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June 19, 2009
– Adam Russell

No going back   

For about as long as I can remember, wrestling shows have played themselves out on two separate stages. The first, of course, is the
ring- the place where grudges are settled and championships are won and lost. The other is the backstage area- a place where invisible
cameras lurk, and all manner of strange skits take place. In recent times it seems that the backstage stuff is almost as prevalent as the
in-ring stuff, and that is certainly to the detriment of the product as a whole.

At the end of SmackDown this week, it occurred to me that we hadn’t been backstage once. I was wrong. There was one backstage
skit on this show, but even so, one visit to the back on a whole two hour WWE program is certainly noteworthy, and is reason alone to
recommend this show.

We got the ball rolling with Josh Matthews standing in the ring, a sign of things to come, and introducing Jeff Hardy to the crowd. Josh
reminded us all of Jeff’s recent history, along with video footage of his World Heavyweight Championship win at Extreme Rules, the
loss just moments later to CM Punk, and his loss in the triple threat championship match on this week’s Raw. Jeff said that he
doesn’t live in the past, he lives in the moment, and that he knows he’ll beat CM Punk at The Bash for the championship. Josh
said that after hearing Jeff’s point of view, it is only fair to hear Punk’s, and out came the champ. Josh said that many people feel
Punk took advantage of Hardy at Extreme Rules, but Punk responded that the only think he took advantage of was his Money in the Bank
contract, and that there is nothing in that contract about not being able to cash in on Jeff Hardy. He continued that he takes offence to
people saying that he stole the victory on Raw, as he has never stolen anything in his life. He went on that in the ring he doesn’t need
to be anyone’s friend, because he is a competitor, and that Hardy knows this. Hardy agreed, adding that the two of them couldn’t
be any more different. Punk said that he lives his life his way, and then rather snidely added that Jeff does the same. Jeff closed by
saying that their differences will collide at The Bash, and he’ll win back what he earned. Josh thanked them both individually, with
Hardy getting a great ovation, and Punk being largely booed.

An in-ring interview was certainly a different way to open the show, and made a change from a guy just coming out and talking about
nothing in particular until someone interrupts him. This was another step in making SmackDown seem like a legitimate sporting event.

--- Jeff Hardy Vs Chris Jericho

Jeff stayed in the ring for this opening match against the Intercontinental champion. The two locked up, with Jericho gaining control of the
head. Hardy sent Jericho into the ropes, and Jericho came back at him with a shoulderblock. He then hit the ropes again, but was met
his time with a dropkick. Hardy then sent Jericho across the ring into the corner and followed up with a clothesline, repeating the trick in
the other corner, but then missing his turnbuckle-assisted dropkick. Jericho hit a suplex for a two count, and then locked on an
abdominal stretch. Hardy countered with a hiptoss, and then delivered wraparound clothesline and a legdrop to Jericho’s groin
before running into a big boot. Jericho went for a clothesline, but Hardy ducked and hit a Whisper in the Wind for a two. He next attempted
an inside enziguri, but Jericho dodged the kick and tried to lock on the Walls of Jericho. Jeff kicked Jericho off, but Jericho countered a
Twist of Fate attempt with a back suplex. He looked for the Lionsault to put Hardy away, but Jeff moved, hit a front suplex, and went up top.
Jericho rolled out of the ring, and Hardy tried to body press him from the top rope. Jericho, however, sidestepped the move and sent
Hardy crashing into the security wall. He whipped him into the wall again before rolling him into the ring. Out of nowhere, with Jericho
seemingly in control, Rey Mysterio leapt off the security wall and hit a flying headscissors on Jericho, sending him into the ring post,
before jumping back over the wall and taking his seat next to two men in identical Rey Mysterio masks and t-shirt. When Jericho regained
his senses he was so dumbfounded by what had happened that he failed to answer the referee’s count, and was thus counted out,
giving Hardy the victory at 4’56. Jericho climbed into the ring and tried to convince the referee that he had been attacked, but this
simply left him open to another attack, as Hardy gave him a Twist of Fate and a Swanton Bomb.

The angle with Mysterio here was incredibly well-worked. Mysterio seemed to come out of nowhere, and for a few seconds there was
genuine confusion as to if it was really him, sold very well by the announce team. Another fine segment to further their rivalry.

For the first and only time of the night, we next cut to the back, where Maria was playing mediator for Layla and Eve. Dolph Ziggler came
over to introduce himself, saying that there is no need for them to fight over him, and Layla and Eve reconciled their differences by
mocking Ziggler’s name.

Ziggler then made his way out to the ring to a new theme song, proclaiming that he is ‘perfection’.

--- Dolph Ziggler Vs The Great Khali

Match number four of this rivalry began with Ziggler slapping Khali, and Khali responding with a clothesline, a slap to the chest, an Irish
whip and a big boot. Ziggler made a comeback by dropkicking the leg of Khali, and hitting a legdrop to the back of the stooping giant,
picking up a two count for the move. He then tried to take off the turnbuckle pad, before Ranjin Singh and the referee stopped him. With
the ref occupied in the corner, Ziggler went for a chair, but Khali just swatted it away. This, it seems, was part of Ziggler’s plan, as he
lay on the mat as if he had been hit with the chair, and the referee turned around to see the object in Khali’s hands. The referee
disqualified Khali, giving Ziggler his second straight win over the big man at 2’04. Nice to see an Eddy Guerrero specialty being
used, but again, I have to say this would have been more effective if Khali hadn’t already squashed Ziggler clean a couple of weeks
ago- something which WWE probably agrees on, as that was conspicuously absent from the video package highlighting this rivalry.

The Raw Rebound came next, with the main focus being on the ridiculous storyline involving Donald Trump buying Raw. Raw and
SmackDown are really night and day in terms of quality these days.

Though, having said that…

--- Melina Vs Alicia Fox

Fox, of course, was accompanied to the ring by the number one contender to Melina’s Women’s Championship, and began the
match by taking Melina down by the hair. Melina fired back with the matrix kick, but then took a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, which earned Fox a
two count. Fox locked on a body scissors, and applied a full nelson too, wrenching Melina back to an uncomfortable degree. Fox
relinquished the hold, which allowed Melina to hit a sunset flip bomb out of nowhere for the victory at 1’42. Melina can get all the wins
out of nowhere that she wants, as that means I don’t have to suffer through her terrible babyface comebacks. After the bout, McCool
kicked Melina in the head, threw her out of the ring, and kneed her head against he announce table. She then grabbed a microphone and
said she would humiliate Melina at the Bash, and make history as the first diva to win both the divas championship and the women’s
championship.

We came back from commercial to find Edge in the ring. Edge said that with all the hoopla surrounding CM Punk, the travesty of him not
having his contractually mandated rematch for the World Heavyweight Championship has been overlooked. He went on that the triple
threat match on Raw was another instance of the odds being stacked against him, and to make matters worse he now finds himself in a
match against John Morrison, who isn’t bit to breathe the same air as him, let alone be in the ring with him. This brought out the man
in question, who Edge said was another kid trying to be like him, before making fun of his ring attire. Morrison told Edge that his diatribe
was entertaining, and he can’t remember the last time Edge did anything entertaining. He used to be entertaining and innovative,
Morrison continued, actually doing stuff rather than just talking about stuff, adding that now he fast forwards Edge on his DVR. Morrison
then impersonated Edge, including throwing the obligatory Vickie Guerrero insult. Sad. Edge said that was enough, and Morrison told
him that he’s going to give him something to complain about.

--- Edge Vs John Morrison

The early pacing of this match indicated that it could be a long affair, a first collar and elbow resulting in a rope break, with a second
seeing an exchange of holds; Edge grabbing a waistlock, and Morrison reversing into an armbar, and then a hammerlock. Edge forced
another rope break, and the two locked up for a third time. Edge took control of the arm this time, but Morrison took him down with a
fireman’s carry takedown, and went back to the hammerlock. Edge regained his vertical base, and backed Morrison into the corner,
unleashing a bevy of punches and whipping him across the ring. Edge followed in with a splash, but Morrison moved out of the way,
armdragging Edge and holding on to the armbar. Edge got up to his feet again, and sent Morrison to the ropes, greeting him with a
kneelift, and then measuring him for a punt to the midsection. He then sent his knee repeatedly into the stomach of Morrison and, after
Morrison had rolled out onto the apron, hotshotted him back into the ring. Edge’s work at this point of the match was methodical, and
really added to the sense that Morrison might be in over his head. Edge splashed Morrison against the ropes for a nearfall, but then ran
into a boot after sending him into the corner. Morrison hit a clothesline and a dropkick for a two count, and then went up to the top rope,
where he was joined by Edge. The Rated-R Superstar grabbed a hold of Morrison, and leapt off the ropes, driving his opponent’s
midsection into the ropes, and sending him sprawling to the floor, as we went to a break at 6’10. We came back at 9’22 with
Edge controlling Morrison in a waistlock. Morrison escaped the hold with elbows, and hit a leg lariat on Edge. He followed up with a
backbreaker and, after taking a kick from Edge, regained control of the match when his opponent missed a dropkick. Morrison gave the
grounded Edge a running knee to the face for a close two count. Edge hit right back, however, with a big boot, and then went to the top
rope. Morrison rocked Edge with a jumping kick, sending him to the outside, and then hit a sliding headscissor takedown, which sent the
9-time former world champion into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Morrison caught Edge with an elbow, but then missed his patented
springboard kick, leaving himself open to the sharpshooter. Edge applied the hold 13’13 into the contest, but Morrison made it to the
ropes, and rolled to the ring apron. He slid back in between Edge’s legs and rolled him up for a two count, then hit a side Russian
legsweep and signaled for Starship Pain. Edge got up to his feet in time, crotching Morrison on the top turnbuckle, and tying him up in a
tree of woe. He then ran in for a spear, but Morrison did a sit-up to avoid the blow, and then rolled Edge up for another nearfall. This time,
Edge’s kickout sent Morrison shoulder-first into the ring post, and Edge again tried for a spear. Morrison jumped over the oncoming
spear, sending Edge into the corner yet again, and then he hit the springboard kick for a two count. Morrison tried for the Moonlight Drive
next, but Edge countered into an Edgercution for a two count. He then sent Morrison into the ropes, but Morrison came back and hit a
round-the-world DDT for yet another two count. Morrison went once more for Starship Pain, but landed on his feet when Edge moved out
of the way. Edge was ready this time though, and he hit the spear to win the match at 16’44.

While there was nothing particularly wrong with this match, I just didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. Edge did everything right here,
doing his best to make Morrison look like his equal, and in many instances, his superior. Morrison, for the most part, held up his end of
the bargain, delivering his flashy offence with aplomb. There were moments however, when Morrison’s selling wasn’t all that it
could have been, and towards the end it denigrated somewhat into an exchange of spots. Still, throughout the nearly 17 minutes of action
it was never less than entertaining, and I like the push that Morrison is getting. I’d like his character to be more well-defined though,
as his would really get the crowd into him.

--- Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and Ricky Ortiz Vs Cryme Tyme and R-Truth

Ortiz and JTG got us started, with Ortiz burying a knee into his opponent’s midsection, and then sending him to the ropes. JTG hit
back with a punch, and then some sort of flip that didn’t seem to touch Ortiz at all. It earned him a one count, whatever it was, and in
came Shad. Shad hit a flying shoulderblock on Ortiz, but the latter cam back with another kneelift. Shad hit right back with a big boot, but
then Ortiz swept his legs out, and went to work on the leg. Haas tagged in, continuing where Ortiz left off, but then ran into an elbow. Shad
made the tag to R-Truth, and Haas tagged Benjamin, and it was the Gold Standard who was quickest to the punch, taking Truth down
with a flapjack. Truth hit back with a leg lariat, and that brought Ortiz and Haas into the ring. Ortiz dropkicked Shad off the apron, and JTG
came in to dropkick Haas out of the ring, following after him. Shelton went up to the top rope, but his leap was met by a kick from R-Truth,
who followed up with a flying forearm for the victory at 4’03. The action in the match was mediocre at best, but it’s another win for
Truth and another defeat for Shelton.  

Main-event time next, and Rey Mysterio had some words to say before his match. He said that it felt great to get some payback on Jericho
tonight, but that it isn’t over until he gets his Intercontinental Championship back. He then challenged Chris Jericho to a match for the
belt at The Bash, and that brought the current champion out. Jericho said that Rey had his rematch on Raw, and that he won’t get
another opportunity. Rey responded that he would have beaten Jericho, if Jericho wasn’t so obsessed with unmasking him, and
Jericho shot back that he is trying to set Rey free, and that he is his savior. Rey told Jericho to shut up, saying that he wears his mask for
his heritage, and for himself, and that he is ashamed that Jericho is the Intercontinental champion. Jericho then said that if Rey wants
another shot at the title, he has to put something up himself, then suggesting a title vs. mask match. Rey said that if putting his mask on
the line is the only way to expose Jericho as a self-centered, egotistical hypocrite, then he accepts.

I wasn’t a fan of the way the mask element was first introduced to this rivalry, but the way it has been incorporated has been very well
done, and this promo made sense as a way to get to the title vs. mask match.

--- Rey Mysterio Vs CM Punk

Jericho made his way to the announce table to provide commentary for this match, which began with a cordial handshake between the
pair, keeping us guessing on the direction of Punk’s character. The two locked up, with Punk catching Rey in a headlock, Mysterio
kicking his way out. Rey sent Punk to the ropes, and the world champion came back with a shoulderblock, before Rey dropkicked his leg,
following up with more kicks to the leg, taking advantage of the injury that Punk suffered on Raw. Rey went for a wheelbarrow, but Punk
dropped him on the top turnbuckle, picking up a two count. Punk next picked Mysterio up for a power bomb, but Rey wriggled out and
went back to the leg of Punk with kicks. Punk decided to duck out of the ring as we went to commercial at 2’07, returning at 5’28.
When we came back, Rey was sending Punk into the corner, but Punk avoided his run in, sending Rey’s shoulder into the ringpost. A
roll up was only enough for a two count from Punk, and he followed up by grounding Rey with a hammerlock. Rey got up to his feet and
elbowed his way free, but ran into a flapjack for another two count. Punk went back to the arm with an armbar, but again Rey fought out,
this time being cut off by a knee from the champion. A sunset flip attempt, however, saw Rey roll through and hit a low dropkick on Punk,
and then an exchange of kicks broke out, with Rey coming out on top. Rey hit a springboard cross body block for a two count, and then a
head scissors takedown. Punk tried to kick his way back into the match, but was drop toe holded against the ropes, leaving him primed
for the 619. Punk avoided the move by back body dropping Rey onto the apron, and Mysterio re-entered the ring with a springboard
seated senton. He then hit the ropes, but was met by a leg lariat from Punk. A nearfall followed, and Punk next went for the
kneelift/bulldog spot. The knee was on target, but Rey brushed off the bulldog, sending Punk back into 619 position. Punk moved out of
the way again, and lifted Rey for a Go To Sleep. Rey elbowed himself free and rolled Punk up for a nearfall, next trying a springboard
moonsault. Punk caught Rey and maneuvered him onto his shoulders for the GTS, but Rey grabbed hold of the ropes. Punk dumped Rey
to the outside, and this was when Jericho made his move. With the referee checking on Punk, Jericho slammed Rey into the ringpost,
and it looked as though Punk would get the countout win. Rey though, made his way back into the ring at the count of 9, only to take a
GTS from the champion, the match coming to an end via pinfall at 11’40. After the match, Jeff Hardy came out to complain to the
referee about Jericho’s involvement, but Punk simply walked away with his championship belt.

This was an entertaining main event, heightened by Jericho’s entertaining commentary, and Punk’s selling of the leg. The finish
was also well-worked, Punk, while not asking for Jericho’s involvement, seemingly willing to take advantage of the break to pick up a
victory. The Punk character is an intriguing one at the moment, and works so well because he hasn’t actually done anything against
the rules.

SmackDown put out another really strong show this week, where everything that mattered took place within the ring. We got another forty
minutes of wrestling, and saw a nice progression of story and character. A winner.

MVP of the night - I might have to change this from MVP of the night to CM Punk of the night. The champion gets the nod again this week.
What I like most about him is his attention to detail- he does the little things that most other wrestlers don’t even think of.