WWE has really dropped the ball this year with the Road to Wrestlemania, as this year seems to have the most thrown together card in recent memory. Other than the Big Three matches, the only matches that have had any significant build are Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger and The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus, and most of Del Rio vs. Swagger has happened on Raw and not Smackdown, which is the World Heavyweight Title’s home! The Tag Team Titles are yet again being treated like dirt by placing them into another match with a thrown together tag team. Jericho vs. Fandango is getting a massively rushed build, and while I think it can work solely off of Jericho alone, Fandango is really pulling himself up and gaining a massive amount of heat in a short time frame. The Intercontinental Title match feels like an afterthought of how to get both Wade Barrett and The Miz on the card. Mark Henry and Ryback just feels like one of those matches that was bound to happen, but honestly doesn’t have the luster it should to be a Wrestlemania match. And then we have the “Let’s shove people into a Multi-Man Tag match just to get them bonuses” match of Rhodes Scholars and the Bellas vs. Planet Funk! This match just screams of what is wrong in the WWE right now, in that they refuse to properly utilize the fantastic mid-card talent that they do have. And to make matters even worse, there are talks of adding yet another match to this card, in a Divas Title match between Kaitlyn and AJ Lee. While I love AJ in anything she does, as I see her as the best Diva on the main roster, this match should be on the Raw following Wrestlemania. They can just as easily give Kaitlyn her show bonus by having her in Hell No’s corner. Wrestlemania this year just has been a train wreck, and I have a feeling that Vince will see it nip him in the butt with the buyrate. Then maybe we can get some good creative changes!
Where I would normally have written in my stolen DX signature open here, I would instead like to offer my deepest condolences to Ric, David, and the rest of the Fliehr/Flair family for their loss of young Reid Flair. I remember seeing him on WCW TV in the infamous Russo/Flair feud during WCW’s death in 2000. Reid was a talented amateur wrestler, having won a national title at the age of 9, and seemed to be doing well in professional wrestling after his stint in All-Japan Pro Wrestling. 25 years old is way too young for anyone to die, and I know that he will be missed by friends, family, and fans alike. Rest in peace, Reid.
Break it Down!
Opening Video: 6
This wasn’t a bad one, but it still left a lot to be desired. They did very well to cover the main storylines and to hype The Rock, but the quality was poor, as is usual with these.
Story Time with The Rock: 9.25/-10
This one is a complicated grade for me, so I’ll be breaking this segment into two parts.
I’ll be honest here, I was ready to fail this as soon as I heard the Rock’s music hit, as I would much rather start the show with someone who matters to Smackdown. But Rocky quickly turned it around with Story Time, as only he can. He just feels so genuine in how he speaks to the audience, and despite how I personally feel about part time talent, I get the feeling that he truly still loves coming out and entertaining the fans who helped make him into the multi-platform Superstar that he is.
Speaking of Story Time, I honestly feel that segments like this are where Rocky shines his brightest. He just has a unique flow where it seems that even he doesn’t entirely know where it’s going, but knows that it will be great when he gets there. Just like the Menudo bouncer reference! I will admit that I didn’t get it, so thanks to KB for the back story, but they were a Puerto Rican boy band that only could have pre-pubescent boys, whose biggest star was Ricky Martin. And while I doubt that this Story Time is truly where the origins of “Candy Ass” started with The Rock, it was a very entertaining way to get some cheap pops!
I honestly expected a pure disaster as soon as I heard John Laurinaitis’ music, but he truly surprised me here. He wasn’t stammering all over himself, and really did well for not having been on camera for over nine months. I was also surprised by the level of heat he got after such a long absence! It was almost like he never left! And for being out of active competition for over 12 years, Johnny took that Spinebuster like a champ!
But while I liked the segment as a whole, there was one massive problem with it, one that cannot just be glossed over. That is the excessive length of the segment. While I truly do understand that The Rock had been absent for three straight weeks of WWE programming and that there has been very little build for the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania, there is no excuse for The Rock to take up 20 minutes of Smackdown, especially when all it really served was to just let him talk. If Cena had appeared and had helped further the build for their match, then I wouldn’t be so angry about this segment. But all we got was 1/6th of this week’s broadcast wasted on a useless segment. So while I loved hearing Rock being Rock, I wish that he had stayed home and let the talent that work their butts off every single day to just to be able to have a job with the WWE do what they do best.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett vs. Chris Jericho: 8.25
Miz on commentary is always a good thing in my book, as he is one of the best out there other than CM Punk. It is a shame that I do not get Ion, as I would love to be able to see him on Main Event. I do want to call out Miz about his “Undefeated Streak” at Wrestlemania. The Miz has a pre-show loss to the Carlito and Primo at Wrestlemania 25, but since then he has been undefeated. This was a great match, as would be expected from both Wade Barrett and Chris Jericho. I honestly have wanted to see them go one on one since all the way back in NXT Season 1, and while I had hoped for more, this did sate my hunger for them. Of course, with Miz on announce, Barrett had to get distracted and lose the match. But if you follow WWE’s logic from the announce desk, that win would make Jericho a number one contender for the Intercontinental Title as well.
Winner: Chris Jericho (pin)
After Match Segment: 8.75
Y2J is a master on the mike, and there isn’t a single person in the back that couldn’t learn something from him. Between his natural comedic timing, his pacing, and his use of proper inflection, Jericho proves anytime has the stick why he still has a massive fan base. And you have to love that he referenced Funaki in his last of names for Fandango. Fandango is getting such massive amounts of heat! I never thought that this stupid dancing gimmick would get Johnny Curtis over in such a great manner. And if he can get this much of a reaction from the crowd, Fandango has a bright future ahead of him.
HHH Video: 8.5
I love how they mashed together all of the previous videos! They took the best parts of the previous recap videos and made a very beautiful full recap of the recent build. And we didn’t get any recap of Monday’s boring promo!
Heyman Interview: 9
Paul Heyman’s face looks brutally nasty! It really added a little spark to the interview in my eyes. Heyman, though, brought his old-school ECW intensity to this interview, which is something I sorely miss. I hope that Paul stays around after Wrestlemania, as he has a lot that he can offer the roster in his years of knowledge.
Benchpress Challenge: 8
First off, I have to give Creative some credit here for the subtle way they furthered along the tensions between Booker T and Teddy Long. I could see Teddy going back to being a manager with the way he was acting tonight. I like how they showcased both Mark Henry’s and Ryback’s strength without them having to destroy someone on the roster’s credibility. I will say that lifting 225 lbs 53 times is an incredible feat for anyone. Although the record they broke was set by someone that was around 10 years younger than Ryback and 20 for Henry! I’m not as sold as the announce team that Ryback was going to break Henry’s mark, because Ryback was struggling on the last rep.
Regardless, this is an impressive display! Henry showed some desperation here to keep Ryback from besting him, and that is something we rarely see from him. This could be very interesting!
Video of Cena vs. Rock II: 6
While it was nice that they updated it with the debate promos from Monday night, the video was still just more of the same in my opinion. It is stale, and could have given the following match a couple more minutes of work.
Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan and Divas Champion Kaitlyn vs. Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee: 8.75
If there is one person that I would absolutely love to interview for WNW, it would be AJ. I love seeing the Chickbusters in the ring against each other, as they are the two Divas who could start the change to the Divas Division. Dolph and Bryan put on a clinic of great wrestling for the time that they were in the ring, and I can’t wait for Hell No to break up so we can see even more of Bryan flying solo. The best highlight of this match for me was the Hurricanrana into the Sunset Flip. It was seamlessly performed and showed just how well Ziggler and Bryan work.
Winners: Daniel Bryan and Kaitlyn (pin)
Shield Video: 9
The way The Shield does these videos is fantastic! I love the hand camera, as it truly makes them look like outsiders trying to invade the show, even if we know better. And Reigns got a lot more lines here, which is excellent! He has a great personality, and I felt that it came through here. Ambrose feels like a young Scott Hall to me, and I am not talking about his Razor Ramon days or NWO either, but way back in the AWA. He just oozes that slick southern charisma that came up through those territories. And Rollins is simply the most polished one of the group, but that happens when you were the King of the Indys! And they work so well as a group that I honestly don’t want to see them dissolve for a long while. But I know that Creative can’t keep booking them well, so I hope that when they do break up, that they don’t just get lost in WWE’s shuffle.
Jack Swagger vs. The “Great” Khali: 2
Swagger and Zeb are great together, and this pre-match promo was short and sweet. Swagger is an idiot! He had to place the wrong hand over his chest. I do have to pull a Kendra here, and say that I absolutely loved Natalya’s dress tonight! The Friday Night Canadian Delight is always beautiful, and the dress really looked great on her. And while I will commend Swagger for trying desperately to make Khali look good, that is an impossible task and I honestly wish that they would not use Khali in the ring anymore.
Winner: The fans, for this match ending!
Post-Match Segment: 7.75
Ricardo set up an obvious trap! How the heck did Swagger and Zeb not see it coming when they are the heels and have used similar tactics? Zeb took a crutch shot! I didn’t see that coming, as I would have bet that Vince wouldn’t have wanted to risk a man in his 60’s getting hurt, but I also bet that Dutch insisted on it. I know I gripe about part time talent at times, but I would love to see Dutch in the ring one last time in WWE. And after two weeks off, at least we got to see Del Rio on Smackdown. I still am betting that Del Rio is hurt, as a lot of the segments he has been involved in lately have been very safe for him.
Raw Rebound: 7
While I am enjoying the build for them, this video, much like Punk’s talking on Monday, fell flat for me. Taker getting physical really helped to spark this feud further, but it still is lacking that magic that it needs.
Backstage Segment: 7
I like Renee, as it has been awhile since we had a female backstage interviewer! Show playing confused here was just great, though I wish he’d stop holding his chest in these backstage segments! It just looks weird. Orton still being the calm and normal one is off-setting. I feel that he has something up his sleeve, as that is always the only time he’s this calm.
Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show vs. Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro: 7.75
I love how Sandow and Rhodes preface every match with a promo, as it sets them apart from everyone else. And did anyone else have their ears bleed from Cesaro’s “Yodeling”? This just shows me how much Creative has cooled on him. He looks to be being regulated to nothing but a joke with a prop title. This was an ok match, but considering the sheer amount of talent in the ring, I expected better. At least Orton didn’t have to go into Superman mode! I did enjoy the go home segment of the match, as it finally showed the three of them on the same page, and was a different way to get the faces to hit their finishers. Although Rhodes Scholars’ and Cesaro’s luck only turned around for one night, with the loss here setting all of them back yet again. And going after the Shield in their haven in the crowd was a flat out brilliant creative move. Now it truly looks like this match can go either way!
Winners: Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show (pin)
Overall Wrestling Grade: 7
Overall Segment Grade: 7.5/8.25
Overall Show Grade: 7
Well, after Rocky had to take his 20 minutes out of the show, we had a pretty good broadcast. But his long promo took what was a great show and turned it into a barely passable one. And I really don’t have a lot of issues with The Rock, other than when he pulls something like he did tonight. The only real abomination this week was that we had to suffer through Khali in the ring. And after last week’s abysmal show, WWE is quickly making Smackdown into a show that even the mid-card won’t want to be on. And I know that next week’s show won’t be any better, as the go-home show to Wrestlemania is always a filler show with a couple of forgettable matches. I really hope after Wrestlemania that Smackdown will see a turn-around.
Starting this week, I wanted to provide a little bit of a challenge to my readers. I will provide you with a Trivia question, and if no one gets it right by next week, I will reveal the answer with a bit of history to go along with it. This week’s question:
Who has the most confirmed combined title reigns in the history of professional wrestling, and how many? This takes into account all promotions, not just the major ones!