The following are some notes I took from last night’s edition of WWE Friday Night Smackdown:
- The show opened with a very hot segment involving Mark Henry, Big Show and Daniel Bryan. Henry was on crutches complaining about the injury he suffered in his match with Show at last Sunday’s Survivor Series. This brought out Show who eventually laid out Henry with a knockout punch. While he was laid out, Bryan ran down to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. He pinned Henry to apparently become the new champion and the crowd went nuts. Of course it was just a tease. Smackdown GM Teddy Long came down and reversed the decision due to Henry being unable to compete. He then gave Bryan back his briefcase and put him into a fatal four-way main event for the #1 contender shot at Henry on a special holiday edition of Smackdown, that will air this Tuesday.
- This segment was tremendous and everyone played their roles to perfection. It reminded me a lot of a similar angle between HHH/Chris Jericho from 2000. In that match, Jericho apparently won the belt and the crowd exploded, only for the decision to later be reversed. That match was a key moment in Jericho’s career because it showed that the fans were actually ready to see him on top. I felt this segment did the same for Bryan.
- On a side note, I was thinking to myself why in the heck is WWE having a holiday edition of Smackdown on 11/29. Shouldn’t they wait to have it in a few more weeks so that it will be closer to Christmas??? On the bright side, Foley will be hosting the show, so it should be very entertaining.
- There was a womens tag match involving Natayla/Beth Pheonix vs. AJ Lee/Kaitlyn, which lasted all of maybe one minute. I don’t see the need in having matches that short. For some reason, I’m really into AJ and hope that she develops in to a better character in the upcoming year. She’s not too bad in the ring and she has this great underdog quality about her, especially when she faces monsters like Beth and Natayla. Plus she’s naturally pretty without the artificial look (blonde hair and huge implants) that 90% of the women in WWE seem to have.
- I know it’s a broken record, but Michael Cole’s commentary was more unbearable than usual. It was as if he went in with the mentality of talking about nothing but the Booker T/Cody Rhodes incident from Raw for the entire telecast. There were actually points throughout the evening where Josh Mathews had to remind Cole do actually call the matches. Besides, that is what the WWE pays Cole to do!
- Zack Ryder and Sheamus squared off against Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger in an excellent tag team match. Watching this match really made it clear that Ziggler is the most underrated wrestler in the entire business. The man can talk, has the look, and can have a great match with anyone. If any one wrestler in WWE channels the spirit of Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, then it’s him. Any aspiring wrestler, or fan, who wants to see ring psychology at its finest should definitely go out of their way to find this match on YouTube. You will not be disappointed.
- Also, this match once again illustrated that Ryder is the third most popular guy in the company behind Punk and John Cena. The crowd treats him like a genuine superstar and he was even put over by the Rock at Survivor Series last week. Throughout the entire evening at Survivor Series, the crowd vociferously chanted “We Want Ryder!” I’m not trying to make early comparisons, but I’m definitely sensing a 1996 Steve Austin and 1998 Rock vibe from Ryder. Those were the years when those guys really started to break out from the pack to become all-time legends. I’m not saying Ryder will be the next Austin or Rock, or even the next Cena, but he has a connection with the fans that very few guys in this era have. And management would be foolish not to take him all the way to the top.
- The main event was another fantastic match. It was Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett in a fatal four-way to determine the #1 contender. It was nonstop action with some pretty good spots. Orton, Cody and Bryan are great in the ring and Barrett is improving each week (and is a solid performer in his own right). The ending came when Bryan made Cody submit to his LeBelle Lock submission. So he will face Henry this Tuesday in a steel cage match for the world title.
- The ending of the match was very unique. Bryan was celebrating the victory while Cody stalked him from behind. Orton delivered an RKO to him before he could attack Bryan. Instead, of the company booking Orton to overshadow Bryan, he instead gave Bryan a smile, left the ring, and let him bask in the limelight. I felt this was a strong match that told many stories. Apparently, they are continuing the Orton-Barrett storyline and may incorporate Cody into it and make it into a three-way program. Second, this was my first time ever seeing Orton and Bryan in a match together. Hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come next year. An Orton-Bryan feud would produce some wild matches! Most important, the match culminated in a show-long focus on Bryan. From the opening segment all the way to the main event, he was presented as a legitimate threat to Henry’s world title. The fans have always been behind Bryan. Now it appears that the company is too. Overall, this was another strong show that once again proved why Smackdown is the best wrestling show on cable television today.