411 Instant Analysis 1.3.14: WWE Smackdown
Posted by Nick Sellers on 01.03.2014
Join 411 for Instant Analysis on the first Smackdown of 2014, with extended comments on CM Punk's rivalry with The Shield, The Rhodes Brothers defense of the tag team titles against the Wyatts and more!
C&P'ed from the report - Something for you to talk about in the comment section: What's your favorite Smackdown match from 2013? Personally I think Cena vs Rollins from last week would be way up there unless there's a match or two omitted from my memory. Get 'em down and we'll go through some of them in the Instant Analysis next week to see if we've got a clear cut winner.
- Last week I commented on the Shield's backstage promos and how I was hoping they'd switch up the formula soon, actually allowing them to express themselves in the ring in front of the live crowd. One week on, that's exactly what we're getting. Ambrose comes across brilliantly as the paranoid leader with a chip on his shoulder. Reigns every now and again gives him a puzzling glance, which is subtle yet effective. Rollins is the guy who wont back down from a fight and will take on all comers, as evidenced by his excellent showing against Cena last week. Overall, great delivery here from all 3 members, and it set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Rating: 8/10 - No complaints about the delivery and it's good to see them cutting promos before the live crowd, in the ring, and not hiding backstage all the time.
Match #1: The Usos Def The Shield (Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins w/Dean Ambrose)
First, Ambrose was excellent on commentary, providing a lot of great back-story to the recent goings on and also answering any questions JBL and Cole threw at him, from Roman Reigns being talked about as the standout Shield member to a possible US/IC title unification match with Big E Langston down the road. His work at the announce desk really added to the proceedings in the ring. Speaking of the match, it was a terrific opener and another sign that the Usos have made a significant step up in recent times. We know any combination of the Shield can deliver, but the Usos do make a great babyface foil for them. I didn't mind the DQ finish because it meant setting up the main event, which meant more good wrestling for later on. Can't be a bad thing, can it?
Rating: 8/10. - WWE's tag team matches of late nearly always produce the goods, and here's another one for them to hang their hat on. Great portion of the show.
Match #2: R-Truth Def Fandango
By stark contrast to Ambrose in the previous match, I felt Woods was really distracting during his stint on commentary here. They didn't reference the match much and just goofed around mostly, which was getting pretty annoying. Also, I didn't see the point in booking Fandango to be on the losing end when they could've continued the feud with Brodus Clay here or given the loss to a less-over heel personality. You could quite rightly argue it was to add to the dancing aspect, except Fandango didn't get much of a chance to strut his stuff here and was essentially just there to do the job and nothing else. He's got a great character there and some great mannerisms which really add to it, so in a match of "dancers" if you will, why not use them? R-Truth has bags of energy but his character and the What's Up routine is getting old now. It felt like more of an excuse to get the Funkadactyls on TV to do exactly the same schtick they've been doing, to cricket-like reactions, for a good while now.
Rating: 6/10. - Average TV match.
Match 3: WWE Tag Team titles- Cody Rhodes & Goldust Def The Wyatts (Harper & Rowan)
Excellent stuff again from these four, and the second of three brilliant tag bouts this evening. Cody Rhodes spent the majority of the match taking punishment from the heels and drew great sympathy from the crowd in the process, as did Goldust who was constantly shouting encouragement from the apron. By contrast, Harper & Rowan are an awesome monster-heel duo who genuinely look like the wrestle on pure instinct alone and without much of a game-plan, such is the nature of their complex minds and demeanours as part of Bray's clan. If there's a little gripe I have with this one, it's that they kept teasing the hot tag from Cody to Goldust, only for it to keep getting cut off. Nothing wrong with that part, but when Goldust finally did get the tag, it was a blind one before he rolled up Rowan for the win out of the blue. No issue with the way they won and it made sense in the context of the match and their respective styles, but to keep building and keep building to Goldust's hot tag and not really deliver on it left me scratching my head. Still, excellent bout.
Rating: 8.5/10 - Minor gripes ignored, this is a great showcase for the tag title/division renaissance.
Match #4: Nikki Bella Def Aksana
Aksana heeled it up brilliantly here, constantly yelling abuse at Nikki and wearing her down with some smart strategy. Nikki executed her stuff well and as the more over of the diva acts, her getting the win was the right result. For all the positive words about WWE's tag division these days, the divas division has vastly improved too in recent months.
Rating: 7/10 Nothing wrong with this at all. Short, but good.
Match #5: Big E Langston Def Curtis Axel
Pretty average overall, but as a showcase for Big E it worked absolutely fine. Axel's best role is putting over up and coming midcarders like Big E because in the ring he does provide some great competition for them, really putting the babyface through their paces before ultimately selling their moves really well and making them look like a bigger star in the process. He can't cut a promo to save his life, but it's still important to have solid workers like that on your roster.
Rating: 6.5/10 - Solid enough Big E showcase but it's nothing we haven't seen several times from these two already.
Still not 100% sure what to make of this, but I like the rising podium by the stage. Much better than the ringside booth, anyway. Right now it's just a cheap-heat machine. Nothing wrong with that in principal, but if he gets to tackle tougher subjects in the future or become involved in segments with high-profile babyfaces, mocking them and so on, then this gimmick has a much better chance of getting over.
Rating: 6.5/10 - Nothing groundbreaking, but the gimmick is steadily getting better. Barrett's actual delivery is very good and his deep-thuggish, British voice just screams smugness and villainy. Give it time and I think this can still work.
Match #6: CM Punk & The Usos Def. The Shield
Full credit to The Usos and Rollins & Reigns, who've delivered two stellar matches tonight. CM Punk's involvement here gave the show some much needed star power with Cena, Orton, Bryan and Bray Wyatt among others all missing. The action was back and forth, the dissension in the Shield's ranks was teased again nicely, and The Usos stepped up to the plate again and showed their chops as an excellent babyface duo. Even their "UUUUS OOO!!" chant is getting over to the point where they don't need to bellow it out themselves and it actually started in the stands organically once or twice tonight. Highlights included Dean Ambrose nailing Punk with a Double-Arm Superplex from the turnbuckle, The Usos' double dive to the outside and Ambrose refusing to tag out to his partners and the frustration really boiling from Reigns in particular. Who knows what's next for The Shield, but it's looking increasingly likely that a split is one the way and there are different plans in the offing for them. As for Punk, I think it might be time for him to move out of this feud now and properly kickstart his rumoured scuffles coming up with Triple H and the Authority.
Rating: 8.5/10 - Another rock-solid Smackdown main event for about the third or fourth week in a row. All 6 men made valid contributions in the overall picture of the match.
Overall - The show did suffer a bit this week from many of the top stars missing, though with it being taped before Raw on Monday and with lots of talent being given part of New Year's off and with several live events still going on, it's kind of understandable. It's just a shame that after the likes of Cena and Orton have been appearing on the show regularly again and delivering great matches and promos, we were back to what seemed like a filler show this time around. Even AJ Lee and some of the other high profile divas were missing, which is strange. But they did put out three excellent tag matches and the story of the continued dissension with The Shield progressed nicely too, so there's still plenty of positives to take from it.
Rating: 7.5 - The lack of overall star power does hurt the rating a bit, but the three tag matches delivered and there were plenty of other positives too.
Finally, Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for all your positive comments for the first few entries of this column which started at the tail end of 2013. Here's hoping 2014 brings much the same.