So much for the power of the internet. The #CancelWWENetwork movement was a bust, with WWE garnering a truck load of sign ups from their free November, the Rumble and the night after, leading to them hitting the fabled one million subscribers number. Seconds later they sent out a press release to gloat about the fact, and make no mistake, that was a big "fuck you" to all of those who talked about cancelling. It was WWE saying, "Your protests are ineffectual and you are a minority voice," and even more ammunition for why they won't listen to the vocal section of their audience.
So, SmackDown then, the first ever episode of the show that HoW have covered. This will not be a regular thing, believe me, because usually this is a tiresome show to sit through. Nothing ever happens! Literally, nothing at all. I am covering this episode due to Raw having been cancelled. My expectation is, everything that would have went down Monday will happen here. Maybe.
Promo Time: Triple H
The show is already beating Raw due to an absence of Stephanie and her dulcet tones. Triple H is in full gloat mode, championing the WWE Network and its million subscribers (a good number, sure, but not one that makes the whole exercise worthwhile just yet) and thanking everyone for buying it, like a babyface. He notes that, "When people tell us we can't do it, we're gonna do it," which is another way of saying: "Roman Reigns? Deal with it." Proving that nothing changes, Hunter then makes semi-dated references and cock jokes, though because we are PG they are actually "balls" jokes. They are even lamer now than they were eighteen years ago.
Then he gets serious. He mentions "controversy" in WWE as of late, and brings up Sting. Ah, he is back to heel again... He rambles on and on and on, taking an age to spit out every goddamn sentence, then reveals he will confront Sting at Fast Lane. WE KNOW! It was announced on Raw! I hate it when they do a big slow reveal to announce something... that they have already announced. Hunter brings up further controversy at the Royal Rumble, but notes not the event itself, which was "spectacular". He puts over the triple threat as one of the greatest matches he has ever seen, and says the Rumble match itself was the problem. We see footage of Reigns winning and Hunter says he will deal with the controversy with an announcement that will shake the foundations of WWE on Monday. Wait a minute... What controversy? There was no actual storyline controversy whatsoever! Reigns won, fairly (though I suppose Rock helped, but he didn't touch Rusev), the only controversy was that the fans hated the booking and let WWE know about it. Admitting to the supposed "controversy" and not explaining what was so controversial makes no sense, and only really reveals that wrestling is all booked. Of course we all know that, but don't break the fourth wall!
As far as the announcement? Don't get your hopes up. Bryan is going nowhere near that main event this year, and all it is likely to be is Reigns getting put in a handicap match with Kane and Big Show with his shot on the line, something like that. Stack the odds against him and have him overcome, the classic babyface booking. I don't see it as being much more. Reigns comes out to more apathy than boos, and quite rightly wants to know what the controversy is. Hunter doesn't answer, instead just telling Reigns, "You did win that match (Zuh? Then what are you going on about!?), let's see if you win this one..." This whole segment meandered in too many directions, and none of them made any sense. And my god, does Hunter love the sound of his own voice.
Roman Reigns vs. The Big Show
I feel like I have seen this before. It's their usual match, which is not a good thing. Show dominates, making Reigns look far less human than someone about to wrestle an unbeatable monster in the biggest show of the year. Reigns should be the one who dominates. The commentary is interesting here, with the announcers discussing how fans wanted Bryan to win, and Lawler noting that Reigns isn't the problem, the fans just didn't want him to win. "It's not like Reigns didn't do anything in the Royal Rumble," defends Cole, before throwing out some stats. What a dumb thing to say. It feels like forced justification. It is also strange that they keep mentioning Bryan and Ziggler being the fan's choices. Either Reigns is going heel or they have something up their sleeve. Or, y'know, the commentators and WWE just have no real idea what they are doing. Big Show tries to do an anklelock and it is woeful, like, backyard wrestling bad. Then he takes a hilarious bump over the top a'la Jim Neidhart at WrestleMania II to further prove why he has no place in wrestling in 2015. A tepid brawl on the outside does little to inspire. Back in the ring, Show blocks the Superman punch with a chokeslam, but Reigns kicks out. The crowd is mainly quiet for his comeback, though there are more cheers than boos. Naturally, at the chosen one, he goes over clean with a spear. They are trying to make him strong him for 'Mania, but I still think a massacre a'la Goldberg would have achieved far more. Pretty dull match overall. "One way to silence critics is to win and to win big," says Cole, apparently forgetting about John Cena's existence.
Final Rating: 3/4*
Vince McMahon, looking like a Madame Tussauds waxwork, re-announces that the Network is free in February. You know, all the people who ordered it from the start have a right to be fairly miffed about this. What is the reward for the loyal customer?
In another break announcement that they already announced on Monday, Arnold Schwarzenegger is going into the WWE Hall of Fame. The whole deal is purely reciprocal, a thanks from Hunter because Arnie is putting him in his International Sports Hall of Fame.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
Seth gloats about injuring Lesnar at the Rumble, and reminds everyone that even though he didn't win the title, he still has the briefcase. He issues an open challenge to anyone in the building to fight him. He should learn from other heels of the past; this kind of grandstanding never ends well. Oh, never mind, it's only Ryback who answers. It's not even a match, just a three-on-one mugging from Rollins and his security team. Erik Rowan and his unfathomable music is next out, he gets a kicking too. These babyfaces suck. Finally Dolph Ziggler heads out to reunite the fired babyface trio from Survivor Series. The point of all this? I have no idea; Seth and his cronies just bail. I figure he will do something similar on Raw and Randy Orton will answer, setting up their inevitable WrestleMania program.
Kane cuts a horrible promo backstage from behind a casket. It's corny in a bad early nineties way. You can only see his top half, leading me to wonder if he is wearing pants. See, now it is creepy.
Jey Uso vs. Tyson Kidd
Standard WWE booking here, with Kidd going over one half of the tag champions in a singles match to no doubt illogically set up a tag title match on Raw. I wrote the previous sentence before the match had even started, that's how predictable and unwavering this company is in the way it does things. Super quick here too, played in front of silence, with Kidd getting the expected win thanks to the Moss Covered Three Handled Family Credenza. This didn't nothing for anyone.
Final Rating: 1/2*
More Kane, this time he is staring longingly into a casket, perhaps thinking about Katie Vick. Yeah, he is definitely not wearing pants.
Promo Time: Rusev
Quick rant from Rusev about how he should have been the Royal Rumble winner and facing Lesnar at WrestleMania, which would have been great, then John Cena comes out. Cena does his finest Dusty Rhodes impression, delivering his lines as if he just rolled in from the hood. "I'm the face of the place," he reminds us, as if we needed reminding. I am looking forward to the fiftieth round of Rusev vs. Jack Swagger matches once Cena gets done ruining Rusev's career in the next two months. These two will get it on at Fast Lane next month, as announced on Raw. Oddly enough, when WWE made that announcement they mentioned it was originally supposed to happen at WrestleMania, which it was, but that was never announced anywhere except the dirt sheets. Is kayfabe just completely out of the window now or what?
At Fast Lane, Paige will wrestle Nikki Bella for the Diva's Title. That naturally leads to an immediate confrontation backstage, some bullying from the Bellas (be a star!) and Paige getting a meaty forearm to the face.
Goldust & Stardust vs. The Ascension
The Ascension do an insert promo and are so twitchy and hokey that they make me laugh. Nervously that is, worried that someone will catch me watching this shit and think I am an idiot. They are awful! They have a tedious match too, not helped by both teams being heel. Goldust gets a hot tag to no response, which goes nowhere, then Stardust gets pinned with the Total Elimination deal. Stick a fork in the Ascension, they're done.
Final Rating: 1/2*
Backstage, Kane closes his casket. That's not a double entendre. "No air!" wails Lawler randomly.
Elsewhere backstage, a magician from some show fits right in with WWE's recent odd behaviour, revealing his secrets to the world. He shows Miz a trick involving a gimmicked egg, which turns into a real egg. Miz doesn't buy it so the magician breaks it over his head. Mizdow is amused.
Bray Wyatt does his black room Titantron promo deal, saying he fears no-one. The way they are using him, I think Undertaker is imminent.
Kane vs. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan is considerably more over than the chosen one Roman Reigns. The thing is though, no matter how much the fans yell "Yes", WWE just think the chant is over rather than Bryan. That's their mentality, they always come up with an excuse for why they don't want to push him. This is Vince McMahon we are talking about after all, he is never going to truly get behind someone who doesn't eat meat. This match is unlikely to make it onto Daniel Bryan's highlight reel because like everything else on the show, it's astonishingly dull. It's like a Royal Rumble just on one side of the ring. Lots and lots of teases, not a great deal else. Kane is real tough to watch, especially without all of the smoke and mirrors of his mask, entrance, etc. Bryan tries but the fans just don't care at all. He eventually bundles Kane into the casket using the Yes Lock after twenty minutes, and does the chant and pose on top of the cheap plastic casket after the win. The crowd play along, but based on tonight there is absolutely no chance that WWE are going to change direction.
Final Rating: *
THE SMACKDOWN REPORT:
Most Entertaining: No-one. Everyone was boring tonight, Deathly boring.
Least Entertaining: The Ascension. I can't even look at them without cringing.
Quote of the Night: "The WWE, and Triple H, we have never had a problem with balls" - Triple H still loves his Johnson.
Match of the Night: They all sucked.
Verdict: This is why I don't watch SmackDown. It is boring, so boring. Sure, it is far snappier (see: shorter) than Raw and thus easier to forgive, but still, never again. The people who watch this show every week must really love WWE. Despite having essentially lost a week with the cancellation of Raw, I expected something meaningful to happen tonight. Instead I got Triple H announcing an announcement and then a bunch of fluff to get the bigger stars on the show without them actually doing anything. Jesus Christ was this a boring show!