A disappointing trend has been developing in WWE in recent months.
Rather than actually using television programs like Raw and Smackdown to build undercard matches for pay-per-views, the company has been announcing minimal matches and then having "surprise" contests on the monthly showcases.
This strategy wouldn't be so bad if the surprise additions were matches of any consequence or interest. Instead, they wind up being standard-fare squash matches. just as fans see for free on weekly television.
Monday's Raw and Friday's Smackdown could have been used to build interest in some new contests for Sunday's Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Nope. Instead they were used to only promote the four scheduled matches and fill time on the show.
To be fair, Ryback's recent defeats of Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks, in which they have come out together and acted like a duo, seem to be setting up a possible handicap match for Sunday, which if it happened would likely be the most competitive match for the former Skip Sheffield yet.
Outside of that, there are no clear matches that can be added to Money in the Bank that people would actually want to see. We'll likely get a Brodus Clay squash match, a potential Heath Slater vs. a legend contest and an impromptu Divas Championship match.
All of that, with no build, should be free TV fodder, not something viewers are subjected to on a show they paid more than $40 or $50 to see.
WWE needs to begin announcing more than four or five matches in advance of a pay-per-view, and the go-home shows to those big events should be used to build matches up and down the card, not just at the top.
This week's final push for Money in the Bank has been largely disappointing. Hopefully WWE gets things back in order for SummerSlam.
** Back in January, Sheamus and Chris Jericho had a tremendous interaction at the end of the Royal Rumble, which Sheamus ultimately won. Friday on Smackdown, they met in the ring again in a lengthy non-title match, and they didn't disappoint. Matches of this length and caliber are what often sets Smackdown apart from Raw. While Sheamus emerged on top, Jericho didn't look weak in defeat. After the match, Alberto Del Rio laid Sheamus out on the ramp, ending the show with Sunday's challenger standing tall over the champion. WWE has done a good job making both Sheamus and Del Rio look strong heading into Money in the Bank.
** Sin Cara and Del Rio had a really good match to open the show. After Del Rio killed Cara recently, I was worried this would be just another squash match, but it was anything but that. They worked smart, especially Cara, who showed more aggression as he was seeking vengeance than going for just a string of flashy moves. That helped make those big spots mean something more when he actually used them. The win keeps Del Rio rolling as he heads into a World Heavyweight Championship match Sunday, while Cara's showing helps him look strong in defeat.
** The tag team match pitting United States Champion Santino Marella and Christian against Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes was a lot of fun. This was a much better showcase for Money in the Bank participants than the sub-two-minute offered on Raw. Three of the four guys in this match are tremendous workers, and Marella's involvement was limited. Rhodes and Ziggler have to be the front runners to win the contract on Sunday, but I've started having nightmares of Marella winning, simply so he can become the first person to cash in and lose.
** The feud between the Prime Time Players and Primo and Epico continued, as Primo scored an upset victory with a roll-up on Darren Young in a singles match. The match wasn't bad, and it's nice to see the continuation of a tag team feud, but why not highlight either Tag Team Champions R-Truth and Kofi Kingston or their Money in the Bank pre-show opponents Hunico and Camacho? Wait, on second thought, it's better to see this than anything involving those challengers.
** Damien Sandow and Justin Gabriel made the most of their time, as they were able to put on a good match with just a limited amount of time. Gabriel continues to be one of the most under-used members of the roster, and WWE would be well served to give him and Tyson Kidd a tag team push after Money in the Bank. Sandow continues to look better and better as he get more experience in the ring and in front of the crowds. He has the makings of a future star.
** Reks actually gave Ryback his most competitive -- and possibly lengthiest -- match yet. It was a nice change of pace to see a challenger actually land some offense, albeit it minimal. We're at least seeing progress in the Ryback character, and that is a good thing.
** Big Show squashing The Great Khali did nothing for me. The match was designed to make Show look strong, and to casual fans it likely did, but I can't get invested in anything involving Khali, and I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same way.
Alberto Del Rio d. Sin Cara
Primo d. Darren Young
Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes d. Santino Marella and Christian
Big Show d. Great Khali
Ryback d. Tyler Reks
Damien Sandow d. Justin Gabriel
Sheamus d. Chris Jericho
In all honesty, this was a pretty solid episode of Smackdown. The show featured several good matches, and that has long been Smackdown’s strongest asset. That said, as a go-home show for Money in the Bank, this episode fell into the trap detailed above, only focusing on two matches for the pay-per-view. Judging this episode as a standalone would yield high marks from me, but looking at it in the context of the Money in the Bank build brings down my overall feelings. Still, I’d take episodes like this more often, just not two days before pay-per-views.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you From the Rafters Radio, a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times