Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Jerry 'The King' Lawler welcomed us to the show, immediately hyping Reigns v Big Show and Bryan v Kane in a casket match. They referred to it as the final battle in their long feud. It’s worth noting at this point that the Bryan and Kane problems date back to the spring of 2012. They’ve feuded, on and off, for nearly three years. Time will tell whether this really will be the end but I'm not expecting it to be true.
Triple H got things going with a promo. Because WWE is incapable of starting live TV shows without an in-ring promo. He welcomed the crowd to Monday Night RAW (what a joker, eh?) before putting over WWE being great for working around not being allowed to do RAW on Monday and finally hitting their Network subscribers goal. After some jokes about balls (related to some sort of NFL controversy I'm not aware of because I’m not American) he said he will resolve the problem that is Sting at Fast Lane.
Then he talked about the controversy of the Royal Rumble. Apparently Reigns winning is considered controversial. I don't understand why it's controversial that a man won a match completely legally. 'The Game' said he'd end the controversy on Monday's RAW. Presumably this will take the form of a match announcement for Fast Lane.
|Roman Reigns smouldering.|
Before Tripper could leave he was joined by Reigns, who agreed with my feeling that his Rumble win was not a controversial situation. He was booed. Big Show was brought out for their scheduled match and Trips ambled backstage. The match would have been enjoyable had Reigns steamed through Show in minutes, a dynamic performance to demonstrate that he's above proven losers like Show.
But that didn't happen. What we got was a twelve and a half minute match that saw Reigns being worked over and failing to look like a powerhouse. At one point he did a performed a headscissors takedown, the exact opposite of the sort of moves he should be doing. He was also heavily booed throughout the match. WWE should have realised less is more and limited Reigns' camera time. He did at least win though, kicking out of a choke slam to hit two Superman punches, on a 'Giant' who had stupidly clambered up to the top rope, and a spear. Yep, it took three finishers to put Show down.
After a reminder that Schwarzenegger is going into the Hall of Fame Seth Rollins wandered out for a bit of a chat. His entrance got more cheers than Reigns' did. He put over his performance at the Rumble, how he’d come one second away from winning the title, and how he’s broken Lesnar's rib. He issued an open challenge, waited for approximately one second, and then started bragging that nobody wanted to face him.
|Ryback not ruling.|
Ryback's music hit and he came out to prove Rollins wrong. J&J Security and Rollins jumped Ryback. ‘Eerie’ Erick Rowan made the save. Rollins knocked him off the apron and went back to stomping 'The Big Guy'. Ziggler came out to round things out. The heels managed to fight their way out of the ring and ran backstage. I expected this to lead to a match later in the show. It didn’t.
We were next shown a topless Kane caressing a casket in a dimly lit room somewhere in the building. He talked about ending Daniel Bryan. It was distinctly un-PG.
Match number two was the very promising Tyson Kidd v Jey Uso. Sadly they got less than three minutes, nowhere near long enough for the competitive match they could have produced. Kidd worked the leg and got the win after drop kicking the knee and hitting a fisherman’s neck breaker. This match should have had its time swapped with Reigns and Show. That would have resulted in a far more enjoyable match and Reigns looking like a juggernaut for trouncing Show.
Another shot of Kane was shown with the casket. This time he didn't say anything. He just gazed into the casket. Maybe he was thinking about Katie Vick?
Rusev and Lana rocked up for a promo as the first hour drew to a close. Speaking English, Rusev said he should have won the Rumble. Even though he was thrown out easily and Reigns never got put over the top rope. Weak argument, bro. He said he deserved Lesnar but he was being given a man with no titles, hunger or desire, a man from the past, John Cena.
Naturally these words brought Cena out to the ring. Cena half-heartedly put over Rusev's accomplishments then vigorously talked himself up before challenging Rusev to fight him then and there. Rusev was up for it. Lana told him not to waste his time. He listened to her and they left the ring. The crowd booed. Cena made a gag about Lana being a ho and said he'd defeat Rusev at Fast Lane. But he would say that wouldn't he.
|I'm not liking Rusev's chances.|
There’s time to make the Rusev v Cena feud great but their early interactions haven’t filled me with confidence. Cena doesn’t seem to want to treat Rusev seriously. If he doesn’t then he’ll undo a year of good work building Rusev up as a credible upper mid-card heel and tank his chances of progressing further. The progression would help the company as a whole but create competition for Cena. It’s worth remembering that.
Paige spoke to Renee Young about her Divas championship match at Fast Lane. She was immediately interrupted by the Bellas. They made comments about Paige's skin tone, comparing her to snow and vampires. Paige laughed then elbowed Brie. The Bellas ended the segment on top, Nikki posing with her belt like she was in the ring.
The Ascension had a picture in picture promo as they headed to the ring for their match against Goldust and Stardust. Konnor called the New Age Outlaws D-geriatrics (because they were in D-Generation X, geddit?) and Viktor called Goldust "Oldust". Great stuff. The writing team really earned their money with this stellar material. It was a standard issue tag match. Stardust was pinned with The Fall of Man after tagging himself in against Goldust's better judgement.
Kane was again shown with the casket. Smoke had appeared in the room since he was last shown. He laughed (maybe because of the smoke?) then slammed the casket shut.
It wasn’t main event time quite yet. A backstage promoting a Syfy show about magic had to take place first. Alicia Fox, Zack Ryder, Summer Rae, and R-Truth were shown marking out over a magician from said Syfy magic show. He took a bite out of an Oreo cookie appear (product placement much?) and then made a whole one appear. Everyone was amazed by this.
Miz and Mizdow showed up. The magician lad said he'd always wanted to do a "trick" (ermmmmmm... real magicians call them illusions) with an A-lister. Miz fawned before the guy revealed he was talking about Mizdow, who broke character to shake his hand. The guy taught Miz a trick. Mizdow mimed Miz’s hand movements. The magician ended up cracking an egg he'd made appear on Miz's face, to prove it was real. It was as funny as you'd expect. In other words, not at all (except for Mizdow's miming).
In a darkened room Bray Wyatt asked what made people happy. He revealed that he's happy doing things most people aren't. He also mentioned smiles. It was even more pointless than the magic skit.
Budget cuts meant that there were no crew to set up the casket for the casket match. Kane had to wheel it out and put it in place before Bryan's entrance. Poor old Kane, always getting lumbered with the unglamorous jobs. And, for that matter, the jobs.
They had the best match possible considering the crummy gimmick they were lumbered with and the over familiarity of their pairing together. The final three minutes were very good. Bryan slipped out of a Tombstone piledriver on the apron and hit several charging drop kicks, wobbling 'The Demon' over the coffin before getting thrown to the mat with a choke slam. ‘The Big Red Machine’ rolled Bryan into the casket and leant across him to close the lid. Bryan applied the Yes Lock and worked Kane into the casket and himself onto the apron. He tried closing the thing but Kane fought out and back into the ring where they ran through Tombstone, Yes Lock and choke slam attempts before D-Bry yanked down the top rope and a charging Kane wound up on the apron. A roundhouse kick dizzied him and a running knee sent him sprawling back into the casket, slamming the lid closed to win.
|He's beaten Kane on SmackDown but what will he do at WrestleMania?|
Bryan stood on the casket celebrating for two minutes before the show ended. It was a long time to celebrate, but for some reason the decision had been made for Michael Cole to yammer away about Triple H’s promise to address the imaginary controversy on RAW as the show closed. Bryan had to hang about because of that. Still, there are worse ways to close a show.
For the most part this SmackDown was decent. I’m concerned about the way WWE are choosing to use Reigns though. Having him win the Rumble is one thing, putting him in lengthy singles matches on TV is another. It doesn’t play to his strengths and it’s going to do nothing to dissipate the hostility towards him. Having him blitz people inside three minutes is the way to go. Something tells me they’re not going to learn that though.