WWE SmackDown – Review, Highlights & Analysis From 22/01/2015  

Welcoming Back Rowan, Harper & Ziggler 

Daniel Bryan decides that he wasn’t going to spend time, talking about his match with Kane. Instead, he gained some face points by welcoming Rowan, Harper & Ziggler back.

Ryback’s speech was themed “my dream since I was 12”, while Rowan’s first real promo was centered around the idea of “I was naïve, I was a puppet but now I know who I really am”. Both of them sounded awkward on the mic.  I felt I was listening to Disney Princess’ sharing their life stories.

I would have maybe thought that it was my fault, since I didn’t feel either promo but then Dolph Ziggler took the mic and demonstrated how it’s done. His emotion got the crowd up on their feet. The Show Off’s promo was so good that he outshined Rowan & Harper without even trying. Also, taking a shot at CM Punk was a bold move. I didn’t see it coming.

Then Seth Rollins, Kane & The Big Show accompanied by J&J Security came out to play opposition. Rollins and Ziggler budded heads for a bit but the attention soon passed onto Daniel Bryan and Kane. The entire argument led to the first match of the night.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bad News Barrett

This was the first of a series of qualifying matches in which the face needs to win to get in the Royal Rumble, while the heel is protected, regardless of the outcome.

I had forgotten how good Ziggler is at selling. He made Barrett look impressively strong, although BNB got defeated in a relatively short match.

Ziggler just makes good TV. He’s agile and generally exciting. Also, he tells a story well. From the three fired men, he’s the one that actually makes the product noticeably better with his work.

Roman Reigns

In all fairness, Reigns did well on this promo. Calling the Big Show a “little insecure man, trapped in a giant’s body” was a very colourful description.

What I liked the most, however, was the way Reigns applied the “one vs. all” idea to the Rumble. It obviously is the basic principle of this type of a match but Roman gave it personal meaning.  His logic was something in the lines of : I have no friends to back me up, so everything I get, I’ve earned. I like this way of thinking. It’s just.

Royal Rumble Lottery

Fandango pulled out a number and was really, really happy. He decided to thank Rosa, who spun the balls for him by continuously telling her “Excellent work, baby! You’re so good, baby!”, while heavily breathing in her ear and then the two of them started kissing passionately.  These two are a seriously disturbing duo. It just reminded me of Creepy Curtis in a way.

Meanwhile, Dena Ambrose casually stole Fandango’s number and replaced it with his. Cheeky.

Ryback vs. Rusev

These picked up form where they left off. The feud between them hadn’t lost any steam.

There was no shortage of anger and aggression. I was impressed with Rusev once again. The moment you think he’s been overpowered or outdone in any way, he comes back with a new shot or upps your power move with one of his own.

Ryback stepped up to the plate too. He did a great job at matching Rusev’s work on every level. This is the type of a match you want to see – both men push each other further and further out of sheer competitiveness.

In the end,  we all knew that Ryback was going to win because the WWE just wouldn’t deprive the Big Guy from a Royal Rumble opportunity.  We also knew that Rusev wasn’t going to submit or get pinned because this match wasn’t nearly important enough for Rusev’s streak to be broken there, so when Ryback won by a count out it came as no surprise.

Rusev was infuriated by the outcome since he missed the count for a second or so. He attacked Ryback but the Big Guy countered and came on top. However, Rusev slipped out of the Shell Shock.

This is the type of booking I’m talking about. Ryback stood tall but Rusev, regardless of the fact that he retreated, still saved face because he didn’t allow his opponent to hit his best move. The WWE should do this more often.

Naomi vs. Brie

Naomi and Brie actually produced a decent match in the ring. I would have enjoyed watching it if I hadn’t been distracted by Paige and Natalya arguing on commentary.

Brie won and Naomi is back to being irrelevant. I hoped that the Usos storyline would give Naomi the push she deserves. I’d like to see her as the Divas’ Champion but that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.

We’re back to the storyline of Paige and her incapability of making real friends.  Tyson Kidd has also been dragged into this plot for some unknown reasons. Girls are taking jabs at Tyson from all directions and he’s not even remotely involved.

Luke Harper

Luke Harper cut a promo on Erick Rowan. I don’t think it was his best mic work. He used the right words but the delivery was below his usual level.

Royal Rumble Lottery 2

This time Gold & Stardust tried their luck at the numbers’ lottery. We don’t know how well they did but we sure know that they aren’t planning to help each other.

“Every man for himself”, they said. I wonder if that’s good or bad. It could go either way. They could go completely separate after this or it could be a defense against a Royal Rumble based break-up. If they had agreed to not help each other, then there would be no reason to argue if one eliminates the other.

Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper

Luke Harper defeated Erick Rowan in a short an unimpressive match. It was a surprise to everyone but I’m not sure if too many people cared about it.

I personally felt bad for Rowan. The other two won their qualifying matches, so he’s the only one left out. And in the bigger picture, he might be the only one left out again. What does he win form getting excluded from the biggest feud-starter of a match? A character turn for the worse? Best case scenario – this would start the Harper vs Rowan rivalry, which is already past its expiry date.

Seth Rollins / Kane Backstage

Kane asked Rollins to borrow J&J Security for his match with Daniel Bryan. Rollins agreed.

Wouldn’t it have been better for Kane if he had asked Rollins himself to be at ringside, accompanied by the Big Show?

Miz/ Mizdow/ The Usos

Mizdow apologized to the Miz for having dressed up as X Pac on Raw. Then Miz made sure to crush all of Mizdow’s hopes by telling him that no one ever really cheers for him, since the stunt double is only an extension to the real star.

Miz left and the Usos stopped Mizdow to talk to him. They told him that in Rumble match he shouldn’t eliminate himself once the Miz is gone because headlining WrestleMania is a huge opportunity.

Mizdow seemed to dismiss the idea but the seeds were planted.

Daniel Bryan vs. Kane

For a match we’ve seen too many times before and the ending of which we’re certain off, it was good.

Kane used everything he had at his disposal – barricades, chairs, kendo sticks, steps and of course J&J Security. Daniel Bryan played the underdog but in subtly enough to be able to fight back and still maintain his role.

The victory for Bryan came after an exciting sequence of counters, which could have led to either man winning.

As this was the last show before the Royal Rumble, a ring full of superstars was expected as the closing segment. The WWE didn’t disappoint. Big Show attacked Daniel Bryan and then the Ziggler, Rowan & Ryback came to the rescue. Afterwards, the whole locker room rushed out.

It’s funny that the only two superstars that got entrance music were Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. It comes to tell you who are the ones to watch.

I’d also like to direct some attention to Ambrose’s insanely good ability to tell a story. In the mini Royal Rumble preview, he stood in front of Roman Reigns but he kept looking over his shoulder to check whether the man he calls “brother” won’t try to eliminate him. Ambrose is just that much of a perfectionist when it comes to building his character.

The faces stood tall in the end of the night but at the Royal Rumble anything could happen. Who do you think will win this year?

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