Friday, March 30, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown 3/30/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown
March 30th, 2012
Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia/Wrestlemania Axxess Tour, Miami, Florida
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Well we've got a special Road to Wrestlemania edition of Friday Night Smackdown this week as we're only two days away from one of the biggest Wrestlemania's ever in Miami and because of this tonight's show will mix in a few taped matches from Atlanta, Georgia this past week alongside some live footage from the annual Wrestlemania AXXess tour in Miami, so lets jump right into things.

Your hosts are Josh Matthews and Matt Striker

Zack Ryder (7-1) vs. Drew McIntyre (6-16)
We open the show tonight with a match right from the start, just how I like it. Drew and Ryder do the traditional lock-up to start but then Ryder delivers a quick Japanese armdrag to Drew before rolling him up in a quick pin attempt. Ryder hits a dropkick and then pancakes Drew on the mat after a nifty leapfrog sequence. Ryder lays in some punches in the corner but Drew catches hm with a knee and quickly fires off a snap suplex for a two count. Drew catches Ryder off the ropes in a big gutbuster for another two count before stomping away at him in the corner with his boot. Big "Let's go Ryder (Woo Woo Woo!)" chant rings out as Drew nails a charging Ryder with a boot in the corner. Ryder fires up and hits a few forearms on Drew in the corner before hitting him with the Broski Boot facewash for a hot near fall. Drew responds with a big boot out of nowhere for his own two near fall. Ryder escapes a gutwrench attempt and counters a charge in the corner with a pair of knees before lining Drew up for the Rough Ryder leg lariat for the win at 6:01. Nice choice for a hot, quick little opener to start the show off, these two seem to have good chemistry together and Ryder came out of this looking great. **1/2

We return from the commercial break with Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler standing by at the Wrestlemania AXxess tour, showing us some of the things the WWE has set up for the fans to do like being able to make your own wrestling entrance complete with Triple H's music and all, we even get a random fan doing his best Haitch impersonation. We take a look at a prop "graveyard" the WWE has set up with tombstones for every opponent the Undertaker has defeated in his previous 19 victories. We shift into a Triple H/Undertaker hype promo from here.

When we return from the break Cole and Lawler are pimping out WWE merchandise and hyping the return of the Wrestlemania pre-show this year, which airs this Sunday at 6:30 EST on YouTube. From here we go to clips of Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, and Beth Phoenix on the popular gossip show Extra with Maria Menounos, setting up the Wrestlemania tag team match between Maria and Kelly taking on Eve and Beth.

After another break we return to some footage of CM Punk and WWE Hall of Famer Edge (with a buzzcut!) signing autographs for the fans. This segues us right into the video package higlighting the CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho feud thus far.

From here Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler go right into Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny shtick, with each man waving their respective goofy flags literally in front of some fans at the Axxess tour. We get highlights from this past Monday's RAW next with a few quick video packages for the David Otunga vs. Santino Marella, Christian vs. CM Punk, and Mark Henry vs. Great Khali matches.

We're back in Atlanta now as the Big Show makes his way out to the ring next for a promo. Show talks about being very fortunate to have had the career he has, and to have competed against some of the best (including a reference to his debut match and title win over Hulk Hogan in WCW way back in 1995). Show moves onto Cody Rhodes and acknowledges he has formulated a brilliant plan, but this Sunday he'll have to step in the ring with the Big Show, and not with his history. Show says he knows he's made these promises before but this year he really feels it in his heart and this year Codys going to get choke-slammed and have his career broken. Show promises that this Sunday he'll have "his" Wrestlemania moment, wrapping up a decent promo. .

When we return we get some footage of some fans singing/rapping along to John Cena's old Thuganomics music in a booth, and of course Michael Cole has to throw in his own half-hearted attempt at rapping. This somehow segues us into a highlight package of the Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus feud for the World Heavyweight title, which has basically consisted of Sheamus showing up each week and saying "You have title. I want title." to Bryan before teasing us with our main event tonight, Chris Jericho vs. Kofi Kingston.

Cole and Lawler talk briefly about the Four Horsemen being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, before we go into another Triple H/Undertaker promo. Cole asks the King why this match is being dubbed the "End of an Era", and Lawler responds by detailing how both men are icons of an era past. More Jericho/Kofi hype.

Chris Jericho (1-0) vs. Kofi Kingston (15-14)
Very cool of the WWE to give us a pretty solid looking match like this with only 48 hours to go before Wrestlemania. Jericho and Kofi trade wristlocks to start us off, feeling each other out. Jericho nails Kofi off the ropes but then gets met with a leg lariat after a leapfrog from Kofi. Jericho gets dumped to the floor and Kofi gives him a baseball slide. On his way back into the ring Kofi tries for a springboard, but Jericho trips him up as we take a commercial break. When we return two minutes later Jericho is dumping Kofi out to the floor with a baseball slide dropkick, soaking up the massive heat this huge Atlanta crowd gives off in the process in glorious heel fashion. Jericho sends Kofi face first into the ringside barrier before tossing him back into the ring. Jericho slaps on a chinlock, but Kofi breaks it off and rolls Jericho up for a near fall. Jericho responds with a stiff enziguri for his own near fall. Jericho eats a clothesline from Kofi, who seems to be fired up. Kofi hits the S.O.S., but Jericho kicks out at two. Kofi connects with the Boom Drop but misses the Trouble in Paradise kick as Jericho attempts the Walls of Jericho briefly before Kofi is able to escape. Kofi hits a big flying cross-body off the top rope for another close two count, but Jericho gets back to his feet and elbows him. Jericho tries the Lionsault but Kofi blocks with his knees. Kofi tries for the Trouble in Paradise again but Jericho blocks it and rolls into the Walls of Jericho, leaving Kingston no choice but to tap out at 7:18 (shown). Really good little match to put Jericho over before his title match this Sunday, some nice counter sequences with the finishers and a really hot crowd made this one just fly by. Perfect teaser match. **3/4

Finally we get the entire Rock/Cena closing segment from RAW this past week to close out our show tonight.

Bottom Line: The Smackdown before Wrestlemania usually means a total filler highlights show, but this year we actually got some new matches that were pretty damn solid to go alongside the endless promo packages and Wrestlemania Axxess tour footage, so I really can't give this a thumbs down because it's probably one of the better go-home highlights shows you'll see, so Thumbs Up here tonight and I will see you and the rest of the wrestling universe in Miami this Sunday!

Score: 6.0/10

Friday, March 23, 2012

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 3/23/12

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
March 23rd, 2012
Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's WWE Friday Night Smackdown coverage. We're only 9 days away from Wrestlemania at this point so everyone is just trying to get to the big show in one piece right about now. Tonight we've got a big tag team main event pitting CM Punk and Sheamus against Daniel Bryan and The Miz, so let's kick things off.

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

We open the show tonight with the World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan and his girlfriend AJ Lee making their way out to the ring. The first thing Bryan has to say is..."YES! YES! YES!". Bryan asks AJ what it's like to be in love with the World Heavyweight champion and when she starts to talk about her match tonight he clears his throat and tells her to just answer the question. She goes on about Daniel caressing her and sometimes at night they even spoon! She continues listing off Daniel's qualities much to the champion's pleasure, with Daniel even convincing her to call him a great lover. Bryan wraps up the segment by patting himself on the back a bit more, but is quickly interrupted by the Celtic Warrior Sheamus. Sheamus tells us he threw up in his mouth a bit listening to AJ before calling Bryan a coward. Crowd is all over Bryan, calling him "Danny" when he points out he only wants to be called Daniel. Sheamus promises to win the title and kick Bryan's teeth down his throat before taking off to wrap up our opening segment. Good little way to start the show, Bryan's really getting great heat these days with the AJ angle.

Mark Henry (14-10) vs. R-Truth (7-3)
This is a battle of two opposing team members for the Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny match at Wrestlemania. Henry overpowers Truth easily to start, dumping him out of the ring. Back inside Henry misses an elbow drop and Truth takes advantage with a DDT. Truth tries a cross-body off the top rope but Henry catches him in mid-air and gives him the World's Strongest Slam to pick up the quick win at 3:01. Total squash of R-Truth here, which I simply don't understand when you have so many NXT/Superstars jobbers employed for that exact purpose. 1/2*

We get the video package announcing Yokozuna as the latest WWE Hall of Fame entrance. Definitely one of the more successful guys Vince and the WWF undoubtedly "made" themselves, so a HOF induction makes sense.

We get footage of Zack Ryder trying to rally the WWE fans outside of the arena with chants of "We want Ryder!" to convince Teddy to let him join his team and then cut backstage to Zack alongside Teddy Long, Aksana, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston. Teddy isn't sure if he wants to bring Ryder onto the team with the whole Eve thing, so Ryder brings in Hornswoggle with a Teddy Long flag, but when that still doesn't convince him, he brings in Great Khali decked out in Ryder gear telling him that if he lets Ryder on the team, Khali is in too, so Long finally obliges and brings them aboard.

AJ Lee (4-9) vs. Brie Bella (2-0)

Nikki tries to give Brie advice on the match via pre-taped promo but Brie doesn't want to any from her. Bryan is in AJ's corner again of course, and he gives her a few pointers when Brie takes her down quickly at the bell. AJ gets in some petty offense but Brie dominates for the most part. AJ transitions from a sloppy headscissors into a Fujiwara arm bar and then argues with Nikki on the apron. Brie tries to jump her from behind but AJ moves so that she winds up knocking Nikki off the apron, and AJ rolls Brie up to pick up the win at 2:47. Typical nothing Diva's match, AJ continues to look a bit sloppy but she's over so it doesn't really matter. 1/4*

Bryan celebrates after the match and then Nikki grabs a microphone to talk about the things she and her sister disagree on---like the fact that Brie is rooting for Team Johnny and Nikki is rooting for Team Teddy. She leads the crowd in a lame Team Teddy chant and then they take off. Well that was random.

Zack Ryder (6-1) vs. Jack Swagger (9-9)

Vickie is in Swagger's corner as usual while Hornswoggle is in Ryder's corner. Swagger tries a wristlock to start but Ryder counters with a dropkick. Powerslam from Swagger and he goes back to working over Ryder's arm. Swagger eats a pair of knees in the corner and a flying forearm before Zack slams him face-first into the mat and follows up with the Broski Boot facewash in the corner for a two count. Ryder looks for the Rough Ryder but Swagger catches him and powerbombs him into the corner turnbuckle before hitting a Swagger Bomb, but somehow Zack kicks out at two anyways. Vickie and Hornswoggle distract Swagger long enough on the apron for Ryder to hit him with the Rough Ryder and pick up the win at 4:30. Decent action between these two, but like most of the matches tonight it was too short to amount to anything beyond average and forgettable. *3/4

We get some footage shot earlier today of Matt Striker interviewing Cody Rhodes about his match with the Big Show at Wrestlemania. Cody says the usual and promises to win before taking off to catch a plane.

Big Show (20-6) vs. Kane (17-11)

So I'd say the chances of a clean finish here are about one in a hundred. This is, as JR would say, "bowling shoe ugly", consisting mainly of kicks, punches, and power moves. Show misses a charge into the steel post and wraps his shoulder around it. Back in the ring Kane hits a dropkick for all of a one count. Both men trade punches on their knees and Show calls for the choke slam, but Kane connects with a DDT instead. Kane gets caught off the top rope with a chokeslam but before Show can try for a pin, Cody Rhodes runs in to attack him for the DQ at 3:44. But, but he said he left for the airport! That scoundrel! Randy Orton runs down to RKO Kane as well. Match was your usual Show/Kane plodding affair and the entire purpose of the match was basically just to have a few run-ins. 1/2*

The Funkasaurus Brodus Clay (2-4) vs. Heath Slater (4-27)
Still trying to figure out why they took Clay off TV for being too green, then brought him back 2 weeks later. What could he possibly have learned in those 2 weeks to become a safer worker? Anywho, match is just your standard Clay squash, he does a bit of dancing, Slater gets a couple of petty hits in and then Clay finishes him off with the the What the Funk splash at 1:25. Usual Brodus squash here, pretty soon they need to start coming up with an actual angle or feud for the guy though. 1/4*

Zack Ryder finds Eve Torres backstage after the break and wants to celebrate his victory. He compliments her beauty and intelligence and she manages to take offense at this somehow, calling off their dinner and storming off with a sneaky grin on her face. Why are they continuing to destroy Ryder's character to get a diva some cheap heel heat? Wish I knew.

The Great Khali (6-8) vs. Dolph Ziggler (4-15)
Christian joins us on commentary for some reason while Ziggler is accompanied to the ring by Laurinaitis and Otunga and Teddy is with Khali. Ziggler gets dumped from the ring quickly and then eats some big chops back inside. Ziggler tries working a side headlock but Khali breaks it up. Ziggler hops on Khali's back for the sleeper and suddenly John Laurinaitis calls for the bell immediately, claiming Khali submitted before Khali really even had a chance to start selling the move, let alone submit. Ziggler is declared the winner at 2;40, but of course Teddy won't have any of this and demands the match restart, so Ziggler is counted out at about 4:14 or so. Ziggler gets tossed back into the ring by Santino and Kofi afterwards to eat a chop from Khali anyways, ending this mess of a match. As if the Montreal shtick hasn't already been beaten to death. Remember when Ziggler debuted in the WWE back in 2009 with a string of clean wins over the Great Khali? Me neither. DUD

CM Punk/Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan/The Miz
Bryan appears to want to start the match, but immediately tags out to Miz when Sheamus decides to start as well. Sheamus works over Miz a bit and he and Punk trade a couple of quick tags, working Miz over in their corner. Irish Curse backbreaker from Sheamus, but Bryan breaks up the pin attempt so Sheamus goes after him, turning his back to Miz long enough to get jumped from behind and then eat a running boot as we take our last commercial break of the show. When we return Sheamus escapes a Miz beatdown to get the tag to Punk. Punk hits the running Muay Thai knee to Miz in the corner and tells AJ outside the ring to call him in a funny moment. Bryan distracts Punk when he tries for the Macho Man elbow, and Miz is able to capitalize with a DDT on the WWE champ before tagging the World champ in. "Danny Boy!" chants ring out again. Bryan works him over a bit and then tags Miz back in, who hits Punk with a knee lift. Miz plunges his knee into Punk's back, but Punk counters with a devastating kick to the skull. Bryan and Sheamus tag in and Sheamus lays in the 10 hammerfists on the apron, but Bryan quickly tags back out to The Miz and takes off running just as Sheamus hits Miz with the Brogue Kick to pick up the pin at 6:41 (shown). Not much of a main event this week after a string of good ones, this one was over before it ever really got a chance to develop any coherent story and I think we all knew Miz was going to be eating the pin here as soon as the participants were announced. Better than anything else on the show tonight though. **1/4

We go off the air with Daniel Bryan and AJ storming off up the entrance ramp as Sheamus and CM Punk celebrate in the ring.

Bottom Line: Bit of a step down this week compared to the last few shows, you can tell everyone on Smackdown has gone into Autopilot mode with only a little over a week before Wrestlemania, and I wouldn't be surprised if we got another recap/hype show next week like we did last year before 'Mania. I've seen much worse shows in my time as Smackdown recapper, but just nothing particularly compelling going on here tonight so you can feel free to skip it really, minor Thumbs Down.

Score: 4.5/10

Friday, March 16, 2012

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 3/16/12

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
March 16th, 2012
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's WWE Friday Night Smackdown report. We're inching ever so closer to Wrestlemania and the huge Rock/Cena showdown, but tonight the blue brand has a pretty big show lined up for us with the return of Captain Charisma, Christian, in his trademark Peep Show segment, along with a main event pitting Chris Jericho against Sheamus, so let's jump right into things.

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

We start out the show tonight with Christian making his way out to the ring for the Peep Show segment. Nice pop for Christian despite his heel leanings. Christian introduces John Laurinaitis and David Otunga next, who make their way down to the ring. Next he introduces Teddy Long alongside Aksana. Christian wants to give each man a chance to convince him to join their team for the big Wrestlemania tag match, giving Teddy the first chance. Teddy just stares daggers at Christian, who snaps at him and decides to tell him that even the dumb people in Columbus know that he should get one more shot at the World Heavyweight title. Teddy tells him that if he wants a title shot, he'll need to earn it, when Johnny interrupts Teddy to tell Christian it would be an honor for him to be on Team Laurinaitis. He promises Christian a title shot if he joins his team, and Christian agrees to join Team Johnny. Teddy tries to book Christian into a match tonight but Johnny says he isn't medically cleared, so Teddy books David Otunga into a match instead, right now, against the newest member of Team Teddy, Kofi Kingston!

Kofi Kingston (14-14) vs. David Otunga (3-2)
We return from the break with this match already under way. Santino is at ringside with Kofi while Teddy and Johnny have joined the commentary team. Otunga blocks a monkey flip attempt and nails an elbow drop on Kofi. Otunga dominates for a bit, hitting a powerslam before pounding away at Kingston on the mat. Pretty long heat segment here on Kofi, but Otunga's offense is painstakingly boring so the crowd doesn't really give a shit until Kofi hits a huge cross-body off the top rope and starts his comeback. Christian trips up Kofi behind the ref's back but Teddy tells the ref what happened and the ref ejects Christian from ringside. Laurinaitis and Teddy start arguing and while the ref tries to break them up (shouldn't you be paying attention to the match?) Otunga pulls off his belt but Santino strips it from his hands, distracting Otunga long enough for Kofi to nail him with the Trouble in Paradise for the win at 5:39 (shown). Pedestrian stuff, started off boring with Otunga on offense and picked up a bit towards the finish, but nothing special. *1/2

Daniel Bryan is backstage, having AJ try on a fancy designer dress he bought for her (and looking stunning in the process). She claims it doesn't fit and Bryan says "Yeah, it looked so much better on the mannequin". Ouch, burn. He tells her they're the new power couple and she needs to start dressing for the part, comparing them to Randy and Elizabeth, Triple H and Steph, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Bryan tells her he got her a match up next with a possible Diva's title shot on the line and they make out a bit before AJ takes off to change for her match.

AJ Lee (3-9) vs. Nikki Bella (0-0)
Bryan comes out after both ladies ring introductions just to hog a bit of the spotlight. AJ hits Nikki with a big dropkick at the bell but Nikki responds with a snapmare and some hair-pulling. Nikki applies a nice chinlock with AJ's arms tied up in Bella's legs behind her. AJ hits a spinkick out of nowhere and then hits a cross-body off the top. The Bella's try to do the old Twin Switcheroo but Bryan gets on the apron and alerts the ref to it. AJ rolls up Nikki to pick up the win at 2:29. Bryan celebrates (without AJ) like he just won the World title again. Match was the usual diva's fare but slightly more entertaining simply because the crowd was really into AJ and popped every time she hit a move. Don't look now, but a diva might actually be over. *1/4

After some highlights of the Rock/Cena rap/rock battle on RAW this week and an announcement of John Cena vs. Mark Henry for RAW next week, we cut backstage to Matt Striker who's with Cody Rhodes and wants to know how he expects to defend his Intercontinental title against Big Show at Wrestlemania. Cody says Show is a monster 364 days of the year, but on Wrestlemania day he's a choke artist.

Cody Rhodes (20-21) vs. The Great Khali (6-7)
Khali dominates to start with big chops, AKA 90% of his moveset. Cody hits an armbreaker and goes to work on the arm briefly before switching his sights to Khali's leg. Khali looks for another chop but Cody hangs him up on the top rope and dropkicks Khali's leg from out under him before nailing him with the Beautiful Disaster kick for the win at 3:14. Good win for Cody here against a giant as he heads into his 'Mania match with Big Show. Match itself was the usual plodding boredom that is every Khali match ever, but Cody looked good. 1/2*

We get some highlights of a recent WWE tour of South America and some words from Justin Gabriel, Natalya, and Sheamus.

When we return from commercial, Randy Orton makes his way out to the ring (with a spiffy new t-shirt) to tell us...that his name is Randy Orton. Okay. Orton says he's usually the one doing the hunting, but recently he's been the hunted because of Kane. We get an official acknowledgement of a match between the two men booked for Wrestlemania as Orton explains that unlike John Cena, he embraces hate and hate embraces him back. Orton calls out Kane for an explanation, and Kane obliges, coming out and telling Orton that he hasn't forgotten a match Kane and Orton had last summer (July 22nd, 2011 to be precise) in which Orton won and both men shook hands in a sign of respect afterwards. Kane says the man who shook Randy's hand is gone, replaced by someone without any humanity and he will not rest until he beats Orton. Randy thanks him for the explanation then challenges him to come to the ring and fight, and it looks like Kane is going to do just that, but he stops halfway down the ramp and thinks better of it, deciding to save Randy's demise for Wrestlemania. Good segment to further the feud between both men and give an actual explanation behind it.

Big Show (19-6) vs. Drew McIntyre (6-15)
Drew comes out to the ring first and Teddy Long introduces his
opponent as the Big Show. Drew tries to beg Show off at the bell but eats some chops for his troubles. Drew actually mounts a bit of offense, but Show hits him with the WMD fist and then chokeslams Drew before hitting another WMD fist to pick up the KO win at 1:27. I just don't get what the hell they're doing with Drew and this angle, and frankly, I no longer care at all. Match was just a squash for Show, which he doesn't need at all. 1/4*

Mark Henry (13-10) vs. Yoshi Tatsu (0-2)
You know what's better than one unnecessary squash of a small guy by a giant? TWO unnecessary squashes! Poor Yoshi doesn't stand a chance, even if he does show some fire with some kicks and chops at the bell. Henry just toys with Yoshi for a bit until finishing him with the World's Strongest Slam at 1:33. Just another pointless squash, why Yoshi though? Was Curt Hawkins busy? 1/4*

Chris Jericho makes his way out to the ring after the commercial break to address the comments he made about CM Punk and his father on RAW this week. Jericho says he's been bombarded on social media by fans to apologize, but he's not going to do that. Jericho claims to have figured out the real CM Punk and that every time he unleashes a "pipe bomb" it's because he wishes he could say those things to his father and family. Jericho says that Punk just wishes the demons would go away, but they won't ever. He reiterates that he, not Punk, is the best in the world. He refers to Punk and the fans as "Jeri-clones" (that's an awesome word) and then promises to walk out of Wrestlemania the new WWE Champion. He gives Punk the nickname of "CM Drunk" and then drops the mic like a pipe bomb as we take a commercial break and head into our main event of the evening.

Chris Jericho (0-0) vs. Sheamus (26-13-1)

Believe it or not I think this is Jericho's first match on Smackdown since atleast 2010. Jericho lures Sheamus out of the ring in a foot chase to start but Sheamus hits a huge slingshot shoulder-block on him back in the ring for a two count. Jericho gets dumped to the outside and Sheamus lays in the ten hammer-fists into his chest on the ring apron. He gives Jericho a delayed suplex back into the ring and it's really been all Sheamus so far. As soon as I say that of course Sheamus gets dumped to the floor and nailed with a dropkick into the barrier. World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan alongside his girlfriend AJ make their way out to ringside as we cut to commercial. When we return Sheamus is being catapulted throat-first into the bottom rope. Jericho delivers a back suplex to the Irishman then slaps on a chinlock. Jericho tries for the running bulldog but Sheamus just shoves him in mid-air into the corner. Irish Curse backbreaker from Sheamus, and he follows up with the Finlay roll but neither move can put him away. Sheamus blocks a Codebreaker attempt but misses the Brogue Kick, and Jericho nails him with a missile dropkick before hitting the Lionsault for a close near fall. Sheamus gets crotched on the top rope briefly but comes off with a diving shoulder-block anyways. Jericho blocks the Celtic Cross powerbomb and counters into the Walls of Jericho! Sheamus is just barely able to get to the ropes though. Jericho avoids the Celtic Cross again but gets clotheslined out to the floor. Sheamus follows him out and tosses Jericho into the general direction of Bryan and AJ, but he takes his eye off Jericho on his way back into the ring and gets dropkicked out. Jericho distracts the ref while Bryan attacks Sheamus on the floor behind the ref's back, and that's enough to get Sheamus counted out at 10:53 (shown). Really good TV match between these two while it lasted, it's good to see Jericho on Smackdown again and the only thing holding this match is the screwy finish. Otherwise though, great stuff. ***

After the match Sheamus chases Bryan up the ramp and then nails Jericho with the Brogue Kick back in the ring as we go off the air.

Bottom Line: Pretty good show tonight for the most part, we got a really solid main event with Jericho returning to Smackdown for the night as well as strong promos from Jericho as well as Randy Orton and Kane. Nothing really stood out in the first hour, but most of the major angles were advanced and the main event was a lot of fun, so overall this was another solid show from the blue brand and a Thumbs Up.

Score: 6.5/10

Friday, March 9, 2012

WWE Friday Night Smackdown! 3/9/12

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
March 9th, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's WWE Friday Night Smackdown coverage, emanating from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. We're inching ever so closer to Wrestlemania and tonight we've got John Laurinaitis as our guest GM for the evening, so lets see what's in store for us tonight.

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

We open up the show with a steel cage being lowered to the ring as David Otunga introduces John Laurinaitis in the ring next to him. John thanks the board of directors for giving him a shot at running Smackdown tonight, so he's going to make the best of it by starting off tonight's show with a championship steel cage match, which he claims Teddy has never done though I'm pretty sure that's false.

Steel Cage US Title Match
Santino Marella
© (5-5) vs. Jack Swagger (9-8)
Santino as US champion? Well I guess it could be worse. Strange match to go with for the opening cage match here. Swagger dominates to start, easily overpowering Santino. Santino ducks a lariat and tries to leap up the cage, but Swagger won't let him climb so he leaps off onto Swagger, who just catches him and slams him aside like a ragdoll. Santino recovers and tries to set up the Cobra until Swagger grabs him for a back suplex, but Santino hits the Cobra on him anyways on his way to the mat. Dolph Ziggler winds up getting tossed from ringside by a ref outside the ring as we take a commercial break. When we return Swagger is back in control. He tosses the Cobra puppet outside of the ring in disgust but winds up getting rolled up for a few close near-falls by Marella. Swagger hits the Swagger Bomb for a two count and then tries to scale the cage, but Santino jerks him down and begins to climb the cage himself. He gets half of his torso over the top before Swagger yanks him back down to the top turnbuckle. Santino hits a huge tornado DDT on Swagger out of the corner and tries to crawl out the door, but Swagger pulls him back in with an ankle lock. Vickie starts arguing with the ref and then winds up accidentally slamming the cage door into Swagger's face, giving Santino enough time to scurry out to retain the title at 7:30 (shown). I don't mind having cage matches just for the sake of having a cage match, but usually it's best to stick guys in there who will give you a solid match in that scenario, and unfortunately Santino and Swagger definitely aren't those guys. Nothing special. **

Teddy Long comes out to celebrate with Santino on the ramp after the match. Cole announces a big interview segment later with Daniel Bryan and Sheamus before we cut backstage to Laurinaitis and Otunga again. Teddy Long walks in and John threatens again to put his girlfriend Aksana into a match against Kane tonight. Teddy tries to convince him not to and Laurinaitis makes him say please and then apologize. Laurinaitis instead challenges Teddy to a match one-on-one here tonight, and if Teddy wins the match Aksana has to face Kane. Well that's a new spin on a familiar angle.

Drew McIntyre, who was fired last week, comes out next. You know it's kind of hard to buy the whole "he's fired" angle when he comes out still with his entrance theme and everything. Drew grabs a mic though and explains that Laurinaitis has agreed to let him get his job back if he can beat a mystery opponent...who turns out to be the Great Khali. Or, wait, no it doesn't, because David Otunga comes out moments later to tell Khali to beat it, because Drew's real opponent is Hornswoggle.

Drew McIntyre (5-15) vs. Hornswoggle (2-0)
Drew squashes the poor leprechaun obviously, slamming him a few times and then pulling him up before the three count to make him suffer more with a few backbreakers. The ref calls for the bell and awards the match to Drew at 1:25. About as good as you can expect from a squash between these two. After the match Khali attacks Drew while he celebrates, explaining his presence. DUD

Backstage Aksana begs Teddy not to fight Laurinaitis tonight, but he tells her he has to. After a quick commercial break we return to see Laurinaitis warming up backstage. He asks Otunga if he's seen Kane, and Otunga tells him yes and that he's one angry monster.

Mark Henry (12-10) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-15)
Oh God this looks bad. Lazy brawling to start between the two behemoths. Henry slams Zeke but misses a follow up elbow drop and Zeke takes it to him in the corner. Henry bursts out of the corner and hits Zeke with the World's Strongest Slam to pick up the win at 1:42. Just another squash match, but Henry could use a quick win like this given his recent struggles. 1/4*

John Laurinaitis (0-0) vs. Teddy Long (0-0)
No awesome neon green baseball cap or old school skateboard for Johnny tonight unfortunately. Laurinaitis grabs a mic at the bell and tries to convince Teddy to lay down, but he refuses so John calls out Kane. Kane makes his way down to ringside but suddenly Randy Orton pops up out of nowhere and RKO's Kane outside the ring, giving Teddy long enough of a distraction to roll Laurinaitis up for the win at 2:28. So shouldn't Aksana have to face Kane now? Match was two minutes of talking and a roll-up, so not exactly Steamboat/Savage here. Teddy and Aksana take off backstage while Orton mugs for the camera at ringside. DUD

Kofi Kingston/R-Truth vs. Primo/Epico
Boy they just love sticking Kofi into random tag teams, don't they? Epico starts off with Kofi, who gives him a quick monkey flip and then tags R-Truth in for a bit of double teaming. Truth hits a spinning leg drop and tags Kofi back in, who gets tossed outside the ring by Epico on the apron. Epico tags in and hits a big exploder suplex on Kofi before applying an abdominal stretch. Primo tags back in and slaps a chinlock onto Kofi as the crowd tries to rally behind him. Kofi gets the hot tag to Truth, who hits the corkscrew elbow on Primo. Kofi tosses Epico out of the ring and Truth hits the What's Up on Primo to pick up the win on the tag champs in this non-title match at 5:12. Pretty good little short tag match here, but shifting Kofi from one tag team to another with little to no explanation to the crowd just seems lazy to me. These two teams could have a solid match with another five minutes though. **

We get another video package hyping the Cena/Rock feud, but fortunately this time it's only highlights and not an entire fifteen minute promo like last week.

Sheamus and Daniel Bryan are both out next to have an in-ring interview with Michael Cole. AJ is at Bryan's side, looking adorable as ever. Cole asks Bryan how much he can contribute luck to his success in the WWE, and Bryan claims to not have any luck at all, because you don't need luck when you're as good as he is. He credits his scientific wrestling skills and his vegan lifestyle for his success, and throws in his charisma and "undeniable sex appeal" as well. Good heat for Bryan here and he seems very comfy working these heel promos now. Cole asks basically the same question to Sheamus, who responds with the usual babyface "I'm lucky to be in the United States, performing for these great fans" shtick. Sheamus says he may be lucky but atleast he doesn't hide behind a 95 pound "little girl who looks like she should be wearing a Catholic school girl's uniform". I'm definitely not going to turn that image down, and judging from the hoots and hollers from the men in the crowd, I don't think anyone else would either. AJ starts to respond to Sheamus, starting with "Well in my point of view" before Bryan abruptly cuts her off and tells her to shut up. Oh that was heeltastic. Sheamus says maybe Bryan should be the one wearing the skirt before promising to beat Bryan for the World title at Wrestlemania. With that the segment is over apparently as Cody Rhodes is introduced for our six man main event, up next.

Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan/Cody Rhodes/The Miz
No clue why The Miz has been randomly inserted into this match when he's a RAW wrestler. Just kidding, we all know the brand split has been dead for years. Orton and Rhodes start us off and trade a few shots and basic hold attempts before Bryan is quickly tagged in. Bryan hits the running dropkick on Orton in the corner for a two count and then tags the Miz in as Orton tags out to Big Show. Huge palm slap from Show sends the Miz retreating to his corner to tag in Cody Rhodes, who of course wants none of Show and just stalls for a minute until tagging Miz back in as we take our last commercial break of the night. When we return Sheamus is stomping away at Miz in the corner. Sheamus delivers the Finlay Roll to Miz and then lays in some clubbing forearms onto Cody Rhodes on the ring apron. Miz dropkicks Sheamus out of the ring and Bryan takes him out with a flying knee off the apron and then officially tags in to stomp away at Sheamus on the mat, driving his knee into Sheamus' throat repeatedly before tagging the Miz back in, who hits a running knee on Sheamus for a near fall. All three men trade quick tags in their corner, isolating Sheamus in a strong "face in peril" segment. Miz plants Sheamus with a DDT but only gets two. Rhodes tags back in and applies a full nelson to Sheamus briefly until Sheamus breaks it off and tries for the Celtic Cross powerbomb, which Cody reverses into a nice Russian legsweep. Sheamus counters with the Irish Curse backbreaker and he gets the hot tag to Randy Orton, who cleans house on the heels with ease. Big Show tosses Cody out of the ring and chases him all the way to the back while Orton nails Miz with the second rope DDT. He tries the same move on Bryan, but Bryan counters only for Sheamus to toss him out anyways and brawl with him all the way into the timekeeper's section. Meanwhile in the ring Orton hits Miz with the RKO and picks up the win for his team at 10:37 (shown). Really solid six man match here to cap off the show tonight, the heels all looked great working over Sheamus for the bulk of the match and the finish was hot stuff. Good way to close out the show. **3/4

After the match Kane makes his way down to the ring and he and Orton brawl all the way into the crowd and we go off the air with both men trading punches in the aisle-way.

Bottom Line: Pretty solid show here tonight, it's always nice to see a cage match on free TV even if this one wasn't particularly exciting or anything, and the six man tag was really good stuff for the time it got and helped advance atleast four different angles at once, no real complaints here tonight other than a bit of the usual silliness in the middle of the show, so we'll go with a slight Thumbs Up tonight.

Score: 6.0/10

Friday, March 2, 2012

WWE Friday Night Smackdown! 3/2/12

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
March 2nd, 2012
Key Arena, Seattle, Washington
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back everyone to another edition of 411's Friday Night Smackdown coverage, a mere 30 days away from Wrestlemania 28 and the huge Cena/Rock showdown. Let's see what the blue brand has in store for us and Seattle tonight, eh?

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

We open up tonight's show with the 2012 Royal Rumble winner Sheamus making his way out to the ring to cut a promo. He hypes his Wrestlemania title match against Daniel Bryan and then proceeds to explain how when he first won the world title he was just as arrogant and big if a bully as Bryan currently is. Sheamus says he'll be glad to be the one to put Bryan in his place come Wrestlemania time, when suddenly he's interrupted by Vickie Guerrero and her trademark "Excuse Me!" Vickie and Dolph Ziggler come out to the ramp and Dolph claims that he deserves to be in the main event of Wrestlemania, not Sheamus. Vickie starts to run down the Smackdown GM Teddy Long and makes the dubious (and incorrect) claim to have been the only person without the last name McMahon to be the GM of Raw or Smackdown...before she's promptly interrupted by Teddy Long, the GM of Smackdown and unless I've been kept out of the loop definitely not a McMahon. Teddy books a match between Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler, and that match is next!

Sheamus (24-13-1) vs. Dolph Ziggler (4-14)
We return from commercial with our opening match already under way. Ziggler leapfrogs Sheamus and then nails him with a dropkick, showing off a bit before locking up with the Celtic Warrior again. Sheamus lays in the clubbing forearms on Dolph in-between the ropes and then suplexes Dolph back in from the apron for a two count. Dolph bails out of the ring for a breather and manages to lure Sheamus out to the apron, where he drops him with a vicious neckbreaker in between the ropes. Ziggler lays in some elbow shots and then applies a chinlock, but Sheamus quickly breaks it up. Sheamus blocks a Fameasser attempt and hits a big running powerslam for another near fall. Ziggler jumps on Sheamus' back and applies the sleeper, but the big man is able to toss Ziggler off over the top rope and to the floor. Ziggler jumps off the top rope back into the ring but jumps right into a huge Irish Curse backbreaker from Sheamus! That should do it, but Vickie puts Ziggler's foot on the bottom rope at the last second. Ziggler counters the Celtic Cross into a close near-fall but Sheamus fires back with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Jack Swagger tries to run down and interfere, but he's met on the apron with the Brogue Kick. This distracts Sheamus long enough though for Dolph to hit what starts off looking like a Zig Zag attempt but turns into a Fameasser in mid-air, and somehow Sheamus still kicks out! Huge pop for that near fall. Dolph tries to hop on his back once again but Sheamus catches him and shifts him into Finlay's old Celtic Cross position before dropping him with it, a move that Cole dubs as being called "White Noise" to finally give it a name and Sheamus the victory at 8:23 (shown). Outstanding little opening match here tonight, I was expecting a solid encounter but these two went a step above and managed to fit some very cool counters and spots into a very short time-frame. Finish was great too, good way to start the show tonight. ***

We recap Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis getting into it these last few weeks before cutting backstage to Long walking into his office while talking to Aksana on his cell phone. Laurinaitis and David Otunga are in his office to meet him. Ace says he injured a lumbar when Teddy attacked him and Otunga chips in, saying they still might pursue civil action even if criminal charges haven't been filed, but all they really want is an apology. Teddy refuses and then books Otunga into a match against the Great Khali later and kicks them out.

Santino Marella (5-5) vs. Heath Slater (4-27)
I suppose this is to follow up Heath interrupting Santino's "training session" last week. Santino hits a series of right hands and a hip-toss to start, but Slater blocks the follow up splash attempt with his knees. Heath gets some shots of his own in and hits a leg lariat for a two count. Santino crotches Heath on the top rope and then nails him with The Cobra to pick up the win at 1:56. Just your usual Santino squash here. *

Backstage Eve Torres is busy examining herself in a mirror when Natalya interrupts to tell her what she did to Ryder is inexcusable. Eve says Zack may appear sweet and genuine but he actually stinks, and that's our cue for the Natalya fart gag of the week. Oh sweet God all mighty they're actually turning the fart gag into a full on gimmick, complete with a "No, THAT stinks" catchphrase. This angle has Vince McMahon's sophomoric fingerprints all over it.

Eve Torres (1-1) vs. Natalya (7-13)
Minor "Hoeski" chants for Eve at the bell. Sweet head and wristlock combo from Nattie to start followed by a roll-through for a one count. Both ladies kip up in a somewhat cool spot and Eve slaps the taste out of Natalya's mouth, setting her off in a rage. Eve applies the old straight-jacket choke as a "We want Ryder!" chant starts up just as Eve manages to get a victory roll on Natalya for the pin at 1:42. Slightly better than your average two minute Diva's match. *

Cody Rhodes is out next to poke fun at some more of Big Show's past Wrestlemania losses and embarrassments. He calls Show a choke artist at the "big show" Wrestlemania and is about to introduce another embarrassing clip when he's interrupted by the Big Show himself. Cody takes off as soon as Show hits the ring though and exits through the crowd. Show tries to convince Cody to come back to the ring so they can watch his clip together, and just as Show is about to enter the crowd to haul him back to the ring he's interrupted by Teddy Long. Long walks down and announces that Cody will be defending his Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania against the Big Show. Show celebrates as we segue directly into our next match-up.

Big Show (17-6) vs. Mark Henry (12-9)
Slugfest to start as Henry clotheslines Show out of the ring and then whips him into the barricade by the timekeeper's table. Show barely makes it back into the ring before the ten count, but Henry slams him face first into the steel ringpost as we take a commercial break. When we return Cody Rhodes has joined the commentary table as Henry slams Show's back into the steel ringpost outside the ring again and then nearly decapitates him by tossing the steel steps into the post, narrowly missing Show's head. Back in the ring Henry hits a big Vader Bomb on Show for a close two count. Show fires off a big spear on Henry and then tries for the chokeslam, but Henry counters into the World's Strongest Slam, which Show still manages to kick out of! Henry charges into the corner and Show nails him perfectly with the WMD fist out of nowhere to pick up the win at 5:20 (shown). Actually a pretty decent little power match, but I'm never a fan of a match where one guy dominates the entire thing only to lose off of one move in the end. Henry's stock seems to have fallen. *3/4

Backstage Teddy Long tells Drew McIntyre for the millionth time that if he loses tonight, he's fired. And this time he really, really, super serial means it!

Elsewhere backstage Randy Orton is with Matt Striker, making what seems like his 3rd or 4th "return to Smackdown" in the last few months. Orton says he's back and badder than ever, and he's looking for revenge on Daniel Bryan.

Justin Gabriel (11-18) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-14)
Drew hits a quick clothesline to start for a near fall and then ducks a spinkick from Gabriel before nailing him with a big boot. McIntyre stomps away at Gabriel in the corner but then eats a big tornado DDT from Gabriel. Justin hits the 450 splash to pick up the win at 1:44. And this time, Drew really is fired apparently as Teddy appears on the titan tron to wish him well in his future endeavors. Well atleast the drawn-out angle is over for the time being, match itself was basically nothing but a few moves stringed together. 3/4*

After a commercial break we get the entire Rock/Cena promo from RAW this past week again. Well that was a waste of a good 15 minutes of TV time. Afterwards we cut to the World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan backstage with AJ. Bryan goes for the cheap pop by bringing up his birth place of Aberdeen, Washington, but then follows it up by saying he moved to Las Vegas as soon as possible. Bryan claims to still be a role model and promises to continue to defy expectations by winning at Wrestlemania.

Daniel Bryan (15-15-2) vs. Randy Orton (26-10-1)
Dueling chants for Bryan to start off as this is his home state. Orton is red hot to start, tossing Bryan out of the ring and beating the hell out of him at ringside before curb-stomping Bryan's head against the steel steps! Back inside they fight to the top rope, where Bryan headbutts Orton off. Bryan hits a running dropkick on him in the corner and then begins to target Orton's arm with another dropkick and a big armbreaker as we take our last commercial break of the night. When we return Bryan is still working over Randy's arm, but Orton starts to fight back with his good arm. Orton back drops Bryan to the apron, but Bryan lands on his feet and snaps Orton's neck over the top rope. Bryan takes too long to get to the top rope and Orton nails him in mid-air with a dropkick on his way back into the ring. Orton hits the snap powerslam and then follows it with the second-rope DDT. Orton tries for the RKO and Bryan tries to block it into the LeBell Lock, but Bryan manages to avoid anotther RKO attempt and bail out of the ring. Orton follows him out and is about to DDT Bryan off of the apron when suddenly the lights go out and flames erupt as Kane is here to randomly interrupt our main event. The ref doesn't even wait for Kane to start his attack before calling for the bell to give us an apparent no contest at 6:25 (shown). This was going along quite nicely up until the random and somewhat annoying ending. I mean I know you can't really expect a clean finish with these two here, but Kane? Is this who the WWE has lined up for Orton potentially for Wrestlemania? Meh. **1/2

Kane and Orton brawl in the aisle after the bell sounds as Daniel Bryan takes off without AJ, leaving her in the ring with Kane and Orton. Kane isn't interested in her though, instead going after Orton's shoulder before laying him out and grabbing a mic to tell him "Welcome back".

Backstage John Laurinaitis and Otunga seem impressed by Kane, and Laurinaitis says maybe when he's the GM of Smackdown next week he'll book Kane into a match against Teddy's girlfriend, Aksana as we go off the air.

Bottom Line: Pretty good show tonight despite the unnecessary inclusion of the entire Rock/Cena promo again, we got a great opening match out of Sheamus and Ziggler that really surprised me pleasantly, and a pretty decent main event until the shitty finish and appearance of Kane. Not much else here, but I'll take what I can get these days from the depleted and injury-ridden Smackdown roster. Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.0/10