Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 3, 2012 WWE Smackdown Review


I have had a lot of fun doing these reviews.  I generally enjoy Smackdown more than Raw, and since it seems to be less written about I feel like I have a chance to add something valuable.

From now on I'm going to try to keep to the format I used for my Royal Rumble review.  I'll list every segment and give it a quick review and a grade.  At the end, I'll try to wrap it all together.


Opening
Tonight's episode opens up with Teddy Long in the ring.  While talking about the Royal Rumble and setting up the Elimination Chamber match, he uses one of my favorite phrases, "off the chain".  It's such a great phrase and I've been using it for years.

The Elimination Chamber is announced to include Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Big Show, Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, and Randy Orton.  The theme music for this year's Elimination Chamber is pretty bad and it keeps playing for far too long, even as Teddy Long tries to talk and give us the rules.

Mark Henry comes out at this point and talks about how he shouldn't be just one of 5 men competing against Daniel Bryan for the Heavyweight Championship.
Is it just me or does Mark Henry's Hall of Pain logo look like something a bored kid in highschool Chemistry made on his TI-82? 
Teddy Long doesn't like Mark Henry's attitude and straight up suspends Mark Henry for putting his hands on him.  Wrestling can be crazy, but it always feels even more insane when things play out somewhat like they would in real life.  If any of us went to our boss yelling and screaming and after not getting our way laid our hands on them, we would instantly be fired.

Mark Henry also talks about how he is both a "big fish" and Teddy Long's "meal ticket".  Why does Teddy Long need a meal ticket when he has a big fish he could fry up?  Or is he following Daniel Bryan's lead and becoming a vegan?

Things continue to get more intense when Sheamus comes out to give Mark Henry a Brogue Kick.  I don't want to keep harping on this point, but I'm still uncomfortable with Sheamus coming out with his "Great White" shirt and beating up people who are exclusively not-white.  Even still, I like Sheamus and really enjoy his berserker Irishman character.  He's one of the few people who could credibly come out and just fight anyone just because he likes to fight.

Sheamus then talks about how he will announce what championship he will fight for after the Elimination Chamber match.  I'm pretty excited about the possibility of a feud between him and Daniel Bryan or the Undertaker.  Sheamus deserves a big match at Wrestlemania and I'm glad he has it.
Sheamus at the Royal Rumble

Cody "Son of Dusty" Rhodes comes out at this point to rip on Sheamus and Teddy Long.  Cody and Sheamus are two of the reasons why I love Smackdown so much.  Cody makes some good points that while he didn't win, he lasted for over 45 minutes and eliminated 6 other wrestlers.  I think it says huge things about him that he anchored such a big match and he did a great job at the Royal Rumble.

Sheamus responds to Cody's trash talk by just tapping Teddy Long on the shoulder and saying "Teddy."  Sheamus-speak is pretty easy to understand as most everything he says can be translated into "Oyl foight 'em!  Fella!"  Teddy puts them into a match.
Grade: B


Sheamus v Cody Rhodes
This match was the highlight of the episode.  Both Sheamus and Cody can put on an excellent match.  This match had quite a few highlights for me.

Sheamus had some amazing crazy eyes tonight and instantly kicked out of any pinfall.  There's so much drama that can be built into a match by letting wrestlers communicate to the audience how hurt they are by how close each pinfall gets.  Sheamus is a beefy guy and will obviously try to instantly kick out.

Cody Rhodes sold everything really well and had a really great Beautiful Disaster off the barricade.  He also pulled an intense looking Moonsault from the top rope.  These two had a really nicely paced match and it was really entertaining to watch while telling a story.
I seriously love Cody's Beautiful Disaster.
Michael Cole was really solid tonight.  He's calling the match and has good things to say about both Rhodes and Sheamus.  I think it's important that he sells the fact that Cody Rhodes carried the Royal Rumble. He was fair tonight.  I also really like Booker T on the announcer team.  He doesn't always have the most interesting things to say, but he seems really excited about what's going on and that enthusiasm is infectious.  Even when Sheamus won, we got an excited "Just put that boy down!" from Booker T.

Wrestling announcers should be there to make an exciting match into something historic and special.  Can you imagine having JR talk crap about Stone Cold Steve Austin being a redneck or having the body of a baby?
SCSA is seriously my choice to play the Judge in any Blood Meridian movie that gets made.
JR losing his mind whenever he heard the glass shatter helped to sell SCSA to the crowd.  I don't want to take anything away from SCSA, but having someone like JR there to sell you as the most exciting person to ever step foot into the right goes a long way towards making someone legendary.  I hope the WWE realizes this and will try to steer the announcer team in that direction again.
Grade: B


Commercials
Even commercials about the Undertaker get me excited.  I'm serious, just hearing the bell in this little recap segment is awesome.
Also, Final Fantasy 13-2?  Is this a sequel to Final Fantasy 13?  I've not played any of those since Final Fantasy 8 when I discovered girls and didn't care to play a game focused on teenage angst.  Did those games ever get good again?  Final Fantasy 2 and 3 and Chrono Trigger were amazingly fun and addictive.  I remember trying Chrono Cross and being blinded by the obnoxious pixels taking up the entire screen.  I couldn't tell who was who in that muddy game of grotesque pixels.
I had to type "Final Fantasy 6" to get pictures of FF3.  What's that about?

 Justin Gabriel v Hunico v Great Khali v Apathy?
I'm not a huge fan of Justin Gabriel but he's inoffensive and I wouldn't mind seeing him replace Evan Bourne as Kofi Kingston's tag team mate.  That's about as far as I could go with him, though.

Hunico, on the other hand, is the man.  He's up there with Cody and Sheamus for me.  Despite his lame TNA quality gimmick, he still manages to impress whenever he actually wrestles or talks.  There are so many angles they could do with him but generic Mexican gang member heel is the one they chose to go with instead.
It's a step up from being an extra on The Shield, I guess.
Anyway, so these guys come in and before they get to the stage, Cody Rhodes (who was still hanging out around the ring like a sad puppy) jumps Justin Gabriel, and Hunico and Comacho come in to beat him down.  Khali then comes in for the save, for some reason.  Man, Khali, that guy is awful.

Now, I'm really reluctant to hate on anyone.  These guys are having their labor value exploited for profit.  Even still, I can't get past how bad of a wrestler the Great Khali is.  On the one hand, the only reason he's there is because of his size but because of his size, he can't actually wrestle.  He walks with the grace of someone wearing stilts for the first time.  It's bad.
Grade: D


 Backstage Segment
This segment starts with Teddy Long being disappointed in Drew McIntyre yet again.  I'm really okay with this whole notion that you have to win or do something interesting to stay employed.  It's taking a little bit of real life and incorporating it into the show's story.  My major problem is that matches and events with everyone else in the WWE don't seem to actually matter.  If this was a plot device that was widely used, it could work.  There's a lot I want to say about the natural drama that comes from sports and business that the WWE seems to totally ignore, but I think that will have to come later.

After Drew leaves, Santino comes in to talk about how his tag team with Yoshi Tatsu didn't work out but that he had a new tag team partner.  We now get to see Hacksaw Jim Duggan and I groan a little bit.  Don't get me wrong, if they feel the need to bring back these older guys it is best they are used as gimmicks or in comedy segments, so it isn't like Hacksaw Jim Duggan is coming in to bury Dolph Ziggler or something.  

After this Aksana comes in for one of her terrible bits with Teddy Long.  This wasn't terrible, though, as there was an actual joke that made me chuckle.  Good job, WWE.

Grade: C


Santino & Hacksaw Jim Duggan v Epico & Primo & Rosa's Boobs
One of the things that always surprises, and it did at the House Show a few weeks ago, is how much the crowd loves Santino.  I like Santino but it's always weird to hear him get a huge pop.  
That kid is my new hero.  Seriously, he loves wrestling and we should all follow his lead.
I'm not going to lie and say this was a good match or anything.  Hacksaw was better than expected and just looks like an old Motorhead roadie.  USA! USA! chants weren't as awful and racist as they usually are because of Hacksaw's presence.  Cole was even good when he mentioned that USA chants are kind of weird since Puerto Rico is a protectorate (it's actually a commonwealth, but whatever) of the USA.    I also approved of Rosa distracting Santino, and his Cobra, and letting Epico and Primo get the win.

I could go on and on about the merits of a healthy Tag Team Division and how they have all the pieces to do that right now.  That will likely be another post in the future.
Grade C+


Daniel Bryan & Veganism v Michael Cole & WWE Universe
Daniel Bryan is amazing.  From the handshake fake to the CM Punk styled rants against the horrors of eating meat, it was all just great.  I've always liked his sincerity and earnestness on the mic but I still have to admit that he's done a lot better with this heel turn than I expected.  It also doesn't hurt that he's right about the issue of eating meat.

Look, I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian.  I was a vegetarian for many years but for various reasons have started to eat meat again.  There are so many compelling ethical, moral, and health reasons to not eat meat.  CM Danielson is right that if any of us were to go to a slaughterhouse and actually see how the animals are treated, we would also instantly swear to never eat meat.  The industrialization of our food supply and the environmental devastation that has resulted from it are two huge issues that go largely unnoticed.  He's totally right.
AJ is ridiculously cute in a neck brace.  That says weird things about me.
Big Show eventually comes out and says that he was late because he was enjoying a "great big steak".  I would love if Jeff Hardy came out during one of CM Punk's diatribes and apologizes for being late because of all the meth he was smoking.  Big Show comes out and is kind of boring and AJ comes out later to save the day.  It's not a great segment but it ends with Daniel Bryan doing one of my favorite understated heel things: he becomes a total White Knight in trying to protect AJ.  It's great.
Grade: B


Beth Phoenix & Natalya v Aksana & Tamina
I have nothing else to add.
Grade: F

More Commercials
These two SyFy reality shows about doing practical effects look interesting.  I'll never watch them, but they could be great.  

The John Cena commercial from Monday also airs.  It's really well done.  Good job, WWE.


Backstage Segment
I really like the fact that despite Randy Orton being a baby face that he's still really upfront about how he's a bad guy.  Randy Orton's appeal is interesting.  He's a sociopath that hears voices and is willing to hurt anyone he encounters but he's a baby face on account of his ridiculous abs.  I actually can't find any fault with this logic.

At this point, Wade Barrett comes out to the ring for his match with Randy Orton.  His new music is really awful.  I like Wade Barrett enough, he's not up there with Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler, but he's solid. He really needs to work on music that opens up with better lyrical content.  His last song started with "I've had enough!" and I would always think, "Yeah, I think I've had enough of Wade Barrett."  His new song starts out with "You don't care anymore!" and I'm thinking, "Yeah, I really don't care about Wade Barrett anymore."  

I'm just saying that he should have a song that starts with, "I've fucked your mom!" or something.  Get to work on that, Jim Johnson.

We then go back to the backstage where Daniel Bryan and AJ confront Teddy Long about "that bully, Big Show."  It's a quick bit but leads to something later.

And with that we go to another commercial :(
Grade: C+


Randy Orton versus Wade "You Don't Care Anymore" Barrett
I have to be honest that I didn't watch this match as closely as I should have.  It was good enough, though, and Wade Barrett and Randy Orton have good chemistry together in the ring.  I don't want to be too harsh on Wade Barrett, especially as I think he's a perfectly good wrestler, but this always felt like a placeholder feud for Randy Orton until someone else came along.  It just doesn't have the intensity or interest that Orton's feud with Christian had, for instance.
There were a lot of good spots and this match was a very solid way to close a weekly show.  They sometimes give away excellent matches on their weekly shows and underwhelm on the PPVs (see this past week for an example) but tonight was solid.

After Orton won Daniel Bryan decided to come out and be amazing.  He's the best, seriously.
Grade: B
Overall
Minus the horribly obvious, this was a really solid episode of Smackdown.  Smackdown has been better than Raw for at least the last two years but this week, I think Raw had the better overall show.

There were two solid matches, some effective humor, and it moved some stories along.  

My major criticism is that this episode, similar to last week's Smackdown, had a lot of wasted time that they could have spent on actual wrestling.  They could have easily thrown in another solid match if they ditched the Cena commercial and cut some of the talking bits.  Smackdown needs to focus on the wrestling, and if they let Hunico or some of other guys really show off, it would make the roster better and pay dividends in the future.

Overall it was an enjoyable episode and I'm still really happy to see Daniel Bryan getting so much attention.  I watch NXT and Superstars regularly and I'm very happy to see him on Smackdown and Raw instead of on those shows.  4 months ago you had to watch NXT or Superstars to see him, so I'm going to try to focus on how excited I am that my favorite wrestler has a World Championship.
Grade: B-

THESTINGER thanks you for reading!
All gifs are stolen shamelessly from Jerusalem on the Something Awful forums.

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