Friday, December 30, 2011

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 12/30/11

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
December 30th, 2011
Banker's Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome everyone to the last WWE show of the year 2011! It's been another crazy year in the wrestling business with all sorts of shocking returns and unfortunate demises, but something about the new year always gives me hope as a life-long fan that somehow, [i]this[/i] year will be better than the last. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out, but we've got a good show on tap tonight to close out 2011 it seems with Randy Orton and Wade Barrett clashing once again, this time in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Let's do this thing.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with Booker T being introduced as seems to be the norm every week to start. Booker wants to thank the fans for a great year in the WWE, which has been a lot of fun outside of working with Michael Cole and this recent business with Cody Rhodes. Booker gets ready to do his "Sucka" catch phrase but is interrupted by Rhodes, of course. Cody walks down the ramp with a mic and gets some easy heat by taking a shot at the Colts. Rhodes talks about his great year, defeating Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania and then winning the Intercontinental title. He enters the ring and Booker takes him to task for not showing any respect to the veterans. Cody, surprisingly, agrees to congratulate him on giving his best effort and he extends his hand, which Booker shakes. Booker gets ready to leave but Cody brings him back in by calling him a nostalgia act and then a semi-literate buffoon. Cody tells him to go home...and is suddenly interrupted by the theme song of Goldust! What the shit?

And indeed, here comes Dustin himself, minus the Goldust make-up, looking pretty good in a suit. I was wondering when they were going to pull out the Goldust card. He walks down to the ring with a mic and tells him that he's his brother and he loves him, but he's going about this the wrong way. Dustin tells him when he was at his worst, Booker took him under his wing, helped him get through it, and have the time of his life when they were tag team champions together many years ago. Cody, nonplussed, calls his brother a joke and says that the fans aren't even worth inspiring. Cody says he restored the Rhodes family name after Dustin "threw up all over it". Booker tells him "Goldie's more of a man than you'll ever be" and then challenges Cody to one more match, this time with the IC title on the line. Cody agrees and Booker takes off, leaving Dustin alone in the ring and open for the Beautiful Disaster knee-strike from his own brother! That's cold blooded man.

Ted DiBiase (8-10) vs. Jinder Mahal (4-6)
Jinder has a typically lame pre-taped promo before the match. When Ted DiBiase has the most personality of anyone in the ring, you know you have a problem. Credit to Ted though, he's been making big improvements in the ring as of late. Jinder hangs him up on the top rope and boots him for a two count. Nice butterfly suplex from Jinder gets another two count. Ted hits a few clotheslines and then a sitout spinebuster for a near fall. Ted seems to tweak his knee after coming off the top and Jinder takes advantage with a quick STO before locking on the Camel Clutch, which is apparently enough to make Ted tap at 2:53. Kind of surprised to see Ted squashed like that, I guess his renewed push is dead again. Not much of a match either obviously, a few basic moves and then they went home. *

Backstage Drew McIntyre walks in on Teddy Long and Aksana in the midst of some more lame flirting. Teddy says he resigned Drew to SmackDown and notes how Drew got lost in the shuffle over at RAW, so tonight apparently if Drew doesn't win his match, Teddy's going to have to start thinking about letting him go. Ted assures him he'll get the job done.

Alicia Fox/Kaitlyn vs. Natalya/Tamina
So these are some random tag teams. Booker is still creepily into Fox ten bucks says they're boning. Kaitlyn starts off with Tamina and like a typical blnode is immediately distracted by something outside the ring, allowed Tamina to jump her from behind and then tag Natalya to slam and stretch Kaitlyn out. That sounds hotter than it actually was. Alicia tags in and Nattie just sort of lets her hit the Booker T scissors kick onto her, which is enough for the win at 1:32. After the match Tamina turns on Nattie, hitting a superkick and then the Superfly splash. This division makes no sense because they're always pulling the rug out from under every person they decide to push. Wasn't Nattie just the Golden Girl along with Beth a few months back? Now Alicia is beating her every week in 90 seconds? It's not like Alicia is even over enough to warrant any kind of push to begin with. 1/4*

After the Raw Rebound video package we cut backstage to the World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan (I'm going to use that sentence as much as I can while I still can) talking with the somehow even more adorable than usual AJ Lee. Big Show interrupts them and asks if he can speak to Bryan alone, and AJ obliges. Show tells him that "giants don't need to be saved", and Bryan denies that, wishing to hype Show up for a tag match tonight with Bryan as his partner. Teddy Long walks up and tells them the match is off though because instead Show is going to face David Otunga, with Mark Henry in his corner. Bryan remarks "Maybe giants do need saving after-all" and walks off while Show does his best to remain calm.

Justin Gabriel (10-15) vs. Hunico (2-1)
Hunico comes out with yet another new member of his random Hispanic gang. A video package with Hunico introduces him as "Comacho" (I believe), someone from his barrio. Oh God I want to make so many Mexican Mafia jokes after watching American Me last night. Might as well just call their stable the Cholos or something equally as stereotypical. Justin quickly sends Hunico out to the floor but Hunico drags him out with him and then delivers a nice Asai moonsault from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring Justin misses a springboard but catches Hunico in a swinging sidewalk slam. He goes to the top rope, but Hunico slams him off with a super-armdrag. Hunico hits the Swanton bomb and that's enough for the pin at 1:47. After the match Comacho delivers a Samoan drop to Gabriel to add insult to injury. These two could probably tear the house down with ten minutes. Shame the only people that get that kind of time on TV anymore are the main eventers. They hit a few nice spots though. *1/2

Big Show (13-5) vs. David Otunga (2-1)

Show comes out solo while Henry is in Otunga's corner as promised. Show of course over-powers Otunga immediately at the bell with big open palm slaps and headbutts. Otunga bails to try to recruit Henry for help but Mark tells him to get back in the ring. Henry does provide a brief distraction, feigning entering the ring, which allows Otunga to hit a few chop blocks and then a big implant DDT. Show just hurls him off of him at the count of two however. Suddenly Daniel Bryan appears out of nowhere outside the ring and nails Henry in the back of the head with his title belt. In what might be the funniest moment I've seen on this show in awhile, Bryan is able to use his title belt as bait for the primal Mark Henry, even yelling out "Come and get it!" to him like he was a dog. And it works! Show tosses Otunga back in the ring and nails him with the WMD Right hand for the win at 3:25. Otunga atleast got a wee bit of offense in before Show squashed him, but Bryan luring Henry backstage like a dog was unintentionally hilarious. *1/4

Ezekiel Jackson (14-12) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-10)
I was wondering what had happened to Big Zeke. No, not really, he could have fallen off the face of the planet and I probably wouldn't have noticed to be honest. We're not two seconds into the match before Zeke is body-slamming Drew, which if you didn't know basically comprises 99% of his moveset. Drew hits a dropkick and gets a near fall. Zeke responds with a few elbows and a headlock that he has to break, allowing Drew to sneak a big boot in and then choke Zeke over the second rope. Jackson counters with a back body-drop and a few lariats in the corner. Sidewalk slam gets Zeke another two. Zeke looks for the torture rack but Drew escapes with a poke to the eye. He tries to pin Zeke with his feet on the ropes but the ref sees it and stops the count. While Drew is arguing with him Zeke sneaks up behind and then rolls Drew up, pulling the tights as well, for the win at 3:52. I'm guessing they had Zeke pull the tights to give Drew an excuse to stick around. Or maybe they're turning Zeke heel, who knows anymore what they're doing with these two guys, and frankly, who cares? *

After a Royal Rumble promo we cut backstage to see Drew McIntyre arguing with Teddy about the ref being biased. Teddy says he can't stand losers, especially ones that make excuses and Drew storms off. '

Sheamus makes his way out to the ring next and asks "What's the crack Indianpaolis?"...I think you meant "What's crackin" Sheamus. Or atleast I hope so, because that sentence made no sense whatsoever otherwise. Sheamus talks about the importance of the upcoming Royal Rumble match, promising to win the match. He's interrupted by...Hornswoggle? Oh God I forgot Hornswoggle gained the gift of speech from Santa Claus on RAW a week back. Sheamus asks him who's going to win the Rumble, and Hornswoggle responds with his own name, running around in a circle shouting it. Sheamus pulls out another Irish limerick and acts like he might turn on Swoggle, but they shake hands instead. Suddenly they're interrupted by Heath Slater, a man so bland that even Michael Cole has nothing good to say about him. Slater compares Hornswoggle to the Brooklyn Brawler and other joke entrants in the past that have promised to win the Rumble. Slater says he's the number one redhead on Smackdown, not Sheamus. That's right, he went there. Slater enters the ring and Sheamus says that he thinks that Slater thinks of himself like the band Journey (is that a good thing?), but he reminds him more of R. Kelly, because he "believes he can fly". And with that Sheamus sends Slater over the top rope and to the floor.

Sheamus (18-11-1) vs. Heath Slater (4-24)

We return from commercial and the match is already in progress between these two, with Sheamus working the hell out of Slater's arm. Sheamus tosses Slater around from one corner to the other before trying to toss him over the top rope again, but this time Slater lands on the apron. No problem, Sheamus will just lay forty fists of fury into your chest in-between the ring ropes bud. Slater is able to hit a big running neckbreaker on Sheamus in response and he follows it with a Russian leg sweep for a near fall. A Sheamus chant starts up while Slater starts picking Sheamus apart with concentrated dropkicks and elbows. Sheamus eventually starts his comeback, hitting big forearms and lariats in the corner. He hits the top-rope shoulder-block and then nails Slater with the Brogue Kick for the win at 4:49 (shown). This was pretty decent while it lasted, Slater is actually a pretty good worker he just has no personality or "spark" to him. These two worked well together given the brevity of the match though, Sheamus looks to be a serious candidate for potential Royal Rumble winner next month. **

Backstage Daniel Bryan is talking to Teddy Long about being Show's "Good luck charm" when Show approaches them. He says it was kind of cute at first but now Daniel's just annoying him. Bryan says he just wanted one "Thank You" and Show can't believe his ears. He tells Bryan that the title has gone to his head when Teddy interrupts to book a World title match between Bryan and Show on next week's SmackDown so they can keep up with RAW, where CM Punk will be defending his title against Dolph Ziggler next week. Show giggles like a little kid and tells Bryan his reign was good while it lasted, to which Daniel snaps back "Well, atleast my title reign was longer than 45 seconds". Homie don't play dat Bryan. I like how they're hinting at potential heel turns for both guys, it keeps the fans on edge.

Falls Count Anywhere Match
Randy Orton (25-9-1) vs. Wade Barrett (9-27-1)

These two have had a pretty good rivalry going the last month or so and have traded a few pins, some dirty, some clean, so this could be seen as the rubber match. They immediately begin to brawl to the floor, where Randy throws Wade into the steel steps for our first pin attempt outside the ring. Randy stomps on Wade's head on the steps as well in an American History X-like moment. Randy looks for the RKO early but Wade shoots him into the steel post and we take our last commercial break while they recover. When we return Wade is laying in closed fists on Orton on the mat. Barrett ties Orton up in-between the ropes and lays in a barrage of sick knees to the face before booting him right out of the ring for a two count on the floor. Barrett knocks Randy around the post a bit and then tosses him back into the ring for another near fall. Barrett hits another boot and then slaps a chinlock on. That doesn't do much so Barrett decides to hit a top rope elbow drop and then return to the chinlock again. Barrett tries a pumphandle slam, but Orton escapes and fires off a powerslam on Wade. He tries for the second rope DDT but Wade sees it coming so Orton tosses Wade out of the ring, over the announcer's table, and into the crowd! Both men take off and begin brawling into the crowd before making their way into the backstage area, where Barrett tosses Orton through a concession table. Orton counters with a toss into some lead pipes and we see some women scattering out of the way as Orton breaks a make-up chair. An elevator opens up in the hallway they're in and Barrett runs into it to seek shelther, but Orton just clears out the elevator and both men trade shots at the elevator door closes on them. Conveniently enough we get the security camera-viewpoint of Orton and Wade fighting in the elevator in black and white. Well I can safely say I've never seen this done before. The camera catches up with them on another floor now as Orton chases Barrett into a corridor, but before the camera can follow them down a set of stairs, Wade apparently tosses Orton down the stairs (though not really), and all we're left with is the image of Barrett at the top of a staircase looking down at an injured Orton at the bottom before Barrett just takes off as apparently that ends this match in a no contest at around the 10:00 minute mark. Apparently Randy was legitimately injured during this match so that explains the haphazard makeshift ending we got to that match. Before that it was going along nicely enough, but without any kind of finish I can't even rate this realistically. The work itself was in the ** star territory until the shit hit the fan and dragged the match down with it.

We close out the show with a shot of Orton at the bottom of the staircase, writhing in pain.

Bottom Line: As Larry used to put it, This was....a show. It wasn't really good or really bad, it was just kind of there. There's nothing match-wise that you need to see on this week's show by any means, but you might want to catch some of the angles being built in preparation for the Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show title match next week, but really, anything you miss you could catch up on with any of the other WWE shows. For a year end show this didn't do much, so I'm going to go with the slight Thumbs Down, just because the WWE usually tries to make an effort to have a good show with a long TV match when it's the last of the calender year, but not tonight I guess. Your mileage may vary. Happy New Years everyone!

Score: 5.0/10

Friday, December 23, 2011

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 12/23/11

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 12/23/11
December 23rd, 2011
Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back once again to another edition of 411's SmackDown Report! Tonight we've got a big show only two days before Christmas as we get to see the aftermath of this past Sunday's TLC PPV and Daniel Bryan's shocking World Heavyweight title win, and I for one can't wait to see what they plan to do with Bryan, positive or negative. We're emanating from Richmond, Virginia tonight so stick around, grab a cold one, kick back, and let's do this thing.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open up the show this week with the introduction of the Big Show, who won the World title from Mark Henry this past Sunday only to lose it seconds later to Daniel Bryan, who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on the big man. Show doesn't seem to upset about it though. He talks about how he scratched and clawed his way for 9 years to get back to being a World champion again and how difficult it was for him to defeat Henry fair and square to accomplish his goal, and then just in a second it was all gone. We get a quick clip of Josh Matthews interviewing Show on RAW this past week, informing Show his title win was the shortest in history. Show says he's proud of himself for not going over the edge and blowing up, so of course that's Mark Henry's cue to make his entrance down to the ring, sporting a walking cast on his left ankle.

Henry immediately starts poking fun at Show's short-lived title win, telling him he should take a week off and just quit the business. Just as Henry is about to ask for a rematch, Daniel Bryan's music hits and our World Heavyweight champion makes his way down to the ring to join the fracas.

Bryan hits the ring to a nice reaction and says that even he can't believe he's the World champion right now. Bryan says he's not the world's strongest man, he's not the world's tallest athlete, the fastest, smartest, or even the most charismatic or attractive, but what he is is a very good wrestler, possibly a great one, and despite all of that he's still the World Heavyweight champion. Henry and Show start arguing again when Teddy Long comes out to set up a #1 Contender's match between Show and Henry for later tonight.

Zack Ryder vs. Cody Rhodes

Ryder looks great with the US title, WWWYKI. Rhodes and Ryder lock up to start and Ryder arm-drags Rhodes several times. Rhodes socks Ryder in the mouth with a right hand and tosses him out of the ring, but Ryder is right back in there. Rhodes knocks him off the apron again but Ryder catches him with a kick on his way out as Cody shoves Ryder into Booker T at the commentary table at ringside. We take a quick commercial break and when we return Rhodes is in the midst of delivering the Alabama Slam to Ryder for a two count. Rhodes works a loose crossface submission on Ryder and both men's skulls collide as they each scramble back to their feet. Ryder starts to make his comeback, hitting the Broski Boot on Cody in the corner for a close two count. Rhodes catches Ryder off the top rope and starts to re-gain the advantage when suddenly Booker T grabs a house mic and stands on the commentary table to sing a corny song called "Cody the Red-Nosed Reindeer", which is enough of a distraction for Ryder to hit the Rough Ryder and pick up the win at 5:59 (shown). So I guess the Cody/Booker feud is just getting started. This was going along solidly enough until the storyline kicked in and ended things. Ryder could have used a clean win here, but I guess this is good enough. **

Backstage we cut to Santino Marella sneaking up on Teddy Long to ask if he can apply to be Teddy's new assistant GM since Ryder won't have the time now. Cue the corny saxophone music and Aksana, who drops a few innuendos and suggests herself for the role instead. Santino and Aksana take off as Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler approach the GM next. Ziggler says he'll eventually ask for his US title rematch, but tonight he wants to wrestle the World champ, Daniel Bryan. Teddy obliges and then starts "dancing" (it looks more akin to an old man rambunctiously playing an invisible piano) when Vickie scowls and storms off with a "Bah Humbug!" Teddy's dance there might have been the most awkwardly funny thing I've seen in awhile.

Big Show and Mark Henry make their way out to the ring next to have their #1 Contender's match, when suddenly David Otunga's music hits and the Bow-Tie wonder himself walks down to the ring with a microphone. That crowd had no clue who was coming out based just on the music until Otunga was halfway to the ring. Otunga claims that Henry hasn't been medically cleared to compete tonight, so the match won't be happening. He wishes us all a happy holidays and is then promptly KNOCKED THE FUGGOUT by Show. That punch would have made Deebo himself proud.

We cut to backstage where The Miz confronts Teddy Long about being told to show up for tonight's show. Long claims he had nothing to do with it and Miz starts complaining about his work as GM, bragging about how many PPVs he main evented in 2011 in the process. Miz says he's going to go out to the ring and wait for an opponent anyways. ORLY?

After a commercial break we return with The Miz in the ring, waiting for his mystery opponent. Miz declares the entire Smackdown locker room as cowards and begins listing off all of his accolades again when suddenly Sheamus makes his out to apparently step up to the plate for Smackdown.

Sheamus vs. The Miz

Man, Sheamus has just gotten scary over as of late, eh? Both men initially lock up before Miz starts a foot chase around the ring, giving him the chance to get the jump on the powerful Sheamus knock him down with a big boot or two. Implant DDT from the Miz gets a two count. For some reason Miz decides the best strategy now is to stand in the opposite corner and give Sheamus all the time he needs to recover, and he does exactly that before attempting the Celtic Cross, which Miz counters. Miz tries for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Sheamus counters that and then just takes Miz out with the Brogue Kick for the win at 3:04. Wow, I know they want to keep Sheamus strong and I'm all for it but he basically just squashed The Miz clean in under four minutes, a guy who was just main evented their last two PPVs. Decent enough match, but it was too short and one-sided to amount to anything serious. *

Wade Barrett makes his way out to the ring next for some promo time. He immediately starts throwing out the "Barrett Barrage" phrase again before showing us some clips from the Barrett/Orton feud so far, including Barrett's initial victory over Orton, his pin on Randy during the Survivor Series elimination match, and Orton going through the table on RAW this past week. Barrett says he wants a title shot at Daniel Bryan (who he can't believe is even champion) and then wishes everyone a Happy Christmas before exiting the ring. Of course, Randall Orton's music hits when Wade is only halfway up the ramp and the Viper jumps him. He tosses Wade back into the ring and then goes for the RKO, but Barrett evades it and then takes off to the backstage area. Orton pauses briefly before giving chase, and we cut to the backstage area where both men begin brawling down a hallway. They make their way out to the parking garage next where Orton is able to slam Barrett into a steel fence a few times. Orton grabs a hose of all things and sprays Barrett down with it before tossing him over a concession table. Randy dumps some trash on him and then tosses him on top of a car, where he slams Wade's head into the roof. Finally Randy gives him an RKO on the roof of the car and then takes off to his own theme music. Well, he kind of made Barrett look like his total and complete bitch their, but that's okay really because Orton is miles above Barrett on the WWE food chain and Barrett has literally lost so many matches that it won't hurt him to get his ass kicked, even if it is as over-the-top as this was.

Kofi Kingston vs. Primo

Bourne is in Kofi's corner obviously and Primo has Epico and Rosa Mendes in his. Primo is all over Kofi to start with a nice Russian leg-sweep into a sort of variation on the Koji Clutch submission. Primo hits a nice combination of spin-kicks, taking Kofi out high and low, for the first near fall of the match. Kofi starts hitting forearms and a dropkick, then follows it with his typically awesome high cross-body from the top rope for another two count. Kofi goes tot he top, but Epico distracts him long enough for Primo to arm-drag him from the top rope for another close two count. Back on their feet Kofi hits the Trouble in Paradise pretty much out of nowhere for the win at 3:07. Well that ended rather abruptly before it even got a chance to get started. The tag team division reminds me of the old cruiserweight division with how little time these guys get on each show. *1/2

We get a lengthy highlight package of what went down at TLC this past Sunday before preparing for our main event of the evening.

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler

Non-title match here obviously, but these two work very well together so this could be great. Great waistlock exchanges to start here before Bryan wins a test-of-strength and then ducks a forearm from Ziggler and rolls him into the old Mexican Surfboard, stretching Ziggler out in mid-air. Stiff European uppercut from Bryan, but Ziggler responds with some shots of his own. Ziggler tries to show off with some sit-ups, so Bryan gets right back into his face with the forearms. Ziggler trips Bryan into the turnbuckle though and then takes him inside-out with that awesome reverse overhead suplex of his for a two count. We take a quick commercial break and when we return Ziggler nails Bryan with a dropkick and then slaps a chinlock on him. Both men look for cross-bodies off the ropes and wind up colliding in mid-air nastily, wiping both men out. Jack Swagger walks down the ramp suddenly to join Vickie at ringside while Bryan back-drops Ziggler up and out of the ring completely on the opposite side. Never one to waste time, Bryan comes flying out after Ziggler with the tope suicida of course, wiping him out on the floor again. Bryan tosses Ziggler back inside and while the ref is checking on him, Swagger jumps Bryan from behind his back. The ref starts counting Bryan out while the Big Show makes his way down to ringside to apparently stand in Bryan's corner. Ziggler tries for the sleeper in the ring, but Bryan rolls him up briefly before continuing to roll-through and deliver a fantastic version of the Chaos Theory for an ever-so-close near fall! That was awesome and I haven't seen Bryan use that move in a long time. Bryan goes on the attack with stiff kicks and Ziggler tries to fight back with a Zig-Zag attempt, but Bryan just nails him in the face with another stiff kick for another near fall. Bryan delivers a top-rope frankensteiner on Ziggler next, but Dolph rolls through on the mat and turns it into a pinning attempt of his own for two. Ziggler hits the Fameasser but Bryan kicks out at two yet again. Ziggler decides to take Bryan up to the top and try for a frankensteiner of his own, but Bryan sees where this is going and racks him before delivering a huge top-rope back superplex! While both men are out, Swagger and Big Show start to tangle up inside the ring, so Teddy Long comes running out and decides to make this a tag team match now as we take our last commercial break, un-officially "ending" the singles portion of this match at about 10:15. If I were to just rate this singles portion of the match before Show and Swagger became involved, I'd go about ***1/4.

Daniel Bryan/Big Show vs. Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger

When we return from the break Show is in the middle of overpowering Swagger with a headlock as I guess this is all just going to be one long match as no bell ever signified an end to the previous match or the start of this one on-air. Ziggler tags in and is met with the same overpowering results until Show tags Bryan in. Bryan mounts a bit of offense before Ziggler tags out again to Swagger, who hits Bryan with a Swagger bomb for two. Got all of that? Bryan gets hung up in the tree of woe as Swagger stomps away at his mid-section while Ziggler attacks from behind the ref's back. Ziggler applies a nice half Boston crab for a bit and then applies the Sleeper briefly until Bryan sends Ziggler flying out of the ring in-between the ropes, hitting his arm on the steel post in the process. Back in the ring both men tag out to their partners, and Show takes out Swagger with a football tackle. He knocks Ziggler out of the ring with a kick and then tries the choke slam on Swagger, but Swagger evvades. Show tags Bryan in, who looks for a missile dropkick, but Swagger grabs him and applies the ankle lock. Never fear, Bryan just counters that into the LeBell lock and Swagger has no choice but to tap out at 6:55 (or 17:10 shown in total including the first singles portion of the match). Adding Show and Swagger didn't really do much for the match quality but it at least made sense from a storyline perspective and Bryan looked pretty darn great through-out both matches. If I were to grade this all as one big match. I'd still go about ***1/4

After the match Bryan celebrates with his title while Show looks at him with ominous eyes from the rampway. That does it for Smackdown tonight, happy holidays folks!

Bottom Line: This was a fairly good show considering how close we are to Christmas, which usually means throw-away shows to wrestling fans in the past. They could definitely be doing more with Bryan, but atleast they gave him and Ziggler a good 10+ minutes to do their thing and show off some absolutely brilliant wrestling in the process. Not a fantastic show or anything, but a solid one and worth checking out, if only for the main event. Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.0/10

Monday, December 19, 2011

WWE TLC 2011

WWE TLC 2011
December 18th, 2011
1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
Attendance: 8,000*

So after not reviewing Survivor Series due to working around Thanksgiving and the flu, I've returned for another WWE PPV review. Tonight's show is the annual TLC event, so odds are we're in for atleast one or two good to great car-crash matches that we all love, so pop some popcorn, make yourself a drink, grab a beer, pack the bong, do whatever, just get yourself ready for the carnage that will most likely ensue tonight. We open with a Christmas-themed hype package this year. Simple and classy, I dig it. Here we go...

Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler

WWE US Title Match
Dolph Ziggler
© vs. Zack Ryder
Vickie is out first to get the crowd fired up to start the show right. I can't help but compare Ryder's push to that of Daniel Byran's if only because they both used "the internet" (in all of it's vague and esoteric glory) to get over. Hot crowd tonight as both men lock up. They trade basic hold exchanges in the ring to start off and Ryder clotheslines Dolph out of the ring. Ryder wipes him out with a crazy somersault tope outside of the ring moments later and gets a chance to hand out bro-fists at ringside. Back in the ring Ziggler goes to work on Ryder with a DDT on the ring apron followed by a neckbreaker and a barrage of elbow drops onto Ryder as Ziggler just keeps dropping elbows until the crowd starts giving him some of the best genuine heat I've seen in the WWE in a long time. Ziggler slaps a chinlock onto Ryder and goes to work for a bit until he's able to deliver an Angle slam for a two count. Ryder responds with a missile dropkick for two. Ryder slams Dolph's face into the mat and then delivers the Broski boot, but Vickie makes sure to put Dolph's leg on the bottom rope at the count of two. The ref sees this and bars her from ringside for the rest of the match while Dolph attempts his version of the Fameasser on Ryder once and then hits it on the second try for a hot two count. Ziggler looks for the Zig-Zag, but settles for a chin-shattering sick kick for another two count. Ryder hits a top rope hurricanrana, but now it's Dolph's turn to kick out. Zack looks for the Rough Ryder but Ziggler blocks it and rolls him up again for two. Ziggler runs into the corner, but winds up eating a pair of knees from Ryder. Ryder turns around and delivers the Rough Ryder, and yes indeed he pins Ziggler clean to become your new United States champion at 10:24! Ryder's dad is in the front row and he's going crazy! These two can flat out go in the ring and the crowd was hot as all hell. Ryder has really come into his own as a mainstream babyface wrestler and Ziggler is probably the best young heel in the game today, so this was 10 minutes of highly athletic, top-notch action. ***

After a bit of celebrating by Zack Ryder and his dad, we cut to Booker T talking with Alicia Fox backstage. He's quickly interrupted by Cody Rhodes, who lays a beat-down on him and then has the gall to shout "Merry Christmas!" on his way out while Booker does his trademark googly eyes vacant look on the floor.

WWE Tag Team Title Match
Air Boom (Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne)
© vs. Primo & Epico
While this is probably just a throwaway/filler match in the eyes of most, it has the potential to be something awesome if they give these kids some time. Epico and Bourne start us off, trading a few cradle and arm lock attempts. Bourne delivers a hurricanrana on Epico and then tags Kofi in for a cute double leapfrog double-team moves. Primo tags in and he and Kofi wind up trading huge monkey-flips. Bourne tags back in but is promptly thrown out of the ring by the Colon clan. Back in the ring the Colons continue the whole Double Trouble evil twin magic thing, isolating Bourne in their corner and delivering a devastating tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a two count. Primo hits a back suplex, rolls through into another one, and then rolls through into a third suplex, this time a German, but it only nets him a two count. Bourne is put into the Gory special briefly but he manages to fight back with a pair of shotgun knees and get the hot tag to Kofi. Kingston hops in the ring and he's in a dropkick giving kind of mood as he cleans house on the Colon boys again and then hits the Boom Drop. Epico hops in to start some trouble but Bourne neutralizes him on the outside floor with a soaring cross-body off the top rope. Primo turns around and gets nailed with the Trouble in Paradise from Kofi and the champs retain at 7:32. Really good stuff for the time they were allotted, but yet again I find myself thinking about what kind of good matches these guys could probably put together if they only had another five or ten minutes. Still fun while it lasted though. **3/4

We take a moment to check backstage with Josh Matthews for an update on Booker T, whose being evaluated by EMTs. Josh says that Cody was walking around with a big grin on his face, so the rumor is that the match is off tonight. Hmmm, somehow I doubt that.

Elsewbere backstage a possibly drunk Teddy Long is dressed up as Santa Claus, alongside Hornswoggle as his elf of course. Except now that Hornswoggle can talk, he's apparently keen on cracking wise and in our first "WTF did that midget just say?" moment of the night, he asks Teddy Long when Santa Claus became black. Long responds by saying that no white jolly men ever came down his chimney. Oh Vince your Reagan-era pseudo-racism is alive and well isn't it? As if the point wasn't already hammered home, Long gives Hornswoggle a Rosetta Stone book on how to learn Ebonics as a Christmas present. If that is a real product and actually exists, that might quite literally be the dumbest thing someone could purchase. He goes to hug Teddy but instead attacks him and runs off, leaving our skinny black Santa Claus by his lonesome. This was a glaring reminder of how bad the "comedy" writing is with this company sometimes.

Tables Match
Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett

No real point to this being a tables match other than "Hey, we need to have a tables match". Luckily these two have had a decent feud brewing over on Smackdown so the gimmick should only benefit them. Orton quickly hits his signature backbreaker on Wade and then exits the ring and grabs a table, only to have Wade kick it right back into his face. Randy returns the favor by smashing Wade's face into the steel steps at ringside. There are tables set up everywhere up and down the aisle and rampway, so you could end this match at any moment really. Wade tries for a pumphandle slam through a table, but Randy counters and the table is knocked aside. Randy tries for a suplex through another table at ringside from the steps, but Wade counters that and smashes Orton's face into the steel post. Wade has a cut above his eye, but he boots Orton in the face anyways and then slides one table into the ring and sets up another one next to the apron. He tries placing Orton on the table but he just slides right off of it, so Wade slams him into the apron a few times and then rolls him back into the ring and hits a huge elbow drop from the top rope right to Orton's heart. They tease Orton getting booted from the apron through a table, but he hangs onto the ropes to save himself. Wade sets a table up in the corner but turns around only to find himself in the midst of Orton's finishing sequence of moves. Damn, 5 moves of doom time already? Barrett misses another boot and both men trade shots on the ring apron. Orton escapes a Waste Land attempt and then delivers the second-rope DDT to Barrett. Randy looks for the RKO but walks into a spinning sidewalk-slam instead. Barett tries setting Orton up on the table again and goes to the top rope, but when he jumps off Orton slides off and winds up RKOing Wade through the table in mid-air! That gives Randall the win at 10:16. Fun little match here with some good wrestling underneath the table gimmick, which worked into a cool finish. Solid stuff. ***

Backstage Teddy Long somehow manages to get even CREEPIER in his haggard Santa Claus get-up by having both of the Bella Twins sitting on his lap, arguing. Teddy says they've both been bad, and he's got presents for the both of them: his phone number. That didn't work out so well for Herman Cain, but I'm sure Teddy will be fine. The Bellas storm off in disgust while Jack Swagger approaches our "bad Santa" and asks him if he's going to let Mark Henry get away with hitting him with a steel chair on Smackdown this week. Teddy's solution? Sit on my lap son! Swagger refuses just as Sheamus interrupts them to wish Teddy a Merry Christmas. Sheamus throws out another Irish quip where someone's head inevitably ends up their own ass, and Teddy books Sheamus vs. Swagger as a special bonus match tonight.

WWE Divas Title Match
Beth Phoenix
© vs. Kelly Kelly
No disrespect to the ladies, but who actually gives a shit about this match? Kelly is all fired up to start this match, slamming Beth's head into the mat and then locking in her tarantula like hold. She follows up with the flying headscissors and tries for a monkey flip, but Beth counters and then begins laying in huge elbow shots to Kelly's mid-section. She pulls Kelly's hair a bit and then locks her into a camel clutch. Kelly manages to counter a slam attempt into a bulldog, but she leaps off the ropes only for Beth to catch her and send her crashing to the mat. Beth misses a top-rope legdrop, so she tries for the Glam Slam, but Kelly counters that into a two count. Kelly tries for a hurricanrana, but Beth lifts her up into the power-bomb position and then just drops Kelly backwards onto her face, which is enough for Beth to retain the title at 4:36. Not too shabby thanks to Phoenix here, but just slightly above your usual pedestrian divas match. **

Backstage The Miz and Alberto Del Rio come to a mutual agreement for their brief partnership to end tonight. Miz asks Del Rio what he's done in 2011, and Del Rio responds by calling him weak and pathetic. Ricardo approaches with some sort of Mexican dish in his hand and The Miz shoves it in his face. Del Rio shoves Ricardo as well. Hey, what did Ricardo do?

We get a bit of video footage from the Maryland National Guard wishing their families a happy holiday season in a nice bit. Afterwards Booker T starts to make his entrance, but Cody Rhodes jumps him again here and their match is put-off again in favor of the Battle of the Geezers.

Sledgehammer Ladder Match
Triple H vs. Kevin Nash

The rules here are pretty simple; there's Hunter's ubiquitous sledgehammer hung up at the top of the ring and you can use the ladder to get it and use it, but you still have to pin your opponent. This starts off just as you'd expect with some basic brawling from Trips and Nash getting his big knees in on the Game in the corner. Hunter sends Nash out of the ring with a forearm and Trips slams him into the announcer's table. Triple H goes off to grab a ladder and Nash wipes him out with a nasty big boot. He grabs the ladder from Trips and then slams it into Triple H's neck and face, sending the Game flying over the guardrail into the front row. When Triple H recovers he leaps off of the announcer's table onto Nash with a Lou Thesz press. He clotheslines Nash over the guardrail, but he returns the favor with a slam of his own onto the barricade. Nash gets sent head-first into the steel post and then tossed back into the ring alongside two ladders from the Game. Hunter attacks Nash's knee with one of the ladders, slamming it repeatedly into the big man's ligaments. Triple H ties one of Nash's legs around one of the ladder rungs and then applies a modified figure four leglock with the ladder still on Nash's leg! Hunter suplexes one of the ladders onto Nash. Finally Nash gets some offense of his own, sending Hunter crashing into a ladder in the corner and tumbling all the way out of the ring and onto the floor. Nash delivers a sidewalk slam to Hunter onto another steel ladder and you can actually see little cuts and scrapes all over Hunter's back from the bumps he's taken in this match already. Nash catapults Hunter face-first into another ladder propped up on the second rope and then starts stripping the announcer's table at ringside, looking to give Triple H the jackknife powerbomb. Hunter blocks it though and sets up a ladder back in the ring, but Nash knocks him down before he can climb it for the hammer. Nash slams Hunter into the ladder again and then choke-slams him, and Trips is hurting now. Nash pulls out a table from underneath the ring and throws it inside. Hunter has his second wind though and knocks Nash out of the ring with the ladder before setting it up and climbing it to the top, where Kevin Nash meets him. Triple H hits Nash with the hammer once, and the second time he hits him Nash flies off the ladder through a nearby table in the ring! Hunter takes down the sledge-hammer with him and goes to town on Nash with it now. He gives Nash the pedigree and then grabs the hammer again for another blow, but Nash wants to make nice now as he throws up the old Wolfpac/Kliq hand signal feebly only for Triple H to respond with a prompt "Suck it", and a sledge-hammer shot, which is enough to put Nash away at 18:13. I can already hear the sounds of the smarks wailing over these two guys being given 18 minutes in the year 2011, but I'll be damned if the match wasn't actually pretty damn good. They told a simple story and worked a few nice spots into the mix and were able to wrap-up this admittedly stale feud in a proper way. If you can actually put aside your raging, biased hatred for Trips and Nash for a minute, this was pretty well worked all things considered and I enjoyed this quite a bit. ***1/4

Backstage Matt Striker is with the real people's champion, CM Punk. They watch the beatdown from the end of RAW this past week by the hands of Miz and Del Rio but Punk is more inclined to talk about his ongoing problems with Johnny Ace. Speak of the devil, John Laurinaitis approaches Punk and tells him that he's having Punk's Slammy mailed to him. They argue a bit more and then Punk takes off.

Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger
Super special bonus match time! Not really, I'm not sure why they didn't book guys like these into some kind of big ladder/tables/chair match, but oh well. Sheamus starts off with his brute power, beating his way out of every wrestling hold Swagger tries on him. He tees off on Swagger's chest with the ten shots and then tosses Swagger out of the ring. Vickie distracts Sheamus briefly and Swagger knocks him into the turnbuckle and then subsequently the barricade. Back inside the ring a Swagger bomb gets only one. Sheamus responds with a body slam but winds up getting knocked out of the ring by Swags. No problem, Sheamus just knocks him around the steel post and turnbuckle a bit like a pinball. He hits a diving shoulder block from the top rope for a two count back in the ring on Swagger. Sheamus misses the Brogue Kick and Swagger goes after his ankle with chop blocks and another Swagger bomb. He applies the ankle lock, but Sheamus is Irish, he won't tap! Swagger tries again for a chop block but Sheamus sees it coming this time, side steps it, and then delivers the Brogue Kick to put Swagger away easily at 5:58. Decent enough, but really a rather pointless throwaway match. **

World Heavyweight Title Chairs Match
Mark Henry
© vs. Big Show
Ah the "chairs" match, the red-headed stepson of the TLC-themed matches. Henry has a walking cast on his left ankle, so this might not last too long. As soon as the bell rings Show exits the ring to toss a dozen or so chairs into the ring. He grabs one and enters the ring, only for Henry to exit, grab his title and say "This ain't happenin'" as he starts to head for the rampway. Show cuts him off with a chair though, slamming it over Henry several times. Henry fights back with some chair shots of his own, slamming Show's right hand with one against the steel steps. Back in the ring Henry gets some more shots in on Show with the chair. Henry places Show's hand inside of another chair and then stomps on it. Henry prepares for another chair shot, but Show connects with the injured right hand anyways and somehow that's enough to put Henry away and give Show the World title at a measly 5:28. Well, that was certainly quick. This was nothing more than couple of chair shots and a punch, so not much of a match obviously. Almost as if they have other plans though, hmmmm. *

After the match is over, while the Big Show is celebrating with his new title, Mark Henry awakes from his brief slumber to attack Show once again with a chair before giving him a sloppy DDT onto a pile of several chairs. Suddenly Daniel Bryan's music hits and the Money in the Bank champion hits the ring! He's got a referee with him and he's cashing in his Money in the Bank FOR REAL this time!

World Heavyweight Title Match
Big Show
© vs. Daniel Bryan
The ref quickly calls for the bell in the ring while Bryan leaps onto the laid out Big Show. The ref goes for the count, 1...2...3! Daniel Bryan is your NEW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION at 0:08! Way too short to rate but who cares, Bryan fuckin' Danielson is a WWE World champion. If you had told me this would happen even 2 years ago, I would have called you crazy, the world would have. The crowd is going crazy here as Bryan celebrates like he just won the Super Bowl. He gets right into Michael Cole's face at ringside and then looks directly into the camera and says "For everyone who supported me for the last 12 years....THIS IS FOR YOU!" As one of those people, let me just say, right on Bryan, right on! It's a beautiful thing to see that hard work and dedication still mean something in this business, and that even the little guy can have his day in the sun if he just works hard enough and never gives up. I'm almost getting misty-eyed here, this has got to be the feel-good moment of the year for every longtime hardcore wrestling fan out there. Enjoy it everyone, because for tonight at the very least, Daniel Bryan is the World Heavyweight champion.

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes
© vs. Booker T
After all the hubbub from DB's title win has died down, we're onto our next match as it appears Booker T will in fact wrestle Cody Rhodes tonight for the IC title, even after several backstage beatdowns. This is Booker's first official match back in the WWE since the fall of 2007, and he's fired up to start against Rhodes here, brawling and slamming his younger opponent at the opening bell. Booker hits a nice superkick for the first near fall of the match, then he just tosses Cody out of the ring with ease. They brawl around ringside a bit and on their way back in the ring Cody is able to get the upper hand on Book and slam him into the guard barricade. Back inside Cody keeps the heat on with a full-nelson hold, but Booker breaks it up with an elbow. Both men lariat each other at the same time and are wiped out on the mat for the ref's count. Back on their feet they trade blows again and Booker hits a sidewalk slam for a two count. Book hits a big spinebuster and caught up in the heat of the moment, he gives the crowd an old-fashioned Spinarooni for a big pop. Booker goes for the scissors kick, but Cody evades and nails him with the Beautiful Disaster jumping knee for a very close two count. Cody can't believe it so he nails him with a second Beautiful Disaster to retain the title at 7:16. Not much of a match because of the kayfabe beatdowns Booker suffered through-out the night, but this certainly made Cody look good and really that's all this match needed to do. *3/4

WWE Title TLC Match
CM Punk
© vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. The Miz
I believe this is the first time we've had a triple threat TLC match in the WWE, so that adds a bit of luster to the mix. The crowd is completely behind Punk, of course, so the heels gang up on him to start despite their earlier agreement to end their alliance. They double suplex Punk and put the boots to him. While Punk is down the heels exit the ring to head for the ladders and Del Rio sneak attacks Miz from behind with a steel chair. He grabs a clearly too-small ladder and turns around only for Punk to dive out of the ring and knock the ladder back into Del Rio's face! Back in the ring Miz knocks a chair into Punk's midsection and tries to leap off the chair at him in the corner, but Punk moves out of the way and nails him with a Muay Thai knee. He looks to bulldog Miz onto the chair, but Miz counters into a sick back suplex, crumpling half of the chair up against Punk's neck in the process! Miz heads out of the ring again to fend off Del Rio but Alberto just back-drops him onto a ladder set-up against the apron. Punk exits the ring and knees that same ladder into Del Rio before tossing him into the guard barricade and pulling a set up table closer. Both men tease suplexing the other through the table until Punk counters into a neckbreaker on the floor. Miz approaches with a chair...bad idea Mike, as Punk snatches the chair out of his hands and proceeds to waffle him with it repeatedly before setting Miz up on the guard rail and hitting a unique running Muay Thai knee to knock him back into the crowd moments later. Well that was creative. Punk sets up the ladder in the middle of the ring and looks to climb to the top and grab his title when Ricardo Rodriguez enters the ring to knock Punk down and then hand-cuff him to the ladder! Who gave that man handcuffs?! Del Rio stomps away leisurely at Punk and then tries to climb the ladder, but Punk rips the middle bar of the ladder off with the handcuffs, knocks Del Rio off, and then nails Del Rio with the hand-cuffs! He pancakes Del Rio onto the ladder against the ropes and then takes his exit, leaving Miz to enter the ring and take his turn using the ladder as a weapon against CM Punk. Punk tries for the Go 2 Sleep but Miz blocks it. Punk tries to superplex Miz out of the ring now through a table at ringside, but Del Rio breaks it up with his signature running step-up enziguri to the back of Punk's head, which Punk sells like a champion, taking just enough time before slowly falling backwards and plummeting out of the ring and through the table at ringside! That whole sequence was great. While Punk is out, Del Rio drags Miz up the aisleway and puts him into his lethal armbar with a ladder around his shoulder for added pressure, which causes the Miz to tap immediately. Del Rio returns his attention to Punk afterwards, whose still laying on a broken table, slamming two chairs into him repeatedly. Del Rio wraps the chair around Punk's shoulder and puts the armbar on Punk as well now, though Punk doesn't tap. Del Rio tries setting up a ladder back in the ring and climbing it, but Miz and Punk both are able to hit the ring and knock the ladder over, sending Del Rio crotch-first onto the top rope with force. That'll ruin your Saturday night. Punk fires off a few kicks but both men wind up lariating each other and being wiped out. So naturally, Ricardo Rodriguez hits the ring again to climb the ladder in Del Rio's place, but again Punk and Miz knock the ladder over, this time sending Ricardo flying out of the ring and through another table at ringside! Ricardo Rodriguez is DEAD! Punk and Miz each tease going for their finishers back in the ring, but Miz decides to try and outsmart Punk by handcuffing him to the corner turnbuckle, but while he's celebrating this cunning move Punk nails him in the back of the head with a kick regardless. Del Rio returns to the ring and he and Miz each set up a ladder while Punk starts twisting and turning the turnbuckle rod connected to the second rope. Punk is able to fully twist it off and the second rope drops limp, allowing Punk to join the fracas at the top of the ladders. Punk knocks Miz off and then knocks Del Rio off with a kick, but Miz yanks him down before he can grab the belt. Punk returns the favor, yanking Miz down and giving him the Go 2 Sleep for good measure! Punk climbs to the top of the ladder and grabs his title to retain at 18:25! Great little TLC match here with some inventive spots and creative twists and turns with the use of the handcuffs and the second rope. Not quite as good as some of the TLC matches at last year's show, but still extraordinarily fun and creative. ***3/4

We close out the show with CM Punk celebrating at the top of the ladder with the WWE title, a fitting way to close out the last PPV of 2011, the year in which Punk has truly taken off as a main event main-stay in the company. And don't forget, Daniel Bryan is your World Heavyweight champion as well. Two indy schmucks didn't do so bad, eh?

Bottom Line: This was just a flat out fun show, while it doesn't exactly look like the greatest show star-wise or anything, the whole show just had a nice gel to it that made everything fly by in no time. We got several solid undercard matches to go along with a momentous Money in the Bank cash-in and title win for Daniel Bryan, and to cap it all off a great main event. True, some of these matches could have been much more, but what we got was more than enough to put a big smile on my face, though that might just be because of the DB title win. All in all a pretty good way to close out the 2011 PPV calender for the company though, and an easy Thumbs Up from me.

Score: 8.0/10

*-Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter via

Friday, December 16, 2011

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 12/16/11

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
December 16th, 2011
RBC Center, Raleigh, North Carolina
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome everyone once again to another edition of 411mania's Friday Night SmackDown! coverage. We're only two days away from the big TLC PPV on Sunday, and with the card pretty much set in stone at this point you can expect tonight to likely be the usual go-home show. We're emanating from Raleigh, North Carolina this week and there's no telling what could go down tonight, so let's start the show!

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with the usual intro stuff, Jack Swagger vs. Big Show is booked, as well as a tag team main event pitting Randy Orton & Zack Ryder against Wade Barrett & Dolph Ziggler. That sounds promising.

Josh Matthews hits the ring next and introduces Booker T for a formal interview in preparation for his Intercontinental title match this Sunday against Cody Rhodes. He asks Booker if it's safe to say he's ready to face Cody this Sunday, and Booker feigns being insulted, turning the question around and asking the fans if he looks ready (to which he gets a nice pop). Booker says this whole situation is because of Cody's ego and his desire to be "legitimized", but Booker will be damned if he's going to make his name off himself. He promises that Cody will get the beatdown of his life this Sunday and then finishes up with the classic "Now can you dig that....sucka?" catch phrase.

Moments later Cody Rhodes' music hits and he makes his way out to the rampway with a microphone to tell us all how it's "really" going to go down on Sunday. He says Booker will hit the ring psyched and excited, and if this were a movie he'd take Cody's title, but this isn't a movie and reality dictates that Booker will fall to him. Booker's heard enough though and asks him about the reality of coming over and whooping his ass right now? Cody says because Booker has interfered in his last two matches against Daniel Bryan, he's had a third match against Bryan booked for tonight (next in fact) and that according to Teddy Long, if Booker interferes the match this Sunday is off and he'll be suspended. He rips off Booker's catch-phrase but is interrupted moments later by Daniel Bryan's music and our opening contest...

Cody Rhodes (15-16) vs. Daniel Bryan (11-14-1)

Hopefully we get a clean finish this time, because these two work great together. Booker joins the commentary team as Rhodes and Bryan lock-up intensely. They exchange counters and Bryan looks for the LeBell lock early, but Cody exits the ring and we take a quick commercial break. When we return Bryan is in control, trying for a Mexican surfboard submission but settling for just slamming Rhodes legs into the mat. He tries to suplex Rhodes from the apron, but Rhodes counters with his own suplex that sends Bryan tumbling nastily to the floor! Back in the ring Cody delivers a gourdbuster and then wraps his legs around Bryan's waist in a nasty vice grip. Bryan escapes and lays a few kicks into Cody's chest, but Rhodes comes back with a vicious lariat for the first real near fall of the match. Bryan tries a few different pin cradle combinations, but Rhodes kicks out every time so Bryan tries a missile dropkick, but he still only gets a two count. Bryan fires off some more stiff kicks to Rhodes and he tries to escape to the top rope, but Bryan just follows him there and delivers a towering top-rope back suplex, but Rhodes manages to reverse the momentum in mid-air and land directly on Bryan's taped up ribs. Rhodes tries for his jumping knee strike but misses and both men exchange roll-ups, with Cody rolling through right back up to his feet and delivering the Cross Rhodes to Bryan in one wonderfully fluid motion to pin Bryan clean at 5:44 (shown). Great little TV match here just as you'd expect from these two together, even if it was a bit on the short side. The finish was great and Booker was borderline hilarious ranting and raving on commentary, so thumbs up all around here, great way to start the show. ***

Alicia Fox (6-4) vs. Natalya (6-7)

After a quick commercial we return and segueway right into our next match. Natalya comes down to the ring tossing tissues around, mocking Fox's tears during a previous attack. Fox grabs a headlock but it's not long before Natalya is bludgeoning the smaller Fox and locking her into an abdominal stretch. Natalya tries a roll-up, but Fox counters that into a cradle of her own that somehow is able to get her the "fluke" 3 count at 1:02. After the match Fox rips out some of Nattie's hair and calls her synthetic and tries to coin a painful pun catch phrase about Natalya being "Out-Foxed". Nattie hits the ring again but Fox nails her and delivers her somersault scissors kick finisher for good measure. Man, I really hate that finish. It's bad enough in a 10 minute match when someone spends most of the match getting beat on and then gets the fluke pin out of nowhere, so you can imagine how foolish it looks in only a minute. DUD

After a commercial break we return and see the Slammy nominees for "Pipe Bomb of the Year" again. Afterwards we cut to Jack Swagger talking backstage with Vickie Guerrero. Mark Henry approaches him and tells him he needs to take out Big Show's ankle tonight, and if he does that he'll be first in line for a World title shot. Swagger tells him he's going to hurt Show tonight not for Henry, but for himself. He brags about beating Show before and then promises to win the World title anyways. Could we be seeing the beginning of a face turn for Swagger?

The Uso's (Jimmy Uso/Jey Uso) vs. Epico/Primo

Rosa Mendes comes out with Epico and Primo again, 'cause you know, all Spanish people just inexplicably hang out together. The Uso's start off trading quick tags and working basic elbow drops and cross-bodies on Epico. Moments later they've traded roles and now the Colon boys are trading quick tags and isolating one of the Uso's in their corner (I can't tell them apart and neither can you, so let's just call this one Jimmy). Jimmy manages to escape harm and tag out to Jey, who hits the ring in House of Fire mode, delivering a sick spinning elbow to Primo followed by the old Rikishi running-ass slam in the corner. Jimmy and Epico fight out to the floor while Jey gets hung up on the top rope by Primo, who delivers the back-stabber lung-blower to him to pick up the win at 2:59. Fun little sprint, but every time I see these teams wrestle I'm always left with the feeling that they could put on a fantastic match if they were ever actually given more than three minutes at a time. **

Big Show (12-5) vs. Jack Swagger (8-7)

Just as these two are ready to square off in our next match, Mark Henry interrupts and makes his way down to ringside with a steel chair to watch the match. Swagger tries to jump Show from behind while he's distracted, but Show sees him coming and bludgeons him. Swagger goes right for the ankle with a chop block and follows with a shoulder-block for a two count. Show tosses Swagger out of the ring like a ragdoll and then brings him right back into the ring and wipes him out with a forearm from his knees on his way back in. He scoop slams Swagger and stares down Henry at ringside. Show chokes Swagger over the second rope and continues to stare a hole through Henry. Show lays in some huge chops in the corner and tries an Irish whip, but Swagger finally mounts some defense and slams Show's leg into the corner. He follows up with a pair of Swagger bombs, but again Show kicks out with ease. Show hits a few clotheslines and tries for the chokeslam, but Swagger counters into the ankle lock! Show manages to kick him off eventually though and then nails Swagger with the knock-out punch to pick up the win at 5:47. Show tosses Swagger out of the ring like trash after the match just to piss off Henry, so Mark nails a nearby cameraman with a steel chair just to be a dick. The match here actually was a lot better than you've come to expect from Show over the years, this was mostly Show dominating but Swagger made it look convincing. Solid for what it was. **1/4

Backstage we see Zack Ryder approach Orton to ask if they're on the same page tonight, and Orton calmly responds "No". Ryder asks if they're even in the same book and Orton gives him a "Maybe". Ryder celebrates with some fist-bumping. These two make an amusing odd couple.

Ted DiBiase (7-10) vs. Heath Slater (4-23)

I want to find whoever created Slater's theme music and throw them into a bottomless pit. We get some more footage from DiBiase's "posse parties" before the match. So weird. DiBiase is hot to start here, countering Slater's lock-up attempts into various creative roll-ups and cradles for a string of early near falls. Slater, unamused, slaps him in the face which only serves to fire DiBiase up as he tosses Slater out of the ring, slams him into the guard-rail, and then starts handing out high-fives to some uniformed soldiers at ringside. I don't know what's gotten into DiBiase, but he's on his game tonight. Back in the ring Slater tosses DiBiase into the corner turn-buckle and stomps away at him. He stretches Ted's back across the turnbuckle in a nasty submission and then hits an axe handle off the top rope back inside for a two count. Slater tries a Russian leg sweep, but again he only gets two. Slater gets caught with a knee off the top rope moments later and DiBiase hits a lariat followed by the Dream Street slam to put Heath away at 3:09. Another fun little sprint, and DiBiase looked excellent here. **

After the match Jinder Mahal hits the ring to attack DiBiase. He puts him into the camel clutch but is interrupted moments later by Teddy Long, who books him into a match right now since he wants to fight so badly, against none other than Sheamus.

Sheamus (16-11-1) vs. Jinder Mahal (4-5)

After a quick break we return for the opening bell and lock-up. Both men brawl to start, which of course leads to Sheamus beating down Mahal like the proverbial government mule. He delivers the big forearms to Jinder's chest while he's tied up in the ropes and follows it with a slingshot shoulder-block for a two count. Mahal manages to deliver a swinging neckbreaker for a two count, and he finds a bit of success with a chinlock. Sheamus overpowers him again though and continues the bruising beatdown. He delivers the Irish Curse backbreaker and then takes Mahal's head off with the Brogue Kick for the win at 3:51. Basically just a squash for Sheamus, but the crowd seemed into it. Then again you never can tell what's being piped in on this show. *1/2

We get some more lengthy video packages highlighting this past Monday's Slammy awards show to kill some more time, followed by a brief package highlighting the Triple H/Kevin Nash feud just for fun. Now onto our main event. In-between entrances we cut to commercial and get another mysterious promo with some creepy kids in a class-room while the child narrates a short piece about the world ending on January 2nd. This is followed by simply the word "Control.". Well, that reminded me of every bad student film ever made.

Randy Orton/Zack Ryder vs. Wade Barrett/Dolph Ziggler

Ryder and Ziggler start us off with some basic head-lock/shoulder-block exchanges. They run the ropes and Ziggler gets pancaked for a quick one count. Orton tags in and lays in some forearms on Ziggler's chest followed by some stomps on his leg. He suplexes Ziggler while staring down Barrett in the corner and then tags back out to Ryder. Ziggler finally gets some offense in and tags out to Barrett. He stomps away at Ryder a bit but then flees the ring when Orton tags back in again. Ziggler works over Orton in the corner after taking advantage of a distraction by Barrett. Ryder hops in for the save and dropkicks Ziggler out of the ring, giving us time to take a commercial break. When we return Orton is punching away at Ziggler in the corner again. Barrett gets a blind tag and nearly takes Randy's head off with a surprise big boot. He follows it with a swinging neckbreaker for a near fall. Barrett lays in a stiff, sick knee to Orton's ribs and then tags out to Ziggler. Dolph hits a flashy elbow for another two count. A beautiful standing drop-kick nets Dolph another near fall, so he tags out to Barrett. Orton responds with a spinning back suplex and is able to get the hot tag to Ryder, who hits the ring on fire, nailing Barrett with a barrage (heh) of elbows and knees. He hits the Broski Boot in the corner and tries for the Rough Ryder, but Ziggler breaks it up from behind and tags in. Ryder rolls through and nearly pins Ziggler with another close near fall, but Ziggler transitions right into a nasty half Boston crab/chinlock combination. Ryder gets dragged back into the heel's corner and Barrett tags in, suplexing Zack immediately. Barrett tries for the Waste Land, but Ryder counters with a huge DDT and is able to get the tag to Orton, who goes right into Viper mode with a snap powerslam on Ziggler, followed by his gut-wrench neckbreaker. Ryder clotheslines Barrett out of the ring, but gets slammed into the guard barrier while Ziggler rolls up Orton in the ring with a handful of tights and nearly steals it. Ziggler tries for the Fame-asser but Orton moves, turns around and hits the RKO! Orton pins Ziggler for the three count while staring down Barrett outside of the ring at 11:53 (shown). Great dynamic between these four men and it resulted in a typically excellent Smackdown main event this week with a hot finish to boot. Good stuff from everyone involved. ***

We close out the show with Barrett and Orton staring each-other down.

Bottom Line: Very good go-home show this week as we touched on almost every SmackDown angle and even got a few damn good TV matches out of it, surprisingly enough. I find that typically everyone seems to be holding back on the Smackdown show before a PPV, but not tonight, everyone was on their game it seemed like. Easy Thumbs Up for SmackDown this week.

Score: 7.5/10

Friday, December 9, 2011

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 12/9/11

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
December 9th, 2011
Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back once again to another edition of 411mania's SmackDown coverage! You may have noticed a brief absence from yours truly over the last two weeks, I was sick with the flu for quite a bit and then Smackdown went live on a Tuesday last week and just aired a re-run on Friday, so this is my first show back. I'd like to thank Steve Cook and Tony Acero for filling in for me while I was battling that damn bug. Anyways, back to the important stuff, the wrestling. We're only a little over a week away from the Tables, Ladders, & Chairs PPV and while most of the card is already in place, we can expect some more bumps in the road, possibly starting tonight as SmackDown rolls into Jacksonville, Florida.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with a somber Josh Matthews welcoming us as the camera reveals a disheveled Booker T on the concrete floor, having apparently been attacked by Cody Rhodes again during his entrance moments before we came onto the air. Booker is helped off backstage while Tony Chimel introduces the return of longtime ring announcer Lillian Garcia to do the show tonight. I'm not sure if this is a one-time thing or if she's back for good, but either way it's always nice to see her again. She thanks the fans but before she can get very far Rhodes has grabbed a mic and interrupts her. He tells her that no one cares that she's back nor did they even notice her absence, but he can appreciate the arrival of one announcer as another one (Booker) exits. Rhodes of course decides to take the empty seat at ringside as we roll on to our first match of the evening.

Beat the Clock Challenge Match
Wade Barrett (8-26-1) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-11)

Both Barrett and Randy Orton are booked in Beat the Clock matches tonight, and whoever wins with the best time gets to choose what kind of stipulation their match at TLC will have. Barrett tries to end it quickly with a few unsuccessful cover attempts before bailing out of the ring when it doesn't work. Back inside Zeke feeds him a forearm and then clotheslines him back out of the ring. Barrett chop-blocks Zeke's knee from under him and then rolls him up for a two count. Barrett delivers a big pumphandle slam but again Zeke kicks out as we take our first commercial break. When we return Barrett is working a chinlock on the big man to little success. Zeke hits a sidewalk slam for a near fall of his own and then delivers a pair of body-slams. He looks for the torture rack, but Barrett counters and looks for the Waste Land. Zeke evades that but walks right into a towering spinning sidewalk slam from Barrett, which is enough to give the Englishman the win at 4:58 (shown; 7:53 total on the clock). Pretty much exactly what you'd expect from Barrett and the cumbersome Jackson, this just existed to further the Barrett/Orton angle. Moving along, nothing to see here. *1/4

After the match Barrett gets on the mic to brag about his victory and talk a bit of trash towards Randy Orton. He tells Orton that he's the only voice in his head, and that his time is up on SmackDown. Time for Orton to beat: 7 minutes and 53 seconds.

Backstage David Otunga is talking to Teddy Long about how unfair it was for him to wrestle Randy Orton on last week's special Smackdown. He wants the loss expunged from his record, but Long decides to book him into a match against Sheamus later tonight just to be a dick. He's crafty that Teddy.

Josh Matthews introduces Mr. Money in the Bank, Daniel Bryan, next. Cole immediately goes into his usual over-the-top heel bullshit, immediately sending me reeling for the mute button. We see a clip of his loss to Mark Henry in a steel cage last week on the Titan Tron. Bryan expresses his disappointment over his loss last week to Henry, but before he can continue Michael Cole erupts from the announcer's table at ringside and begins screaming "Enough!" like a temperamental child. What follows is such an absurdly over-the-top heel shtick performance from Cole that I struggle to make it through without muting or fast forwarding the show. Anyways, Bryan and Cole go into a shouting match about why Cole doesn't respect him. Cole tells him he should just go away so Bryan heads towards Cole to get physical when Cody jumps up from beside Cole and attacks Bryan while Cole talks trash next to him. Cole's shtick is way, way, WAY too over the top to take seriously. A good actor or performer doesn't completely take you our of reality and the show like Cole often does.

Zack Ryder (3-1) vs. Heath Slater (4-22)

Poor Heath doesn't even get a ring entrance anymore. Ryder is hot to start with forearms but Slater quickly gains the upper hand and lays a deep kick into Ryder's stomach before stomping away at the Long Island Iced Z in the corner. Ryder hits a pair of knees on Slater and then hits the Broski Boot in the corner before finishing Slater off with the Rough Ryder at 1:27. Don't blink or you might have missed this entire match. Squash-city. 1/4*

Ted DiBiase (7-10) vs. Jinder Mahal (4-5)

These two are wrestling because DiBiase cost Mahal a match last week by coming down to the ring in a Santa hat and handing out toys to people at ringside. The harder they try to get the fans to care about Ted DiBiase, the more miserably they fail. Here's a hint: in a country suffering from it's worst economic depression in decades, maybe the affluent son of a billionaire isn't exactly the most relatable of babyface characters, hmm? DiBiase is quickly attacked by Mahal at the bell, having his legs taken out from under him in the corner for a two count. Cole continues to whine and cry like an angry child and I officially press the mute button to escape the pain while Mahal goes to town on DiBiase with a series of nice butterfly suplexes and a neck cravat. DiBiase just rolls Mahal up moments later though and picks up the three count at 2:54. A boring match made worse by excruciating commentary. 1/2*

After a quick commercial break we return to see the Big Show entering the ring. He grabs a mic and says that it was nine years ago that he defeated Brock Lesnar to become the WWE champion. He brags about how he did the impossible that night. Um, the only reason you won that match was because of Paul Heyman and a steel chair, so I'm not sure what you're bragging about here man. Show says it's going to get mean and nasty when he wrestles Henry at TLC, and that appears to be Henry's cue to interrupt and walk down to ringside. Henry says he isn't afraid of Show, but he's not looking for a fight. He wants to say something to Show's face, but only if he promises not to put his hands on him. Show refuses initially, but then agrees. Henry promises he'll be 100% in two weeks and that they'll have a fight that people will talk about for decades. Henry wants to let bygones be bygones and shake Show's hand, and Show obliges him. Henry of course gives him a sucker punch seconds later, and Show fires back, targeting Henry's injured leg. Show grabs a chair and slams it over Henry's back once before slamming it onto his injured leg. Show takes off while trainers rush to Henry's aide. Nice little segment to further the issue between these two.

Hornswoggle is introduced after a brief commercial break as the guest ring announcer for our next match. You see, because he won the battle royal on last week's show and was granted the power of speech by Santa Claus. I cannot believe I actually just had to write that sentence. Moving along.

Sheamus (16-11-1) vs. David Otunga (2-1)

Otunga tries some basic holds to start but Sheamus' power easily allows him to escape. He lays in a series of ten forearms onto Otunga's chest on the aisle and then suplexes him back into the ring for a two count. Otunga hits a clothesline and follows up with an elbow drop, but Sheamus easily kicks out. Moments later Sheamus hits him with the Brogue Kick, and that's enough to put away Mr. Harvard at 2:57. Just another glorified squash, but Sheamus managed to make it moderately amusing. 3/4*

In between commercial breaks we get another mysterious promo video talking about "the return of the prophet" on January 2nd, 2012. I'm sure most people have already read who it is that will be returning on that date, but for those who haven't, we'll keep it a mystery for now.

Daniel Bryan (11-13-1) vs. Cody Rhodes (14-16)

Now here we go, finally a match that might get some actual time to develop. Bryan goes right into a flurry of kicks on Rhodes at the bell, but Cody gets a cheap shot in and begins to target the bandaged abs of Bryan. Rhodes headbutts his mid-section and then shoots Bryan sternum-first into the corner turnbuckle, continuing the assault on the injured mid-section. Don't expect anything resembling "commentary" during this match either, as instead it's just the usual Michael Cole bitchfest with the ever annoying manchild Josh Matthews screeching his disapproval into our ears. Rhodes sends Bryan out of the ring and he falls nastily onto his ribs again as we take a quick commercial break. When we return Rhodes is working an abdominal stretch on Bryan back in the ring. Rhodes hits a stiff lariat for a two count and then slams his foot over Bryan's throat. Bryan back-drops Rhodes over the top and out of the ring and then moments later he takes out Rhodes with the big tope suicida on the floor! Back in the ring Bryan lays in more stiff kicks and a big running dropkick. He heads to the top rope for the diving headbutt, but Rhodes moves out of the way at the last second when suddenly Booker T's music hits on the Titan Tron, and the former 5 time WCW champ runs down to the ring, hops in, and attacks Cody Rhodes, bringing forth the DQ to give Cody the win at 5:53 (shown). This was going along quite nicely until the DQ finish, it's just a shame Booker couldn't have come in a few minutes later to allow them a wee bit more time to flesh this out. Definitely a step above everything else tonight so far though. **1/4

After a commercial break we return to see an angry Cody Rhodes storm backstage to talk to Teddy Long. He demands a match with Booker T, and Teddy has no problem booking one between the two men at the TLC PPV, with Cody's Intercontinental title on the line! Sheesh, Triple H, Kevin Nash, and now Booker T all wrestling at TLC? That's a whole lot of old. Elsewhere backstage we see Matt Striker with Randy Orton. Orton tells Ziggler that it's his lucky night, because he's going to make his suffering short tonight in order to win the beat the clock challenge, all in his usual monotone, excitement-less voice.

Beat the Clock Challenge Match
Randy Orton (23-9-1) vs. Dolph Ziggler (3-11)

Boy that new theme music for Ziggler sucks, and sucks bad. The time for Orton to beat here is 7:53. Orton nails Ziggler in the chin with a big standing dropkick right at the bell and tries to quickly pin Dolph, but he kicks out. Orton lays in some stiff European uppercuts and a lariat for another near fall. Ziggler gets some shots of his own in on the Viper in the corner, but he can't put much of anything together before Orton is firing off shots at him again. Ziggler manages another forearm and then hits the Fameasser for a two count of his own on Randy. Ziggler tries to apply the sleeper hold to try and kill more time on the clock, but Orton won't have any of it so Dolph gives him a big DDT instead for another near fall. Again he tries for a sleeper but again Orton evades, so he nails him with a neckbreaker. Ziggler heads to the top rope, but Orton quickly meets him up there and delivers a huge superplex that Ziggler still somehow manages to kick out of as the clock starts winding down towards the two minute mark. The crowd is red hot as Orton starts going into his go-home series of moves. Ziggler tries for the Zig Zag but Orton counters and delivers the second-rope DDT that again Ziggler manages to kick out of as we're down to only a minute now. Ziggler bails out of the ring and Orton gives chase, but before he can return to the ring suddenly Wade Barrett appears out of nowhere from behind and attacks Orton behind the refs back! The ref starts counting him out but somehow Orton is able to return to the ring at the count of nine, deliver the RKO to Ziggler immediately, and pin the US champ to pick up the win with only 2 seconds to spare on the clock at 7:51! So wait...what was the point of Barrett interfering? Who knows, but this was a pretty fun little match while it lasted and the crowd was practically frothing at the mouth when Orton started his go-home sequence. Match of the night, but nothing that you need to really go out of your way to check out. **1/2

After the match Barrett hits the ring and gives Orton a spinning sidewalk slam. He congratulates him on his victory and tries to slam Orton through a table set up at ringside, but Orton gets the better of him again and Barrett runs off as Orton powerbombs Ziggler through the table. Really now, we couldn't allow Wade Barrett the luxury of even a post-match heel beatdown? How on Earth is anyone supposed to take him seriously in a feud against Randy Orton if he can't even gain the upper hand on the guy through typical heel tactics? Poor Wade. Anywho, we close the show with Orton staring down Barrett in the aisle way.

Bottom Line: Not exactly a home-run show to welcome me back into the Smackdown report tonight, but I've seen much worse in my time watching and reviewing this show too. This was pretty much your typical filler show, the only thing of importance to really come out of the whole night was the booking of a Cody Rhodes/Booker T match for TLC, besides that, you could probably skip this show and be perfectly fine, having missed nothing of real note or substance. Bryan/Rhodes and the main event were both moderately fun, but not up to the usual snuff of Smackdown matches. We're going to have to go with the dreaded, non-decisive thumbs in the middle for tonight's show, perhaps even leaning slightly down. Just nothing of real note here.

Score: 5.0/10

Friday, November 18, 2011

WWE SmackDown 11/18/11

WWE SmackDown 11/18/11
November 18th, 2011
Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back to another edition of 411's Smackdown Report everyone. We're only 48 hours away from the big Survivor Series PPV emanating from Madison Square Garden this Sunday, featuring the in-ring return of The Rock for his first match in seven and a half years, so this should be a strictly go-home show. Let's see what we have on tap tonight.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We cold open the show with Mark Henry assaulting Daniel Bryan backstage, talking trash to the American Dragon while he chokes him against a concrete wall and then drags him from the backstage arena, out to the ringside area, and eventually into the ring itself. Henry continues the assault, giving him several World's Strongest Slam's as several referees hit the ring to try and stop Henry. Bryan is dragged out of the ring by the officials while Henry grabs a mic and tells us there will be more of what we just saw to come before making a generic promise to defeat the Big Show this Sunday at Survivor Series.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Sin Cara

Vickie does her usual pre-match heel shtick to get the crowd warmed up while she introduces the US champ Ziggler (this is a non-title match however). Ziggler takes Cara down with ease with some simple amateur wrestling in the early-going before slapping him in the face. Cara nails Ziggler with a handspring back elbow and follows it up with a headscissors that sends Ziggler out to the floor. Not one to waste time, Cara leaps out after him with a lightning-fast tope suicida to the floor! Ziggler regains the advantage back in the ring moments later however, locking on a Fujiwara armbar while the crowd tries rallying behind Cara with chants. Cara fights the hold off with a flurry of quick kicks before sending Ziggler into the corner with a Mexican armdrag. He nails Ziggler with a kick to the side of the temple in the corner and then tries for the Swanton bomb, but Ziggler moves and Cara sees this, rolling right back up to his feet and flipping Ziggler into a cradle for a near fall. Ziggler counters that into a cradle of his own however, grabs a handful of Cara's trunks for the cheap leverage, and he picks up the dirty win at 4:27. This one just flew right by and these two seemed to work quite well with each other, I'd love to see them given another five or ten minutes to flesh things out a bit. This was great for a quick four minute TV match though. **1/4

After the match Cara attacks Ziggler with a few dropkicks, tired of Ziggler's trash-talking. Jack Swagger runs down to make the save though with a huge lariat. The two heels double-team Cara until Mason Ryan of all people runs out to the make the save for Cara, complete with generic nu-metal theme and all. Ugh, they're really not going to give up on Mason Ryan, are they?

Mason Ryan vs. Jack Swagger

When we return from the commercial break we join this match in-progress, as apparently Teddy Long put it together during the break. Swagger is all over Ryan to start with big right hands in the corner but it's not long before Ryan takes over with some big knees and boots before he powerslams Swagger for a two count.Swagger takes Ryan's knee out and goes for the Gut Wrench powerbomb, but Ryan is too big and he counters into a full-nelson slam for the win at 4:21 (shown). You can probably tell from my lack of in-depth details on the match how exciting this was. I really don't know what they see in Ryan besides his massive arms, but they're going to push him whether we like it or not gosh darn-it. 3/4*

Backstage we see Alicia Fox and Justin Gabriel flirting it up when Zack Ryder approaches them both to sign his online petition for a US title shot. The Big Show walks in moments later and signs it as well in a cheery mood, but that's gone as soon as Ryder informs him about Mark Henry's "statement" to Show earlier in the show.

After a quick commercial break, Christian limps out from the back with a crutch, a cast, and a neck brace to some light booing. Christian tells us about his (legit) injury and then blames it on Teddy Long for booking him into a match with Sheamus on last week's show. We even get a picture of his purple and blue ankle on the Titan Tron, and Christian claims he could be out for a few months and may never be the same again. Christian takes it to the fans next, asking them if they even care that he's injured (to which he gets a rowdy "No!" in response). The usual great mic-work from Christian here tonight, he really excels with heel promos. He claims to be sickened and ashamed by the fans and then shouts out "Good riddance!" in Scrooge-like anger and takes off into the back, ending the segment. Good stuff, just a shame that Christian's going to be out for awhile. Here's to hoping he's back to his A-Game in time for Wrestlemania.

Elsewhere backstage we see Daniel Bryan backstage laying on a doctor's cot trying to recover from Mark Henry's attack earlier, with AJ looking on after Bryan. Big Show walks in quietly and says that he should have been there to stop Henry tonight. He takes off and we cut to commercial again.

Ted DiBiase vs. Derrick Bateman

Apparently Bateman is engaged to Maxine from FCW. Yeah, I don't watch much NXT as you can tell outside of the Yoshi-Kidd matches. Typical shoulder-block/hip-toss opening sequence by both men before a back elbow gets DiBiase the first near fall. Bateman rings DiBiase's neck over the top rope behind the ref's back and then takes advantage back int he ring with a stiff neckbreaker for his own near fall. Bateman locks on a chinlock briefly but Ted responds with a flying knee and a clothesline. DiBiase counters an Irish whip attempt into the Dream Street slam and that's enough for the win at 2:36. Just a squash for Ted, but Bateman didn't look half bad for once either. 1/2*

Backstage we see Big Show looking for Mark Henry backstage. He runs into Tyson Kidd who claims Henry is gone and Jinder Mahal who says something to Show in Hindi. Kidd humorously squirms away, not wanting the same thing to happen to him.

Moments later the Big Show makes his way out to the ring to cut a promo. He says that he's worried that if he goes into Survivor Series with all of the rage in him right now he'll probably get DQed against Mark Henry, and he doesn't want that to happen. Show gives us the footage of Henry defeating Show back at the Money in the Bank PPV in July, which signaled the real beginning of this most recent Mark Henry push. Show claims that footage is a reminder to him of his goal, which is to take the World Heavyweight title from Henry. Show then proceeds to freak out like a rabid dog, barking and swinging his hands around wildly while unintentionally spitting all over the camera. I guess that was supposed to be intimidating, but it was kind of just disturbing. Show takes off.

Kofi Kingston vs. Hunico

Hm, this could be decent. Hunico, still dressing like an extra from Stand and Deliver, grabs a mic when he gets to ringside and says something in Spanish. I don't speak your Alien language moon-man! Nice wristlock/armdrag trading sequence to open up. Kofi tries for a monkey flip but Hunico sees it coming and dropkicks him in the face. He delivers a huge sitout gourdbuster to Kofi and then transitions from a chinlock into a loose variation of the Muta-lock. Kofi tries countering with a cradle but gets dropkicked in the gut again. Hunico stomps away at Kofi in the corner and then misses a quebrada attempt, which gives Kofi the chance to finally work some offense in. He hits the Boom Drop and then tries for the Trouble in Paradise, but Hunico evades it momentarily. Kofi hits him with a cross-body off the top rope, but Hunico rolls through and nearly pins Kofi. Hunico argues with the ref about the count, which gives Kofi enough time to sneak up and deliver the S.O.S. for the pinfall at 5:01. This was just as fast-paced and fun as I figured it would be, it was just a bit short unfortunately. Hunico probably could have used the win alot more than Kofi, but that's a minor gripe. **1/2

Beth Phoenix/Natalya vs. AJ Lee/Kaitlyn

And it's time for our token diva's match of the evening. Apparently a Lumberjill match has been booked for this Sunday with Beth defending her Diva's title against Eve. Beth and Kaitlyn start us off and of course Beth totally dominates her before tagging Natalya in for a double-team electric-chair slam. Natalya locks on a deep abdominal stretch onto Kaitlyn, who just looks totally out-matched before delivering a sloppy hip-toss. AJ gets the hot tag and hits a huge cross-body off the top rope onto Nattie. She tries for a sunset flip but Natalya counters into the sharpshooter. AJ hangs on briefly until Nattie really synches the hold in and AJ taps out at 2:53. Another match where the finish was obvious, but there were a few entertaining seconds. *

To really emphasize how much of a throwaway show this is, they replay the entire Rock/Cena/Miz/R-Truth segment from RAW this past Monday. I don't mind highlights, but replaying entire promos seems a bit excessive, they could have fleshed out a few matches earlier in the evening instead with the extra time.

Randy Orton/Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett/Cody Rhodes

Main event time and as usual for this show it looks like a pretty good one on paper with two members of Team Orton taking on two members of Team Barrett before the big Survivor Series match showdown. We're told Rhodes doesn't need the mask anymore, which saddens me. I liked Cody as the real-life comic book villain. Sheamus and Rhodes start out first but it's not long before Cody is tagging out to Barrett. Sheamus feeds him a huge back elbow but can't even get a one count from it so he ties Wade up in the top two ropes and lays in those big clubbing forearms to Barrett's chest. Barrett responds with a back elbow of his own and Sheamus is able to tag out to Orton for the huge pop. Orton lariats Barrett and then delivers the powerslam to him. He follows up with the second-rope DDT and then sets up for the RKO, but Rhodes tries to stop him with an attack off the top rope only to be met with a boot to the gut and a gutwrench slam from Randy. Orton turns around and eats a boot from Barrett as we take a commercial break. When we return Rhodes is delivering a powerslam to Orton while we see Christian has arrived at ringside to provide some moral support for the heels. Barrett and Rhodes isolate Orton, trading quick tags. Orton tries to tag out but the heels double-team him behind the refs back to help build some more heat for that hot tag you know is coming to Sheamus soon enough. Barrett grinds Orton down with a chinlock, but Orton eventually counters with a back-breaker. Rhodes gets the tag as Sheamus gets a hot tag of his own, hitting the ring and destroying Cody with a top-rope shoulderblock. Sheamus tosses Barrett out of the ring and sets up for the Brogue Kick on Rhodes, but Christian trips him up and then jabs Sheamus right in the throat with his crutch right in front of the referee. That signals the DQ, awarding the match to Orton and Sheamus at 7:49 (shown). This was going along quite nicely up until the abrupt DQ finish, but you can understand their hesitance to have anyone go over clean here since this match is really just a tease for the big eight man Survivor Series match involving these four this Sunday. Pretty darn good while it lasted, but not up to par with what you usually expect out of a Smackdown main event. **1/2

After the bell rings Rhodes takes out Sheamus with a leaping knee strike while Barrett tosses Orton into the guard barrier outside the ring under Christian's direction. Rhodes and Barrett hit the ring to stomp away at Sheamus in the corner They try to use Christian's crutch on him, but Sheamus fights them off and snaps the crutch over Barrett's back while Orton delivers an RKO to Rhodes! Just to be a dick Sheamus follows up with the Celtic Cross powerbomb, as the faces stand triumphant over the heels here. Considering everyone already assumes Orton's team is winning, it probably would have been wiser to have made Rhodes and Barrett look strong going into Sunday. Oh but I digress. We close out the show with Sheamus and Orton celebrating in the ring.

Bottom Line: This was the usual go-home filler show, but it was atleast one of the better ones I've seen in awhile. There's nothing here that hits *** but a few matches come close with the fun Hunico/Kingston and Ziggler/Cara matches. Every match felt like the wrestlers were holding back, saving energy for Sunday though so this was really just your run of the mill, skippable go-home Smackdown. Not terrible or anything, but not enough for a real recommendation, so a very slight Thumbs Down tonight, leaning towards the middle.

Score: 5/10