WWE returned to the SyFy network for SmackDown last night (April 2, 2015) from Fresno, California with a show that featured all the continued fallout from WrestleMania 31 just this past Sunday night in Santa Clara. That includes a clear direction for the top matches at Extreme Rules later this month, and a glorious new beginning for a formerly stale character.
Here's what we were treated to.
Randy Orton, top contender: It feels quite nice to have a WWE world heavyweight champion actually working SmackDown, but how good do we feel about Orton vs. Seth Rollins as the first program for the new titleholder? Orton's babyface run looked promising because he was an angry nutcase but it was righteous so you could get into it. Now? They've beaten all that out of the feud with two epic beatdowns for both and a clean win for Orton. I get that it sets up the basis for all this, but I'm not all that entertained with Orton playing the role of snarky good guy bagging on the bad guys. The matches will be good at least, and hopefully nothing like the Big Show match last night.
Give Naomi A Chance: We're all in agreement that the entire Divas division deserves to be given more of a chance to showcase their talents, but Naomi is exactly the kind of talent who would benefit from increased time in the ring. She brings something entirely unique to each of her matches and if they bothered to let her work out the kinks, there's no doubt she could put on a fantastic 15 minute match.
Something we never see: A heel authority figure booking a match and a babyface wrestler reacting to it like he's just totally fine with it and yeah, cool, let's do it. The toilet humor in the Dean Amborse/Kane segment was dumb but they followed it up with something refreshing for once. The later match with Luke Harper was one of the better TV matches SmackDown has seen this year with a couple innovative spots they probably could have saved for a bigger show. Particularly liked Ambrose attempting a crossbody and when Harper caught him but found the momentum carrying him too close to the ropes, he audibled and just threw Ambrose over the top rope to the floor outside. Harper is criminally underrated. Also love that his entire story right now is "powerbombs Dean Ambrose into whatever object is close by".
A condo in Suplex City: Two things: 1. Byron Saxton couldn't look any more awkward doing these sitdown interviews. 2. Roman Reigns talking about liking Suplex City so much that he's thinking of buying a condo there is the most unintentionally hilarious line of the year. That's up until Reigns said later in the interview that Brock Lesnar was "smacking the piss out of me." I love this guy. Meanwhile, he pushed the right story, that while Brock beat him down he couldn't keep him down and, actually, he might have won the match had Seth Rollins not showed up. Good stuff.
Damien Mizdow: If The Miz ran out and hit Mizdow with a Skull Crushing Finale after a win on Raw, it only makes sense for Mizdow to do the same to Miz on SmackDown. That said, why is Mizdow still Mizdow? Can we get an explanation for that at some point? The sooner the better.
The champ is America: John Cena hasn't been this over with an entire crowd since 2005, has he? Spoilers said he was over, but my god they loved him at this show. That said, loved the simplicity of the angle here. Rusev is pissed about losing his title and Cena is proudly proclaiming his intention to be a fighting champion. Let's do another one at the PPV. By the way, Rusev's facial expressions and mannerisms are better than anyone outside of Brock Lesnar right now. Big pop for screaming while holding his ears while Cena was singing the National Anthem after dropping the American flag when Rusev called for the Russian flag. This fued always needed this simplicity to it. More of this and less of Cena talking about Lana having the balls in the relationship.
Million of dollars: I don't know if there's that much money in the Prime Time Players vs. The New Day, but I quite enjoyed Titus O'Neil and Darren Young just burying Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods. My problem is I don't know who I'm supposed to feel sympathy for.
Are you not entertained: So it didn't take long at all before heel Sheamus stole my heart. That he was pushed so aimlessly as a babyface for so long is baffling with the benefit of hindsight. The new theme song is incredible, his physical style is made for a hard hitting heel destroying all our heroes, and they actually used that exact angle for his story. It's a bit like what Batista was doing before he bailed. "I'm a big, real man who is actually successful and you're all cheering for these tiny losers who can't cut it in the main event? I'm going to kill them all." I love it. This works particularly well with Bryan because he's such a fiery underdog.
This was a solid show.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?