Segment 1.  Jack Swagger & Zeb Coulter in-ring promo.  Alberto Del Rio & Ricardo Rodriguez interrupt with a parody video of their own.

  • ADR looks even more like a terrorist with a beard.
  • I wasn’t ROTFLMFAO, but I did smile on the inside for what that’s worth.
  • The “bully” angle has NEVER worked in wrestling.  Mostly because, when you’re going into a physical one-on-one competition, you’re expected to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder and attempt to intimidate people and shove your weight around.  That’s the case at EVERY level.  Even among little kids.  So the idea that someone is “too mean” for pro wrestling is utterly laughable to the point that fans just don’t buy into it.  Swagger’s a racist dick who wants your title, Del Rio.  That’s enough motivation for us to want to see you beat his ass.  Leave the bully angle alone.
  • Although it wasn’t hardly comedy gold, it was a nice way to open the show, add hype to the upcoming match at Mania and it was something different.  It was a chance for the performers to show another side of themselves.  This show featured a couple of moments like this which was a very pleasant surprise.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 2.  Team Hell No def. Heath Slater & Drew McIntyre.  Matt Striker backstage interview with Dolph Ziggler, AJ & Big E Langston.  Ryback – Mark Henry backstage confrontation.

  • The tag match was a sloppy mess and I was personally pissed off that Bryan was allowed to get the win, forcing McIntyre to tap to the “No Lock”.  It’s been firmly established that 3MB are hapless jobbers and these are the guys Bryan is allowed to beat.  Every other win the champs get, Kane is the one scoring the pin.  Bryan isn’t even allowed to beat the Prime Time Players, despite their current floundering ways.  It’s absolute bullshit.  I can’t think of any explanation other than Vince’s prejudice against Bryan and other guys like him for their lack of size.  It honestly has me so frustrated that I can’t organize my thoughts into a coherent indictment.  Suffice to say, this was the low point of the show.
  • Ziggler hyped his match with Del Rio expressing confidence in his “stable.”  The obvious question being “Why?”  The presence of Langston and AJ at ringside haven’t payed off in any way for Ziggler.  He couldn’t even beat The Miz on Raw just four days ago (one in “real” time) with their help.  And he’s going to beat the World Champion?  In light of his recent track record, Ziggler’s should be considered more manic than cocky at this point.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 3.  Brad Maddox joins Michael Cole and Josh Mathews on commentary.  Ryback def. Damien Sandow clean.

  • I’m still enjoying Maddox’s character and am glad he hasn’t been forgotten.
  • Sandow put up a good fight, but the result was a foregone conclusion.  It was essentially more of the same from Ryback.  I guess considering he’s going into a program with Mark Henry, it makes sense for him to get this win.  But he didn’t necessarily look dominant.  Sandow really laid a beating on him before Ryback was able to pull out the win.  I just can’t help but think WWE missed the boat by not going with Ryback as the Royal Rumble winner and put him in the main event at WrestleMania against the Rock.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 4.  Post-Raw footage of The Shield’s attack on Big Show.  Striker interviews Show backstage.

  • Nice to see The Shield was able to exact some revenge on Big Show.  They need to remain strong.
  • Big Show blaming Sheamus and Randy Orton was the right way to go.  He’s a heel.  Having a sudden change of heart and aligning with the “good guys” seems like Wrestling Booking 101.  But maintaining that heelish tendancy to blame the babyface for everything gives this whole angle an unusual twist that makes it more than the typical six-man feud.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 5.  Fandango vignette.  Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler, Part One.

  • AJ gets wet.  Not as hot as it sounds.  She’s doused with a bucket of water by Ricardo when Big E moves out of the way.
  • AJ and Big E get tossed.  Not sure why they were banned from ringside and Ricardo wasn’t when he was basically the instigator of it all.
  • Not much in-ring action, but this stuff, while I’m against the refree’s decision, was entertaining and it was nice to see AJ getting animated again and going into “crazy chick” mode chasing Ricardo around ringside.  She’s been the “silent partner” for too long.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 6.  ADR def. Dolph clean by submission.  Daniel Bryan and AJ backstage.

  • Not that it wasn’t a good match, but it was another predictable outcome.  I’m sure the live crowd was thankful for the action they got to see, but I’m just tired of watching Ziggler job.
  • That being said, Ziggler made a strong showing which, at this point, I guess is as close as he gets to winning.
  • Daniel Bryan has a moment backstage with AJ in which he actually gets the upper hand.  Not sure if this was just filler or if it’s going to eventually lead to something but it was great to see these two performers, who clearly have a passion for the business, do their thing and be given some creative freedom (albeit not much).  I don’t understand why we can’t be treated to more segments like this every week?

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 7.  Mark Henry squashes Yoshi Tatsu.  Donald Trump Hall of Fame video.  Sheamus backstage interview with Striker.

  • A Yoshi Tatsu sighting!
  • Mark Henry clearly has the respect of the crowd and it’s not wonder considering the strong way he is consistently booked.  He was the most impressive superstar at Elimination Chamber.
  • Henry looked much more impressive than Ryback did.  Granted, it was against lesser competition (or would Sandow be considered “lesser competition” since he loses multiple times on tv every week and I’ve only seen Yoshi lose once on tv in months?  Hmmmmm…) but still, seems like WWE is booking Ryback similar to the way they’re booking Sheamus:  a power brawler who can withstand tremendous amounts of punishment and still find a way to win.  Nothing wrong with that necessarily but I still feel like they could’ve gone a little further with him being more of the unstoppable “machine” type.  Not only is he going to look physically smaller matched against Henry, but he’s most likely going to look weak considering there’s no way he’s going to be able to get Henry up for his finisher.  I hope I’m proven wrong.
  • Although I find most of Sheamus’ attempts at comedy bad even for a sixth-grade talent show, that’s not his biggest problem.  I believe his biggest problem is the way he keeps cheap-shotting people.  He calls himself the “Celtic Warrior” like he’s some kind of braveheart.  That’s fine.  But if that’s the case then you shouldn’t need to take shortcuts like Brogue kicking everyone when they’re not looking.  If he’s not going to stop doing that, and I personally don’t think he should, then he needs to own up to it.  He has to cut a promo and allude to his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.  You’re either a rogue who pushes the boundaries of fair play in the name of victory, or you’re a clean-cut babyface who always does the honorable thing.  I think it hurts Sheamus because he tries to get away with trying to portray the latter, while acting out the former.  No one is surprised when Randy Orton RKO’s someone when they’re not expecting it because that’s his character.  He’s never claimed to be a nice guy.  Same with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.  Sheamus though is trying to be Ricky Steamboat while acting more like Ric Flair.  I believe fans can sense the hypocrisy and it causes them to not fully embrace him like they do John Cena or even Orton.  Fans appreciate the fact that these wrestlers are true to their characters.  Even if they don’t like them, it’s not because they’re hypocrites, it’s because they don’t like the character they portray.  I believe Sheamus has the potential to carry the WWE.  He’s got a great look, charisma and is a terrific worker, especially for a big man.  This one thing could be the difference-maker that either sets him up or holds him back for life.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 8.  Raw Replay of John Cena and The Rock.  Tamina def. Kaitlyn in a non-title match.

  • The match was pathetically short but at least it furthers the storyline of Layla chasing the Divas Championship.
  • Kaitlyn has a scary collision with the ring ropes after Tamina dodges a tackle.  Thankfully she wasn’t injured. I’m sure it was an unintentional botch, but instances of stiffness like this I think give the Divas an edge over the men.  I certainly have respect for the beating they seem to take nearly every time out.
  • Best part of this segment was Cody Rhodes who was watching the match backstage, asking Damien Sandow what he thought of Kaitlyn.  I think WWE has realized their mistake in breaking up Team Rhodes Scholars and hopefully they’ll utilize these two together, at least in more skits like these because there’s so much gold to be unearthed yet.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 9.  Fandango refuses to debut against Justin Gabriel.  Raw Replay of Undertaker’s return and CM Punk’s win in the Fatal Four-Way.

  • Fandango again refused to compete, accusing Lillian Garcia of not pronouncing his name properly.  To her credit, Lillian makes “Fahn-DAHN-gooo” sound good!
  • Fandango calls her “Jillian”.
  • Some may disagree, but all of this build-up is going to help Fandango.  He may still end up getting jobbed every week, but what he’s doing is making the fans remember him.  He’s a heel.  People aren’t supposed to like him.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 10.  Swagger & Coulter video.  Sheamus vs. Big Show, Part One.

  • The videos by Zeb & Swagger serve their purpose of furthering Jack’s character.
  • Sheamus and Big Show really do have excellent chemistry.  Even though I’ve seen this match enough times, I was into it.  They weren’t just going through the motions.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 11.  No contest due to interference from The Shield.  Randy Orton makes the save.  Big Show helps chase The Shield off.

  • The Shield are doing their share of give and take.  Nothing wrong with that.  I still think they haven’t lost any of their momentum.  They continue to be featured at the end of the show and are working with all of the top stars.
  • Big Show helps drive Shield off but then K.O.’s Sheamus, only to get RKO’d himself by Orton.  The reason I like this uneasy partnership is because it gives Shield an “out” should they all be matched up at WrestleMania.  When I saw this six-man “feud” first develop, I was worried that Big Show would turn face and The Shield would be in danger of finally getting beaten.  However, with Big Show not being fully on-board with his partners, he could turn on them in the match, allowing Shield to steal another win.  We’ll see how it plays out.  But I’m more optimistic about the outcome than I was at first.

Last Word:  WIN!

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

POINTS OF PRAISE

  1. Midcard Madness.  The use of talented, passionate people like Daniel Bryan, AJ, Cody Rhodes, and Damien Sandow in backstage segments was a throwback to the late 90’s early 2000’s when everyone on the roster had something to do.  Everyone was important.  These days it seems like regular members of the roster are simply there to lose.  Not that there’s anything wrong with losing.  But when that’s all they do, it raises the question in this fan’s mind, “Why should I care about these people?”  Not a problem when your talking about local talent, but potential stars like these deserve better.  Thankfully, they got it to some degree on this show.

CHIEF COMPLAINTS

  1. Losing Interest.  As stated above, there’s nothing wrong with losing, but when it’s every week, sometimes multiple times in one week, it hurts the wrestler’s credibility in the fans’ eyes.  I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to turn the opinion of the WWE Universe back in favor of people like Sandow and Dolph Ziggler, but mixing it up just a little bit, would make that a non-issue.  Have them get a win on TV once in awhile and make them look strong again.  Remind fans why these men are considered “Superstars” in the first place.

This week’s Smackdown was certainly a rebound from last week’s dismal atrocity that nearly had me questioning my fandom.  There are the makings of some decent storylines here if they can continue to build on them.

That’s all I’ve got for now, freaks.  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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