Well, color me shocked.
After an extended period of ranting and questioning the preferential treatment that appeared to be bestowed on Randy Orton since his return from suspension, I never expected to see the Viper tap out - in a clean loss - to Alberto Del Rio.
Orton had been built up and put over number-one contenders like it was going out of style, but tonight, he actually did a job and helped make Del Rio look like a legitimate main event star in the process.
Does that change the fact that the majority of critics don't want to see Sheamus defend the World Heavyweight Championship against Del Rio again? Probably not.
Personally, I feel this rivalry is walking the line between being embraceable and embarrassing. I was an advocate of the SummerSlam rematch, but it's getting excessive with the rematches, even if it somehow becomes a triple threat.
Night of Champions seems like it's being set up as a show maintaining the status quo established by its predecessor rather than a show that provides fresh matches and ideas.
Of course, the shenanigans continued after the match, as Sheamus hit the scene, only to be beatdown by Del Rio - with a shoe. To paraphrase Austin Powers, seriously, who uses a shoe?
When Dolph Ziggler emerged with the Money in the Bank briefcase, he ate an RKO from Orton. Guess he had to get his heat back somehow.
At the end of the show, Del Rio and Orton emerged looking the strongest while the champion and the Money in the Bank contract holder looked the weakest. Something still doesn't seem right about this scenario.
In all likelihood, the issues will continue to push this as a three-way, if not a four-way, rivalry moving forward. That may help to freshen things up a bit, but it's really time for new stars to get a shot in the main event.
Right now, there are no real credible options for candidates to dethrone Sheamus. WWE could easily rectify this by making Ziggler look stronger with the title shot in his back pocket, but he seems to be headed down the Daniel Bryan path.
Of course, that turned out okay in the end, so let's not give up hope quite yet.
- Exactly what opportunities has Cody Rhodes been passed over for in favor of Sin Cara? Has Cara even had titles matches? Rhodes was an Intercontinental Champion. Both competed in Money in the Bank. If that's the "motivation" behind Rhodes' issues, it's a case built on faulty logic. Anyway, Cara had a basic match with Heath Slater that ended with Rhodes interfering and turning Cara's mask around, allowing Slater to win. While the match was just standard fare, seeing Slater pick up a win - albeit a tainted one - was a bit surprising.
- Sheamus and Ziggler hadn't been in the ring together for about three weeks, so of course WWE couldn't resist putting them in a singles match. As usual, the work was good but nothing we haven't seen before. The finish saw Ziggler use the Money in the Bank briefcase as a weapon to get disqualified. After the match, he continued to use it as a weapon and teased cashing in. But Sheamus channeled his best Davey Richards and no-sold the entire onslaught, causing Ziggler to grab the case and retreat.
- Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth defeated Primo and Epico in the round-robin tag team challenge of the week. The match was good, but like most everything else on this show, was very basic and nothing new. While it's nice to see actual tag teams, it would be nice for there to be some sort of story being told than just random matches each week. In a post-match interview, a brawl between these two teams, as well as The Usos and the Prime
TimePlayers, erupted. That's a start, but let's do something with it, okay?
- Ryback and Jinder Mahal appeared to put an end on their rivalry, and the undefeated star unsurprisingly emerged the victor. The match itself wasn't bad, and it was a little more than what we've seen from Ryback in the past. Mahal has reportedly improved from working at NXT, and some of that was visible in this match. I'd like to see both men continue to appear on TV and move into more significant roles. Mahal may be the prime example of how a stint in NXT can help a star improve in the ring and come back better than before they disappeared.
- Newly crowned United States Champion Antonio Cesaro made his first appearance as champion. In a segment with Santino Marella, the former champ had a lecture with the Cobra (yes, it is his arm) about its infatuation with Aksana. This is the kind of comedy that needs to be moved far, far away from any championship scene. I understand and appreciate the value of this entertainment, but have Marella doing it in a feud with Slater, not Cesaro.
- Divas Champion Layla defeated Alicia Fox in a quick match that not even the commentators seemed to care about. Kaitlyn and Michael Cole spent more time building Twitter tension between Natalya and Kaitlyn than they did calling the action in the ring. The match was just kind of there; it wasn't awful, but it wasn't anything special. Afterward, Eve came out and raised both women's hands in an odd sign that could signal change to come.
Ryback d. Jinder Mahal
Layla d. Alicia Fox
Heath Slater d. Sin Cara
Sheamus d. Dolph Ziggler by disqualification
Kofi Kingston and R-Truth d. Primo and Epico
Alberto Del Rio d. Randy Orton
In full transparency, I watched tonight's Smackdown on DVR delay, which helped the time fly by a little bit faster. But overall, the show didn't seem to drag. Everything up until the main event was fairly pedestrian and basic, but it all clicked and made sense. Sometimes that's the best we can hope for.