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Smackdown: Celebrating an American hero
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling


This week's Smackdown is highlighted by the next match in the King of the Ring tournament and JBL's celebration of the United States Title. Time for talk is over, so let's get right to the action.

Match 1 Booker T vs. Matt Hardy (King of the Ring Quarterfinal Match

Well, Hardy's one of the few men who could benefit from winning the KOTR tourney, which has been bastardized from its original format.

I'll say this about Booker T while men like Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Bret Hart turned their signature moves into routine sequences, the five-time WCW champ has kept them mixed up a bit.

That said, Booker is not the savvy fighter he used to be, and with Hardy's constant pandering to the crowd, this one was not as good as it would have been three or four years ago. Having the M.A.D.E. on the outside didn't help matters. Predictable ending here, as Booker wins with help from Sharmell.

Winner: Booker T

Next up, we get the first in a series of backstage vignettes involving Paul the Pirate and William Regal, with Regal dressing in embarrassing garb. Regal is quite entertaining, almost as much as he was during his role as commissioner with Tajiri in tow.

Match 2 Joey Mercury vs. Paul London

Wow, looks like London and Brian Kendrick battled out of Velocity hell since the last time I recapped Smackdown.

The chemistry between these two teams is nothing short of phenomenal. The best thing WWE could do is build a series between the two a la the Terri Invitational Tournament that elevated E&C and the Hardy Boyz. Unfortunately, this isn't 1999.

The match itself is quite entertaining, save for a couple sloppy moves from London. Of course, Kendrick and Johnny Nitro interfere, but not to excess. Eventually, London gets the roll-up on Mercury for the victory.

Winner: Paul London

Match 3 - Chris Benoit/Bobby Lashley vs. Fit Finlay/Orlando Jordan

Gee, you think someone doesn't belong in this match, let alone any WWE wrestling ring?

The match between the two teams is pretty good, well, when Finlay and Benoit are in the ring it's really good, but Jordan drags the match down a few notches by his mere presence.

Lashley, rightly, gets the W after the spear and Dominator as Benoit took care of Finlay on the outside with a Tope Canadienese.

Winners: Benoit/Lashley

Next up, Theodore R. Long announces that Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio Jr. will square off for the World Heavyweight Title while the crew is over in England.

Backstage, Funaki is being interviewed by Kristal when The Great Khali interrupts.

Match 4 The Great Khali vs. ???

A squash if there ever was one. Three moves in, Khali wins with a double-handed choke throw. I sure hope his actual finisher is better than this big-man standard.

Winner: The Great Khali

Match 5 The Gymini vs. Paul Burchill/William Regal

Regal is dressed in pirate garb, complete with the puffy shirt. If only Jerry Seinfeld was his manager...

Eventually, Burchill abandons Regal, allowing the Gymini to hit the Crosstrainer for the win. Not much else I can say about the actual match.

Winners: The Gymini

To wrap up the night, we get JBL's celebration, complete with balloons, a marching band, American-themed decorations, a large blow-up eagle and a wave-machine Uncle Sam. Truly, this set up, like Mastercard, was priceless. The segment goes pretty quickly from a celebration of the U.S. Title, which included the firing of Jillian Hall, to a challenge to the winner of the Angle/Mysterio Jr. title match next week. Not surprisingly, the combatants come out and beat up JBL soon after, with some good banter to send me home happy.

Overall, this was an okay show for a brand with little direction. It's become abundantly clear to me, however, that the brand split is coming to an end, with the potential for JBL to hold both major singles Smackdown titles and RVD working towards both Raw titles.

In the meantime, however, we will enjoy Smackdown as long as we can, and will do so next week from Merry Old England.


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    Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! since 2000.