SD RECAP: Draft and a Rematch
The big WWE Brand
Extension Draft wound up being a bit less compelling than I'd
thought.... in a lot of ways, it was just the same sort of random
assignment process done in previous lotteries, just with actual humans
standing on the stage, taking credit for the picks. A couple of time,
Shane/Bryan and Steph/Mick managed to hit a half-believable "Ah, CRAP!"
response, like they'd just had their next pick poached, but for the
most part, it played out more like a Fantasy Draft -- where the owners
were all silly and spazzy about picking a Closer or a Place Kicker way
too early, rather than always going with the best multi-category choice
first, or trying to stockpile those one category players to screw the
other guys -- and not like a real attempt to put on the two best shows
And yet, it still worked out more or less even in the end. RAW comes out both with more bodies, and a decided advantage in terms of secondary divisions (women and tag teams), but SD is nicely stocked and should easily be able to put on an outstanding two hour show every week.
Just for the sake of completeness and historical documentation, let's preface the more "recappy" part of this recap, with the entirety of the just-completed WWE Draft. The first 30 of these picks were the ones done on SD; then, over the next hour, they did the rest on the WWE Network. NOTE: after the 40th pick, RAW stopped getting its extra pick every other round; RAW and SD alternated the rest of the way out). OTHER NOTE: WWE originally listed 58 draft slots (52 main roster members, plus the 6 NXT picks), but we wound up with 59 total picks, as the Social Outcasts were broken up, with Heath Slater left undrafted.
1. Seth Rollins to RAW
2. Dean Ambrose to SmackDown
3. Champion Charlotte to RAW
4. AJ Styles to SmackDown
5. Finn Balor to RAW
6. Roman Reigns to RAW
7. John Cena to SmackDown
8. Brock Lesnar to RAW
9. Randy Orton to SmackDown
10. The New Day to RAW
11. Sami Zayn to RAW
12. Bray Wyatt to SmackDown
13. Sasha Banks to RAW
14. Becky Lynch to SmackDown
15. Chris Jericho to RAW
16. Rusev (w/ Lana) to RAW
17. The Miz (w/ Maryse) to SmackDown
18. Kevin Owens to RAW
19. Baron Corbin to SmackDown
20. Enzo & Cass to RAW
21. Gallows & Anderson to RAW
22. American Alpha - SmakDown Live
23. Big Show to RAW
24. Dolph Ziggler to SmackDown
25. Nia Jax to RAW
26. Neville to RAW
27. Natalya to SmackDown
28. Cesaro to RAW
29. Alberto Del Rio to SmackDown
30. Sheamus to RAW
31. Golden Truth to RAW
32. The Usos to SmackDown
33. Titus O'Neil to RAW
34. Demon Kane to SmackDown
35. Paige to RAW
36. Darren Young (w/ Bob Backlund) to RAW
37. Kalisto to SmackDown
38. Sin Cara to RAW
39. Naomi to SmackDown
40. Jack Swagger to RAW
41. The Ascension to SmackDown
42. The Dudley Boyz to RAW
43. Zack Ryder to SmackDown
44. Summer Rae to RAW
45. Apollo Crews to SmackDown
46. Mark Henry to RAW
47. Alexa Bliss - SmackDown
48. Braun Strowman to RAW
49. Breezango to SmackDown
50. Bo Dallas to RAW
51. Eva Marie to SmackDown
52. Shining Stars to RAW
53. The Vaudevillains to SmackDown
54. Alicia Fox to RAW
55. Erick Rowan to SmackDown
56. Dana Brooke to RAW
57. Mojo Rawley to SmackDown
58. Curtis Axel to RAW
59. Carmella to SmackDown
I'll take a look at how each roster shapes up, and give a few other thoughts in a news update tomorrow, but for now, that's how the draft went down...
And as for the rest of the show? Well, excising the Draft parts (which were chunks of 5 picks each, as I kind of predicted, and just with a quickie 20 second video package for each performer), here are the results from the rest of SmackDown:
John Cena beats Luke Gallows. Nothing much to see here, as Cena and Gallows fell into the basic formula of "quick babyface start, into heel beatdown, babyface comeback," and then it all came apart at the seams. AJ Styles and Karl Anderson got up on the apron to to distract Cena (momentarily giving the advantage back to Gallows), Enzo & Cass got up on the apron to say "Not so fast!" Then all four hopped in the ring, but since none of them touched the principles of the actual match, the ref let them brawl it out.
But in the end, Enzo & Cass got the better of it, which was a big distraction to Gallows, allowing Cena to recover and hit the F-U for the win. A 6 minute TV special: if you're feeling grumpy, it's "forgettable," if you're feeling charitable, it's "inoffensive."
Darren Young and Zack Ryder beat Miz and Rusev. Backlund, Maryse, and Lana all at ringside for this battle of the IC and US Champions vs. their upcoming PPV challengers. Once again, in deference to the unique time requirements of the Draft, this was a keep-it-simple 6 minute TV special. Ryder did a bit of Face in Peril, hot tag to Young, chaotic brawl breaks out, with Ryder able to powder out with Rusev, while Backlund tells Darren that it's time to Be Great.
So Young busts out the trusty Crossface Chickenwing, and Miz has no choice but to tap out. Match was simple, but the finish had the crowd rocking, and I gotta admit, it got a smile out of me, too. The Crossface Chickenwing was the cutting edge Submission Technology back when I got to college and discovered that I could put wrestling thoughts up on this newfangled "internet" thingie, and people would read them. It's nice to see neither of us are obsolete!
Bray Wyatt beats Eggsavier Woods. Essentially a squash, but spruced up with a mini side story in which Woods was half-scared of Bray, but also, half-entranced or something. Like Bray could maybe snap his fingers, and Woods would do his bidding. Woods did muster up one final flurry where he set aside both his fear and his maybe-worship of Bray, but a Flash Sister Abigail put an end to that happy crappy. Kofi and Big E tended to Woods, and the Wyatts all circled, but ahead of their 6-man match on Sunday, nothing else happened.
Kevin Owens and Kane do not have a match. Owens vs. Demon Kane is scheduled, but Sami Zayn runs out and attacks Owens during his ring entrance. The two fight into the ring, where Kane stands by, bemused, and watches the two whippersnappers kick the shit out of each other, until they are both in a bad way.
Then, Kane grabs them both and hits a double chokeslam. Dick.
Charlotte and Dana Brooke beat Sasha Banks in a Handicap Match. Banks has to find a tag partner for Sunday, and the story is the entire Diva Roster is too scared to face Charlotte... and this handicap match is suppossed to foster even more intimidation. More quick and basic: thanks to the 2-on-1, the "face in peril" bit essentially wrote itself, but then Sasha fired up and had Dana in bad shape, only for Charlotte to make a blind tag, pearl harbor Sasha, and get the pinfall after Natural Selection.
Chris Jericho defeats Cesaro. First time we see a match span a commercial break all night, as these two put on a very nice show, starting as soon as the bell rings. They're both looking for big moves early, so the pace is fast and one-upsmanship is in the air. Things finally slow down after Jericho counters a Swing attempt with an attempted Walls; Cesaro powers out of the Walls, but eats a standing enzuigiri, and from there, Jericho is content to keep it on the mat for a while, as we do the standard mid-match heel beatdown.
Cesaro is limited to hope spots, until Jericho tries a Codebreaker, and Cesaro blocks it. Cesaro manages to back Jericho into a corner, and from there, the Uppercut Party will not be stopped. It's a solid 2-3 minutes of back and forth, building up to Cesaro getting the Swing, and transitioning into a Sharpshooter. But Jericho gets the insta-escape thanks to a rope break. Cesaro's thinking a Neutralizer will finish things, but Jericho backflips out of it, and tries another enzuigiri. Cesaro ducks it, and sprints for the ropes, and leaps up for a Springboard Uppercut.... but Jericho catches him in mid-air for an Atomic Codebreaker. Good stuff.
Natalya gets a Lass Kicking. It's unclear, but apparently Nattie was gonna have a match, or something.... but then Becky Lynch came flying out of nowhere, and just kicked the lass out of Nattie for a few minutes, even while an entire phalanx of referees kept trying to pull her off. If Becky is gonna be the foundation of the women's division on SD (and she is, if you ask me), delightful fiery brawls like this are a good way to go.
Dean Ambrose retains the WWE Title with a win over Seth Rollins. On a night where the in-ring was often kept purposely basic and one-dimensional to fit easily between draft segments,, these two got a full 25 minutes to play with to cap off the show, and they put it to fantastic use. With Joey Jo Jo Shabadoo Jr. doing the full boxing-style ring intros, Ambrose was still sort of going through his prematch ritual when the bell rang.... so Rollins jumped him from behind, and got a vicious 2 minute flurry, ending in Ambrose's shoulder meeting the steel ringpost.
Rollins even managed to grab the WWE title belt (again) and celebrated with it as we cut to the first ad break. We come back for more of the same, punctuated by Ambrose hope spots. Lots of head-butting and chopping to get out of trouble, for Ambrose, but none of it really leads anywhere, until the match spills outside. Out there, Ambrose wins the brawl, and sends Rollins flying into the Timekeeper Cubicle.... Ambrose tries to follow up with his "run across the commentator tables" attack, but Rollins moves.
The whole time, the ref has been applying a double count, so Rollins hastily gathers up Ambrose to make sure this thing doesn't end via count-out (no titles change hands on count-outs). Rollins goes for a quick pin, but Ambrose kicks out. Seth acts all uber-frustrated, as we take our final ad break.
We come back to find Rollins just toying with Ambrose. Mistake. It's not but 45 seconds before Ambrose fires up in earnest, and we enter End Game. Ambrose with a big swinging neckbreaker. Two. Rollins with the Bucklebomb. Two. Rollins up top, but misses, Ambrose with a sweet La Magistral. Two. Ambrose tries Dirty Deeds, but Rollins backs him into the ropes for a break, and then hits a thumb to the eye while the ref steps between them. Rollins with the Pedigree, but Ambrose backdrops him over the top and to the floor.
Suicide dive connects! Standing elbow connects! Up to the top AGAIN, but this time Rollins catches Ambrose, and Rollins sets up for a superplex, and hits it... but then Rollins gets greedy and tries to turn it into a combo by floating into another move.... only to have Ambrose float through the float-over, and smackdab into Dirty Deeds. One, two, and yesseree three. Ambrose retains after an excellent main event.
Ambrose, who was SD's first-round draft pick, is joined by Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, who present him with a blue SD t-shirt, and all three YES!!! their way through a show-ending celebration.
Overall, a solid night of TV. Whatever let-down I felt by WWE pissing away another chance to do a Draft that felt genuine (and not just a plot device to assign talents to wherever Vince wants them) was easily offset by that unexpectedly tremendous main event.
Not just tremendous in terms of the action, but jsut for the sheer shock value of getting that nice clean finish, less than 24 hours after WWE did a miscalculated schmozz finish between the same two guys. Throw in Jericho/Cesaro, and I'm happy to call that a final grade of B-plus.
See you again tomorrow with some more in-depth thoughts about the Draft and the two new rosters, and again over the weekend, with full coverage of Battleground!!!