Hello! My name is Trevor, and I am here to bring you this week's installment of the SmackDown Roster Rundown. It's a different kind of recap that focuses on the individual performers and how well they performed on a show-by-show basis, rather than looking at specific events or matches.
Each wrestler will be graded in four categories. In-Ring is simply that, their in-ring ability, though more than the others it's graded slightly on a curve. Why? Well, the Big Show is never going to technically outwrestle someone like Daniel Bryan; that much is obvious. But he can still wrestle a good big man match and look good in the ring without being maybe as athletically impressive or technically sound as a smaller wrestler of a different style.
There's also charisma, which describes their ability to connect with the audience and non-verbal acting such as posture and facial expressions; mic work, which is both the quality of their promo delivery and to an extent the content, though I realize oftentimes that's scripted and not their fault; and finally, their gimmick, how much of a character they are and how well they live it on a weekly basis.
They'll be graded from A to F, with A being excellent, B good, C average, D poor and F actively terrible. I confess to being a fan first, so it's possible that sometimes my own opinions will bleed through, but I maintain an effort to be objective. And, as always, opinions vary, and you are always entitled to disagree with me and let me know why in the comments. I live for discussion.
That said, let's see this week's SmackDown Roster Rundown.
In-Ring: A rather standard Sheamus affair. He hit the usual spots with forearms, his chest pounds through the ropes and finished off with his Brogue Kick which does, admittedly, always look fantastic. I like that he’s adding more moves in here and there, like his Green Bay Plunge. Or should that be Dublin Plunge? Who knows.
Still, it makes things more exciting and with three finishers now by my count, it means the matches he has can end a few more ways. Nothing revolutionary, not that I expected it in a SmackDown tag match. B-
Charisma: It was great to see a lot more of Sheamus this week. He’s definitely highly over with the fans, and it’s good to see him rewarded for his hard work with this push. He carries himself like a star and radiates confidence and a boisterous, babyface charm that works well with his current role. B
Mic Work: Sheamus seems more comfortable than most young guys on the mic, and he clearly knows how to handle himself. This week was proof of that, as he never stuttered or stumbled over his words, got his delivery out with emotion and it all seemed natural. Some might see his accent as a block, but I feel it adds a charm to him and sets him apart from the pack. Really, really strong work. B+
Gimmick: WWE has done well building Sheamus as a take-on-all-comers kind of babyface because it will make him easy to slip into any main event program they decide to go with for WrestleMania and beyond.
With all the candidates so far having come out to give him their case for his Rumble shot, they’ve set up believable matches with Wade, Cody and Big Show. I doubt any of those three will actually win, but it would still feel natural if they did. B
Overall: Another dominant performance for Sheamus, picking up the pin and cutting a good, solid promo. He’s on a straight course for the main event, and I fully expect him to win the title at WrestleMania, and hopefully, hold it for a good long while. This was just one more SmackDown in a long line showing off slowly but surely that he is a top star in the making. B
In-Ring: Not one of Wade’s best outings, I’ll admit. He looked decent in there, but it was mostly a brawling game, and with Big Show, his most common opponent, he couldn’t bust out more of his power moves in the match. So, not entirely his fault, but it still didn’t make him look his best.
It’s a shame they don’t let him play the big man more often because that seems to be where his strengths lie. He and Cody make a good team, though, and their double-team of Big Show was beautiful. I wouldn’t mind seeing them together more often. B-
Charisma: With his words just dripping smugness and the cheesiest, most arrogant smirk on his face, Wade probably made himself the most-hated man in SmackDown’s opening segment even if he was vying with Cody Rhodes for that particular title. Like Sheamus, he carries himself like a main event star and seems like he’s been in the business for much longer than he really has.
If I had any criticisms, he mugs a bit too much with his sneers, and it seems a little put on at times, but he has very solid wordless acting. Just check his reaction to Cody’s first tag in their tag match for proof of that. B
Mic Work: His work on the mic has always been one of Wade’s greatest assets, and this week’s SmackDown was no different. His promo was the standard posturing heel, but he made it his own by bringing up his and Sheamus’s admittedly brief history, which is always a nice touch, not to mention tearing into Big Show’s WrestleMania record.
Too often, real history between wrestlers is left by the wayside these days. Also, hearing Wade say “Snooki” is deeply entertaining. B
Gimmick: Wade’s music still sticks out as a sore spot in an otherwise solid character, and I will probably harp on it for weeks to come. Giving him a faux-Sex Pistols style tune, as I’ve heard it’s supposed to be, just doesn’t suit his skybox-buying and suit-jacket wearing self.
If they want to play him as an English thug, cut back on the “I’m better than you because I’m classy” stylings. Just because he’s British doesn’t mean he has to be an arrogant semi-noble. He plays his character well, some things just don’t click. C
Overall: If you ask me, Wade has all the potential in the world and is up there with the rest of the new stars-to-be, but he doesn’t always get handled right. Being thrust into a match where he has to work around Big Show and take a one-sided beating from Sheamus isn’t the best, but Sheamus deserves decisive victories going to Wrestlemania, so I’ll give it a pass.
I will say that he and Cody should stick together on a more permanent basis. They make a hell of a team. B-
In-Ring: Thankfully, they let Cody loose in this match more than they did on Raw, and he got to be arguably the star player even if Sheamus got the pin. He’s a fantastic seller, he proved that well enough and he took one of Big Show’s chops like a gunshot.
It doesn’t hurt that he hit that fantastic double team on Big Show, either, or one of the better Beautiful Disaster kicks I’ve seen. That was an especially nice touch, given Big Show countered one earlier in the show into a choke. Best man in the ring, clearly. B+
Charisma: Let’s get one thing out of the way: Cody’s facial expressions last night to Big Show were flawless and hilarious. The way he sneers at his own jokes and looks so utterly exasperated by Big Show’s promo helps to make him a complete character that reacts organically to things around him.
Sometimes, it seems like wrestlers just stand around waiting for a chance to talk, but Cody isn’t quite that way. He’s always engaged, and he lives the moment. B+
Mic Work: Cody’s delivery is always unique, and it makes for some wonderful promos. He had some ups and downs tonight, and it wasn’t his best: insulting the audience’s attractiveness feels like a step back towards his Dashing days, and he’s usually better than that now.
Still, he also brought history to the ring, as I praised Wade for, bringing up his WrestleMania victory last year and the prestige of a potential victory in the Chamber and how it would make him the first Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Champion. Not to mention that his jokes about Big Show were self-indulgent and hilarious. B
Gimmick: As said, a bit of a backstep for Cody Rhodes this week. His cheap heat jabs are beneath what I’ve come to expect from him, and slinking away from Big Show in the tag match doesn’t suit his recent actions, where he’s been one of the least cowardly heels we’ve had.
On the one hand, Show would no doubt be intimidating for just about anyone to face, but they played it too hard and it weakened what had been a strong heel this week. A shame. C
Overall: While I’m not overly impressed with Cody’s performance this SmackDown from a character perspective, his in-ring is making up for it. With him, Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan, SmackDown is brimming with young talent, and I can’t wait to see the next generation explode.
If it wasn’t for Randy and Bryan, I’d peg Cody as the star of Elimination Chamber, but he has some stiff competition. Still, even if he lost this particular night, he made an impact. B+
In-Ring: To be frank, Show looked slower and more easily blown up than he did on Raw. His Gorilla Press spot on Cody was impressive, the Sleeper-into-Side slam counter was great, and he hit a fantastic spear once again, but other than that, it was mostly chops and whips and a spectacularly lazy looking tag in to Sheamus midway through the match. He just didn’t look that engaged or inspired. C
Charisma: Big Show is just entirely over at this point in his career as a big-name babyface, and it’s easy to see why. The way that he interacts with the audience on his way to the ring and his relaxed, genial nature simply makes for a naturally likable character on the screen. B
Mic Work: As said in my Raw Rundown, Big Show is a dependable guy on the mic who has years of experience under his belt, so you can count on him for a reliable performance. This week’s SmackDown was no different. He didn’t say anything revolutionary and he got less mic time than the other three, but he made his case for what a good, bigger name match Sheamus-Show would be and that’s a fair assessment.
More than that, though, I have to talk up his commentary work. While he wasn’t the bombastically enjoyable performance that was Mark Henry, he still played a very good role. He managed to talk up Daniel Bryan’s strengths in his intelligence and admitted that he couldn’t beat him, while also making it clear he was a bad guy. Honestly, I would rather have Big Show on the table, at this point, than anyone else actually doing it. Solid work. B
Gimmick: Once again, the Big Friendly Giant was big and friendly. It definitely seems like his feud with Bryan is coming to an end after the Chamber, as how much can Show really talk him down if he doesn’t take the title then and there? Still, it’s been a good run, and he plays of Bryan nicely. It’ll just be good to see them with other people for a while. B-
Overall: Not a great night in-ring for Show, aside from a few high spots, but he brought it on the mic as one of the better guest commentary gigs I’ve seen. Big Show is in a comfortable place in terms of character at the end of the career, and while I would have liked to see him go heel on Daniel Bryan in their feud at the start, I don’t think he needs to change at this point. Just ride it out for a little longer and see where it takes him. B-
In-Ring: Not one of Jinder’s better matches, though he can’t entirely be blamed this time around. I’m one of the people who thinks he has potential in the ring, he’s just green and working with someone like the Great Khali doesn’t do him any favors.
He’s not confident in the ring, and he doesn’t always know how to link things together, and when you can’t do much to Khali other than give him forearms and low kicks and knees to begin with, what else is there? He did a decent job bumping Khali’s offense, but that’s the best I can give him. C-
Charisma: Nobody really seems to care about Jinder Mahal. The audience looks bored by him, and his cheap foreigner heat isn’t doing him any favors. Unlike Sheamus and Wade Barrett, he doesn’t have confidence yet, and while he can make a convincing heel with his facial work, he doesn’t have a hook on the audience or the experience or talent to force them to care. D
Mic Work: Not bad, but when half of your promo is in an Indian dialect [given the Great Khali storyline I assume Punjabi but I have no in-depth knowledge of India] it’s hard to judge. His delivery is solid, but again, there’s just nothing to care about given to him. C-
Gimmick: Terrible. Jinder started off as a mildly interesting rich man manipulating the Great Khali back to his heel roots and has rapidly transformed into the lowest kind of race-baiting. It’s an outdated and supremely lazy gimmick, and I’d hoped that this kind of thing had died out. As Jinder and Hunico prove, though, it sadly hasn’t. F
Overall: A green wrestler wrapped in an actively terrible gimmick wrestling an actively terrible wrestler. Who thought this was a good idea? Jinder has some upside—I’ve seen decent in-ring work from him, and when he’s allowed to actually speak English, he can cut a decent promo. But this week gave us nothing but his worst. D.
The Great Khali
In-Ring: The match was kept mercifully short, but it was still entirely too much Great Khali for my tastes. Putting him in a tag match with Randy Orton to do most of the heavy lifting and an experienced and solid worker like Cody Rhodes covers up his faults, but left to handle a match by himself with a green guy like Jinder just shows how clumsy and limited he really is. F
Charisma: As said, people seem to respond to the Great Khali, even if I’m still scratching my head as to why. Is it the Khali Kiss Cam? Is it the fact that he was given enough of a push to be memorable? Or is it just that kind of oddity style enjoyment of seeing a giant in the ring? Whatever the reason, he’s connected with the audience, and he hasn’t exactly given me a reason to dock his charisma. C?
Mic Work: Thankfully, we are once again spared Khali on the mic. N/A.
Gimmick: Other than being a name-brand superstar back from exile, the Great Khali doesn’t seem to have a gimmick as such this time around. He’s big. He has fun music. He’s from India. That’s about it. Not actively offensive like Jinder, just boring. D
Overall: After a briefly entertaining performance on Raw, I am reminded why I and so many others were glad to hear that Khali had retired. If only it stuck. My best hope is that with five other men in the Chamber we only get a few minutes of him, and that it will be handled by competent wrestlers like Cody, Randy and Daniel Bryan. Also, he’ll have the shortest performance in the Chamber and probably be the first out. We can only hope. D
In-Ring: A usual Beth Phoenix affair these days. A few big hits, Glam Slam, leave the ring. She could do this in her sleep. C
Charisma: Beth is another one who carries herself well. She smirks, she struts and the way she leaned in the ropes waiting for Alicia Fox to get out was a beautiful act. Even without having a mic, Beth can get her character across, and that’s something that the other Divas need to learn. It’s more than giving perky smiles if you’re a face or glaring if you’re a heel. B
Mic Work: It barely counts, but Beth firmly insisting that Alicia get out of her ring was entertaining if nothing else. C
Gimmick: At least Beth has a character and a gimmick to work with. The bored champion who has beaten down the roster is solid and will make it all the more satisfying when a strong face challenger comes along.
This, WWE, is why you build up strong heels. The satisfaction of a babyface getting their hands on a slimy heel is good, but not in overwhelming doses, and we have far too much of that. Ironic, really, that one of their best heels is in the underdeveloped Diva’s division. B+
Overall: Beth is still clearly the best Diva in the company, but that’s not saying much. It was just another dominating affair to help get her arrogant and bored character over and show how easily she squashes the likes of Alicia Fox, apparently to set up for a Tamina match. Well, it’s better than Kelly Kelly again. We’ll see what Tamina can do in more than two moves. C+
In-Ring: Well, it was better than some of her recent matches, in that it went longer than three moves, and she didn’t botch her finisher. I’ve heard that Alicia used to be good, but I honestly can’t remember, and her recent work doesn’t endear me to her as a worker—at all. Still, she bumped well here, and the Matrix dodge was well done. C-
Charisma: Though I just decried face Divas for just smiling all perky, Alicia does have a certain bubbly charm. It’s surprising, given what an obnoxious heel she made, and I never saw this face turn coming. She’s made it work, though and seems like a genuinely likable person. Not bad. C
Mic Work: What, you thought she’d get any? N/A
Gimmick: But while she may be charming in a sweet way, she has no character. No, Alicia, wearing a dead wolf on your head and bouncing in place doesn’t count no matter how hard you try. It’s a sad state of affairs with the Divas that that is as close as their character gets most of the time. D
Overall: You won’t find me complaining that Alicia’s push was derailed. A limited affair with Beth that showed some tiny flashes of character and spark before the match began, but that’s about it. Short and boring. D
In-Ring: For some reason, since I haven’t heard she’s hurt in reality, they’ve decided to give one of their better female workers an injury angle and take her out of competition. Naturally. N/A
Charisma: A bit shaky, but she’s got that natural charm that comes from being tiny and having big bambi eyes that make for an excellent babyface Diva. She’s perfect to get sympathy behind, and while I question this angle a little, I know that it’s ultimately for the best, as putting her with a slimy Daniel Bryan is a great way to get him heat. She has something, she just needs WWE to let her unleash it. B-.
Mic Work: Well, she’s young, and she’s barely been given any promo time, so it’s not a shock she’s not flawless. I thought she cut a decent promo, but she hesitates. Far...Too...Often...Between thoughts. And it makes for an awkward rhythm to her sentences.
No doubt, she was trying to recall a scripted promo from memory—I got a William Shatner vibe from her performance. Still, she had good emotion, and she acts well; she just needs to tighten it up. C+
Gimmick: Another rare Diva with an actual character, playing her as the love-struck and naïve young girl is pitch perfect for her looks, and she suits the angle well. As said, she’s enormously easy to rally behind in sympathy.
Ideally, the day she turns on Daniel Bryan will give her a big babyface pop, and the Diva’s division might have a top face out of the deal. If they handle things right. I’m optimistic for the time being. B-
Overall: It’s nice to see a Diva get proper promo time and actually feature heavily in a storyline for once, and AJ didn’t do a bad job in the role.
Sure, she’s green on the mic, but giving her experience will iron that out. I’ll confess, having her dress down Cole and take him on was enormously satisfying, too, and I can’t judge her too harshly after that. More of this, WWE. More of this. C+
In-Ring: For a man with a broken wrist, DiBiase did okay. I’m not sure how much it’s still hurting him, but he worked around it well if it’s still an issue and sold the injury quite well if it isn’t. He doesn’t exactly look on par with his Legacy Teammates, but they’re not exactly your average workers, either. It was a short match, and he was selling most of it, but I can see some potential.C+
Charisma: The DiBiase Posse has certainly worked to get him over, and Ted has fallen into a natural babyface role. It’s shocking how some guys can just switch on a dime, like him and Sheamus, when they seem so overwhelmingly suited towards being heels to start with. A fair effort and he’s got potential if they gave him more screen time to work. C+
Mic Work: Nope. N/A
Gimmick: Making himself into a good ol’ boy who likes to hang out with fans and crack open a cold one is a perfectly fine gimmick. He hasn’t gotten to go very far with it yet, and we didn’t see much of it this night in particular, but I like it. But as many more people than I have said, his music has to go. Quickly. It is a terrible fit, worse than Wade’s, and it’s just holding him back. C-
Overall: Ted’s had himself a rocky career, but WWE seems to be rallying behind him for another slow push. I wouldn’t mind seeing him work his way up the ladder especially now that he’s got a solid, if underdeveloped, character. Just change up his music and maybe give him and Hunico a few longer matches so they can really show their stuff. This was a taste of what he could do, but he was handicapped by time and a legitimate injury. C
In-Ring: Back when the Sin Cara/Sin Cara feud was going on, I was always more fond of Hunico as a worker. High praise for Mistico aside, he always seemed botch-prone to me, and I was never impressed, but Hunico seemed to have a lot of skill.
I still maintain this. He’s crisp, fast and has a lot of unique moves in his repertoire, as well as some good heel psychology that he showed tonight. Basic but still good. Too short to really say much more about this match, though. C+
Charisma: Once again, a poor gimmick and very little time to be developed makes for a poor heel who nobody cares about. Really, you can take most of my comments for Jinder and apply them to Hunico at this point, which is depressing in its own right.
He seems to have a nice swagger to his step, and I think if WWE did something with him they could have a solid midcarder, but he can only do so much at this point. D+
Mic Work: He did get to talk; it was just hard to hear him over his own music. Poor sound direction on WWE’s part. He stumbled over his words, too, and didn’t speak especially clearly. Is there potential there? Perhaps. But he needs time to work on it if he’s going to get anywhere, and so far, I’m not impressed. D
Gimmick: Remember when I was talking about Jinder’s lazily race-baiting gimmick? Yeah. More of the same here. Making Hunico into some kind of barrio gang-banger is just pathetic. TNA called, and they wanted their atrocious gimmick back. Giving him a Polynesian wrestler as backup is just icing on the fail cake. F
Overall: Another midcard heel saddled with an actively offensive and boring gimmick. More than Jinder, though, Hunico has some definite upside as a worker, and I could see him pulling off solid midcard matches in that respect. I’m not as sure about what he can do as a character or an actor, but I just haven’t seen enough of him to gauge. I just wish they’d give him a less terrible gimmick. Please. C-
In-Ring: His match tonight was what I think most of us expected it to be. It was an impressive and very solid 13 minutes of action. Neither of the men went all out, but for a TV main event with a DQ ending, that’s to be expected.
Bryan got to show what he could do against an opponent more his size, putting in a few more submission holds and a truly beautiful flying knee. Both men hit impressive counters and some great moves to come out looking both smart and strong, and I want to see these two in a proper pay-per-view match. Badly. A-
Charisma: It’s a testament to how well Daniel Bryan has gotten himself over as a heel [or how good WWE’s sound team is at sweetening SmackDown’s audio] that he can come out to rescue adorable babyface AJ from a scathing verbal assault by uber-heel Michael Cole and still get booed.
He’s doing something right. He carries himself like a heel and knows how to look like a real schemer. It’s a solid act so far. B
Mic Work: A more decent promo than he gave on Raw, though delving into the Role Model act was once again a weak heel tactic to take. He’s a little stilted on his delivery, but he manages to get his thoughts out clearly and doesn’t ramble or repeat himself, which is nice to see. I just wish he had better material to work with. The Prius line was hilarious, though. B-
Gimmick: The vegan act is not winning me over. CM Punk’s Straight Edge gimmick worked because one, CM Punk is a better and more charismatic talker than Daniel Bryan, and two, because he could go up against someone like Jeff Hardy who was in real life as well as in character his direct opposite. The two built up massive heat largely due in part to the fact that they legitimately did not like each other.
Daniel Bryan doesn’t have that. Teddy Long throwing a barbeque? Big Show talking about how he ate a steak? It’s pathetic, especially since the real Daniel Bryan, to my knowledge, is a vegan for his health, not a moral crusade.
Aside from that little diatribe, his general heel character is still coming along. Manipulating AJ and taking cheap short cuts to get away from Randy Orton is nice, but it didn’t make him seem entirely like a coward as he still wrestled Randy hard when the match happened.
Other than the DQ finish, he didn’t run away or take cheap tricks, he just tried to beat his opponent fair and square. A nice change of pace, that. C+
Overall: The vegan angle is really not working out, but with the wonderful—if not full-on—wrestling he put on with Randy really washed that poor taste out of my mouth. I think they are building a solid character in Daniel Bryan.
If they let him hold the belt until WrestleMania, dial back on the veganism and don’t forget about him after he drops the belt. I think they have a new solid main event heel on their hands. B+
In-Ring: More than the moves he himself hit, I’m most impressed by how Randy sold for Bryan. I know that he’s a consummate ring general these days, and it seems his temper tantrums and spotlight hogging are behind him, but still.
It was utterly surreal seeing Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan in the same ring to begin with, but seeing Randy selling his arm hard and taking those kicks like a champ? Unreal. Fantastic and unreal. My opinion of Orton changes for the better week by week, and it’s all ring work that’s doing it. A-
Charisma: As said on my Raw Rundown, people love them some Randy Orton. I’m not exactly one of them these days, but I can see why, as the man just oozes starpower. He makes an interesting counter to Daniel Bryan’s heelish energy these days, too, with his solemn demeanor, but he took Daniel Bryan seriously all the same. And he most definitely got the crowd buzzing. B+
Mic Work: None, but that’s how I like Randy. He’s best as a silent killer, as his face promos tend to be, well, robotic. N/A.
Gimmick: Once again, he was the quiet but vicious viper who could strike at any moment. He really does look like a reptile, and it’s something that I’ve been aware of for as long as I’ve been watching WWE. Seeing him back in this quietly aggressive role again is perfect. B+
Overall: Randy has made himself into one of WWE’s top guys for a reason, and he was showing it tonight. He’s back in form as a quiet killer face and putting on great matches just cements his quality as a wrestler.
At this point, I almost wouldn’t mind him work his way into the WrestleMania title match with Bryan and Sheamus just to see the three of them go at it for 25 minutes. He looked good, and a lot of my unfavorable opinions of him are going away. B+
Once again, a decent but not outstanding night of WWE.
I agree with some people that it felt like not a whole lot progressed forward on SmackDown. On the other hand, we got solid promos from four young superstars, great commentary from the Big Show, a solid tag team match riddled with high spots and a great closing match.
On this particular night, I feel like the ups definitely outweigh the downs, and I came out of SmackDown satisfied. I only wish that SmackDown would tighten up its midcard a little more, as Jinder and Hunico are floundering as heels, and Ted DiBiase needs more to work with as a face.
The Superstars-quality undercard is still SmackDown's great weakness.
To give this show a grade, I'd label it a B-.
The opening and closing were enough to keep me more than satisfied, and there are new stars clearly in the works.
As always, let me know how you feel in the comments. Til next time.