The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 1/15/15: He’s Ready

Never leave us again.

Pre-show Notes:

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Worst: What, Drowning Pool Wasn’t Available?

I couldn’t be happier about Smackdown’s new lease on life on Thursdays, but yeesh, that new theme song. Does Vince actually like this nu metal bullshit WWE continues to use? Like, when some whiny millennial is all blah blah, opportunities this, nonsensical writing that, does he just turn up the Staind in his earbuds and float away to his beautiful distortion-filled happy place? Actually, now that I’ve written it, I sort of hope so.

Best: He Wins

Oh man, man, is it good to see Daniel Bryan back in his gear. Most wrestlers look kind of wrong in street clothes, but Daniel Bryan, more than anybody, should never, ever be seen in anything but burgundy underpants. I hope to never see a flannel on the man again. Also, he had to go through a multiple year awkward phase, but his hair finally looks kinda good. Okay, maybe good is going a little far, but he looks like a tough, long-haired Viking dude now instead of a Muppet. Kind of like a mini-Triple H. I’m sure his long hair will look good for exactly one week before it goes straight to drowned rat town, he has to cut it, and two years of looking like a hobo will have been for nothing. Trust me buddy, I’ve been there.

Even better, it seems like Bryan has left his sarcasm and smirking behind (for now). His promo here was straight to the point – he’s going to prove he’s still got it by being the guy who wins. He’s going to win tonight, win at the Royal Rumble and win at Wrestlemania. All catch-phrases and goat masks aside, that’s why the rank and file WWE fans like Bryan. He’s obviously the best wrestler in the company, and when the chips are down, he wins. Simple…as…f*ck. Hopefully Vince keeps busy writing Popeye-themed promos for Roman Reigns or whatever and doesn’t over-complicate this thing.

Best: Yes! Yes! Yes! Don’t Die! Don’t Die! Don’t Die!

I imagine I wasn’t the only one who watched a lot of this match through my fingers. It didn’t help that the first move in the match was Bryan doing the running dropkick in the corner and falling on his head. For the most part though, Bryan seems sturdy enough, and generally looks healthier than when he left. I’d say maybe he’s dialed down the intensity just a little, like maybe 10%, but otherwise he’s still doing all his old moves, even the ones he probably shouldn’t be doing.

Obviously Bryan was trucking around like he usually does, but Kane was clearly more motivated than usual too, working hard enough that he turned a delightful shade of Brock Lesnar purple. This was about as good as a Daniel Bryan/Kane match in 2015 had any right being, but WWE doesn’t like us having nice things, so…

Worst: Can’t You Just Let Him Have This One?

Sigh. You couldn’t give us a finish in Daniel Bryan’s first match in nine months, WWE? I know Triple H has a hate-on for Bryan, but I find it very hard to believe he’d even waste the energy walking down to the ring to save Kane from a loss. There’s petty and then there’s not even letting a guy beat Kane petty.

Best: Yes, Please

After J&J Security broke up the match, it looked like we were going to get our first Daniel Bryan beat-down of 2015, but thankfully Ambrose and Reigns appeared, helped Bryan beat back the Authority, posed with him on the stage and yes, yes, yes, I’ll take it. Put everything on hold, cancel Wrestlemania and just give me half a year of six-mans with The Shield 2.0. Roman can be all “Believe in the beard and believe in The Shield, hoo-ah!” and we’ll all learn to love him again. Dooooo it.

Best: Is The Smoke Machine in His Hat?

I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but they’ve found a way to make Bray Wyatt’s smoke/mist actually come out of his beard and hair. It’s actually a pretty neat visual, or a funny one if you think of the smoke as stink lines on a kid’s drawing (which I of course do).

Don’t get me wrong, the promo itself was the same old crap, but I guess that’s where we are with Bray. His star has fallen far enough that I’m willing to give him a begrudging pat on the back for creative use of the smoke machine. Somebody get Bray some liquid nitrogen and really watch him take his character to the next level.

Best: Not Funny, But Still Fun

A big old holy shit to Naomi’s new gear. We got a sneak-peak on Raw, but on Smackdown she ditched the Usos t-shirt and day-um. She’s straight up wrestling in a Borat swimsuit, and it makes up for all the neon green and checkerboard prints she’s had to make work in the past and then some.

As an aside, a braver, less PG show could definitely have some fun with Miz creeping on Naomi then immediately transferring his affections to Alicia Fox. Dude’s got Maryse at home, but I guess you can make poutine without curds and gravy. Too far?

This wasn’t really your usual Miz/Sandow match, as there weren’t really any stand-out Sandow bits. They continue to dumb down the Mizdow thing for the masses – they’re still making him come in and do big, obvious Miz-mimicking spots on a 30-second delay, but that’s okay, because this was a solid, fun match on its own terms. Everything was just moving at a nice pace, and the Usos were more motivated and hitting harder than usual. Now that I mention it, seemed to be a lot of guys more motivated in the ring tonight – can’t let yourselves be shown up by a guy on his first day back I suppose.

Worst: That’s One vs. All, Folks!

Well…this could have been worse. I mean, it wasn’t Looney Tunes highlight reel-worthy, so that’s something I suppose. Basically they just turned the clock back five months and revived Roman’s One vs. All catchphrase, which I recall hating back when he first started doing it, but in light of recent transgressions it was a comparative breath of fresh air. Like a fart in a burning slaughterhouse.

Best: Brawn and Brains

Paul Heyman was wired tonight. Was the dude feeling nostalgic and sampling a bit of that old ECW booking fuel? Of course coked-up Heyman is even better than regular Heyman, as they guy just spit bug-eyed fire about how Brock ended the Undertaker’s streak and crushed the $100 million Cena franchise just because he felt like it. Heyman then started laying into Seth Rollins, bringing him out, which would usually mean the fun was over, but tonight Rollins was absolutely ready to go one-on-one with Heyman verbally.

If this segment had happened on Raw, it might have been Rollins’ real break-out moment. He was absolutely fantastic here, laying out in no uncertain terms why he isn’t afraid of Brock Lesnar. It almost came off as a face turn, especially when he started to do the jerky WWE “good guy” thing and threaten Paul Heyman, but Rollins made very sure to clarify that he lacked fear was for brainy, conniving reasons (you can’t be a good guy if you’re smart) and that he was threatening Paul because it would give him a competitive edge, not because he was trying to please the crowd. It was really fantastic stuff, and he came off as the rare guy with real fire and determination to get to the top, no matter what it takes. For maybe the first time, those CM Punk comparisons that have followed Rollins his entire career actually felt earned.

Then Heyman fired back, planting the idea that, should Heyman decide to make is so, Rollins could be the Shawn Michaels and Brock Lesnar could be his Diesel, which sounds amazing. Even though Rollins is a villain, I’m totally up for a storyline where Heyman tries to drive a wedge between him and The Authority, so I sincerely hope this was actually the start of something, and not just Heyman saying things he thinks should happen off the cuff.

Best: Somebody Shut Up Nikki’s Hat Rack

Brie now exists entirely to hold Nikki’s hat while she wrestles, and she doesn’t even do a particularly good job of it – on Nikki the hat is lovably dorky, on Brie it’s just a hat. What’s that? Thought I heard somebody mumble something about a pedestal.

Anyways, Nikki/Natalya was a pretty solid match, as it usually is these days. Nikki hossed Nattie across the ring with a hip-toss early, then broke out this flex, which I have GIF-ified for, uh, reasons.

The rest of the match was mostly Nikki working her new Double-Del Rio gimmick, and I was hoping, hoping, she was actually going to win this thing with the cross armbreaker (it’s going to happen eventually, right?) but sadly Paige got in a shot in behind the ref’s back, and Nattie locked in the Sharpshooter for the win. Even though Nikki lost, the finish was still pretty amusing, since Brie decided to respond it by becoming the end of friggin’ Revenge of the Sith. No Nikki, NOOOOOOOOOO. You are the Hayden Christensen of shouting snarky shit at ringside, Brie.

Best: They Didn’t Make Us Wait Until Royal Rumble At Least

So, we got a follow up to Bad News Barrett, SIGH, losing a non-title match to Sin Cara last week, and honestly this week’s match wasn’t bad at all. Continuing tonight’s theme, Sin Cara seemed more motivated than usual, hitting some pretty decent high-flying stuff and even herking BNB up for a one-armed powerbomb at one point, which I definitely wasn’t expecting to see. The match even told a decent little story, with Sin Cara basically going for whatever roll-up and fluke victory he could until Barrett finally lost his patience and started spamming elbows left and right until he finally landed one. A simple, fun match that should happened last week.

Best: Attention Deficit Dean-O

I like that a solid half of Dean Ambrose’s promos still reference his rough childhood, just like they always have, but he now sticks to PG friendly material like getting “Disruptive in class” written on his report card. Whatta rebel. Still, he made a good case for why he’s a good bet to win the Rumble (in theory). It is the crazy lone wolfs who always pull out the win – he’s still getting Superman punched out of the ring by his “brother”, but if this were real, I’d put at least some of my money on Dean.

Best: Like The Last Half of 2014 Never Happened

Ahhhh, he weight is lifting. The toxic ammonia cloud that was the back half of 2014 is dissipating – I can see the light! And what’s that in the light? Is it a six-man tag match featuring The Shield and Daniel Bryan? Yes! Yes, it’s beautiful. So beautiful.

Maybe this wasn’t the best six-man of all time or anything, but everything just felt so right. Everyone was back doing what they do best – Ambrose taking a beating for his team, Reigns sticking to the apron and only coming in to hit a few high-impact spots and both teams working like a well-oiled machine. Then Bryan got the hot tag, and dammit, I take back my comment from his earlier match about him slowing down 10% — he was at 100% here. Hell, if anything he’s added moves to his WWE repertoire, as he was unloading a ton of nice looking European uppercuts in this match. Then Bryan won and 2014 completely disappeared in a puff of smoke. I don’t know how long Bryan can last working at this rate, but whatever, if he wants to go out burning the candle at both ends, then f*ck it, I’m in. Let’s do this thing – onward to Wrestlemania!

Worst: More Kanely Goodness Next Week!

Bryan vs. Kane was pretty solid this week, but Kane got his assed pinned. The issue is over, and I never need to see it again. If Bryan is going to wrestle every match like it’s his last, let’s not unduly risk that last match being with Kane, okay?