Previously on SmackDown
Miz continued to settle in nicely to his smarmy talk show host character, as an opening MizTV segment was the impetus for a Teddy Long special between the tag team champions (Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) and Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan.
Curtis Axel got another of his now trademark cheap wins, when Paul Heyman and Living Colour distracted Chris Jericho. At least he got to execute the roll-up and actually have the referee count three. The post-bell codebreaker was well-earned.
Kane, having walked away from Team Hell No in the open, bumped into Ryback backstage and delivered my favorite promo in a great week of promos:
I've tombstoned a priest, set a man on fire, and buried my brother alive. Whatever your rules may be, they sure as hell don't apply to me.
Unfortunately, the guy with "rules" in his catchphrase didn't follow them, and got disqualified for a rake of the eyes and powerbombing the big red monster through a table.
The lord of literacy provided one of my other favorite spoken moments of the week when he silenced the supercomputer "Deep Blue". When Sheamus brogue kicked the innocent CPU, Damien Sandow finally got the upper hand in a physical confrontation with the Celtic warrior.
US Champion Dean Ambrose couldn't risk seeing his Shield-mates lose in the main event, so the trio maintained their lead over Fandango and Axel in the DQ finish sweepstakes. The big story continued to be Bryan's unbelievable hot streak, as he almost got Rollins to tap out. But an accidental kick to Orton resulted in an RKO.
(NOTE: This show was taped on Tuesday for broadcast tonight. Previews are spoiler free, but results are available here)
WWE's not telling us much of anything - usually there is at least one article about a feature or main event caliber match on their website or Main Event - but I couldn't find anything without venturing into spoiler territory.
But it being Smackdown and a go-home show, I'd imagine we get a tag match or two made up of teammates who will square off in separate contests at Payback. The Shield and Bryan, Kane and Orton have been go-to combinations for all WWE programming lately, and given that that will continue on PPV, I'm sure it'll continue tonight as well.
Hopefully, they'll also put some work into beefing up the last minute bookings, like Axel's involvement in the Intercontinental championship triple threat.
And the way they have been hyping Kaitlyn's meltdown on WWE.com, I'd be shocked if we don't get some more build for the most compelling Divas title match in years (that was only officially booked on Monday).
Expect to pop for:
Randy Orton. Apparently, the viper just needed a target.
Not since the days of the legend killer gimmick has Cowboy Bob's boy seemed as focused. While his pairing with Sheamus and interminable feud with Big Show never felt like anything more than a case of "creative has nothing for you", the storyline with Team Hell No is the rare one where everyone involved feels like a better character as a result. It certainly has reinvigorated Randall Keith.
An Orton who can play coach to a squad of bickering teammates but who's not above RKO-ing one of them for a stupid mistake (especially one that results in boots on his face) is an interesting character. Certainly better than the guy who's a babyface just because, and I'd even say better than a vaguely mentally ill guy who likes to punt people in the head. Randy's looks and finisher are always going to draw cheers. Rather than fight that by turning him heel or completely miscasting him in the mold of a John Cena good guy, it's a really smart decision to let Orton be Orton while the crowd reacts how they've going to react.
I wouldn't go so far as to give WWE creative credit for nuance...let's call it layers and quit while we're ahead.
Of course, it absolutely doesn't hurt that he's working with two guys firing on all cylinders right now.
Kane. I mean, this is a character that was never aimed at me. But at the risk of coming off as too smarky, Glenn Jacobs' last few years are proving him to be a really gifted sports entertainer. I used to bitch about his character flipping from face to heel every year or so, as the powers-that-be never seem to know what to do with big men other than make them comedy jobbers or unstoppable beasts (see also: Henry, Mark; Show, Big) - and cycling between the two made selling the guys as either harder and harder.
But Kane is now the blueprint for the "reality era" way to handle that - embrace all of the backstory. "Yes, I can be a goofball or a monster or a monster who gets into goofball situations. And that means you should be very afraid of me, because you don't know what I'm going to do next."
And you need someone as talented as Jacobs to pull that off with a straight face, and to be able to sell the funny or scary or, in the case of a few Team Hell No moments, touching. Pretty amazing that almost everyone is enjoying and cheering the work of the guy who was the heavy in that horrible (in every way) John Cena/Zack Ryder story just over a year ago.
Daniel Bryan. Duh.
The heat is on:
My negativity. I was going to moan a little about how The Shield needs some direction, but, c'mon, they're having killer matches that elevate their competition, so that's just scraping around for stuff to complain about.
There is so much to enjoy in WWE right now, and soon Punk will be back and the Wyatts are coming and...yeah, I'm putting my cynicism on notice.
At least until Vince and HHH try to make me care about a concussion/retirement angle again in a couple of nights.
Smackdown is re-establishing itself as a focused show with strong in-ring product. Will that hold up for the final show before the next PPV?
We'll be live blogging tonight, so join in on that. And keep it on CSS all weekend long for fallout from this show, and hype for Payback!