It’s time for the first Smackdown review on the new site.
Daniel Bryan is Better than Ever
It remains to be seen for the rest of the show, but the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia is full of good people. I went to the Royal Rumble there by myself in 2011, and had a great time with all of the friendly people sitting around me.
Thus, it comes as no surprise when the arena goes full-on with Yes! Chants as Daniel Bryan walks down the ramp. If you watch, you’ll notice that Bryan himself isn’t even chanting, as he usually does. He is walking calmly, and smiling warmly, but the smile fades from his mouth (but not his eyes) as he enters the ring and looks out at everyone chanting. Suddenly, he blurts out “NO! NO! NO!” with the accompanying gestures, and EVERY FAN IMMEDIATELY FREEZES. He talks about his journey from being all about “No” to all about the “Yes Movement” and last year’s WrestleMania, which automatically prompts everyone to start chanting “Yes” agan. Then he brings the room down again, by saying he won’t be having the championship re-match that he wanted, and won’t be in the main event this year. He poses the question, “Is the Yes Movement dead?” and everyone chants “NO! NO! NO!” right away.
That’s how good he is. All of his efforts over the last 2-3 years (and for many fans, years beyond that) are paying off now. He is like a maestro conducting the crowd, because Daniel Bryan is not only beloved, but highly skilled across the board. He needed to walk the line between good and bad during his feud with Roman Reigns, and so we got to peer deeper into Bryan’s mat skills, and see more nuanced promos too.
He has a bit of a history with Shawn Michaels (having attended his namesake wrestling school, and cutting promos against him last year) and now he sports the signature HBK hairdo. Will he also share Michaels’ path of being that much better after coming back from a major injury?
Dean Ambrose is Better as an Underdog
In his throwaway match against Miz, Ambrose gets all his moves in, but I find him far less interesting when he’s not being threatened. I don’t believe for a second that The Miz could do damage to Dean Ambrose, let alone get a win off him, so Ambrose’s offense (and defense too) has no bite.
I want good things for Miz, even post-Mizdow, so let’s not feed him to everyone who needs a placeholder on the road to WrestleMania. (He does appear later in a backstage segment with Mizdow that shines.)
Someone Read Twitter, Perhaps Unfortunately
#GiveDivasAChance was a trending topic on social media earlier this week, after a Divas match on Raw hit a new low in terms of time allotted and consideration taken. The hashtag got so much momentum that even Vince spoke up in response, basically saying “wait and see”, and this Smackdown match between Natalya and Naomi was an interesting view into what Vince meant. He threw all the hashtaggers a bone by sending out Natalya and Naomi – who can wrestle. He gave them more than the 30 seconds that the women got on Raw. But it was only a few minutes, and it was a spot-fest mess. Naomi and Natalya demonstrated every single flashy move they have, strung together in a sloppy manner, as if they had learned all these tricks but had no clue how to tell a story. I hate to say it, because you can see (and we have seen elsewhere) that these two women can put on a good match. Give it all that you got, but you’ve only got 3 minutes… it’s a recipe for disaster. And I know and you know that Vince knows that.
John Cena Doesn’t Do Atlanta
They sent out Jack Swagger instead, when Rusev and Lana were crowing over their victory at Fastlane. I guess they no longer find it worth paying for Zeb’s airfare, because Swagger comes out alone to take the Accolade.
OH MY GOD, WHAT’S UP
R-Truth sits at the announce table during the Barrett/Bryan match, because they’re forcing him into the I-C title scene. He looks at Byron Saxton, and mistakes him for Jonathan Coachman. He welcomes him back, and says he loves him on SportsCenter. The look on Saxton’s face says it all.
Saxton tells Truth that instead of trying to get a title shot using hashtags, he should actually work for the opportunity.
I will say, even though this match requires no comment, Truth is working it on the mic. He is pulling out every random, wacky tidbit that made him so endearing at the height of the Little Jimmy/Confederate era. He spends a lot of time decrying Ambrose’s thievery, then sneaks over to the IC belt himself – dramatically tiptoeing like Elmer Fudd – and puts the belt under his shirt.
I guess you also need to know that Barrett loses the match. Worst prestigious champion ever. He comes over to the announce table to inquire about his title belt, and while Truth says “We ain’t seen nothin!” Saxton looks on with pinched disdain, as if he cannot believe his life has come to this. I love him.
Roman Reigns Does Not Do Jokes
Bless him for trying, I guess. In his Very Special sit-down interview with my new best friend Byron Saxton, Reigns tries to joke about preparing for his match with Lesnar. He says he’s going to go on a cruise and have a tropical drink. You can tell that jokes, even sarcasm, are not his strong suit. But he gets it back on track, and speaks passionately about what he truly needs to do. He hangs back on the cocky, overcooked accent, but does admit that he can be cocky. He talks about relying on his family for advice and support. Keep it simple, keep it factual.
Axelmania is Running Wild
This storyline reminds me of my childhood, because they would often give the lower-tier wrestlers a goofy bit for WrestleMania – it’s something to laugh about, without wasting the talent who you really want to see wrestle. Axel is killing it, and even though he loses to Fandango tonight, it plays into his “loser who won’t back down” persona.
Beware of Sock Monkeys
Goldust beats Adam Rose, and then one of the Rosebuds – a Sock Monkey – attacks Goldust. Of course the Sock Monkey is Stardust, and I’m okay with it. It seems we can’t travel the road to WrestleMania without onlookers-in-disguise attacking their foes. I guess you’ve never really made it in WWE unless you’ve pretended to be a fan, a Rosebud, or a Druid. Someone should explain that to the Fraulein in the background.
The Intercontinental Title is as Prestigious as the Hardcore Title
Barrett brings the belt out in the opening segment, to interrupt Daniel Bryan and challenge him to a match.
Dean Ambrose comes out and steals it in that segment.
During Dean Ambrose’s match against Miz, Barrett comes out and takes it back.
During Barrett’s match against Bryan, R-Truth steals it.
Backstage, R-Truth tries to tell Ambrose that he won the belt, but then willingly hands it over to Ambrose when the latter threatens him.
Rowan, Ryback, and Ziggler are Hot in Atlanta
As sick as we all are of this match between them and The Authority’s crew, there is no denying that this trio clicks with the crowd. Ziggler played the babyface in peril, and everyone was hot for Ryback to make the tag in. When he did, he dazzled with Rollins, looking like an able-bodied beast.
But seriously, where else can this go? Please, please let it be the end.