signature show of Smackdown Live. It sounded like some piped in boos for both of his statements. Miz tried to introduce his guest, but Dean Ambrose’s music hit before he could do it.

Ambrose walked out with the WWE Title on his shoulder. He had a bag of food in his hands. Ambrose apologized for being late. Miz told him he wasn’t late, he was early. Ambrose talked about how they have been running him around as WWE Champion and he commented on the Miz filming “Maroon 5 Battleground” while Miz corrected him to say it was The Marine 5. Ambrose was eating a sandwich. Ambrose said he was eating a Cuban, said they’re in beautiful Miami and it’s delicious.

Ambrose talked about how he cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase to become the WWE Champion. He plugged the Battleground main event. Miz said he’s got European imported carpet in the ring and a director’s chair from The Marine 5. Miz said the only thing the Ambrose Asylum ever had was a stupid plant. Ambrose: “Don’t you ever talk about Mitch (the plant) that way.” Miz riled up the crowd by saying that these people want Miz TV. Ambrose asked if they would rather see Miz TV (boo) or the Ambrose Asylum (cheers). Miz talked about how he’s been out there making movies and he’s also retained the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose said that these days he is THE Champion around here. Miz called him a joke – he said he looks like a champion in a three-piece designer suit and Ambrose is dressed in jeans. Ambrose kept eating as Miz berated him for his looks. Miz said that Ambrose isn’t on his level. Ambrose said he can see where this is going as both guys took off their jackets. Ambrose picked up The Miz’s white jacket and wiped the mustard off his face on the white jacket. The crowd cheered as they realized Ambrose was messing up the jacket. Maryse yelled at him and threw the jacket on Ambrose’s head. Miz nailed Ambrose with a cheap boot to the face. That ended the segment as Miz and Maryse left.

Analysis: It was a basic promo with Ambrose coming off as “The Dude” that is pretty silly as the WWE Champion and Miz is the egotistical heel that thinks he’s better than everybody. No surprise that it led to an altercation considering they didn’t announce a main event for the show by this point.

The announcers talked about the brand extension draft on Smackdown July 19. Saxton asked Otunga about being in the draft because he experienced it. Otunga talked about how you never know what might happen.

Banks vs. Summer later.

(Commercial)

John Cena hosts the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 13.

Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan (w/Bray Wyatt) vs. Aaron Hale & Mike Duwaddy

Wyatt took Saxton’s chair from him and sat in it. Rowan with two forearm smashes early followed by a Full Nelson Slam. Strowman tossed a guy into the ring. Then he picked him up and slammed him down on his partner. Strowman covered for the win. It went about 40 seconds.

Winners by pinfall: Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan

Analysis: 1/4* Just a squash match. Two moves by the heels wins it.

Bray Wyatt was in the ring set to do a promo, but The New Day video appeared on the screen. Kofi Kingston wondered what Bray fears. Big E held a light up unicorn light thing like a lantern. Big E talked about how the Wyatt Family was getting exposed by the New Day. Kingston said it sounds like he wants Wyatt to expose himself. Big E said that’s probably right. Xavier Woods was silent again. Wyatt wondered why Woods wasn’t laughing and Wyatt suggested that Woods tell his friends what he already knows – the devil calls for you. Wyatt suggested that they pray and told them to run.

Analysis: It continued their story with Woods not talking to the Wyatt Family because he might be scared of them or believes in whatever nonsense Wyatt talks about. I like that we don’t know what it might be yet. Keep the audience guessing.

It was announced that Ambrose would face Miz later in the show.

Analysis: It took them 1 hour and 15 minutes to set up a champion vs. champion match. It should be a big deal, but it’s not. In my Raw Deal review on Monday, I wrote this: “This week on Smackdown it’s Dean Ambrose as a guest on Miz TV. Prediction: It will lead to a match between them later in the show.” Not a tough prediction. Just another example of how predictable WWE is these days.

Banks vs. Summer up next.

(Commercial)

Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae

Summer with a shoulder tackle early on and Banks took her down with an arm drag. Banks missed an attack because Summer moved, so Banks was sent to the floor. Summer came back by sending Banks into the ring post with a boot to the face and Banks was on the floor again, so time for a break.

(Commercial)

Summer with a boot to the face followed by a snap suplex. Banks came back with a couple of nearfalls. Back elbow by Banks, then a snap mare and Banks hit two running clotheslines. Banks with a knee to the face. Summer avoided a knee attack in the corner and hit a rollup for two. Spin kick by Summer gets two. Summer avoided a knee attack, then nailed a kick to the head and a DDT gets two. Nice sequence there. Banks sent Summer into the turnbuckle, then nailed a double knee attack and Banks applied the Banks Statement submission move for the win after nine minutes.

Winner by submission: Sasha Banks

Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid, competitive match with a predictable outcome. Banks is clearly the bigger star that is being groomed for a Women’s Title run likely starting at SummerSlam. No surprise that she got the clean win here. As for Summer, I think she should be in a more featured role because she’s a pretty good heel. I was impressed by her in this match.

The Raw Rebound aired showing highlights from Raw.

The main event for Battleground is Dean Ambrose defending the WWE Title against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.

The WWE Champion Dean Ambrose entered for the main event.

(Commercial)

Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz (w/Maryse)

There are no titles on the line in this match. Ambrose with a suplex early on. Ambrose with a clothesline, but then Miz nailed a bit. Ambrose with a clothesline sent Miz over the top to the floor. When Ambrose went for an attack, Maryse pulled Miz out of the way. Back in the ring, Ambrose with a hip toss and body slam. Outside the ring, Ambrose nailed a clothesline. Maryse was yelling at Ambrose outside the ring, so Miz sent Ambrose into the barricade. Time for a break.

(Commercial)

Miz worked over the left leg of Ambrose by sending it into the mat and then ramming Ambrose’s leg into the ring post a couple of times. Miz continued to work over the knee. Ambrose tried a comeback, but Miz snapped his head on the top rope. Miz with a double axe off the top. The crowd booed. Ambrose with a rollup, Miz kicked out and Ambrose nailed a neckbreaker as both guys were down. Ambrose with some forearm shots, then a clothesline, forearm smash in the corner and a running bulldog. Ambrose with a cradle gets two. Miz kicked Ambrose into the knee repeatedly. Ambrose kicked him away, Miz avoided a dropkick and Miz applied the Figure Four Leglock in the middle of the ring. Ambrose got to the ropes. Ambrose sent Miz outside the ring. Ambrose ran without a limp and nailed a suicide dive to take out Miz. When Ambrose hit the floor, he grabbed the knee. Back in the ring, they each got a nearfall. Miz avoided a clothesline, Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale and Ambrose kicked out at two. Best nearfall of the match. Ambrose with a rollup, Miz came back with a clothesline and Miz went up top. He jumped off, Ambrose caught him and Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds for the pinfall win after 14 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Dean Ambrose

Analysis: **3/4 Pretty good main event match with the WWE Champion winning clean. I point that out because too often we see champions losing non-title matches. In this case, obviously Miz was the champ that lost non-title, but I’d rather see Miz lose the match instead of Ambrose. The story with the leg injury was hit or miss because they focused on it early, then Ambrose did all that offense without selling much and then at other times he was selling it. It would have been nice if there was a bit more consistency with it. If a guy has a hurt leg, maybe he shouldn’t do a suicide dive spot at all or at least he stops himself before he tries it. It would have made more sense. I don’t like that they have to get all the spots in every match. Things can change sometimes.

Post match, they showed replays of the key spots in the match.

Ambrose held the WWE Title in the ring while favoring his leg. Miz was outside the ring with wife Maryse tending to him. Ambrose looked pleased with the win as Smackdown ended.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. Cesaro

2. Dean Ambrose

3. The Miz

 

The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: 6.5

2016 Average: 5.9

Last 5 Weeks: 6.5, 6.5, 5, 7, 6

2016 High: 7.5 (March 3)

2016 Low: 4 (January 21)

As of this week, the average Smackdown score is a 5.9 and Raw is 5.72, so Smackdown > Raw so far this year.

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 7 out of 10. Solid night of wrestling action that was easy to get through, which is much better than sitting through a three hour Raw. Smackdown goes by quickly compared to Raw.

There was only one significant promo segment in the middle of it. With a limited roster on hand, that made sense.

Cesaro put on an incredible performance. He reminded us of how talented he really is and any time he works twice on a show he’s going to show that. WWE knows he’s a special talent, which is why he’s the one that had two matches.

The Ambrose/Miz match wasn’t the epic champion vs. champion battle that the announcers tried to make it out to be, but it was pretty good.

Smackdown has two more taped shows left. I know people don’t watch it like they watch Raw and that’s fine, but it’s still a decent wrestling show most weeks. I just hope it can become great after the July 19 draft leading to Smackdown live.

That’s all for me. Have a great weekend.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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