WWE SmackDown originated from Fresno, Calif. As always, you can check WWE.com for clips of the show.
Tonight was the go-home show before the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. A surprising injury left the Blue Brand with only five participants for the vaunted namesake match of the next pay-per-view. As such, they needed to fill the void.
Orton Injury Angle. The fact they turned Orton's injury (storyline or legitimate is irrelevant) was a nice show-long story arc. Big Show losing his temper and channeling his inner "Henry" in Long's office was nicely done.
The fact that Long visibly lost control of the show was a nice continuation of Raw's plot hook for SmackDown this week as well. The WWE isn't usually heavy on continuity, but I hope this goes somewhere.
The angle flowed nicely into the Battle Royal match setup. The "anyone lacing up boots" aspect of it was a nice lampshading on the WWE's roster situation. Ed Koskey and his crew did a good job this week.
DiBiase vs. Hunico. The premise of the feud is still silly to me, but whatever works, I guess. Hunico needed the win after DiBiase defeated him last week. The match had a few fun spots and both men seem to be developing some nice chemistry in the ring. It was too short to really do anything for either man, but it was worth the time, which is important. *1/4
Video Segments. Whomever the team is that puts these things together still needs a raise. The recap of HBK and Triple H was well done as was the Kane vs. Cena recap segment.
The Usos vs. Epico and Primo. There are three legitimate teams in the WWE. The Usos actually competing on SmackDown seems odd given the fact they are still used as jobbers most of the time. In any case, they do need a push of some sort.
The match had a nice pace to it at the beginning, with the champs actually showing a double team move for once (Suplex to a seated senton).
Primo relied a bit more on rest holds then he should have during his his offense on Jimmy Uso. It was nice to see the face team get a nice tease of a victory before being finished off by the champs. *1/2
Bryan promo segment. Bryan didn't seem to have the sort of exuberance as his previous outings on the stick. That said, Bryan's heel promos outclass nearly anything Orton has done on the stick while a face. The pacing was good for the most part, and integrating Lilian Garcia into the segment was a nice touch.
Sheamus vs. Bryan. I was a little surprised they gave this away before the rumored match at WrestleMania 28. Both men worked in some of their signature spots and seemed into the action in the ring.
The match had a bit more storytelling then I would have expected from an "impromptu" match. The offense being kept about equal as far as time was nice.
The kick vs. punch exchange was a nice variation you don't normally see in the WWE. There were a few nice reverses as well. The ending was appropriate was this couldn't end cleanly on TV, which is a pity. If this was a tease for WrestleMania 28, I'm sold. *3/4
Phoenix and Natalya vs. Fox and Tamina. It's funny what happens when you give the gals some time to actually work. The match didn't entirely feel like a throw away segment. Fox continues to look out of place in the ring to me. Tamina looked good in limited time and Natalya hamming it up is much better then her farting.
The action was good compared to the last three months of Divas matches. There is still some work to do, but this is a start. Good sell for the Elimination Chamber match between Beth and Tamina as well. *1/4
Battle Royal. Otunga being the only one to get a themed entrance to the match was a nice tease. McIntyre and Santino both got some nice spots in the match. DiBiase had a cool "skin the cat" spot with Young in the match. DiBiase eliminating Camacho was a nice touch.
Epico and Primo had a nice run as well, eliminating Reks and one of the Usos before Primo dumped Epico over. DiBiase going nuts on Hunico after his elimination was a good use of the existing feud. Primo and Gabriel trading shots was nice to see.
McIntyre got a few more nice shots before being eliminated. Otunga vs. Santino in the final bit was interesting and both did an all-right job in the final push of the match. The pops for Santino looked legitimate on TV. *1/2
Khali and Big Show vs. Rhodes and Barrett. This match replaced the normal opening segment. That made for a nice change of pace by itself from the normal course of how the shows usually go.
That said, the match followed the usual formula for face vs. heel dynamics without much deviation. Having both Big Show and Khali on the same team doesn't too much for me ring wise.
After the match, Show decking Khali with the W.M.D. sold Sunday's Elimination Chamber matches as being an "every man for himself" affair. Aside from that, there was nothing notable about it. *
Mahal vs. Jackson. The action was alright for both men. Jackson has improved some in the ring. Mahal getting the victory was a nice touch as he needed a win. But overall, it was too short to do anything. 1/2*
"Journey 2" Promo. If I didn't want to see it on Raw, why would I want to see it on SmackDown?
Cole saying "Extra Vintage!" during the opening video is somehow more annoying then when he just says "Vintage!"
Orton cuts a better promo when he's silent.
Cody Rhodes is everything Jack Swagger wishes he could be. Namely, actually being on TV.
Henry needs to wear a helmet like amateur boxers do. He gets knocked out so much I'm surprised he remembers he's a SmackDown talent.
"You stole a victory from me last night, Esse. Where we come from, that's illegal!' FCW?
The WWE really needs more tag teams. If the Usos are on SmackDown, you know the situation is hard for the division.
The "Carnivore" sign during Bryan's promo segment was the sign of the night.
Bryan's beard has a slight resemblance to the one from the "Guy on a Buffalo" titular character.
Jackson has basketballs on his shoulders.
Wait? A Divas match that lasted longer than three minutes?
The entire SmackDown roster did the only jobber entrance for the week. That's metaphoric, somehow.
Given that Drew McIntyre was in the Battle Royal, I guess his canning angle has been dropped.
I never, in my life, thought I'd see Santino vs. Otunga in a main event.
Santino screams swerve, but I admit, I marked a little.
Final Grade: B+
SmackDown put in a good effort this week overall. Sheamus vs. Bryan was a fun affair and the Battle Royal had its moments. The Divas did well this week as well.
There weren't a lot of weak segments in the show. Overall, this was a good "go home" affair for the Blue Brand.