Smack of the Week (25/11/2011): American Dragon Riled Up

Daniel Bryan Tried to Cash in His Money in the Bank Briefcase On Mark Henry
To start the show, Mark Henry came out with his Championship title and a crutch. I really liked how Henry sold this, showing that it hurt, but showing real heart at the same time by just struggling his way to the ring and promising to defend his title despite his injury, though he did mention he wasn’t cleared fight (an important point). This made him seem really brave and formidably strong, something Big Show seemed the opposite of when he came to meet Henry. He brought up the way Henry retained his title and insinuated (correctly) that Henry knew that his title was in jeopardy. A defensive World’s Strongest Champion started calling Big Show a two-time loser, to which Show responded with a cheap WMD, knocking the injured, unexpectant champion out. This seemed to be the end of a pretty textbook segment (Henry’s testicular fortitude aside), but then, D. Bryan’s music hit, and this time, there was no doubt that he was compus mentus when he cashed in this time. His main task was to get the behemoth over on his back, and it certainly took him some time, but he managed it and got the 3 count to become champion! He celebrated like he really had won the championship, and looked very emotional while the celebration went on for a long time, taunting Cole and the fans lapping it up. This emotion was quite a feat as it was soon to turn out that his championship win wouldn’t stand because Henry was not cleared to compete. This was obviously quite a striking moment, and the honourable Bryan eventually handed the Championship back. HOWEVER, if he wasn’t to win the championship, why did he try the cash-in (especially given the later results)? It seems to me that the only reason for it is to hint at a less honourable Bryan who might cash in before WrestleMania. I just hope the story stays as many imagine it – him cashing in on Henry at WrestleMania.

Hunico def. Justin Gabriel
Man, Justin Gabriel sucks right now. He cooms out all excited to his teen-bob music, and he comes across as completely lame and unintimidating. He’s just not working, and that might explain this result. This wasn’t a bad match between the two high flyers, and I think it’s great how Hunico has altered his style since failing at being Sin Cara in to a less pretty style that can still be explosive. I think, surprisingly given his genesis after the failed imposter (seriously, those guys rarely go anywhere), that he has a real future, and so it was right that he beat Gabriel. I don’t know if much will come of this, but a nice enough match anyway.

Natalya & Beth Phoenix def. AJ & Kaitlyn
Squash matches are rarely pleasing, but given how low the ‘Divas of Doom’ got a few weeks ago, i’ve enjoyed their recent resurgence. AJ is a great bumper for the DoD’s too, and again, she made Nattie look great by tapping out to the Sharpshooter. Again, Kaitlyn seemed unimpressed with AJ’s performance, not trying to break up the submission, berating her after the match, and not helping her after the match when it was ‘Cry Time’. Alicia Fox, who had been characteristically unconvincing on commentary, had to eventually save AJ, but it seems they’re going ahead with this break-up of the Chickbusters. This is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, it means an actual story for these two to get involved in – on the other hand, I don’t think the they’ve been established enough to make the break-up truly pleasing. We can but wait and see. Could Kaitlyn join the heels? It’s not out of the question given her size. More importantly, could AJ get a Divas Title shot? I’d love to see that.

Zack Ryder & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
Seems like Dolph has a slightly new nuance to his character as the tron had ‘SHOW OFF’ emblazoned on it, and then the commentators insisting on associating the term ‘show off’ with Ziggler. I like this because it plays in to one of Ziggler’s best characteristics: how he knows how good he is, and likes to taunt the audience with it to make them hate them, because he wants them to hate him. These guys all had a pretty good top hour main event, and one in which Ryder showed me a bit more than usual. Indeed, although I already know he’s good in the ring, it was nice to see him pull off a new move in the Ryder Revolution plancha (I don’t know if that’s what it’s called, but Matthews said it as he did it, and it fits well!) which he landed beautifully in to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ fist-pumps. Ziggler for his part, was really amping up the ‘show off’ side of his persona. He was still doing awesome wrassling including his amazing selling of Sheamus’s reversal of the Zig Zag, but his taunts were getting even more and more (brilliantly) ridiculous taunts, like his feigning of amateur wrestling moves after taking Sheamus down. Talking Sheamus, he provided some nice smashmouth moments, especially with his equal in stature, Jack Swagger. Again, Swagger managed to have some strong offense against The Great White, which made him look really good, and when he and Sheamus traded their varying shoulder tackles, it looked like a real battle of forces. The real story of the match though, was Zack Ryder’s continuing odyssey to a United States Championship match, and his claim got even stronger with a victory over Ziggler. It looks good for Ryder but doesn’t affect Ziggler too badly coming off some great in-ring work of late and a big title retention at Survivor Series and it came in a tag team match anyway. A nice, simple bit of progression. What i’d like to have seen though is, seen as Johnny Ace wont give Ryder a title match, and seen as he’s broski’s with Teddy Long, Teddy Long should have given him the title match for the live Smackdown next week – draw some ratings. What an idea! Someone gimme a job!

Ted DiBiase def. Heath Slater
Especially given that Slater had just returned from a wellness policy violation, and because DiBiase’s posse has gotten him a push of late, I expected a simple squash. Instead, we saw a Jinder Mahal on the tron criticising Ted for fraternizing with commoners. I quite like this because though I don’t have much time for Mahal, I think he deserves a second chance with the ball, and I like the idea of one being more philanthropic, and the other being more elitist. As for the match, it was another decent match. Slater had some good offense and him and Ted went back and forth quite a bit, but there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome as DiBiase hit Dream Street for the win. Slater is like Gabriel – he was at his height with Barrett and his groups, but now his lack of development is showing, and for now at least, he is only really good as a jobber.

Daniel Bryan def. Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Randy Orton to Earn a World Heavyweight Championship Shot On Next Week’s LIVE Smackdown
Fatal four-ways are always hard to review because of the ensuing chaos, and the success of the match lives or dies on the inventiveness of the interactions between the competitors. Luckily, this match had no problem with that, including as it did, arguably Smackdown’s four finest workers. What was a little strange about this match was that it was more like a tornado tag match as, for the most part, Rhodes and Barrett co-operated with each other while Bryan and Orton largely stayed out of each other’s way – the exception being a rope-assisted DDT to Bryan. There was lots of great, quick action between these guys, though admittedly not that many memorable moments. One high point was an explosive, out-of-nowhere suicide dive: Barrett completed a normal irish whip to AmDrag, but Bryan ducked the ensuing attempted clothesline, but instead of rebounding off the ropes, he just continued and leaped through the ropes at the unsuspecting Cody Rhodes. The finish was pretty cool. Orton looked to be in control after the rope-assisted DDT to Bryan while setting up Rhodes for the RKO, but at this point, Barrett pulled Orton from the ring and hit a DDT, which also took him out for a while. This left Rhodes in the ring with Bryan, and he trued to roll-up Bryan, but Bryan reversed in to the LaBelle Lock for a quick submission. A big big win for Bryan – maybe even career defining – not only because he beat three of the WWE’s top stars (earning a nod from, but because he gets his first one-on-one match for the World Title and is about to break through to the top tier of stars. As for Rhodes, I was surprised he tapped quite so quickly, but then again, he has done it before, so perhaps his desire to protect his face and body from pain is just continuing. These four are great future superstars (Orton aside as he’s established), and when Sheamus and Mark Henry are considered too, it is clear just how healthy the Smackdown roster is now.

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