In recent months it has been said that, moreso than ever, Vince McMahon’s decision-making changes from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour. These are creative changes, designed to deliver the best product from what are now three “separate” brands in Raw, Smackdown, and ECW. But any creative planning for this year’s Great American Bash, crumbled this past week with the news that Mark Henry, The Great Khali, and Bobby Lashley would all be absent from tonight’s proceedings.

The reality of Henry’s absence has been known for nearly a week now, since the former Olympian both tore his patella from the bone, and split it in two during last week’s Saturday Night’s Main Event show. Whilst our sympathy is with him in light of such a serious injury, the time-frame at least allotted the company the opportunity to announce a replacement on Smackdown, where Batista accepted the challenge of Ken Kennedy.

The problems regarding Lashley and Khali however, were not reported until this weekend. In a statement on on Friday, it was noted that Lashley was “found to have elevated enzymes of the liver”, and he will not return to the ring at least until he is examined further. On the website, it was noted that there would be no replacement in the Triple-Threat U.S Title match, as champion Finlay would now engage with heel ally William Regal.

Somewhat oddly, The Great Khali apparently suffered a similar fate, and also failed his medical due to liver problems. That however, was not made public by the company, and would most likely be addressed in an angle with The Undertaker during the pay-per-view. The Undertaker would now be pitted against The Big Show.

From an old-school standpoint, Finlay vs Regal was unquestionably a step-up from the previously-booked three-way match, and anything was sure to be better than an actual bout involving Khali. Still, with so many changes being made virtually last-minute, one had to wonder how this would affect the overall quality of the Smackdown-brand PPV at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Match #1 – Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Brian Kendrick & Paul London ( c ) vs The Pitbulls.

Straight off the bat was the Tag Team Championship match, which wasn’t that surprising given that realistically, only this or the Gregory Helms match could have opened. Still, as JBL was quick to point out, this match had the potential to steal the show, something that would not have been a good thing for the remainder of the card.

Living up to the hype, this was an extremely fast-paced encounter, which virtually no breaks in the action. The babyfaces made many quick tags in the early going, and scored stereo dropkicks on Kash & Noble, before also hitting beautiful top-rope topes. Moments later however, as London attempted to “skin the cat” (use the ropes to pull himself back into the ring, a la Ricky Steamboat), Noble caught him with a dropkick to the stomach which sent him to a painful landing on the floor.

He soon recovered to make the tag though, whereupon Kendrick cleaned house, hitting a nice crossbody from the top to the floor on Noble. Back in the ring, Kendrick again came off the top rope, this time delivering a sunset flip to Kash, who was able to maintain his feet until London hit him with the Dropsault, allowing Kendrick to follow through with the sunset for the three-count.

Winners – Brian Kendrick and Paul London

Rating – 7.5 / 10

Backstage, we were shown Khali’s locker-room, where Daivari was attempting to convince his charge to wait for his match with The Undertaker, rather than attack him there and then. Lifting Daivari high above his head, it didn’t seem that the big man agreed.

Teddy Long then made his way to the ring to announce that Bobby Lashley was unable to compete for the aforementioned health reasons. Lashley then came to the ring, in his wrestling gear, and despite a crowd chant of “Let him fight”, Long refused. A disconsolate Lashley then left the ringside area, having to walk past the two men that he was due to be facing, champion Finlay and William Regal. Finlay proclaimed that he should be awarded the match via forfeit, but had he read, he would have realized that the match had already been rebooked as a singles confrontation between the United Kingdom natives.

Match #2 – United States Championship: Finlay ( c ) vs William Regal

Regal began the encounter by having a look around the ring for the Leprechaun that aided Finlay’s title win over Lashley two weeks ago on Smackdown. He found him too, when the miniature Finlay took a bite out of Regal’s fingers, which were then stomped on by his Northern Irish opponent. Away from these shenanigans, the match could have passed as a 1980s British match, such were the tactics and methodical pace. That wasn’t to the palette of the crowd however, who registered loud “Boring” chants which Michael Cole felt obliged to mention were because Lashley wasn’t there.

In the end, after what was a stiff but uneventful contest, the Leprechaun stripped Regal of one of his boots, which Finlay used as a weapon against the Englishman, scoring the pinfall with feet on the ropes.

Winner – Finlay

Match rating – 6.0 / 10

Chavo Guerrero then appeared backstage — he has been doing a lot of that recently! — to let Rey Mysterio know that everyone is very proud of him and that, in a way, he’s fulfilling Eddie Guerrero’s dream to be World champion again.

Match #3 – Gregory Helms vs Matt Hardy

This match was quite the surprise, as it was anticipated that Super Crazy would receive a shot at the Cruiserweight championship here. That said, the match began quickly, with Hardy mocking Helms’ previous guise as The Hurricane, before hitting a plancha dive. A beautiful swinging neckbreaker changed the tide in the Cruiserweight champion’s favour, and he went back to the same move moments later, on this occasion hitting it big-time as he and Hardy stood on the top turnbuckle.

Continuing the advantage, Helms struck with a variation of Christian Cage’s Unprettier, and also hit an enziguri for another near-fall. Hardy rebounded with a moonsault press, but as he stood on the second rope, Helms lifted him away and dropped him face-first on the turnbuckle, after which he held the tights to take the victory.

Winner – Gregory Helms

Match rating – 7.5 / 10

Again backstage, Khali stormed around the arena with Daivari, who had evidently failed to persuade the 7-foot-2 monster to wait for the Punjabi Prison match to finish off The Undertaker. Momentarily left alone, The Undertaker appeared from nowhere and threw the manager into the air, only to be immediately double-teamed by Khali and The Big Show. Minutes later, Teddy Long confronted the three and decreed that only one giant would face The Undertaker this evening, that being the ECW champion. No-one — Khali, Daivari, Big Show, the crowd — was impressed.

Back at ringside, Michael Cole informed us what a Punjabi Prison match actually is. There are too bamboo-stick cages, one around the ring and a further one around that. The first cage has four doors, each of which can be opened for 60 seconds only, at the behest of one of the participants. The idea is to escape both cages, the second cage by climbing over the top.

Match #4 – The Punjabi Prison match: The Big Show vs The Undertaker

As The Big Show made his way to the ring, Michael Cole insisted that Show looked like he was “about to cry”, which is hardly the way to promote the champion of a brand that is supposed to be extreme.

The match began with some back-and-forth brawling before Show slammed The Undertaker from the top rope, as he went for his “Old School” climb. After an unsuccessful attempt by each participant to get out through one of one of the doors, Show rammed ‘Taker into an unprotected top turnbuckle, cutting “The Deadman” open.

The Undertaker soon rebounded however, and incredibly, he hit a superplex, the enormity of which must have reverberated throughout the entire arena. ‘Taker then managed to get out the door of the first cage, but Show — exiting out the final door — stopped him making much progress up the second. Show then threw Taker back inside the first cage, and with the doors now all locked, he was forced to come over the top of the first to recover his position.

As the two continued to brawl, ‘Taker climbed half way up the outside of the first cage, and delivered a twisting crossbody onto Show, and they both crashed through the second cage, at which point ‘Taker was declared the winner.

Winner – The Undertaker

Match rating – 4.0 / 10

Match #5 – Bra & Panties match: Kristal vs Michelle vs Jillian vs Ashley

Just something to think about in a bra & panties match: surely if you were interested in winning, you would wear as many layers of clothing as possible, to avoid being stripped to your undergarments? Apparently, this tactic has yet to catch on, as all four participants came to the ring already wearing next-to-nothing.

In any case, Michelle had partially the right idea by wearing two skirts, but it was Ashley who won the “match” — which JBL humorously compared to Lou Thesz vs Jack Brisco — by stripping Kristal of her top. Ashley and Jillian then stripped for the hell of it.

Winner – Ashley

Match rating – 1.5 / 10

Match #6 – Ken Kennedy vs Batista

In the build-up to this match, Batista — who received a tremendous ovation here — claimed that he would take out all of his hatred of Mark Henry on Kennedy, and that seemed to play out in the opening minutes of the contest, as Kennedy was cut badly after being sent into the ring steps. After taking quite the beating, Kennedy feigned that he was going to go back to the dressing room, but as soon as Batista’s back was turned, he attempted to attack him from behind. The former World champion was expecting this ploy however, and delivered a Spear as Kennedy hit the ring.

When he finally managed to get in some serious offence, Kennedy tried to take advantage of Batista’s previously-injured arm, pushing him into the ring steps. This only seemed to anger Batista however, who was soon disqualified when he refused to release his foot from Kennedy’s throat. After the bout, Batista laid out Kennedy with three spinebusters, and his patented Batista Bomb.

Winner – Ken Kennedy (by disqualification)

Match rating – 6.0 / 10

Match #7 – World Championship match – Rey Mysterio ( c ) vs King Booker

As is becoming the norm these days, both men made their way to the ring prior to the introductions by ring announcer Tony Chimmel. It’s a nice touch, and sets the World title matches apart from the other bouts on the card. As the match began, there were again audible boos for Mysterio, and a surprising amount of cheers for King Booker.

Mysterio hit several big moves in the opening moments of the bout, including a seated senton from the top rope to the floor, as well as a springboard splash to the back of the challenger when they returned to the ring. He was soon caught with a crescent kick however, and Booker even stole the Three Amigos vertical suplexes, to add insult to injury.

Rey soon came back though, and just missed a 619 when Booker fled at the last second. When he went for it a second time however, Queen Sharmell hooked his leg from the outside, a move which prompted referee Nick Patrick to send her back to the dressing room.

Mysterio attempted to get back on track with a bulldog, but it was blocked by “The King”, who countered into a beautiful back suplex. After surviving a rebuttal which included a twisting crossbody and a spinning DDT, Booker threw Mysterio into referee Patrick, who was knocked cold. But Mysterio took the advantage again, and scored with another seated seaton (this time inside the ring), followed up by a 619 and a Frog Splash, only to realize that Patrick was still out from the previous incident.

This allowed Booker to strike with the Book End, after which he grabbed a chair from ringside, although he immediately found it flung back in his face courtesy of a kick from the champion. Chavo Guerrero then hit the ring, and turned on Mysterio by almost taking his head off which a chair, an act which drew a 50-50 reaction from the audience. As Booker then pleaded with Patrick to get up, the referee regained his bearings and delivered the three-count to crown a new champion.

Winner – King Booker

Match rating – 7.0 / 10

Overall, The Great American Bash was a reasonable event, which dealt adequately with the changes that had been inflicted upon it over the last week. That said, the Finlay vs Regal contest should have been much better, and the most positive thing that can be said about the Punjabi Prison match is that it was not one of the worst matches of all-time, a fate it surely would have suffered had the bout contained the inimitable “talents” of The Great Khali.

The positives to pull from the card were the Tag Team Title match and the very good bout between Gregory Helms and Matt Hardy. Furthermore, whilst it was not in itself a tremendous match, the finish of the Mysterio vs Booker T championship match should ignite Smackdown over the coming months, and afford the company several excellent main events on upcoming pay-per-views.