Smackdown opens with an appearance from Sheamus. Sheamus talks about winning the Rumble and earning the right to be in the main event of WrestleMania. Sheamus says he will decide which champion to face by the end of the Elimination Chamber pay per view. Sheamus talks about being proud of who he is despite his critics.
He is interrupted by Wade Barrett with new music. Barrett thanks Sheamus for a heartwarming story. He tells Sheamus to go for the WWE Title because he will end up fighting Barrett if he chooses the World Title. He says he can beat Sheamus. Sheamus says he wasn’t listening because he was thinking of last week when Barrett was being beat by Orton.
Cody Rhodes interrupts next. Rhodes says what Barrett has to say is of little significance. Rhodes says he knows what it’s like to be a champion right now and what it’s like to win at WrestleMania, unlike both Sheamus and Barrett. Rhodes says he will be the first World Champion/Intercontinental Champion.
Big Show interrupts. I’m seeing a pattern here. Show says he respects Sheamus. He tells Cody if he doesn’t shut his mouth, he is going to slap the taste right out of it. Show says he wants Sheamus to think about facing him one on one for the WHC at WrestleMania. Barrett interrupts to speak and calls Show nothing more than a WrestleMania punchline. Rhodes agrees and says giants can win the super bowl, but not matches at WrestleMania. He calls show the reverse Undertaker with not knowing who he will lose to next. Sheamus and Show clear Rhodes and Barrett from the ring.
^If you had told me an episode of Smackdown in 2012 would open with these four in the ring, I would’ve asked where all the star power was. Time really does change things as these four men are now at the very top of WWE. I’m surprised you didn’t see Teddy Long come out and book a tag team match, to be honest. Sheamus, Rhodes, and Barrett all shine on the mic now more than ever, and Big Show has never really been a bad mic guy either. Not a spectacular opening to the show, but definitely solid.
Jinder Mahal goes one on one with the Great Khali next. Khali makes quick work of Mahal with a choke throw/slam to the mat and picks up the pinfall victory.
^Mahal put his hat in a case before the match as part of a ritual. I almost cared. Anybody else disappointed that Mahal isn’t in the chamber match but that Khali is? The guy has been gone for ages. Why oh why do we have to deal with this giant yet again on Smackdown? When will Vince realize the big guy just doesn’t work for the long term? I could also care less how Khali and Mahal are related, but thank you, Josh Mathews, for the update.
Backstage segment #1: Teddy Long is backstage with Aksana. Here we go again. Teddy talks about doing what he needed to do in regards to suspending Mark Henry; Aksana agrees and says she likes a man of action. Daniel Bryan interrupts and asks what they’re doing with a disgusted look on his face. Bryan asks Long if it’s true that he held a bbq in the parking lot? Long apologizes for not inviting Bryan, but Bryan verbally assaults him for not being a vegan. Bryan says he is sick to his stomach and that he can’t compete tonight. Long tells Bryan to forget about using his excuses and that he needs to get ready for his match with Randy Orton tonight.
^Good buildup for our main event. Teddy and Aksana will probably continue the undertones for many months to come. Bryan is still a fantastic heel.
Beth Phoenix is out next with her Divas Title for a non-title match with Alicia Fox. This one is over in under two minutes as Beth hits the glam slam for the pin and victory. Phoenix goes to attack Fox after the match but Tamina comes down and intervenes. The two stare each other down until Beth leaves the ring.
^Fast squash. Really? Can we please just get a decent divas match that lasts for more than three minutes? If Tamina and Phoenix are booked for WrestleMania and given adequate time to tell a story, the world might be surprised just what sort of match these two can produce.
Backstage segment #2: Fart scene between Tyson Kidd and Natalya. Hornswoggle gets knocked over from the fumes. This is what the Hart legacy has become. I’d walk out.
Big Show and Sheamus vs Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes is up next. All around great match that ends with Show hitting a spear on Rhodes as Sheamus hits the brogue kick on Wade Barrett to pick up the pinfall victory!
^This was a solid twelve minutes of wrestling from four of Smackdown’s finest. I was definitely impressed and I’m glad to see the dominance of Sheamus continue to shine on Friday nights. I love seeing the Big Show continue to contribute good performances each week despite knowing that he will probably never hold a World Title again in his career. Barrett and Rhodes, on the other hand, should both hold the World Title before 2012 is over.
Michael Cole interviews AJ with her first public comments since the incident of getting knocked over the Big Show(I love how a female getting knocked over is a major incident when it occurs on a weekly basis). Cole plays the heel role with AJ after she says she has been supported by the fans since her injury. Cole wants to know if AJ blames the Big Show for what happened. Cole asks why she was at ringside. She said because Bryan asks her to. She says she has never blamed the Big Show for what happened to her. She says Cole has done much more damage than the Big Show. She says Cole has never believed in Daniel Bryan and has done nothing but stir things up. She calls Cole a biased, obnoxious jerk. Cole goes to interrupt but AJ says she wasn’t finished. AJ says the entire WWE would be a better place if Cole would just shut his mouth. Cole says he is doing his job. He says he gets paid for his insightful commentary and personality. Cole says the fans are saying that Bryan set AJ up to get run over the Big Show. He also says the fans are saying that AJ has no self respect for being manipulated by Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan interrupts.
Bryan says he will break both of Cole’s arms if he says another word to AJ. Bryan asks Cole is AJ has been through enough? He says he’s got news for everyone; he says he is a great wrestler and is more than just a footnote in history. He puts himself over as the WHC. He calls himself a role model. He says he took a walk during the Super Bowl while everybody else was eating meat and drinking beer and soda. He continues to insult the crowd. Bryan says he is now leaving the arena and taking AJ home. He says they are leaving in a prius due to their environmental consciousness. Cole goes on a rant about Bryan being full of crap and knowing that he was right.
Teddy Long meets Bryan and AJ backstage. Bryan says he needs a personal day. Long says he will provide transportation for AJ, but that Bryan will be stripped of the title if he leaves the building.
^Great promo from AJ. Great promo from Cole. It’s interesting that we only see the most heel side of Michael Cole when it comes to Daniel Bryan. I love watching Bryan try to weasel his way out of tough situations. I could see this heel champion storyline going for quite some time.
Ted Dibiase goes one on one with Hunico in our next match. Camacho comes to ringside with Hunico on their little bike. Dibiase is able to get a school boy roll up with his casted arm at just under three minutes into the match for the win.
^Dibiase and Hunico continue to exchange victories every week. Both guys have a ton of talent, but it looks like it will be awhile before either one gets a relevant storyline that elevates their careers. Lots of talent in WWE and so much improper use of it.
It’s announced from WWE.com that John Laurinaitis will remain as GM of Monday Night Raw. Laurinaitis is “live” on the phone with Michael Cole. He promises an exciting Monday Night Raw. Johnny Ace gets to stick around for awhile and create more chaos. At least things will remain interesting in regards to controversy.
Randy Orton takes on Daniel Bryan in our main event. Big Show is on commentary. Bryan and Orton work a decent match. Bryan misses a huge flying headbutt and Orton goes for his signature moveset. Bryan blocks Orton’s DDT and goes for up top but gets knocked down by Orton. Orton hits a big suplex from the top rope for a two count. Bryan mounts an offense after a running dropkick and several kicks to Orton’s body. Bryan goes for the labell lock but Orton counters into a slingshot and then hits his DDT off the middle rope. Orton sets up for the RKO. Bryan crawls out of the ring and goes after the Big Show. Big Show tosses Bryan into the ring and Orton hits the RKO on Bryan. Bryan wins by disqualification after Big Show puts his hands on Bryan.
Big Show and Orton brawl around ringside after the match. The two continue to brawl as Smackdown goes off the air with Bryan looking on from the ramp.
^Well, Orton and Bryan showed us a small sample of what they can do together in the ring. It’s exciting to think of what 25-30 minutes with these two could be like on a big stage. Big Show is still heavily involved with the Bryan angle and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. I wonder when Shaq will come in. Good main event overall.
Tonight we saw some really good promo work from almost everyone on the mic. The two featured matches were well above average. The potential divas match between Phoenix and Tamina could actually turn out good. I’d have to say that this Smackdown ranks above average from what we’ve seen in 2012. Storylines are building towards the big event and I love it! Back with Raw on Monday and maybe an announcement on my other upcoming column(s) through Mania. Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck!