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So, some dude returned on Monday. I will preface my negatives concerning the return with the positives. I loved that he donned the rockstar gimmick again for this return. I remember an interview with him saying that the only way he’d keep going in the wrestling business would be to continuously re-invent himself, and not do the same old schtick again and again. That being said, the reason I loved the look was because of what he did. He didn’t get in the ring and start speaking about Raw is Jericho or the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla. Everyone was hanging on his every breath; every time the microphone got near his mouth, the crowd would hush in anticipation for what their Savior was about to say. It was foregone; they were going to cheer him. So what does he do? He says…NOTHING. And that is how you get over as a heel when you’re guaranteed a face reaction. Now, about the only things I didn’t like about the return were the video segments leading up to it. Or maybe just the combination of the two. The vignettes were dark, brooding, indicative of a woman calling like a Siren to the returning Superstar. It spoke of “The End.” And then we get Jericho, lit up like a Christmas tree, happy as can be. Unless they reference The End of the World next week, it’s just going down as WEIRD to me. Alright, are we ready? Let’s get to SMACKDOWN!
Intercontinental Title Match – Booker T vs. Cody Rhodes (c)
Hell of an opening match. Booker looked like he was in top form up until the go home sequence. You could tell something was off – Cody awkwardly dodging the scissors kick, the extended time in Booker’s ear on the last Irish Whip, and even the stutter step by Booker as he took the Beautiful Disaster. However, before I let that cloud my judgment, those kinds of things are not going to matter to the core WWE audience. Only people who have either worked in a ring before (like Guy and myself) or pay really close attention to that stuff (most of the Premium subscribers, I’d wager) will notice that. The mainstream and casual fan? I’m hoping they enjoyed the match. It was a well put together match, not carried by one or the other, and the finish was a great way to blow off the feud without it wasting PPV time. The timing of this entire feud is something fantastic too, because now the stuff with Goldust can culminate at the Royal Rumble – Goldie can come out and eliminate Cody, and there’s our spark to put this feud into full time status.
Match Grade: A-
Close Encounters of a Brotherly Kind
Great way for Cody to keep the ball rolling on this much anticipated feud. The fact that no one has seen the Goldust character in at least a year, and Cody mentioning putting the gimmick on again will create a pretty decent pop when the Golden One appears.
Segment Grade: A
Job vs. Job
Well, at least they’ve acknowledged that Zack is moving above this menial position. I like the premise of Drew’s reputation/status vs. Santino trying to get a job – but more on my McIntyre thoughts later. I. Am. Done. With. Aksana.
Segment Grade: B-
I smell a breakup in the future…PERFECT.
Daniel Bryan is going heel! I can’t believe it, but everything he did tonight was perfect as a heel, and snarkiness will garner you boos…always. Now, he’s going to turn on A.J., leave her in the dust…and she’ll be hurt, and as Bryan is poised to give her the LaBell lock, new music will hit and to the ring will run…”The Choice” Matt Andrews…who may or may not have laid out his buddy Guy Landau who was poised to do exactly what he’s about to – save the day and run away with the girl…WHOA. Sorry…I entered fantasy realm for a second or three.
Segment Grade: B+
Over the Top Rope Challenge: Heath Slater vs. Hornswoggle
Well…we’ve all seen the discussion about Slater being the new Chavo, so I won’t say it. This was an absolute waste of time, and I swear if they really do make Hornswoggle win the Royal Rumble, keep an eye out on the main news websites, because I may have blown my brains out. If I’ve sat through a 30-man Rumble with Hornswoggle winning, I won’t have many brain cells left, so it won’t be as bad. Maybe a feud with Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater will be in the works, which will be refreshing and needed for both men.
Segment Grade: D
Hunico vs. Ted DiBiase
As “given” as Hunico and Camacho’s gimmick is (poor and oppressed vs. rich and powerful), you’ve got to start somewhere. As long as they don’t go the way of the Mexicools and upgrade their ride to a motorized lawn mower, they should be okay. Hunico is quickly developing into one of my favorite modern day mat wrestlers. The guy’s psychology is good, his work is crisp enough to matter, and he’s not having to play to the crowd during matches in order to get heat. Don’t sell DiBiase short either. I’ve been a fan of Ted and always thought he got the raw end of the deal when Cody was elevated. The weird ending and pin combination was cool and all, but I don’t see how you can work it in as a regular move during a match. It should be reserved for once in a blue moon occasions. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though. I hope to see this little feud continue until both move up in the rankings.
Match Grade: B+
The “FINALLY” Feud of the last half year
Yes, folks, Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett will happen…with a little Jinder Mahal elevation tossed in to spice things up. You know, when Sheamus starts into his Irish folk tales and whatnot, I cringe a little – but then he always manages to bring them around full circle and make a direct statement to cut his opponent down. They’re unique promos, and I think he’s about the only one that could pull them off. Jinder Mahal coming in was both unexpected and expected. I mean, we know Sheamus has been “wearin’ that boy down” but I don’t quite think that any of us expected anything more than that. Now Jinder is getting a push from out of nowhere and getting a chance to work with two top level guys. I’m okay with Sheamus vs. Mahal next week, because I know Barrett’s going to stick his nose in somehow.
Segment Grade: A
Drew McIntyre vs. Santino Marella
You know, this was actually a pretty decent match. That’s more of a backhanded compliment to Santino than it is to McIntyre. I mean, it wasn’t a technical masterpiece or anything like that, but the psychology was solid, and the ending wasn’t a total joke (well, the Cobra was still used, which I can’t stand). I’m a little worried about how they are planning on using Drew. I’m not totally convinced he can be a face, because after every defeat or run in with a referee, he looks like a whining cry baby, which isn’t really going to garner much support from anyone.
Match Grade: C+
McIntyre on Thin Ice
Okay, the only way that I’ll be really okay with McIntyre getting completely buried like this is if A) he ends up turning into a legitimate face…which I don’t see happening or B) if the United Kingdom angle from WWE ’12 actually happens. Something earth shattering like that is going to have to happen for McIntyre to be relevant again. If not, he’s just going to go back to his angry, shouting at the ring character, and that’s what led him to this little predicament he’s in now. Maybe…MAYBE if you put him in a tag team with a decent partner, and keep him there for a good long while, that will help. I was a fan of Drew and Cody…just saying.
Segment Grade: B-
The Cousins Colon with Rosa vs. Air Boom
Okay, I’ve analyzed it closely for weeks now – and Rosa constantly dancing to the entrance music while Epico and Primo have this (pardon my language for this PG site) horny, old man look on their face is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Okay, not entirely true, Hornswoggle has more of a build up to the Rumble than anyone else, but it’s still pretty stupid. That’s probably what prohibits me from seeing them as legitimate tag team champions. I love the Cousins’ in ring work, and the tandem up and overs when they tag in and out is a great, subtle little niche for them. Heck, even Rosa at ringside isn’t terrible – but the minute that bell rings and she rushes in there to get her Shakira on, they lose all legitimacy. This match wasn’t terrible, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I’d love to see Epico and Primo get a little more serious and actually win the titles. The ending was different from their previous encounters, but the match was fairly standard. Please note, that doesn’t mean it was a bad match.
Match Grade: B-
The American Snark, Daniel Bryan
I’m behind the heel turn 100%. It looks like the crowd is, too, unless that was all piped in heat. Could Bryan get anymore sarcastic? And the facial expression he had while talking to show – priceless. I do like that they gave him a bit more of an edge when Show put his hand on his shoulder. I have great hopes for D-Bryan…and I would love to see how he interacts with Punk after their big unified front a few weeks ago.
Segment Grade: A
Natalya vs. Tamina
WHO DO I CHEER FOR?! It’s one thing when you’ve got a heel vs. heel match, or a face vs. face match and you take the lesser of two evils or the better of two goods, but when you’ve got a “what-are-you vs. what-are-you” match, absolutely nobody cares. Couple that with the fact that it was a Divas match, and it gets less of a care factor. It’s a shame, too, because I know both of these Divas can actually work. For what it’s worth, they were given a LOT more ring time than the girls usually are alotted. For a Divas match, it wasn’t terrible, because there was psychology, cleanly executed moves, and a finish that didn’t come from out of nowhere. Build this feud right, WWE, and you could have a decent series of matches while we wait for Kharma to return.
Match Grade: C+
World Heavyweight Championship Match: The Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan (c)
You could already hear the mixed reactions to Bryan when he came out. I would like to say that this was a typical “David vs. Goliath” match, but with Show playing the part of a face in trouble, it added a different dynamic. I do think Show oversold Bryan’s kicks and as the match wore on, he didn’t really wrestle his size, but he’s a face and Bryan’s the heel…what are you going to do? Especially given the professional that Show is, he really put Bryan over in this match. He made Bryan look like a legitimate threat to his well being. Credit Bryan with that as much as you will Show. I enjoyed the match, and like I said last week, if anyone can pull off being a heel against a pair of monsters, it’s Daniel Bryan. The ending was great; perhaps the actual notion of a DQ was a bit predictable, but the way Bryan went about it was fairly unique. Then you hear the true crowd reactions – booing and booing and booing. And what’s great is that Daniel still celebrates with them like they love him! Some people may not like that Bryan had to resort to a DQ to go over – they think it made him look weak. I, on the other hand, think the in ring work made Bryan look strong as a champion, and the ending made him look strong as a character. It was very Edge-like. I also want to tune in next week to see how obnoxious Daniel Bryan can be.
Match Grade: A
In-Ring Action: B With that string of four segments in a row, it doesn’t seem like there was a lot of action, but between the bookended title matches, Hunico/DiBiase, and the tag match, we can easily forget the Divas match – the other segments featured action that took place in the ring, so it seemed like a lot was going on. I usually grade this section based solely on official matches, but with so much segment work taking place in the ring, it felt fair to add that into consideration as well.
Out-of-Ring Action: B- I’ll say it again, I’m over Aksana. Aside from that, the continuing saga of Bryan’s over-inflated ego along with Drew McIntyre struggling to stay relevant makes for interesting story. Big Show is highly entertaining as a face – I think I prefer that to his monster heel persona. Michael Cole wasn’t nearly as annoying this week – in fact, he was almost bearable.
Overall: B Well, just based on the two advertised matches for this week, it was already better than the last two weeks of Smackdown combined, and that was before the matches actually happened. Great rebound for the Blue Crew tonight, and so many stories and angles were started and developed tonight, that we’ve got a healthy amount of stuff to look forward to as we go towards the Rumble. I’m not willing to give it a perfect grade, because I’m not a fan of four non-match segments in a row, but it was a refreshing episode.
Outside the Blog Zone
Tonight is MPX Wrestling – we here in D/FW are trying something new for our little company, and that’s two shows a month. The idea is for us to have three “little” shows to build up towards a “big” show. Our big show would be pretty much like a PPV extravaganza…but without the TV production value. Next week, I’m performing in a theatrical comic book play and an improv comedy routine. It’s a busy time for “The Choice” but I’m making time for you guys! Until next week, thank you for making me your only CHOICE for Smackdown blogging.