[Sleepy Author’s Note:  I was up ’til 3AM watching Taxi Driver and the last thing I wanted to do was watch a shitty wrestling show.  So consider yourselves lucky (or maybe UNLUCKY) that you’re even getting a review this week.]

WWE was promoting this week’s episode as “Social Media Smackdown” and apparently what that amounted to was an online fan poll, pre-recorded Touts from a couple of ex-wrestlers, and Michael Cole reading the occasional Tweet.  So if you missed it, you just caught up.

Segment 1Alberto Del Rio vs. Damien Sandow, Part One.

  • Much to my dismay, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole are sitting in on commentary because JBL is climbing mountains in Argentina to raise money for charity.  Guess suffering through “The King’s” outdated humor is my way of contributing to the cause.
  • The match was nothing special but I was glad that it was at least something other than the usual ten-minute “book the show in the opening segment” routine.

Last WordWIN!

Segment 2.  ADR def. Sandow clean by submission.

  • Since winning the World Heavyweight Championship, we’ve seen Del Rio beat Big Show, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, and now Damien Sandow clean.  I think they have firmly established that he’s the champion and he’s good.  That was actually accomplished in his matches with Show.  All these other “exhibitions” have done is make the company’s top heels look weak and made me completely lose interest.
  • I realize WWE can turn all of this around in a heartbeat simply by booking these heels strong again, but for this episode of Smackdown it was a case of beating a dead burro.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 3Replay of Punk vs. Cena from Raw.  Team Hell No backstage.

  • Team Hell No hasn’t been funny for weeks but I’d almost hate to see them break up because I know that Daniel Bryan is going to come out on the losing end of whatever “feud” ensues as a result.  Not that he isn’t already losing anyway (as you will see when we get to that part of the show).
  • Everyone knows by now that Punk-Cena was epic.  Nothing wrong with a replay carrying the segment.  But when the “live” show content is so bad, I can’t in good conscience, call this a win.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 4.  Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz, 2-out of-3 Falls for the U.S. title, Part One.

  • Cesaro wins the first fall when he catches Miz in the Neutralizer.  It was a little quick but that’s understandable considering it’s a 2-out of-3 fall match.  As a wrestler, you would want to go for the win as quickly as possible because the first fall is so important and you want to conserve energy.  That psychology makes sense.
  • I think I may have been overly critical of the chemistry of Miz and Cesaro.  At first, I wasn’t into this feud at all but their matches have been surprisingly good.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 5.  Cesaro wins 2 falls to 1.

  • Miz wins the second fall by submission with the Figure Four Leglock…DURING THE COMMERCIAL BREAK!!  Are you fucking kidding me?!?!
  • Cole offers a weak consolation by saying the second fall was viewable in its entirety on the WWE app.  Well guess what Cole?  I’m watching your fucking show on my television so that I don’t have to look at my fucking phone!  That’s where wrestling fans have to go to watch internet-pay-per-views or YouTube clips by companies you’re not even in competition with because you have six and a half hours of programming on national TV.  And you’re telling me that’s enough and if I want to see everything I need to have my phone handy during your fucking show??  Fuck off, WWE!  You’re going backwards, you assholes!  And the moronic fans that live and die by their mobile devices will follow you right off the cliff like a bunch of fucking  lemmings because it’s just one more thing to do with their piece of overpriced hand-held technology.  But when they realize all their getting is an exclusive look at a match that’s so shitty a wrestler taps out in the time it takes for a commercial break, it’s going to die of natural causes and the coroner’s report will read “Cause of Death:  Apathy”.
  • Cesaro wins the third fall by cheating with a handful of tights.  The action was fine.  But what could’ve been an epic match that made both guys look good turned into a standard two-segment match that will basically become just a dot on the timeline of this feud over the United States Championship.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 6.  Jim Ross in-ring interview with Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter

  • This segment did a nice job of advancing Swagger’s character and his relationship with Coulter.
  • Del Rio chases Swagger off before he has the chance to hurt J.R. which I was a little disappointed about.  J.R. has taken plenty of bumps in his time and there’s no reason why he couldn’t have taken a few for Swagger to help him gain more heat prior to his match at WrestleMania since they were in Oklahoma and the crowd would’ve been even more sympathetic towards J.R. and inclined to boo Swagger.  Del Rio could’ve made the late save instead, after J.R. had spent a few seconds in the “Patriot Act”.  I know it seems like a little thing, but they go a long way towards establishing a character.
  • Still, this segment did it’s job of getting Swagger more face time and adding a new dimension to his character, that of a brainwashed devotee.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 7.  Team Hell No vs. The Prime Time Players, Part One

  • Bryan tricks Kane by placing a blindfold mask on him with a cartoon goat face on the front.  Hardy fucking har.
  • The Prime Time Players come across as the worst tag team in wrestling history by not being able to take advantage of this.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 8.  Prime Time Players def. Team Hell No

  • Daniel Bryan eats the fucking pin…AGAIN!
  • The only reason Titus O’Neil is able to roll up Bryan, who had one arm tied behind his back by the way, is because he snuck up behind him while he was busy arguing with Kane.  Forget the fact that they could’ve easily done this to Kane at any point during the match BECAUSE HE’S WEARING A FUCKING BLINDFOLD!
  • I get that ten-year olds really don’t care that Team Hell No loses or that Daniel Bryan always gets pinned or that their routine isn’t really funny.  But that’s the problem.  They don’t care.  My twelve year-old nephew could care less about Team Hell No.  He considers John Cena unbeatable and the best wrestler on the planet.  He knows that Kane is a force to be reckoned with.  But Daniel Bryan is just a joke to him.  But it’s all in the way they’re booked.  He doesn’t have any pre-conceived notions about these guys.  He’s simply embracing the image that WWE is putting forth.  I guess it’s easier to get people to believe that Daniel Bryan is going to be the guy who always gets pinned than to try to convince them that he’s dangerous and in that sense, it’s just smart business.  Make maximum profit through minimal effort.  But from a creative standpoint, I think if Pat Patterson were dead he’d be spinning in his grave because this shit sucks.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 9.  Fandango backstage with Matt Striker.  Replay of the Brock Lesnar-Triple H fight from Raw.

  • I had no idea Fandango was set to debut tonight until Striker announced it during this segment.  Way to sell the debut of the guy you’ve been promoting with vignettes for months.
  • Fandango’s character may be goofy, but he’s already established in my mind as someone with a personality.  Not just a Dolph Ziggler who wrestles in tights and boots.  And I thought he did an excellent job of selling an over-the-top gimmick during his exchange with Striker in which he kept trying to get Striker to say his name correctly.
  • In the end, Fandango doesn’t make his debut because Striker can’t get his name right and maybe that’s why they didn’t promote it (they didn’t even hint at on last week’s Smackdown!), but still, how much heat would it have gotten to have first of all promoted the guy’s debut so that fans would be anticipating it, and then have Zack Ryder in the ring watching Fandango’s exchange with Striker and showing his reaction when he refused to come out for the match?
  • I’m tempted to give this segment a fail for the missed opportunity, but I have to give Johnny Curtis credit for doing his best to push this charcter.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 10.  Replay of The Shield’s confrontation with Sheamus and Randy Orton from Raw.  Big Show vs. Orton, Part One.

  • Pretty obvious that the Shield is getting involved in this match at some point.
  • It was standard Orton vs. Big Show fare.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 11.  Randy Orton def. Big Show by DQ when Shield interferes.

  • Have to give Orton and Show credit for not just going through the motions.  Big Show even attempts an elbowdrop off the second rope.
  • Shield attacks, and Sheamus makes the save.  The fighting is back and forth until Big Show catches Roman Reigns with the K.O. punch, sending Ambrose and Rollins into retreat.
  • I almost thought this was hinting at a Big Show face turn but then he K.O.’d Randy Orton as well.  This of course was followed by that ol’ braveheart Sheamus hitting Show with the Brogue Kick when he wasn’t looking.
  • When the dust settles, Sheamus is the last man standing and the also the last guy I’d want to cheer for.
  • The guy the crowd was cheering for, Ryback, didn’t even make an appearance which makes no sense.  I get that the Shield have pissed off Sheamus, but the guy who should be leading the charge against them is the guy who they have cheated out of the WWE Championship and pinned on pay-per-view.
  • Whether it was intentional or not, Ryback has stumbled upon a babyface gimmick that works and I almost feel like WWE is trying to hold him back because it’s “not his time”.  It’s Cena’s time to have his big match with the Rock.  It’s the Kurt Angle wanna-be (right down to the drug use) Jack Swagger’s time.  But Creative doesn’t always know what’s best.  The fans have decided who they want to see.  I’m sure WWE has their reasons for trying to slow Ryback’s momentum, but they may end up regretting it in the long run.
  • That being said, it was a decent match and Show taking his shot at the Shield was a nice curveball that I wasn’t expecting.

Last Word:  WIN!

THE VERDICT:  This week’s episode of WWE Smackdown is just barely a WIN!

POINTS OF PRAISE:

  1. Getting Off On The Right Foot.  Fandango finally appeared in something other than a pre-recorded vignette and did a good job selling a cartoony over-the-top character.  Not sure what it will all amount to, because Damien Sandow debuted the same way and it’s paying off by him jobbing on TV every week.
  2. A Break From The Norm.  It was refreshing to actually start the show with a match this week instead of the usual ten-minute booking segment.

CHIEF COMPLAINTS:

  1. The Path of Least Relevance.  So much more could be done to get fans to care about these characters.  I’m struggling even getting through this review because of my utter lack of interest in the current product.  From Swagger’s segment, to Fandango’s debut not being promoted, to the fans chanting “Feed Me More” only to not have Ryback appear.

I guess if everyone’s making money it doesn’t make sense to complain but WWE, as much as they would like to think of themselves as a brand like McDonlad’s or Coca-Cola, that does the same thing every time and doesn’t screw with the formula, is and always will be a sports entertainment product in which creativity and fan interest determines relevance.  They’ll always have their brand, but its value lies in the strength of its relevance and that lies in the strength of its creativity.  Clearly there is still money to be made with the WWE name.  But how much and for how long will depend upon whether or not they decide to stray from the formula and start giving people what they want.

That’s the last word for now, peeps.  Until next time, discuss.

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

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