Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton was a curious main event for Friday's Smackdown

Alberto Del Rio faced Randy Orton in the main event of tonight's Smackdown.

Typing that sentence evokes many negative feelings. Given the state of Smackdown lately, these two are definitely top-tier talents, but recent circumstances make this a baffling and disappointing booking decision.


First, let's start with the No. 1 contender to Sheamus' World Heavyweight Championship, Del Rio.

On Monday's Raw, the arrogant aristocrat declared he was above the caliber of talent he had been booked against lately and that he would not be competing in any matches until his title bout at SummerSlam.


In an era where rivalries are built by putting the same guys in the ring together consistently (see Christian and The Miz, Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler below), this was a welcome fresh approach to telling a traditional story.

But in my Raw recap blog, I even questioned how long Del Rio's wrestling sabbatical would actually last. Being that Smackdown was taped Tuesday night, the answer was barely (if even) 24 hours.

Yes, forcing Del Rio into a match gave new Smackdown General Manager Booker T something meaningful to do in his first night on the job, but it's unfortunate that WWE wasted an opportunity to break away from the norm.

Now, let's switch gears to Orton. The man just returned Monday night from his second suspension due to violating the company's wellness policy. A third strike will result in his firing from the company.


It seems odd and questionable to bring someone back in the fold after a drug-related suspension and immediately put him into a television main event.

If nothing else, this decision demonstrates the desperate need for new stars to be moved up to the main event level. Smackdown should be a place where new talent can be tested at the top of the television program, and using someone else in this spot could have helped elevate a new talent while also sending a message about the seriousness of the wellness policy and ramifications of violating it.

Of course, on television, they referred to Orton's absence as a "layoff." Nice to see they're upfront and honest with the fans. At least it's better than Orton making reference to his "two-month vacation" earlier this month. The wellness policy is a serious matter and should be treated as such, both on and off television.

Moving beyond the issues with the match happening in the first place, the match wasn't bad at all and was a worthy Smackdown main event.

The ending, though, could again raise questions. Ricardo Rodriguez interfered, which granted Orton the win by disqualification. As Del Rio tried escaping, Sheamus threw him back to the ring.

Would it have been too much to let Del Rio score a big win heading into his world title shot in a few weeks? Is it really that important to protect a recently returned Orton -- or was it another missed opportunity to humble the star and give him a reminder about the morality of his career?

On the surface, there wasn't anything inherently bad or wrong about this match or it being the main event, but when you pull back the layers and look a little deeper, there are a number of questions that rear their heads.

Quick Hits

** If WWE insists on each brand having its own general manager, I endorse the choice of Booker T for the role. I think he's better suited to something like this than the commentary table. He can continue to be involved and featured on television, but we may get some improved commentary for the show. Hopefully he's a GM who lurks in the background more than upstaging the superstars, but we'll see how that shakes out. Of course, I despise his decision to hire Teddy Long as a senior adviser. Every time I think we may finally be rid of Long, I'm proven wrong.

** Daniel Bryan rolled up Chris Jericho to score a victory for his team in a six-man tag-team match also featuring Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Christian and Kane. The match was fun, as is to be expected. But it also needs to be mentioned that seeing these combinations facing each other in tag-team matches has become commonplace lately. There are ways to build rivalries and hype matches without constantly pairing the guys with other stars for big tag-team and six-man tag-team matches. The positive is that these matches have been delivering lately, so we're at least getting some free, quality entertainment out of it.

** Sheamus and Tensai fought a lengthy, hard-hitting battle in the opener. These two are both known for being tough fighters, and they meshed well to produce a good brawling type of match. The result was never in doubt, but Tensai more than held his own. The man gets a lot of grief, but he's not as bad as many people want to make him out to be. Yes, he hasn't set the world on fire since returning, but he's a solid hand, especially as someone to play a dominant midcard heel.

** Antonio Cesaro scored a second non-title victory over United States Champion Santino Marella. This should translate into a title match, but the build seems to indicate the Swiss powerhouse may come up on the losing end in that match. I sure hope not. Marella scored too much offense in this short match for my liking, even connecting with the cobra. There's much more upside in Cesaro than Marella.

** Darren Young scored a pinfall over R-Truth with a fair share of interference from Titus O'Neil and Abraham Washington. Now both members of the Prime Time Players have singles victories over the tag team champions, which will certainly get them a title shot. It's simple, yet smart, booking. The match itself was alright but nothing special. O'Neil and Young are better suited to tag matches at this point in time.

** Is there supposed to be some form of rejoicing when Ryback finally defeats Jinder Mahal cleanly? Last week, Mahal ran away; this week, he got himself disqualified for using a weapon. The biggest shock would be if Mahal got the win over Ryback in the end and then used that to launch a successful career. Please try not to laugh.

** Outside of AJ being the Raw GM, Layla and Eve being in backstage segments on Smackdown and Aksana accompanying Cesaro to the ring, there were no divas on WWE television this week. With five hours of programming to fill, that's pretty inexcusable.

** Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara was announced for next week. That actually sounds like an interesting pairing.

Match Rundown

Sheamus d. Tensai

Antonio Cesaro d. Santino Marella

Daniel Bryan, The Miz and Dolph Ziggler d. Kane, Christian and Chris Jericho

Ryback d. Jinder Mahal by disqualification

Darren Young d. R-Truth

Randy Orton d. Alberto Del Rio by disqualification


My Take


While parts of my recap may sound critical, this was actually a pretty solid episode of Smackdown. There was some good wrestling, an acceptable new general manager and logical storytelling and advancement. Many people have talked about Smackdown becoming even less important with Raw being three hours, but if the show remains wrestling focused, it might not be for the worse.

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.

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