February 19th, 2015
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Prologue/Rant: We start with a video recap package of the Bryan/Reigns feud including highlights from this past week’s Raw. The work Daniel Bryan did on commentary during Roman Reigns’ match against Kane did more to develop Daniel Bryan’s character than any scripted promo he has had to cut in the last year and a half. It gave Daniel Bryan an edge that we have all been begging for and Bryan actually seemed to stand up for himself instead of the “aw, shucks!” Daniel Bryan. The guy is still over with the fans.
It doesn’t make sense for people to say he’s not. Is he less over? That’s arguable. It’s not so much that he’s less over, or less “popular”, as much as it is he needs to evolve his character a little bit. This is what he is doing by showing a bit of subtle edge. This is apparently not good enough for the vocal minority. The guy is still capable of putting together matches that rival any other wrestler in the entire world. Bryan hasn’t had the chance to have a major match since he wrestled Kane on PPV last May. Bryan’s only PPV appearance since then was the Royal Rumble and it’s been pointless tag or TV matches otherwise and since. Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi don’t put together these great four to five star classics every time they step into a ring. Okada and Tanahashi have the benefit of not being on TV twice a week. If they were wrestling TV matches twice a week then they would be in the same boat.
Daniel Bryan’s PPV matches still have the capability of challenging anything Okada and Tanahashi do on NJPW’s big shows. The only thing holding Bryan back from churning out the number of above four star matches as Okada and Tanahashi every year is the booking. If the WWE gives Bryan and Reigns the opportunity to wrestle for 15-20 minutes on Sunday before any screwy finishes happen I fully expect their match to be at minimum a three and a half star match. These two are motivated and driven to prove their critics wrong. Mark my words.
Introduction: The show kicks off with Daniel Bryan making his way to the ring. We see a clip of The Miz and Mizdow in the back from earlier in the day. The Miz is calling back to Daniel Bryan’s NXT days when The Miz was Bryan’s mentor. The Miz equates this to Mizdow’s position now by telling Mizdow if he wants to become something then he should stick with the Miz because the Miz is responsible for Bryan’s success. Michael Cole then comments about his time as a NXT commentator and mentions that Bryan “schooled” his mentor, The Miz.
This was a great call back to history, which WWE seems to forget sometimes, minus the fact that Cole was on the other side of the fence back in 2010 when he was commentating Miz’s and Bryan’s relationship.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz: The Miz orders Mizdow to go to the back. This was essentially a squash match with Bryan getting his signature spots in. Bryan countered the Figure Four Leg Lock into the Yes! Lock which was brilliant looking.
This match served a good purpose. This match put over Daniel Bryan. This match gave us a fresh matchup sans Kane or Big Show. This match spliced together two on-going storylines. This match is what we should see more of on TV. WWE can tell their stories through matches without giving away PPV matches every week. **1/2
Ryback vs. Corporate Kane: These two went back and forth for a few minutes until Ryback got the upper hand and hit Kane with the Warrior Splash and Shell Shock for the win.
Remember when Ryback was Skip Sheffield and word on the sheets was that McMahon loved this guy and wanted him to be the next John Cena? Why can’t he be in Reigns’ role? Ryback is way more developed.
Ambrose forces Barrett to sign contract: This is the recap of Ambrose forcing Barrett to sign a contract giving Ambrose an Intercontinental Title match. The best part of this recap was Michael Cole saying “This was an ingenious move!” Apparently Cole thinks criminally zip tying someone to a turnbuckle post and illegally using a fraudulent contract is genius.
Bad News Barrett vs R-Truth: Dean Ambrose is on commentary here. The trope of rival wrestlers joining the commentary booth during their upcoming opponent’s matches is tired, but what is refreshing about it is it gives us a chance to hear these guys talk in an unscripted environment.
This match ends when Dean Ambrose turns his back at the commentary which enrages Barrett because Barrett wanted Ambrose to see him hit R-Truth with the Bullhammer. R-Truth naturally school boys Barrett for the win. ¼*
What a stupid finish to a match. This is the third time this week that a WWE Superstar has been distracting by not having a guest commentator pay attention to their match. Have they been watching WWE programming over the last five years? The regular commentators rarely pay attention to anything going on in the ring.
Bray Wyatt tells someone he is going to find them: Dan Spivey was on Total Divas last week taking Jim Neidhart to rehab. Why can’t Spivey take Wyatt to gimmick rehab? Spivey was the guy who portrayed “Waylon Mercy” in the mid 90’s which was the gimmick Bray Wyatt is derived from. In fact, Spivey was also Undertaker’s old tag team partner! Spivey should totally be the link between these two feuding. Otherwise what is it? Which one has better magic tricks? Ugh.
The Ascension vs. The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods): During the Ascension’s entrance we get a box-in-box promo of The Ascension talking about how Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were back last week talking about the past and if they were here tonight they would destroy them. Since they aren’t they are going to destroy the New Day. The Ascension vs. Rhodes and Flair sounds kind of awesome now that they mention it.
The Ascension is still an act that I love everything about until the bell rings. They are not imposing and their offense is weak. Big E came into this match and manhandled them until he went for the Big Splash and Konnor got his knees up leading to the Fall of Man to conclude the match. ½*
Roman Reigns vs. Luke Harper: This match was fantastic. Roman Reigns had the best performance of his career in this match and it wasn’t only because Luke Harper is such a fantastic wrestler. Reigns’ offense has never looked as good as it did in this match. Reigns hit Harper with some stiff clotheslines and was tossing around Harper to show off his strength, which pun intended, is his strength. The match concludes with Harper super kicking Reigns in the face only to have Reigns fall back into the ropes and ricochet back into a spear on Harper (similar to the Nigel McGuinness Lariat). Reigns drapes himself over Harper, still selling the effects of the Super Kick, for the three count. ***3/4
Reigns has now had two really good matches on SmackDown in the last month (the other being against the Miz). This further seals the deal for my previous comment. The floor for Bryan vs. Reigns is a three and a half star match and the ceiling is above four stars. Reigns looked so driven in this match.
Triple H pushes down a drunken man: This was a recap of Ric Flair’s surprise appearance on Raw. And to no one’s surprise Ric Flair was visibly intoxicated. The segment was really good; I just wish Flair could clean up his act. Coming on WWE TV drunk is just embarrassing and not a way to complete your legacy.
The Big Show vs. Erick Rowan: This is the long awaited rematch between these two after their critically acclaimed Stairs Match at TLC. Sometimes I have to write sentences that I wish were true to keep myself sane.
The Big Show ambushes Rowan before the match even begins. Rowan spends time sitting in the corner looking dazed as the referee asks him if he wants to him to start the match still. Apparently Dr. Amann is too busy drawing up legal papers against CM Punk and Colt Cabana to tell Rowan this isn’t a good idea. Show squashes Rowan and delivers a rare Choke Slam to Rowan for the win. *1/4
Paige vs. Cameron: The Bella Twins are on commentary for this match adorning sunglasses. Sunglasses are the ultimate heel gear. What kind of self-respecting person wears sunglasses indoors?
Cameron still isn’t very good, but she appears to at least be trying which is something I couldn’t say about her last year. Cameron is still better than Eva Marie. Paige carries Cameron to a decent match full of knee strikes, short arm clotheslines, and the PTO for the win. *3/4
Rhodes Family Reunion: This was a video package of what happened between Gold and Stardust on Raw complete with Dusty Rhodes trying to rehabilitate his sons’ relationship. It was nice to see Dusty approve of his son Cody’s interest in space. I have always loved these two and I can’t wait to see them wrestle at Fastlane. I hope it ends in a match at WrestleMania with Goldust shedding the paint to come back as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes.
Goldust with Renee Young: Goldust in a fiery promo says that “Stardust” is a cancer that is eating his brother away. Goldust then says that he has to do the most difficult thing in his career and that is to face his brother at WWE Fastlane.
Stardust appears on the TV screen behind Goldust and Renee. Stardust promises Goldust that “Cody” won’t be the only one to cease to exist after Fastlane and that everyone will forget the name of……Goldust.
Jimmy Uso vs. Tyson Kidd: Jimmy and Tyson were wrestling a match when all of a sudden Rusev comes out and destroys everyone in his way.
This segment really got over how much of a monster Rusev is, but it’s never a good visual when one man takes out both of your Tag Team Champions.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler: This is a rematch of their match on Raw only this time J&J Security is banned from ringside. Halfway through the match Ryback, Erick Rowan, Big Show, and Kane all make their way ringside. As you can imagine these four men aren’t here just to watch the match. Ziggler bumps around like only he can and Rollins hits the Turnbuckle Powerbomb followed up by a Curb Stomp for the win. I’ve been critical of Ziggler as a wrestler lately, but do admit there are few people who make their opponent’s finishers look as stellar as Ziggler does. Ziggler should make it onto everyone’s Titan Tron videos. **1/2
This finishes with a wild brawl with J&J making their way to the ring to help. This of course sets up the 6-man tag team match at Fastlane: Ziggler, Ryback, and Rowan vs. Rollins, Show, and Kane.
SmackDown continues to follow the format of an old Saturday morning WWE show of old (Wrestling Challenge, WWF All American Wrestling, etc.) to where few of the matches go long. Most matches are squashes, but the show does a good job of getting programs/feuds over and continues storylines. The Reigns vs. Harper match could very well be my “Hidden Gem of the Week” in my Weekly WWE Soapbox column on Monday morning. That match will forever be embedded in my mind as Reigns match where I finally saw that he “got it.”
You can follow me on Twitter @MrTCMitchell for more of my thoughts on wrestling as well as look forward to the WWE Fastlane PPV Review this Sunday night that I will be joining the rest of the Voices of Wrestling PPV round table for.