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Smackdown - January 22, 2015

Date: January 22, 2015
Location: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
Commentators: Byron Saxton, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler

Reviewed by Tommy Hall

Much like last week, this actually feels like a big show. The main event for tonight is again Bryan vs. Kane, now in a No DQ match with Bryan's Rumble spot on the line. The show had a significantly bigger audience last week compared to the normal audiences on Fridays, so maybe we're in for more big time shows. Let's get to it.

We open with a recap of the end of Raw with Sting helping Cena win the 3-1 handicap match to save Cena's spot in the Sunday's title match but more importantly getting Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback's jobs back.

Opening sequence.

Here's Daniel Bryan to get things going. He's excited to get on the Road to Wrestlemania and would love to talk about his No DQ match tonight and how he won't let anything stop him from winning the Royal Rumble. He could talk about how obsessed he is with getting the WWE World Heavyweight Championship back. Or he could talk about Sting's first ever appearance on Raw and how it ruined the Authority's night.

However, there's something more important than that, and it's what John Cena accomplished on Raw. There are three people with something to say about it, so here are Ryback, Rowan and Ziggler for their big returns. Well as big as they can be after just getting a few weeks off. It's really hard to care about them being fired when they're back in just a few weeks.

The fans chant FEED ME MORE at Ryback before he compares his firing to Bryan's injury. The Big Guy is back but doesn't have much more to say other than catchphrases. Rowan says being gone was sort of a blessing because he had a lot of time to sit back and think. Believe it or not, he used to be a different person. He was naive and someone's puppet, but these last few weeks have let them (as in he and the sheep mask) know who he really is.

That leaves us with Ziggler, who of course gets the biggest reaction of the three. Ziggler set around eating stuffed crust pizza and watched the HHH and Stephanie fitness DVDs. He's joking of course and brings up all the momentum he had before getting fired (because WWE loves to build people up and then take them off TV). But the Authority tried to take it away because they're a threat. He would rather stay here and take a beating like never before than going home sitting on his couch and complaining on a podcast (it had been too long since the last Punk cheap shot).

Cue the Authority minus the actual authority with Rollins saying this is a Survivor Series reunion with a garden gnome replacing Bryan. Ziggler wants to beat Rollins up right now but Rollins has more important things to do than deal with someone who sits on a couch eating stuffed crust pizza. Oh and the fitness DVDs are AWESOME! Ziggler says Rollins must enjoy them because he's never seen anyone run away from Lesnar that fast.

Kane tells Bryan to calm down because he still has to survive tonight to get into the Rumble. Bryan responds by showing a clip of Lesnar destroying Kane and Big Show to close Raw. That's not cool with Big Show who promises to win the Rumble on Sunday because the four people in the ring are all losers. Kane promises to go to depraved levels to destroy Bryan but turns his attention to Ziggler. Since he's a new employee, Ziggler has to start back at the bottom of the ladder and work his way back to the Intercontinental Title. However, Kane is willing to give Ziggler a match against Barrett right now.

Royal Rumble Qualifying Match: Bad News Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler

Non-title and only Ziggler can qualify with a win. Barrett easily takes him down to start but gets caught in a headlock. A nice dropkick gets two for Dolph but a headscissors is countered with a kick to the ribs. They head outside where Barrett sends him into the apron before cranking on the arm back inside. This is the kind of stuff I'd like to see more of: someone grabbing a body part and cranking on it for the middle part of the match.

A top wristlock has Ziggler in trouble but he avoids a charge in the corner. The running DDT gets two for Dolph and we take a break. Back with Barrett going back to the arm but Ziggler rolls through to send Barrett shoulder first into the post. Dolph nails a big superkick for two more and both guys are down. Back up and the champ kicks him in the ribs but the Bull Hammer is blocked, setting up the Zig Zag for the pin at 10:54.

Rating: D+. Barrett losing all the time is officially a running joke. I mean, it has to be. There's no way they can think this is the logical way to book anything. The match was actually pretty dull with neither guy going out of the ordinary. I'm not sure what the solution is for Barrett, but this stuff is turning him into more and more of a waste every week.

We recap Ascension getting beaten down by the legends on Raw.

Reigns looks at the footage of Big Show going after the legends from Raw and knocking out Flair until Reigns made the save. Roman doesn't know if Renee Young has heard, but Big Show is a giant. If you haven't heard, just listen because it's all he ever talks about. Andre never had to do that because his actions did the talking.

Show also always talks about Reigns wanting his spot, but Reigns wants his own spot. In the Rumble, everyone is all over the place and his fist is cocked, locked and ready to rock. He's the one vs. all and he's the one standing at the end. Believe that. This was FAR better than his usual stuff and felt much more natural.

Fandango draws his Rumble number and seems very pleased. As he dances with Rosa, Ambrose sneaks in and steals his number. The referee monitoring the drawing has no issue with this.

Ryback vs. Rusev

Non-title again and only Ryback can qualify. Ryback hits a hard shoulder but Rusev frantically rolls outside before the cover. Back in and Ryback hits a nice suplex, sending Rusev's legs into the ropes in the process. The champ bails to the floor again but is able to dropkick a charging Ryback to take over. We take a break and come back with Rusev getting two off a DDT.

Rusev wraps the leg around the post, hoping Ryback actually sells it unlike he did in the Big Show match a few weeks back. Ryback takes advantage of Rusev's trash talking and hits a slingshot belly to back suplex and a powerslam for two. A Backpack Stunner gets two more and Ryback stops to hold his knee (to be fair Rusev didn't do much to the knee so it's not as annoying this time).

Ryback's powerbomb is countered into an Alabama Slam (Siberia Slam?) for two but he just runs Rusev over. For some reason Ryback goes up top, only to be quickly crotched down for two. Rusev tells himself to crush but Ryback fights out of the Accolade and loads up the Meathook, sending Rusev running again. Ryback follows and hammers away before beating the count at 13:47.

Rating: C+. Who would have thought these two would be better than Ziggler and Barrett? There was even a bit of a story told with Rusev running a lot in the beginning and then losing when he tried it once too often. Ryback can do a decent power match and Rusev is finding ways to keep the unpinned streak alive without looking stupid. I'll call this a pleasant surprise.

Rusev goes after him again but gets dispatched one more time.

Brie Bella vs. Naomi

Paige and Natalya are on commentary. Thankfully the BRIE MODE is gone. The Bellas mock Natalya for loving cats and call Paige a vampire. Paige corrects them by saying she's a glampire and a black heart. Naomi kicks at Brie's leg as Paige and Natalya debate if they're friends or not. Paige calls Tyson Kidd an idiot as Naomi gets her throat snapped across the top rope for two. Brie misses her running knee but hits a jawbreaker on the knee, setting up the Bella Buster for the pin at 2:20. So much for Naomi meaning anything.

Luke Harper says you can send anyone into the Royal Rumble, but don't send in anyone you want back. Rowan better not blink or the monsters will get him. Are you scared yet?

Goldust and Stardust draw their numbers and hiss at each other.

Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper

Only Rowan can qualify. They slug it out to start and Rowan runs him over with a shoulder for an early two. Harper busts out a freaking hurricanrana to counter a powerbomb. This guy is not normal. Rowan just throws him into the corner and gets two more off a spin kick. Luke bites the fingers to block I think a full nelson but this time Rowan's powerbomb connects for two. Erick misses a top rope splash though and a superkick and discus lariat gives Harper the pin at 3:20.

Rating: C. The more I see Harper the more I wonder why he isn't being pushed to the moon and back. On the other hand, the more I see Rowan, the more I wonder why they even bothered pushing him in the first place. He's fine in the ring and I like his potential, but he's just a big jobber at this point and it seems like that's all he was ever meant to be.

Kane borrows the Stooges for his match with Bryan.

Rumble by the numbers video.

Miz is annoyed at Mizdow for imitating X-Pac without his permission. Mizdow says the fans liked it but Miz says no one cheers for him because they're all cheering for Miz. Miz also rejects the pumpkin latte for having the wrong amount of foam. He leaves and the Usos come up and tell Mizdow that he can get his hands on Miz in the Rumble. The idea intrigues Mizdow but he still looks conflicted.

Kane vs. Daniel Bryan

No DQ with Bryan's Rumble spot on the line and the Stooges in Kane's corner. A cross body gets one on Kane but Bryan has to go after the Stooges, allowing Kane to kick him down to the floor. He stays on the neck with a neckbreaker on the floor before dropping him onto the barricade. It's kendo stick time with Bryan getting cracked over the back a few times before they head back inside.

Daniel gets the cane to cane Kane before alternating between kicks and cane shots to the back. A big kick to the head is only good for two and Kane knocks him out of the air as we go to a break. Back with Kane holding a chinlock (what else would he be doing?) and cracking Bryan in the back with a chair for two. The chair gets wedged into the corner but Kane low bridges him to the floor. The Flying Goat is countered with an uppercut and Kane takes over on the floor. Bryan gets whipped into the steps and the Stooges load up the announcers' table. They're already more useful than Patterson and Brisco.

The tomestone and chokeslam are both countered and Kane gets sent into the post to give Daniel a breather. Back in and a bad looking YES Lock has Kane in trouble but the Stooges come in to break it up. Lawler and Cole are incensed but Saxton correctly point out that they're not breaking any rules. Bryan fights them off but eats a chokeslam for two. Kane is livid and gets another chair, only to be sent into the one he wedged in the corner, setting up the running knee to send Bryan to the Rumble at 12:18.

Rating: B-. This was as good as you can expect from Bryan vs. Kane, but the feud needs to end here. Kane as the monster hunting Bryan is only going to get you so far and we passed that point back in April. Having Bryan overcome a small set of odds is the right way to use him and getting the big win off his finisher is the right way to go. I can more than live with Kane in roles like this, with him getting pinned by a bigger star who slays a monster. Why can't we get there with Big Show?

Speaking of Big Show, he drags Bryan back to the ring but Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback come in for the save. The big Rumble brawl is on until Ambrose and Reigns come out to make it serious. Roman cleans house, even though most of the guys were already gone by the time he got in. It gets down to all of the big heroes in the ring (minus Rowan. They're not even hiding it now) and Kane and Big Show on the apron to end the show.

Overall Rating: B-. It's still not a great show, but the important part of this show is stuff happened. Instead of spending a big segment on Raw bringing back the three fired guys, it was saved for here and we even saw two of them qualify for the Rumble. It's not exactly Lesnar and Rollins having a showdown, but I'll take this over the weekly big tag match every day. If WWE can build up momentum for Smackdown, it might get even bigger in the future. Good show this week that felt important.

Dolph Ziggler b. Bad News Barrett – Zig Zag
Ryback b. Rusev via countout
Brie Bella b. Naomi – Bella Buster
Luke Harper b. Erick Rowan – Discus lariat
Daniel Bryan b. Kane – Running knee

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  1. I am absolutely a minority of one when I say this, but Erick Rowan is a missed opportunity. The setup of the character actually intrigued me -- he's a genius farmer who hides behind a sheep's mask and gleefully followed Bray Wyatt while not saying more than a few words at a time. It's very rare you get a character whom we know both a lot and very little about, but I was kinda hoping they'd unpack him more before giving up on him.

  2. It's a character that didn't make any fucking sense and wasn't well performed.

    Weird and off-the-wall doesn't mean good.

  3. Man, if any match sounds like "negative stars" on paper, it's Ryback/Rusev. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that they're actually putting on decent matches. It's a testament to Rusev's improvement.

  4. This also curiously sounds like the plot to the first act of Interstellar!

  5. Wasn't BNB getting over (to the extent that he was) by talking? If he's going to lose all the time, why not at least give him a minute or two (and the podium) to get some heat from the crowd?

    Since winning the IC title, Barrett is 1-3 on televised shows, including a loss to Sin Cara (the only loss he would eventually avenge) in his first match after winning the title.

    His reign is still infinitely (or undefinedly, if we're dividing by zero?) better than Luke Harper, who went 0-8 in televised/PPV matches after winning the title from Ziggler before losing it at TLC.

    Also, why exactly are the Usos faces? They tricked the Miz (who seemed to genuinely be trying to help Naomi's career, telling her not to tell her husband but not blatantly trying to seduce her or anything) to help them get the tag titles back, they used (I think) Twin Magic during a match, and now they are trying to break up Mizdow (yes, suggesting Mizdow act for himself could be viewed as nice, but it also helps the Usos if Miz and Mizdow aren't on the same page in the tag title match before the Royal Rumble itself).

  6. Is booking the IC champ as a loser some kind of long-standing rib? It's happened for so long that I honestly cannot think of any reason to do it other than to fuck with guys.

  7. It is just sad how the WWE has ruined that title.

  8. It felt more to me like they had done nothing to develop Rowan while he was in the Family and then tried to throw a bunch of things at him to see what stuck: randomly stalking Renee to stunning appearance as part of Team Cena as a Rubik's Cube-solving vintner to Tweeting something about how much he wanted to be back in the WWE Universe (I think) while he was "fired." There was no teasing or foreshadowing (to my recollection) of any of these features, nor of any of the new features if he is he packaged/tweaked after this (I don't think they're completely giving up on him yet).

    Rowan has a different look but was done no favors by the sudden Wyatt Family ending.

  9. I was there live. If Lana ever breaks up with Rusev, he's screwed. Ryback may be popular with his "Feed Me More" chants, but Lana got more of a reaction than Rusev. By himself he gets no heat.

  10. Yeah, that's the vibe I get. One exception was when Reigns-Rusev faced off in that battle royal many months ago. Still, I think it's one of those Skip-Sunny deals where the manager is outshining the talent.

  11. It's why they're stuck trying to get Reigns over as a main eventer immediately. They've wrecked all the mid-card titles that could have built him up over a year while developing the skills (in ring and mic) to potentially be a main eventer.

  12. Reigns promo was OK, except the line about Andre never referring to himself as a Giant. Did we mention his professional name was Andre THE GIANT?
    Good Smackdown, overall. Rusev/Ryback was easily my least favorite match (not including the Total Divas Universe Match). There's no need to put these guys out there for 10+ minutes. Rusev is OK, but still limited, and Ryback... is Ryback. 5-minutes tops.

  13. Rusev lost a lot of momentum since winning the US title.

    Without the writers crutch of having him lose a lot of non-title matches to set up a future title match, they truly have no idea of what to do. I'm not even trying to be funny or make a joke, it's really true.

  14. Haven't seen the show, but I read in the spoilers that Daniel Bryan's promo was pretty horrible and Roman Reignsesque. Was it?

  15. It was nothing special but it was fine.

  16. No it wasn't terrible. It was okay. Nothing earth shattering but not bad.

  17. Starring Joaquin Phoenix?

  18. Yeah, and having him suddenly decide "I don't like bullies" was a bit, "um, yeah... and what have you been doing to people in the year leading up to that statement, Erick?"

  19. It's just that Lana and Rusev were created as a matched set. Maybe Lana's the one getting the heat, but she couldn't get it without a body that's going to kick the crap out of somebody.

    I mean...that's how managers work. As long as Rusev is getting heat, he's winning so I really don't see why people are shitting on him. He's one of the few heels on the roster that's actually hated by the crowds.

  20. It's such a limp-dicked character motivation too. Rowan really felt like a guy that WWE decided to push before they had a plan for him so they gave him every cliche Big Guy trick to give them depth (actually smart, actually sensitive, shy about relationships) and hoped it would work, forgetting that Rowan sucks.

    He's going to be the guy that from ten years from now we're going to be shaking our heads at.

    "Remember the Erick Rowan push?"

    "Yeah, what the fuck was that about?"

  21. I wish we could have had Tony Garea vs TL Hopper in one of these dream tournaments

  22. I think Lana could work with Cesaro.

  23. Wow, an early 1997 episode of Superstars without Jesse James, Aldo Montoya, Leif Cassidy, Billy and Bart Gunn? Rarest of rarities.

  24. I think the "actually a genius" thing would have worked, potentially, a lot better if he'd remained a heel.

    Go along the lines of "The smartest thing to do in any situation is appear stupid - that way you're less of a target."

    Have it be that he was working to his own end-game, just slumming it with the Wyatts as it gave him a nice easy casual way to inflict violence on people without being at the forefront of things, then have mysterious things start happening to faces who either pin or get the better of him in tag (or whatever) matches. Stretch this out over a few weeks, with people trying to figure out what the connection is between all these guys being attacked or sabotaged backstage, etc, then eventually have a reveal where one of the faces has set their own trap, catches Rowan in the act and reveals him to be this quiet, in-the-background, lunatic and there you go - instant feud.

  25. "Paige corrects them by saying she's a glampire and a black heart."

    Also a winner and a sole survivor, WOOOOOOO

  26. Naomi is one of the tippy-top actually talented women they have, so of course they job her to El SuckChampistator #2 in two minutes.

  27. That'd be at least creative.

    When is the last time they did a "somebody is beating people up backstage and we don't know who it is" angle?

  28. Well, the best Aksana ever worked was as Cesaro's mouthpiece, so if you get somebody with actual talent...

  29. Sherri seems to get alot of kudos all the time. I think as far as WWE history goes, Sherri is seen as the first woman to be a proper manager and mix it up with the guys. Any of the top ten shows, etc, always have people say how brilliant she was. Watch the Top ten dangerous Divas. Cm Punk gushes over her.

  30. She meant to say "I'm Hoss' sex slave."

    Still need to know who keeps letting the little minx out of my basement.

  31. For one, AJ/Punk do WAY less drugs.

  32. Shouldn't ugly guys making it with hot girls give you hope? I mean, maybe you ain't a looker but maybe there's some supermodel out there who finds you charming.

    I mean, be pissed off if you're gorgeous like me, I have a right to be angry.

  33. At least WWE are consistent, most faces are jerks in 2015.

  34. It's the damndest thing- I liked it when it was uglier dudes in movies, or someone like Foley with a hot wife. I looked to those guys as "everyman" types. But DDP? Dude was like this big, flabby old dude with ugly tattoos and a stupid face (especially when he made the "Diamond" sign, with his eyes bugging out and his mouth all grimaced up like an angry baby). He acted like white trash. And I think I had this instant revulsion that didn't extend to all those other guys.

    Plus as a kid, I was jealous of a lot of guys who were with girls I thought were hot. I had a strong dislike for Chris Candido (Sunny) and Tommy Lee (Pamela Anderson) for much the same reasons.

    Of course it's rather obviously immature now, but you still see that in a lot of things (the "Hot Girls With Douchebags" book, or every time a Men's Magazine would complain about some hot girl being "taken").

  35. It may be part of the reason that truck that reads "Free Ice Cream and Totally Not a Distraction" pulls up outside your house every week.

  36. I know I was watching the WWF during this era, but I have no memory whatsoever of T.L. Hopper.

  37. Naomi's new ring outfit deserves a championship.

    Even retired women who can actually wrestle sing Naomi's praises. Nikki is actually improving in the ring, but Brie... yeesh.

  38. Judd Apatow just casts his real life wife as the wife in all his movies, then makes sure every line of dialogue mentions how hot she is.

  39. The Ghost of Matt_INDEED!!!January 23, 2015 at 6:27 AM

    "Bearer smacks Executioner with the urn, which makes Goldust rub himself to orgasmic bliss. Jesus. DUD"

    The way this was written made me laugh.

  40. I have an idea or two:

    - Rename the belt the Russian Federation Championship, which should have happened about eight seconds after he won.

    - Have him start *wasting* popular guys - Hacksaw maybe even.

    - Let Lana talk! She gets the heat

  41. The Ghost of Matt_INDEED!!!January 23, 2015 at 6:35 AM

    I wish I had your memory then.

  42. I just write off everything that's been done with him since SurSer as "last-minute substitute for Sheamus" and let it slide. I think there's still potential in him but not while he's filling a role he wasn't really ready for.

  43. "I did it all by my sweet little self! Two time Slammy Award winner! I knew it! I'm a winner! WOOOO!"

  44. Didn't he dig poo out of a pool on ppv?

  45. I think it's another instance of a wrestler having the tools and not being properly trained or put in the right situations to use them. The guy has an interesting look, he's athletic, he's been in a lot of decent matches, and he's big. He's willing to do his part to succeed (whether that's in terms of the mid-card, main event, pre show, whatever), but he's not getting the support he needs. Same with the Ascension; If you don't think they're "getting over", then get them over. Assholes.

  46. Rusev is -pretty great.

    Honestly I think I enjoy his matches more than Ziggler's.

    Rusev has better psychology, more realistic selling and better offense (not great, but Dolphs offense is terrible).

  47. Reigns' promo was somewhat ill-worded but it made sense.

    Andre the Giant didn't have to remind people he was a giant because he was a giant, Big Show talks up his size and dominance but never actually dominates.

    Roman should've said 'relied on'.

  48. They started cutting back on Lana's mic time because she kept using 80s methods to get heat (i.e. the "You accuse Russia of shooting down planes" line).

    Though if Lana cut a promo in a gay friendly city about how "America accepting homosexuality has led to it's downfall, as they corrupt your youth and pollute your society" I would flip my shit.


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