Miz TV w/Team Hell No and Randy Orton - Great way to kick off the show. These guys are involved in a very interesting storyline, and this was a nice hook for the rest of the evening. Kane storming off was nice forward momentum in the demise of Team Hell No, and pairing Randy Orton with Bryan later in the evening gave the audience reason to stick around.
Also, Bryan called his opponent from Monday night “The Ryback.” Funny.
Curtis Axel def. Chris Jericho: This match made sense from a storyline perspective, and was a great way to push Axel while letting him gain experience in the ring with a true veteran.
Although Jericho looked a little foolish here for being distracted by Punk’s music (letting Axel win with the roll-up), it makes sense for Axel to win like this. And I don’t think Curtis Axel loses anything here, because he was able to keep pace with Jericho the entire time. Jericho got a little revenge in the post-match beatdown, and I loved the focus on Paul Heyman looking worried.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Heath Slater (match never started): Letting Del Rio beat up 3MB was a solid way to give him forward-momentum and re-establish his presence as a World Championship contender. Plus, Rodriguez looked like a star by jumping from the top rope. The surprise appearance by Ziggler on the Titantron was handled well, and his promise to show up on Monday gives viewers a reason to tune in.
Ryback vs. Kane (ended in DQ): Fun brawl between two big men. Ryback looked very impressive here, especially when he lifted Kane OVER his head. Plus, the focus on putting his opponents through tables does a good job of selling the stipulation for Payback.
Damien Sandow Segment with Deep Blue Computer: These segments are perfect for Sandow’s character. Promising to beat a supercomputer at chess is the perfect air-of-superiority idea that really makes the fans hate him.
I was worried Sheamus would bury the segment again, but letting Sandow get the upper-hand here and beat down Sheamus was a great way to give him some credibility. It also gives Sheamus a legitimate reason to want revenge.
Fandango def. Zack Ryder: Best line of the night: The Miz on commentary said, “you keep looking at me, skittles boy, and I’m going to make you taste the rainbow.” Short match that highlighted Fandango. This segment was exactly what it needed to be without feeling overbooked.
Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan vs The Shield ends in DQ: This was another great showing by all four men involved. Daniel Bryan had the match won with a no-lock, but Ambrose interfered. I really like the RKO on Bryan to close the show, because it keeps the audience invested moving forward. I don’t think this means a heel turn for Orton (even though he did get some boos), because he had a legitimate reason for lashing back, and his character has a few bad-guy tendencies anyway. But It is crucial that WWE follows up with this angle in a meaningful way on Monday Night Raw.
Daniel Bryan: His performances as of late have been stellar. He’s exciting in the ring, has the audience cheering him louder than anybody else on the roster, and the “crazy” persona makes him such an interesting character. He is undoubtedly the hottest thing in WWE right now.
Smackdown Creative: Kudos to the writing team here. They’ve taken a bunch of seemingly mid-card matchups, and built very entertaining shows around them. Friday Nights have been well- paced as of late, with a perfect balance of in-ring action and storytelling. They might not have access to John Cena, but I think they’re better off because of it.
Kaitlyn Secret Admirer Angle: This whole angle has me bored to tears. So they’re going to meet on Raw? Whoop de do. Where is this whole thing going? Inconsequential.
Play-by-Play Commentary: It’s not really ugly, as much as it doesn’t exist anymore. All JBL and Cole do is continuously recap things that have happened before, or make up stupid stories about the wrestlers.