The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 1/22/15: All That And A Stuffed Crust

Kane fulfilling his one remaining purpose in WWE.

Pre-show Notes:

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Worst: Thanks to John Cena

Daniel Bryan kicked off Smackdown, which I have a feeling will be a bit of a running theme in 2015, and basically did a scruffy, endearing version of a Smackdown Special. In a somewhat monotonous cadence, he reminded us that the Royal Rumble was this weekend, that he’s facing Kane tonight and that Sting showed up on Raw, but what he really wanted to talk about was how amazing and great John Cena was for defying the odds again and winning Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback their jobs back. This was only the beginning – the mighty Cena would get the “Where’s Poochy?” treatment all night. Speaking of which…

Worst: The Little Show-Off Who Could

Bryan called Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback down to the ring, and they all had to cut defiant promos about how they’d overcome The Authority, while simultaneously giving John Cena all the credit. Shockingly, it didn’t work out so well. Guys, you sat at home while the one dude who gets infinite tries to get it right brute-forced a solution – it’s okay if you’re pumped to be back, but don’t swagger in like you stuck it to The Authority. You didn’t stick thing one to The Authority.

Eventually Ziggler grabbed the ball and went on a slightly odd rant in which he named-dropped stuffed crust pizza and took jabs at both Steph and Hunter’s workout videos and CM Punk via a thinly-veiled comment about “sitting at home on the couch, complaining on podcasts” — and this guy wonders why he has so many enemies.

This brought out The Authority (minus the two actual leaders) and Seth Rollins was a wonderfully sycophantic heel. He doesn’t want to hear about your fancy stuffed crust pizzas and furthermore, Stephanie and Hunter’s workout videos are actually phenomenal, thank you very much. Now that’s how you get ahead. Ziggler got into it with Seth and the rest of The Authority, and the poor guy totally blew up trying to deliver his shitty WWE face dialog – I thought he was going to have to grab a headlock after a particularly tortured zinger involving fitness videos, cardio and Rollins running from Lesnar.

All in all, this show’s opening talky segment was a solid 22-minutes long, which I suppose I ought get used to now that Smackdown is nominally important again. I just wish their was a middle-ground between the “just get it over with” promos of Smackdowns past, and your Raw-style gabfests.

Worst: What Kind of Deck Stacking is This?

Of the three guys that were fired, Dolph is the one The Authority has the most serious vendetta against, and yet they put him in a Royal Rumble qualifying match against Bad News Barrett. Unless the Intercontinental Title is on the line, Barrett is about as tough to beat as Zack Ryder. Step up your deck stacking game, guys.

The match itself was nothing special. Barrett started working the arm almost as soon as the bell rang, and the action never really picked up from there. Barrett has the same issue as Roman Reigns, except even worse – the body of his matches are usually just boring filler. The only part of a Barrett match that actually matters is the last 30-seconds when he either hits his elbow, or misses allowing the other guy to hit his finisher. Why should I care about a guy working the arm for 10-minutes when he’s never won a single match with any sort of arm submission? I really wish more guys would ask themselves these kind of basic questions when putting their stuff together.

Worst: Dude, His Last Name Was “Giant”

Thanks for warning us before the commercial break that a Roman Reigns promo was coming. Awfully sporting of you, WWE. Okay, I’m steeled, let’s do this.

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking Roman’s promos have taken a positive turn since he’s no longer quoting Porky Pig or referring to himself as lil’ ol’ Roman, but really, while more generic in its badness, this promo was right up there with his worst. He started off by implying Big Show isn’t a real man because he’s always reminding people he’s a giant, unlike Andre THE GIANT. Trust me Roman, Andre leaned on the giant thing pretty hard. He said he has no friends just so he could use his One vs. All line, even though he chums around with Dean Ambrose every other show and was hugging legends on Raw. He unironically uttered the phrase “cocked, locked and ready to rock” after cocking his arm like a gun. At least Renee had the appropriate response to this nonsense…

…when Roman and his fully deployed penis arm can’t make Renee Young swoon anymore, you know the project is off the rails.

Worst: Metal Dean Solid Could Use Some More Testing

This new WWE stealth game is the worst. Dean Ambrose creeps up and very slowly, very obviously steals Fandango’s Rumble number in plain view of a ref and Rosa Mendes, and no alert is triggered. I could understand if it was just Rosa, her AI is spotty at best, but Ambrose was directly in that ref’s cone of vision. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long for an Ambrose patch.

Also, does nobody write down these numbers once they’re picked? Do you just have to carry a ping pong ball around in your pocket all weekend until the Rumble? What’s stopping Titus O’Neil from buying his own ball and writing “30” on it in Sharpie?

Worst: Ryback

In theory, Rusev vs. Ryback should be a fun hoss fight, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, Rusev actually works best with smaller, quicker guys and, well, Ryback is Ryback. Rusev tried his hardest to muscle Ryback through a good match, but the big guy resisted at every turn. Some of Ryback’s lowlights in this match included completely messing up a vertical suplex, dropping Rusev on his hip in the ropes in the process, and herking Rusev up for the Shellshock, realizing the match wasn’t supposed to be over yet, then hitting him with some weird jawbreaker variation instead. It was rough chuckles, and then we got a lame count-out finish to top it all off. Can Ryback maybe go back to sitting on the couch eating stuffed crust pizzas?

Worst: Growing Out of Bella

I didn’t get around to reporting on it, but apparently Nikki Bella suffered a hamstring injury this past weekend. Don’t worry though, I kept an eagle eye trained on Nikki’s legs during this match, and she seemed hale and hearty to me, so that important Total Divas tag match at the Rumble is still on.

I hate to give a segment involving Nikki a Worst so early in 2015, but I dunno – now that she’s been re-teamed with her sister, there’s been a bit of a backslide. WWE has them doing classic cue card-reading robot replicons promos again, and Nikki is better than that now. Brie drops some line about Paige only dating vampires because she’s pale and Nikki’s like “what are you even on about?”

Anywho, there was a match here between [checks notes] Brie and Naomi, which featured Naomi’s new butt slingshot gear, so it had that going for it. Honestly all my attention was on Paige and Natalya trying to make their sudden friendship and impending heart rending break-up make sense and failing. When’s AJ coming back? We need to dilute the Total Divas-ness a bit.

A guy who looks like this doesn’t need to talk.  

Worst: Bray Makes Cheesy Promos Seem Easy

I give Bray a lot of flack for his corny promos, but at least they’re well-delivered – Luke Harper’s promos are corny and stilted. On the bright side, at least he’s dropped that dagburn southern accent of his.

Worst: I Can See Through That Tumbler

A bit more number picking nitpicking for you – you can see through the sides of that tumbler, and they’re letting the guys pick their own numbers, so why don’t they just rummage around a bit and pick a good one? Also, the Rhodes boys should just schedule an annual vacation during the Rumble – it’s never works out well for their relationship or their career.

Best: Family Feud

Survived this far? Okay, well this is where this show gets good. Harper vs. Rowan was actually a lot of fun, and surprisingly that can mostly be attributed to Rowan.

I’m not sure what lit a fire under Rowan (probably being the only guy to lose his qualifying match tonight) but the dude was working his substantial ass off. At one point these two guys who probably weigh well over 600-pounds combined did a powerbomb reversal spot like there were a giant, hairy Billy Kidman and Blitzkrieg. Later in the match Rowan went for he powerbomb again and Jackknifed Harper like it was nothing. If Rowan keeps this up…well, let’s be honest, it probably won’t help him at all, but at least I’ll be entertained.

Best: The Crowd is Never Cheering For You

Man, are they even selling pumpkin spice lattes anymore? Either Sandow has a time machine, or just carries his own pumpkin spice around – either way, that’s the kind of man you want to keep close at all times.

Unfortunately, despite Sandow’s hot drink procuring prowess, it looks like they’re planning to pull the trigger on the Miz/Mizdow break-up. This segment was well acted and I fully expect the “Does Sandow throw himself out after Miz is eliminated?” spot to be the emotional highlight of the Rumble, but still, allow me a wistful sigh. Oh, and f*ck straight off Jimmy and Jey – just because two guys didn’t start as a single zygote doesn’t mean you have to deuce-oh on their friendship.

Best: Bryan vs. Kane

For the most part, I’d say this wasn’t quite as good as Bryan and Kane’s match from last week, as this go-round didn’t have the electricity and butterflies of it being Bryan’s first match back after injury, and Kane wasn’t quite as motivated as he was last week, but come on, it was still pretty damn rad. I mean, there was a bit where Bryan took turns kicking and caning Kane while the audience Yes’d along – the day something like that doesn’t bring me joy is the day I give up watching this wrestling stuff.

Towards the end J&J security got heavily involved, which allowed Bryan to do the thing he does better than any other wrestler ever – ping pong between multiple guys and pull out an against-the-odds win in a believable, non-Superman kinda way. Kane is mostly useless these days, but he still has the potent history with Bryan, and even though it probably shouldn’t have been, Bryan hitting that knee and pinning Kane one-on-one was cathartic as f*ck.

Daniel Bryan has had two good matches in a row with Kane. Point proven. Now, let us never see this match again.

Best: The Pre-Rumble Shmozz

Since this is the last show before the Rumble, The Authority attacked Daniel Bryan, Ambrose ran to the rescue, Reigns awkwardly tried to run to rescue, but couldn’t because there were stairs and people in his way, then the rest of the locker room emptied and the traditional pre-Royal Rumble brawl was on. Pro wrestling can be frustratingly set in its ways, but how can you not love a sport that still relies on the kind of quaint “Look how many guys there are in the ring!” promotional tactics?

See you at the Rumble Royale, folks.