Date: January 15, 2015
Location: Baton Rouge River Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Commentators: Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
Reviewed by Tommy Hall
Smackdown is back on Thursday nights in its original time slot, which might mean WWE will put a fresh focus on it instead of just using it as a dumping ground for whatever they can't fit on Raw. The big story tonight is Daniel Bryan's return to the ring for the first time since his neck surgery in May. Let's get to it.
Here's Daniel Bryan (with a fresh set of name graphics) for an in ring chat. Daniel says he should be in good spirits because he's back home where he belongs, in front of these great people, wearing his gear and ready to fight. Saxton shows him a clip of Kane tombstoning Bryan on everything he could find and Bryan looks a bit shaken. He talks about being Kane's partner and brother, but then Kane stabbed everyone in the back by trading in the mask for a suit.
Doctor after doctor has told him that he would never wrestle again but now he's ready. Of course he's worried about his neck but tonight he's going to prove himself by fighting Kane, winning the Royal Rumble and then getting his title back at Wrestlemania. Now some people think that's just a pipe dream, but YES he thinks he can do it. This brings out the Authority who actually doesn't have anything to say before the match starts.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
Bryan charges right at him to start but Kane takes him down with a single forearm to the back. They head to the corner where Bryan smartens up and goes after the knee. As usual though, Kane doesn't seem interested in selling and takes Daniel down with a pair of neckbreakers. A cravate doesn't last long so Kane kicks him in the head for two. I know I rip on Kane a lot but at least he's smart enough to go after the obvious body part. A neck crank has Bryan in even more trouble but he's able to kick Kane to the floor.
Kane is staggered up against the barricade but not staggered enough to let Bryan hit a flying knee from the apron as he punches Daniel out of the air. Back from a break with Kane holding a chinlock, followed by a running DDT for two. Off to the chinlock as the Authority plays cheerleader. For some reason the Noble seems like he would be very enthusiastic in that role. Kane loads up a superplex but gets shoved down and dropkicked for two. The kicks to the chest get the same but the Stooges come in to break up the YES Lock for the DQ at 11:41.
Rating: C-. If there isn't something else later in the night, I'm sending WWE a bill for the injuries suffered from my eyes rolling that hard. There is no way WWE doesn't let Bryan get a clean win in his big comeback match against Kane. Bryan looked fine but there's only so much you can tell in a match that didn't even get eight minutes of TV time. I did like Kane going after the neck and setting up the tombstone. It never ceases to amaze me when you have someone coming back off an injury and their opponent goes after a different body part. Even Shawn did that once when HHH had a bandaged leg.
Bryan fights back and finally runs away from the numbers advantage. The Authority stays after him but Reigns and Ambrose come out to stand next to them. HHH makes a six man with those three against Kane, Big Show and Rollins later tonight.
Randy Savage Hall of Fame video. I'm very worried about Hogan turning the induction speech into a way to talk about how great he was.
Bray Wyatt is not a human being but for thousands of years, society has labeled people like him a threat. At some point, his poison starts to seep out of the cracks. All those people over the years have been right, and it's going to be too late to run after he wins the Royal Rumble.
Usos/Naomi vs. Damien Mizdow/Miz/Alicia Fox
Miz/Mizdow vs. Usos for the titles is official for the Rumble. Mizdow gets a huge ovation as he's on the apron and watching Miz start with Jimmy. The brothers elbow Miz down for the double team elbow, followed by a nice suicide dive from Jey. Mizdow finally gets the tag but Fox tags herself in. That's fine with Naomi, who goes off on Fox for taking her spot on Total Divas. Pay no attention to Naomi still being on the show of course. A cross body gets two on Fox and it's already back to Miz vs. Jimmy.
The Reality Check is broken up and a double clothesline puts both guys down. The ice cold tag brings in Jey for a Samoan drop, followed by a Whisper in the Wind. Fox makes the save, only to have Jimmy throw Naomi at her for a cool looking spot. Mizdow tries to come in but takes a superkick to the hands (clearly didn't get close to his face). The distraction works though, allowing Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the pin on Jimmy at 4:50.
Rating: D+. Cool Naomi throwing spot aside, this feud is really getting dry. The Naomi Goes Hollywood part has been completely dropped, which you almost had to expect because it was actually interesting. That basically leaves Miz fighting the Usos in a handicap feud as we wait on Mizdow to finally break off on his own, even though they passed his peak about a month ago. At least the girls were there to keep this from being the champions losing in another non-title match.
Roman Reigns is with Renee Young (who has chopped off a lot of her hair) and says his partners would be in big trouble if this was the Royal Rumble. However, Dean is his boy and he has no issue with Bryan. On the other hand, he has a problem with the Authority and their giant crybaby Big Show. When it comes to the Royal Rumble, it's one vs. all. Dean and Bryan are part of the all, and that leaves him as the one. This felt a lot more natural from Reigns and it worked better than his usual stuff. The lack of fairy tales or Looney Tunes lines helped too.
Here's a ticked off Heyman with something to say. We look back at Rollins laying out Lesnar to end Raw and standing tall over the champion. Heyman says he's afraid for the first time because there's a threat to Lesnar. Brock has conquered everyone and everything because he can. When he beat up the Undertaker and broke the Streak or suplexed John Cena 16 times, it was all because he could and felt like doing it because he didn't have anything else to do on a Sunday night.
Now his purpose is to F5 the future of the WWE back into the past, but here are Rollins and the Stooges to interrupt. Seth is sick and tired of hearing about how awesome Brock Lesnar is and accusing him of hiding behind the Authority. He isn't afraid of Brock Lesnar and is going to cash in right now. Let's give the fans a treat for the show being back on Thursdays and have Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins right now....but Brock isn't here.
Rollins isn't cool with that and threatens to curb stomp Heyman if he can't curb stomp Lesnar. Heyman tells Rollins to be original because everyone threatens to beat him up when Lesnar isn't around. Seth is right in his face and says he's going to curb stomp Heyman and take away Lesnar's greatest asset. Then at the Royal Rumble, it's Rollins vs. all brawn and no brains, leaving Brock as nothing more than a 300lb mass of muscle that he can run circles around.
The facts are that he's curb stomped Lesnar twice now and he's going to do it again at the Royal Rumble, so why shouldn't he knock Heyman out right now? Paul says the Authority has been removed from power once so what makes Rollins think they can't be removed again by hook, crook, or by Vince McMahon's whims?
He's gained power every single day since he returned to the WWE and been by Brock Lesnar's side. Brock Lesnar has a death grip on the WWE Championship and he will control it as long as he likes. He can control that title by either defending the title or protecting the new champion when Heyman decides that the future is now. Paul drops the mic and leaves Rollins with a lot to think about.
This story has gone from another dull title match to one of the better stories around the title in a good while. Rollins is looking like a monster on equal footing with Lesnar and Cena in the span of a week. There's always the chance that this is the annual Royal Rumble challenger who goes nowhere after, but I'm totally buying into Rollins as a main event player. After the year he's had, there's a real argument to be made for him to win the title and defend it at Wrestlemania. I'd love to see him stop being the Authority's lap dog if nothing else.
Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
Non-title and Paige is here to counteract Brie. Natalya goes for the leg to start but gets taken down by a flying armbar of all things. She actually stays on the arm instead of yelling at the crowd but Natalya lifts Nikki into the air to break up a short arm scissors. Back up and Natalya steps onto Nikki's back before to drive her face first into the mat, followed by a running dropkick to the face.
Brie gets on the apron for a distraction, accidentally allowing Paige to slap Nikki. I'm sure they'll argue about it and then forget it a month later with no resolution. The Sharpshooter makes Nikki tap at 2:40. This would be their third match since December 29 now. Well that settles it. We MUST continue this feud at the Rumble. I for one couldn't survive without the thrilling end to this saga.
Big Show cuts Renee off and brags about knocking out Cena and Reigns this past Monday. Tonight he'll knock out all three but more importantly he's entering the Royal Rumble. That's where he dominates because no one can throw him over the top. Kane comes up and says he's in the Rumble as well.
Intercontinental Title: Sin Cara vs. Bad News Barrett
Rematch after last week where Sin Cara beat Barrett in a non-title match. Cara gets two off a rollup just after the bell and hits an enziguri from the apron to stagger Bad News. Barrett has had enough of that though and hammers Cara down before whipping him hard into the corner for two.
We hit the chinlock for a few moments before Cara hits a springboard spinning cross body for two. The announcers actually bring up Barrett's past troubles against Cara for some context. The Winds of Change lays Cara out but the Bull Hammer is countered into a rollup into a powerbomb. Cara misses the Swanton though and the Bull Hammer retains the title at 2:51. I'm so glad they had the champ get pinned clean to set up this epic showdown. To be fair though this was fun while it lasted.
The announcers plug the WWE Network launching in the UK, which went live a few days earlier than planned.
Dean Ambrose is in a dimly lit room and says he was the one you avoided on the playground. His report card always said he was disruptive in class, but that works really well for him in the Royal Rumble. The winner of the match isn't going to care about friendships or their own well being. Don't count him out, because you should be counting him in. His partners tonight have one big thing in common: they all detest the Authority.
Kane/Big Show/Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Dean Ambrose
Seth and Dean get things going with Ambrose slamming him face first into the buckle. He rips at Seth's hair and stomps at the ribs before bringing in Reigns for a nice suplex. Roman starts working on the arm but lets Rollins go for a tag to Kane. Reigns throws the big bald around for a bit before tagging Bryan in for the rapid fire kicks in the corner. A big uppercut finally puts Bryan down but Ambrose is right there to stop the Stooges from getting involved.
Everything breaks down in a fight on the floor and the good guys stand tall in the ring (not as tall as Big Show and Kane but still tall) as we take a break. Back with Ambrose stomping Rollins in the corner and hitting his dropkick up against the ropes for two. Seth finally sends him into the corner and ties Dean in the Tree of Woe to work on the injured knee.
Off to Big Show for something like an ankle lock but pushing forward on the shin instead of the foot. Rollins gets two off a running forearm in the corner and we hit the chinlock. Again I wonder why you would do that when you should know it's going to lead to a comeback. Back to Big Show as the Authority keeps things slow, hopefully leading to the hot tag to Bryan. I'll settle for one to Reigns as long as we don't hear another scripted promo.
Show hooks that same leg lock before Kane comes in and keeps up his good psychology by cranking on the knee. Seth comes back in and talks a lot of trash, earning him a slap in the face. The rebound clothesline finally puts Kane down but Rollins breaks up another tag. Dean sends him to the floor but everything breaks down on the floor. With everyone else fighting, Ambrose dives over for the hot tag to Bryan. Daniel cleans house and hits the Flying Goat on Kane and a top rope hurricanrana for two on Seth.
Kane comes back in with a chokeslam for two with Reigns having to make the save. Show loads up the announcers' table but Reigns jumps him to put both guys down. The YES Lock goes on Kane but Rollins makes a save. Dean's standing elbow takes out Rollins and the Stooges on the floor, leaving Bryan to escape the tombstone and hit the running knee for the pin on Kane at 17:48.
Rating: B+. This got a lot better as things went on and the slow build worked well here. I'm really glad Bryan won in the end and thankfully they kept the focus off Reigns vs. Big Show. At the end of the day, there just isn't enough interest in that feud to validate giving it the attention here. Ambrose selling a knee injury is a good way to keep him from 100% and makes the losses a bit easier to sit through. Really solid main event here though and a good main event for the first show back on the old night.
Post match HHH comes out and says Bryan's luck is running out. Next week on Smackdown, Kane is getting a rematch against Bryan and if Kane wins, Daniel is out of the Rumble.
Overall Rating: B-. The show was good but there's one thing I liked more than anything (well anything other than the main event): HHH making Kane vs. Bryan for next week. It's not the biggest match in the world, but it's a match being announced in advanced for Smackdown with a week's notice. If you're lucky you'll get a match announced four days in advance, but this feels like a match for Smackdown, not a match that happens as a result of something on Raw. It's like they're treating Smackdown as a show that matters, even if it's just a bit at first. That's something this show has been lacking for years now.
The rest of the show felt like a regular episode, meaning the wrestling was good to decent and mostly skippable. The main event was really good though and worth seeing, but most important of all is how they put a match on this show that people would want to see and it was given the time to stand out. If this were on Raw, they would have had to squeeze it in around a twenty minute promo, the New Day and Adam Rose beating up the Bunny for the 19th time. Hopefully Smackdown gets some more attention and is able to take some of the pressure off Raw, which would help both shows and the TV product as a whole.
Daniel Bryan b. Kane via DQ when Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury interfered
Miz/Damien Mizdow/Alicia Fox b. Usos/Naomi – Skull Crushing Finale to Jimmy
Natalya b. Nikki Bella – Sharpshooter
Bad News Barrett b. Sin Cara – Bull Hammer
Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Dean Ambrose b. Kane/Big Show/Seth Rollins – Running knee to Kane
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