[Author’s Note:  Just realized that last week’s Smackdown review was dated “02-05-13” in the title.  It should have been “02-15-13”.  Sorry for the screw-up, everybody!]

Segment 1.  Alberto Del Rio’s in-ring promo interrupted by Randy Orton.  Booker T comes out and books ADR vs Wade Barrett, Orton vs Jack Swagger

  • There was no apparent sway from Swagger’s push however this show was already in the can when he  got caught driving his girlfriend around.  The dude claims to be a real American and he’s dating some illegal named Mary Juana.  The nerve!
  • I can’t see WWE having any other choice but to go a different route with Swagger.  The news of his arrest was EVERYWHERE.  Trying to incorporate it into the angle will either make the fans cheer Swagger, or completely undermine the character’s credibility and turn what was an intriguing match, into a boring, predictable formality.
  • Crowd in Biloxi, Mississippi proves what I said last week about Orton being a money guy by starting a “RAN-DY! RAN-DY!” chant during this segment.  Dude’s always going to be over and he’s only 32.  So he’s not going away any time soon.
  • Del Rio’s promo hyping his ‘Mania match with Swagger is decent but something tells me this whole segment is just to set-up a match for tonig–oh, look… it’s Booker T!  And he’s out here to set up a match…
  • Can’t really call this segment a waste of time because ADR got some mic work in to set up his big title defense and establish his rivalry with Swagger.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 2.  Sheamus vs Damien Sandow, Part One

  • JBL’s commentary, once the highlight of any broadcast he was a part of, is beginning to venture into Lawler’s cornfield.
  • Action was decent in this match.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 3.  Sheamus def. Sandow clean

  • The match was fine, I’m just tired of seeing Sandow lose.  Bottom line, though, it’s not going to hurt him with the WWE Universe.  As soon as he starts to get a push, they’ll take him seriously again.  Swagger is the best example of that.  He was the definition of “irrelevant” a few months ago and prior to his screw-up, everyone was talking about him like he was the best thing to happen to wrestling since wrist tape.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 4.   Replays of Shield’s last two wins.  Cody & Kaitlyn backstage.  Layla & Kaitlyn def Tamina & Aksana

  • This was unquestionably the best segment of the night.
  • I love the roll that the Shield is on.  Hopefully it isn’t just to set up a WrestleMania loss.
  • As a way of promoting the WWE app, a funny exchange takes place backstage in which Kaitlyn compliments Cody Rhodes on his mustache.  This is the kind of thing I would like to see more of in exchange for those ten-minute opening “set-up the main event” segments.
  • Aksana can’t wrestle for shit, but I still like her character.
  • The divas action, because it’s usually so sloppy, always seems more stiff and believeable than the men’s.
  • I was glad to see the girls get some time.  Layla’s in-ring work has really gotten good.  And it was nice to see some semblance of a storyline brewing with Layla eyeing the Divas Championship after their win.

Last World:  WIN!

Segment 5.  Raw Rebound:  Rock’s new belt, Punk’s attack on Cena.  Swagger – Barrett backstage confrontation.  Orton’s intro.

  • The whole “championship triangle” with Rock, Cena and Punk would mean more to me if Punk had put up more of a fight to this point.  He went down so easily at Royal Rumble and despite getting more offense in at Elimination Chamber, because Rock already had the title, it just didn’t seem like he was a hungry challenger trying to win the belt back.  He wasn’t as impressive as he should have been.  And the added stipulation of a disqualification or countout costing Rock the title, only served to make Punk look even weaker.
  • I get that CM Punk is smaller than Dwayne, but does he have to be beaten so handily?  I just don’t remember anyone having such an easy time dispatching of Shawn Michaels even when he was a heel despite him being the smaller man.
  • The only thing that I can conclude from not only this feud with the Rock, but also his series of matches with Ryback is that CM Punk just isn’t that good.  You should still be able to walk out of the ring with the fans’ respect even as the cowardly, cheating heel and Punk hasn’t done that.  He’s become the afterthought in my opinion.  He made me a believer with the in-ring segment he had with Dwayne on Raw that kicked off this feud, but that all changed the night he lost cleanly at the Royal Rumble to one simple spinebuster/People’s Elbow combination.  But I’m getting into editorial mode.  Moving on…
  • This segment was saved by the backstage interaction between Wade Barrett and Sheamus.  Zeb Coulter might as well be Moses the way he’s saved Swagger’s character.  He is such a great talker.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 6.  Jack Swagger vs Randy Orton, Part One

  • This wasn’t the time for Swagger to have a boring match.  Maybe his head was a little foggy or something.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 7.  Swagger def Orton by cheating.

  • Action picks up in the second half.
  • Using some classic heel cheating (thumb to the eye, foot on the rope), Swagger gets the win.  Nice way to keep the momentum going and remind everyone that he’s the bad guy.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 8.  Raw Rebound:  Brad Maddox named Vicki’s assistant, Vince McMahon challenges Paul Heyman for next week.  Ad for “Dead Man Down” featuring Wade Barrett.  Barrett – Sheamus backstage.  Miz’s intro.

  • So relieved that Maddox isn’t done.  I LOVE his character!
  • This “feud” between Vince and Heyman has made ZERO sense.  A commercial that airs later says it’s the confrontation that “the WWE Universe has been waiting for.”  Even greater confirmation that I am NOT a member of the WWE Universe.
  • If Vince is such a bad ass, why not challenge Brock Lesnar?  After all, that’s the guy that broke his old man hip.  Heyman tried to get him to stop.
  • Vince has already threatened Heyman’s job and now he wants to beat him up?  Not sure this lines up with the tenets of the “Be A S.T.A.R.” campaign.
  • Happy for Wade being featured in a movie.  Hope he’s able to find even more success in Hollywood.  As much as I love him as a wrestler, there aren’t really “legends” being made anymore unfortunately.  So the sooner he can establish himself as an actor, the better for his future.
  • I wouldn’t mind a feud between Sheamus and Wade over the Intercontinental title, as long as it was give-and-take and not a complete burial job.  The effort they put in to re-establish the prestige of that belt while Wade was chasing Kofi Kingston for it is starting to be undermined by the lack of attention being paid to it since, and Wade’s constant losing in non-title matches.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 9.  Miz def Cody Rhodes clean.  Swagger & Coulter’s YouTube video.

  • Pretty sure this match happened last week and I’m pretty sure we saw the exact same result.  So my question is, Why?????
  • Cody should’ve easily countered the Figure Four Leglock in the eternity it took for Miz to try to remember how to put it on.
  • I get that Miz’s is challenging for the United States title and they feel the need to keep him winning, but there are ways for a babyface challenger, especially one who is injured, to lose a match without losing momentum.
  • It’s almost as if Creative knew which segments of this show were going to suck so they made sure to include elements that they knew were good.
  • Swagger and Coulter’s YouTube video was excellent, but I’m pretty sure Jack was baked during filming.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 10.  Wade Barrett vs Alberto Del Rio, Part One.  Swagger & Coulter watching from ringside.

  • It’s a good thing good ol’ Jack and Zeb got plenty of air time during this show.  You know, just in case.
  • Another boring beginning to a featured match.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 11.  ADR def Barrett clean.

  • Saw a commercial for Robot Fighting League during the break and now I’m pretty sure Chris Jericho just uses his returns to wrestling as opportunities to promote the shitty tv shows he’s hosting.
  • ADR really “fires up” well.  He always seemed bland as a heel.  Working face is his true calling.
  • ADR wins clean as fuck with the cross arm breaker.  Does he really need to beat EVERYBODY?
  • The crowd popped for it, so maybe I’m being too old-school here but even from a WWE perspective, this finish felt forced.

Last Word:  FAIL!

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

POINT’S OF PRAISE:  

  1. High On Jack.  Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter were all over this show and with good reason.  The gimmick is excellent.  Time will tell whether the repercussions from Jack’s recent brush with the law will bring it all to a screeching halt.  But at the time, this was the hot angle and WWE did a good job building around it.
  2. Midcard Madness.  Cody’s backstage segment with Kaitlyn and the divas match were the kind of things I would like to see more of.  I realize the spotlight can only shine in so many places at once but just something other than random, meaningless matches helps me invest more emotion, time, and perhaps money into these characters.

CHIEF COMPLAINTS:

  1. The Book Is NOT Better.  Subtle changes in the way matches are booked like Miz vs Cody and Barrett vs Del Rio, could go such a long way in helping wrestlers to maintain momentum and again, get me to care.  I realize the WWE Universe is going to forget and perhaps it’s easier, from a money-making standpoint, just to continue to cater to them.  But I’m not talking big changes.  And if the currency truly is the currency of the realm, then you would think that it’d be worth the effort just to get more people watching and opening their wallets.
  2. Less Is More.  The day Smackdown goes to three hours, is the day I start judging everything with a big ass, old-school chip on my shoulder.  What makes the bad so much easier to stomach is the fact that there isn’t as much of it to sit through.

Nothing significant happened on this episode but I don’t need earth-shattering changes or big reveals to enjoy a wrestling show.  I’m glad they’re still trying to give us more in-ring action even though the upper card performers were a little sluggish this time.  I like the direction things are going but the fallout from Swagger’s arrest will dictate how much, if anything, changes next week.

Until then, pass the water pipe and discuss!

[Follow “Handsome” Dan Lopez on Twitter, @DansLastWord and check out his personal blog, “Handsome” Dan’s Last Word]

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