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Smackdown: Blazing the trail to Bragging Rights
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling


Portland, Oregon, home to the NBA Trail Blazers and not much else, hosts a sort of “Sweet 16” tournament to put together Smackdown’s team for Bragging Rights - except it’s actually a “Sweet 11” tournament. Also, The Undertaker goes to new heights to intimidate his brother Kane on their way to their Buried Alive match.

The “new heights” reference was to be taken literally, as the opening of the show sees The Undertaker outside, perched on an upper level of the arena. From there, he is keeping a watchful eye for his brother’s arrival. Perhaps he is holding a water balloon behind his back. Inside, Matt Striker, Todd Grisham, and Michael Cole are ready to bring us the action.

Match #1 – Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes – Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

Rhodes hammers Mysterio down to the mat early, hitting him with chops and boots and taking away Mysterio’s edge in quickness. Mysterio gets in a quick 619 attempt, but the Dashing One slides out of the ring to protect his good looks. After the break, Rhodes stretches Mysterio out with a variety of submission holds. Slowly, though, Mysterio finds a foothold to fight back from, and his second shot at the 619 connects, followed quickly by a winning pin.

Winner via pinfall: Rey Mysterio

Backstage, Big Show is “talking” with Hornswoggle when Kaval arrives to pitch himself as a member of Team Smackdown. Big Show suggests that Kaval may be too small to help out, but Kaval gets him to agree to a challenge: if the NXT winner can last five minutes in the ring with Big Show – he’s on the team. In another, darker part of the building, Paul Bearer is convinced that the Buried Alive match will be the end of The Undertaker.

Match #2 – Jack Swagger (w/ The Swagger Soaring Eagle) vs. MVP – Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

Big Show joins the commentating team for most of the remaining qualifying matches. MVP starts strongly, but Swagger runs him shoulder first into the ring post and focuses all of his attacks on his arm and shoulder thereafter. A sore arm doesn’t stop MVP from hitting the Ballin’ Elbow, though, nor does it keep him from attacking the Swagger Soaring Eagle outside the ring, throwing him onto the announcer’s table. Swagger takes advantage of the distraction and attacks MVP, bringing him back into the ring to submit him using the ankle lock.

Winner via submission: Jack Swagger

Undertaker update: he’s still keeping his watchful eye on the parking lot.

Match #3 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Masters - Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

Del Rio’s entrance lasts about as long as the match. He escapes an early attempt at the Master Lock and attacks Masters’ left arm. Masters hits a couple of clotheslines with his good arm, but after escaping another Master Lock, Del Rio instead locks Masters in the cross arm-breaker for the tap-out win.

Winner via submission: Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio walks by Big Show, who offers his hand to his new teammate – but Del Rio refuses, sending his team captain a wink instead. While Legendary promos are still getting pushed hard, we’re also given a look at Big Show’s “Knucklehead” trailer.

Match #4 – Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler (C) - Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

Edge is at his canny best, outsmarting and outmaneuvering the Intercontinental Champion. Edge misses a step, though, trying for a spear outside of the ring, which Ziggler dodges to send Edge crashing headlong into the security barrier. Ziggler follows up by dropping Edge’s head onto the steel steps. Inside the ring, Ziggler looks to finish the match off from the top rope, but as he leaps Edge counters with a spear delivered in mid-air for the win.

Winner via pinfall: Edge

Match #5 – Kaval vs. Big Show – (sort of a) Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

A running clock on the bottom of the screen clearly shows us how long Kaval has to make it. What isn’t clear is what is meant by "lasting" five minutes in the ring. Big Show chops, punches, and boots Kaval around for almost the full time period, but not once does he try a pin or a submission. So, does Kaval simply have to stay alive for five minutes? Whatever the rules are – Kaval makes it and finds a spot on the team...

Match #6 – Kaval vs. Tyler Reks – Surprise Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

...Until Tyler Reks, giving his Jack Sparrow Hallowe’en costume an early test run, arrives to challenge Kaval for his spot at Bragging Rights. Teddy Long stands up for Kaval, but the diminutive scrapper tells Reks to bring it on. A few moments later, Reks has wrecked Kaval in the middle of the ring for the win.

Winner via pinfall: Tyler Reks

A quickly revised Team Smackdown picture removes Kaval and replaces him with Reks. Elsewhere, Cody Rhodes teaches us how to properly remove overgrowing fingernails. He suggests a little clear nail polish to protect the nails and give them a slight sheen. He's probably right, but how the grandson of a plumber learns these things is a mystery.

Match #7 – Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston - Team Smackdown Qualifying Match

As if the show is running out of time, the qualifying matches are getting shorter and shorter. Here, McIntyre holds an initial advantage over his one-time bitter foe, but Kingston erupts with a surprise Trouble in Paradise for the quick win.

Winner via pinfall: Kofi Kingston

Finally, finishing the show, The Undertaker makes his way inside, meaning only one thing: Kane has arrived. The World Heavyweight Champion, accompanied by Paul Bearer, cuts a diatribe on the weakness and ineptitude of the fans that sounds like he plagiarized one of CM Punk’s speeches. The Undertaker finally makes his move, charging the ring and sending Kane and Bearer scattering up the ramp. Then, in an awesome display of mystical force lessened only slightly by poor timing from the pyrotechnic team, The Undertaker raises his arms and ignites the turnbuckles, Kane-style, freaking out the champion and his turncoat manager.

Dave Hillhouse is a screenwriter and teacher, and predicts that Bragging Rights will belong to Alberto Del Rio.