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All rights reserved.
April 17, 2009
– Adam Russell

A Raw by any other name

The ongoing saga between Triple H and Randy Orton has dominated WWE programming since the Royal Rumble. The two fought it out
for the WWE championship at WrestleMania 25, and will be involved in another title match, this time a six-man tag match, at Backlash.
Most of the action has been restricted to Raw, and now that that is the home base for both men (Triple H being drafted to Raw on
Monday), there is really no reason for the angle to spill over onto Friday nights. But it did. The main event for this week’s SmackDown
was Batista Vs Ted DiBiase (on opposing sides of that six-man Backlash match), and we were also promised a ‘face off’ between
Orton and Hunter to preview their match on Raw next week.

This was the first episode of SmackDown since the draft on Monday, but it was less a new start than a continuation of past trends. Less
a platform for the new SmackDown recruits, more a last hurrah from those leaving for new pastures.

After a new title video, featuring new Smackdownees like CM Punk and Rey Mysterio, we got straight into match action.

--- The Big Show Vs Jeff Hardy

The Big Show is now a Raw superstar, so this was billed as his farewell match. Jeff tried to use his speed in the early going to stick and
move on Show, but the big man cornered him, and hit him with a headbutt before ripping off his shirt and giving him a big slap to the
chest. Jeff tried to fight back with punches, but was met by a big shoulder block as he ran off the ropes. Another headbutt sent Hardy to
the outside and, when Show tried to lift him back into the ring, Hardy dropped to the floor, wrenching Show’s arm over the top rope.
Hardy failed to capitalize on this though, and Show floored him with another head butt, and then a big legdrop for the first near fall of the
match at 3’30. Jeff again tried to use his fists to stage a comeback, but this time ran into a big side kick. Show then picked Hardy off
the ground and delivered another big head butt, before he made the mistake of running in too eagerly, resulting in Jeff avoiding a kick,
and Show straddling the top rope. With Show caught in the ropes, Jeff delivered a series of forearms, before Show threw him back to the
outside, and we went to break at 5’28.  We were back to the action at 8’43, with Show applying a nerve hold to Hardy. Hardy
managed to counter the move into a jaw japper. Jeff hooked Show, presumably for a Twist of Fate, but Show threw him off, and then
missed a second rope elbow at 10’50. Jeff seized his opportunity by hitting a DDT, but it was at this point that Matt Hardy made his
way out to the ring. Jeff saw his brother coming and springboarded off the Big Show’s back, plancha’ing his brother on the
outside. Back in the ring, Jeff went for a Whisper in the Wind on Show, but Show blocked the move, and delivered a knockout punch for
the victory at 11’46. After the match, Matt came into the ring and slapped the face of his fallen brother, before hitting him with seven
leg drops, as Jim Ross and Todd Grisham expressed their disgust at the situation.

Jeff and Show worked a good, realistic match which showcased The Big Show’s size and power advantage, without making Hardy
look weak. The aftermath was also worked well, and Matt Hardy is really settling into his heel persona.

Next we saw a recap of the interminable exchange between The Great Khali and Santino Marella on last week’s Raw, before Khali
came out with Ranjin Singh.

Khali, through Singh, told us that he can’t wait for his chance to kiss Santina Marella on the kiss cam next week and, as a picture of
Santina appeared on the TitanTron, described Miss Wrestle mania’s ‘olive skin, brown eyes, luscious lips and rock hard abs’.
We were then told that Khali wants to prepare, and an obvious plant was pulled from out of the crowd for Khali to lock lips with. ‘It
happened’ said Grisham. Yes, Todd. Yes, it did. Khali then ended the segment, which I can only assumed entertained no-one, by
saying that only one woman holds the key to his giant heart; Santina. Roll on next week.

Another SmackDown to Raw draftee, Divas champion Maryse, was seen in the back heading towards the arena for a match.

--- Maryse Vs Gail Kim

After some great heel stalling at the start of the match (the stalling act may only be because Maryse is severely limited in what she can do
physically in the ring, but she works it really well), Maryse side-stepped a charging Kim, sending her flying to the outside. Maryse followed
her out and sent her twice, back-first, into the ring apron, and then back in the ring sent her face first into the mat for a two count at 1â
€™28. Maryse then continued her assault on Kim’s back with a swinging backbreaker, and then a camel clutch. Kim managed to
fight out of the move, and swept out Maryse’s legs, gaining a one count. A bevy of weak clotheslines followed, before a nice
blockbuster off the second rope for a two count at 3’16. The two then badly botched a cross body block spot- it was hard to tell
whether Maryse was supposed to avoid the contact or not; as it was Kim barely hit her, and neither really sold anything. Nonetheless,
Maryse set Kim up for her DDT finisher, but Kim wriggled out of her grip and hit a unique boot to the face (similar in execution to Jerichoâ
€™s Codebreaker, but using the boot instead of the knees for the impact- it looked like garbage) for the pinfall at 3’46. Maryse now
takes her old-school heel stylings to Raw, where she can do battle with Mickie James and Beth Phoenix. Gail should focus on tightening
up her act as, with a host of baby face divas on SmackDown, she could end up getting overlooked.

R-Truth made his way through the crowd next, as we cut to commercial.

--- R-Truth Vs John Morrison

Match number three, and we were finally getting a chance to see one of the new members of the SmackDown roster in action; the man
with the best entrance music in the company, John Morrison. The two men locked up, with R-Truth taking Morrison down with a headlock.
Morrison came back up to his feet, and used Truth’s hair to take him down to the mat. R-Truth came back at Morrison with a leg lariat,
but JoMo did him one better, using a springboard kick off the ropes to earn a two count at 1’24. The Dirt Sheet host applied a
chinlock, but Truth battled out of the hold, drop toe holding Morrison into the ropes. Morrison tried to float out the back of a suplex attempt,
but Truth dropped him with a jaw japper, and then followed up with a back body drop and a pump kick for a two count. He missed an axe
kick, but backed Morrison into the corner, climbing the second turnbuckle and raining down on him with punches. However, Morrison
slammed Truth down to the mat, and then hit a Moonlight Drive for a debut victory after 3’54 of decent action. It looks like a good
singles run could be in store for John Morrison.

Next, it was time for the Triple H/Orton face off, and The Game made his way out to the ring. Orton’s music played, but Randy didnâ
€™t come out, appearing instead on the TitanTron. As some eerie music played, Orton asked Triple H if he was expecting a fight. He told
him that he’s close to getting the WWE Title, and he isn’t going to jeopardize that. He continued by saying that Hunter prides
himself on being smarter than everybody else, but this time he’s let his emotions override his logic (this is Triple H we’re talking
about, not Spock). He told Hunter that he earned his one on one match with Orton on Raw at the expense of his own teammates, Batista
and Shane McMahon, and he’s turned his allies into his enemies. He next said that he isn’t worried about their one on one
match, because he knows that Hunter will get himself disqualified, at which point Triple H started grinning. Orton asked him if he found it
funny when he RKO’d and DDT’d Stephanie, and a video of those events played. He then said that was is funny is how nobody
remembers what else he did, as a video of Orton kissing Steph showed, and that the kiss keeps him up most nights with thoughts of her
warm, soft lips. He asked Hunter if he thinks about that when he kisses his wife, and then asked whether his kids received the Easter
basket he sent. Again, Triple H began to laugh, and Orton asked him what is so funny. Hunter said that he knows something that Orton
doesn’t- that their match on Raw is going to be no disqualification. He then finished by saying that he will end what he started on
Raw. Orton made this segment work with his coolly psychotic delivery, but apart from that it was nothing that we haven’t seen
innumerate times in recent weeks. My hope now is that the remainder of this conflict is kept to Monday nights, and doesn’t bleed over
into the other shows.

In the back, Matt Hardy was in new SmackDown General Manager, Teddy Long’s office. Teddy told Hardy that at Backlash he will face
his brother, Jeff, in an I Quit Match. Matt responded that he’ll finally be able to make Jeff say the words that will make everybody give
up on him. Teddy told him that he hopes that is the case, because if he doesn’t, Jeff is liable to do much worse to him. Matt looked
worried, but then said that he’s already up 2-0 on his brother, and at Backlash he’ll complete the sweep.

--- Shelton Benjamin Vs The Undertaker

Shelton was already in the ring awaiting his opponent when we cut back to the arena. I guess when you have an entrance as long as The
Undertaker’s, there’s no time for the other guy to get his in. The match began with Shelton dodging a big boot, but eating a knee
lift, powerslam and elbowdrop instead. ‘Taker focused his attention on Benjamin’s arm, locking on an armbar and then delivering
‘Old School’ at 1’13. Shelton got his first piece of offence in just before the break by countering a suplex into a neck breaker at
1’40. Back to the action we came, 5’25 into the match, with Shelton hitting a trio of elbowdrops on ‘Taker for a two count, and
then wrenching back on the Undertaker’s neck with a chinlock. ‘Taker worked up to his feet, and the two men exchanged punches,
to the Dead Man’s advantage. Benjamin came back with a boot to the face, but was caught coming off the top rope in position for a
chokeslam. Benjamin managed to counter the move into a DDT for a close two count at 9’02, but at that point The Undertaker sat up,
and laid into Benjamin with punches, and a clothesline in the corner. Snake Eyes looked to be next, but again Benjamin had a counter,
this time with a German suplex for another near fall. Now Benjamin was getting cocky, and he motioned his arm across his throat, a la
The Undertaker, and went for a Tombstone piledriver. This was his downfall, as ‘Taker reversed the move and picked up the win at 10â

This was another strong match, with the two employing good psychology by using the Undertaker’s injured neck as the catalyst for
Benjamin’s offence. It was also refreshing to see how much ‘Taker gave to his opponent, even allowing himself to be German
suplexed. This is the best TV match Benjamin has been involved in for a while, and hopefully will be the catalyst for an upturn in his
career, after a bland US Title run.

In the locker room, we saw MVP preparing for action, as Dolph Ziggler, another new SmackDown star, tried to introduce himself. Ziggler
was ignored, and Teddy Long came in to wish MVP luck on Raw. Teddy told MVP that he doesn’t regret signing him to that big
contract, even though he was a constant pain in the butt, and that he has a friend who wants to meet him; Sherry Shepherd from The
View. I won’t pretend to know who that is, or what that means.

--- MVP Vs Dolph Ziggler

Ziggler started this none-title match by offering his hand to MVP, but instead pie-facing him. This angered Porter, and Ziggler ducked out
of the ring to avoid a big boot. Back in the ring and Ziggler jumped on the offensive with kicks and punches, before MVP gained
momentum with a knee lift and a flapjack. Dolph managed to avoid MVP running into the corner, and hotshotted his arm over the top
rope, before ramming him shoulder first into the ring post, rolling him up for a two count at 1’39. The new SmackDown man
continued the assault on the arm with an armbar, before MVP hit back with a powerslam, and a clothesline and elbow with his good arm.
The Owen Hart-style overhead throw was next from the US Champion, followed by a facebuster. MVP then tried to rally the crowd, who
had been pretty dead all night, and hit the Ballin’ Elbow for a two count at 4’20. MVP next sent Ziggler into the corner, but as he
ran in, Ziggler hit a low drop kick to his leg, and then sent him head first into the bottom turnbuckle. A roll up, and a handful of tights, later,
and it was all over, with Ziggler picking up the upset win at 4’44. After the match, Ziggler grabbed a microphone, and said that he
finally got MVP’s attention, before introducing himself to the crowd.

This was a well-booked match, with the new SmackDown guy going over for the rub, whereas MVP moves on to Raw with his United
States title. The action was pretty good, and my only complaint is that I’d have liked to have seen the match get two or three more
minutes. Ziggler has impressed me in what little we’ve seen of him, and I’m hopeful that he might get a bigger role to play in the

It was main event time next, as RAW’s Batista took on, erm, RAW’s Ted DiBiase.

--- Batista Vs Ted DiBiase

This was Batista’s first singles match since returning from his injury, and he began by powering his young opponent down to the
mat, then lifting him up and driving him into the corner, following up with some hard shoulder blocks to the gut. An elbow earned Batista a
one count, while a suplex earned a two count. Batista sent DiBiase hard into the turnbuckle, and then set him up for a Batista Bomb.
DiBiase took out Big Dave’s leg though, and continued to go after it leading us to a commercial break at 2’16. We came back at
5’36 with DiBiase still focusing his assault on the leg of Batista, before the latter connected with a big boot. DiBiase slipped out of a
powerslam attempt, and threw Batista out of the ring, following him out and delivering a shot block. He rolled Batista back into the ring,
and drove the injured leg twice into the ring post, and back inside hit a side Russian legsweep, and a double stomp to the gut from the
second rope. DiBiase again went to the second rope and delivered the same move, but this time to the leg, earning himself a two count
at 9’07. Ted locked on a leg grapevine, which Batista clubbed his way out of, and nearly caught the victory with a small package.
DiBiase drop toe holded Batista, and went back to the leg grapevine, but Batista kicked him off and, as Ted came charging at him, hit a
spine buster. A back body drop and a clothesline followed, before The Animal ran into a kick from DiBiase. DiBiase tried to hit his Sweet
Dreams finisher on Batista, but he blocked the move, and hit a spear followed by a Batista Bomb for the 1-2-3, at 11’34.

This was a strong main event from both of these guys, mostly due to the legwork by DiBiase, who showed great talent in this rare singles
outing. The result was the correct one too, Batista getting the popular victory, but this match helped to establish that DiBiase is no slouch,
and can hold his own in the ring with the top stars.

All in all, this was a very good edition of SmackDown, due mainly to three good extended matches. It seemed strange that so many Raw
stars were in action on the first show after the draft, but surely in the coming weeks the new rosters will be established.

MVP of the night- As I mentioned, there were three good matches on this week’s show, but the man I was most impressed with was
Ted DiBiase. He didn’t look at all out of place in the main event.