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Wrestling for Retards? 
September 12, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


It might be a case of WWE trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Or it might just be them deluding themselves with a giant pair of rose-colored glasses... but the debut edition of Friday Night SD! sure struck me like a show where WWE was presenting itself to a new audience, instead of just trying to entertain their existing viewers. 
Presentationally, the inclusion of video packages that would be superfluous on an average show seemed to be one "tell." Another was how Tazz and Michael Cole seemed to be very methodically hammering home key points... I mean, even more so than usual.

But what really stuck with me after watching SD!'s first

Friday Night effort was that the two main matches, themselves, were constructed to be as simple as possible. Instead of any kind of subtle psychology, both the Eddie/Rey cage match and the Batista/JBL bullrope match were just a slew of dramatic "set pieces" barely held together with a few transitions.

They, honest-to-god, seemed like matches purposely designed to appeal to casual fans or even non-fans who stumbled across wrestling on Friday nights by accident. No need to understand the importance of working a body part, or the names of any holds. Just as long as you can grasp the concept of Cage Escape Teases and Turnbuckle Touching Teases, you'll have understood enough to get vested in Friday Night SmackDown!...

Now, I've isolated this Pet Theory of mine, and I think it holds up pretty well. The question, however, becomes whether or not this approach was a good one. I, personally, tend to think that any new viewers WWE gains because it's Friday night will be minimal. And I also tend to think that those viewers won't be complete retards. So I might have preferred a show a bit less obviously designed for new viewers... one match per show predicated one "set pieces" and teases would be fine. But when you do two like that in the same hour (taking up basically 90% of the time), it did get a little tiresome to me.

Then again, if this wasn't a purposeful move by WWE, and it just so happened to work out this way, maybe you can take my little Pet Theory about dumbing down the show so as to appeal to new viewers and toss it out the window. Who knows? Given that, even with the extra hour, this still would have been two of essentially the same kind of match in a single show, I have to think there was SOME thought given to this by WWE higher-ups, though...

Speaking of the extra hour of SD! that DIDN'T air: although it doesn't technically count as part of the canonical version of SD!, I understand that the following things happened during the special "webcast" hour of the program:

  • Animal and Heidenreich beat MNM to retain the WWE Tag Titles. I can only assume this wasn't the original plan, but when the title match got bumped to the webcast, they decided to NOT do a switch until they could have a higher profile match. Or at least I can only HOPE that's why LOD2005 are still the champs.

  • Ken Kennedy beat Paul London.

  • Paul Burchill beat Scotty 2 Hotty.

  • Ken Kennedy stirred the pot backstage, trying to create friction between Booker T and Chris Benoit.

  • Randy Orton tried to present the Undertaker with a "retirement fund" check, but instead of accepting it, Taker summoned all the forces of Gay Spookiness to set the oversized novelty check on fire, instead.

And then, we pick up the Actual UPN Telecast of the show... and give it the full-on OO Recap Treatment! 

Opening Theme/Pyro/Etc., and we're 24 hours even less-live than we used to be, from what was reportedly a 2/3rd's-empty arena in Atlanta, GA. You know something? I have never really had anything against SD!'s opening over the past year (with the magic of DVR, I've probably only been exposed to it a half-dozen times, which isn't enough to work up a genuine loathing), but when WWE didn't bust out something new and fresh for the start of "Friday Night SD!," I was really surprised. Is the Fed getting lazy on us? Or will they actually have something a bit cooler looking/sounding when the "new fall season" officially begins in 2 weeks? Anyway, Tazz and Cole welcome us, set the stage for us as if they INTENDED for this to be a Very Special One Hour Version of SD! all along, and since that's a damned dirty lie and we're running short on time, they just kick it straight to the ring....

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (Cage Match)

Eddie enters first, and since now he's a heel, he's got the new remix of his theme song, no low-rider, and he takes 3 minutes to slink to the ring in cocky (read: boring) fashion. In this case, WWE makes us of that time to run a long video package (narrated by Tazz and Cole) explaining the backstory of this match. Oy. Double oy, actually. The first one is just because If this is what the move to Fridays means (WWE trying to explain itself to imaginary legions of new viewers, as if wrestling were rocket science, and in so doing only managing to piss off those of us with attention spans greater than 30 seconds), then I vote for going back to Thursdays. The second "oy" is just because.... well, you know my feelings about the backstory of this match. Some things are best left undiscussed. The only element of this that added anything positive to the match: the part where Eddie Guerrero is 0-for-7 in big matches against Rey and desperately wants to score his first win in this feud.

Rey enters second, and the instant he enters the steel cage, Eddie pounces, and doesn't let up with the stompy-punchy. Tazz and Cole immediately go past being helpful (by explaining tonight's Cage Match Rules are "Pinfall, Submission, or Escape") to "wrestling-for-retards" mode, again, giving the distinct impression that WWE is under the misapprehension they'll be getting all-new viewers on Friday nights, and that these viewers are so stupid that they can't comprehend basic wrestling without massive amounts of hand-holding.

After about 3 minutes of Eddie's beatdown to start, Rey makes a comeback with a flippy-reversey thing, but then his rally fizzles once he discovers there's not enough room between the ropes and the cage to perform the (619). The moment of indecision gives Eddie a chance to get back into the match, and it's back-and-forth for a minute or two, leading up to our first Escape Teases... in both cases, Rey goes up the cage and Eddie chases. One time, Rey reverses it into a top-rope sunset flip/powerbomb on Eddie.... but when Rey tries to follow that up with another escape attempt, Eddie manages to drag himself to his feet, and just yanks Rey's leg, instead of trying anything fancy. The result: Rey crashes to the mat, and begins holding his knee. Rey's going nowhere, Eddie's still recovering, so even though the show's all of 8 minutes old, let's break for some....


Back to action, and we join an Eddie Guerrero Escape Attempt in progress... this time it's Rey who chases, and both men end up on the top rope, jockeying for position. Which goes on for a bit, and I could probably describe better, but you know how these cage matches work: it's a lot of implausibly-cooperative maneuvering intended to build drama (moreso than realism). Finally, this Jockeying For Position ends with Rey hitting a Side Russian Legsweep off the top rope on Eddie.

You'd think that'd put Rey in command, and you'd be right. But he doesn't really take advantage. Instead, all of about 30 seconds later, it's Rey's turn to try another Escape, and it's Eddie who has to go up top to stop him. This time, their Jockeying For Position goes from the top rope to actually atop the cage. They stay up there for a couple minutes, and then decide to bring it back down to the top rope. From there, Rey busts out something unorthodox, and does a standing dropkick on Eddie. Problem is, Rey's own landing is about as hard as Eddie's...

So the ref has no choice but to apply a double-count, but both guys get up around 7 or 8, and start trading fists. Eddie gets the better of that, and takes control of the match enough to try an Escape Through The Door. A minute or so of wrangling by Rey (including a lot more Depantsing Action than I thought UPN would be sanguine about), and Eddie decides to continue the match lest he lose his britches. In the center of the ring, Rey hits a big move (flying head scissors, maybe?), and both men are down again. So even though this segment amounted to three "set pieces" and a few very brief connectors, it's once again deemed time for....


Back again, and this time, it's a Rey Mysterio Escape Attempt we join in progress. And it's Eddie who quickly gets on the top rope to put a stop to that. More Jockeying For Position, and it LOOKS like Eddie might powerbomb Rey off the top, but at the last second, Rey takes control and turns it into a hurricarana off the top. Nice.

More "that took a lot out of both guys" stuff, and Rey is the first to get to his feet. And he decides to try another escape. Up the cage he goes. Eddie manages to muster up the strength to follow. More Jockeying For Position. Rey shoves Eddie off the top... and then, instead of continuing out over the top, Rey sees a chance to finish Eddie off: he leaps off the top of the cage, Jimmy Snuka style... but Eddie rolls out of the way. Rey eats canvas.

That should be just about all she wrote. Rey's in no condition to stop Eddie from escaping. But as Eddie leaves (through the door, naturally, like the lazy, no-good heel that he is), he looks back at Rey's carcass. Before setting foot on the ground (which would have ended the match), Eddie gets an evil look in his eye, ducks back into the ring, quickly ascends to the top rope, and nails Rey with a Frog Splash. The ref is there to make the three-count, and just like that Eddie Guerrero has finally beaten Rey Mysterio decisively.

Your Winner: Eddie Guerrero, via pinfall, in about 15-16 minutes. Not a whole lot in the way of cohesiveness... that might have been a pacing/format issue with two ad breaks cutting into the flow of the match. Or it might just be the style match they wanted to have. To me, this was about 3 minutes of brawling to start, and then 5 barely-connected "set pieces" where they had escape teases leading up to a crash-and-burn spot (as a ferinstance: why'd Rey start selling the knee? That never factored back in... in fact, there was almost zero psychology to the whole match). Still entertaining in its own way, for certain, but STILL not the enthralling spectacle I know these two could have. But with Eddie winning (and with Orton apparently now looking at another go-round with Taker), I think we've got ourselves our next #1 Contender to the World Title, and there ain't a damned thing wrong with that.


Chris Benoit vs. Orlando Jordan (US Title Match)

Benoit, the champ, enters first to a large-ish ovation from his adopted home town fans. Which is a violation of standard protocols, but which is necessary. Because once Benoit gets to the ring and poses for the crowd, they show BOTH of Benoit's two recent wins over Jordan on the TitanTron. Benoit seems to enjoy his own handiwork, and smirks mightily as we see two complete matches totalling less than 50 seconds of elapsed time.

Jordan enters second, and has his own Video Footage accompaniment: a pre-taped interview in which he promised to knock Benoit out and take the US Title back. You keep on believing that, Junior... cuz that'll make one of you.

Both men in the ring, and (oh, poor OJ) there's a clock in the corner of the screen. Ring the bell, and let's do this thing. OJ starts out with a right cross that decks Benoit. Goes for the cover. No dice. Benoit to his feet. Jordan tries to go punchy-style again. Benoit feints, says "Thanks for feeding me the arm, dum-dum," and locks in the Crippler Crossface. OJ fights it for a few seconds, but realizes that resistance is futile.

Your Winner: Chris Benoit, via tap-out, in 22.5 seconds. We're probably reaching the limits of what these matches do in terms of establishing Benoit's bad-assery (or establishing that Orlando Jordan has been officially neutered), but they are certainly amusing little diversions. I like pretending that each one of these is WWE personally apologizing to each and every one of us who sat through Benoit and Jordan's 20-minute snoozefest at the Great American Bash PPV only to see Jordan retain the belt.

Video Package: Batista is a very large and very bad man. Again, I have to assume this little 2-minute jobby was crafted for the benefit of "new viewers," because to me (as an existing viewer), all it did was make me Fast Forward. I know Batista, dammit. Some might argue (given how they've screwed up his character at just about every available opportunity since February) that I know Batista better than WWE's Creative Monkeys who put together this package... 

John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Time Management

OK, so the awkward pacing continues... I thought for sure we'd get an ad break after the Benoit match, and also thought that Eddie/Rey would have benefited from having one less ad break interrupting the flow of their match. And now we're going US Title match to a video package to the World Title match all in one segment? Odd. Except: I guess we're only going to get JBL's ring entrance here. And then we take a break for....


Backstage: GM Teddy Long and Network Toolbox Palmer Canon (note the preferred spelling, all; especially any of you douchebag Young Parent Types who want to ensure your child a lifetime of being mocked and punched in the face because you like gay-sounding "fashionable" names) are standing by. They are in a Luxury Box, or something, watching the show with Spaz and Stacy. Who I'm sure make for scintillating company. Anyway, GM Teddy has an announcement: next week, it'll be the Undertaker vs. Randy Orton in Yet Another SummerSlam Rematch. Network Toolbox Palmer agrees that this sounds like a good idea. Not that his opinion counts for jack shit.

Batista vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (Bull Rope Match for the World Heavyweight Title)

As noted, JBL's already in the ring. Batista enters. And while we're tying the two together at the wrists (with a 12-foot bull rope that has a cowbell in the middle), the rules are once again explained to us as if we are as dimwitted as Randy Orton. In essence: The winner is the first man to touch all four turnbuckles in succession. There's a lot more gibberish about "breaking momentum" and stuff like that, but it's really a case of over-explaining your way into logic holes... keep it simple and let the referee and the turnbuckle lamps tell the story, OK? We'll be able to follow along.

The match starts with Batista overpowering JBL and doing two (2) separate Turnbuckle Teases. I'll say this: if under-dramatic "set pieces" made the cage match easy to recap, it looks like we're in for more of the same here. A winner is me! In both cases, JBL used his "bullrope match experience" (hey, Tazz said it, so it must be true) to keep Batista from hitting the final turnbuckle. Then JBL used the cowbell to whack Batista in the head, and got to do a Turnbuckle Tease of his own. Batista, of course, put a stop to that after the third turnbuckle, and won a game of tug-o-war to "break JBL's momentum."

But JBL actually still retained control with more punchy-kicky, and another turnbuckle tease. This one was actually an Ultra Dramatic Tease, as Batista had to counter it while he was flat on his back, a beaten man. JBL was mere INCHES away from winning the World Title. Can you feel the excitement? Nah, me either, really... but I'm trying, dammit. JBL decides to punish Batista for stopping him just short by waiting until Batista was positioned JUST RIGHT, and then yanking up on the bull rope, punishing Batista's poor testicles. Batista goes down in a heap, perhaps truly hurt for the first time this match. Which of course means that JBL might actually win. Which of course makes this a perfect time for....


Back, and I guess that thing with JBL being in control didn't last. Because we rejoin the show to see Batista hauling JBL around for a Turnbuckle Tease of his own. Apparently, Batista used some outside the ring brawling to regain control, or so says a "During the Break" highlight clip. JBL uses the cow bell to stop this initial Turnbuckle Tease, but then Batista decides to give JBL a taste of his own medicine. Before JBL can do much of anything, Batista just starts laying into him with the cowbell. One shot accidentally wraps around JBL's back/shoulder (the intended target), and whaps JBL in the face. Batista thoughtfully pauses to let JBL decide whether he had a broken nose or not, and then decided it was time to Head For Home.

The next move is a Batista Bomb, and then Batista starts dragging JBL around the ring to hit all four turnbuckles. Problem is, unbeknownst to Batista, JBL is hitting the turnbuckles right after Batista does. So technically, both men have hit three turnbuckles in succession as they approach the fourth. Yes, it's best not to think here; the "rules," such as they are, will only my your brain hurt. Anyway, just as JBL tries a crafty bit of positioning to get to the final turnbuckle first, Batista apparently sees JBL's lamps are lit, and figures out what's going on. He immediately pulls JBL in using the rope, and after a brief struggle, gets him within arm's reach. A spinebuster for JBL, and Batista has an easy route to get to the last turnbuckle. Batista gets to celebrate the Once And For All Final Vanquishing (Let's Hope) of JBL to end the show. Well, they actually sneak in a 30-second promo for next week's show (very awkward), but they do come back to Batista's celebration for about 5 seconds to close out the hour.

Your Winner: Batista, via Turnbuckle Touching, in about 12 minutes. A perfect companion to the opener, I guess. Just a bunch of teases/"set pieces", barely held together by a few transition spots. Which itself is not a massive criticism, but it's something that definitely stood out to me when you put two of the same basic type of match into a single one-hour show. The essential lack of flow or psychology was partially made-up-for, though, by the fact that this built up to a satisfying finish. Batista goes over, and can hopefully now await a challenger that people will care a bit more about...


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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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