On Monday's Raw, Daniel Bryan earned the right to face WWE Champion CM Punk at Over the Limit.
On tonight's Smackdown, Bryan lost to World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.
Bryan has now lost to Sheamus in three consecutive singles title matches -- WrestleMania, Extreme Rules and Smackdown. That doesn't seem like the way to build a challenger for the company's top prize.
Bryan and Punk have proven on multiple occasions they're capable of stealing any show, and that mindset will surely carry over to Over the Limit, when they'll focus on the story they're telling in the ring rather than the one playing out outside of it.
But even so, in the eyes of the general viewing public, what chance does Bryan stand against Punk? He's been unable to put down Sheamus; why will Punk be any different?
Also, much of this seemed to be a transition to get Alberto Del Rio into the World Heavyweight Championship mix.
In the opening match between Bryan and Sheamus, Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez interfered, causing the match to go to a no contest. Del Rio and Bryan then engaged in a game of one-upsmanship, both assaulting the champion.
In the end, Sheamus appeared injured, but in typical "overcome-the-odds" babyface fashion, he vowed he wanted to do what he loves -- fight. (Isn't that Finlay's line, by the way?)
Bryan and Sheamus put on a really good match, to no one's surprise, that once again saw Del Rio interfere. But in the end, Sheamus put Bryan down with a Brogue Kick.
There are no objections on this end about having Bryan and Sheamus do what they do best, but one has to question what is accomplished by having Bryan lose when he's poised to challenge for the WWE Championship next month.
This match could have easily ended with a disqualification finish, still made Sheamus look strong, not harm Bryan, get heat between Del Rio and Sheamus and move ahead toward Over the Limit.
But apparently that's too much to ask for.
** Big Show pinning Cody Rhodes in their tag match also involving Randy Orton and Kane seems to indicate their feud over the Intercontinental Championship will sadly continue. I had hoped Extreme Rules would be the blow-off, as Rhodes should be moving on to something bigger. I'd kind of hoped the finish of this match would set up a Rhodes-Orton feud. Rhodes has come a long way since their post-Legacy showdown, and I think it would be a good time to revisit that feud. The match itself was good and was given an ample amount of time.
** Why weren't the Tag Team Championships on the line in the match between new champs R-Truth and Kofi Kingston and Hunico and Camacho? Being that the champs went over clean, it seemed like this should have been their first defense. Oh well, at least this pairing is getting TV time. The match itself wasn't bad, and working as a tag team helped hide a lot of the challengers' shortcomings.
** Divas Champion Layla's match with Natalya suffered from the same problem. Why not put the title on the line in this match? It gives the live audiences something special to see title defenses and it strengthens the champions' reigns. These two divas are very capable, and they put together a good little match for the time they were given. This match honestly deserved to be at least twice as long as it was.
** Brodus Clay's match with Jack Swagger was more than a squash, so I appreciate that. But now it seems Clay is in a holding pattern facing Ziggler and Swagger, and I wonder what they payoff to this angle will be. The worrisome thing is that Ziggler is becoming pigeon-holed into a supporting role because of his amazing ability to sell. Look at the way Ziggler took Clay's headbutt; you would have thought someone shot him.
** Damien Sandow made his live debut, but he refused to get in the ring with Derrick Bateman, who he coined a "miscreant." Sandow proved he was able to cut a promo in front of a crowd, and he mannerisms were perfect. He even holds a microphone like a glass of fancy spirits. When the crowd welcomed him with the "What" chant, Sandow simply replied, "Thank you for your irrelevant opinion." I love it.
** After Sandow left, Bateman demanded a match, saying he won the opportunity on NXT. If you win a prize on a show no one is watching, did you really win it? Regardless, Ryback emerged and destroyed the rookie. At least now Ryback is beating WWE-contracted jobbers now.
** There was something funny -- and oddly disturbing -- about watching Eve force Teddy Long to rub baby oil on Antonio Cesaro's chest during a photo shoot. I'd prefer to see Cesaro in the ring, but at least he's getting screen time and seems poised to be the breakout star we all know he can be.
** AJ slapped Kaitlyn again. Can we just turn her full-blown heel already?
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan went to a no contest
R-Truth and Kofi Kingston d. Hunico and Camacho
Brodus Clay d. Jack Swagger by countout
Ryback d. Derrick Bateman
Big Show and Randy Orton d. Cody Rhodes and Kane
Layla d. Natalya
Sheamus d. Daniel Bryan
Questionable treatment of Daniel Bryan aside, I really enjoyed tonight's episode of Smackdown. There was some good wrestling, which is what the blue brand has really developed a reputation for. Was it perfect? No. The champions could have defended their belts, and Layla and Natalya could have used more time, but I have few other complaints. A good, solid show like this is needed every once in a while; not every episode can light the world on fire.