411 Instant Analysis 1.31.14: WWE Smackdown
Posted by Nick Sellers on 01.31.2014
The Shield meet Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio & Sheamus in the main event and also have a challenge for The Wyatt Family, The Real Americans are both in Elimination Chamber qualifying matches, Christian returns from injury and more! Check out 411's Instant Analysis with the latest edition of Sellers on Smackdown!
Disclaimer: Depending on which version of the show you've watched, the running order may be slightly different.
Match #1: Chamber Qualifier – Antonio Cesar Def. Dolph Ziggler
This was an absolutely terrific opening bout, so good that I think it's the best Smackdown bout of the year thus far and up there with the best in recent memory. Both men bumped well, both men employed their counters well and delivered their moves with conviction and even a hint of urgency considering the spot in the Chamber that was at stake. That suplex back into the ring - while Cesaro's on the ropes and Ziggler's on the apron – was terrific and Ziggler's DDT counter to block the big uppercut was also delightful. I'm a big advocate of Ziggler and I'm surprised he lost, but Cesaro is the absolute dogs bollocks and I'm sure he'll be a big hit in the Chamber match.
Rating: 8.5/10. - Such a good match and the crowd were totally engaged throughout, plus there was actually a consequence to the result here which we just don't see enough of. Loved it.
The Shield on a collision course with The Wyatts
Another great segment and this week's Smackdown is off to roaring start. First they played up to the tension in the group, then attentions turned to the Wyatts. Triple H coming out and being part of the segment was a nice touch and really added some gravitas to it, and Roman Reigns getting in his face just sent goosebumps down your spine. A Wyatt Family/Shield encounter will be interesting, and Reigns will be the babyface by default even though it'll technically be two heel stables going head to head, so it'll provide another vehicle for him to grow in that role.
Rating: 8.5/10. - Displayed their individual characteristics well and HHH added more importance to the segment.
Match #2: Fandango Def. Xavier Woods
Although I'm pretty sick of seeing Fandango being paired up against either Woods or Truth, this is actually the best match of their recent 'series' if you can call it that. Woods actually got to make a decent comeback and displayed some good variety in his moves. Also, they've finally given Emma some decent interaction on the show as Summer Raye tore up her sign, only for her to dig out another one and keep Emmataining. Not as a bad or as tedious as I thought this was going to be, but hopefully we can draw a line under it now and move everyone on to different stuff.
Rating: 7.5/10. - Match was surprisingly quite good and Emma finally got some decent interaction with someone.
Match #3: Ryback & Curtis Axel Def. Prime Time Players/Titus O'Neil's heel turn
Looking at this as a segment rather than a match, I think they got the turn over brilliantly. Would've been nice not to make Young not look like a total loser in the process and at least give him the loss via opponent miscommunication, but it still worked well. I always thought Titus would make a good solo heel and now he'll get the opportunity to prove that now he's a little more established. Can't deny I'm gutted to see the PTP fold though. No more of that "Millions o' Dollars!" dancing. Leave the memories alone. Someone needs to make a PTP montage to that music!
Rating: 7.5/10. - Effective way to turn Titus and split the PTP up. Maybe they could've built it up over a few more shows, but the execution from Titus really stood out.
Match #4: Chamber Qualifier - Christian Def. Jack Swagger
Great return for Christian, and this bout was very reminiscent of the rock solid matches these guys used to have together on the ECW brand when that was still going. It looks as though they're going to be doing something different with Swagger and possibly having him go up against Zeb as a babyface, which would be an interesting new direction for him and because of his All American background he might get some really positive reactions. At the very least he'll constantly get cheap "USA!" pops, and the matches with Cesaro could tear the house down. Rumour has it that despite being booked to go over here, Christian's spot isn't secure depending on who else they could put into the Chamber match, but on this evidence they could do much worse.
Rating: 8/10. - Another really good match tonight. Zeb's commentary contribution also added a great deal to the segment.
Match #5: Kofi Kingston Def. Damien Sandow
The sole purpose of this was to put over Damien's recent downward spiral. Personally I loathe storylines like this, because all it does is strip away any momentum the character had previously, and it can be really, really difficult to rediscover that form. Sandow's character has tons of potential and we've seen he can have excellent matches with the likes of John Cena, so why book someone like that in this manner? I just can't see any good whatsoever that can come of this.
Rating: 4/10. - Match was too short to mean anything and I hate the kind of direction they're taking with Sandow now.
Match #6: Cody Rhodes Def. Road Dogg
Good little story here with Cody's left arm being bandaged up and Road Dogg constantly targeting it. Good, hard-hitting affair even though they didn't get much time out there, and it set the stage for the tag title cage match this Monday on Raw nicely. Cody getting the win here was a good decision, as the ex-Champions need that extra little bit of momentum to compensate for their recent loss at the Rumble PPV and the beatdown from Brock Lesnar on Raw.
Rating: 7/10. - Short but a good selling point for the cage match coming up on Raw.
Match #7: The Shield Def. Rey Mysterio Sheamus & Daniel Bryan
Continuing the theme of great TV matches tonight, this was the perfect way to wrap up what has easily been the best Smackdown broadcast overall since the new year kicked off, and of similar quality to the last few episodes of 2013. In The Shield's case, they're putting more and more emphasis on Reigns and his dominance by the week, which I can only see as a good thing. But Ambrose continues to provide a great loose cannon figure for the group and Seth Rollins is the glue that helps knit everything together. It seems more and more apparent that they're all going in different directions soon, but it's been a hell of a ride for them and hopefully they don't get lost in the shuffle during any singles runs. As for the babyface super-team, top work from all three of them and Daniel Bryan once again was a real standout. It's worth noting that Sheamus looks like he hasn't missed a step since returning from Shoulder surgery too, and his return is very welcome.
Rating: 8.5/10. - If there's any complaint you could have, it's that we've seen Shield main events like this with different combinations of opponents several times up to now, but as usual they deliver a great match and when they keep doing that, it's easy to see why they keep going with it.
Excellent broadcast this week with some really, really good TV matches and some key angles advanced too regarding the Elimination Chamber PPV. Good to see most of the top stars on the show strutting their stuff. Definitely check it out if you can, especially that opener between Cesaro and Ziggler. Vast majority of the show was tremendously enjoyable, and more proof that you can have a perfectly good broadcast with good promos and several matches in just a two hour window and not an overloaded 3-hour show.