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September 13, 2008

The Game Show edition of Smackdown

If you are a Triple H fan, you probably loved last night’s episode of Smackdown. “The Game” opened the show with a promo – which was interrupted by Jeff Hardy – and went on to appear in three more segments.

One by one, Triple H confronted the participants in last night’s fatal four-way, which determined the challenger for his WWE title at next month’s No Mercy pay-per-view. The idea was that Triple H, with his condescending tone and smart aleck remarks, was trying to get into the head of his potential challengers.

The question is: Were the four participants – Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, The Brian Kendrick and MVP – buried in these segments, or did they get a “rub” by interacting with Triple H?

You certainly could make a strong case for either side. Being somewhat cynical by nature, my initial instinct tells me it is the former, but I’m going to try to take a less pessimistic view.

Let’s look at the opening segment, in which Triple H had a verbal confrontation with Hardy. This was a good back-and-forth exchange, and Hardy had the fans on his side at the end. There were two key lines of dialogue that made Hardy look good.

One was when Hardy insinuated that Triple H was in such a prominent position because of his political and family connections. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time that Triple H had ever allowed someone to pull the “married to the boss’ daughter” card. The other was when Triple H basically said that, all kidding aside, he did respect Hardy.

To a lesser extent, Benjamin also held his own. He did not appear at all intimidated by Triple H. With his standout performances in the ring, the way Jim Ross puts him over in commentary and his somewhat-improving mic skills, Benjamin is starting to look like a legitimate world title contender.

Kendrick, on the other hand, has not looked nearly as strong as Benjamin. He was pinned four times in the Championship Scramble last Sunday at Unforgiven, and then did the job in last night’s four-way (well, somebody had to). To add insult to injury, Triple H called Kendrick the “biggest loser” of all the losers in the Scramble.

That sure seems like a burial to me, but perhaps I’m not taking the big picture into account. Kendrick’s momentum might have stalled, but where was Kendrick a few months ago? Not challenging for world titles in pay-per-view main events, that’s for sure.

And that brings us to MVP. I’m not even going to try to argue that he hasn’t been buried the past couple weeks. Triple H contributed to it last night when he pointed out that everyone but MVP had something to brag about coming out of the Scramble (Hardy lost by just one second; Benjamin was never pinned; and Kendrick theoretically was “champion” the longest during the match).

Before 2008 began, I fully expected MVP to win a world title sometime this year, but that is extremely doubtful at this point. Hopefully, he will be able to get back on track in the near future.

As for Triple H and all his sarcasm, I think it would be easier for his detractors to take if there was some form of retribution. I would like to see Benjamin, Kendrick and MVP form an alliance of convenience and attack Triple H. Not only would it be a receipt for Triple H’s demeaning comments, but it at also could lead to a compelling story line for the upcoming Triple H-Hardy title match.

I envision a scenario in which Triple H is wrestling Benjamin, and then MVP, Kendrick and Ezekiel all run in for a four-on-one beat-down of Triple H. Hardy comes out to make the save. Triple H recovers and grabs his sledgehammer, and he and Hardy clear the ring. Then Triple H shakes Hardy’s hand, but when Hardy turns his back, Triple H clobbers him with the sledgehammer and brutalizes him.

Ric Flair turned on Dusty Rhodes in a similar manner on more than one occasion, and it would generate a lot of heat for Triple H versus Hardy. I’ve said many times that I like Triple H better as a babyface, but he’s probably turning heel at some point, and this would be a great way to do it.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

The fatal four-way was good, although it did drag a little at times. The big story – besides Hardy winning – was Kozlov attacking Hardy after the match. With Kozlov now in the mix, there is no shortage of challengers to the WWE title. And you know at some point that Edge, The Undertaker and Big Show are also going to be in the title picture. …

Speaking of the title picture, I wouldn’t be surprised to see R-Truth involved down the line. …

Kendrick had the funniest line of the night when he said that he was the longest-reigning champion in the history of the Championship Scrambles. …

It was good to see Carlito (and his afro) back on TV. I think teaming with his brother Primo benefits both of them, but there was an inexcusable lack of attention to detail here. The last time we saw Carlito, he was a heel; and the last time we saw his brother Primo, he was on Raw bad-mouthing Carlito. Now they are a babyface tag team on Smackdown.

Since WWE’s creative team gave no explanation for this turn of events, I’ll just make it up myself: Carlito heard what Primo said about him on Raw, and he came to the realization that he has been a jerk and he wants to patch things up with his brother. He tells Primo he wants to team with him. Primo is convinced that Carlito is sincere, so he asks Raw general manager Mike Adamle to release him from his contract so that he can team with his brother on Smackdown. There, was that so hard? …

It looks like Chavo Guerrero and Bam Neely are headed for a split. That seemed to come out of nowhere. Has there even been a hint of dissension between them before their physical confrontation last night? This is not a feud I am very excited about. …

That was a weird segment when Jesse and Festus came out dressed as movers, taped up Kenny Dykstra and wheeled him away. Jesse and Festus were wearing jumpsuits that had “MyMoving Co.” written on the back, so I guess this was WWE’s subtle way of reminding viewers that Smackdown is moving to MyNetworkTV next month. …

Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder have potential, but they just aren’t connecting with the audience right now.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:46 PM | | Comments (15)


I had applauded HHH for stepping back from the title in much of 06-07 . Now it seems as if it is same old, same.....old circa 2001-2005.

Fine if he wants the belt its one thing, but why put down your competition on TV? It reminded me of his program with Booker a few years ago and I left Wrestlemania so p'd at the way they buried Booker I didn't buy anymore PPV's that year.

Mark it down HHH will be a 17 world champion before its all over....would his ego accept anything less?

Wish I could share the optimistic view Kevin, but I think its TRIP's way of keeping people in there place.

The "biggest loser" line took all the momentum out of Kendrick lately. Yeah, he is in the main event picture, so he is leaps and bounds above where he once was.

But, that's the main thing to remember - the fans know that the last time he was featured, he was in a barely midcard tag team.

Kendrick needs somebody like Triple H to push him up to the next level. He was the "longest-reigning champion in scramble history," so he wasn't the biggest loser. He was almost WWE champion.

Casual fans, the ones who don't know what a star Kendrick can be, see Triple H talk down to him & then don't take Kendrick seriously.

Unrelated note - Apparently Shelton Benjamin came out wearing his US title upside down and WWE had to edit in old footage of him with the belt the right way.

Notice that the referee didn't stop the match when Jesse interfered in the Festus vs Kenny matchup? Had he done so, the bell would have rung, causing Festus to return to his catatonic state. That would have meant he couldn't help Jesse duct tape Dykstra.

Great comments Kev - right on the money. One thing fogot the Vikki/Big Show ala Palin/McCain alliance of convenience!!! Great move for the WWE. I have always thought that the WWE was at its best when it parodied real life. That's is what made the attitude days great.

Not sure about the HHH/Hardy opening segment, boy did it drag. After it was over my wife and I commented on the fact that it was boring and would not cause anyone purchase the pay-per-view.

One question... why wasn't Kendrick counted out at the beginning of the four way? Maybe I don't understand the rules, and am sort of glad they there wasn't a count out, seeing as Jeff spent most of his time outside the ring on the floor. But, I would have like to have seen Kendrick counted out of the match. I'm not of fan of the flamer. On a side note, Kevin, who would you like to see in a plot against Zeke?

I'm very excited for the No Mercy main event. It's been a long time coming for Hardy and I think this may finally be it!


Thank you for commenting so helpfully on the increasing depth of the World title picture on Smackdown. It has been my contention for some time that TNA's biggest strength has been the level of competition for their World title. (Well, that and the Knockouts.) It's been very nice to see Smackdown making such an effort at enhancing their own ranks as you demonstrate. Keep up the great work.

Was it my imagination or did a portion of the crowd boo when Hardy attacked HHH on his "family" connections? Really, if there is anyone who deserves to have personal issues dragged into a promo, it's HHH; the guy has been doing it to everyone else for years.
And you hit the nail on the head about my biggest beef with HHH- his total lack of any comeuppance. I wouldn't mind listening to him run down every competitor in his path, if these competitors were ever allowed to gain the upper hand, even temporarily. Problem is, even in instances where the opponent gains a slight advantage, HHH still manages to look strong (remember Khali putting HHH in the vice grip before their PPV match, and HHH still almost broke the hold?) He's just got to put his ego on hold, and let his opponent get over on him to the point where it looks possible HHH won't keep his title. But if he just keeps rolling his eyes at everyone, why should we feel like his matches have any doubt about the outcome?
And while I'm glad Hardy is getting the next title shot, did they really have to dampen the moment by having Kozlov beat him down? I guess part of my problem is I'm not buying the whole "invincible" aura they are trying to build for him. In all honesty, his character feels a little dated.

You like Triple H better has a babyface? I prefer the brooding, gold-obsessed, leather-and-denim, anything goes jerk to the condescending, smartass, trying-way-too-hard-to-be-funny-and-failing babyface. And I abhor the DX version too.

Hey Eck,
Kind of an off topic question but I was wondering about Vince McMahon. Even before the story line they concocted to get him out of the Million Dollar Mania thing, he wasn't on TV too much. Does that mean he isn't in the on-site arenas at all? Does he run just run things from HQ? Or maybe he just isn't involved in the day-to-day as much he used to be. What's the deal?

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: It is my understanding that he is at all the shows and still is very hands-on.

"I guess this was WWE's subtle way of reminding viewers that Smackdown is moving to MyNetworkTV next month."

Oh. In Canada, Smackdown always airs on The Score, so the whole thing was lost on me.

Oh, come on now. I understand that there's this backlash against Triple H on the internet, justifiably or unjustifiably so. However, this Smackdown! has been way overblown at this point. Does anyone remember The Rock? He totally no sold Jericho's debut! Remember the match where HHH won the title from Mankind the first time the night after Summerslam 1999? I implore you to go watch that match with The Rock on commentary and he spends the entire time dismissing the match and its importance and talking about himself, no selling HHH's first title match. And he did this quite often. And this is NOT a shot against The Rock - he's one of the best ever. It was just his gimmick. That's what HHH's gimmick is right now. He's just a prick to put it straightforward. But people have such a myopic view of Triple H the person that to argue in his defense at this point is probably hopeless. People need to stop getting worked up over nothing.

Although I'm a huge fan of Triple H --- and I like him as either a heel or a baby-face - when he eventually loses the belt (and he's going to or else how can he win it again and keep his record going) , I hope it is to Jeff Hardy --- I like Jeff a lot more than the others. As for the fatal 4 way - what in the world was THE BRIAN KENDRICK doing in it? He's a flaming idiot as far as I can tell, and short of his bodyguard assisting him --- he's definitely not in the same league as the others. The way he "dances" around the ring --- how can anyone take him seriously. I agree with Triple H that he was the biggest loser (in more ways than one). I get annoyed every time I see him on the show.

Hey Kev, another off-topic question if you find the time to answer it .
Which do / did you enjoy more , the wrestling you watched as a kid @*# years ago or todays brand ? Don't say they each have their merits !

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: They each have their merits. Sorry, but that's the truth. It's hard to compare something seen through a child's eyes compared to an adult's. I think we all look back fondly on pop culture (movies, TV, music and even wrestling) and maybe we remember it to be better than it really was. I loved wrestling when I was a kid amd I can't get enough of it onWWE 24/7. But when I compare the low-budget squash matches I used to watch every week on channel 45 and the monthly house shows with 3 good matches and 5 preliminary matches with today's product, the product of yesteryear does not compare. Times change and the product has evolved. I

Hey Kevin , thanks for the reply to my question . I however yearn for days gone by . I don't have WWE 24/7 and my recollections are drawn from memory.(and you-tube).
They'll never be another Capt. Lou Albano , Valiant Bros. ,Superstar Billy Graham ,Freddie Blassie filing his teeth .
Even the more recent past I think was unique , The Four Horseman , The Freebirds , Crockett Promotions taping in a studio , Jesse Ventura .
Call me a dinosuar , but those were the days .

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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