WWE SmackDown
Friday, January 9th
Laredo, Texas

Welcome back: Hello, my name is Taylor C. Mitchell (@LuchaNerd on Twitter) and welcome to my own personal wrestling review Hell, aka WWE SmackDown! I have taken the last few weeks off due to some internet issues here at the Mitchell house and a nice trip to Florida, only to return back to central Indiana with some beautiful -20 degree weather and an impending ice storm. Full disclosure: I haven’t watched a full episode of Monday Night Raw or Smackdown in three weeks.

Raw Recap: John Cena arbitrarily brought the Authority back through a silly storyline and then the Authority fired Erick Rowan, Ryback, and Dolph Ziggler as a consequence of wrestling on “Team Cena” at Survivor Series. There have been plenty of people who have ripped this story to shreds, so let’s move on and hope this show is better.

Opening segment with Seth Rollins: Mr. Money in the Bank comes to the ring accompanied by J&J Security to make fun of John Cena for “being had.” Rollins revels in the fact that John Cena got Ziggler, Ryback, and Rowan fired. Rollins, thankfully, moves on to what he should be happier about, and that is being added the WWE title match at the Royal Rumble. Rollins then takes a moment of silence complete with the despicable 10 bell salute to the careers of Ziggler, Rowan, and Ryback. Before the bell can be rung 10 times Roman Reigns interrupts and makes his way through the crowd and down to the ring. Reigns calls Rollins a sell out and tells Rollins that he is going to kick his ass. Reigns punches Rollins, throws Noble down, throws Mercury down, and scares the three of the men off as they scurry away. The Big Show and Corporate Kane join Rollins and J&J on stage. Kane tells Reigns that it will be Show and Rollins vs. Reigns and a partner of his choosing. Kane warns anyone that becomes Reigns partner that they will fall into disfavor with the Authority.

Seth Rollins continues to deliver some great promos despite the heavily scripted nature of them. Rollins is so dastardly and despicable. In a land of WWE heels that try to shill merch and be “cool”, it is refreshing to see a guy work the heel gimmick the way it should be worked. If all of Roman Reigns promos during his injury and since would be rated a one on a 1-10 scale, then I would give this promo he cut a two. Slight, slight improvement. Reigns looked more comfortable on the mic and less like he was trying to spout out scripted lines. The promo was kept concise and to the point until Reigns did what he does best and that is kick butt like the action movie hero character he is.

Kane backstage with the Mizzes: Kane is on the phone, seemingly with the Authority, when The Miz comes in to brown nose Kane about how exciting it is to have the Authority back in power. Miz then requests that the previously announced WWE Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Tag Team Match with the Uso’s and Dust Brothers be changed to just a 2 on 2 match with the Mizzes challenging for the title against the Uso’s. Kane appears to grant this to Miz until Mizdow accidentally splashes a bottle of water in Kane’s face forcing Kane to rescind his change.

It is interesting that the WWE can find a way to write every single segment to be based around a central story (the Authority), but can’t find a way to the do the same when the central story should be the WWE title being vacant and every wrestler wants a shot it, or Brock Lesnar isn’t showing up on TV so all of the wrestlers are trying to prove they should be the next contender, or the Royal Rumble match is coming up and all of the wrestlers are exciting about getting a chance to earn a chance to main event WrestleMania. Ugh.

Big E w/ Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston vs. Adam Rose w/ the Exotic Express, Cesaro, and Tyson Kidd: This match would have been more fun as a six-man tag. Big E looked good as per usual and Adam Rose continued to show his much-needed mean streak. Big E wins after a big splash and a Big Ending despite Adam Rose connecting with a tornado DDT. *3/4

The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) vs. Ham and Egger (Jobber 1 and Jobber 2): One of my favorite classic pro wrestling tropes is the jobber squash match. I grew up on Saturday morning wrestling that was filled with WWE superstars squashing these buggy whipping, ham and egger, out of shape wimps. It was great, and I wish the WWE would bring them back. They are such valuable tools to get over a superstar’s gimmick and arsenal of moves.

This match was fantastic. I really dig the Ascension’s gimmick and shtick. They cut a promo to start the match that was similar to their promo this past Monday on Raw. Then they DESTROY these jobbers with some stiff beat downs in a matter of minutes. I never dug The Ascension’s work in NXT, but I like this new direction. Hopefully they are able to understand how to work their gimmick better in their matches to come off as big destroyers (I realize they aren’t really THAT big), because in NXT they would often wrestle small, if that makes sense. If the WWE really wanted to have a throwback Road Warriors team again though, they should have brought in The Devastation Corporation from CHIKARA, they pull it off so much better. *** (Say what?! I told you, I love jobber squash matches. Especially ones that you could tell the jobbers are going to be sore the next day.)

Byron Saxton backstage with The Uso’s: This might be the best Uso’s promo ever. (Wash, Rinse, and Repeat what I said about Roman Reigns slight improvement with pulling off a 2-out-of-10). Of course Saxton has to ask the Uso’s about the Authority being back in power first. Then the Uso’s finish off strong saying they are going to walk out with the titles despite it being a Triple Threat Match.

Alicia Fox vs. Naomi: Every Diva’s feud is about one Diva throwing make up on another Diva or spilling something in her hair or calling her fat or something else catty and unrealistic. The WWE writers and Vince McMahon are completely out of touch when it comes to women’s wrestling. Divas should be fighting towards becoming Diva’s Champion. Not these petty, stereotypical, and trite storylines. The NXT Divas division is competitive. Go back and watch Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks from R Evolution. They start that match off with the second best pre-match stare down of 2014 (Minoru Suzuki vs. AJ Styles owns the top spot). The way Charlotte did her signature back somersault into getting in Banks’ face whilst holding the championship in the air just got me so pumped for that match. I digress, this match stunk, as you can imagine, but Naomi’s potential was prevalent. It would be great to see Naomi mixing it up with the NXT girls and showing what she is capable of. ½*

Bray Wyatt Backstage Promo: Bray Wyatt’s promos are some of the most polarizing aspects of WWE TV. According to fans, they are either great TV or nonsensical and boring. I’ve finally got my finger on the problem. All of Bray’s promo sound like he is just going around in circles about non-sense, and the reason for that is the writing team has no clue what direction the WWE is going in. If Bray knew what his character was doing four weeks from now then he would be able to direct his promos towards the goal. Instead he is stuck delivering these potentially great promos about nothing of substance. Bray here begins by talking about how he thought Dean Ambrose was “different”. Really? He hadn’t realized the first 20 times they wrestled already? And then he goes to talk about winning the Royal Rumble, which thank the Lord, because he is the first wrestler to mention it.

Daniel Bryan’s in-ring return next week on Smackdown: The WWE has been doing a really good job of advertising the big Daniel Bryan return match for the first Smackdown on Thursday next week. I would have liked to see the WWE announce his opponent as well. Why not make it Kane? Kane is the guy who put him out of action. It would give them an opportunity to close the door on that feud on TV, so as to not waste a Daniel Bryan PPV match on Kane. And I would have Daniel Bryan destroy Kane in that match. Have him gain momentum by squashing the former popcorn vendor and gain revenge on Kane thus propelling Daniel Bryan into a whirlwind of momentum headed into the Royal Rumble. Of course, we are talking about the “goat faced B+ player geek vegan nerdy guy who is just a good hand in the ring”.

WWE Triple Threat Tag Team Championship Match – The Uso’s (Jimmy and Jey Uso) © vs. Gold and Stardust vs. The Miz and Damien Mizdow: This match is the cookie cutter match that you have seen in any other match with any combination of these teams. The WWE tag team division is like the NJPW IWGP Jr. Tag division. The same teams with the same matches. They often leave you feeling like “well, that was damn good” only to forget what the result or high spot was the next day. The Uso’s win here with a Snuka Splash. Let’s hope the Ascension figure out how to work a real match, so they can add some flavor to this division. **3/4

Bad News Barrett vs. Sin Cara: This match goes back and forth in a short sub-5 minute match. Sin Cara catches Barrett off guard and wins the match with the Swanton Dive off the top. Barrett then attacks Sin Cara after the match and takes Sin Cara out with the Bull Hammer.

The WWE has got to stop having their mid card champions lose. It is almost a joke as if Vince McMahon is trolling the smarky fans at this point. Barrett is so talented and his Bull Hammer has been the most protected finisher in the WWE in recent years. USE THIS! This is a way to build Barrett up! Look at what NJPW did with Okada and the Rainmaker! WWE is so frustrating… **1/2

Ryback, Erick Rowan, and Ziggler post-Raw / post-firing promos: This was a series of separate interviews Renee Young did with each superstar that were WWE.com exclusive. Each interview felt real, organic, and authentic. WWE needs to use this style of interview on their TV shows. Rather than the convoluted style of backstage segments with the wrestlers standing in front of the camera in an unnatural way, have it look real. Steal this from Impact Wrestling, because that is the best thing Impact does. Everything backstage looks authentic and unscripted.

Seth Rollins and The Big Show w/ J&J Security and Corporate Kane vs. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose: Ambrose was supposed to be the BIG SURPRISE tag team partner for Reigns even though Michael Cole uses the WWE Subtlety Hammer (copyright R. Kraetsch and J. Lanza) by saying someone would have to be “crazy” to team with Reigns! And only a “lunatic” would team with Reigns!

Ambrose comes in as a ball of fiery energy by renewing his feud with Rollins right away. JBL even comments on how Ambrose has to be hurting after all of the matches he has had with Bray Wyatt recently, which was told in the ring by having Rollins and Show take a turn working over Ambrose as Reigns was forced to look on from the apron.

Roman Reigns gets the hot tag and Superman Punches everyone in sight until Big Show choke slams him. Ambrose takes out everyone ringside with a dive. Rollins goes for the Curb Stomp and Reigns ducks and then nails Rollins with the Spear for the win. **3/4

This was a decent little Smackdown main event match with some great work from Ambrose and Rollins. Reigns did that 2 out of 10 improvement thing again.

Final Thoughts:

This episode of SmackDown wasn’t as nice as the weather in Cocoa Beach, Fla., but wasn’t as bad as the impending weather in Indianapolis. It was nicely paced and went down easy. It had some storyline progression and some improvement from Reigns. The crowd was only hot during the closing sequence of the main event and quiet the rest of the night. Seth Rollins continues to be the best heel in the company. Daniel Bryan is back next week on the first Thursday episode of Smackdown years.