There was a very good first time singles bout pitting heel-in-waiting Randy Orton against Antonio Cesaro. The match featured the impressive sight of Cesaro performing the Swiss Death uppercut on ‘The Viper’. Not only was the action good but the new gimmick ‘The Swiss Superman’ debuted before the match was priceless.
He came out waving an American flag as a pre-taped played. In that Cesaro explained that he is chasing the American dream (the one immigrants talk about, not Dusty Rhodes) and will be entering the Royal Rumble. He then sarcastically chanted “USA!” Sadly the audience didn’t blast him with the anti-American chant during the match. I’m looking forward to seeing how he reacts to it now that he is “pro America”. Hopefully it will be reacting as if the crowd are backing him.
Dolph Ziggler teamed with AJ to take on the Great Khali and Natalya. Normally I wouldn’t say that anything involving ‘The Punjabi Playboy’ was a highlight but this was a good example of how to use him. If he has to be used as an active wrestler then pair him up with a good worker (Natalya) and put him opposite someone who can make him look good (Ziggler).
The post-match sequence was a positive too. Big E dropped Khali with his weird body tackle clothesline and then pounded Hornswoggle. Overpowering Khali will convince someone somewhere that Langston is a powerhouse (which is his gimmick, so that’s a good thing) while his treatment of Hornswoggle makes him look like a pretty nasty piece of work (or a hero, depending on your feelings of the alleged leprechaun).
The match wasn’t the best way of moving ‘The Show Off’ up the card, but he was at least on the winning team. And he hit the Fameasser on Khali.
Finally there was the brief Team Hell No v Prime Time Players match. It’s always good to see Daniel Bryan getting ring time on SmackDown and the PTPs are an underrated act who have improved a lot since they became main roster regulars. They’re going to be tag team champions at some point (probably after Hell No and the Rhodes Scholars split) so it makes sense to keep them relevant with regular TV appearances.
Also, Titus O’Neil is a pretty fun heel character.
So, back to the two memorable points. The World Heavyweight title changing hands was unexpected (as much as a title change on a taped show can be, anyway). HeavHeI’d assumed the belt would stay on Big Show for at least a few more weeks. Losing it to Sheamus to add something to the upcoming Sheamus v Orton feud seemed possible, as did ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ remaining champ until WrestleMania in order to put over Ryback.
I don’t think anyone had assumed ADR would be taking the WHC from Show. It raises the question of what WWE’s plan is. Will ADR be added to the Sheamus v Orton programme to make it a three-way at ‘Mania? Is he going to be a transitional champion, losing to ‘Great White’ or ‘The Apex Predator’ over the next few weeks? Has he just been given the strap to avoid an awkward heel versus heel clash when Ziggler cashes in?
There’s no obvious answer here. Del Rio v Sheamus v Orton seems an unlikely direction for WrestleMania but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Based on their four-way clash at last year’s Over The Limit (also involving Chris Jericho) they’d have a ‘Mania quality outing, which is what really counts.
It seems equally unlikely that ‘The Essence of Excellence’ is going to be a transitional champ. WWE went out of their way to portray him as “a Latino hero” on SmackDown. To give him a short title reign would not help his portrayal as someone fans can rally behind. If Del Rio is to replace Mysterio as the company’s number one Latino worker he’ll need a title reign that lasts until at least Elimination Chamber.
Besides, if WWE wanted the WHC on either Sheamus or Orton they could have simply have one of them beat Show.
ADR having the belt to provide Ziggler with a compatible opponent seems the likeliest reason at this moment. Having ‘The Heel’ defeat Del Rio would start a programme between the two that would be fresh heading into WrestleMania, and allow WWE to book a Shock Moment™ sometime in the next couple of months. Ziggler and Del Rio having the first fair singles match of their feud on the ‘Mania undercard seems distinctly possible as it wouldn’t interfere with the Orton v Sheamus match.
Then there was The Rock’s appearance. ‘The Great One’ was actually far more entertaining here than he was on Monday’s RAW. Part of the reason for that (as I mention below) was because there wasn’t as much expectation for this appearance. Everyone knew Punk and Rock would clash on RAW, and with the reputations of both men it was always going to be tough to deliver. Punk did. I don’t believe Rock did.
I can't be the only one who hopes this eventually leads to a singles match on SmackDown
Here though ‘The Brahma Bull’ was on fine form. It was very possibly his best showing since returning to wrestling in 2011. Free from the pressure of building up a pay-per-view main event with the promotion’s most heavily pushed act Rock was able to return to the freewheeling approach that got him to the top in the first place, concentrating on having fun and entertaining fans.
Pairing him with the Rhodes Scholars was a smart move too. Having Rock go solo without his guitar and the trappings of a Rock Concert would have run the risk of it becoming an endless stream of catchphrases. The pompous Sandow and Rhodes were the perfect foils for The Rock, and they also benefited from sharing the ring with such a big star.
With more SmackDown appearances from the Rock over the next few months I’m hopeful that the show may see a return to form. Perhaps Rock may get back into the ring on TV. If he does both Sandow and Rhodes will be waiting.
Tweet 1: Tonight... ON SMACKDOWN!Tweet 2: The Rock! The Rock! The Rock! The Rock! And The Rock! Plus… The Rock!
Tweet 3: Oh, and Big Show and ADR get it on (not like that).
Booker T promo, featuring Big Show and Alberto Del Rio
Tweet 4: Here's Booker T. I wonder how he feels about JBL replacing him on commentary. He's probably not happy with it but remains professional.Tweet 5: Why did they start playing music for Booker to talk over? It was weird.
Tweet 6: Where's Chimel?
Tweet 7: "There are no Latino heroes" - Big Show
Tweet 8: Remember the 2,035 world titles matches ADR had last year? Apparently the writing team don't...
Tweet 9: WWE are hyping The Rock's SmackDown by showing him beating... Shawn Stasiak. If anything that's going to lose viewers.
Antonio Cesaro v Randy Orton
Tweet 10: Orton's facial expression says "I don't care."Tweet 11: Antonio Cesaro. Heeeey!!
Tweet 12: Cesaro waving the US flag: priceless.
Tweet 13: Save the first ever match between Cesaro and Orton for a pay-per-view? What on Earth for?!
Tweet 14: Josh just said that JBL’s been in WWE for a long time. He returned after three and a half years away last year.
Tweet 15: Cesaro hitting Orton with Swiss Death (that elevated European uppercut he does) is mighty impressive.
Tweet 16: The Shield run in and power bomb Orton. Afterwards Seth Rollins gets overexcited and (once again) screams "Believe in The Shield!"
Tweet 17: Rollins will do himself a mischief if he carries on like that.
Two proud Americans
Matt Striker interviews 3MB
Tweet 18: 3MB. The group The Shield could have been.Tweet 19: That gimmick is so ridiculous it's amazing. They should be on TV every week. Give 'em the tag belts.
CM Punk promo
Tweet 20: #pretapedPunkpromoTweet 21: Nothing gets heat like a heel champion putting on a football jersey.
Tweet 22: Naturally the promo wasn't as good as the one on RAW but that was still a solid verbal showing from Punk.
Dolph Ziggler, AJ Lee and Big E Langston entrance
Tweet 23: #heretoshowtheworld #heel #heelsdoitbetter
Matt Striker interviews Alberto Del Rio
Tweet 24: Back from a break and we randomly see Alberto Del Rio doing his boots up.Tweet 25: Del Rio's sloppy English is not a babyface trait.
Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee v The Great Khali and Natalya
Tweet 26: Khali roaring into the camera there.Tweet 27: Why is Ziggler being wasted with Khali? This is appalling.
Tweet 28: AJ skipping round Khali isn’t a good move. If he keeps facing her he'll knacker his knees. They're ropey already.
Tweet 29: AJ just did a textbook Sliced Bread Number 2, complete with Spanky-esque pose afterwards.
Tweet 30: Big E takes down Khali. That's how you get someone over as powerful.
Tweet 31: Fameasser! #BadAssBillyZiggler
Tweet 32: Big E Langston licking his fingers while looking at Hornswoggle is perhaps the most sinister thing I've ever seen.
CM Punk promo
Tweet 33: More Punk. Heyman's weird grin is a highlight.Tweet 34: Heyman is claiming that Punk is better than The Rock. How surprising!
Tweet 35: Punk throwing a shirt on the floor is pure heat. No really, it is. It's just that the crowd didn't get the memo...
Tweet 36: Second Rock memory? The Rock 'n' Sock Connection. Surely there must be more Rock moments than that and jobbing out Stasiak.
Tweet 37: Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe in twenty years all people will remember about Rock's wrestling career is him throwing Stasiak over the top rope.
The Rock promo, featuring The Rhodes Scholars
Tweet 38: Milk that entrance...Tweet 39: What is the point of Rock's promo? So far it seems rudderless.
Tweet 40: Mixed reaction for Flo Rida.
Tweet 41: "Cookiepuss" chant. This will be Rock's sole contribution to the wrestling business in 2013. The man's lost his catchphrase touch.
Tweet 42: Why is The Rock talking about his football career? From what I've heard, including comments from Rock himself, he was dreadful.
Tweet 43: Rhodes Scholars! A wonderful treat.
Tweet 44: #BFFs
Tweet 45: Rock's getting the dreaded "What?" chants. In fairness he's taking it well and playing up to it. Only thing to do.
Tweet 46: Unless you're R-Truth and then you can pull off "Don't boo what me!"
Tweet 47: But Rock, strange as it is to type, is no R-Truth.
Tweet 48: "If I want to grow a moustache I'll grow a moustache!" - Cody Rhodes
Tweet 49: The big question here is what nicknames will Rhodes and Sandow be given?
Tweet 50: I may have enjoyed this segment more than Rock and Punk's showdown on RAW. Not expecting as much helped.
Tweet 51: Rock was on far better form on this show. Nice use of Sandow and Rhodes too. 'The Great One' should be elevating more guys like that.
Sheamus v Heath Slater
Tweet 52: After an appearance from The Rock the only way to go is down. So naturally you send out Sheamus. Things can't get worse than him...Tweet 53: Classic stalling tactics from 3MB. Jinders Mahal decides!
Tweet 54: Slater goes down to a Brogue Kick. Ala Daniel Bryan.
Team Hell No v The Prime Time Players
Tweet 55: I don't like the combined entrance for Team Hell No. It doesn't get as many "Yes!" chants.Tweet 56: Dear JBL, please stop wittering on about other US sports. I don't care about them. Thanks.
Tweet 57: 'Dazzling' Daniel Bryan.
Tweet 58: Didn't Kane pin D-Young after a choke slam a few weeks ago? I think he did. Unimaginative booking.
World Heavyweight championship – Big Show (c) v Alberto Del Rio
Tweet 59: Big Show comes lumbering out looking supremely confident. It's at this point I wish that I hadn’t had the finish of this match spoiled.Tweet 60: Is Ricardo not doing the ring entrance?
Tweet 61: Ah, here we are...
Tweet 62: Albertooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Delllllllllllllllll Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooooooooooooo!!
Tweet 63: I wasn't convinced ADR would work as a face but the fans did love shouting along with Ricardo there. Good sign.
Tweet 64: Two minutes into the match and Del Rio is put through a table. He's back on his feet by five. Whatever happened to the art of selling?
Tweet 65: Big Show should start using the superkick in his matches.
Tweet 66: ADR is a buffoon. He just leapt off the top rope right into Show's waiting hand. How am I supposed to support a man like that?
Tweet 67: Big Show launches Del Rio through the ringside barricades, prompting a flurry of wooooooos from fans.
Tweet 68: I didn't know the barricade spot was something Flair was known for...
Tweet 69: "He's not really up... but he is" - Josh 'Schroedinger' Mathews
Tweet 70: I suspect there's going to be a table bump...
Tweet 71: Why? Because Big Show is standing next to the announce desk and allowing himself to be hit repeatedly.
Tweet 72: Hmmmmm... In an interesting turn of events Big Show fell over behind the desk and ADR tipped it on top of him.
Tweet 73: So that's how Del Rio becomes World champ. Via a table weighing down a fat lad.
Is Ricardo sneaking up on ADR?