Friday, January 6, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 1/6/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
January 6th, 2012
Verizon Arena, Little Rock, Arkansas
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome everybody to the first episode of WWE SmackDown for the year 2012! 2011 saw a lot of change for the blue brand of the WWE with longtime mainstays like Edge retiring and the rise of young stars like Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett to new heights. We've got a big World Heavyweight title match booked for the main event of tonight's show, with the underdog champion Daniel Bryan taking on the former champ, the giant Big Show. While the odds don't look good on paper, I just don't think they'd pull the strap off Bryan so quickly. Then again, this is the WWE so literally anything could wind up happening. Enough preambling, let's start the show!

Your hosts are Michael Cole and Josh Matthews

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes
© (16-17) vs. Booker T (1-0)
Lillian Garcia is our ring announcer tonight and she looks just as good as she did ten years ago. Book and Cody each have one pin on the other so this would be the rubber match. Booker starts strong with big elbows and a tight wristlock, but Cody responds with boots in the corner and a wristlock of his own. Back body drop from Booker followed by his signature high kick has Booker feeling confident. He tosses Cody over the top rope, but Cody skins the cat back in only to have Booker clothesline him off again. Outside Cody jumps Booker from behind and nails him with a stiff running boot as we take a commercial break. When we return Booker is attempting a backslide on Cody back in the ring for a two count. He nails Cody with another big spin kick but again only gets two for it. Cody suddenly takes a page out of Kurt Angle's book with a beautiful soaring moonsault onto Book, but T gets his shoulder up at two. Booker fires back with a big sidewalk slam, followed by a stiff spinebuster, but neither move can get him the three. Book looks for the scissors kick, but Rhodes ducks it so Book looks for the Book-End and Cody escapes that as well. Cody tries for the leaping Beautiful Disaster knee-strike, but Booker ducks the knee, boots Cody in the gut and connects with the scissors kick! Cody kicks out at two though and Booker can't believe it. Book looks for a second scissors kick but Cody evades, ducks a spin-kick, and then nails Booker off the ropes with the Beautiful Disaster knee-strike to retain the IC title at 8:39 (shown). This was about on par with their previous two matches, not quite as good as their last one, but still solid stuff for the short time shown. Booker shows he can still go (which was definitely in doubt after that horrendous TNA run) and Cody gets a clean pin on a future Hall of Famer. Everybody wins. **1/2

After the commercial break we cut to backstage where Cody Rhodes is walking tall with his title around his shoulder when he's approached by his older brother Dustin (better known as Goldust). He congratulates Cody on a win over a veteran but Cody has nothing nice to say as usual. He warns Dustin not to think about another run, calling him a joke before walking off. I smell a brother vs. brother match in our future.

Elsewhere backstage Zack Ryder is talking to Teddy Long about his role as Assistant GM on Smackdown. He says that now that he's the US champion, it's time for him to move on, but he's got a suitable replacement in mind. Enter Drew McIntyre to Teddy's chagrin, but no, that's not Zack's replacement...Santino Marella is! Santino offers to sync Teddy's iPod and then reminds Teddy about the stipulation that if Drew lost his match last week he'd be Teddy books a match between Drew and Santino for later tonight. If Santino wins, he becomes Teddy's assistant, and if Drew wins Teddy will consider not firing him. Drew and Santino take off as the cheesy saxophone music cues up and Aksana enters to make dinner plans with Teddy. I hate that saxophone so very much.

After a Royal Rumble flashback to 2008 we cut backstage to where AJ Lee and Alicia Fox are talking. AJ gushes about Daniel Bryan some more and then expresses concern about his match tonight against the Big Show. Alicia says that she hopes Daniel's ego can take a loss tonight just in time for Daniel to walk up and interrupt. He reminds her of his pin over Big Show and when Alicia walks off Daniel asks her why she's even friends with Alicia. Daniel asks AJ if she doubts him as well but he calms down a bit and tells her they're going to celebrate tonight once he retains his title. He kisses her forehead and then takes off. That was...sort of adorable. More subtle hints at a possible heel turn for Bryan as well.

Over the Top Rope Challenge Match
Heath Slater (4-25) vs. Hornswoggle (1-0)

Well it's almost Rumble time, so that means we get one of these always lame "over the top rope challenge" matches. Hornswoggle is able to take advantage of Slater with the old "Hey, look over there!" trick and he actually gets some offense in with a few boots. Slater tosses 'Swoggle across the ring and then chokes him over the bottom rope with his boot. Horny tries a cross-body but Heath catches him and tries to eliminate him. Swoggle hangs on though and pulls Slater over the top rope by his hair and Slater falls to the floor to actually give Swoggle the win at 1:34. After the match Slater beats up on 'Swoggle until Justin Gabriel hits the ring to make the save and hit him with the 450 Splash. Man, Slater can't buy a win these days huh? This continues the on-again/off-again Slater/Gabriel feud I guess though, so it wasn't completely pointless, just crap. DUD

Hunico (3-1) vs. Ted DiBiase (8-11)
Hunico is riding out on the back of a low-rider bike again with his new buddy Comacho. They seem offended by their lack of invite to one of DiBiase's tail-gate parties. Both men trade quick arm-drags at the bell. Hunico tries for a headscissors but gets slammed down by Ted face-first. Hunico tosses Ted into the corner and then goes to work on his left arm with a modified Fujiwara armbar. Ted fights back with a dropkick and an inverted atomic drop followed by a nasty lariat for a two count. Back on the mat Hunico ties up Ted's arms with his own legs while stretching his legs in a clover-leaf position and applies an incredibly unique submission/pin attempt combo that manages to actually give him the win at 3:04. Not much of a match, just an opportunity to get over a new finisher for Hunico. While it looked painful it also looked incredibly awkward to apply though. *1/4

Wade Barrett makes his way out to the ring after the next commercial break to address his match with Randy Orton last week and the injury to the Viper that has (legit) put him out of action for now. Wade says just about what you'd expect. "Randy Orton will never be the same", "the Barrett Barrage", blah blah blah, usual Barrett stuff here. He promises to win the Royal Rumble this year when he's immediately interrupted by Sheamus. The Celtic Warrior enters the ring with a mic and says just about what you'd expect from a Sheamus promo---tell a cutesy Irish limerick, then get serious and lay down the threats. Throw in the word "arse" somewhere in there and we're about done here. Jinder Mahal interrupts both men next because of his recent problems with Sheamus. He doesn't say a word, just slaps Sheamus in the face and then gets jumped for it. Wade hits the ring though and helps out Jinder, and it works for a bit too until Sheamus winds up beating the hell out of both men at the same time. He goes for the Celtic Cross on Wade, but Jinder breaks it up and he turns around right into the Winds of Change (swinging sidewalk slam) from Barrett. Afterwards Jinder applies the camel clutch for good measure.

Santino Marella (3-3) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-10)
Even Cole is on Drew's case tonight, so I guess he's still in Vince's doghouse. Drew is dominant to start with a sick snap suplex for a two count. Santino counters out of the Future Shock DDT attempt but eats a big lariat anyways from Drew. Both men jockey on the top rope for position and Santino drops Drew face-first on the steel post. He nails Drew with The Cobra, and that's all she wrote at 2:30. So, Santino is Smackdown's new Assistant GM. No complaints here, it's a good use of Santino's comedy. Drew's tail-spin continues though, this guy went from "future world champion" to "future TNA employee" real quick, didn't he? *

Backstage Drew begs with Teddy, and Teddy says tonight was Strike Two for him. If he fails next week, that will be Strike Three and Drew may just be done.

Primo/Epico vs. Air Boom (Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne)
Rosa Mendes is with Primo and Epico, and man, she sure does like shaking. No complaints here. This is a non-title match, so the finish seems obvious. Evan starts off with Epico but it's not long before Kofi is tagged in and Air Boom start pulling out the high-flying double-team moves. Not to be out-done, Primo and Epico trade quick tags and double-team Kofi in their corner as well. Kofi starts the comeback and gets the warm-ish tag to Evan, who cleans house with some of his signature spin-kicks. He nails Primo with a pair of shotgun knees off the top rope, but Epico breaks up the pin. Rosa blocks a possible cross-body from Kofi, which allows Epico to drag Kofi out. Bourne looks for the Air Bourne in the ring, but Epico drags Primo out of the way at the last minute and Primo rolls up Evan for the win at 3:49. These four work well together, but they're never given more than five minutes at a time and it's frustrating from a fan's point of view. I do appreciate the push of a new legit tag team though. *1/2

Backstage Big Show is being interviewed by Matt Striker when Daniel Bryan interrupts. He agrees with Show about him being a good wrestler, but he had to work for that unlike the Big Show who was born physically gifted. Show tells Bryan not to make him hurt him tonight and puts his hand on Daniel's shoulder only for Bryan to respond in his best Charlton Heston impression "Get your DAMN hand off of my shoulder!". Show asks him if he thinks he's a tough guy now and then walks off. Tensions continue to boil between these two and Bryan is showing a new mean streak. I like it.

Tamina (4-5) vs. Natalya (6-9)
We get some nice little highlights packages of Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Snuka's careers to put a bit of history behind this match-up of two second-generation stars (or are they third-generation?). Nattie is feisty to start but both women collide in mid-air with cross-body attempts. Tamina hits a big Samoan drop and then follows with the Superfly Splash for the quick pin at 1:44. I have no clue where this whole "have Natalya lose in quick and embarrassing fashion every week" angle is going and I suspect they don't either, and frankly, I just don't care. 1/4*

World Heavyweight Title Match
Daniel Bryan
© (12-15-1) vs. Big Show (14-5)
Mark Henry makes his way out to the commentary table for our main event here tonight. Bryan actually gets some decent heat during the pre-match introductions. Typical start to a big/little man match with Daniel scurrying about trying to avoid Show only to have Show over-power him with his big ham-hocks (that's a fist in JR-speak). Show tosses Bryan out of the ring with ease as we take a commercial break. When we return Bryan is laying in stiff kicks to Show's legs in the ring. He leaves the ring to catch his breath and when Show comes out to follow him he returns to the ring and attempts a slingshot cross-body out of the ring, but Show catches him. Bryan shoves Show into the steel steps and then nails him with a big jumping running knee from the apron and Show is nearly counted out, but he makes it back in the ring at the last second. Bryan lays in another flurry of kicks and gets a two count on the giant before he's shoved off again with ease. Bryan is knocked out of the ring, but he hangs Show up on the top rope on his way back in. He's caught off the top rope with a big fist from Show, who evades a few more strike attempts and hits a huge spear on Bryan, who somehow kicks out at two. Show looks for the chokeslam, but Bryan catches Show in a tight guillotine choke and then transitions right into the LeBell Lock! Bryan is bleeding from the mouth and cranking away on the hold, but Show breaks it up. He looks for the WMD fist and Bryan rolls out of the ring. Seeing this isn't getting him anywhere, Bryan gets in Henry's face at ringside and prompts Henry to shove him down for the lame DQ at 6:15 (shown). This was about what you'd expect from a match between these two and while Bryan hardly looked like he was on Show's level, he did manage to hold onto the World title in a sneaky, heelish fashion that's sure to get him more heat with the fans. If he's not a heel already, after this, Bryan sure as hell will be very soon. *3/4

After the match Bryan celebrates with the title belt like he just won the main event of Wrestlemania, running around shouting "Yes! Yes!" in true heel fashion. We go off the air with the commentators pondering if Bryan got himself DQed intentionally. Ya think?

Bottom Line: Pretty decent show tonight and not a bad way to kick off the year 2012. The concerns most of us had about Bryan's build to World champion are pretty much dead and moot at this point since it appears that Bryan will be a heel by the end of the month at the latest if he isn't already, and the main event did a great job in garnering him some more heat. Booker and Cody had another solid if unspectacular match to kick us off while the rest of the show was the usual mish-mash of brief matches and mid-card angle advancement. Nothing here really worth going out of your way to check out, but a decent enough show to start the year off. We'll go with a very mild Thumbs Up tonight.

Score: 5.5/10

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