This is the first episode of SmackDown I’ve seen since I was 411Mania.com’s resident SmackDown reviewer. Due to that information being available online I can tell you my last episode of SmackDown was June 27 2008. Just the seven and a half year gap then. That show was headlined by Dave Batista (who’s now a Bond villain in SPECTRE) and Umaga (who’s now sadly deceased). Why have I not seen SmackDown in such a long time? It’s become a bit of an afterthought to WWE. It’s the show that sort of follows on from RAW but not in such a way that it’d interfere with RAW continuity. It’s not an important show but the one thing I always used to enjoy about recapping SmackDown was the wrestling was routinely superior to the red-banded flag-ship show. Is that still true? Stay tuned to find out.
We’re in Dayton, Ohio. Hosts are Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler. Tonight we have Miz TV and Roman Reigns will be wrestling the entire League of Nations. This ‘stacked deck’ booking is killing me.
Promo Time: Chris Jericho
After seven and half years SmackDown is still trying to be RAW Jr. by kicking off the show with a promo but not from a big heavy-hitter. Jericho might think he’s a big shining star but he’s not been since 2010 and his last title run. I quite enjoyed him as a part-time guy who’d occasionally turn up and have a decent match with a midcard worker (Neville in particular benefitted from this). As Jericho continues to spout exposition you can hear people carrying on their conversations, still waiting for the show to start. It does when The New Day interrupt. Jericho deserves all the abuse he gets for breaking poor innocent Francesca, Woods’ trombone. Xavier suggests a TV show called “Making a Brass Murderer” about Jericho’s disgraceful behaviour. Francesca was easily the 2015 ‘Prop of the Year’. Jericho tries to get “rooty, tooty, booty” over as a catchphrase. Urgh, go back to the Attitude Era pal. Jericho somehow gains booking powers and has New Day wrestle The Usos and Ziggles.
The New Day vs. The Usos & Dolph Ziggler
The main focus for the commentary is the new Jericho nicknames for the New Day, which includes Jerry Lawler referencing the time he destroyed Tiny Tim’s ukulele. I remember that. It sucked. Much like this commentary. The match is inoffensive but provokes no reaction whatsoever from the crowd. Sure, there’s heat pumped in but everyone is just sitting around looking bored. Kofi steals the show with his flying and bumping but Xavier looks lost without his trombone. One would hope he locates Francesca II at some point. Xavier not having a trombone is like Lisa Simpson not having a cat. Or saxophone. That’s probably the better metaphor but I was thinking about Snowball II. The New Day are still effortlessly entertaining, posing and dancing around. Ziggler plays his role well too, especially taking an enormous backdrop out of the ring, which he face plants into the ring steps. Xavier eats a triple superkick though and the faces win. This was fun enough. New Day are always an easy watch and the faces fitted into the match. A solid start.
Final Rating: **3/4
Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox
I’ve been heavily critical of WWE’s main roster divas division however the booking has had one, perhaps unplanned, perk. As everyone they wanted to push has been a bunch of easy-to-hate heels third wheel Becky has found herself as the top babyface. Now she’s being booked as less goofy I’m on board with her getting a strong push. Alicia has switched to all black gear with the Nikki Bella and her red gear off TV. Is that so we don’t remember the Bellas? Surely they’re still all over Total Divas. Oh, speaking of the Bellas, Brie is ringside. I didn’t even notice her with the camera focusing on Ric Flair ranting on commentary at ringside. Becky wrestles circles around Foxy. Lynch is the far superior technician and finishes with the Dis-Arm-Her (which I much preferred when I thought it was just called the Disarmer. Puns, eh?). About as good as you’d expect from Alicia Fox. She’s not terrible but jobber is a perfectly fine role for her.
Final Rating: *
Miz has Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose on for a chat about their IC title match at the Royal Rumble, which is Last Man Standing (or Texas Death Match if you’re from the dirty south). Miz is the least entertaining man in the ring so he just lets Ambrose get on with running the segment. Ambrose, going solo, is easily better than Miz. “You ever notice Kevin Owens looks kinda like a bear?” says Ambrose, perhaps referencing @KOAsBears account on Twitter. A shame that account has gone quiet of late. Ambrose’s amusement park ride tour of ringside is shot down by Owens, who prefers zoos, and Miz jumps Ambrose from behind. Owens is less than impressed and puts Miz down with a Pop Up Powerbomb, because he sucks. Ambrose and Owens got to sell their match a little here but I prefer them beating the crap out of each other rather than chatting about it. Although Owens did a good job of getting his belt obsession over and Ambrose, as per usual, did fine work with relatively weak material. Especially in ignoring Miz at the start of the skit.
Ryback vs. Bray Wyatt
The Wyatt Family’s presence in the Rumble match has turned Bray into a genuine contender. Presumably the other Wyatts have no mind of their own and are willing to allow Bray to win if they make it to the final four. It will almost certainly be a group that eliminate one of the favourites, possibly Brock Lesnar to set up Lesnar’s WrestleMania program. I’d prefer it if the Bullet Club eliminated Lesnar to set up a big ‘Mania contest (Lesnar vs. AJ) but WWE are less keen on pushing freshly acquired outside talent than most and are leaning towards big spots for Roman, Wyatt and Ambrose. People they’ve essentially ‘created’. Ryback uses his power to dominate this but the numbers game stops that. Sister Abigail’s Kiss finishes.
Final Rating: *3/4
Tangent: I’m getting bored so here come some plugs, for my amusement and yours. Firstly go and check out the podcast that I’m on which can be found under the podcast section at VoicesofWrestling.com. It’s called the Brit Wres Roundtable. If you’re interested in getting into British wrestling we cover all the major shows and whatnot. Rev Pro, available through Vimeo (you can use Paypal to get it), had one of their big shows this week from York Hall in London. It was called High Stakes and featured the Indie farewell of AJ Styles, against Zack Sabre Jr and a blow-away contest between BritWres regulars Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay. The big Rev Pro shows always deliver. Check them out too. Back to the action then…
Stardust vs. Titus O’Neil
They’ve been doing odd little segments featuring these two, which have been fairly amusing. It’s about time they did something with Titus but the creative don’t seem to know what that should be. He’s a big guy who’s quite funny but his matches are drab. He feels like an underdeveloped NXT worker like Angelo Dawkins. Clash of the Titus puts Cody away in short order. There wasn’t much happening here.
Final Rating: ¾*
Video Control takes us backstage where Renee Young chats with former US champion Kalisto. They do a weird shot beforehand where Kalisto is seen reading his script. It’s very odd. Breaking the fourth wall for no apparent reason. Kalisto puts Alberto Del Rio over as a massive star in Mexico, referencing Mil Mascaras, Rey Mysterio and others. Del Rio shows up to call Kalisto’s win over him a fluke and the League of Nations beat the poor midget up.
Roman Reigns vs. The League of Nations (Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett & Rusev)
Why does Roman have to be the focus of every single show? Even when WWF was super hot during Attitude and Steve Austin was the most entertaining man in the world, the show still focused on secondary characters like Undertaker or Triple H or The Rock or Mick Foley. It wasn’t Austin vs. everyone on every single show. This is, sort of, a Royal Rumble preview as that match with be Roman Reigns vs. the entire roster in the most forced attempt to get one guy over at the expense of everything else in the promotion, ever. What happens if Roman gets injured too? This is about what you’d expect from a four on one. Roman takes endless heat until the ref gets bored and calls for a DQ because the heels aren’t tagging.
Final Rating: ½*
Post Match: the Usos save but the Wyatt Family shows up to pose with a fallen Roman to end the show. Once again hinting that Bray Wyatt might win the WWE championship come Sunday. Here’s hoping for some sort of swerve that prevents any of the obvious booking from taking place. Obvious booking like Roman retaining, Triple H walking away with the title or Bray Wyatt picking up the pieces. I realise that’s three options, which is more than last year, but none of them are good.
The SmackDown Recap:
Most Entertaining: Dean Ambrose
Least Entertaining: The Wyatt Family
Match of the Night: The New Day vs. The Uso’s & Dolph Ziggler
Summary: SmackDown is certainly still SmackDown. Nothing happens on this show, aside from filling in storyline for the main shows. Giving you that bit extra in terms of feud development, just enough to make the show slightly worth watching. It’s a far cry from the days when SmackDown had actual dynamic wrestling rivalries and exciting different divisions to RAW. At least the show is heavily wrestling based but the effort levels are minimal. Good luck to my fellow SmackDown reviewers this year, it’s going to be a long haul.