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September 4, 2009
– Adam Russell

The episode after the week before

There were two main points of interest regarding this week’s edition of the best wrestling show on television. The first was the
question of what would become of the Intercontinental Championship, with the announcement that Rey Mysterio had been suspended
for a wellness violation, effective the day after the taping. The second, perhaps more intriguing, but not likely to be cleared up in one
show, was the question of how the show would cope post-Jeff Hardy. For those unaware, Hardy, the number one babyface on the show,
and the most popular star in the WWE, left the company last week, with CM Punk beating him in a loser leaves the company cage match.
For the last several months, the Punk-Hardy feud has been the centre-piece of Smackdown’s run of awesome shows, and Hardy
has been the perfect foil to Punk’s heel run. Replacing him would not be easy.

We got the answer to our first question right off the bat, with the announcement that Mysterio would defend his championship against
John Morrison later in the show. Somebody new to this wrestling business might have thought that the answer to the second question
was equally as forthcoming, as Jeff Hardy’s music hit, and the man himself danced out onto the stage to a great ovation. Of course, it
wasn’t Jeff. The looks on the faces of the children (and some adults who aught to know better) was absolutely priceless when they
realised that the face paint-clad man was, in fact, World Heavyweight Champion, CM Punk, and not their hero. There’s something
rather sadistic about deliberately building up the hopes of those young fans, only to then dash them without a second thought. Maybe itâ
€™s even more sadistic that I found this so entertaining. Hey, that’s wrestling for you.

Punk had the Hardy routine down to a tee and, although this kind of thing has been done many times before, the circumstances around
this subterfuge rose the segment into the realm of the classic. Once in the ring, Punk asked the fans if they were expecting somebody
else, and then reminded them that Jeff is gone. He told them that there would be no more face paint, stupid armbands (which earned
him extra points with me), or excuses, and that the living in the moment lifestyle wasn’t the answer. Now, he continued, the fans have
a champion that they can be proud of, somebody who won’t miss a show because of an incident at the airport, and won’t skip a
Wrestlemania because he failed a drug test. He is, he claimed, built to last and here to stay, and if recent form is a sign of things to
come, that’s excellent news for wrestling fans everywhere.

Punk next turned his attention to his next challenger, the Undertaker, with whom he will compete in a submissions match at Breaking
Point. He called ’Taker a legend, but said that he is no longer the only icon on Smackdown, citing his back to back Money in the Bank
wins, and the fact that he retired Hardy and is the only straight-edge champion in WWE history, as his claims to that exalted status. He
went on that The Undertaker knows it is in his best interests not to face Punk man to man, and that he would rather play games. The
problem there, Punk asserted, is that his mind is clear, unpolluted by substances, so he can see through the smoke and mirrors. Punk
finished by saying that he has no breaking point, and that the only vice he has is anaconda-like, hinting at his Anaconda Vice submission
move, a point which Jim Ross failed to pick up on. Before he could continue any further, Matt Hardy came out, and wasted no time in
going after Punk. The two of them brawled in the ring until referee’s pulled them apart.

This was an excellent opening segment. Punk was superb in his performance, putting a full stop on the feud with Jeff, and transitioning
into the feud with The Undertaker. This was a great example of why I believe Punk is the best performer in the company right now- his
promos are always interesting, and he is so assured in the heel role. The Matt Hardy run-in made sense, and was well executed, and the
whole segment left me wanting more. Smackdown has become known for superior wrestling, but they’re usually spot-on with these
kinds of segments too.

Smackdown was really being sold on the return of The Undertaker, and the hyping for his latest comeback began after the commercial
break, before we cut to Punk in the bank approaching Teddy Long. Punk complained about Matt’s attack, so the GM responded by
making a none-title match between the two of them for later in the night.

--- The Great Khali and Finlay Vs Mike Knox and Kane

Knox got what is becoming a regular pop-up interview before this match got underway, talking about bones becoming condensed over
the course of a person’s life. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, but it adds to Knox’s character as an expert in human
anatomy. It was Knox and Finlay who started the match, with Knox coming out strong with a knee, punches, and a powerslam. He tagged
Kane in, who hit a side suplex, and then went up top, Finlay side-stepping the attempted flying clothesline. Khali tagged in, as did Knox,
and it was the big(ger) man dominating with clotheslines, a big boot, and then the Khali Vise. The match was saved by Kane pulling his
partner out of the ring, as we went to break at 1’45. We came back at 4’17, finding Khali clotheslining Kane, and then slapping
him on the chest before Kane tagged Dr Knox, who got largely the same treatment. Finlay tagged back in and hit a short clothesline and a
senton, but the tables turned when the Irishman went up to the second rope, and Knox knocked him to the outside. Finaly sold the arm
upon impact, and Knox dutifully went about working on it with stomps and armbars, with Kane doing the same when he tagged in. Finlay
fought his way out of a Mike Knox hammerlock, only to be taken down with the big cross body block, which earned Knox a two count. Kane
came in and hit a short clothesline, for another two, and Knox came back in, sending Finlay across the ring into the corner, but missing a
run-in splash. Finlay then low-bridged a charging Kane out of the ring, with the Big Red Machine taking the opportunity to grab at Khaliâ
€™s advisor, Ranjin Singh. Khali went after Kane, and in the confusion, Finlay grabbed his shillelagh and hit Knox around the head with
it, covering him for the pin at 9’43. This was a really entertaining tag team match, maybe somewhat surprising considering the
participants. Knox seems to get better in his role every week, and Finlay is always good value. I’m enjoying their feud.

We cut to the back next, where Teddy Long was watching the new WCW DVD, when Vince McMahon walked in. Vince congratulated Long
on his cage match main event last week, and the upcoming submissions match between Undertaker and Punk, with some strange talk
about Vince’s pink jacket following. There didn’t seem to be any point to the segment, other than to throw in a mention of the
WCW DVD. Which I suppose is as good a point as any in this day and age.

Next we saw Maria and Eve in the back talking about a match they are in later in the night. Michelle McCool came in and called them both
losers, and told Maria that her boyfriend, Dolph Ziggler, will always look at women like her. Maria shot back that Michelle doesn’t
know what to do when the spotlight isn’t on her, at which point Melina entered the scene. She squared up to McCool, who told her
that she would have her arrested if she laid another finger on her before leaving. Melina then asked Maria if she had a chance to speak to
Ziggler about her accusations of his cheating, with Maria responding that she’s a big girl, and telling Melina to stay out of her
business.

--- Intercontinental Championship Match- Rey Mysterio (champion) Vs John Morrison

This match, the result of which was obvious to anybody with internet access,  was preceded by a sporting handshake, before the action
got underway with an exchange of roll-ups and one counts. A knuckle-lock saw Morrison in control, hitting a hiptoss, before Rey hit a
sunset flip for a nearfall. Morrison took Rey down with a headlock, as we saw Dolph Ziggler, who would face the winner of this match at
Breaking Point, watching in the back. The two combatants traded more takedowns and covers, before a stand-off, and commercial break,
came at 3’15. We returned at 6’53, with Rey sending Morrison to the outside with a head scissors takedown, but then, when
back in the ring, diving shoulder-first into the ringpost as Morrison avoided his charge. Morrison applied a hammerlock, which Rey fought
out of, before coming back with another head scissors takedown, and then a springboard moonsault for a two count. A trio of legdrops
earned the champion another nearfall, and he then slowed the pace down with a facelock and an armbar surfboard. JoMo got up to his
feet and countered with a double-legged mule kick, and then went on the offensive with a flapjack, clothesline, leg lariat, and a standing
shooting star press. Morrison then threw Mysterio to the outside and, back in the ring, picked up a two count with the breakdance legdrop.
Rey fought out of a chinlock and earned a couple of nearfalls with a victory roll and a sunset flip, and then hit a head scissors takedown
which sent Morrison into the 619 position. Morrison blocked the move with a kick, but then Rey floated over a back suplex attempt, and the
two ended up on the mat after a double cross body block, signalling the second commercial break of the match at 15’36. We came
back 18’57 in to find Morrison back suplexing Rey for a two count, and then applying a body scissors. Rey escaped with elbows, and
threw Morrison over the top rope. Morrison landed on the apron, but Mysterio knocked him down with a low dropkick, and then hit a sliding
head scissors takedown on the outside. He sent Morrison back inside, and followed in with a springboard legdrop for a nearfall, before
Morrison countered a wheelbarrow into a front slam. Morrison then hit the running knee, but Mysterio came back with a springboard
cross body block. He went up to the top rope, but his leap off was met with a perfect-placed dropkick from the challenger, who followed
up by going for Starship Pain. Rey moved and Morrison landed on his feet, with the champion hitting a springboard seated senton, and
then the 619. Morrison avoided Mysterio’s follow-up springboard, and hit the Flying Chuck for a nearfall. He followed up with a tilt-a-
whirl backbreaker, and looked once more for the Starship Pain, but this time Rey crotched him on the top rope, and climbed up with him.
Mysterio went for a reverse hurricanrana off the top, but Morrison hung on, sending Rey crashing to the mat. He then hit the Starship Pain
from a seated position to pick up the win, and the championship, after 25’19 of excellent, high-paced action. It really was a sight to
see these two guys work such a style for 25 minutes, and the execution of difficult moves here was always crisp and emphatic. Matches
like this really make the Intercontinental Championship seem like an important, and highly coveted, title again. After the bout, Morrison
helped Rey up to his feet and the two men embraced, with Morrison now going on to Breaking Point to face Ziggler, and Rey taking some
time off, which hopefully he will make the best of. Great match.

We were set for more action next, as R-Truth made his way to the ring. However, before his opponent could be announced, he was
attacked from behind by Drew McIntyre, for the second straight week, left lying by the double-arm DDT. After the beatdown, Drew got on
the mic, expressed anger that he wasn’t scheduled to be on the show tonight after the impact he made last week, and warned that
he will come out every week to ruin the party until he is recognised as the superstar that he is. This was another impressive showing
from McIntyre, and I’m eager to see what he can do in the ring.

--- Maria and Eve Vs Natalya and Layla

Maria and Natalya started off, and it was Natalya dominating with an armbar, and then a powerslam after catching Maria’s cross body
block attempt. A missed elbowdrop allowed Maria to hit a dropkick, but Layla distracted her, pulled her out of the ring, and lured her into
the waiting Natalya, who hit with a clothesline. Back in the ring, Natalya locked on a dragon sleeper, and then tagged in Layla. Layla hit a
double axe handle for a two count, and then tagged back out, and Natalya executed a suplex for another two. Layla came back in and
applied a wishbone-like move on Maria, wrenching back on an arm and a leg, but Maria fought out and hit a jaw japper, which allowed
her to make the hot tag to Eve. Eve hit a clothesline and a dropkick, but Layla rolled through her sunset flip attempt, and dropkicked her in
the face. She then missed a kick, which allowed Eve to powerslam her, and hit a somersault senton, drawing Natalya in to break the pin
attempt. Maria dived on Natalya to take her out of the picture, and allowing Eve to hit a handspring moonsault on Layla for the victory after
4’39 of run of the mill diva action. What was perhaps most noticeable about this match is just how little Maria has improved over her
time in the company. There was a time when I thought she showed some promise in the ring, but she seems to have stood still, allowing
the likes of Eve and Layla to comfortably lap her in terms of performance.

Josh Matthews was up next, along with Matt Hardy. Matt kept it to the point, saying that CM Punk should be worried about the Undertaker,
but about him too, as he was coming for his career, not his championship.

--- CM Punk Vs Matt Hardy

Main event time, and the match began with Punk stalling, and then attacking Matt as the referee backed him away. Matt came back with
punches, a clothesline in the corner, and a hard Irishwhip against the turnbuckle, which sent Punk scurrying to the outside. Matt chased
him around the ring, but Punk suckered him back inside, and laid into him with stomps. He then sent him to the ropes, but made the
mistake of lowering his head, Matt taking him down with a neckbreaker. He followed up with a splash against the ropes, and then a
series of elbows, but when he went for a Side Effect, Punk used his own elbow to escape the move. Punk then went up to the top rope,
where Matt followed him, bringing the champion back to the mat with a superplex. This earned Hardy a two count, and he followed up
with an elbowdrop. The complexion of the match changed when Hardy went for a suplex, with Punk blocking the move and front suplexing
him onto the ropes, exacerbating Hardy’s long-standing abdominal injury. A shoulderblock sent Hardy to the outside, which was the
cue for a commercial break, coming 4’38 into the match. We returned at 8’10 to find Punk zoning in on the injured body part with
an abdominal stretch, and then punches to the gut and a kneelift for a two count. Punk next locked on a body scissors, but Hardy elbowed
out, only to be sent sternum-first into the corner. Punk hit a kick to the gut of his opponent, and then a double stomp, before going back to
the body scissors. Matt fought out of the move this time with punches to Punk’s ankle, but Punk hit a couple of kneelifts, and
reapplied the abdominal stretch. This time Hardy found a high impact counter, a Samoan drop. Punk was right back in control with a
forearm to the gut, but he hit the ring post shoulder-first when charging at Hardy, and Hardy hit the clothesline/bulldog combo for a two
count. He followed that up with a legdrop from the second rope, for another nearfall, and then went for the Twist of Fate. Punk tried to
counter into a backslide, but Hardy countered that, getting a two count with a small package. Punk hit back with a roundhouse kick to the
face of Hardy, but when he tried his springboard clothesline he ate a Side Effect instead. Hardy then delivered a punch which sent Punk
to the outside, and his dive off the apron was met by a kick to the gut, which Punk followed up with a flapjack onto the security wall. The
champion then grabbed a steel chair, and buried it into the gut of Hardy, causing the disqualification (though there was no bell) at 16â
€™49, and looked to follow it up by wrapping the chair around Matt’s head and sending him into the ring post, just as he had to Mattâ
€™s brother. However, before he could perform the move, the lights went out, and when they came back on, The Undertaker was there to
grab Punk by the throat and send him crashing through the announce table with a chokeslam.

This was a thrilling end to another top-notch episode of Smackdown. The main event itself was a fine match, with Punk’s targeting of
Hardy’s midsection providing a superb basis for the contest. It’s wonderful to see a wrestler so focused on a particular part of
his opponent’s anatomy, directing all of his strikes to that spot, and introducing moves to his repertoire like the double stomp to the
gut. Hardy’s selling was also strong, although he looked noticeably out of shape for the match. A prolonged Matt Hardy/CM Punk
series would be fine with me, and I like the way the Undertaker feud has begun.

So, the first show post-Jeff Hardy, and really it’s business as usual. I’m convinced that Smackdown is a reward at the end of the
week for having to sit through Raw, or maybe an apology for the Monday night show. This week we got a 25 minute match, a 15 minute
match, and a 10 minute match, all good to great. It doesn’t really get any better than that.

MVP of the night- CM Punk. That opening promo was enough alone to get the award, even with Morrison and Rey’s great effort in their
match. His performance in the main just added to his case.

Line of the night- Punk hilariously calling Jeff Hardy the Charismatic Enabler. Good stuff.