Hello, all. It has been a long time since I put forth a column. It has probably been as long since I sat through an entire WWE program. It’s not like I’m not watching. I’m just not watching from start to finish. I think the three-hour Raw is overkill. They should have made better use of their two hours before going to three. I like for shows to have some sort of shape, and it is difficult to do that with three hours.
But this isn’t Raw. It’s SmackDown. And it’s the first of 2013. That is exciting in itself. The calendar is always offering opportunities to make things fresh again.
In that vein, we get a return tonight. The return of The Viper Randy Orton.
Like yours truly, Randy Orton is back (only his return actually matters).
I mean, I guess it matters. At one time it would have been a really big deal. Randy Orton is a nine-time world champion, which means he has dominated on both Raw and SmackDown. After his time on Raw, Randy Orton became the face of SmackDown.
He is the face of neither. It is strange to see how much WWE has changed, yet it is mostly the same. It has, for the longest time, been the John Cena era, whether the guy who stood as the No. 2 was Triple H, Batista or Randy Orton. Now we have seen a year without John Cena as world champion, but he has kept his presence in the top of the card thanks to high-profile angles with the likes of The Rock, Brock Lesnar and C.M. Punk.
It’s not so easy for Randy Orton. There isn’t that guarantee like there is with John Cena. There isn’t a Rock in his future, and he is fighting to maintain space on the WWE’s B show.
Like his beard, Randy Orton is a little out of place. Will he make it back to the top? Will he stay face or turn heel?
Regardless, I welcome him back. Randy Orton is one of the best in the ring, and his work on the microphone isn’t horrible. Yes, he would be better as a heel, but with Sheamus still poking around, it may only be a matter of time before The Viper strikes again.
Speaking of guys who would be better as a heel, let’s talk about the Miz. The great thing about this reality star turned professional wrestler is that he was easy to hate and easy to mock. You could hate him because of his background. You could mock him for the same reason. You could look at the man and deem him unlikable. You could also feel that he doesn’t like you.
But now he is trying to be liked. Trying really hard, with heavy-landing humor. And like Randy Orton, he has a sketchy beard. And while I have found a lot of his shows and promos (post-face turn) a little forced and a little awkward, I’m now going to switch it up.
I’m going to list the positives:
1. WWE seems to be behind him right now, which is better than that unfortunate losing streak he had to overcome.
2. The fans, at least at SmackDown, seemed to be fully behind him.
3. When he poked Heath Slater in the eye (in their one-on-one match on SmackDown), I said, “Poke to the eye. Humor. Talk show. Maybe WWE is slowing forming the new Roddy Piper."
4. I have confidence in the performer, in the Miz, to make the most of his opportunity as long as WWE continues to support him.
5. Once there is some time behind his turn and things even out, I hope he doesn’t have to have a punchline in every line. Pace yourself, Miz.
The Miz-Heath Slater match was not a bad one. We even got an old-fashioned ejection of the rest of the Rock Band. Miz gets the pin and ends a big week that includes teaming with his former WrestleMania opponent, John Cena.
It's not the top of the world yet for Miz. It's not main eventing WrestleMania. But it's not losing every week either. That has to count for something.
Do I even have to say it? For all of you who dream of working for WWE, someone who currently does and is paid to do so sat backstage and cooked up the Mae Young-Baby Hornswoggle segment.
And for further punishment, we got a six-person tag match including Hornswoggle and Khali.
Although for a best, there was the dropkick to Hornswoggle. JBL said anyone could dropkick Hornswoggle. That even he, at 46, with several knee surgeries, could. And I suppose anyone could, but with precision? I don’t think so.
Absolute best: In the next segment, JBL said, “That six-man tag match was horrible.”
Praise be to JBL.
For those of you who do not know, I grew up on NWA/WCW and I still favor the gritty, more realistic feel in my professional wrestling.
I got it here in this segment.
First with JBL. I almost missed the match because I was texting my friend all the things JBL was saying. For starters, as mentioned, his calling that six-person tag match horrible. Next, JBL did a lot to put over Wade Barrett. Comparing the Bullhammer to Stan Hanson was an amazing spot-on assessment of what this move could be for Barrett.
Also, for realism, JBL gave a long statement on what it felt like to go from being champion to not being champion. How your friends can’t call you Champ anymore and if they do, it’s hollow. It only takes that little touch of something extra to give wrestling that genuine feel.
In keeping with that, I like the backstage interviews with Matt Striker and a single wrestler. Every promo doesn’t have to be in the ring, interrupted and ended with a punchline. I like the variation.
The match between Kofi Kingston and Wade Barrett started slow, and I wasn’t sure it would be anything special, but it turned into a hard-hitting back-and-forth that is worth a view.
But it wasn’t just the match. It was Wade Barrett’s backstage interview, JBL’s commentary and the actual in-ring battle (all together) that worked in harmony to give this segment a great feel.
After Wade Barrett got the win with the Bullhammer (catching Kofi Kingston, who was coming off the ropes), JBL warned everyone backstage that if they got hit with the Bullhammer, they would be knocked out.
He didn’t call it a great move. He called it a great weapon.
And I have to say, it may be the weapon that separates former Wade Barrett from future Wade Barrett.
This was also a match that picked up steam as it went along. It’s funny how much things can change in a year’s time.
Last year Sheamus was the guy coming in to break up the status on SmackDown (I remember because nothing killed my buzz like Daniel Bryan dropping the title.) But now Sheamus is more than the status—he is the status quo. He has dominated the top spot on SmackDown and has a longstanding grudge with Big Show.
But Randy Orton gets to be the guy who comes in and rocks the boat. For the record, it is always more fun to be the boat-rocker. Everybody seems to hate whoever is on board.
The main event played out nicely with Sheamus tagging himself in to steal the spotlight just as Randy Orton was going for the kill. The Viper, however, would not be outdone, as he rolled in, untagged and hit the RKO on Antonio Cesaro, inviting Sheamus to get the pin off of his RKO.
I said earlier that Randy Orton is better as a heel, but I will take this too. Allow the man to be conniving and let him do what it takes to get back to the top. There is a lot going on with the title picture among Big Show, Sheamus, Randy Orton and even Dolph Ziggler.
This is the season that means the most, and it is fitting to see guys step up. SmackDown ended with me wanting to see more. That is the true mark of a show well done.
Best of the Best: JBL's commentary and Wade Barrett vs. Kofi Kingston.
Worst of the Worst: The six-person tag match.
What was your favorite moment, promo or match from Friday Night SmackDown?