WWE SmackDown
January 15th, 2015
Baton Rouge, La.

Introduction: We get a new opening sequence complete with new graphics and pyro to kick off the show!

“Just as ‘The Great One’ would say,” Michael Cole says emphatically. “’Finally… SmackDown has come back to Thursday Nights!’”

Daniel Bryan makes his big entrance to the ring. Daniel Bryan’s hair is longer than it ever has been in his career.

Daniel Bryan in ring promo: Byron Saxton introduces Daniel Bryan who says he’s excited because he’s back to where he belongs.

Saxton throws to a recap of Kane attacking Daniel Bryan and putting him out of action. Daniel Bryan recalls Team Hell No and the history between he and Kane as well as Daniel Bryan considering him a friend and a brother.

Bryan says doctor after doctor told him that he would not wrestle again. Daniel wraps up by saying “…tonight, I WIN. And a week from Sunday at the Royal Rumble, I WIN. And in three months at WrestleMania, I WIN!”

Triple H’s music hits and out comes Triple H, Corporate Kane, Big Show, Seth Rollins and and J&J Security. Eden then announces the match.

It’s interesting that every time someone is stabbed in the back in the WWE that the backstabber was thought of as a “brother” to the victim. It’s part of that WWE vernacular that always comes through the promos that make everything sound so scripted. Maybe this is WWE’s explanation for why Edge and Christian aren’t blood related brothers anymore and they’re just friends. They were never actually brothers; they were just “like brothers”.

This was about as good a promo as you’re going to get from Bryan, especially for a program he isn’t fully invested in.

Daniel Bryan vs. Corporate Kane: Daniel Bryan starts the match quickly by hitting Kane with a missile dropkick and a fury of forearms and kicks. Daniel Bryan controls the beginning portion of the match until Kane can squeeze in some rest holds. Kane had Bryan set up for a superplex but Bryan head-butted Kane off the turnbuckle. Normally, this leads to either the flying headbutt or the missile dropkick, but Bryan went for a cross body instead. Was this because of Bryan’s neck injury? Is this his new move?

Bryan then goes through his signature comeback sequence and gets Kane in the LaBell Lock, only to have J&J Security break up the submission to cause a DQ. **3/4

The Authority follows Bryan up the ramp only to have former Shield brothers, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, come out to back him up. This leads to Triple H going Teddy Long on our asses as he makes a 6-man tag later tonight.

The new commentary team of Cole, Lawler and Saxton did a good job here. They were all on point and only talked about things that were relevant to this match. Saxton was seemingly ignored by his veteran counterparts, though. You could have cut out all of his dialogue and not noticed that anything was missing. Bryan came off as a little rusty, but still top notch. This was a good TV match for him to get out of the way before heading into the Rumble match. Also, I won’t complain about watching two Daniel Bryan matches in one night.

Randy Savage Hall of Fame Induction: They showed the same video that aired on monday night. The WWE Hall of Fame doesn’t mean anything to me as far an accomplishment, but it does interest me to hear the speeches. It would be really good to hear a Lanny Poffo acceptance speech on his brother’s behalf, as it is always wonderful to hear the endearing stories Lanny tells about his older brother.

Bray Wyatt Promo: Our society labels Bray as a threat and we can only contain this poison for so long until it seeps from the cracks….. Ugh. Copy and paste any Bray Wyatt promo you’ve ever heard and insert “I’m going to win the Royal Rumble at the end.” By the way, Joe Lanza said it best: Bray Wyatt will forever be known as the “Cajun Warlock” to me.

The Uso’s & Naomi vs. The Miz, Damien Mizdow & Alicia Fox: This was a good little match. The Uso’s put together their usual good work. The Miz picks up the win after he shoves his stunt double into the way of an Uso Superkick and then hits the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.

(The Uso’s were on Jericho’s podcast today and it was a great interview. If you have an affinity for the Samoan wrestling lineage, then it’s a MUST listen.)

Roman Reigns interviewed by Renee Young: Renee asks Roman if he can coexist tonight with Bryan and Ambrose given that they will be opponents at the Royal Rumble. Roman then goes back to a one on the 1-10 promo scale and Roman does that weird winking thing too. Last week I stated his promo was a two out of 10 based on a more comfortable delivery. The thing about Roman Reigns’ promos is that the content and delivery are both awful.

Paul Heyman In-ring promo: Paul Heyman storms to the ring in fury. Heyman rants and raves about how Brock Lesnar likes to destroy people like Undertaker and John Cena on Sunday nights because he has nothing better to do. Heyman continues that at the Royal Rumble Brock Lesnar is going to F5 the “future” back to the past. This causes Seth Rollins to come out and interrupt.

Rollins cuts the promo of his life.

Rollins tells Heyman that he is sick and tired of being told he is hiding behind the Authority. Rollins throws down the Money in the Bank briefcase and in a fiery rage declares he is cashing in right now on Brock Lesnar. Heyman then declares that Lesnar is obviously not here tonight. Rollins tells Heyman that he will have to Curb Stomp him then. Paul talks his way out of this situation by telling Seth that one day, when the Authority isn’t here anymore, Brock Lesnar could be around to protect whoever the champion in the future is. This is a great Rollins promo. Seth has MADE IT. He will be a star for years. Go watch this now!

Natalya vs. Nikki Bella: This was a short and basic match. Brie gets on the apron to distract Natalya which then only allows Paige to smack Nikki behind the preoccupied referee’s back. Natalya slaps on the Sharpshooter for the win. *

Big Show’s backstage interviewed by Renee Young: Big Show cuts Renee off and says tonight he is going to knock out Bryan, Reigns and Ambrose. Big Show says he is entering the Rumble match because that is where he dominates and that there isn’t anyone who can eliminate him, obviously ignoring the fact that he has been in a dozen rumble matches in the past and has never won. Kane then interrupts and reminds Show that he too, is entered into the Rumble match.

Intercontinental Championship Match – Bad News Barrett © vs. Sin Cara: Eden gives the “big match” pre-match intros. This has to be Sin Cara’s first singles title challenge, right? This was a decent match. Sin Cara got in his high flying and Barrett got the best WWE finisher in, the Bull Hammer off a spring board from Sin Cara for the win. Barrett should be a main eventer. **3/4

Seth Rollins, The Big Show, and Corporate Kane: The Authority comes out to separate entrances for some reason. Roman Reigns always looks so cool coming out during his entrance that it really makes you hate his jokey promos. The same could be said about Sheamus. Just let the badasses be badasses. Reigns needs to lead a stable of him and the Uso’s. Give the Uso’s the old Shield gear and call the three of them the “Samoan SWAT team”. I’m only half kidding about that idea.

Remember all of those awesome six-man tag team matches we got back in the Shield days? This was in that class. Fast paced and fun with a hot crowd that just wanted to cheer on Bryan. Bryan had a really good return tonight and picks up the clean win over Kane here after hitting the Busaiku Knee. ***1/2

Final Thoughts:

This was a really fun episode of SmackDown. Probably the best since I’ve been reviewing the show for this site. Bryan has stated in interviews in the past week that he wants to become the face of SmackDown and this reviewer welcomes that for sure!