Welcome the this week's Breakdown! I want to open this week's blog with an apology to all of my readers. If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that I have been going through a very rough transition in my life of late as I am starting down the path of a divorce with my wife of nearly a decade. I may not be able to be the most consistent of bloggers during this time frame, but I will do the best I can from here on out to ensure a weekly product, even if it is just quick thoughts and notes. And I also want to take the time to thank you for all of the support you have shown me. WNW has the best readers and writers in the world and the kind words, thoughts, and prayers you have sent my way are proof of that. But enough of my personal business, lets have some fun and get to the wrestling!
Break it Down!
Opening Segment: 7
John Cena opened the show and immediately started pandering to the crowd, as per usual. And while that seems to work most weeks, this one seemed like the crowd had decided it was going to be dead, and that was that. But if that wasn't bad enough, Cena had to go so over the top in his resolutions that I thought we might have heard of calls of a UFO being sighted in Corpus Christi! But after all of that cheese, he brought it right back where it needed to be, focused on him getting his rematch against Randy Orton. Of course, with the issues of late between Cena and The Shield, we had to know they were going to strike tonight! And while I was expecting Big E. to hit the ring and help clear it in a huge way, I was a bit surprised Henry came down as well. But considering they are pushing Big E. I guess I shouldn't have been! The Shield in 3 singles matches? Color me interested! Ambrose vs. Big E. will be a nice teaser if they decide to unify the lower card belts, Reigns vs. Henry will be a great way to continue the push of Reigns, and Cena vs. Rollins should give Rollins a chance to shine as a singles unit, which people have been arguing he may not be able to do!
Batista Return Video: 10
I am absolutely pumped for The Animal's return! I've never been the biggest fan of his work, but he brings an intensity that few can currently achieve in the ring. Although, there is one aspect to the video I want to point out that may be telling of where WWE wants to take his return feud to. At the very end of it, they zoom in to his eyes and then suddenly change the color of them like they used to do with Orton for his Viper videos. Call it me reading too much into it, but I want to go on the record as saying that we will see Batista return and take on Orton at WrestleMania 30 in a non-title capacity, playing into the downfall of the Authority storyline.
The Wyatt Family vs. The Usos: 6
Well, that was very quick! I wonder who The Usos have upset in the back to get squashed out like that! And it wasn't just that it was a squash, but the breakneck speed of this match. It felt like they were trying to fit 5-6 minutes worth of moves and pacing into 2 minutes of time and it severely detracted from the body of work. Of course, we got the obligatory post match Sister Abigail from Bray, but considering everything else in this match, I was left feeling cheated out of a quality match.
Winners: The Wyatt Family (Pin)
Backstage Segment: 8
Orton wants to enter and win the Rumble just to get a night off and to “retire” as champion? BAKA! While it isn't unheard of for a World Champion to enter the Royal Rumble match, as Savage did it in 1989 and Hogan did it in 1990, it is something that hasn't occurred in many years, and I wonder if it wouldn't fly over the heads of the casual fans. And while the camp of the idea of him doing such a thing is extremely high, it shows just how he is evolving as a heel. No longer is he the whiny pathetic heel that was relying on the Authority to help him at every turn. He's now entering that cold, calculated, evil side that everyone loved in 08-09. I was pleasantly surprised Ziggler confronted Orton in the back. Ziggler has really fallen hard from the night after WM 29, and after losing to Fandango for the second time this past week on Raw, I had little doubt we were about to see an even bigger regression of his character. And we are getting Orton vs. Ziggler tonight! That should easily be a competitor for the match of the night. I'm loving how WWE is placing Kane in this role. He feels like he belongs in a corporate environment. He is slimy enough in the role to make you squirm at what he might do, be goofy enough with his mannerisms that you kinda want to like him.
Cody Rhodes vs. Antonio Cesaro: 6.75
I love Zeb's signs of late! Between “Deport Santa” last week and “Press 2 for INS” this week, I think Zeb may have found a way to make things interesting without having to speak! It's amazing how we fans operate. WWE wants us to boo Real Americans, but the fact that Cesaro shows such prowess and strength in the ring is getting us fans on their side. WWE would be smart to listen and either convert the Real Americans as a team to faces or let Cesaro finally break out as a singles competitor. While the match itself was decent, the ending felt very lackluster for something with the two men that were involved. We have come to expect a superior performance every time the Tag Champions, and for good reason. There has been very few times since the Rhodes brothers' return that they have put out less than 100%, and I feel tonight was one of those nights, if for nothing else than it too felt rushed. WWE must have overbooked the show this week.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro (Pin)
The Primetime Players vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel: 6.25
Please, let the Rybaxel team name die. They seem to be working well as a team, so why give them a joke of a mashup name? While the first two matches went at lightspeed, this one plodded along at a nearly snail's pace until the end. And that ending! That had to be one of the sloppiest rollup counters I have seen outside of the Divas division! You could blatantly see Axel pull Young into the winning position.
Winners: The Primetime Players (Pin)
Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler: 8.25
First off, it is great to see Zigglypuff in a main event level match tonight! But what the heck is up with Dolph putting pink dye in his hair? I have blue highlights myself, but mine are all over color! Not some oddly placed color! I'm wondering if he lost some sort of bet... This was a nice competitive match that had some good close calls. Of course, no one expected Ziggler to go over here, but that's his own doing in my eyes. You can't cross someone at Orton's level at not expect it to nearly kill your career. But the real story here happened at the end of the match. Orton winning with the thumb to the eye and the subsequent post match beatdown (Which I imagine Orton enjoyed outside of the storyline premises) was a decent way of progressing Orton's rediscovered sadistic side. I hope that WWE lets this continue down the organic path that it is already on, turning him into full-on IED Orton by the time WM 30 gets here.
Winner: Randy Orton (Pin)
Shield Promo: 8.75
This was an excellent way to keep hyping the three matches tonight without having Cole shove them down our throat. One point I'd like to raise is that we have been watching The Shield as a unit over the last year, and in that time frame we have seen all three men grow by leaps and bounds. And while I felt Rollins was the weakest member of this segment, I can't really say it is fair to judge the 3 of them against one another.
Daniel Bryan vs. Damien Sandow: 7.5
Now that woke the arena up! Bryan was desperately needed to get the crowd going. Why WWE didn't pull him out before now is beyond me. But while we got a much more lively crowd for this match, JBL and Cole did everything in their power to get people to tune out of this match with their inane banter. Couple that with the fairly quick and vanilla match Bryan and Sandow produced, and we have some serious problems going into the last half of the show. Also, I wonder who Sandow has upset backstage, as he seems to be getting more and more irrelevant as the weeks progress since his failed cash-in. This week alone, he was destroyed by Mark Henry and beat by Bryan. For someone with his talent, that's a shame.
Winner: Daniel Bryan (Pin)
Bray Wyatt Promo: 8.25
Bray is a god? Could we be finally getting back to the Devil portion of this storyline? Bray's promos are one of the very few guys that make me question and try to analyze every little piece of it, trying to figure out just what we may see. And that is something WWE is sorely lacking, a mystery to their stories and plans. Most of the time, we know what is coming even before Creative does, in my opinion.
Big E. Langston vs. Dean Ambrose: 8
Ambrose is just so odd in his movements! The way he slithered out of the ropes early in the match and his eccentric move set is easily one of the most enjoyable things on Raw/Smackdown every week. And while this was a quicker match than I would have liked, considering how the rest of the show has gone I guess it is understandable. They have given barely 5 minutes to almost every match aside from Orton/Ziggler, so I fully expect that they have to building to something great further down the line tonight..
Winner: Big E. Langston (Pin)
Mark Henry vs. Roman Reigns: 9
This was an absolutely beautiful match between 2 very powerful men! Reigns was extremely impressive, other than a couple of obviously called punches early on, and Henry provided a perfect foil to the muscle of the Shield. The Samoan Drop on Henry caught me off guard! I'm not surprised that Reigns went over with the way they are pushing him. But if you told me this time last year I'd be thinking Reigns would possibly be in the World Title picture by WrestleMania 31, I'd have called you crazy!
Winner: Roman Reigns (Pin)
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins: 9.75
If anyone had any doubts about whether or not Rollins has what it takes to be in the top tier with the rest of the Shield, then this match easily proved them wrong! Rollins had tons of fantastic moments, counters, and close calls in this match. And betwixt all of those highlights, we had Cena pull out some of his best stuff and make Rollins look like a truly viable threat. Sure, we saw Cena go into his normal overdrive state and start to mop up with Rollins, but every time he began a significant offensive charge, Rollins had a solution for it. If it wasn't for the insanity of the go home sequence which gave Cena a perfect shot at catching Rollins for an AA, then I actually “marked out” and thought we could see an upset victory here.
Winner: John Cena (Pin)
Overall Wrestling Grade: 7.75
Overall Segment Grade: 8.5
Overall Show Grade: 8
Well, let it not be said that WWE didn't end the year with a bang for Smackdown! Sure, they tried to fit in 8 matches on a 2 hour show (1:26:53 if you remove all of the commercials. Thanks Hulu!), but even with the breakneck speed of the show, we saw some fantastic action and a focus on the ring product that we don't get every week. And that focus helped to make the promos and segments in the show much more meaningful. Sure, I could have done without a couple of the early matches, but even with them we got an above the board show. Hopefully this week gets a bit of an uptick in the ratings so WWE knows this is what we want! Thanks for reading this week, and I will see you tomorrow for a special Tribute To The Troops Breakdown!