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May 1, 2009
– Adam Russell

The Garden Of Eden

Madison Square Garden, the venue for this week’s SmackDown, is the Mecca of Sports Entertainment, we are told. Indeed, the
famous arena could be called the birthplace of Sports Entertainment, as it was there that the first WrestleMania was held. Fitting then that
SmackDown this week had an aura of the new about it. The draft went into full effect this week (if you ignore MVP’s United States title
match), and while Raw proved to be the home of the false dawn, SmackDown offered up a show which put the focus solely on new
match-ups, storylines and superstars. In short, it was the show that Raw should have been.

Ironically, the last time a WWE program had this kind of freshness about it was the 30/6/08 Raw, on which CM Punk cashed in his Money
in the Bank briefcase to become World Heavyweight Champion; ironic, because this SmackDown was built around a similar premise.

Whether the Madison Square Garden effect, with which came a rambunctious crowd, played a part or not, this show made all the right
moves, and got me genuinely excited in the product again.

We began with a member of the SmackDown roster, but certainly not a new face, Chris Jericho making his way to the ring. Jericho, who
later in the night would compete in a Fatal Four-way match to decide the number one contender to Edge’s World Heavyweight
Championship, began by saying that, despite this being a different night to the one he is used to, the fans are still the same petulant,
hypocritical tapeworms, ignorant to how talented he really is. He said that introducing himself was below him, but offered a mission
statement, which basically boils down to him taking over the show, and winning the World Heavyweight Championship at Judgment Day.
This brought out the current champ, Edge, and it’s fitting that it did, because up until now Edge has been Mr. SmackDown, in the
same way that Jericho has been Mr. Raw over the last year. A storyline battle for the top spot on the show between the two would be
great, but even without a storyline, just the thought of them jostling for that honor can only mean good things for SmackDown. Edge said it
was rude of Jericho not to introduce himself, so he’ll do it for him; Chris Jericho, tormentor of senior citizens everywhere. And so it
begins. Edge noted that Cena beat Jericho for the World title, but it was Edge who defeated Cena for his 9th championship, going on to
say that Jericho’s ‘angry man in a suit’ routine won’t fly on the Friday brand. SmackDown is his show, he continued, and
there is no better feeling than walking into the world’s most famous arena - the Air Canada Centre in Toronto (cue boos) - knowing
he’s better than everyone else. Jericho disagreed with Edge’s sentiment, saying that he will take over SmackDown, and the two
of them got nose to nose centre-ring when CM Punk’s music hit, and the two-time Money in the Bank winner made his way to the
ring. Punk said that he heard Edge was introducing people, and thought he’d come out to introduce himself. He told Edge that he is
Mr. Money in the Bank and, channeling Troy McClure, he probably remembers him from such awesome moments as him cashing in
against Edge last year. A video played of Punk winning the World title, with Edge looking suitably peeved. As Punk continued, Jericho
interrupted and told him that nobody cares what he has to say. He said that he allowed Edge to interrupt him because he is the
champion, but Punk doesn’t get the same honor. After Punk basically ignored Jericho, the 2008 Superstar of the Year said that he
was done with the disrespect shown to him by Punk and fans, and at that he walked out, leaving Punk and Edge centre-stage. Punk
joked that that was an awkward moment, but Edge told him that he agrees with Jericho that nobody cares about him, and that if Jericho
won’t listen to him, neither will he. Punk told him that he might want to hear him out. It’s a new era on SmackDown, he said, and
Edge doesn’t have his wife to protect him anymore. He said that Teddy Long, the new General Manager, sent him out to inform Edge
that he will be going one on one with Punk tonight. Edge shrugged it off, calling it a warm up match, and said that after beating Punk in
their non-title match, he will go on to Judgment Day and successfully defend his title. Punk shot back that he’s disappointed in Edge,
a former Money in the Bank winner himself, who should know that with that briefcase comes the opportunity to cash in on a world title
shot at any time. He then told Edge that he was going to hit the GTS and pin Edge in their non-title match, and then cash in Money in the
Bank, and pin him again to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.

There is no doubt that this segment, at 15 minutes, lasted too long, and one can’t help thinking that the impact of Punk’s words
would have been greater were he not coming off a clean defeat to Kane at Backlash. CM Punk, more than anybody, seems to have been
the victim of WWE’s ADD booking. Last year he won the world title, had a near-disastrous reign, and was back in the midcard. This
year, his first act after winning Money in the Bank is losing a program to Kane. It’s sad to see a guy as over as Punk has been at
various times in his young career, getting messed about like that, and hopefully his SmackDown run will be the one that finally puts him
over the top as a genuine main event star.

After some brief draft talk from Jim Ross and Todd Grisham, John Morrison came out for the first match of the night, against former
United States champion, Shelton Benjamin.

--- John Morrison Vs Shelton Benjamin

A strange one this, pitting heels against one another. Shelton came out of the gate with a kick to Morrison, and then threw him to the
outside. A frustrated Morrison came storming back in, taking out Benjamin’s legs and reigning down the punches. A neat dropkick
followed for a one count, but Shelton came back with a straight kick to the face after missing with the dragon whip. A short clothesline
was followed up by a chinlock, which Morrison fought out of before hitting back with a leg lariat. A running knee earned the Shaman of
Sexy a two count, before Benjamin hit a backbreaker to regain control. Benjamin was then reversed into the corner by his opponent, but
managed to use the top turnbuckle to leap over the incoming Morrison, only to be caught by a springboard kick. The Moonlight Drive
followed, giving Morrison the victory at 2’44. Benjamin must be concerned; a slew of new superstars on SmackDown means that he
could very easily get lost in the shuffle, and losing in such short order to another midcard heel certainly does not bode well.

Next we saw highlights of MVP becoming a topic of discussion on The View, and the build-up to Porter’s match against Dolph Ziggler
tonight. More draft talk followed, and then we saw Chris Jericho in Teddy Long’s office. Jericho was complaining to Long about being
interrupted earlier by Edge and Punk, at which point the was interrupted again, this time by The Great Khali. Khali said something in
Hindi, which Jericho interpreted s praise. Ranjin Singh, however, informed him that Khali said Jericho should quit whining and get over
himself. For the second time tonight, Jericho stormed off.

Next it was time for the Fatal Four-way number one contenders match. Of course, it has never been acknowledged that this was
advertised as a five-man scramble match on Raw this week, before being changed to this format.

--- Fatal Four-way Elimination Match - Rey Mysterio Vs Chris Jericho Vs Kane Vs Jeff Hardy

The bell rang, and all four men went at it, with Kane showing his dominance from the get-go. The Big Red Machine threw Hardy out of the
ring, delivered a clothesline and a big boot to Jericho, and then side suplexed Mysterio. Jericho was then thrown to the outside, and Kane
lifted Mysterio over his head, tossing the Intercontinental champion out on top of Hardy and Jericho as we cut to commercial at 1’40.
Kane was still in control when we returned at 4’43, but his attempted flying clothesline on Hardy was countered by a dropkick to the
gut. Rey then came off the ropes with a splash on the big man, picking up a two count. Jericho came back in and hit a tilt-a-whirl
backbreaker on Mysterio for a nearfall, before being clotheslined by Hardy. Hardy then tried a flying headscissors on Jericho, but it was
reversed into a Walls of Jericho. Before the Superstar of the Year could sit back on the hold though, Kane grabbed him by the throat, and
lifted him up for a choke slam. Jericho was ahead of the game again though, countering into another attempt at the Walls, with Kane
kicking him off. Kane then grabbed both Jericho and Hardy, teasing a double choke slam, but relinquished his grip to instead catch Rey,
springboarding into the ring, by the throat. Again the choke slam was countered, this time into a headscissors  which left Kane primed for
the 619. As Rey hit the ropes, however, Jericho pulled him out of the ring. Back in the ring, Hardy hit a Whisper in the Wind on Kane, and
followed up with a Swanton Bomb. He made the cover but Jericho pulled him out of the ring, rolling in to make the cover himself and
eliminate Kane at 7’00. This displeased Kane, who hit a thrust to Jericho’s throat, and rolled out of the ring to throw Jeff into the
security wall, before throwing a chair into the ring and leaving. With this going on, Mysterio re-entered the action, dropkicking Jericho into
the 619 position, and delivering the signature hold. A West Coast Pop looked set to follow, but Jericho picked up the chair which Kane
had thrown into the ring and took a swing at the IC champ, connecting as Rey was in midair, right in front of the referee. Jericho found
himself disqualified, and eliminated from the match, at 8’18, and complained to the referee leading into our next break at 8’59.

We returned at 12’39, with our final two competitors, Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio, ready to square off for a shot at Edge’s (or
maybe CM Punk’s) World Heavyweight Championship at Judgment Day. Jeff got the first shots in with some kicks, but Rey came
back with a dropkick for a two count. Another dropkick from Rey missed its target, and Jeff hit a leg drop between his opponent’s
legs, and a low dropkick for a nearfall of his own. Rey reversed Hardy into the corner next, in an attempt to regain control, but ran into a
pair of boots. Hardy went up top and hit a flying sunset flip, but Rey rolled through and low dropkicked Hardy for another two. A legdrop
earned Mysterio another nearfall, before the two hit dual cross body blocks at 14’57, laying each other out. When they both returned to
their feet, it was Jeff firing first, with a club to Mysterio’s back. He sent Rey into the corner, but ran into a big kick. Mysterio went for a
springboard moonsault, but Jeff caught him, and positioned him for a Twist of Fate. Rey, however, countered again into a jacknife cover
for a close two count. A victory roll from Rey earned him another two, before Jeff countered into a pinning predicament of his own for a
two. Rey came back at Jeff, headscissoring him into position for the 619. The move connected, and Rey followed up with a springboard
senton. Hardy though managed to maneuver Rey into a pinning position, picking up the three count at 17’33, to a great reaction from
the crowd. After the match, the two battle-weary stars shook hands and hugged, soaking in the applause of the crowd.

It was the crowd, really, who made this match stand out, which isn’t to say the action in the ring wasn’t any good. The ending
sequence was fast and furious, and the match built nicely, owing much to the fact that it was elimination-style, and not a one fall affair. At
no point though did the action break out of typical multi-wrestler match formula, with two men fighting it out in the ring while the other
competitor(s) lie motionless on the outside. Neither was the wrestling particularly smooth or impressive-looking. But with the, largely pro-
Hardy, crowd being incredibly hot throughout, this four man had the feeling of a big match, and made the World Heavyweight
Championship seem like the most important thing in the world.

In the back, Chris Jericho barged into Teddy Long’s office, where Maria of all people was waiting, as she explained, to show Long
her new clothing line of all things. Jericho went on a tirade about the poor job Long is doing as GM, at which point Edge walked in.
Jericho left, and Edge basically echoed his sentiments, saying it was unjust that he’s being made to wrestle just five days after his
Last Man Standing match with Cena at Backlash.

More draft talk from Ross and Grisham, as new SmackDown guys Cryme Tyme made their way out. After a bit of nonsense on the mic, in
which the two introduced themselves, they asked the crowd if they wanted to see two divas dance. The general consensus seemed to be
‘meh’, but of course, we got it anyway. Layla and Eve Torres came out for what Cryme Tyme called a Brooklyn Breakdown, which is
apparently different from a normal dance contest. Both girls took their turn dancing, and I have to say they looked scarier doing so than a
lot of the wrestlers. Eve won, which garnered a typical reaction from Layla; a slap to the face. A catfight ensued, before Layla left Eve to
dance with Cryme Tyme in the ring. We’re probably gonna get a match between these two now. They’d probably be better off
sticking to the dancing.

MVP was shown in the back next, along with The View’s Sherri Shepherd. Sherri was very excited about being in MVP’s corner for
his match tonight, and invited him to be a guest on The View on Monday. Vince really will go to any lengths for mainstream exposure,
won’t he; is there a show less cool than The View?

A few more of the new SmackDown superstars were discussed by the announce team, before it was time for Dolph Ziggler to get his big
shot.

--- United States Title Match - MVP (champion) Vs Dolph Ziggler

Before the match, Ziggler got on the mic and introduced himself, getting some cheap heat by calling New York, New Jersey. Out came
MVP with Shepherd, garbed in a Ric Flair-style robe (Shepherd, not MVP, just to be clear). The two locked up and MVP powered Ziggler
down to the mat. Ziggler got up and delivered a kick to the midsection of the champion, before receiving a hiptoss, and a couple of
armdrags. MVP held Ziggler in an armbar, but the challenger managed to leverage him out of the ring, and then went out after him to lay
in the boots. With MVP down, Ziggler offered his hand to Shepherd. The champ got back to his feet, and ran at Ziggler, who moved out of
the way. MVP nearly collided with his valet for the match, but instead she took the opportunity to give him a hug. MVP saw Ziggler coming
up behind him and gave him an elbow to the face, and then threw him back into the ring. Following him in, MVP was caught by some
boots from Ziggler, and then put into a chinlock. Porter worked up to his feet and electric chaired Ziggler, then gave him an overhead
throw. Ziggler came back by dropkick the leg of MVP, the move which led to his upset victory two weeks ago. As Ziggler laid into MVP with
punches, Shepherd climbed onto the apron. Ziggler asked her if she wanted to give him a kiss, but instead she gave him a slap, for
some reason not the grounds for a disqualification. MVP took the opportunity to hit a clothesline, face buster and the Ballin’ Elbow for
a two count, and then dodged a dropkick attempt from Ziggler and hit the Playmaker to retain his championship at 3’54.

As I predicted in last week’s report, this defeat for Ziggler makes him just another member of the roster, whereas he was flying high
after upsetting the champ two weeks ago. What makes it worse is that this match was really just a vehicle for Sherri Shepherd, and some
cross-promoting with The View. MVP didn’t come out of it looking good, and neither did Ziggler, so really, what was the point?

More from the backstage antics of Jericho next, and yes, there is a pay-off. Jericho accosted Teddy Long in the hallway, and told him that
he is a hack and a fly-by-night as GM, and threatened to quit. At that point John Morrison emerged from a nearby doorway, and greeted
Long. Jericho asked Morrison what he was looking at, and Morrison responded that he thought it was a loser, but turns out it’s a
quitter. Jericho, clearly offended by the remark, slapped Morrison in the face, which caused Morrison to go at Jericho with punches, until
the two were separated by other wrestlers. With Jericho being restrained, CM Punk walked by, en route to his match with Edge. He shot
Jericho a glance, and continued out for the main event, which was next. More on Jericho/Morrison shortly.

--- Edge Vs CM Punk

This non-title match began with the two locking up, and Edge backing Punk into a corner, before breaking. Edge pushed Punk, but Punk
pushed back harder, and then went for a quick Go To Sleep, which had Edge grabbing for the ropes. Punk hit a series of kicks on the
World Champion, and then a dropkick for a two count, before applying a front facelock. Edge reversed the hold into a wristlock, which
brought another kick from Punk. Punk then went up to the top rope, with Edge following him. Punk grabbed Edge’s head, and hot-
shotted him on the top rope, before climbing back up to the top, only this time Edge took out his legs, crotching him on the top turnbuckle.
With Punk dangling forward into the ring, Edge hit a spear to his back at 2’08, and up to this point the crowd had been disappointingly
subdued. Punk came back with a kick, and tried a suplex but, selling the damage done to his back, he couldn’t get Edge up. Instead,
Edge front-suplexed him onto the top rope, and then sent him to the outside with a big kick as we went to the break at 3’01. We came
back 6’34 into the match, and with the two men exchanging punches. Edge got the advantage with a knee lift, and went to work on
Punk’s back with some clubbing blows. He missed a splash in the corner, however, and was rolled up for a two count. Punk was
now back in control and hit a leg lariat on Edge, before going for the GTS again. Edge countered into a sunset flip, but Punk countered
that counter into a cradle for a two count, and Edge regained control by slamming his opponent’s face into the mat at 8’52. Edge
now went for the spear, but Punk caught him running in with a knee to the face, and then hit his kneelift/bulldog combination out of the
corner for a two count, as the fans started to get into the match. A springboard clothesline from Punk missed, and Edge tried his luck with
the spear again, this time being caught by a quick powerslam for another nearfall. Punk looked once again towards the GTS for the win,
but it was blocked, and Edge managed to work Punk into the sharpshooter. After a struggle, Punk managed to make it to the ropes, and
climbed out onto the apron. Edge tried to suplex him back in, but Punk landed on his feet and finally nailed the GTS to pin the champion
clean at 11’34. Staying true to his word, Punk signaled to the referee that he wanted to cash in his briefcase for a World Heavyweight
Title match, and match seemed to be on when, out of nowhere, Umaga (remember him) entered the ring, and caught Punk square in the
mouth with a thrust kick. He followed up with a sidewalk slam, and left Punk lying in the ring. I was worried at that point that WWE had
used the Money in the Bank briefcase as a way to segue Punk into a feud with Umaga, which would be ridiculously wasteful. Luckily,
Grisham made a point to explain that the World Championship match had never officially gotten underway, so Punk still retains control of
the briefcase. With Umaga gone, Edge picked up the briefcase and looked set to nail Punk with it, but Jeff Hardy came out and hit a Twist
of Fate on Edge, followed by a Swanton Bomb, and we went off the air with Hardy celebrating in the ring.
Anchored by two strong matches (the number one contenders match, and the Edge/Punk match) this SmackDown gets a big thumbs up
from me, due mainly to the emphasis put on the new. While on Raw we got the confirmation of another Batista WWE title challenge at the
next pay-per-view, and the continuation of the Randy Orton/Shane McMahon feud, SmackDown delivered a show which was genuinely
surprising. Jeff Hardy earned himself another World Championship challenge, and it’s hard to think of a guy in the company more
over than he is right now. CM Punk got a clean win over the champion, Edge, though I worry about his upcoming program with Umaga.
Umaga is a returning monster, and conventional logic says that he should go over strong while the company rebuilds him into a main
event threat. Punk however seems to yo-yo so much between future star du jour and red-headed stepchild that I worry the fans will lose
interest altogether. Then there was the Jericho/Morrison altercation, which came completely out of left-field. This is wrestling the way it
should be; a feud in which a star is bound to be elevated a level, whether he wins or loses, and it’s something that WWE does so
rarely to any real effect. I’m really anxious to see where this leads, and the kind of fan reaction Morrison can generate as a babyface.
Pretty much everything Jericho has done recently has turned to gold, so the former Johnny Nitro is certainly in good hands.

Jericho and Edge, of course, aren’t new faces to the main event scene, but they are guys who always perform as though they have
something to prove, guys who have often been looked over in favor of the Cenas, Batistas and Hunters of the world. They also happen to
be two of the best workers in the business today. Supported by the likes of Hardy, Punk, Morrison and Mysterio… well, JR said it best to
close the show; “the young stars have come out to shine�.

SmackDown may not quite be a wrestling paradise, but for this one week, they turned MSG into a garden of Eden. Just steer clear of
Vince McMahon bearing apples.