If you missed Smackdown last night, you missed the best (major) wrestling show of the week. WWE put together a fun, athletic two hours for Friday Night that delivered from top to bottom. Let’s check it out. [Read more...]
Smackdown last night was the perfect way to end a great week of WWE programming. Between the well-paced PPV this past Sunday, the number of great surprises on Raw, and the wrestling-heavy focus of Friday Night Smackdown, wrestling fans should feel pretty satisfied. [Read more...]
Just to catch up: If you missed Friday Night Smackdown this past week, then you also missed a pretty big development for one of WWE’s hottest acts. The Shield, who have seemed unstoppable since their debut last November, finally saw defeat.
Re-read that first paragraph. Summary: “If you missed Friday Night Smackdown, then you missed The Shield’s first loss.”
See, no matter how I word it, it still doesn’t sit right with me. Wasn’t this supposed to be a big freakin’ deal? Wasn’t WWE propelling these guys to bigger and better things? Doesn’t JBL call this group “the best faction ever” on a weekly basis? So why, then, would WWE give this important moment away in such a careless fashion?
Don’t get me wrong, the moment was handled perfectly fine on Friday night. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Kane celebrated their victory with a hot Greensboro crowd. Lilian Garcia even got back on the mic to make sure everybody knew this was the trio’s first loss as a three-man group. But from a big-picture perspective, this sucks.
These guys were positioned to lose on a big stage, to a big opponent. Our own Brian Fritz promoted his own fantasy booking scenario on the BTR Podcast where The Undertaker would return at Summerslam, team with Bryan and Kane, and finally give The Shield what’s coming to them. This sounded like great booking. It would sell a few more PPVs, give the babyface Undertaker his revenge, and further promote The Shield by losing on a big stage. Plus, there’d be little shame in losing to three veterans.
Instead, WWE creative got bored and decided to hot shot the angle.
There was little-to-no promotion for this three-on-three encounter. In fact, all the focus was on Sunday and the respective United States and Tag Team title matches (matches that, for the record, were booked just earlier this week). The hype train had us headed towards the PPV, not stopping off at the Smackdown station to see whether or not The Shield could remain undefeated.
I’m not saying that big, unexpected moments don’t have a place in the modern WWE – quite the contrary. Smart surprises should be staples of any pro wrestling organization. They keep things fresh for the fans, and give companies that much sought after water-cooler talk. I’d cite Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Championship win back in January as a perfect example. Being an established main-eventer, he didn’t need a huge build, and he was fresh into a face turn. Plus, WWE pulled the trigger on the title-change during the long void between TLC and Royal Rumble. It was a great way to create viewer interest.
But that’s not what happened on Friday night. Instead, when nobody was watching, and when nobody was told to watch, WWE gave The Shield its most damaging loss yet. And It left a lot of money on the table by doing so.
I’m not just counting potential Pay-Per-View buys of people hoping to witness the trio’s first loss. I’m including the credibility hit that these guys took as a whole. These guys had become must-see TV, both together and individually, because of the aura that surrounded them. Not even company demigod Cena could topple them. Now, they’re just another mid-card act, with mid-card titles, who have seen their greatest strength – being undefeated – completely vanish.
In all fairness, I have no perspective here on WWE’s big-picture. And what happens next with The Shield will depend mostly on how the creative team positions them coming out of Payback.
But this whole angle still feels like a giant missed opportunity, or at the very least, a rapid misfire. It’s simply not the way WWE should be handling the hottest group in pro wrestling today.
The word “mediocre” comes to mind when discussing this week’s Smackdown. WWE creative seemed to check out for the night, save for one very questionable booking decision. Let’s break it down: [Read more...]
Normally, a World Champion being out of action for five weeks would seem like a big deal. In his absence, a wrestling company would still find ways to highlight him. It would show vignettes on his return, interview him from his home, or even put him in the ring and let him cut a few promos. If he ran the risk of missing one or two Pay-Per-Views due to the injury, he might even be stripped of his title
(anybody remember the classic “a champion must defend his title once every 30 days” rule?).
Instead, the WWE just ignored it.
Dolph Ziggler was out for over five weeks due to a concussion, and the company just moved on as though he didn’t exist. They barely mentioned him on television, rarely checked in with him during the recovery process, and never spotlighted what his absence, along with the World Heavyweight Championship, meant to the company. For those five weeks, WWE existed without two top champions.
And guess what… it survived. Not only that, but Smackdown (former home of the World Heavyweight Champion) seemed to actually thrive. By putting together a string of shows focusing more on other championships, like the United States and Tag Team titles, the show was the most enjoyable it’s been in months.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. The World Heavyweight Championship was originally introduced for Raw just a few months after the start of the brand extension. It only made sense that a top guy existed on each show to headline house shows and serve as the “face” of that brand. Eventually, when both Smackdown and Raw started hosting their own Pay-Per-Views, each World Champion was given his own headlining event.
But things have changed. WWE stopped hosting separate brand-extension Pay-Per-Views in 2007. In late 2011, both shows essentially merged with the ‘SuperShow’ format. And since then, the powers-that-be have come out and said that the brand extension is over because they want the product to flow between all the different platforms.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to care about the disparity between the two World Titles. Did you know that the World Heavyweight Championship hasn’t been contested in a Pay-Per-View main-event match since 2010’s Hell in a Cell? It has, however, opened up a Wrestlemania. Twice. And at last year’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, the World Heavyweight Championship contract match was open to the entire roster, while the WWE Championship was opened only to previous champions. How is that considered equal?
Even CM Punk addressed this on an episode of Raw in September, when he confronted reigning World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and told him that he was only the “second-best in the world.” And Sheamus didn’t really argue with him, either.
But the idea that WWE would let Dolph Ziggler stay at home for five weeks as the reigning, defending, World Heavyweight Champion, and do nothing to address the situation, completely boggles my mind. When CM Punk “walked out” with the WWE Championship two years ago, the company was ready to crown a completely new champion the next night on Raw. Now, things just hum along like business as usual.
So is Dolph Ziggler considered a second-class champion? Where does that put current United States Champion Dean Ambrose, or Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett?
Unfortunately, the World Heavyweight Championship is now treated like a stepping-stone to the real top title. When WWE thinks you’re ready to break through, they’ll give you the big gold belt. And maybe one day, if you’re lucky (or your name ends in “CENA”), you might get to hold the WWE Championship. Maybe.
If you go back 10 years, this was the exact purpose of the Intercontinental Championship. It highlighted guys on their way up – guys who might not quite be at the top of their game yet, but who had a chance of getting there one day. It was defended more frequently on free TV, and often changed hands, but it was always backed-up with purposeful booking. Now, both it and the United States championship are handed off seemingly at random. They’re just filler championships used to pad the resume of whoever Vince’s flavor-of-the-month is. They have no prestige.
And the World Heavyweight Championship is going down that same path.
So please, WWE, I’m begging you: unify both World Titles. Re-instate the IC Championship for the young, hungry guys, and make the United States Championship whatever it needs to be. Just retire the World Heavyweight Championship while it still has that strong, proud lineage to fall back on.
Championships need to feel exclusive to be important. It’s time to bring that idea back to WWE.
Probably the most intriguing storyline WWE has headed into Monday Night Raw (and potentially continuing into Payback and beyond) is Randy Orton’s status with the fans. His actions on Friday Night Smackdown this week left another fan favorite, Daniel Bryan, laid out in the middle of the ring as a victim of the RKO.
But wait, weren’t they also just teasing a Daniel Bryan heel turn?
What about CM Punk, who left the night after Wrestlemania as arguably the top heel in the company, and is likely to return next Sunday with the loudest ovation of the night?
More importantly, what does all of this mean for the WWE product heading forward?
Rumors are flying that the WWE could look very different by the time we reach Summerslam. The company recently fired its head of creative, and shaking up fan allegiances could go a long way in making the company feel fresh… again. With ratings sagging and PPV Buyrates down, WWE is desperate for any spark it can find.
Randy Orton turning against the fans make sense, and opens up a world of entertaining matchups with baby faces like Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, and Kane. It’s also been long enough that WWE might be able to revisit the Cena-Orton playbook. Additionally, we haven’t seen Orton take on the ‘bad guy’ persona in a while, a role which he seems to prefer. And after the recent punt-kick on Big Show at Extreme Rules, and his actions on Friday Night, it would honestly feel like a disappointment if creative didn’t follow-through.
Punk returning as a fan favorite, then, seems logical. First, He’s proven during the first part of his epic title-run that he can carry carry the company as the number 2 babyface. Secondly, seeing him turn on Heyman, whom he doesn’t really need as a mouthpiece anyway, could make for great television. Punk could feud with Curtis Axel, making Axel look like a star in the process, and eventually set his sights on Brock Lesnar. A fight between these two would look great on the Summerslam card.
Looking at Daniel Bryan, he’s a complete wild card, so anything is possible. I just hope WWE capitalizes on his popularity in a positive way. The company needs to understand that Bryan needs freedom, not over-management, to realize his full potential.
These are obviously just a few of the possible booking options. WWE has a lot of in-ring talent at its disposal, and a lot of tv time to fill. And since heels seem to get over a little easier than similar face wrestlers (see: Fandango), this might be a good time for the company to change the landscape a little. Babyfaces sell merchandise, but entertaining heels sell pay-per-views.
New matchups don’t necessarily equal bigger ratings, and they do little to fix the other problems plaguing the company. But they might be enough to remind people why WWE is the number one professional wrestling company in the world. That seems like a step in the right direction to me.
Another great outing for Friday Night Smackdown, with all the right elements of an entertaining pro-wrestling show. Let’s dig in. [Read more...]
Dolph Ziggler has been cleared to get back in the ring and wrestling according to Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline.com.
Ziggler has been sidelined since May 7 when he suffered a concussion after getting kicked in the face by Jack Swagger in a match that was taped for Smackdown.
The World Heavyweight Champion has finally passed an impact test and can once again wrestle. He will likely square off against Alberto Del Rio on the WWE Payback pay-per-view on June 16.
Opening Match – Kane def. Seth Rollins: Great way to kick off the show. Rollins and Kane worked a slow, methodical match pace, and WWE gave them some real time to do what they wanted. Rollins looked smart here for trying to take Kane out at the knees, and Kane really put the younger star over here by selling as well as he did (this is a true veteran).
I liked the ending of the match, where Bryan interfered and allowed Kane to get the chokeslam and pin. This match made Team Hell No look unified (after a few weeks of dissension), and it was fun to see them steal a page from The Shield. Since Rollins looked so strong throughout the match against a former world champion, I don’t think the loss took anything away from him. Similarly, this continues the feud between the two teams in a logical manner by making Kane seem like a credible threat.
Roman Reigns def. Daniel Bryan by DQ (due to Kane’s Interference): Really loved how this match picked up immediately after the last match – tying these two segments together not only makes sense, but it makes for great continuity on the show (where so many times pro wrestling events feel like a stiched-together circus of events). Reigns looked solid here by showing his strength, and Bryan did a great job (as always) of building momentum in the match and getting the fans behind him.
The ending was fun. Bryan rolled a pin attempt into the ‘no-lock,’ and Reigns used his strength to fight his way to the ropes. I loved how Reigns then provoked Kane, who retaliated with a punch, thus causing the DQ. This is a genuine heel tactic, and a great way to put heat on The Shield. I’m also glad the emphasis was put on Kane causing the confusion here instead of Bryan. Short, but fun, match, and great segment overall.
Curtis Axel def. Sin Cara: Let me start off by praising WWE for not making them wrestle under those stupid Sin Cara lights. Paul Heyman did a great job of building up Axel before the match. Seriously, the man could sell a baby kitten as a World Champion. Axel also took the mic and sounded intimidating without turning into a monotone robot (see: Ryback).
Match was quick. Sin Cara got a few
botched offensive moves, but Axel quickly shut him down and finished him with the perfect plex. It made him look very strong, and able to quickly adapt. I think this is good for his build. He needs more easy wins like this against lower and mid-card talent, while brushing shoulders with the big boys.
Big E Langston def. Alberto Del Rio: Decent back-and-forth. Big E wins after AJ grabs Del Rio which let Big E throw him into a ring post. The match was only OK (not as good as their other two outings), but does a lot for Big E’s continued momentum.
Ryback dismantled Kofi Kingston: Ryback entered via an ambulance. Is this a thing now? Kofi looked game by attacking Ryback head-on, and not showing any fear. While I question the decision to give Kingston so much offense against Ryback, the ending of this segment sold me on it. Ryback put Kofi through multiple tables, and looked like a monster. The announcers also did a good job by recapping the seriousness of Kingston’s injuries.
Jericho def. Cody Rhodes: Jericho is such a good worker, in great shape, and able to keep up with wrestlers much younger than him. These two put together a fast-paced match. Fun reversals with good near falls. Short but sweet. My favorite match of the night.
Wyatt Family Video: Apparently I missed this Monday night? Kudos to WWE for replaying it here, and for revisiting the promo videos as a way to introduce superstars (I feel like they’ve done a lot less of this in recent years).
Ambrose vs. Randy Orton ends in count-out (The Shield interferes): Ambrose wrestling in the main event is big. He looked like a serious threat here – this is how you build a star (and props to Ambrose for running with the ball). These guys put together an entertaining 10-minute brawl that elevates both men while leaving the possibility open for future encounters.
The Shiled interfered, but then Team Hell No came out to help Orton. I’m hoping this leads to a fruitful Ambrose vs Orton rivalry.
Submission Reversals: I really like the chain wrestling out of submission moves (both the no-lock and cross-armbreaker were broken-up). It’s believable, and creates an air of unpredictability in the match.
Overall Show: While Smackdown has always been the “B show” to Raw (and has become even less important since the brand extension ended), the creative team did a great job here of building an entertaining, wrestling-heavy show. Almost every match had some greater implication behind it, made sense in context of the larger story, and showcased fun in-ring action. No major surprises here, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Damien Sandow “Challenge” Segment: First off, where’d his robe go? I’m not a big fan of the suit. I liked how WWE followed up last week’s segment with another “Ancient Greek Challenge” segment (with a follow-the-ball game), and I thought there were a few really funny lines by both men: Sandow’s “Congratulations – your idiot license is good for another year!” and Sheamus’s “playing with your cup and tiny balls” retort. However, I hate how foolish Sheamus made Sandow look here. Is this a feud? If so, why should we take Sandow seriously?
Show him your balls chant during the Sandow segment was pretty funny. But, to quote Sheamus, “I don’t think anybody wants to see that.”
Sin Cola: Apparently this trends a lot on Twitter, as a way to both make fun of Sin Cara and confuse the masses (people asking what ‘Sin Cola’ is just keeps it trending). Either way, I approve.
Opening Segment – Miz TV w/ Fandango: While I’m not normally a huge fan of the Miz TV segments, I thought this one did a good job of helping build towards the Intercontinental Championship match later. There were a few great throwaway lines by Miz here – “Your ego is the only thing more annoying than your name” and calling Fandango a “bag of skittles” both stood out. Furthermore, Wade Barrett coming out and interrupting made sense (because of what happened on Raw), and it seemed like a great way to kick-off an Intercontinental Championship feud. Barrett also got a few cheers for attacking Fandango. Could a possible face turn be in his future? I think it could be refreshing for his career if handled correctly.
Miz vs Wade Barret for the IC Championship ends in DQ when Fandango Interferes: This was a soft “good” for me. While the back-and-forth between Miz and Barrett was fun for the 30 seconds it lasted, Fandango’s dancing just made everything too distracting from the in-ring product. However, I liked it because it furthered the storyline between the three men, and It’s been awhile since we’ve had a good mid-card championship feud.
Daniel Bryan def. Jack Swagger: These two weren’t given much time to work, but they still put together a fun match. I loved the ending here, with Swagger in the “no-lock” almost reaching the ropes and still tapping out. I also thought the announcers did a good job of building up how important this match was to Bryan and regaining his confidence by proving he isn’t the weak-link.
Great ending, with Swagger in the “no-lock” almost reaching the ropes but still tapping out.. Short match, broken up by a commercial break, but I like the story it tells about Bryan. He’s trying to prove himself and build back up his psyche. Nice storytelling here for Bryan. Too bad Swagger is not in a free-fall…again.
Damien Sandow Segment: This guy is money on the mic. He speaks down the audience, and carries that air of superiority better than almost any other heel on the roster. I loved the “Call Washington! I’ve just found the problem in the education system!” directed at Matt Striker and his substitute-teaching background. Sheamus came out, which was actually a fun surprise. I think he works really well in this “correcting the heel” type-role (as he did with Henry). Is it too much to ask for a feud between these two? Sandow looked smart by escaping the Brogue kick, but looked really dumb afterwards when Striker landed on him.
Jericho def. Big Show via count-out: OK match. Slow, plodding pace at first, but they picked it up towards the end with a good number of reversals. Entertaining with a good small guy vs. big guy dynamic in play. On the other hand, it felt like they left this open for more. Is this a rivalry anybody really wants to see?
The Shield def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Kofi Kingston: While this format feels a little old, and the match from Monday night was better, these guys all put out a pretty good effort here. Glad The Shield won again, and I’m always happy to see Kofi Kingston wrestle with the big boys.
Team Hell No backstage segment: This one almost ended up as a “good” for me, simply because I like the fact that this backstage segment helped build up a story. However, I fear that WWE is handling this one all wrong. The focus is too much on Bryan being crazy and Kane being the sympathetic one. I still think there’s money to be made with this team and it’s revenge on The Shield. I also believe Bryan has a lot more to offer as a face, and Kane likewise as a heel, especially if they ever pull the trigger on a rivalry between these two.
Curtis Axel def. Sin Cara: For starters, WHY is Sin Cara still allowed to wrestle with the lights down like that? What makes him special now? This would have been much more impressive had Axel come out and dominated here. Instead, he looks like just another mid-carder here who barely pulls of a win against Sin Cara, a guy we rarely see on TV anymore. Is this what being a “Paul Heyman Guy” does for you? Disappointing.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Championship ends in DQ: This match kicked off with a fun, fast pace. These two work very well together. However, after about three minutes, The Shield came out to interfere (so why did Ambrose tell them to stay back at the beginning?), followed by Orton and Sheamus to save the day.
This didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t Kane and Bryan be interfering? Also, I thought Orton and Sheamus had moved on past their feud with The Shield? Furthermore, Teddy Long had to come out and make it a “three-on-three” match, as though we haven’t seen enough of those recently. Actually, he said, “This show isn’t going to end like that!” (in reference to the brawl). Of course it isn’t, Teddy, there’s still about 20 minutes left in the show. But I guess that’s the new format for Smackdown – let everybody interfere, and make your main even a “surprise” tag-team matchup. It just feels stale.
Fake Audience Noises: The crowd doesn’t go from dead silence, to maximum boo/cheer level, back to dead silence like that.
Fandango on Commentary: Not to knock his skills here, but he sounds like a phone-sex operator.
ECU is Josh Matthews favorite university: As an NC State graduate (known rival of the ECU Pirates), this displeases me greatly.
WWE superstar Sheamus talks about this Sunday’s Royal Rumble PPV, winning the rumble match last year, WrestleMania 29, who he thinks he will face and who he would like to square off against, if he has personally lobbied Vince McMahon for a match with The Undertaker, CM Punk vs. The Rock, John Cena’s promo on Raw, the youth movement in the company and also his dancing moves which he showed off recently on Smackdown.
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