Segment 1.  Miz TV with Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show.  Booker T interrupts, books six-man tag match main event.

  • Althought they went with the ol’ “book the main event in the opening ten minutes” gimmick, which I normally hate, the participants all did a good job selling their roles in the “drama” leading up to this trio’s upcoming WrestleMania match with the Shield.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 2.  Mark Henry squashes Zack Ryder.  Continues assault after the bell.  Ryback makes the save.

  • Although I still believe WWE is mishandling Ryback by making him take a back seat to Twice In A Lifetime at WrestleMania when he should be challenging for the WWE title, AND even though I’m still skeptical that a feud with Mark Henry is the best showcase for the “Human Wrecking Ball,” I must say I did enjoy this segment.
  • Yes, yes, everybody knows that Zack Ryder shouldn’t be jobbing in two-minute squash matches, but we’re beating that horse’s unborn fetuses at this point.
  • The reason I liked this segment is because Ryback vs. Mark Henry is the kind of non-title challenge match that WrestleMania has been sorely lacking the past few years.  I remember when two powerhouses who had never wrestled each other would be on an epic collision course that you knew was going to lead to an eventual encounter at a pay-per-view.  Unfortunately, too often those matches turned out to be shit.  But Henry’s performances lately have really been exceptional.  And although Ryback may end up looking small against him no matter what he does, if he can get out of ‘Mania with an impressive win, it would hopefully help him regain some of the momentum I feel he’s lost since the early stages of his rivalry with the Shield last fall.
  • I love that WWE has managed to “save” this match so far.  Too often by the time a pay-per-view rolls around, we’ve already seen most of the matches several times.  They’ve teased it, but by not allowing it to happen, it has built my anticipation.  That may seem like a small thing, but in today’s wrestling culture, when the same matches between the same people seem to be ocurring every week,  it’s actually more important than it has ever been.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 3.  Booker T’s Hall of Fame video.  Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston, Part One.  AJ Lee on commentary.

  • Since the build-up for a match between Team Hell No and the team of Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston began, AJ has gone from being a generic Vickie clone, to doing the things that got her over in the first place:  skipping to the ring, she sat “Indian-style” on the broadcast table when she joined in on commentary, going all “crazy chick” on Ricardo Rodriguez last week when she got doused with water.  It didn’t make sense that WWE would take that all away from her in the first place, but I’m glad it’s back now.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 4.  Dolph pins Kofi clean.  Big E continues the assault.

  • This match suffered from a case of “been there, seen that.”  The action was fine for a typical Dolph-Kofi match.
  • Big E’s a monster, but his finisher kind of sucks.  The move Dolph takes in which he’s basically just thrown up into the air by his opponent and belly flops to the mat has higher elevation and greater impact and it’s not even a finishing move.
  • With this duo challenging for the tag team titles at WrestleMania, I was really hoping we were going to see a tag match between them and the Black Rockers (a.k.a. The New Midnight Express), Kofi and R-Truth.  That would’ve made more sense and given us the extra thrill of seeing Langston actually compete in a match for the first time.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segmetn 5.  Replay of Undertaker-CM Punk interaction from Raw.  Orton, Sheamus and Big Show backstage.  Replay of Jack Swagger’s assault on Ricardo Rodriguez from Raw.

  • This entire segment was unneccesary.  We all remember what happened on Raw.  And the interaction among the three main event guys could’ve easily been squeezed in somewhere else.  Doing away with segments like this are one of the things that could help trim the show down to ninety minutes, which even ol’ Zeb Coulter himself said was the perfect length for a wrestling show on tv.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 6.  Jack Swagger, Zeb Coulter pre-match promo.  Swagger vs. Chris Jericho, Part One.

  • The promo was more of the same from Zeb and Jack.  It was good but we’ve been hearing it twice a week for over a month now and it’s starting to cross into the realm of overkill.
  • Nothing wrong with the match but again, we just saw this last week.  Their first encounter had the added appeal of being their first encounter.  This one was just another match between two guys who had already faced each other before.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 7.  Swagger def. Jericho with the help of Fandango.  Fandango continues the assault.  Striker interviews Big Show.

  • Hopefully, what Johnny Curtis did this week will silence the critics of the Fandango gimmick.  His attack on Chris Jericho was the most memorable thing about the show.  What I love about it is, he was able to show off his amazing flexibility, aerial prowess, and the fact that he’s a dangerous individual desptie the corny gimmick and he did it without actually having a match.  Plus, the attack lends credence to the tried and true booking methods that have always worked in professional wrestling.  Jericho making fun of Fandango’s name on Raw, or the fact that Chris was on Dancing With the Stars were not reason enough for these two to fight.  But now this has turned into a full-on rivalry and I’m actually looking forward to this grudge match.  Jericho is still capable of bringing out the best in his opponents and although I was not familiar with Curtis before, it looks like he has a lot to offer.

Last Word:  WIN!

Segment 8.  Rock – John Cena hype video.  Team Rhodes Scholars vs. Brodus Clay & Tensai.  No contest due to interference from the Bella Twins and the Funkadactyls.

  • I know a lot of people don’t like the fact that Tensai has turned into a comedy character, but I personally feel there are worse things he could be doing.
  • I would not have minded this match at all, except the men seemed to take a backseat to the women.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see Nikki and Brie back, especially with their new “enhancements,” but Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes deserve so much better.  Hopefully, this little “feud” doesn’t last long because I highly doubt it will result in great things being done in the ring.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 9.  Miz def. Antonio Cesaro in a non-title match.  Wade Barrett on commentary.

  • You’re the Miz.  You lost in your bid for the U.S. title by proving incapable of beating Antonio Cesaro.  Now you’re challenging Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental title, and along the way, you defeat Antonio Cesaro clean as fuck by submission, and Cesaro is still the U.S. Champion and you’re still challenging for someone else’s title.  Makes perfect sense to me.
  • In all seriousness, champions should not be jobbers.  I understand the purpoted “psychology” that because it’s a non-title match, Cesaro may not have been “trying as hard” or would be more willing to tap out to the Figure Four rather than risk injury “since it’s a non-title match anyway.”  HOWEVERif that’s the logic you’re using, you’re really devaluing any win that anyone gets on a champion in a non-title match and thereby, cancelling any “momentum” you hoped to build for that person.  There are plenty of guys on the roster without title belts that could job to the Miz, who really shouldn’t be getting this title shot anyway since he just failed in his effort to win WWE’s other secondary singles championship.  I realize he’s their poster boy for public service appearances, but how about a non-title feud with someone else if you want to keep him in the spotlight?  Or a meaningful segment to explain why he gets a title shot in the first place?  Or how about a non-title feud with Wade that eventually leads to a championship match?  These types of things could be set up with ONE well-planned segment, which is why it’s so frustrating and unfulfilling to this fan when WWE just throws title matches at people for no apparent reason.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 10.  Replay of Brock Lesnar – Triple H interaction from Raw.  Babyface intros for main event.

  • Again, another segment wasted on replays.

Last Word:  FAIL!

Segment 11.  Main Event:  Randy Orton, Sheamus & Big Show def. 3MB clean.  Tensions flare among the winners.  The Shield appear but do not attack.

  • 3MB?  In the main event? Really?  Really??
  • Although it does seem like a bit of a stretch, this actually made me harken back to the mid-80’s when you’d have a main eventer like Hulk Hogan or Roddy Piper, guys who rarely wrestled on tv, accept a special challenge against someone who you knew they could beat easily, just as a “tune up” for an upcoming match against someone else on a bigger show.  Once I looked at it from that perspective, I actually enjoyed the match.
  • Speaking of the mid-80’s, back then, you might have a six-man tag match like this as part of a pay-per-view and it would basically be a “throw-in” with no build-up whatsoever.  There is actually a story here.  Nothing may come of the dynamic of Big Show teaming with two babyfaces despite still being very much a heel, but it’s something.  I’m afraid for people my age, as knowledgable fans who grew up during two great eras in wrestling, we expect more than we even got from the mid-80’s and mid-90’s.  Back then, you wouldn’t have a group like The Shield, three rookies (for lack of a better term) who weren’t stars on any major stage somewhere else (and no, Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling do not count) being booked to look this strong and having matches with established main eventers like this, especially not with any kind of storyline devoted to them.  Even during Vince’s “desperate years” that spawned the Attitude Era, people had to work their way to the top.  Before The Rock became the face of the company, he was tapping regularly to Ken Shamrock’s anklelock.  So quit your complaining!  I know WWE deserves it reputation for fucking things up, but why not enjoying what they’re doing right now?  All of the Shield’s matches have been outstanding.  I’m not expecting this one to be any different.  And whether you like the storyline or not, it makes for an little intrigue in what would otherwise likely be a throw-away bullshit tag match in other vaunted bygone eras.

Last Word:  WIN!

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

CHIEF COMPLAINTS:

  1. Time Is Money.  WWE looks at that statment and says, “The more tv time we have, the more advertising dollars we get.”  I look at that statement and say, “The less viewers’ time you waste, the more viewers’ time you get.  And more viewers, means greater advertising dollars.”  Smackdown’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s still two hours whereas Raw has jumped up to three.  But they could be saving viewers even more time by trimming the fat, dropping all the needless replays, and running ninety minutes instead.  I would be more inclined to watch a ninety minute show as it airs instead of on DVR, and thereby sitting through commercials instead of fast-fowarding through them.  I’m sure there’s still some logistical thing that I, as a lowly fan probably don’t understand but my logic makes sense to me and I’m convinced, would make for a better overall product.
  2. Chumpions Gonna Chump.  This could almost be said about every show on WWE tv.  Because of the nature of the WWE right now, champions like Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett jobbing regularly almost isn’t that big of a deal.  But my argument is, if it can be easily avoided just by having somebody else do the losing when necessary, why not?

POINTS OF PRAISE:

  1. Story Time!  When the Attitude Era started hitting its stride (around late ’97, early ’98), it seemed like every member of the roster had something to do.  There almost weren’t any jobbers because there was only Raw and Shotgun Saturday Night.  There was no Smackdown or Heat so all you had really, was two hours of programming to fill and every segment could have some type of storyline devoted to it.  Even when guys lost regularly, it wasn’t just them losing in random, meaningless matches to the same people every week.  The losses meant something.  They didn’t cause you to lose interest in the wrestler.  To the contrary, as a viewer you gained interest in a wrestler that was going through a losing streak.  Unfortunately, the culture is completely different now.  Wins and losses no longer mean as much as they used to, if anything at all, because there are so many opportunities to turn things around just in the span of one week that a few wins strung together seems to erase months of getting beaten cleanly.  That being said, the most that fans can hope for in today’s WWE, is for their favorite performer to have some kind of storyline to be involved in.  And because things change week-to-week, it’s not as easy to predict future plans for a particular talent as it used to be.  So when someone is involved in a storyline, even if it’s not the greatest storyline, it means they are in an important place on the roster AT THAT TIME.  And that is what we have to condition ourselves to appreciate and enjoy instead of always wondering where it’s going, if we’re going to continue to watch the current WWE product.  This week Smackdown scored big points with me for the way they developed the storyline involving three WrestleMania matches:  Ryback – Mark Henry, Fandango – Jericho, and the six-man tag match involving the Shield.  These things could’ve all been booked haphazardly because of how much attention needs to be shown to the “part-timers” but I’m actually excited now for the undercard at Mania instead of being indifferent about the entire show.

So there’s your review.  Better late than never, I suppose.  Although the show failed as a whole because of the time that was wasted and a few missteps with meaningless repeats of matches and a lack of developing Dolph and Big E as a tag team, I still contend this is WWE’s best show on regular television.  I enjoyed the Fandango segment so much that I was almost willing to give the show a pass based on that alone.  But I can’t overlook the mental malaise I experienced during the less positive moments so I decided to stick to the facts.  And the facts are, there were more misses than hits on this show.  But the “hits” did accomplish one thing very significant.  They got me looking forward to WrestleMania.  And for the right reasons.  I’m not excited at all about the top of card.  Nor should I be.  Who cares if anyone beats the Undertaker at this point?  What does another showdown between Brock and Triple H mean anyway regardless of who wins?  And there has been virtually no build-up at all to Cena vs. Rock so why should I care about that?  I’d rather concern myself with the people who are the future of the company like the Shield, Sheamus, Ryback, Fandango, Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston, and Daniel Bryan.  With so many veterans working with younger talents perhaps this WrestleMania represents a changing of the guard, so to speak.  I’m not about to count on that.  But still, it’s not to late for WWE to shift its focus.  For the sake of the product, I hope they do.

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

[Check out more of “Handsome” Dan’s ramblings on his personal wrestling blog, “Handsome” Dan’s Last Word, and follow him on Twitter, @DansLastWord.]

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