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March 13, 2009
– Adam Russell

SmackDown Episode 499: The Return of the Second W

Ever since the WWE roster was first split into two separate brands, back in 2002, it seems that the emphasis for actual wrestling has
been greater on SmackDown, as opposed to RAW’s focus on mic-work, and skits. SmackDown, with Paul Heyman booking, had the
‘SmackDown Six’ at the forefront of their athleticism-based product; Raw had Katie Vick. SmackDown had Angle and Benoit; Raw
had Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner. Even as time passed, rosters changed, and an adherence to the brand split dissipated, SmackDown,
as a general rule, remained your best bet for in-ring action. But even with that in mind, it has been a long time since I watched an episode
of any WWE-produced television show (notwithstanding ECW, a fine little wrestling show in its own right), and felt that I was watching a
professional wrestling show, and not another helping of Vince’s Variety Time. On this week’s SmackDown, there were no Flair-
Steamboat-like classics, and, with WrestleMania just a few weeks away, there were no major storyline developments, or surprises. What
we got instead were six wrestling matches, featuring some very good action, with outcomes that made sense. This SmackDown was a
show in which the ‘Wrestling’ in ‘World Wrestling Entertainment’ stood up, and made itself heard.

We kicked off with a recap of the contract signing shenanigans from last Monday’s Raw, in which John Cena bafflingly revealed the
affair between The Big Show and Vickie Guerrero, thus losing all leverage in the situation.

Edge himself was the first man out and, giving us our first hint that we might be in for something a little different on this week’s show,
it was actually for a match, and not a ten minute-plus promo segment. Edge’s opponent was RAW’s Kofi Kingston, looking for
revenge after Edge robbed him of a place in the World Heavyweight Championship elimination chamber match at No Way Out.

--- Edge Vs Kofi Kingston (non-title)

Kofi’s aggressive demeanor sent Edge cowering into the corner in the early going of the match, and when the faux-Jamaican did get
his hands on the World Heavyweight Champion he sent him reeling with a clothesline and a dropkick, scoring a two count with the latter.
Edge decided to take a time out on the outside of the ring, and it was there, after 1’40 of action, that we went to commercial. When we
returned, Edge was in control, having back body dropped Kingston over the top rope during the commercial break. Edge whipped Kofi
hard into the corner, and then grounded him with a waistlock. Kofi tried to fight back, but Edge cut him off with a flapjack, and then scaled
the ropes in what seemed like slow-motion. This gave Kingston the chance he needed, and he knocked Edge off the ropes to the
outside, and then followed up with a rolling plancha. Back in the ring, Kingston connected with the B cubed leg drop, and a quick splash,
for a near fall, then mounted Edge in the corner, hitting the champ with a flurry of punches, before hitting a hurricanrana for another 2. Out
of desperation, Edge managed to leverage Kofi to the outside, but after going out after him, he was sent head-first into the steel steps.
The action returned to the ring, and Kofi hit an impressive-looking high cross body block, for yet another close two, before Edge came
back with a big boot. Edge now looked primed for the spear, but Kofi countered with a sunset flip for the two, before winding up for
Trouble in Paradise. This would prove to be his downfall. Edge blocked the spin kick, and clamped on a sharpshooter (miles better than
the one he performed on John Cena on Raw two weeks ago) and, after a valiant attempt to fight out, Kofi Kingston tapped out, giving
Edge the win at the 10’20 mark. Both men put a lot of effort into this match, and the result was a very solid opening bout, which made
both guys look good. Edge’s use of the sharpshooter for the second straight match was interesting, and makes me think that it could
come into play at WrestleMania, and it made logical sense for Kofi to want to extract some revenge on the man who cost him a title shot.
All in all, this was a very satisfying opening to the show.

Things promised to get even better next, as for the first time for as long as I can remember, a show-opening match was followed by…
another match. Imagine that on a wrestling show!

--- World Tag Team Title Match- John Morrison and The Miz (champions) Vs Carlito and Primo Colon

This match was first advertised on last week’s show, and was one that I was looking forward to. Much has been written about John
Morrison and The Miz being possibly the best tag team in the business today, and I’ve talked before about how big a fan I’m
becoming of the Colon brothers. The match these two teams had a couple of weeks ago (that time for Carlito and Primo’s WWE Tag
Team Championships) was excellent, and I was certainly hoping for more of the same here.

The challengers were accompanied to the ring by the Bella twins, who have played a role in this rivalry, and it was the older brother,
Carlito starting things off against the better half of the champions, John Morrison. Carlito came out of the gate looking for a quick win for
his team with a series of cradles, and then hit his patented kneelift/clothesline combination for a near fall. Morrison looked for high
ground, but found himself in the challengers’ corner and, with Primo tagged in, the brothers each grabbed one of Morrison’s
boots, and hauled him out of the corner, with Morrison doing a full backflip in mid-air. The Miz got the tag in, but was greeted by a
hurricanrana and side Russian legsweep for a 2, as the brothers continued to dominate. Carlito tagged back in, and he and Primo hit a
pair of nice looking tandem springboard clotheslines at the 2’10 mark. At this point the match was shaping up to be as good as their
previous encounter, with the Colons using high-speed double team moves better than anyone in the company since London and
Kendrick were teaming. The Miz managed to stem the flow of offence by forcing Carlito’s head into the canvas with a move similar to
Jeff Jarrett’s Stroke, and the champs took over from that point, hitting their usual spots; the slingshot into Morrison’s forearm,
followed by a slingshot elbow drop, and the double gutbuster. They threw in a double hotshot and picked up a two count, before Morrison
tried to control Carlito with a chinlock. Carlito managed to fight out of the hold and tagged in Primo. Here I would have liked to have seen
Carlito cut off in his comeback, and the champs get more time to work up some heat, but I guess time constraints prevented it. Primo
came in like a house on fire (the guy takes a great hot tag in my opinion), hitting a flurry of moves including a diving (more like falling,
actually) headbutt off the second rope, before which he comically crossed himself. This garnered a two count on Morrison, but Primo
followed right up with a monkey flip out of the corner, during which Carlito made the blind tag. Morrison landed on his feet from the
monkey flip, but was turned inside out by Carlito’s clothesline. This was Morrison’s second outlandish bump of the match and,
though it looks impressive, you sometimes wish he’d keep it simple. The Miz came in to break up the pin attempt, and then low-
bridged an onrushing Primo to the outside. Miz himself was then clotheslined to the outside by Carlito, but the Shaman of Sexy was
waiting for him, hitting the Moonlight Drive for the three count, and successful defense of he and his partner’s titles, after a good 5â
€™56 match. Given another five minutes, this could have been a great match. As it was it was more than passable, and hopefully will set
up a title unification match at WrestleMania. After the match, the Bellas (one of them more eagerly than the other) left with The Miz and
Morrison. It seems for the past few weeks that they’ve been teasing that one of the sisters (your guess is as good as mine which
one) will turn on the other and join up with the heels.

We were next treated to a lengthy recap of the awful Triple H/Randy Orton ‘home invasion’ angle from last week’s Raw. The
video package failed to make the segment look anything but absurd.

I had to wipe my eyes in disbelief next, as the competitors came out for the third match of SmackDown’s opening hour.

--- R-Truth and MVP Vs Chavo Guerrero and Shelton Benjamin

This was a match we were supposed to get a few weeks ago, but R-Truth was blindsided before the bell, making it a handicap match.
The back-story to the match is that MVP wants his US Title, currently in the possession of Shelton Benjamin, back, and Chavo also is
sniffing around the belt, even picking up a singles win over the Gold Standard. In fact, in the aforementioned handicap match, MVP picked
up the win thanks to Chavo hitting a frogsplash on Benjamin. R-Truth and Chavo started things off, with R-Truth connected with a nice
spin kick for a two count. MVP was tagged in, and unloaded on Chavo with some knees, a flapjack, and a knee drop, for another two.
Truth came back in and hit a suplex, before Chavo earned himself a breather with a single leg takedown. He went to tag Benjamin in, but
the champ wasn’t interested, deciding to come in a few seconds later on his own terms. He hit a kneelift on R-Truth, followed by
some vicious knees and a gut buster. Chavo came back in, and hit a nice belly-to-belly suplex for a two count, and then back came
Shelton to take over. MVP rallied the crowd with an ‘R-Truth’ chant, as his partner managed to fight out of an abdominal stretch, hit
a bulldog, and make the tag. MVP came in and connected with his Owen Hart-esque overhead throw, some forearm uppercuts, and a
facebuster. The Ballin’ Elbow came next, for a two count, and then MVP brought Chavo over the top rope into the ring. R-Truth
rejoined the action, but was back body dropped out of the ring by Guerrero, who was then sent sprawling through the ropes by an MVP
right hook.  Benjamin lay in wait for the ballin’ superstar though, and he hit Pay Dirt for the three count at 5’59. These two will
meet again in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania. This was a fair match, with which I have two complaints. First of all, it really doesn’t
seem right to see MVP cheerleading for R-Truth on the apron. I know that MVP is a babyface now, but it doesn’t make sense that his
whole personality would change. My second complaint is that this match featured an almost identical finish to the previous one- babyface
in control, illegal heel comes in, illegal face comes in, illegal heel throws illegal face out of the ring, legal face throws illegal heel out of
the ring, legal heel hits finisher on legal face for victory. To book back-to-back matches with the same finish screams of laziness.

Matt Hardy was seen in the back, presumably making his way to ringside, with the kind of snarl only a heel could have on his face.

After the commercial break, Matt Hardy made his way out to ‘tell all’ about his brother, Jeff. Matt said that there has been a black
cloud over Jeff which will continue until he agrees to fight him, and that he is going to force Jeff to listen to him. He talked about Jeff being
suspended for WrestleMania last year, whereas he was injured, and still nobody cared about him- they just wanted to know how Jeff was
doing. This is pretty much true. Matt is the kind of wrestler that it’s good to have around- he works hard and produces good matches -
but you don’t really miss him when he’s gone. Matt then talked about the mishaps that have befallen his brother; the stairwell
incident, the hit and run, the pyro, and even went into detail about the fire that burned down Jeff’s house, killing his dog. Personally, I
could do without this kind of ‘realism’ in wrestling angles. Matt, in fact, pulled out the charred remains of what we were led to
believe was Jack’s collar (classy), insinuating that he was behind the fire. He said that he wanted to give the collar to Jeff as a token
of love. This brought the younger Hardy out, and he snatched the mic from out of his big brother’s hand, telling him that it’s hard
to believe that Matt was behind all of the attacks (this was presented as some kind of revelation- I thought it was assumed Matt was
responsibility from the moment he cost Jeff the WWE Title). Jeff told Matt that, while Matt hates him, he hates himself more, because he
is sick and twisted, and ‘so am I’. With that Jeff took Matt down and the two brawled on the floor until Matt could escape. Crawling
up the entranceway, Matt told his brother that he is sorry, and that he loves him, but turning his back on the ring, he looked satisfied with
his night’s work.

While I found this segment overlong, and not particularly interesting, this does set up the match between the two of them at
WrestleMania- a match that was made official later in the night. Just the fact that it’s been so long since the two last faced each other
in the ring, and that they’re on a while different plain in terms of experience and popularity now, makes this one of the more
anticipated matches on the big show.

After that brief interlude, it was time for more wrestling, this time of the diva variety.

--- Maryse and Michelle McCool Vs Melina and Maria

All the Ms then for this one as Maria starts off by hitting Michelle with a Thesz press, and a bunch of weak-looking clotheslines. Maria
tries, but doesn’t have what it takes. McCool came back with some aggressive blows, before the two of them worked a spot in which
they supposedly bumped heads in the corner. It looks like garbage, and was made even worse by the way the two girls oversold it.
However, what we got was a pair of hot tags, and Melina came on strong, slamming Maryse’s head into the canvas. Maryse took
control of the situation, but Michelle short-armed her (just like Benjamin and Chavo earlier), and Melina hit a small package to pick up the
victory for her team in 2 largely embarrassing minutes, and 45 painful seconds. After the match, Michelle and Maryse embarked on a
sloppy looking brawl to further push the 25-Diva battle royal at WrestleMania.

Backstage (this was the first backstage skit of the night- well over an hour into the show!) Edge told Chavo Guerrero how he was
humiliated by John Cena on Raw, and asks how Vickie could cheat on him. Chavo replied that he knows how Vickie operates, and that in
fact, nobody knows Vickie better than Chavo. He even remarked that she calls him all the time. This set Edge into a rage, and he accused
Chavo of having an affair with Vickie, which Chavo denied (please don’t let that be a storyline). Edge said that nobody would take the
title away from him.

The WrestleMania highlight video featured WrestleMania 20, with a focus on Steve Austin stunning Goldberg and Lesnar out of the WWE,
Cena’s WrestleMania debut, and the match between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. No mention of the main event that night,
obviously.

Next we were to find out who the final participant in the Money in the Bank ladder match would be, joining a line-up ranging from the
sublime (Christian, CM Punk) to the ridiculous (Mark Henry, Kane).

--- Finlay Vs The Brian Kendrick - Money in the Bank qualifying match

Both men were accompanied by their regular seconds (Hornswoggle and Ezekiel Jackson respectively), and it was big Zeke who made
the first impact, cheapshotting Finlay before the bell had rung. Once the match was underway, Finlay went on a rampage, hitting a power
slam, and locking in an armbar that had Kendrick fleeing. Kendrick then maddened the Irishman with a slap to the face, escaping out of
the ring and hiding behind his muscle. With Finlay distracted by the big man, Kendrick blindsided him with a tope and, back in the ring, a
missile dropkick, at 1’35. Finlay countered Kendrick’s chinlock with a variation of the Stone Cold Stunner, and then they played
out the patented spot where Finlay catches his opponent in the ring apron. Another distraction from Jackson allowed Kendrick to hit a leg
lariat, but he couldn’t follow up with The Kendrick, Finlay ramming the former pantaloon-sporting superstar into the turnbuckle, and
hitting the Celtic Cross for the win in a short and sweet 3’12. I would definitely have liked to have seen this match get another couple
of minutes at least- there was no real structure to the match and, with such an important prize at stake, it would have been nice for both
men to get more time. As it is, we get Finlay joining Kofi Kingston, Christian, Mark Henry, Kane, CM Punk, MVP and Shelton Benjamin in
the Money in the Bank ladder match, whereas Kendrick’s solo run continues to flounder after the promising start which saw him
main event last year’s Unforgiven pay-per-view.

The obligatory 12 Rounds promo was next (I already feel as though I’ve seen this film 12 times), followed by a run down of some of
the major matches from WrestleMania.

It was main event time next, and a rematch from two weeks ago, as The Undertaker took on Vladimir Kozlov.

--- The Undertaker Vs Vladimir Kozlov

The Undertaker started the match with a vengeance, as JR and Tazz talked about Kozlov pulling off the upset in their last encounter. A big
boot was followed by a series of punches (look for that line to be repeated), a clothesline and an elbowdrop, all within 30 seconds of the
opening bell. Kozlov managed to earn some respite by sending ‘Taker through the ropes to the outside, and then followed him out,
slamming his head into the announce table. Back in the ring, Kozlov continued the assault with some headbutts to the heart of the Dead
Man, before they found themselves back outside the ring again. The Undertaker reversed Kozlov into the security wall, and then
clotheslined him into the timekeeper’s area, as we headed to break at 2’00. Back we came nearly 4 minutes later, with the
Undertaker hitting a legdrop on the apron (pity Michael Cole wasn’t there to tell us it was ‘vintage’), and then back in the ring
hitting a running kneelift in the corner, and a series of punches (there it is). Tazz remarked that it seemed like The Undertaker was
sending a message to Shawn Michaels. I’m not sure how he discerned that- it seemed to me like The Undertaker was having the
same match he always has. Kozlov came back at The Phenom with a big power slam for a two count at the 7’24 mark, and followed
up with some shoulderbarges in the corner, before ‘Taker retaliated with a series of punches (that’s 3). The Moscow Mauler took
his opponent down and controlled him with a facelock, which Undertaker countered into a back suplex, before rocking the big Russian
with a (guess what) series of punches. ‘Taker hit snake eyes, but before he could deliver the big boot that normally follows, Kozlov
connected with the big head butt for a 2 count. At that point The Undertaker sat up, delivered a (why not?) series of punches, a
clothesline, ‘Old School’, and a choke slam, before finishing Kozlov off with a vicious series of punches at 13’19. Okay, it was
actually a tombstone piledriver, but the punches would have been more apros pro. This was the worst match of the night (I don’t even
count the divas contest as a match), ‘Taker’s reliance on the same few transitions never more obvious. I hope Mr. WrestleMania
has his working boots on the night of the _. Also, Kozlov eats his second straight TV defeat (third if you count his early exit from the battle
royal on ECW), and one has to wonder what the future holds for him.

So, despite a few minor gripes, this show has to get an overwhelming thumbs up. It didn’t necessarily feel like a ‘Road to
WrestleMania’ show- the Hardy Vs Hardy match was made official, and the final Money in the Bank participant was names, but
nothing else was really touched on - but it did feel unmistakably like a pro-wrestling show, which is what it should be first and foremost.
Over the course of the two hours, we got over 40 minutes of actual wrestling (some of it we admittedly didn’t get to see because of
commercial breaks), which is double what we got on last week‘s show, and as much as we‘ve had on the last two RAWs
combined. To quote Nick Bockwinkel, and others, wrestling is what it says on the marquee, and with this week’s SmackDown,
wrestling is what we got.

MVP of the night- Nobody really stood out this week- it was more of a team effort. I feel happy letting the participants in the opening two
matches (the best of the night) share this award.

Line of the night- Tazz saying ‘God rest his soul’ in reference to Mike Adamle. What?

The Undertaker Series of Punches Count- A jaw-shuddering 5!