Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WWE Elimination Chamber 2012

WWE Elimination Chamber 2012
February 19th, 2012
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Attendance: 15,306

Well we're on the road to Wrestlemania and all that jazz, and this here would be our last PPV stop before the big show in little over six weeks time. Tonight we've got the two World title Chamber matches of course alongside an ambulance match with John Cena against Kane (shudder) and...well that's it actually. Oh wait we've got a diva's title match, because I know you were dying to know that. Let's see how they're going to kill nearly 3 hours with only four matches, shall we gang? The attendance is reported to be 15,306 according to Cole as we open the show.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T

WWE Title Elimination Chamber Match
CM Punk
© vs. Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. R-Truth vs. Kofi Kingston
Jericho earned the right to enter the match last after winning a six pack challenge on RAW a few weeks back. Punk and Kofi are our starting two and they go right into a great leapfrog sequence that results in Kofi leap-frogging over the top rope to the steel floor surrounding the ring. They trade several rollup and cradle attempts and Kofi again starts leap-frogging all over the place before hitting the leg lariat on Punk. Punk tries to suplex Kofi onto the steel but winds up getting dumped upside down onto the steel with a back suplex instead. Punk catapults Kofi face-first into Jericho's pod. Punk gets his own suplex onto the steel and then hits a tope con hilo onto Kofi back in the ring. Next man into the chamber is Ziggler, who's rocking some gloriously pink tights. He elbows Punk and then climbs halfway up the chamber fence to do some ab exercises before dropping a leg onto him. Punk and Kofi both have the same idea of spring-boarding into the ring to take out Ziggler but wind up crashing into each other in mid-air in a cool spot. Next out is R-Truth who goes right for Ziggler and hip-tosses him out of the ring before slingshot splashing him on the steel. Truth hits the scissors kick on Dolph for a two count. Punk hits the Macho Man elbow on Truth and eliminates him at 11:45. Is that a record for the shortest Chamber appearance by Truth there? Punk rolls up Ziggler but gets absolutely destroyed by the sickest Trouble in Paradise I've ever seen from Kofi for a two count. Kofi leaps onto the steel fencing like Spiderman and then DDTs Ziggler off of it! Next out is The Miz of course and he cleans house on the exhausted participants, tossing Punk into a steel post and then slamming Kofi onto the steel floor. MIz sets Kofi up on the top rope only to dump him to the floor again, dragging him back into the ring for a two count. Punk and Miz tease their finishers on one another but Miz settles for a DDT. Punk gets a two count off a powerslam on Miz and then transitions into the Anaconda Vice on him as our final entrant Jericho is released from his pod. Miz hangs on and Jericho and Punk have a stand-off. Jericho nails a dropkick and then tries for the Walls of Jericho, but Punk escapes it and tries unsuccessfully for the GTS. Jericho hits a bulldog and then hits the Lionsault on him, but Punk kicks out! Ziggler tries to interfere and eats the Codebreaker from Jericho, which is enough to eliminate him at 19:19. Punk catapults Jericho out of the ring into the steel and then just starts slamming his head into the nearest pod. Jericho thumbs Punk in the eye and then tries to seal himself back inside his pod in classic chickenshit heel fashion. Punk gets him back out but Jericho just destroys Punk's shoulder with several slams of the pod door over it. Nasty. Kofi sneaks up behind Jericho and hits him with the S.O.S. on the steel but Miz steals the pin for a near fall. Miz and Kofi struggle on the top rope until Punk power-bombs Miz off the top for a two count. Kofi climbs on top of one of the pods next and hits a flying cross-body on both men off the pod! Jericho grabs Kofi and locks him in the Walls of Jericho though and Kofi taps out at 25:35. Jericho won't release the hold though and when he finally does he dumps Kofi out of the ring and slams him into the cage, continuing the beatdown. Jericho tosses Kofi out of the ring and Punk sneaks up behind him to nail him with a kick and send Jericho flying out of the ring as well into a cameraman, seemingly knocking him unconscious. After a bit of a lull in action as the refs call for a doctor for Jericho, apparently eliminating him around the 27:00 minute mark, Punk nails Miz in the ring with the same spin-kick for a hot near fall. Punk leaps off the top rope right into the Skull Crushing Finale from Miz, but Punk kicks out! Miz gets weirdly into Punk's face in the corner to tell him he's nothing and lays in a series of knees to his mid-section. Miz misses a spear into the corner and goes head first onto one of the pods. Miz stumbles out right into the GTS from Punk and that's enough for Punk to retain his title at 32:39. Very fun Chamber match to open the show, not quite on the level of some of the best Chambers in years past, but full of creative spots, hot match-ups, and dramatic near falls, so not far off. ***3/4

We get footage of Santino Marella winning the battle royal on Smackdown for entry into the Chamber tonight and then cut to the man himself backstage doing his best Rocky impersonation by chugging a glass full of raw eggs and then puking them back up off-camera.

Next we get a video package of John Cena working out with developmental wrestlers from FCW (including Tyler Black/Seth Rollins) to hype up his match with Cena at 'Mania by reminding us again of how hard working and swell of a guy Cena is.

WWE Diva's Title Match
Beth Phoenix
© vs. Tamina Snuka
I think this is the first time they've actually billed Tamina with the Snuka last name. Beth offers Tamina a chance to leave at the bell but takes a beatdown from Tamina almost immediately. She looks to go to the top for the splash but Beth dumps her to the outside floor and follows up with some punches. Tamina barely makes it back into the ring before the ten count and gets locked into a chinlock from Beth immediately. Beth follows up with a dragon sleeper for a bit until Tamina breaks it up and hits a Samoan drop. She tries to go to the top but Beth meets her up there and suplexes her off of the top rope. Stiff chops from Tamina followed by a Stinger splash in the corner and a big superkick. Tamina hits the Superfly Splash, but Beth kicks out! Beth rolls out of the ring and lures Tamina back in the ring, where she knocks her head off the turnbuckle and hit her with the Glam Slam to retain her title at 7:19. Started off slo-o-o-w but picked up nicely towards the finish. **

Backstage the Rocky tributes continue from Santino, who delivers the Cobra to a slab of meat hanging from the ceiling.

Elsewhere backstage Josh Matthews tells us he hopes to get a word with Chris Jericho soon as we can see Jericho being checked up on by two doctors in the background.

Mr. Electricity John Laurinaitis is out next alongside David Otunga and he apparently has a big announcement. Johnny starts running down Teddy Long's ability as the GM of Smackdown when he's suddenly interrupted by a returning Alberto Del Rio! Del Rio agrees with Johnny and says that Teddy Long is corrupt and a piece of trash.Del Rio says he wishes Johnny Ace could be the permanent GM of both RAW and Smackdown, when suddenly Mark Henry comes out to chime in his own agreements and praises of Laurinaitis. Suddenly they're interrupted by the returning Christian! Big pop for Christian. This was rumored this weekend and I'm glad to see Captain Charisma back and apparently healthy. Christian claims he would have been in the Chamber tonight if it wasn't for Teddy Long. He takes a stab at Randy Orton and then complains about Teddy Long some more before agreeing that Laurinaitis would be great as Smackdown GM. All four men get their picture taken with Laurinaitis to close out the segment. That was an onslaught of heelness and I dug it. Christian's return could have been better though.

We get footage of Santino running the steps outside the arena to further the Rocky homage.Elsewhere Josh Matthews is with the Big Show and asks him about his lackluster Wrestlemania W/L record. Show says he's got to win tonight in the chamber to go to Wrestlemania and that's all he can think about.

World Heavyweight Title Elimination Chamber Match
Daniel Bryan
© vs. Big Show vs. Wade Barrett vs. Cody Rhodes vs. The Great Khali vs. Santino Marella
What, were Christian and Del Rio busy? Big Show and Barrett start us off. Show gets some chops in on Wade but the Englishman targets the giant's knees and brings him down. Crowd seems utterly bored as these two lumber around the ring in what seems like slow motion. Finally the clocks comes up and our next entrant, Cody Rhodes, is released into the mix. Show just dominates both Rhodes and Barrett anyways with more clubbing fists before launching Rhodes off the top rope into the steel fencing. Barrett tosses Rhodes into the mesh a few more times for good measure Cody mounts a comeback as Santino is the next man into the match. Santino hits his hip-toss/diving headbutt combo on Barrett but turns around into the Big Show's face. He tries for the Cobra but Show just grabs his hand and smashes him into the corner. Cody is able to keep Show down momentarily with a few chop blocks but it's not long before the giant is dominating again, tossing Wade and Cody to the steel. He tries for a doible chokeslam on them, but they wind up giving him a two man suplex instead! A loud "boring" chant rings out so Rhodes shuts them up with a beautiful soaring moonsault off the top rope onto Barrett. Cody beats down Santino as the Great Khali is released from his pod next who, contrary to Booker T's claims, most certainly not a breath of fresh air into this match. Fortunately though Khali is almost immediately eliminated by a spear from the Big Show at 16:30. With everyone wiped out in the ring Show decides to claw at Daniel Bryan's pod. He manages to break a few of the chain links and is able to actually slide himself into Bryan's pod from the top and he takes it right to the champion. The clock counts down and Bryan is able to escape momentarily only to be tossed right through his own pod by Show! Show grabs Bryan and hit some running shoulder blocks and forearms on him back in the ring. Show chokeslams Bryan, but Barrett boots Show in the face before he can try for the pin. Rhodes hits the Beautiful disaster kick and knee strike twice on Show and then DDTs him. Barrett drops an elbow on Show and Rhodes covers Show and actually gets the pin to eliminate Big Show at 22:37.Santino sneaks up behind Rhodes while he's celebrating though and rolls him up for the shocking pin to eliminate Rhodes at 23:05. Cody gives Santino the Cross-Rhodes before exiting the ring as a measure of revenge. Wade tries for the cover but Santino kicks out and a huge "Santino!" chant starts ringing out as Barrett intertwines Santino's own arms into the mesh fence to string him up and then boots him right in the face. Back in the ring Bryan actually botches the jump to the top rope for his usual moonsault spot, but he locks Wade into the LeBell Lock to try and make up for it. Wade escapes the hold but eats several kicks from Bryan in the corner. Bryan tries for a hurricanrana but gets crotched on the top rope, where Barrett clotheslines him off. Wade follows up with a powerbomb right into the cage! Next he sticks Bryan's head in the pod and slams the door on his head! Barrett boots Santino in the face and while he's recovering Bryan hits a flying knee to the back of Barrett's head. Bryan slams Barrett face first into the pods and then goes to the top rope, where Barrett slams Bryan through the pod glass a bit. He tries for the Waste Land on Bryan from the top but Santino breaks it up and Barrett misses an elbow drop on Marella just as Bryan comes flying back in with a diving headbutt on Wade. Santino covers and gets the pin on Barrett at 30:36. CAN SANTINO DO IT?! Bryan laughs at the Cobra but gets tossed by Santino so he responds with a dropkick. Santino tries to roll him up but only gets two, and Bryan answers with a German suplex. He tries the diving headbutt off the top rope, but Santino moves! Santino hits The Cobra on Bryan but he kicks out of it! Bah gawd nobody kicks out of The Cobra! Bryan counters into the LeBell Lock and Santino nearly escapes it but winds up tapping out to have Bryan retain his title at 34:04. This was a very strange match that started off tediously boring before getting better and better as time went on. Having Santino in the match actually helped it a bit, adding some drama and a hot crowd who was all for him. ***

As Daniel Bryan is celebrating after the match though Sheamus comes out to give him the Finlay Celtic Cross. Just to remind us of Sheamus challenging for the World Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania. Bryan vs. Sheamus should be solid and ironic.

Hornswoggle is backstage in a little restaurant eating some of Wisconsin's fine cheese when the camera pans out to reveal Natalya and, yeah you know the subsequent fart joke that comes here. Nattie runs off and Justin Gabriel walks up to talk to Hornswoggle. Jack Swagger and Vickie Guerrero walk by and they get into it so Teddy Long shows up just in the nick of time to book a US title match between Swagger and Gabriel, next.

US Title Match
Jack Swagger
© vs. Justin Gabriel
I'm shocked they're actually having Jack defend the US title, I thought they had forgotten it existed. Swagger gets a waistlock takedown to start and then powerbombs Gabriel on a rana attempt. Jack hits the Swagger bomb out of the corner and then applies an armbar. Gabriel counters with a reverse DDT and hits a spinning kick on Swagger in the corner. then springboards back into the ring for a near fall. Swagger hits a chop block to Gabriel's ankle and then just slaps on the ankle lock to make Gabriel tap out at 3:06. Short filler match here obviously, but it wasn't terrible..*

Ambulance Match
John Cena vs. Kane

No clue why this is the main event here. Big brawl to start between the two and it's only a matter of seconds before they're outside of the ring, fighting up the aisle. Kane has the ambulance backed up to the entrance area and they trade shots on each other with some of the plunder inside. They brawl lazily back towards the ring where Kane gets sent shoulder-first into the ring steps. Back in the ring they trade some more right hands before Kane hits a side-slam. Kane tries for the clothesline from the top but Cena hits him in the knees with a dropkick on his way down. Cena hits a shoulder-block and then delivers the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He tries for the AA but Kane counters into his lame glove-over-mouth claw hold he's been using since returning. Kane drags Cena's limp body out of the ring and pulls a wheelchair out from under the ring to try and wheel Cena into the Ambulance, but Cena gets up and fights back halfway up the aisle. Cena puts Kane in the chair and slams him into a barricade before nailing him over the back with a steel chair. Cena sends Kane over the guard barrier again and then nails him with a microphone before asking Booker T at ringside if that will get him in his "Fave Five". Look at Cena taking cues from The Rock. He slams the steel steps into Kane twice and then sets the steps up next to one of the commentary tables to try for the Attitude Adjustment, but Kane blocks it and instead chokeslams Cena through the announcer's table off the steps! Kane hauls the stretcher all the way back from the Ambulance and manages to get Cena nearly into it before John pops back up to fight him off. Cena climbs onto the roof of the ambulance and then lures Kane up onto it, where Cena hits him with the Attitude Adjustment off of the ambulance to the floor! Cena hauls Kane's limp body into the back of the ambulance to win the match at 21:21. Compared to their last encounter this was practically Steamboat/Flair, but that was mainly because they had a good finishing spot planned. This was tediously boring to start but got increasingly better as they got to the real bulk of the match, so definitely a step above the terrible bout they had at the Royal Rumble. **3/4

Bottom Line: As usual with the Chamber PPV your enjoyment here depends on how much you like the Chamber match gimmick itself. Both chamber matches were fairly entertaining and since that's the main draw of the show I'd have to say this was a success, but there's really nothing here outside of that and it certainly pales in comparison to the last few years. We'll go with a minor Thumbs Up here for the 2012 Elimination Chamber.

Score: 6.0/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WWE Super Smackdown 2/21/12

WWE Super Smackdown
February 21st, 2012
BMO Harris Center, Rockford, Illinois
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to 411's weekly coverage of Smackdown! We've got a special live Super Smackdown tonight on this Mardis Gras Tuesday and to celebrate we've got a big champion vs. champion match booked for tonight's show between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan (which should rock). Don't forget to refresh your browser after every commercial break to get all the updates and a bit of analysis from yours truly, and without further adieu let's jump into the show!

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

We open the show tonight with the World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan coming down to the ring with his girlfriend AJ Lee. Daniel clears his throat before explaining that when he announced his intentions to cash in the Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania no one believed him, but here he stands tonight as your World Heavyweight champion heading into the "main event" of Wrestlemania (good luck on that one Daniel). Bryan talks a bit more about him being a role model before listing off the men he defeated in the Chamber this week and claims to be the real "Rocky story", not Santino ("Yo AJ! I did it!"). He claims that he's going to thwart Sheamus' dreams come Wrestlemania time, but before he can elaborate on his opponent tonight, CM Punk, he's interrupted by...The Miz?

The Miz hits the ring with his own mic to inform Bryan that he apparently knew all along that Bryan would become a World champion from their first day together on NXT. Miz isn't here to gloat though, he's just here to say congratulations on being in the Wrestlemania main event this year, continuing to "follow in his foot steps". Miz extends an offer to Bryan that when Wrestlemania is done, they should form a tag team together, but Sheamus has heard enough backstage and comes storming out to interrupt both men.

Sheamus would also like to congratulate Bryan it seems, but on being an arse, hypocrite, and coward. Miz gets in Sheamus' face and Sheamus responds by taking him aside so the people who actually have Wrestlemania matches can talk. When he turns around Bryan hits him with a cheap shot though and takes off out of the ring with AJ, leaving Sheamus to attack Miz and toss him out of the ring as the World Champion sneaks away again to wrap up our opening segment. Nice way to kick off the show and I'm curious now what kind of interactions Miz and Bryan will have going forward.

Sheamus (23-13-1) vs. The Miz (2-2)

When we return from commercial we join our first match already in progress, having been booked by Teddy Long during the commercial break. Miz gets sent to the apron where Sheamus lays in the ten clubbing fists to his chest. Sheamus hits a slingshot shoulder block on Miz for a two count but gets his arm nearly yanked out of it's socket by a diving Miz to the floor. Sheamus gets that same shoulder sent right into the steel post in the corner and Miz goes right to work on the arm with an armbreaker and a loose armbar. Miz hits the running clothesline into the corner and follows with a double axe-handle off the top but Sheamus won't stay down. Sheamus starts the comeback with a clothesline and the Irish Curse backbreaker. Miz counters out of a powerslam attempt into a swinging neckbreaker and looks for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Sheamus tries (and misses) the Brogue Kick before finishing Miz off with the Finlay Celtic Cross at 5:56 (shown). What we got to see was pretty solid, but nothing you haven't seen a thousand times before. *3/4

Backstage Teddy Long and Aksana do a bit of flirting before John Laurinaitis and David Otunga walk in to interrupt and chastise Teddy for his unprofessional behavior. Teddy tells them he has a special office set up for them tonight, in the men's bathroom. Otunga tells him his office should be in a dumpster and the two heels take off as we cut to commercial.

Kofi Kingston/R-Truth vs. Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger

So I guess Truth is Kofi's new token partner with Evan Bourne out because of his spice tokin'. Swagger starts off with Truth and quickly hits him with a Swagger Bomb in the corner before tagging Dolph in. Ziggler hits a leg-drop but can't contain Truth, who tags in Kofi for some high-flying fun. Kofi hits the huge flying cross-body off the top, but Swagger breaks the pin attempt up. Truth and Swagger both get dumped out to the floor and while the ref is busy checking on a fallen Vickie Guerrero outside, Ziggler thumbs Kofi in the eye and hits him with the Zig-Zag to pick up the quick pin at 2:47. Well that was rather quick and did no favors for Truth or Kofi. It did make Ziggler and Swagger look like actual threats for once though. *

We get a video package for the latest entrant into WWE 2012 Hall of Fame class, Ron Simmons. If you only know him a Faarooq, you probably won't understand why he's a great pick for the Hall of Fame. Watching the reaction of the fans in the front row when Simmons won the WCW title back in 1992 still sends chills down my spine (the one black guy jumping up and down, freaking out is a classic image I won't ever forget).

Backstage Santino Marella and his Cobra do a bit of target practice with some plastic cups when Heath Slater enters and knocks all of the targets off of Santino's table in what can only be described as something O'Doyle would do in Billy Madison.

The Great Khali (5-7) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-13)

This doesn't bode well for Drew. Khali gives him a chop and then finishes him off with the double-arm chokeslam at 0:33. I wish I understood the point of matches like these, because it doesn't do anything for anyone. Squash city. 1/4*

Backstage the Big Show lets Cody Rhodes know that he's a marked man for eliminating him in the battle royal on RAW last night, promising to break his neck.

Big Show (17-6) vs. Mark Henry (12-9)
Ugh, if I never see these two wrestle each other again it will be too soon. Slugfest to start (duh) before Mark decides to stand on Big Show's chest a bit. Henry starts trash talking Show while he stomps away at him in the corner. Show starts his comeback with a few clotheslines and then hits the spear. He calls for the choke slam when Cody Rhodes interrupts in the middle of their match to come out with a mic and play old Big Show Wrestlemania clips on the titan tron to try and humiliate him (this time going with an extended clip of Show vs. Akebono at Wrestlemania 21). Henry takes advantage of the distraction and hits the World's Strongest Slam and a splash, but Show still kicks out at two. Show hits Henry with the WMD fist and then exits the ring to chase Cody Rhodes to the back, apparently ending the match around the 5:00 minute mark, though we never get a closing bell to confirm. Why wasn't Show just counted out? More of an angle than a match, but like all of Henry and Show's encounters, it was slower than molasses while it lasted. 1/2*

We get clips of WWE's new YouTube show "Are You Serious" in which Road Dogg and Josh Matthews cut MST3K-style commentary over amusing old wrestling videos. Is that a dream job, or what?

David Otunga (2-2) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-14)

This is a rematch from RAW last night, and one of the few occasions where David Otunga isn't the worst wrestler in the ring. Sloppy slugfest to start with Zeke getting the upper hand in the corner. Zeke tries for the torture rack but Otunga escapes and hits a terrible spinebuster to pick up the win at 1:21. I imagine it's pretty hard to lift a guy as big as Zeke up, but man, that spinebuster was flat out BAD. Quick, harmless filler. 1/4*

CM Punk is with Matt Striker backstage, where Striker wants to know Punk's thoughts on his match with Daniel Bryan tonight. Punk talks about knowing Bryan for years and then notes how he's become the new "rebel" of Smackdown like he once was because of his unpopular vegan ideology. Punk wraps up by promising to teach Bryan how to lose tonight.

CM Punk (1-2) vs. Daniel Bryan (15-15-1)

We've got about 25 minutes of TV time remaining, so this should rock. Great chain wrestling to start as you'd expect from these two with both men kipping back up to their feet after an exchange as we take a commercial break. When we return Punk fights out of a side headlock and sends a huge knee into Bryan's gut. Punk misses a cross-body from the second rope and appears to injure his arm, so Bryan targets the arm immediately and begins driving his knee into it. Punk counters a back suplex into one of his own, dropping Bryan neck first across his knee on the way down! Nasty. Punk lays in some kicks and hits a leg lariat but can't capitalize because of the injured arm. Both men tease going for their respective finisher's until Bryan bails out of the ring and calls for his title to leave the match. Sheamus runs down and tosses him back into the ring to meet the same stiff spin-kick from Punk that knocked Jericho out at the Chamber and that's enough for Punk to seemingly pick up the win at 6:34 (shown), but John Laurinaitis comes running down to re-start the match because of the interference by Sheamus. Johnny grabs a seat at ringside as we take our last commercial break. When we return we get clips of Punk hilariously mocking Bryan's overzealous ring celebrations but in the ring Bryan rolls up Punk and grabs the second rope for an unfair leverage to seemingly win the match cheaply at 8:18 (shown) but now it's Teddy Long's turn to come out and re-start the match. Both men begin trading forearm shots and waist-locks as Punk finally back-suplexes Bryan over the top rope and out of the ring, where Punk follows him out with the tope suicida! Back in the ring Punk hits a springboard clothesline for a near fall. Punk hits the Muay Thai knee in the corner but Bryan counters out of the corner with a wristlock on Punk's injured arm before nailing him with a running dropkick in the corner for a near fall of his own. Bryan tries for a super Frankensteiner, but Punk rolls through for another close two count. He eats a few stiff kicks from Bryan and then Daniel goes for the LeBell Lock, nearly synching it in before Punk can counter into a catapult into the corner turnbuckle. He nails Bryan again with the spin-kick of doom but Bryan gets his foot on the bottom rope at the last second. Punk and Bryan struggle on the top rope, where Bryan tries repeatedly for a superplex before finally delivering it. Both men think they've got the other hooked with the pinfall after the superplex and the ref apparently counts both men's shoulders down for the draw at 14:22 (shown). Despite their damnedest efforts to ruin this match with overbooking, they still gave them nearly 15 minutes of TV time and just as you'd expect Punk and Bryan delivered solid gold for the time we got. I wasn't a fan of the two re-starts initially but with the draw finish it does add a bit to the story of the match showing the equal footing these two men are on. Great TV match and better than most of what we saw at the PPV two days ago. ***1/2

After the match Teddy raises Punk's hand while Johnny raises Bryan's hand as both men get into a shouting match and OH SHIT THE JACKETS ARE OFF PEOPLE, THE JACKETS ARE OFF! Both men toss their coats at one another and Teddy takes off as we go off the air with Bryan trying to calm Johnny Ace down while Teddy walks off and Punk looks on in bemusement.

Bottom Line: I was feeling a bit iffy about tonight's show up until the main event, but boy did that last 25 minutes or so of the show really save things. Punk and Bryan delivered another great TV match together and even the Teddy Long/Johnny Ace interactions were amusing. You could probably fast forward through a good portion of the beginning of the show, but I'll go with the Thumbs Up because of the awesome main event this week.

Score: 7/10

Friday, February 17, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 2/17/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
February 17th, 2012
Save Mart Center, Fresno, California
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's WWE SmackDown coverage. We're only two days away from the Elimination Chamber PPV so let's see what the Smackdown brand has in store for us for the go-home show. Should be interesting considering we've got a live Smackdown two days after the PPV as well.

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

We open the show tonight with a brief video recap of what went down on the show last week with Daniel Bryan once again escaping with his World title despite Randy Orton and the Big Show's best efforts. We cut backstage to Orton sitting beside Teddy Long, who tells the Viper he's sorry and that "it's out of his hands" and that he can't let Orton compete tonight because of his apparent concussion. Teddy has security on hand to escort him out of the arena because he knows Orton won't like this, and Teddy announces that Orton not only can't compete tonight but he's out of the Elimination Chamber match as well apparently.

Big Show/Great Khali vs. Cody Rhodes/Wade Barrett
All four of these guys are in the Chamber match this Sunday. Wade starts off with Khali but after eating a big chop tags Cody in. Cody doesn't fare much better and it's not until Wade gets a cheap shot in on the giant that the heels are able to gain any momentum. They work over Khali for a bit before Khali is able to get the hot tag to Show, who cleans house on both of the heels with total ease before choke slamming Wade Barrett for the win at a measly 3:55. After the match Show knocks out Khali with the WMD fist just to be a dick. That was quick and inoffensive but certainly did no favors for Rhodes or Barrett when you think they'd want to build them up a bit for the Chamber match. *

Backstage Mark Henry confronts Teddy Long about the vacant spot in the Chamber match, demanding to be put into it in place of Orton. Show walks in to interrupt them and demand a match with Bryan and when Henry tries to get in his face, he knocks him out with the WMD fist too before destroying Teddy's office in a rage. I'm guessing he's going to get his match.

We get some highlights from the recent WWE live tour in the United Arab Emirates.

Hunico (5-3) vs. Ted DiBiase (11-13)

Hunico accuses DiBiase of stealing a win from him last week and promises revenge. Ted is still sporting a cast on his wrist as both men exchange hands at the bell. Flying headscissors from Hunico, but Ted responds with a big boot for a pin attempt. Hunico hits an armbreaker on Ted's bad arm and then locks it into an armbar. Hunico tries coming off the top but Ted nails him with a dropkick in mid-air. While the ref checks on Hunico though Comacho gets a cheap shot in on DiBiase behind his back, allowing Hunico to roll Ted up for the win at 1:48. Pretty hard to give a shit about this feud when these two wrestle the same two minute match each week with the same finish every time. 1/2*

Primo/Epico vs. The Uso's (Jimmy Uso/Jey Uso)
This is a non-title match of course. Good luck telling who's who here too. The Uso's hit some nice double-team move on Primo but a distraction from Rosa Mendes allows Primo to get some offense in on one of the Uso's. Primo suplexes his own partner into the ring on top of Jimmy Uso for a two count and the heels begin to work the brother over in their corner, trading quick tags. Primo slaps a chinlock onto Jimmy but can't follow up with a pair of running knees in the corner, allowing Jey to get the lukewarm tag and clean house briefly on the heels with some right hands and a corkscrew elbow. He misses the Rikishi ass slam but hits a big Samoan drop for a close two count on Epico. Primo tags back in and misses a Backstabber attempt before eating a superkick from Jey. Jimmy misses the Superfly Splash though and Primo finishes him off with the Backstabber at 4:48. Not bad at all, these two could probably have a pretty good match if they ever got ten minutes on a PPV, but that's unlikely to ever happen. **

Daniel Bryan is out next after the break for some promo time. An amusing sign in the crowd points out that Bryan's belt is made of leather, which I'm guessing isn't very vegan. Good heat for Bryan as he gloats about interfering in Randy Orton and Big Show's match on RAW this week and Cole blames Bryan's belt-shot on Orton as the cause of his concussion. Both Orton and Big Show have been escorted out of the building, so of course Bryan feels safe to talk all kinds of trash about them, calling them both cowards. Bryan demands that Lillian Garcia announce him the winner of his proposed match with Randy Orton tonight by forfeit, so she does and Bryan celebrates with glee again. It's not long though before Teddy Long comes out to interrupt him and inform him that someone has volunteered to take Orton's place against Bryan tonight, and that someone is the 2012 Royal Rumble winner, Sheamus! That match is next.

Daniel Bryan (14-15-1) vs. Sheamus (23-12-1)
Funny to think these two got bumped off of the Wrestlemania card one year ago and now they look to be on the path to being the Smackdown main event at the show this year. Nice leapfrog counter sequence by both men to start with Sheamus getting the best of Bryan with a big lariat. Bryan gets caught up in the ropes and Sheamus lays in the hammer fists on him. Bryan grabs his belt from ringside and tries to walk out on the match, but Sheamus isn't having any of that obviously and cuts him off with another lariat. Bryan manages to strike Sheamus in the head with a stiff knee though and the Irishman is nearly counted out. Back in the ring Bryan hits another stiff running dropkick and Sheamus looks almost dead. Never fear though, Sheamus builds up some steam a few moments later with a few right hands and a powerslam. Bryan blocks an STO attempt and tries for the LeBell lock, but Sheamus fights it off. He tries for the Celtic Cross powerbomb but Bryan escapes and slaps Sheamus in the face twice. This incenses Sheamus so much that he eventually shoves the ref aside to get at Bryan in the corner, getting himself DQed in the process at 6:45. The finish works because it keeps the heat in place for both guys without having one go over the other cleanly. The match itself was going along nicely enough until the DQ, but it wasn't anything particularly special. **

Backstage Wade Barrett is trying to figure out who the last entrant in the Elimination Chamber is going to be by asking Teddy Long when Cody Rhodes interrupts them to ask the same thing. Teddy says he's going to give anyone in the building tonight a shot to get in the match by having a wildcard battle royal tonight with the winner going onto the Chamber match this Sunday.

Jinder Mahal (5-8) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-13)
Jinder tries some petty offense to start but Zeke overpowers him early with some clubbing forearms. Zeke hits a sideslam but Mahal responds with a quick DDT and then locks him into the Camel Clutch. Zeke tries to break the hold but Mahal hits him with a reverse STO and then puts him back into the Clutch, which is apparently enough to make Zeke tap out at 2:08. There was a time when WWE brass apparently saw something in Jackson, but I guess that time has passed. Basic Jinder Mahal squash match, which looks a bit weird against a guy as big as Zeke. 1/4*

Tamina/Alicia Fox vs. Beth Phoenix/Natalya
No idea why Tamina is getting the token push of the month, but here we are. Beth starts with Alicia but Natalya quickly tags in to show off with some countering. Awful leapfrog/monkey-flip sequence by the two ladies leads to a big DDT from Nattie for a two count. Fox counters an armdrag and manages to botch another leapfrog that Nattie takes advantage of by putting her into the sharpshooter. The ref walks away in disgust as apparently Nattie let another fart go in the ring to continue that atrocious angle, and Tamina takes advantage of the distraction and finishes Nattie off with the Superfly Splash at 2:53. Tamina tries to hit the splash on Beth after the match but she escapes at the last moment. This was bad enough with Fox botching the same move twice, throw in the ridiculous finish with the fart angle and yep, this was a steaming pile of shit. DUD

Backstage the RAW GM and VP of talent relations John Laurinaitis alongside David Otunga are here to talk to Teddy Long about the battle royal tonight. John enters Otunga into the match and Teddy grimaces at the "stank" of Otunga's cologne.

We get some highlights of that WrestleCrap Hall of Fame worthy Kane/Cena/Ryder angle on RAW this week. I still can't keep a straight face every time they show the clip of the camera slowly panning to Ryder in his wheelchair after Eve kisses Cena, his facial reaction is just so over-the-top it's hilarious.

Elimination Chamber Qualifying Battle Royal Match
(Featuring David Otunga, Santino Marella, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Percy Watson, Heath Slater, Ezekiel Jackson, Jinder Mahal, Curt Hawkins, Tyler Reks, Michael McGillicutty, Titus O'Neil, Primo, Epico, Hunico, Comacho, Derrick Bateman, Justin Gabriel, Ted DiBiase, Drew McIntyre, Darren Young, Alex Riley, Johnny Curtis, Yoshi Tatsu, and Tyson Kidd)

Boy, look at all that main event caliber talent in the ring. Total clusterfuck to start like most battle royals, Derrick Bateman is the first man eliminated by Otunga. Hey look, Comacho's in this thing I think this is the first time we've seen him actually in a match. Percy Watson is tossed out by Justin Gabriel next. Titus O'Neil gets tossed out by Ezekiel Jackson while Drew McIntyre eliminates one of the Uso brothers. Drew press slams Tyson Kidd right out of the ring on top of the eliminated Uso in a nice spot. Slater is casually eliminated by a boot from Mahal while Darren Young and Ted DiBiase both try to skin the cat at the same time until Ted kicks Young out to eliminate him. Hunico tosses Tatsu out while Comacho is eliminated off the apron by DiBiase. Santino keeps sort of walking around, avoiding any actual contact with anyone, which works until Reks and Hawkins spot him. McGillicutty is eliminated as we take our last commercial break. When we return Gabriel has eliminated Curt Hawkins out of the corner. The Colons toss Alex Riley out next and then throw Johnny Curtis into Reks, eliminating both of them as well. The remaining Uso brother is tossed out by Epico, but then his own partner Primo eliminates him from behind. Every man for himself I guess. Hunico eliminates DiBiase but DiBiase drags him out with him. Gabriel and Primo do a great little sequence teasing several elimination attempts on the apron and that alone has to be the highlight of the match and show so far. Finally Gabriel knocks Primo off the apron with a spinkick, but Ezekiel Jackson clotheslines him out from behind anyways seconds later. Zeke dumps Jinder Mahal out and we're down to the final four with Big Zeke, Santino, Otunga, and McIntyre. The heels gang up on Santino but Zeke breaks it up. Drew hands out a few big boots but then gets dumped out by Santino from behind while he's busy gloating. Crowd is chanting for Santino as he low bridges Zeke, eliminating the big man and bringing it down to Otunga and Santino. Santino does his own mini Hulk up routine and hits Otunga with a hip toss, but misses the follow up diving headbutt. Sloppy neckbreaker from Otunga. Otunga tries to toss Santino, but Marella counters and tosses Otunga out to win the battle royal and earn a place in the Elimination Chamber for a big pop from the crowd at 12:10 (shown). Well, that's certainly an odd pick for a spot in a PPV World title match, but you can't say the crowd didn't like him winning. With the recent rash of injuries on Smackdown the fact that Santino is in the Chamber now really just highlights though how badly the blue brand needs some depth and established talent. Battle royal was your average stuff, but Gabriel and Primo had an awesome little group of sequence about midway through and the finish was hot. **1/4

We close out the show with Santino celebrating his unlikely win in the ring.

Bottom Line: Well, I can't exactly blame them for not tossing out an A-show with their busy schedule this weekend, but I can't exactly excuse it either. This show was flat out bad most of the way through, with the only redeemable parts being Bryan's promo and a marginally entertaining battle royal main event. All in all though, just nothing of note here and really a total filler show you can feel free to skip. Thumbs Down.

Score: 4.0/10

Sunday, February 12, 2012

TNA Against All Odds 2012

TNA Against All Odds 2012
February 12th, 2012
Impact Wrestling Zone, Orlando, Florida
Attendance: 800-1400 +/-

Welcome everyone to another edition of 411's LIVE TNA PPV coverage for tonight's Against All Odds show. I missed two of the last three shows because of various circumstances, but I'm back and recharged and ready to go tonight. Impact has seemingly been on an upswing so far in the year 2012, so hopefully tonight will continue that trend and deliver a solid show. The card looks good with a few notable X-Division matches alongside a big fatal four way main event for the World title, so without further adieu lets jump right into the thick of things and start the show!

Your hosts are Mike Tenay and Taz

TNA X-Division Title #1 Contender's Match
Zema Ion vs. Jesse Sorenson

Jesse gives his football to a little kid at ringside so Ion tries to get in his face but winds up eating a forearm. Back in the ring we're off and Ion eats a Northern Lights suplex before being clotheslined back out of the ring by Jesse. Back inside Jesse hits a 'rana on him and Ion bails out of the ring and steals the football from the kid! Heinous villainy! Jesse misses a tope on Ion and Zema nails him with a missile dropkick back in the ring. Jesse bails this time and Ion follows him out with a huge moonsault to the floor! Jesse is down and I'm not sure if this is kayfabe or not but he appears to be injured badly, so the ref counts him out and awards the match to Zema Ion at 4:04. This was going quite well before the injury. Fun stuff while it lasted, but way too short. **

Christy Hemme is backstage with Bobby Roode to get his thoughts on tonight's title match. Roode says the odds are actually in his favor because of the winning streak he's been on the last few months. He calls out all three men individually, including his former ally Bully Ray before reminding us that he's the most dominant champion this company has ever seen.

Robbie E comes out next to lay out an open challenge for a shot at the TV title in an apparent bonus match. Who answers? Why a returning Shannon Moore of course!

TNA TV Title Match
Robbie E. © vs. Shannon Moore

Both men trade quick armdrags to start before Moore dropkicks Robbie out of the ring. Robbie tries to walk out on the match but Shannon fetches him back to the ring. Spinning heel kick from Moore gets a quick near fall. Robbie sends Moore flying off the apron moments later with a running knee. Back in the ring Robbie is all over him Moore tries to mount a comeback but Robbie hits a jumping elbow from the second rope for another two count. Robbie slaps on a chinlock briefly until Moore counters into an enziguri. Moore hits a big bulldog for his own near fall but Robbie kicks out and bails from the ring. Moore dropkicks him and then takes him out with a big Asai moonsault to the floor! Robbie kicks out of the pin attempt back in the ring though. Moore misses another moonsault attempt and eats a lariat. Robbie takes too long going to the top rope and Moore gives him the super frankensteiner for a very close near fall. Moore gets sent out of a cradle attempt right into Robbie T at ringside, who nails him with a right hand, giving Robbie E enough time to plant him with a DDT and retain at 9:31. This was actually pretty solid considering Robbie's limitations in the ring. It took awhile to get going, but the last few minutes were engrossing. **1/2

TNA Knockouts Title Match
Gail Kim © vs. Tara

Tara's all over Gail to start with forearms and a snapmare. Gail responds with a neckbreaker over the top rope on Tara. Madison Rayne walks off on Kim as she hits a cross-body from the second rope on Tara for a two count. She applies the Brock Lock then transitions into the Octopus Hold. Top-rope hurricanrana from Gail but Tara responds with a powerslam out of nowhere. Tara hits a tilt-a-whirl sideslam but Kim kicks out of the pin attempt. Both ladies fight to the top rope where Tara back-drops Kim from the top before hitting a moonsault! Tara's knee appears to be injured from the move and when she tries for the Widow's Peak, Kim counters into a kneebreaker and then hits her with the Eat Defeat to retain at 6:44. Solid, up-tempo match from the ladies here that actually could have benefited from a few extra minutes. **1/4

Backstage James Storm tells Christy Hemme that tonight is personal and he's out for revenge on his former partner Bobby Roode.

TNA Tag Team Title Match
Matt Morgan/Crimson © vs. Samoa Joe/Magnus

Joe and Magnus have actually been building a small following in the fanbase despite being the clear cut heels. Joe and Morgan start us off with Joe trying for a few shoulder-blocks and getting nowhere. Morgan hits one of his own and grabs an arm, but Magnus tags in. Morgan tags out to Crimson and both men trade wrist and head locks. Crimson delivers a nice t-bone suplex to Magnus and then tags Morgan in for a few shots. Magnus takes advantage of a knee from Joe and tags out to the Samoan, who lays in some vicious jabs and headbutts. Joe and Magnus trade quick tags and work Crimson over in their corner in classic heel fashion. Back drop suplex from Magnus nets a two count and Joe tags back in for some stiff chops. Crimson continues to take the beatdown until he manages to fire off a clothesline from the second rope and get the hot tag to Morgan, who cleans house on both of the challengers with ease. Morgan catches Magnus in mid-air with a swinging sidewalk slam but Joe breaks the pin up. Crimson tries for the spear but accidentally hits his own partner with it and then gets knocked out of the ring. This allows Joe and Magnus to hit a double team move to pick up the win and the titles at 10:10. Not sure if that counts as the end of Crimson's streak or not, but either way it was time for a change. Solid formula tag match for the most part here and the fans seemed to dig the title change, so no real complaints here. Could have used a bit more excitement though. **1/4

TNA X-Division Title Match
Austin Aries © vs. Alex Shelley

These two go back a long time all the way to Generation Next in ROH, so this should be good. Aries shows off to start with some cartwheels and posing but Shelley takes it right to him with some stiff chops. Aries is sent out of the ring and Shelley wipes him out on the floor with a diving cross-body from the top rope. Dueling chants from the fans as Aries hangs Shelley's neck over the top rope. He tries for a slingshot tope, but Shelley gets his knees up and hits a thrust kick off the top rope before clotheslining Aries back out of the ring. Aries sneaks up behind Shelley by traveling underneath the ring and knocks Shelley out to the floor before hitting his trademark lightning fast tope suicida onto Alex on the floor. Back inside Aries hits an elbow drop to the back of Shelley's neck for a two count. Aries takes too long to hit the pendulum elbow and Shelley moves out of the way. Shelley hits a big running lariat that takes Aries inside-out and then sets up for the Sliced Bread, but Aries blocks it. Shelley drives Austin's head into the second turnbuckle with his knee and Aries bails out of the ring to climb underneath it again. Shelley sees him coming this time though and hits his own tope suicida onto Aries on the floor. Shelley misses the double-stomp attempt off the top but then hits the Celtic Cross on Aries for a near fall. Aries responds with a kneebreaker and the pendulum elbow before trying for the brainbuster. Shelley blocks it with a knee but eats another lariat. Both men fight to the ring apron and Aries delivers a Death Valley Driver to Shelley onto the side of the apron! Nasty. Aries hits a double axe handle smash from the top for good measure but Shelley still manages to kick out back in the ring. Aries misses the 450 Splash and Shelley hits him with the Sliced Bread, but Aries grabs the bottom rope at the last possible second on the pin attempt! Aries absolutely nails Shelley in the face with a few knees and a running dropkick and then hits the brainbuster, but Shelley kicks out at the last second this time! Crowd popped big for that kick out. Shelley nails Aries with a series of kicks but Austin won't stay down. Shelley tries Sliced Bread again but Aries counters into a gourdbuster of sorts. He hits Shelley with the brainbuster and transitions into the Last Chancery, leaving Shelley no choice but to tap out giving Aries the win at 15:11! Outstanding little match between two of the best this company currently has to offer, these two bumped and busted their asses for fifteen minutes of hard-hitting action and the result was a great match, as expected. ***1/2

AJ Styles vs. Kazarian
Christopher Daniels is with Kaz obviously, what with being his apparent black-mailer and all. Kaz wants to shake AJ's hand so AJ gets into his face and rips the Daniels t-shirt off of his chest before applying a side headlock. Both men trade some basic holds to start us off as a big "Daniels sucks!" chant starts up. Dropkick from AJ and Kaz responds with a sick counter out of the corner into a facebuster. Kaz exits the ring so AJ follows him out with a flying forearm from the apron. Back inside AJ applies the Muta Lock briefly until Kaz gets the rope break. Huge monkey flip from Kaz and he follows up with a gut-wrench slam. Springboard legdrop gets Kaz a two, as does a spinning heel kick. Big Russian leg sweep from Kaz but still AJ kicks out. Both men trade forearm shots and AJ picks up some steam with some stiff lariats and an Atomic facebuster for another two. Both men trade attempts at their respective finishers and Kaz nails AJ with a powerful dropkick. AJ tries again for the Styles Clash but gets flung to the apron instead. Kaz slingshots over the top rope and slams AJ's face into the side of the ring apron in a nasty spot and both men are out. AJ tries to slingshot back in the ring but Kaz hits him with an Ace Crusher in mid-air for another near fall. Stiff bicycle kick from Kaz sprawls AJ out on the top rope in a dangerous position, and Kaz tries to take advantage but gets tossed off. AJ hits the backflip into reverse DDT out of the corner. Kaz counters another move by AJ into a sick reverse STO and both men can barely get back to their feet by the 10 count. Both men trade some roll through cradle attempts until AJ nails Kaz with the pele kick. AJ goes to the top seemingly for a springboard, but moonsaults out of the ring to take out Daniels at ringside instead! Kaz hits him with the Fade to Black reverse tombstone on his way back into the ring though and that's enough for the pin at 18:45. This one took a little bit to get going but once it did it was chock full of stiff, hard hitting action and some totally reckless regard by AJ Styles for his own body and well-being, just like you'd expect. Solid stuff. ***1/4

Backstage Christy Hemme is with Eric Bischoff and Gunner. Bischoff shows some mock sympathy for the beating his son is about to take and has a towel ready to throw in to end things. Gunner says the towel's to wipe up what's left of Garrett after the match, and then smacks himself in the face like a doofus. That was odd.

Gunner vs. Garrett Bischoff

Oh God I wish this angle would die. Hulk Hogan is in Garrett's corner while Eric Bischoff is in Gunner's. Garrett is actually a bit hot to start with some armdrags and a dropkick before applying a wristlock. Eric trips his son up off an Irish Whip and Gunner takes advantage by choking Garrett behind the ref's back. Garrett fires off a flying forearm and rolls Gunner up for two but its not long before Gunner is back in firm control of the match. Gunner hits the old Tully slingshot suplex, but Garrett kicks out of the pin attempt. Garrett counters into a sloppy flapjack and this crowd is dead. Eric gets another cheap shot in on his own son behind the ref's back and Hogan's had enough, so he walks over and lays Eric out with a right hand much to the crowd's approval. Gunner hits a series of neckbreakers, focusing on the neck injury from the piledriver on the concrete Gunner gave him weeks back on Impact. The neck-work continues as Hogan asks the crowd if he should throw the towel in. He doesn't, but it doesn't matter because Gunner finishes Garrett off with a DDT moments later for the win at 12:02. Garrett isn't actually that terrible in the ring, but if Hulk Hogan can't even get the fans to care about him, I think it's safe to say he's not going to amount to anything. Match was adequate enough if a bit long. *1/2

Crazy Sting is backstage to tell us it's showtime. If I didn't know any better I'd say that man was extremely high on cocaine.

TNA World Title Four-Way Match
Robert Roode
© vs. James Storm vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Bully Ray
Sting is our special guest ring enforcer. No idea why Roode's tron video has the words "Off the Chain" on it, but we'll go with it. Roode manages to convince Ray to wait outside the ring apparently as we start off with Jeff and Storm double teaming the champ. Storm even lets Jeff do the old Hardy Boyz spot off his back to Roode but then rolls him up moments later for a near fall. Ray hits the ring and wipes out both of the faces, leading Roode to think he's going to work with him, but when Ray goes to high five him he gives him a Rock Bottom instead. Storm fires off a lungblower on Roode for another two count. Roode and Storm actually partner up to deliver a double suplex to Ray in a slightly surreal moment but Roode cheap shots Storm before he can do the old Beer Money chant. Whisper in the Wind off the top from Hardy onto Roode, but he stands up only to eat a big boot from Ray. Ray follows up with a splash and the crowd tries to get under his skin with a "Devon's better!" chant. Ray delivers a superplex to Jeff but again Hardy kicks out. Storm and Hardy try for a double suplex on Roode in the corner but Ray runs up and powerbombs them for the huge four man Tower of Doom spot. Always a fun spot, but Ray can't get a pin off of it on any of his three opponents. He tries for the Bully Bomb on Jeff but Hardy counters into the Twist of Fate. Roode plants Jeff face-first and then tries for a spear, but Ray blocks it. Ray accidentally hits the ref in the corner and hits the Bully Bomb on Jeff, but the ref's out. Jeff hits the Twist of Fate, but still the ref is down. Roode spears Jeff but then eats a Codebreaker from Storm. Storm nails Roode with the Last Call superkick, but Ray pulls the ref out at the count of two. Roode tries to slingshot out on Ray but winds up taking out the ref again instead. Ray runs into a spinebuster from Roode, who turns around into the Twist of Fae from Jeff. Hardy misses the Swanton attempt though as Roode grabs his title from ringside and into the ring. Sting takes the title from him though and tries to egg Sting on to hit him with the belt, even spitting in his face. Sting bites and Roode ducks and the Stinger winds up laying out Jeff Hardy with the belt instead. Roode covers Jeff and Sting reluctantly has to count the three for Roode to retain at 15:09. A bit chaotic as you'd expect but a solid main event hat was well worked by all four men while it lasted. The finish works too because it only makes you hate Bobby Roode more for sneaking away by the skin of his teeth once again. ***

We go off the air with a dejected group of challengers left in the ring as Roode walks off still the World champion.

Bottom Line: Not exactly a home-run show or anything, but the matches I looked for to deliver did just that and there was nothing on the show I'd call actively bad outside of the Gunner/Garrett Bischoff match. All in all a fairly solid offering from TNA this month with a few matches worth checking out, we'll go with a mild Thumbs Up tonight.

Score: 6.5/10

Friday, February 10, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 2/10/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
February 10th, 2012
BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's SmackDown report. We've got a big main event tonight pitting the World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan against Randy Orton in a non-title match, so let's just jump right into the show.

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

We open the show tonight with the 2012 Royal Rumble winner Sheamus making his way out to the ring with a microphone to gloat a bit about his Rumble win and tell us again that he's going to wait to pick who he'll face at Wrestlemania until after the Elimination Chamber PPV. It's not long though before Wade Barrett is making his way out to interrupt him. Wade tells him that he needs to go for the WWE title at Wrestlemania, because Wade will be the World Heavyweight champ by then and they both know Sheamus can't beat him. Cody Rhodes comes out next to join the party and promise again that he'll win the Elimination Chamber. Big Show is out next to say the same thing basically in different words. Man I hate opening segments like this where they just have each guy from the upcoming PPV title match come out one by one to say the same thing. It's so unbelievably lazy. Things break down before long and the faces clean house on both of the heels to wrap up the segment.

The Great Khali (3-7) vs. Jinder Mahal (5-7)
Oh so I guess this feud IS continuing. Joy. Jinder tries to mount some petty offense against the big man but it's obviously not enough. Khali finishes him off with the double-arm chokeslam at 2:05. Hopefully that puts an end to this dull feud, match was your usual Khali squash. 1/4*

After a quick recap of Teddy Long suspending Mark Henry last week we cut backstage to him and Aksana flirting as usual. Suddenly Daniel Bryan interrupts with his serious face on to ask if it's true that Teddy Long held a BBQ in the parking lot before the show, which Teddy confirms. Bryan chastises him for eating meat and tells him he can't compete tonight because of how sick this whole thing makes him. Teddy tells him that's not going to work and that he should worry less about animals and more about himself, because the match is on.

Beth Phoenix (12-2) vs. Alicia Fox (8-4)
Beth tries to convince Fox to leave "her ring" at the bell but Alicia won't have any of it. She tries for a monkey flip in the corner but gets knocked down to the mat. Splat. Beth finishes her off with the Glam Slam moments later at 1:18. After the match Tamina comes down to stare down Beth, so I guess she's the next challenger. Typical nothing divas match, I find it hard to take any of these ladies seriously when they always lose in one minute long matches. 1/4*

We get another extended Rock promo highlighting his childhood and upbringing. Not a bad promo actually. Elsewhere backstage Natalya is talking to Tyson Kidd about her "problem" when she lets loose another fart. Kidd takes off, Hornswoggle walks by and is apparently murdered by the stench. It's segments like this that ensure that wrestling will never, ever be cool again.

Sheamus/Big Show vs. Wade Barrett/Cody Rhodes

This match was booked after the opening fracas to start the show. Neither of the heels want to start with Big Show, so Show tosses Wade in briefly until he tags out to Cody. Show manhandles him a bit and then Sheamus and Wade tag in. Wade doesn't last long though and tags Cody back in as we cut to commercial. When we return Sheamus is slamming Cody down and driving an elbow into his chest for a two count. Sheamus hits the old Finlay roll on Cody for another near fall and then tags Show in. Wade and Cody manage to get a few cheap shots in and start trading quick tags. Cody hits a missile dropkick on the giant for another near fall. Cody tries a rest hold (I never understood why you'd do that to a 500 pound giant, but I digress) but Show knocks him off so he tags Wade in who...applies a sleeper. Show breaks it up but Cody tags in and nails him with the Beautiful Disaster kick for a close two count before returning to the chinlock. Show counters out into a side-slam and manages to get the hot tag to Sheamus, who cleans house on Wade with ease. Sheamus hits a tilt-a-whirl powerslam while Show takes out Cody with a spear, and Sheamus finishes Wade with the Brogue Kick at 9:24 (shown). Usually I'd be ecstatic to see a midcard match on this show get 10 minutes of TV time, but this was just dull for the most part. Basic formula tag with Show getting beat on until Sheamus saves the day. **

Michael Cole is in the ring after the break to bring out Daniel Bryan's girlfriend, AJ Lee. Cole asks her how she's feeling and she tells us she's getting the neck brace off this week. She tries to thank the fans for their support, but Cole interrupts and says no one even knows who she is before asking her if she blames the Big Show for her injury and why she was at ringside on RAW this week. She says she was there because Bryan asked her and she loves him, but she also doesn't blame the Big Show for what happened. AJ says that Cole has done alot more damage than the Big Show has by constantly stirring up trouble with Bryan since his debut. She brings up his constant insulting of the diva's division and then says the entire WWE would be better off if Cole would just shut his mouth. Cole absolutely flips out on her, saying that people backstage are saying AJ has no self-respect before claiming that she and Bryan will be footnotes in WWE history after the Chamber. Bryan comes out to interrupt now and Cole runs off like a wimp. Bryan chastises the crowd for all of the meat and beer they consumed during the Super Bowl this past weekend while he was out on a nature walk. He runs them down for not recycling and then goes on to say that he's taking AJ home for the a Prius. He and AJ walk backstage and Teddy tells Bryan that if he leaves the building tonight, he'll be stripped of his title. Good mic work from Bryan, but this whole segment was sort of bizarre because the crowd HATES Cole so they spent the first half of this promo building up face heat for Bryan before having him come out and destroy it all with some heel mic work. I can dig the shades of grey, but I'm just not sure where this is all headed.

Ted DiBiase (10-13) vs. Hunico (5-2)
Hunico took DiBiase out a few weeks ago with an injured hand, so this is his chance for revenge I guess. Ted is hot to start, clotheslining Hunico out of the ring and then going after Comacho at ringside. Back inside Hunico targets the still-injured wrist and tosses him back out so Comacho can get a cheap shot in. Hunico slams the injured wrist into the steel post a few times and then applies a variation of the Fujiwara armbar on him back in the ring. The wristwork continues until Ted manages to roll Hunico up for the fluke win at 2:40. Another quick match between these two to continue their feud, but it's kind of annoying when you see someone work over a guy's wrist the entire match and then he uses that wrist to roll you up for the pin out of nowhere. *

After being reaffirmed as VP of Talent Relations by the board this past Tuesday, we have John Laurinaitis live on the phone from the current tour of Abu Dhabi. Cole sucks up to him a bit and Johnny claims RAW this week will be unforgettable before hanging up.

Daniel Bryan (13-15-1) vs. Randy Orton (26-9-1)
Big Show joins the commentary team for our non-title main event. They lock up and trade some basic wristlocks and armbars. Bryan back-flips out of the corner but eats a dropkick from Orton. Bryan responds with a knee to the gut and some stiff kicks. They trade forearm shots and Orton back-drops Bryan out of the ring. Orton tells Big Show that Bryan is his tonight and Bryan takes advantage of the distraction with a baseball slide and a running knee off the apron as we take our last commercial break. When we return Bryan is working over Orton's arm and shoulder. Orton answers with the suplex into a mid-air neckbreaker move he's been known for and gets a two count. Both men fight to the top rope where Bryan knocks Orton off and tries for a huge diving headbutt, but Orton moves out of the way at the last second. Orton is fired up now and hits Bryan with the snap powerslam before trying for the second rope DDT. Bryan counters though with a stiff kick to the head and then tries again to come off the top rope, but again Orton crotches him and then delivers a superplex to the champ for another near fall. Bryan fires off a running dropkick into the corner and then lays in some more kicks, but Orton counters into a roll-up. Bryan counters that cradle into the LeBell Lock though in a great counter, but Orton escapes it quickly and catapults Bryan to the apron, where he delivers the second rope DDT. Orton signals for the RKO but gets hung up on the top rope by Bryan, who grabs his title belt from ringside and then gets into Big Show's face. Show tosses him back into the ring and Orton hits the RKO, but the ref calls for the bell and awards the match to Bryan via DQ at 10:10 (shown). Not exactly the epic encounter I was hoping for, but still really good stuff up until the non-finish, which you had to know was coming. I'd love to see what these two could do with another 10 minutes and a clean finish, but this was solid while it lasted. **3/4

After the match Randy Orton gets into Show's face and both men wind up brawling at ringside while Daniel Bryan scurries off with his title belt as we close out the show.

Bottom Line: Another solid show this week, with Big Show and Mark Henry out of the main event the match quality and time went up pretty handily. There really wasn't much in the way of angle advancement or anything tonight, but we did get a nice promo from Bryan and a solid main event. Nothing to set the world on fire or anything, but a solid show and a minor Thumbs Up from me.

Score: 6.0/10

Monday, February 6, 2012

WWE Royal Rumble 2012

WWE Royal Rumble 2012
January 29th, 2012
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Attendance: 18,121

Well it's that time of the year again---no, not taxes time (that'll be soon enough), but time for the annual WWE Royal Rumble! Tonight's show looks fairly solid on paper, but PPVs don't take place on paper do they? Enough useless preambling, you know the deal here, let's jump right into things.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T

World Heavyweight Title Steel Cage Match
Daniel Bryan
© vs. Mark Henry vs. Big Show
Bit of a strange choice for the opener. Our crowd seems to be a bit bipolar tonight, largely booing Bryan on his way to the ring only for a huge "Daniel Bryan!" chant to start up when the bell rings. Bryan is quickly tossed aside at the bell so the two behemoths can go at it. Henry gets caught between the ropes and the cage so Show splashes him into it a few times. Bryan tries to sneak over the top while this is happening, but Show launches him back in the ring with a press slam. Show misses the WMD fist and Bryan manages to actually take him down with a running dropkick to the knee. Henry only just now gets back to his feet only for Bryan to take him out with some more kicks. Bryan tries to walk out the front door but Henry pulls him back in. Show superkicks Henry in the face (no, seriously, he actually stretched his leg that far) when he turns around though and goes back to working over Bryan. Henry gets some shots in back on his feet but eats a big spear from Show. Show calls for the chokeslam, but Bryan counters with a tornado DDT off the top rope for a two count. Bryan slaps on the LeBell Lock, but Henry breaks it up. Henry tries for the World's Strongest Slam, but Show nails him right in the face with the WMD fist for another near fall. Bryan tries to scurry out of the cage but Show has a hold of him at the top. Bryan dangles for a bit from the top of the cage as Show holds onto him by his wrist in a neat little spot, but Bryan just drops to the floor seconds later to retain the title at 9:08. Kind of a surreal match honestly, we had Cole running down Bryan on commentary like he was a face, Booker T defending him like he was a face, and the crowd chanting for him like he was the face...but then he did the whole cowardly heel shtick the whole match. Weird dynamic. About as good as you could expect given the limitations of 2/3rds of the participants though. Bryan celebrates afterwards like he just won the Super Bowl. **

We get another video package telling us about how awesome and swell of a guy John Cena is. I'm pretty sure these promos are only going to make people boo him more come 'Mania.

Beth Phoenix/Natalya/Nikki Bella/Brie Bella vs. Kelly Kelly/Eve/Alicia Fox/Tamina

Bit of a random match, you can actually see the waves of people leaving for the bathroom and snack stands as the bell rings. Nattie and Tamina start us off, trading chops and head-butts. Eve tags in and hits the Booty Pop moonsault on Natalya, a move that I'm pretty sure has set the women's rights movement back atleast 30 years. Beth tags in and gets her knees up when Eve tries another standing moonsault. One of the Bella's tags in (I can't tell them apart and neither can you) and works a lazy chinlock on Eve until Alicia tags in and stomps away on her in the corner. When she turns her back the Bella's do the old twin switcheroo though. Kelly tags in and delivers a really contrived flying headscissors followed by the handspring back elbow and the Jericho bulldog for a two count. The match breaks down from here with everyone brawling outside the ring until Kelly comes off the top rope with a plancha to wipe them all out! Don't look now but this match is actually getting kind of good. Beth tags in back in the ring though and finishes Kelly off with the Glam Slam at 5:29. This actually wasn't terrible, a few sloppy moments but the plancha spot from Kelly was quite nifty. *3/4

We cut backstage to see Zack Ryder being wheeled into the arena in a wheelchair with some sort of weird back brace on that looks amusingly similar to those vests you have to wear when you play Laser Tag. This has to a world record for quickest recovery time from a "broken back" that I've ever seen. Johnny Ace approaches Ryder and tells him he's got a special locker room set up for him with a TV and all of his favorite foods, proceeding to kiss his ass in delicious heel fashion, even throwing in a WWWYKI of his own. Eve walks up to interrupt him though and tell him about what a mean jerk he is. Ace really does do the heel shtick excellently, I must say.

John Cena vs. Kane

Biggest mark out moment of the night so far: the guy in the front row waving an Aqua Teen Mooninites sign. Awesome. I still can't get used to the weird welder's mask Kane wears over his usual mask, though it does kind of remind me of the killer's masks from My Bloody Valentine and The Prowler (classic slasher film references there for you kids). Both men brawl out of the ring almost immediately, where Kane gets tossed into the steps. Back in the ring Kane slaps on a chinlock. Boy they're starting off real hot and heavy aren't they? Suplex from Kane and he goes right back to the rest hold before both men begin trading punches again. Kane looks for the choke-slam but Cena avoids it and tries for the Five Knuckle Shuffle only for Kane to block it and boot his head off. Both men fight to the top rope where Kane is shoved off and Cena hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top rope, which is actually kind of cool. Both men brawl outside to the floor, where they both wind up being counted out for the lame finish at 10:56. Actually not as bad as I had been lead to believe, from the way people talked about this match I was expecting a flat out DUD but it wasn't too awful or anything. Certainly wasn't good though. *1/2

After the match both men continue fighting into the backstage area, where Kane nails Cena with a chair and then finds himself directly in front of Zack Ryder's locker room. He breaks down the door and begins assaulting Ryder in the wheelchair with his lame new "glove over mouth" finisher. A supposedly unconscious (but very clearly not) Ryder is wheeled out to the ring where Kane tombstones him to cheers despite Eve's pleading. Cena comes running out from the back to try and make the save but winds up getting choke-slammed to more cheers for his troubles. Kane takes off and Ryder gets stretchered out. Well, that whole angle certainly just fell flat on it's face.

The Funkasaurus Brodus Clay vs. Drew McIntyre
Every time Booker T says "AW SHUCKY DUCKY" I feel like I'm watching an old racist Disney movie. Drew doesn't seem amused by the Funky One. Just your usual Clay squash here, Drew tries some offense to start and is then quickly put away with the "What the Funk" splash at 1:05. Harmless squash match, and the crowd seemed to dig the Funkasaurus. 1/4*

WWE Title Match
CM Punk
© vs. Dolph Ziggler
John Laurinaitis is our special guest ring enforcer here of course, and he appears impartial at first by sending Vickie Guerrero to the back to join their buddy Swagger. Punk tries a quick roll-up at the bell but it doesn't work of course. Michael Cole delivers what might be the funniest line of the night by accusing Booker T of being jealous of Ace because Ace was a better worker than him. Both men do some nice countering and evading and Punk tries for the Anaconda Vice, but Ziggler quickly escapes to the ropes. Punk sends Ziggler tumbling out to the floor with a nasty gourdbuster onto the top rope and then promptly follows him out with a big tope to the floor. Back in the ring Punk goes to the top, but Ziggler sweeps his legs out from under him and he crashes to the mat in a rather grotesque manner. Neckbreaker from Dolph and he follows it up with a series of big elbow drops into Punk's heart. He works a chinlock but Punk counters with a back-suplex. Ziggler starts working his trademark sleeper and Punk tries to counter into the Anaconda Vice but Ziggler counters back into the sleeper and dropkicks him. Ziggler tries for a hurricanrana but Punk catches him in mid air and plants him with a sick spinning sitout powerbomb. Punk hits the running knee into the corner and follows it with the running bulldog before calling for the GTS. Ziggler escapes the move though and catapults Punk into the corner. Punk lands on his feet on the ropes though and hits a cross-body, which Ziggler rolls through for another pin attempt. Punk hangs onto the top rope to avoid the Zig Zag and then just nails Ziggler with an absolutely sickening kick to the temple. Punk hits the Macho Man elbow off the top and gets a TON of air, but Ziggler kicks out again. Big "Randy Savage!" chant starts up in appreciation to the late legend. Back on his feet Ziggler tosses Punk right into the ref, who falls outside to the floor like he was just shot by a Desert Eagle. Ace checks on the ref with his back turned while Ziggler taps out to the Anaconda Vice in the ring so Punk gets in his face. He rolls up Ziggler for about a 4 count, but still Ace isn't paying attention. Ace rolls the ref back into the ring and slides in himself while Punk looks for the GTS again, but in the process of swinging Ziggler onto his shoulders he inadvertently hits Ace in the back of the head with Dolph's foot. Punk hits the GTS but still the ref is down and Ace won't count. Punk tries for another GTS, but Ziggler counters in mid-air into the Fameasser! That was an INCREDIBLE counter. Ziggler looks for a second Fameasser, but Punk launches him into the turnbuckle and DESTROYS him with the GTS and both Ace and the ref count the 3 to have Punk retain at 14:32. I could literally watch these two guys wrestle each other every single day and twice on Sunday. Hot crowd, some absolutely stellar counters (the GTS into the Fameasser was awesome), and just an overall great little match that wasn't hindered by the angle fortunately. ***1/2

2012 Royal Rumble Match

We're back down to 30 participants after last year's experiment with 40. The Miz is number one and makes sure to tell us he's awesome before the match actually begins with his former protege Alex Riley entering at number two. Riley tries to quickly dump Miz but Miz hangs on and low-bridges a charging Riley to eliminate A-Ri quickly. Next out is another former ally of Miz's, R-Truth. Truth fires off some hot offense as IC champion Cody Rhodes is out next at #4. Rhodes and Miz gang up on Truth for a bit until Justin Gabriel comes out next to add a bit of high-flying excitement to the mix. Primo is out next and he and Gabriel do a few nice spots while Miz tosses Truth out to eliminate him. Truth pulls Miz out under the bottom rope and gives him the What's Up on the floor to get a measure of revenge. #7 is none other than the legendary Mick Foley, who gets the pop of the night so far I'd say. Foley back drops Primo out of the ring quickly and then hits the running knee into the corner on Cody followed by the double arm DDT. Next out is Ricardo Rodriguez, who drives out in a beat up old Datsun in a hilarious moment. Big Ricardo chant as he takes it to a fallen Cody in the corner. Gabriel dropkicks him in the mouth, but Foley comes to Ricardo's aid and they both toss Gabriel out. To continue the comedy, Santino's out next. They do one of the most awkward somersault countering spots I've ever seen before Santino tosses Ricardo out. Foley and Santino both reach for their respective socks and we've got a battle of Mr. Socko vs. The Cobra! Epico is out at #10, and he winds up eating both of the sock finishers before being eliminated immediately.

Miz finally jumps back in and Cody awakens from his slumber to break up the battle of the socks and Cody quickly eliminates Santino. Foley delivers Mr. Socko to The Miz, but Cody sneaks up from behind to eliminate Mick and break it up. Kofi Kingston is in next to go dropkick crazy on both heels before hitting a double Boom Drop on them both. Jerry Lawler winds up drawing #12 in a surprise moment as he gets up from the commentary table to hand out some body-slams and the classic fist drop to The Miz. Cody tosses King out seconds later though and all these legend eliminations are garnering him some good heat from the crowd. Ezekiel Jackson is next out to throw some stiff shoulders. Jinder Mahal is next and takes so long to get to the ring that by the time he does, it's already time for the next entrant...who of course is the returning Great Khali, Jinder's kayfabe brother-in-law. Khali quickly eliminates Jinder and then tosses Ezekiel out as well to join him. #16 is Hunico who hits a nice springboard cross-body on Kofi before handing out an Olympic Slam to Rhodes. Booker T winds up drawing #17 despite saying he wasn't entered all of ten minutes ago, and he quickly cleans house in the ring before eating a head-butt from Khali, who lays in what I can confidently say are the absolute worst kicks I've ever seen thrown in pro wrestling history on Booker's ankles in the corner. Kofi is nearly eliminated by Miz, but he winds up walking on his own hands halfway across the ring over to the steel steps to remain in the match! Awesome, creative spot there. Dolph Ziggler is out next and goes right after Kofi while out next is the winner of the original Rumble match, Hacksawn Jim Duggan! Nice nostalgia pop for the old guy and he gets the big USA chant to start up before he's eliminated by Cody Rhodes, adding another legend to his list of eliminations so far. And as soon as I type that, Cody tosses both Booker AND Khali out! Damn, Cody's really racking 'em up. #20 winds up being Michael freakin' Cole to complete the announcer triumvirate of entries tonight.

Thankfully we don't have to see much of Cole in the Rumble though as next out is the returning Kharma (the former Awesome Kong)! Cole tries to eliminate himself before Kharma can but King and Booker wind up pulling him off the apron instead. Ziggler goes all 50s chauvinist on us by demanding Kharma leave the ring so he winds up eating the Implant Buster. Hunico tries jumping her from behind and gets tossed out easily as well, but this gives Ziggler enough time to recover and dump Kharma from behind. Sheamus is out at #22 and he immediately cleans house in the ring, handing out forearms and body slams to everyone in a ten foot radius. Kofi looks for the Trouble in Paradise but gets dumped out by Sheamus to some minor boos. OH YOU DIDN'T KNOW?! Yes, the Road Dogg Jesse James of all people is out next to continue the nostalgia theme, and damnit if he doesn't hand out some of his trademark spots with a ton of energy and pop the crowd huge with chants of "You've still got it!" New Age Outlaws were basically the coolest thing since Bart Simpson and South Park to me as a kid so I marked for that. Jey Uso is out next with Jimmy in street clothes, so I guess he won the brotherly coin toss for a spot tonight. Jack Swagger is out at #25 to hand out some suplexes. Wade Barrett is out next with some very lame new theme music and he tosses Road Dogg out quickly. Next entry is David Otunga and a small army of crickets, or atleast that's what it sounds like. In direct contrast Randy Orton is in next at #28 and gets a thunderous pop from his hometown crowd. Nice spot from Orton as he delivers his second-rope delayed DDT to both Rhodes and Ziggler simultaneously. Orton tosses Jey Uso out and then hits the RKO on Barrett out of nowhere before tossing him out as well! Chris Jericho is our second to last entrant and he quickly eliminates Otunga. Cole claims Jericho was the first entrant in the 2000 Rumble, but that was actually D'Lo Brown. Finally at #30 is the Big Show, who gives Swagger the WMD fist on his way to the ring after Swagger gets tossed out.

Show tosses out both Rhodes and The Miz moments later and then adds Ziggler to join them as well, eliminating the three longest remaining guys in the match in the process. So we're down to the Final Four now, with the Big Show, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, and Sheamus. Show chokeslams Jericho but turns around right into the RKO from Orton. Orton winds up tossing Show out with a bit of help from Sheamus, but then Jericho runs up from behind and eliminates Orton! We're down to the last two, Jericho and Sheamus. They go the whole Undertaker/HBK route for the finish by having a pretty damn good little mini 5 minute match here. Sheamus is nearly eliminated by a clothesline but manages to hang on with one arm at the last second. Jericho hits the second-rope dropkick but Sheamus still hangs on. Jericho slaps on the Walls of Jericho but Sheamus escapes and nearly back-drops Jericho out of the ring. Both men fight to the top rope and tease a superplex, but they both wind up crotching themselves and nearly both fall out. Codebreaker from Jericho and he tries for a pin attempt out of habit. Jericho starts slapping Sheamus right in the face, which only serves to enrage him. He catches Jericho in another Codebreaker attempt and tries to dump him out, but Jericho hangs on long enough to get back to his feet on the apron only for Sheamus to nail him with the Brogue Kick and eliminate Jericho, making Sheamus our surprise 2012 Royal Rumble winner at 54:54! Very interesting Rumble effort this year, there were a LOT of comedy and nostalgia acts involved so be forewarned if you can't take a bit of that spread out in a match, you're not likely to enjoy this as much as others. The second half of the match kicked up the heat though and the final showdown with Jericho and Sheamus was excellent stuff, about as good as you can work a battle royal match. Jericho was supposedly supposed to be the winner here, which would have made sense given his recent return to the company, but they apparently changed it to Sheamus at the last minute to swerve us. It definitely worked as the crowd seemed stunned when Jericho lost. Not one of the best Rumbles or anything and not anywhere as good as the last two year's matches, but a nice combination of fun and hard-hitting action in the finish made this a fairly good and entertaining Rumble this year. ***1/4

We close out the show with Sheamus celebrating his victory in the ring.

Bottom Line: Strange show this year to be honest, the first hour was totally forgettable stuff but the WWE title match and the Rumble were good enough to ensure the show wasn't a total wash. Given the Rumble and title match combined take up the larger chunk of the show, I'm leaning towards a very slight recommendation for this year's show, but it's nothing you need to run out and buy on DVD as soon as it hits shelves or anything. I'd say check out the last two matches, skip everything else. Very slight recommendation and minor Thumbs Up this year, but not by much.

Score: 6.0/10

Friday, February 3, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 2/3/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
February 3rd, 2012
CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's Friday Night SmackDown report! We're only five days removed from the annual Royal Rumble with Smackdown superstar Sheamus having won the big match and earned a title shot of his choosing at Wrestlemania. Daniel Bryan also retained the World Heavyweight title that night, so we're sure to hear from him as well. The Road to Wrestemania is officially upon us, let's do this thing!

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

We open the show with Smackdown GM Teddy Long already in the ring doing his usual awkward little jig to his theme music. Teddy cuts right to the point and announces the six participants for this year's Smackdown Elimination Chamber match for the WHC in three weeks time. They include the champion Daniel Bryan of course, defending against Wade Barrett, Big Show, IC Champion Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, and Randy Orton. Teddy runs down the rules quickly and is promptly interrupted by Mark Henry.

Henry walks down to the ring and runs down the math on his odds for winning the title at the Chamber, feeling cheated. Teddy tells him he's lucky to even be in this match after losing in the cage match this past Sunday. Henry asks to be taken out of the Chamber and instead booked into a title match against Daniel Bryan here tonight. Teddy, apparently having grown a set of balls, takes Henry out of the Chamber and won't give him a title match later tonight either. Henry calls Teddy replaceable and pulls on his tie, so Teddy decides to suspend him indefinitely right then and there (to give Henry time off to heal his most recent legit injury). Henry gets in Teddy's face again when the 2012 Royal Rumble winner Sheamus makes his way down to the ring to make the save, nailing Henry with the Brogue Kick! Henry takes off and Teddy asks Sheamus if he's decided what title he wants to fight for at Wrestlemania, and Sheamus responds that he plans to wait until after the Elimination Chamber PPV to make his decision when suddenly Cody Rhodes comes out to interrupt.

Rhodes wants to warn Sheamus about letting success go to his head, telling him that no one will remember that he won the 2012 Rumble down the line, but they will remember the six people Cody eliminated during the match. Cody promises to win the World title and become the first man to hold both the World and IC titles simultaneously since the Ultimate Warrior did it at Wrestlemania 6. Cody throws in a cheap shot at the Warrior (well, maybe not cheap per se since it's true, Warrior is batshit crazy) and Teddy decides to book Cody into a match against Sheamus, and that match is happening next! Solid way to start the show off and set up the Chamber match in a few weeks, and I'm pleasantly surprised Sheamus came out to make the save instead of the Big Show.

Sheamus (21-12-1) vs. Cody Rhodes (20-17)
We return from commercial with the match already under way. Sheamus seems to be rocking some new red ring gear which looks a tad strange on him. Sheamus is all over Cody to start, hitting the old Finlay roll for a quick two count. Cody gets caught up in the ropes and Sheamus lays in some hammer fists before Cody escapes to the floor. Sheamus blocks a toss into the steel post but Cody hits him with a dropkick and then hits the Beautiful Disaster knee-strike off of the guard barrier! That was pretty sick. Sheamus basically no-sells it though, kicking out at a one count back in the ring so Cody hits a beautiful soaring moonsault on him off the top rope but again Sheamus kicks out. Rhodes hits a nice bulldog off the second rope but still can't keep the Great White down. Sheamus starts to mount a comeback though with big forearms and a powerslam followed by a diving shoulder-block off the top. Rhodes manages to escape the Celtic Cross attempt and try for another Beautiful Disaster knee-strike, but Sheamus ducks and goes for the Brogue Kick and Cody ducks THAT only to turn around and eat Finlay's old version of the Celtic Cross from Sheamus, which is enough to put the IC champ away at 5:11 (shown). Great (albeit short) opening match to start us off, these two worked very well together and fit in some creative spots alongside some great counter-work, I'd love to see these two get some more time to see what they could do. Sheamus adopting some of Finlay's old move-set was a nice touch as well. **1/2

Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett in a No DQ match is announced for the main event later tonight.

Justin Gabriel and Hunico are out next for a match-up, but Cody Rhodes is still at ringside, pissed about his loss. He jumps Gabriel from behind before the match can even begin and Hunico and Comacho join in on the beat-down when The Great Khali (who returned at the Rumble this past Sunday) of all freaking people comes out to make the save. So I guess that Khali/Jinder Mahal angle has been dropped. I'll try not to shed a tear.

Backstage it's time for Drew McIntyre to make his weekly plea to Teddy Long for another shot. Teddy won't even give him a match tonight though, and instead tells him to find a new way to impress him and to be glad he even still has a job. Drew takes off and Santino comes in to introduce another new tag team partner---Hacksaw Jim Duggan! Their team name? Santin-hooooo! Duggan looks like his body is about to fall apart at any minute. Teddy books them in a match for later tonight and they take off. Aksana comes in next (cue them cheesy saxophones!) to make a few more lame sexual puns, this time about Duggan's trademark 2x4.

Up next we get another video package for Mike Tyson's induction into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame this year. For once I'd say this celeb actually deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it can't be stressed enough just how important Tyson was to the success of Wrestlemania 14.

Santino Marella/Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Primo/Epico

God bless Hacksaw, he can still get thousands of people to chant "USA!" on cue. This is a non-title match obviously. Santino starts off with Epico, working a wristlock before tagging Duggan in. Hacksaw lays in some punches and a few quick clotheslines, but Epico counters with some stomps in the corner before tagging Primo in. Primo lays in some more punches and slaps on a chinlock, but Hacksaw counters by slamming him face-first into the turnbuckle and tags Santino back in. Santino hits his hip-toss/diving headbutt combo for a near-fall but Epico breaks it up. Duggan and Epico brawl to the outside while Santino prepares for the Cobra, but Rosa manages to distract Santino long enough for Primo to hit him with the Backstabber and pick up the win at 2:23. After the match Duggan clears the ring with his 2x4. Short, harmless stuff. AKA your typical Santino match. Always fun to see Duggan again too. *

When we return from the commercial break Michael Cole is in the ring to introduce and interview the World Heavyweight champion, Daniel Bryan. Bryan is still heeling it up, jumping up and down and yelling "YES! YES! YES!" on his way to the ring. Cole says that he along with many fans have been critical of Bryan in the past, but he says that Bryan proved something this Sunday by winning the triple threat cage match. Cole admits that he was wrong about Daniel Bryan and offers a handshake, but Bryan takes the mic from him and doesn't shake his hand, saying this interview is not about Cole. Would have been better if he shook his hand and they became BFFs. Bryan says this is all about himself and then proceeds to gloat some more about retaining his title at the Rumble. He calls himself a role model and then tells the fans they should be like him and become vegans. Only in the world of pro wrestling is the health-conscious animal loving guy the heel. Bryan talks about the horrors of a slaughterhouse and then calls the citizens of Omaha some of the worst offenders. Bryan says he's healthier than anyone in the building and runs down some of the health risks of eating red meat. Big "You suck!" chant starts up. Hey, if you're going to pull out the vegan card for heel heat, the midwest is the perfect place for it. Bryan starts to run down the Big Show again, demanding that he be removed from the Chamber match. Of course Show comes out to interrupt though for a big pop. He says he would have come out to interrupt earlier, but he was finishing a big steak backstage first. Show dismisses Bryan's claim of being a role model and calls him a pompous, arrogant little ass. Bryan gets in his face again so Show attacks him, tossing him around like a rag-doll and ripping his shirt off with one motion. He choke slams Bryan when Daniel's girlfriend AJ Lee comes down to the ring in a neck brace to stop him from hitting the WMD punch. Bryan escapes the ring and he and AJ hug before walking to the back with Bryan promising her he won't let Show ever hurt her again. You know usually I'd think AJ should turn heel here but I'm liking that they're keeping her face and adding a bit of complexity to Bryan's character, shades of grey make for more compelling angles. Good segment with good heat.

Backstage Beth Phoenix and Natalya are warming up for their match when a few farts sneak out from Nattie. She runs off like a spastic and Santino comes walking by moments later to choke on the smell and head for a trash can to vomit. Okay, I don't know what Natalya did to piss off the creative team, but you know you're in the doghouse when you lose in 5 second matches every week to total rookies and then become a lame fart gag for comedic relief. That's 40 seconds of my life I'm never getting back.

Beth Phoenix/Natalya vs. Tamina/Aksana
Aksana starts off with Nattie and immediately eats a body-slam. Aksana tries a side headlock but gets tossed off easily. Beth gets a blind tag on Nattie, telling her to "get out of my ring" before hitting Aksana with the Glam Slam to pick up the win at 0:45. After the match Natalya goes to give Aksana the sharpshooter but Tamina breaks it up and gives her the Superfly Splash for the third week in a row. Beth does nothing to help, so I guess they'll be heading separate ways in the near future. Just your typical super short diva's match. 1/4*

Up next we get another video package telling us about what a swell and awesome guy John Cena is, trying desperately to have someone, anyone cheer for him come Wrestlemania. Cena could revive Owen Hart from the grave, end world hunger and cure cancer and he's still going to get booed to the high heavens come Wrestlemania time, sorry WWE.

Backstage Matt Striker catches up with Randy Orton to get his thoughts on his big No DQ match against Wade Barrett tonight. Randy doesn't approve of Wade talking about supposedly ending his career and then promises to defeat Barrett tonight and then win the title at the Elimination Chamber for his 10th World title. Sheesh, is he already in double digits? Remember when being a 3-time champ was like an automatic Hall of Fame guarantee?

No DQ Match
Randy Orton (25-9-1) vs. Wade Barrett (10-27-1)

Daniel Bryan watches on from backstage with AJ and Teddy Long. Both men exchange forearms and fists at the bell, with Orton winning the battle of the fisticuffs rather easily and following up with a snap suplex. Orton tosses Barrett to the floor and then tosses him into the steps and guard barrier. Orton sets Barrett's head up on the steps and then CURB STOMPS him in a nasty spot. Orton back-suplexes Wade onto the guard barrier and this has just been total and utter domination from Orton so far. Orton pulls out a table from underneath the ring as we take a commercial break. When we return the table has been set up in the ring and Orton is attempting to superplex Barrett through it, but Barrett just shoves him off the top and Orton goes flying through the table! Barrett goes to work on Orton's previously injured lower back, slamming it into the turnbuckle and then stretching Randy around the post in a version of the bow and arrow submission. Barrett lays in some vicious Muay Thai knees while Orton is tied up in the ropes and then big boots him to the outside floor. Both men hop over the guard barrier and begin brawling into the crowd briefly until Orton clotheslines Wade back to ringside. Randy leaps off the guard barrier with a big double axe-handle that Jimmy King himself would be proud of. Back in the ring Wade has a steel chair and just waffles it over Orton's back twice before slamming it into Randy's ribs. Barrett tries to give Orton the Waste Land onto the chair, but Orton counters and lays in a few chair-shots to Barrett this time for a bit of payback. Orton wedges the chair in the corner turnbuckle and then tosses Barrett face-first into it. The action spills out to the floor again where Orton tosses Barrett into the commentary team before bringing him back to the apron and nailing Wade with the second-rope DDT. Orton tries for the RKO, but Wade counters with the swinging side-walk slam for two. Wade grabs the chair again and slams it into Randy's spine. Barrett tries for a pumphandle slam onto the chair, but Orton counters and hits a sickening RKO! Orton isn't done though, and he gives Barrett another RKO, this time on the steel chair, and that's enough to give the Viper the win at 13:59 (shown). Definitely the best match these two have had together yet, this was just the kind of brutal fun you come to expect out of a No DQ match and easily the best main event I've seen on Smackdown in many weeks now. Great main event this week. ***1/4

Backstage after the match Teddy Long informs Daniel Bryan that he'll be facing Randy Orton on next week's show. Bryan tells AJ to wait there and to watch what happens next. Bryan comes skipping down the ramp, jumping up and down and celebrating like he just won another match. Bryan doesn't attack him or anything, no, he just continues jumping up and down and shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" in hilarious fashion as we close out the show.

Bottom Line: Huge improvement over the last few weeks worth of shows tonight, for once they actually gave the matches a good amount of ring time and what do ya know, this show actually winds up being worth watching. Now THIS is the Smackdown I remember. Fun little short opening match with Sheamus and Rhodes and a damn good main event alongside some very well done promo segments make this a very easy recommendation and Thumbs Up this week.

Score: 8.0/10