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Smackdown: Turning the page
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling


The hot potato game between Randy Orton and Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship continued at SummerSlam, and new champ Orton gets to flaunt the gold tonight in Bakersfield, CA. With Christian absent from the show, it’s time to find a new opponent for The Viper.

Smackdown GM Teddy Long has Orton in the ring to open the night. He claims that Christian is not here due to his severe beating in the No-Holds Barred match, and Long announces that a new Number One Contender will be named via a 20-Man Battle Royal. Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, however, slips into the ring along with DiBiase for a sarcastic Legacy Reunion.

Rhodes gets to tell Orton that he will be in the Battle Royal, but before DiBiase gets to finish his speech he’s silenced with an RKO. I wonder if Orton used that technique on his high school debating team. Rhodes wants Long to do something, so Long does what he does best –- he makes a match:

Match #1 – Ezekial Jackson vs. Cody Rhodes (champion) – for the Intercontinental Championship

Jackson muscles Rhodes around, but the champ weathers the storm and takes control with a bulldog. As Jackson battles back, he chases Rhodes to the outside and gets the steps driven into his knees as a reward. The fight goes back between the ropes, and a Beautiful Disaster plus Cross Rhodes gives Rhodes a clean, decisive win.

Winner via pinfall and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Cody Rhodes

After the break, Zack Ryder is with Long, talking up his chances in the Battle Royal as well as Alberto Del Rio being on the show tonight. Without warning, the mysterious saxophonist ushers in Aksana who wants to watch the big match with Long -- but he stutters and stammers, and declines.

Match #2 – Justin Gabriel vs. Tyson Kidd

Justin Gabriel’s visit to Cape Town from a while back is replayed, and that helps him receive s great ovation from the crowd. Kidd holds an early advantage, but Gabriel’s flying feet of fury rock Kidd to the mat. Gabriel scales the turnbuckles and delivers a 450 Splash further from the corner than is his custom.

Winner via pinfall: Justin Gabriel

Backstage, Matt Striker wants to know what The Great Khali’s chances are in the Battle Royal. Mahal translates Khali’s response, but changes it from Khali winning to himself taking the duke.

Alberto Del Rio returns to his WWE roots on Smackdown, reminding Bakersfield that he made his debut in this very city. He questions who would want to challenge him for the title, and out comes Daniel Bryan. No, he’s not cashing in his own Money in the Bank contract, but he does want a match.

Match #3 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Daniel Bryan

Both wrestlers show their submission-style offense before Bryan looks positively miffed and proceeds to kick the tar out of Del Rio. The champ responds with an attack on Bryan’s left arm, but times a running attack badly and Bryan backflips him over the top rope. Del Rio tries a back suplex off the top rope instead, but Bryan counters into a falling cross-body. A slugfest ensues, with Bryan emerging with the Guillotine Choke applied. Del Rio escapes and counters with the Cross Arm Breaker, forcing Bryan to tap.

Winner via submission: Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio applies another Cross Arm Breaker after the bell, but Sin Cara rushes the ring to make the save. Backstage, Matt Striker timidly asks Mark Henry about the Battle Royal. Henry gets poetic, promising stormy seas and 19 wrestlers going overboard.

Match #4 – Kelly Kelly & AJ vs. Natalya & Alicia Fox

Count me among those who gave Kelly zero chance against Beth Phoenix at SummerSlam –- interesting to see where this will all go. Natalya and Fox start off with a lengthy double-team attack on AJ, but the Divas champ gets the tag to do her Stinkface thing and finish Fox with the K2.

Winners via pinfall: Kelly Kelly & AJ

After the bell, Natalya and Fox disagree about culpability, and Fox receives a Sharpshooter on the floor to break up the partnership.

Match #5 – 20-Man Battle Royal for the Number One Contender’s Spot to the World Heavyweight Championship

Most wrestlers are already in the ring when we return from break, but the party starts after we see Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Mark Henry, and Sheamus make their way down. Randy Orton gets to watch this one from ringside, as the melee begins in earnest. Henry gets the first points, tossing Trent Baretta and Yoshi Tatsu. Cody Rhodes does his best Shawn Michaels impersonation, but is still eliminated by Ezekial Jackson, who is then thrown out by The Great Khali. Khali is then disposed of single-handedly by Mark Henry.

Henry then slips out through the ropes to the floor, proceeding to lay waste to all that are eliminated as they come out. He re-enters the ring, and pretty soon your final four are Henry, Cara, Barrett, and Sheamus. Sheamus rids the ring of Barrett with a Brogue Kick while fighting on the apron, and Henry unceremoniously dumps Sheamus from behind. Cara fights valiantly, but his performance is not enhanced enough to withstand Henry’s roll.

Winner via elimination and Number One Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship: Mark Henry

Dave Hillhouse is a screenwriter and teacher, and wants to tell Cody Rhodes that the phrase isn’t “I could care less” but “I couldn’t care less”. And where are his Legend of Zelda boots?