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May 22, 2009
– Adam Russell

Snakes and Ladders

SmackDown, which this week emanated from Cincinnati, Ohio, has been on a run of three incredible shows, and for a while now has
been the best wrestling show on television. This week, with Judgment Day having been and gone, it was all a matter of keeping the
momentum going. WWE has a habit of losing interest in things quickly, so it wouldn't surprise me if the focus on young and fresh talent
which we've seen on Friday nights was thrown to the wayside. I'm hopeful that that won't be the case.

The show started with Edge, fresh from his successful title defense against Jeff Hardy, coming out to the ring. Edge said that if there was
ever a doubt about who the face of SmackDown was (after claims to that title in recent weeks by the likes of Rey Mysterio and, most
notably, Chris Jericho) then now's the time to end the debate. Judgment Day has come and gone, he said, and he is still the face of the
brand, with Jericho and CM Punk both losing, and him embarrassing and beating Hardy. A Hardy chant broke out as Edge said that he is
the premier star in the company, and Jeff isn't in his league. Edge then pronounced that Hardy, like all his fans, is a loser, whereas he is
a winner. At that point, Teddy Long, the SmackDown General Manager, came out, and said that he witnessed an atrocity at Judgment
Day, referring to Matt Hardy's interference in the championship match. He then announced that he has signed a rematch between Edge
and Jeff for the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules, the next (poorly-named) pay-per-view. Edge responded that he
already beat Hardy, and that he is sick of all the excuses people make, when the truth is that he has more heart and determination than
Jeff. He continued that Hardy isn't World champion material, and that brought the number one contender out. Jeff said that Edge is right
about him being a loser, and a failure, but above all else he's a competitor. He reminded us that all the matches at Extreme Rules are
under extreme rules (well, duh), and then said that the two of them should compete tonight, with the winner getting to choose the
stipulations for their match. Edge told Jeff that he can't just make his own matches (so you'd think, but this isn't the first time in recent
weeks that Jeff has come out and done just that), and appealed to Long. Hardy told Long that he himself said the show belongs to the
WWE Hypocrites, so let's hear what the crowd has to say. Jeff then went into the crowd asking people if they wanted to see him and Edge
wrestle that night, with everybody inevitably saying yes. Jeff said that Cincinnati had spoken, and it's on. Now, I don't want to tell Teddy
Long how to do his job, but if I were GM, I'd be rather annoyed about one of my employees going over my head like that. Still, Long said
he'd be a fool not to listen to the fans (and he just plays one on TV), and that the main event was confirmed.

I really dislike these segments where they make the main event match on the fly like that, and of course, they are a favorite of the WWE
booking team. It makes me think that, in storyline terms, the GM just goes from show to show without having much clue of what matches
he's going to give the fans. It's even more annoying when a wrestler comes out and just books his own match, even with the added
'reasoning' of letting the fans decide. I won't even get into giving away your last pay-per-view main event, and your next pay-per-view main
event, for free. Everyone performed just fine here, but it all felt very pointless.

--- Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and Ricky Ortiz Vs John Morrison and Cryme Tyme

Six-man action to get us underway; Cryme Tyme making their in-ring SmackDown debuts, Haas continuing to be featured, and a good
sign for Ortiz being involved in this match-up. We started off with Morrison and Ortiz, after Benjamin decided against getting us going with
his rival. Ortiz buried a knee into Morrison's gut, then hit a headbutt, before being armdragged over. Shad came in and took over on the
arm of Ortiz, who mounted a brief flurry of offence with some forearms, before running into an elbow. After delivering a back body drop
and a powerslam, Shad tagged in JTG. Shad lifted up his partner and sent him crashing down onto Ortiz, with JTG tagging in Morrison on
the way down. Morrison hit the breakdance legdrop on Ortiz for a two count, and then tagged JTG back in. JTG gained a nearfall with a
sunset flip, before Ortiz fired off a headbutt and made the tag to Haas. Haas delivered some punches to JTG, and threw him through the
ropes to the outside. JTG, however, landed on his feet, and climbed back into the ring, leveling Haas with a dropkick to send him
scurrying out the ring. 3'15 in and we went to commercials, returning at 5'46 to find Benjamin stomping away on JTG. Benjamin hit a
hammerlock shoulderbreaker for a two count and then tagged Haas back in. Haas locked on an armbar, using the hair to control his
opponent, and then Ortiz returned to the fray. Ortiz hit a kneedrop, and then a nice hammerlock slam for a nearfall, before controlling the
arm and tagging in Benjamin. Benjamin and JTG got into an exchange of punches, which JTG came out on top of, but Benjamin cut him
off before he could tag out. He tried pulling JTG back into his corner, but JTG kicked him off, forcing Benjamin into a quick tag to Haas.
Haas came in and it looked like he had cut JTG off from making the tag, but it appeared the layout of the match dictated otherwise, as
Morrison came in and the referee let it stand. This botched spot (it looked like JTG and Morrison somehow missed each other's hands in
attempting the tag) really hurt the match, as the crowd, subsequently, weren't into Morrison's hot tag work at all. Morrison hit a dropkick, a
leg lariat and a running knee, with Benjamin and Ortiz breaking up the resultant pin attempt. This brought in Shad, who ran through
Benjamin and Ortiz's attempt at a double clothesline, coming off the ropes and clotheslining Ortiz. JTG came back in and cross body
blocked Benjamin over the top rope, and this spurt of action left only Haas and Morrison in the ring. Haas tried a German suplex on
Morrison, but the latter landed on his feet, and hotshotted Haas on the top rope. He then delivered Starship Pain for the three count at
10'25.

This was a decent little match, but I have a couple of gripes. Firstly, Morrison has pinned Haas with the split-legged corkscrew moonsault
for three consecutive weeks now (in a one-on-one match, a tag match, and now this 6-man). How about a different finish? Secondly, last
week Morrison teamed up with an old rival in CM Punk, and this week he teamed up with more past rivals in Cryme Tyme. However, the
commentators made no mention of this past rivalry and, in fact, Morrison's transition into a babyface really hasn't been explained at all.
Would it hurt to give him a short promo in which he explained that he has 'seen the light' or whatever. It would probably help his character
in the long run.

Next we saw Josh Matthews in the back interviewing, of all people, Women's Champion, Melina. He asked her for her thoughts on the
upcoming number one contenders match between Michelle McCool and Gail Kim, to which she responded that she showed her
superiority over the competition on Raw, and she'll do the same on SmackDown. Alicia Fox, McCool's lackey, showed up at that point,
telling Melina that Michelle says the Women's Title will soon be hers. Melina had a message for McCool; don't send a little girl to do a
woman's job. Melina slapped Alicia, and stood there pouting. The best thing I can say about Melina as a babyface is that she was a really
good heel.

A video package was up next, highlighting the 'Denver Debacle'. Everyone knows the story by now, so I won't waste any time on it.

--- Michelle McCool Vs Gail Kim

Michelle came out of the blocks quickest, hitting a kneelift on Kim, who came back with a kick, and then a Lucha-style armdrag out of a
crucifix position. Michelle fled the ring, followed by Kim, but here McCool gained the edge, sending her opponent knee-first into the ring
post. Back in the ring, McCool continued to work on the leg of Kim, before Kim came back by locking on her Flying Dragon submission.
Michelle used the ropes to force a break, and then kicked Kim's leg out from under her. Kim again fought back, hotshotting Michelle on
the top rope, and then laying in some forearms. McCool again went to a kick to the leg to regain control, but was caught by an enziguri,
and then a neckbreaker, which earned Kim a nearfall. Kim went to the top rope, but Alicia Fox tried to intervene, only to get sent head-first
into the ring post. Kim resumed her position on the top turnbuckle, but McCool kicked her leg out, and then hit the Faithbreaker for the win
at 4'24. As diva matches go, this wasn't bad, and McCool will now move into a program with Melina.

The next segment was Jim Ross interviewing Rey Mysterio, who was seated somewhere in the back, and shown on the TitanTron. JR
first asked Rey about his victory over Chris Jericho at Judgment Day. Rey, in what was clearly a scripted response, said that Jericho was
talented in the ring, but also at running his mouth, and what made his victory so special was hitting the 619, which Jericho had vowed
wouldn't happen. Rey then pretty much forced the fans to chant 619, which they did with little enthusiasm. Rey then said that he was
moving on from Jericho, and that he knows there are plenty of hungry, young guys who would love a shot at the Intercontinental
Championship. He continued that he wants to carry on the great tradition of the belt, and former Latino title-holders like Pedro Morales,
Tito Santana and Eddy Guerrero. Ross then asked, rather randomly it seemed, why Rey wears a mask to wrestle in. Rey joked uneasily
that it was because he wasn't good looking, before talking about the Lucha tradition of wearing a mask. He said that he earned the mask
after years of training under his uncle, and that he will never take it off during competition because being unmasked is a great dishonor.
Finally, he said, without the mask he just isn't Rey Mysterio.

This whole segment came off incredibly forced and scripted. Rey just isn't a convincing speaker, and his mic time should be kept to a
minimum. Jim Ross came across as very stupid, asking such an inane question about the mask. Plus, as if this doesn't completely sign-
post the direction that the Mysterio-Jericho feud will take. They couldn't find a more natural way to work in the mask? Why pretend that Rey
hasn't already been unmasked once in his career? Hopefully, Jericho will work that into one of his promos.

Speaking of Jericho, he was out next for a rematch from Superstars in which he was defeated by CM Punk.

--- Chris Jericho Vs CM Punk

These two had a really good match on Superstars, and would have to go some to top that here. We started off with Punk kicking Jericho
repeatedly, snapmaring him over and delivering a stiff kick to the spine. A powerslam followed by a one count, and then Jericho came
back with a kick and an elbow off the ropes, as a Punk chant broke out. With Punk on the apron, Jericho went for his springboard
dropkick, but Punk ducked sending Jericho to the outside. Punk rammed Jericho back-first into the apron a couple of times, and then
rolled him back into the ring where he picked up a two count. Jericho countered an attempted back body drop with a kick, but then nearly
got cut with a Go To Sleep, managing to elbow his way off Punk's shoulders (a story of their match on Thursday was Jericho avoiding the
GTS). Jericho downed Punk with a back suplex, picking up a two count at 2'27, as Jim Ross told us how intelligent Jericho is. Punk
countered a facelock with an armdrag, and then dropkicked the knee of Jericho. A kneelift earned Punk a nearfall, and he followed it up by
whipping Jericho into the corner. He ran at Jericho, only to be back body dropped over the top rope, where he managed to land on the
apron. He went for his patented springboard clothesline, but Jericho dropkicked the top rope at the perfect moment, sending Punk
crashing to the mat as we went to a break 3'57 in. We returned at 7'17, with Punk missing with a leg lariat. Jericho hit a low dropkick for a
two count, and then a senton for another two. After hitting a clothesline in the corner, Jericho placed Punk on the top rope, and climbed up
with him. Punk managed to fight Jericho off, sending him to the mat with a headbutt, and then hitting a high cross body block, which
Jericho rolled through for another two count. Jericho then missed an enziguri kick, and Punk Oklahoma rolled him for a nearfall. Punk
built on this with kicks, and a leg lariat, but then ran into a pair of boots in the corner. Jericho next went for his facebuster-type bulldog,
only for Punk to send him crashing crotch-first into the middle turnbuckle. Punk then hit his patented kneelift, this time to the back of
Jericho's head, and lifted the former Y2J up for the GTS. Jericho wriggled out and hit the ropes, only to run into another attempted GTS.
This time Jericho tried to reverse into the Walls of Jericho but, as he did for the victory on Superstars, Punk countered into a small
package. On this day, the move was only good enough for a two count, and Jericho went right back to the Walls, locking it in this time.
Punk managed to get to the ropes for the break and, as Jericho came running at him, finally got him up and hit the GTS. Jericho though,
being so close to the ropes, managed to roll out of the ring and, as Punk got to his feet and found his bearings, Umaga came to ringside
with a leather strap and whipped Punk's back, effecting the disqualification at 11'36. Umaga climbed into the ring and crescent kicked
Punk, and then tied him up in a tree of woe in the corner, using the strap. With Punk upside-down and helpless, Umaga hit a Samoan
Spike and left the ring to get a... microphone? Back in the ring, Umaga told Punk that if he thought he was hurt now, wait until Extreme
Rules, because he's issuing a challenge for a Samoan Strap Match. Yes, Umaga talks. He talks well, overly-heavy breathing supposedly
the only thing betraying his 'savagery' (unless he's just really out of shape). The match itself was really good, the two men picking up from
where they left off on Thursday. Umaga's interjection was just strange. Ross and Grisham didn't even make mention of the fact that
Umaga has suddenly found the ability to say something other than 'Samoa', and the Samoan Bulldozer's reasoning for the attacks on
Punk has still not been explained (although at least the seeming randomness of it was brought up on commentary). My hope, and
supposition, is that Umaga is being paid off by Edge, worried about Punk's guaranteed title shot. Either way, it's imperative that Punk
picks up the win at Extreme Rules, after being pretty much a punching bag for the Articulate Savage for the last few weeks.

After a recap of the issues between Dolph Ziggler and The Great Khali, Ziggler was set to go one-on-one with R-Truth.

--- Dolph Ziggler Vs R-Truth

The two locked up, and Dolph applied a headlock, was sent into the ropes, but came back with a shoulderblock. Ziggler hit the ropes
again, but this time was hiptossed by Truth. Ziggler regained the advantage with a hotshot, and then hit an overhead throw for a two
count. Dolph clamped on a chinlock, but Truth made his way up to his feet, only to be sent into the corner by Ziggler. Ziggler then ran in,
but Truth avoided the contact and connected with an elbow, a clothesline, and a heel kick. A flapjack and a pump kick earned Truth a two
count, but then he inexplicably decided to climb to the second rope with his back to Ziggler, who easily pulled him down, and then hit his
finisher, The Golden Handshake (no, it's not really called that, but maybe it should be) who the textbook win at 2'28. Perplexing then that
Truth went over Knox last week, only to be jobbed out this week. After the match, Khali made his way out, causing Dolph to backtrack back
into the ring. There he was met by a flying forearm by sore loser, R-Truth, and he escaped through the crowd. What would have been
interesting is if Knox had have come out to even the odds. I would love to see Knox taking it to Khali.

We were next shown a video highlighting the recent problems between Eve and Layla, and it was announced that the two would go one-
on-one on next week's show. Save it for the pay-per-view...

In the back, Edge was in Teddy Long's office, telling the GM that after he beats Hardy tonight, Extreme Rules could be the extermination of
Hardy as we know him, and that will be on Long's hands. Jericho walked in, and had a brief stare-down with Edge, in which the Rated-R
Superstar told him to refer to him as champ, and the face of SmackDown. Edge left, and Jericho told Long that Rey is a coward who
hides behind a mask, and is trying to run away from him. Didn't Kane do the whole 'coward hiding behind a mask' bit with Rey just a few
months ago? Jericho demanded a match with Rey at Extreme Rules, but Long told him that it was already signed, and in fact Mysterio
was just in there to request that it be no holds barred. Jericho laughed and said that Long finally did something right.

--- Jeff Hardy Vs Edge

So, Hardy and Edge face off for the right to choose the stipulations for their championship match at Extreme Rules, as if either one of
them could pick a match that would put the other in a serious disadvantage. Unless Hardy picked a 'can only win with a Whisper in the
Wind match', or Edge picked a 'first man to have a bath match'. They locked up, and Edge forced Hardy back into the corner, but missed a
punch which allowed Jeff to roll him up for a one count. Another roll up from Jeff earned him another count of one, as Grisham told us that
Jeff Hardy goes by the mantra 'by any means necessary'. I'm often confusing Jeff Hardy for Malcolm X too. Another roll up, this time for a
two, and Edge decided to high-tail it out of the ring, from where he grabbed Jeff's leg, taking him down, climbed back into the ring, and
missed an elbowdrop. Jeff took Edge down with a headlock, but Edge battled out, catching Hardy with a punch to the head, which Hardy
sold in reference to the shot to the head he took from is brother, Matt's cast, as well as the second rope Edgercution, at Judgment Day.
Still, Hardy recovered to hit a clothesline in the corner, and slammed Edge's head into the corner ten times as the fans counted along,
and JR told us that Hardy hasn't been this bitter since being forced out of the Nation of Islam. Hardy then hit his corner-assisted dropkick,
but again sold the head injury as he crashed down to the mat. Edge then hit him with a big boot as we went to commercial at 4'29. We
came back at 8'02 with Edge stomping away at Jeff. He then left the ring and set up Jeff's head on the apron, delivering a well-placed
elbow and kick, which sent Hardy to the floor. Edge then slammed his head into the apron and threw him back into the ring, gaining a two
count. He then whipped Hardy into the corner, but ran into an elbow, and then Jeff hit Whisper in the Wind at the 10 minute mark, picking
up a two count. A couple of flying forearms followed, and then a front suplex, before Hardy gingerly scaled the ropes. Edge had plenty of
time to move out of the way, so Jeff made his way back down, still selling his head injuries, and hit an inverted atomic drop. He tried to
follow up with a legdrop between the legs, but Edge swatted Hardy away, sending the back of his head back into the canvas. Edge
followed up with a neckbreaker for a nearfall, and then went up to the second rope. His leap off was met by a dropkick to the face from
Hardy, who then baseball slid him out of the ring. He followed up with a rolling plancha, and then back in the ring hit a powerslam, and a
legdrop from the second rope for a two count. Edge countered a Twist of Fate attempt by pushing Jeff into the corner, but Jeff jumped over
his attempted spear and took him down with a sunset flip for a two. Another Twist of Fate attempt was reversed into a backslide for a two
count, but an Edgercution attempt was revsersed, with Hardy finally hitting the Twist of Fate. Jeff crawled up to the top rope, but Edge
crotched him, and climbed up after him, setting up another Edgercution from the ropes. This time Hardy fought him off, and Edge fell,
conveniently into perfect position for a Swanton Bomb, which Jeff duly hit, giving him the victory after 15'37. I hate it when a wrestler falls
off the ropes and lands unnaturally in position for his opponent to hit a move on him but, apart from that minor gripe, this was a good
match, and told a nice story with Jeff's head injury. Afterwards, Grisham climbed into the ring and asked Hardy what stipulations he was
choosing for Extreme Rules. Hardy said that he won't be painting, or changing light bulbs at Extreme Rules, but he will be climbing a
ladder to become the World Heavyweight Champion, indicating that it will be a ladder match. Kinda stupid that Hardy would fight so hard
to pick this match, when you have to figure it makes storyline sense for Edge to have picked the same stipulation had he won.

Setting the record straight, this was another good edition of SmackDown. It wasn't great, when compared to the previous three weeks,
but it smoked any episode of Raw we've seen recently. It could just be that I had to work so hard to find the positives with Raw this week
that I got a little nit-picky with SmackDown. There were just a few things about the show that bothered me, without there being that one
GREAT thing to induce me to let the negatives slide.

A quick word on Extreme Rules too. So far five matches have been booked, and everyone of them is a rematch from Judgment Day. This
is shaping up to be the must-miss pay-per-view of the year so far.

MVP of the night - I'm gonna give it to Jeff Hardy this week. He's been looking pretty worn out the last few weeks, but tonight he put in a
good performance.

Line of the night - "Jericho... he's read books" - Jim Ross lauds Jericho's intelligence.