This is the go-home Smackdown show heading into WrestleMania XXX. This show is traditionally filled with 95% WrestleMania hype and 5% actual wrestling. These matches were recorded after Monday Night Raw this past week so that the WWE could move into New Orleans to get ready for WrestleMania Axxess.
We start off the show with JBL and Michael Cole selling excitement for the Show of Shows and Dolph Ziggler coming out for the opening match of the night to take on Titus O’Neil.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Titus O’Neil: Cole mentions that these two will be joining 28 other superstars in the inaugural (implying it won’t just be appearing this year??) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Titus controls most of the match until Ziggler sneaks away with the win after reversing a fallaway slam into a Zig Zag. **
We then go to Jerry Lawler and Renee Young at WrestleMania Axxess. They show the superstar entrance event, the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, and Undertaker’s Graveyard. Jerry states that he has watched every single one of Taker’s WrestleMania matches and this is the most concerned he has ever been for the streak ending. FINALLY! Some WWE analyst doesn’t pick The Undertaker to win this match. Too little, too late.
We get a highlight package of the streak’s history and then Paul Heyman sitting down during a pre-tape talking about the streak being 21-1 and the Beast Incarnate blah blah beating Undertaker blah blah.
The video package for this was really awesome as WWE rarely puts together a video package that isn’t awesome, but this match’s buildup gets an F- from me. Taker destroyed Brock mentally and physically every week building up to this until Brock finally got his comeuppance way too late this past Monday. This is the first in recent years that 0% of me believe Taker loses this match (Last year I gave the Punkster 1% of a chance). I know once the match starts it will be awesome. And the setting I will be watching it in will make it better. Every year for WrestleMania I throw a party and have 15-20 people over. We all fill out a predictions survey where we predict match outcomes along with goofy things like “how long will Undertaker’s entrance be?” or “Who will be thrown through the Spanish announce table?” etc. and when you are in a room full of hardcore and casual wrestling fans it makes the infinite number of near falls you get on WrestleMania night that much more exciting.
Renee shows an outside shot of the Mercedes Benz Superdome and then shows kids at Axxess playing with the Slam City action figures. These cartoons are so cool – they are on the WWE Network. Jerry briefly mentions Cena and Wyatt wrestling at WrestleMania until Renee segues into the Michael Cole sit down interview he did with Stephanie McMahon this past week.
In this interview, Cole congratulates Stephanie on the Network. Cole this asks what example Stephanie and Triple H are setting for superstars trying to break the mold coming out of NXT if these are treating Daniel Bryan this way. Stephanie spins this as they don’t have issues with Daniel Bryan’s popularity. They have issues with Daniel Bryan putting people in danger like at #OccupyRaw. Cole fires back that this started happening prior to #OccupyRaw. Stephanie McMahon retorts that Daniel Bryan is a B+ player and when he puts people’s lives in danger he has to face the consequences. We get a recap video of Triple H’s beat down on Daniel Bryan from 3 weeks ago. Cole asks Stephanie if Daniel Bryan comes out on top vs. Triple H if they will finally admit they were wrong with Daniel Bryan. Stephanie says the match isn’t even fair for Daniel Bryan because he looks like a “pea” next to Triple H. She goes on that Triple H is going to put an end to the “Yes! Movement” and go on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Renee and Jerry talk more about Axxess and show the Andre statue and the memorabilia they have around.
We then get a video package promoting the Ultimate Warrior DVD.
We get another awesome video package highlighting the Cena vs. Wyatt feud. This match’s build up gets a solid A from me. I had zero interest in this match when Dave Meltzer announced it as being a strong possibility for WrestleMania. The buildup has turned that a complete 180 for me. Wyatt is the perfect foil for Bray Wyatt. Wyatt should win and become an unstoppable monster, Cena should go away and get his much needed rest, and come back to challenge the eater of the world’s again at maybe Summerslam.
Renee then points out that Randy Orton has been lost in the shuffle. Jerry this furthers this point emphasizing that with Batista winning the Royal Rumble and the Daniel Bryan/Triple H feud they have cast a shadow on the champion. Can I just point out that Jerry Lawler is really good in this role? Jerry is shockingly on point and making relevant observations. Night and day compared to his commentary. The WWE needs to be aware of this and have Jerry Lawler permanently stuck at the Pre-show and Post-Show Raw booths.
We then go to a sit down interview that Booker T conducts with Randy Orton. These sit down interviews are awesome. The NFL and NBA have these sit down interview on a weekly basis with the athletes of the big prime time games every week. I love when the WWE does these things to make their big PPV’s feel like real sports and feel like really big deals.
Booker starts off asking Orton how it felt be the first to win the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Orton talks about the journey it took him to get there. Orton highlights winning the Money in the Bank, defeating Daniel Bryan, and then defeating John Cena. Booker asks him how he feels about the main event being made into a Triple Threat match. Randy Orton pushes aside the fact that this is completely in fair for him that another superstar has been added into the match. Booker asks Orton about Daniel Bryan. Orton says the Yes! Thing is a fad and that he looks back and laughs watching Daniel Bryan struggling to make it to the top because it was so easy for Orton. Orton then points out that Bryan or Triple H is going to be worn down before they make it to the main event. Orton then talks about Batista being a former cohort. Orton talks about how 4 years removed from Batista’s last WWE run things have changed. Orton then says that at the end of WrestleMania he is going to be standing tall.
Los Matadores (Diego and Fernando) w/ El Torito vs. The Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Cesaro) w/ Zeb Colter: Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan is going to be the main event of WrestleMania XXXI… in a perfect world.
Los Matadores by the way, are the coolest tag team the WWE has and they need to be on TV every single show they have.
We start the match off with Swagger taking on Diego. The fans break out in a “We the People” chant. Los Matadores get the best of Cesaro with their signature offense. Cesaro then bends down to get some coaching/advice from Colter. Colter smacks Cesaro in the face. Cesaro gets totally pissed and takes it out on Diego delivering uppercut after uppercut just completely destroying Diego. Diego gets double teamed by the Real Americans, but reverses it into a double DDT. The Real American regain the advantage and work on Diego keeping him from tagging Fernando. Fernando finally gets the hot tag and takes apart Cesaro with his quick paced offense. Cesaro then gets Fernando in the Cesaro Swing, hits the Neutralizer and picks up the win. ***
These two teams need to have a throwback tag team feud. The feud wouldn’t need the tag titles. Have Zeb Colter spout his usual racist political jargon and Los Matadores can fight back with their face promos and just have awesome matches together.
We go back to Renee Young and Jerry Lawler talking about the Shield vs. Corporate Kane and the New Age Outlaws.
Another sit down interview with the Shield talking about last year being their WrestleMania debut. They were talking about being the underdogs. Dean Ambrose compares the Shield going into last year to the 1980 USA Men’s Olympic Hockey Team. This year Ambrose says, The Shield is the Yankees. The Shield seems totally unified here. They work so well as faces. The Shield continues to be awesome and continues to need to stay together for at least another year.
We get a clip of Triple H and Bruno Sammartino unveiling the Bruno statue. This and the Andre statue are going to be awesome things to have in front of the WWE Hall of Fame when they open the physical building.
Jerry and Renee are speculating on how Batista is feeling now after the “Bootista” chants and the main event being turned into a Triple Threat match.
Booker T has a sit down interview with Batista. Batista states he wish he had a better place to come back to rather than Dayton, Ohio. C’mon, Batista. It wasn’t Dayton that ruined your comeback. It is the fact that you obviously don’t have your heart in it. It’s the fact that you can work more than 2 minutes without gasping for air. It’s the fact that you don’t look cool, you look like a douche bag.
Batista then talks about his history in WrestleMania. Booker asks Batista about how he feels about it being a Triple Threat Match. Batista says it bothers him that he could lose the match without being pinned. Batista says that Triple H isn’t a threat. Batista says that Daniel Bryan is 5 foot nothing and 100 pounds. Batista says the Yes! Movement is a fad. Batista says that Daniel Bryan is not the real deal. Batista then calls Randy Orton a corporate suck up. Batista says that at the end of WrestleMania he will be standing tall with a big piece of gold and the fans will be booing their heads off and he will be enjoying every minute of it.
Renee and Jerry talk about the Hall of Fame ceremony being unedited with a red carpet ceremony on the WWE Network.
Renee then throws it to the events that closed Monday Night Raw this past week with the Batista vs. Randy Orton match and Daniel Bryan comes out to surprise attack Triple H.
We then go back to ringside with Hulk Hogan returning to Smackdown for the first time in a decade. Hogan cuts his usual nostalgic promo while promoting the battle royal match. Cole and JBL then close the show running down the WrestleMania card.
This episode of Smackdown may have been the best WrestleMania go-home show in many years. I loved the sit down interviews. I would have liked to see Daniel Bryan do a sit down interview talking about his independent days and his boyhood dream of main eventing WrestleMania. Regardless, this was a great way to make WrestleMania seem like a big deal.
In closing, if Daniel Bryan runs the gauntlet, wins the title, and pulls a four star match out of Triple H and another four star match out of Orton and Batista he should go down as the great in ring performer of the last decade. It would seal the deal for that argument. It is the ultimate challenge for Daniel Bryan. The moment alone would forever be a great WrestleMania memory, but the guy that gives every opponent their best match has a challenge of pulling out a quality match with a part time Triple H and a quality match out of a cardio vascular inferior Batista and a subpar main eventer in Orton.