Christian def. Mark Henry
The commentators talked about how "revitalized" Henry was since coming to SmackDown two months earlier, yet Christian made short work of him here. Henry definitely did dominate a majority of the match, but he was put away pretty decisively for someone who was on the verge of getting pushed as a monster heel on the blue brand. Regardless, Christian needed the win more and it was a nice little match while it lasted. Christian's post-match promo also effectively planted the seeds for his heel turn later in the night as well as establish him as the special guest referee for the main event.
Alicia Fox and Tamina def. AJ and Kaitlyn
The match was whatever, which was par for the course for the Divas division in 2011 (especially considering how terrible Tamina was/is in my opinion), but the real focus was on the pre-match promo from the babyface duo and them suffering yet another loss. Their "coach" Natalya's advice to them was to not lose, yet they lost again. I honestly don't recall this going anywhere except for Natalya turning heel, which didn't happen for another two months, and by this point, this angle had been forgotten about. Essentially, this match was meaningless.
Cody Rhodes Addressed Daniel BryAN
Rhodes' "un-dashing" gimmick went way longer than it should have in my opinion, but it was still generating genuine heat by this point. This was a great promo from him as he addressed his loss to Bryan the week prior and vowed to avenge the defeat the next time they met one-on-one. Rhodes was an underrated talker even in 2011 and this promo was proof of that.
Jinder Mahal def. Yoshi Tatsu
This match marked the official in-ring SmackDown debut of Mahal, our current WWE Champion as I write this in June 2017. What a difference six years makes, right? Actually, not really, because he isn't that much better now than he was in June 2011 in my opinion. I thought he had plenty of potential to be a star when he initially arrived on the scene, but WWE Creative did him no favors later on. On the bright side, this squash match was kept short and sweet and I liked his alliance with The Great Khali.
Ezekiel Jackson def. Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett by Count-out
You had to know they weren't going to pull the trigger on a title change so close to Capitol Punishment, so perhaps it was for the best that this bout was brief if they were going to do the count-out. That said, the crowd was flat for the finish and it wasn't exactly original. Jackson and Barrett didn't have amazing matches, but they did surprisingly work well against each other and this was fine for what it was. Barrett sending fellow Corre members Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater after Jackson but not going into the ring himself played into the dissension of the group, and they would split up shortly thereafter.
Daniel Bryan def. Ted DiBiase
DiBiase lacked credibility at this point, so while it was difficult to view him as a legitimate threat to Bryan, I enjoyed this as a match because these two had great chemistry together. It was well-documented that Bryan was excellent in the ring, but DiBiase was able to showcase his skills for a change as well. The finish with Bryan reversing DiBiase's Dream Street into the LaBelle Lock was well done and Sin Cara coming to Bryan's aid afterward set up a tag team match for the following week.
World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. Sheamus (Christian Served as Special Guest Referee)
We saw plenty of Orton and Sheamus as opponents on Raw, and even on SmackDown, so it was a pairing that had been done to death by this point, but they can have solid matches from time to time and this was one of those encounters. The ending outcome was never in doubt, but WWE pulled out all the stops in wanting to make viewers think Christian could screw over Orton and cost him the championship. Of course, he would turn heel on him immediately afterward and breath new life into that rivalry.
I have fond memories of WWE in 2011 as a fan (it wasn't the strongest year in recent memory, but I personally was a fan of it for a number of reasons), but this edition of SmackDown reminded me of how many issues the blue brand was dealing with at the time. The Brand Split wouldn't be called off until August, but it was already on its way out, and the sad state of SmackDown was a big reason why. The progression of the Christian vs. Orton program was entertaining and Bryan vs. DiBiase was well-wrestled, but the rest of this show dragged considerably.
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