Segment 1. Big Show’s in-ring promo is interrupted by Chris Jericho. Booker T books Show vs. Jericho for tonight.

  • Remember Jeri-Show?  That was the first thought that crossed my mind when Y2J interrupted the Big Show during the opening of this week’s Smackdown.
  • Neither Big Show nor Jericho really said anything during their turn on the mic and the whole segment ended up being yet another thirteen-minute “set-up the main event” waste of time.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 2.  Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton, Part One.

  • Huge pop for Orton.  I’ve said it before on my own blog (http://handsomedanslastword.blogspot.com/ Cheap plug, Son!) but Orton is a “money guy”.  He’s always going to have that right combination of cool look, cool move, cool intro, and just enough wrestling ability to always get over and get the fans excited to see him.  Smarks may be tired of him, but the WWE Universe is not.
  • Decent action in the first half of this match.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 3.  Henry def. Orton by DQ.  Makes a statement with the World’s Strongest Slam.

  • Unfortunately the second half of the match suffered from what appeared to be indecision in the ring between the two wrestlers and things got a little sloppy.
  • I was expecting Orton to get his win back from last week so when he instead decided to hit Mark Henry with a chair and get disqualified, I was surprised.
  • I was surprised again when Henry was able to hit Randy with the World’s Strongest Slam, after stopping another chair shot and whipping him into the ropes.
  • Conventional logic would dictate that Orton allowing himself to be used as a stepping stone like this means he’s going over in the Elimination Chamber.  But what we expect, isn’t always what ends up playing out.  I personally think that Orton likes his current role.  He wins some, he loses some.  He’s always featured as a top guy and always gets a huge pop.  Yet he’s not involved in any storyline that requires a lot of work on his part.  He’s done his share of that over the years and with mixed results.  If he’s content to remain in this role then I don’t mind having him around.  He’s not being shoved down our throats the way Cena is, and he’s putting people over.
  • That being said, the sensible booking doesn’t make up for the poor execution of the last half of this match.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 4.  Mark Henry forces Matt Stryker to conduct an interview backstage.  Hype video for Six-man tag match at Elimination Chamber.  Layla’s intro.

  • Henry continues to do strong work on the mic.  And him forcing Stryker into an impromtu interview was a nice way of perpetuating his current bad ass character.
  • The Elimination Chamber is this Sunday.  So as much hype needs to be devoted to it as possible.  Therefore, as much as I wouldn’t have minded seeing more wrestling, inserting a video hyping the Shield’s six-man tag match against WWE’s three-headed babyface monster was a good call.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 5.  Fandango hype video.  Tamina def. Layla clean.  Replay of the Rock-Punk altercation from Raw.

  • I’m not tired of these Fandango videos.  I know they’re a joke to most internet fans but as a new talent, it’s nice to hit the ground running with a gimmick.  And if Johnny Curtis is charismatic enough to make it work then it could pay off huge for him when he finally debuts.
  • Layla put in the work during her match with Tamina, even taking a pretty tough ring apron bump.
  • I was pleasantly surprised with how much time this match was given.  The psychology was solid.  Layla can really move in the ring and came off well.  Tamina didn’t lost any ground though.  Pulling out a victory with her superior strength.
  • Crowd always pops for the Superfly Splash.
  • I was so utterly unimpressed with the entire Rock-Punk showdown on Raw that seeing a replay of it just confirmed how bad it was.  This rematch has zero of the appeal that their title match had and I think that’s because it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that The  Rock is going to win.
  • Despite that, any segment in which the divas get time and actually wrestle, is a win in my book.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 6.  The Rock’s in-ring promo is interrupted by CM Punk via satellite.

  • I think WWE really did themselves a disservice by giving Rock the title at Royal Rumble.  That event always gets a decent buyrate anyway.  Had they had Punk somehow retain the title, it would’ve bolstered his standing in this feud, and perhaps increased buys for Elimination Chamber, because fans would want to see Rock win the title there.
  • Instead, there’s none of that intrigue and without the attraction of Rock’s in-ring return, there really isn’t anything drawing me to this match even with the gimmick stipulation.
  • Punk outshone Rock on the mic this time but that’s not saying much.  Even Rock seems to be treating this match as a formality on the Road to WrestleMania and John Cena “Twice in a Lifetime.”  If he’s going to mail-in his performance, it would’ve been better for them not to bring him out at all and just play another hype video.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 7.  Tensai & Brodus Clay def. Heath Slater & Jinder Mahal.  Get jumped by The Shield.

  • It was revealed that Tensai and Brodus will be facing Team Rhodes Scholars on the pre-show of Elimination Chamber.  I mentioned last week that I  don’t have a problem with the team of Tensai and Brodus.  What I do have a problem with, is the role of jobber tag team being given to a team that just had a public break-up.  It would be one thing if Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes had just quietly stopped teaming together and then re-united to take on Tensai and Brodus.  But when you have a public announcment on a worldwide show that you’re splitting as a tag team, the only reason you should get back together is if you have the chance to actually accomplish something significant.  Losing to a comedy team on the pre-show of one of the lesser pay-per-views would fail to qualify as “significant.”
  • Now personally, I don’t really care about Team Rhodes Scholars losing because I understand the nature of WWE.  Fans don’t remember the last five minutes.  They’re conditioned that way.  So the loss isn’t going to hurt Team Rhodes Scholars.  I’m just wondering why this spot couldn’t have been given to another team?  Why not the Usos?  Or Primo and Epico?  Why not give these young talents something meaningful to do? I realize they would’t win, but why not start an angle in which they lose, get pissed off, and attack Tensai and Brodus the following night on Raw?  Just something to generate interest in the tag team division other than throwing two singles wrestlers together.
  • The two giants win clean and the crowd was into it.  They actually work well together.
  • I was expecting this to be a simple showcase for the new comedy duo so I was surprised when the Shield came out of the crowd and attacked.
  • It was an excellent idea to have them beat up two big guys who have momentum.  It made them look strong going into their match against the Holy Trinity this Sunday.  And Ambrose getting a turn on the mic is always a good thing.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 8.  Another Fandango video.  The Miz def. Cody Rhodes clean.

  • It was nice to see the Miz back in his long coat.
  • The point of this match was to make Miz look like the gritty, sympathetic face going into his match against Antonio Ceasaro at Elimination Chamber.  Aaaaand, it failed.
  • Everyone knows Cody Rhodes is better than what he showed against The Miz.  He’s a former Intercontinental Champion and has been on the verge of being a major player several times in his career.  Even recently when he was in a feud with the Big Show over the I-C belt.  There’s no way he should’ve jobbed so cleanly in such a short match.  What I said earlier about the fans not remembering doesn’t apply in this case.  They don’t remember every moment, but they do remember certain builds for certain characters.  Especially when it’s a character that they want to get behind.  Fans may not remember that Jack Swagger is a former World Champion because fans don’t want to get behind Jack Swagger.  He has to work to earn their favor.  But for some reason, fans want to get behind Cody Rhodes.  Maybe it’s his look, maybe it’s his lineage, maybe it’s his very obvious charisma, but fans want to cheer him the way they want to cheer Daniel Bryan.
  • Miz isn’t someone who should be beating people in short matches unless he’s cheating to do it.  His style is a brawler.  He’s not a technical wrestler and he’s not an aerial wrestler.  But his brawling is mediocre at best.  Therefore, when he was a cheating heel as WWE Champion, he was convincing and he got over.  I realize he’s a “good guy” now, but he needs to be a Roddy Piper-type good guy and cheat to win when the situation calls for it like it did on Smackdown, wrestling against Cody Rhodes with an injured shoulder.  A pre-match promo about how he shouldn’t be wrestling with an injured shoulder, then a quick small package with a handful of tights after Cody jumped him before the bell and mercilessly worked over his shoulder would’ve made all the difference in the world.  It builds Miz as somebody who will do anything to win and that’s what would make him a serious threat to Cesaro’s title despite being outmatched physically.  And it would save face for Cody who only lost because he got caught and was cheated.  Seriously people, do I have to think of everything?!
  • But no.  Instead what we have to look forward to is another boring match between a genetic freak of a champion and a mediocre brawler who beat a guy who was too stupid to use any one of the million counters for a move that’s about a century old being applied by a guy who only gets it right about half the time.  Just take my money already!

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 9.  Jack Swagger def. Zack Ryder clean.  Post match promo by Zeb Coulter.

  • Swagger’s new manager was debuted Monday on Raw, Zeb Coulter a.k.a. “Dirty” Dutch Mantell.
  • Adding someone who could talk to someone who couldn’t as a good move by WWE.  And the angle is timely, capitalizing on the current political scene with “Real Americans” like Zeb and Swagger degrading the more “tolerant” members of society.
  • The match was paint-by-numbers.  A solid win by Swagger in which he looked impressive.  He really isn’t any different though other than the presence of Coulter.  It’ll be interesting to see how far this run goes.
  • Couldn’t help but notice that once again, WWE showed their YouTube graphic prior to a Zack Ryder match.  This guy needs to just go ahead and ask for his release if he hasn’t already.  I think with the following he was able to develop on the internet, he’d find success on the independent circuit in no time.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 10.  Elimination Chamber hype video.  Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo backstage interview with Striker.  Big Show’s intro.

  • Nothing really noteworthy happening here.  Nothing damaging either though so I guess it’s a win.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 11.  Main Event:  Big Show def. Chris Jericho clean.  ADR and Big Show staredown.

  • Going in, this is pretty much a pointless match thrown together at the beginning of the show so despite the reputations of the two wrestlers involved, this match has no special feel.
  • That being said, they put on a good show.  Very solid action.  Jericho even takes a stiff-looking bump over the announcers’ table.
  • Big Show wins clean with the K.O. Punch.  It was a hard-fought victory but it just doesn’t seem right that Jericho should be losing to someone who is most likely not going to win this Sunday.  Especially since he just made a huge return at the Royal Rumble.  Now instead of being someone who might be able to make some waves and shake things up, Jericho just falls back into his usual spot of being a jobber to the main event level talent.  Not sure if the WWE Universe would pick up on such a subtelty.  Perhaps not, but to me, the only statement this match sends is, “Forget about Chris Jericho.  He’s not going to do anything significant during this run.  He’s only here to lose.”  Again, losing isn’t the problem.  It’s when and how he loses.  This wasn’t a major title match on a pay-per-view.  This was just some random match thrown together at the last minute on WWE’s second-rate weekly show.  And yes, the victory was hard-fought but it wasn’t any more hard fought than Big Show could’ve gotten out of Kofi Kingston.  So in one match Jericho went from being something special, to being nothing special.  All it would’ve taken were some subtle changes in booking and psychology, like in the Miz vs. Cody Rhodes match, to avoid this.
  • I also could’ve done without the staredown after the match.  ADR already cut a backstage promo.  We know these guys are going to face off at Elimination Chamber.  Let the show end with the ending of the match like last week.
  • All that being said, it was a good match and from the “WWE perspective” it accomplished the goal of setting up Big Show to look strong going into his title match this Sunday.

Last Word:  WIN!

THE VERDICT:  This episode of WWE Smackdown was a WIN!

Can’t argue with the numbers.  But it’s important to note that the areas in which they failed we’re rather significant.  Let’s examine that a little further by taking a look at…

MY CHIEF COMPLAINTS:

  1. Main Event Malaise.  Remember the way the Rock vs. CM Punk kicked off?  That epic confrontation in the middle of the ring and Punk getting off that memorable line “Your arms are too short to box with God!”  Yeah, I don’t either.  Mostly because this feud never lived up to that hype.  Punk loses in rather ordinary fashion at the Rumble and just like that the thrill is gone.  Sad to say but the sooner this “rivarly” ends and The Rock moves on to something he cares about, the better.
  2. Mizzing The Mark.  I’m glad WWE has tried to take the secondary titles more seriously by booking Antonio Cesaro strong.  Unfortunately, what could be a really great feud with the Miz has been so “Miz-handled” (Wokka Wokka!) that it’s got me looking forward to his next challenger.  After the excellent match Cesaro had with Sin Cara on Raw, it almost makes me wish those two were feuding.

MY POINTS OF PRAISE:

  1. #HeelStrong.  WWE has dropped the ball with so many other heels, Dolph Ziggler most notably, that it’s nice to see them putting some steam behind guys like Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, and especially The Shield.  Hopefully Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns haven’t already had their last hurrah and can make it out of Elimination Chamber with their careers intact.
  2. Viva Las Divas.  So a Divas Championship match was thrown in last minute for Elimination Chamber and Tamina needed to get some heat.  Fine.  But if WWE was smart, they’d keep the momentum going because there’s a market for these girls if WWE would just pursue it.  They won’t though.  So while I was glad to see them this week, I’m not naive enough to believe this is going to amount to more TV time in general for WWE’s  female division.

So yes, it’s a win for WWE this week but not nearly the landslide victory it was last week.  Not that every show needs to be homerun, but this one could’ve been so better with just a few subtle changes.  The biggest problem is there’s a title match coming up tomorrow between the company’s biggest mainstream star and it’s biggest internet darling…and no one cares.  And by “no one” I don’t just mean the fans, I mean WWE also.  CM Punk was just a lame duck champion trying desperately to carve his niche before the immiment overthrow of his regime and the way this “feud” has played out proves the validity of that statement.  And WWE doesn’t care because it’s not about making memories anymore.  It’s about making money.

I realize making money has always been the goal.  But along the way professionals cared enough about their craft to make sure that they went to the bank in a blaze of glory.  Now, it’s more like they’re depositing their check at the drive-up ATM through the tinted windows of their limousine.  And until that changes, fans like us will have to settle for the few bright spots we can get and sadly, that’s the last word.

Until next time, maniacs…discuss.

[Follow “Handsome” Dan Lopez, the Smartest Man Not In Professional Wrestling, on Twitter @DansLastWord.  Also check out his personal blog, “Handsome” Dan’s Last Word.]

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