Complete Report Card and Predictions Following WWE SmackDown for November 8
Every week here on Bleacher Report, I will take an in-depth look at SmackDown, recapping all of the action, offering analysis and grading the matches, segments and anything else that takes place on the show, as well as provide some predictions on the direction of storylines.
There is no denying that a person's mood affects how they view things. If I am already in a good mood when SmackDown starts, I am more likely to like the show. And a bad mood might make my opinion skew more toward the negative.
I thought this week that I must have been in a good mood when the show started, because I really enjoyed this episode. But then I realized that I was pretty neutral going into the show, and it was the show itself that put me in a better mood.
All the non-wrestling segments worked, most of the matches were fun to watch, and the commentary team of Michael Cole and JBL were on top of their game.
We had no Shield, no Randy Orton, no Rhodes brothers and no Dolph Ziggler, but the show was enjoyable nonetheless.
Let's get right into this week's show with the opening segment featuring CM Punk's promo and match with Curtis Axel.
CM Punk Promo and Match vs. Curtis Axel
CM Punk opened the show with a promo discussing his recent encounters with The Wyatt Family, and he was his usual entertaining self in this segment.
But instead of The Wyatt Family coming out to confront him, Curtis Axel came out looking for revenge for his mentor Paul Heyman, saying Vickie had granted him a match against Punk.
Punk and Axel were given a good amount of time to put on a solid match. Both men are very technically proficient, and this match was a great example of their talent.
Both men got in plenty of offense, but it was Punk who picked up the win with a GTS. Paul Heyman's absence really gave Axel the chance he needed to stand on his own two feet, and I think he did a pretty good job.
After the match was over we heard Bray Wyatt's menacing laugh echo throughout the arena. He came on the Titantron, but this time he used a "Less is more" approach.
He just looked into the camera for a moment with his face surrounded by the glow of his lantern and his evil eyes wide open before blowing out the flame.
We all know he wasn't actually looking Punk in the eye since he was looking into the lens of a camera, but this moment really made you believe he was staring through the camera into Punk's soul.
The level of creepiness this man has reached allowed him to remain silent and still deliver a powerful message, and that is not the kind of thing you can teach. Wyatt is a rare talent, and WWE is finally understanding how to use him properly.
Some notes from the match:
- Curtis Axel hits the Perfectplex with, excuse the pun, perfect precision. It's too bad this isn't his finisher.
- CM Punk was rocking the blue, orange and white trunks, most likely in support of the Chicago Bears and their win over the Green Bay Packers.
- On an unrelated note, being from Illinois obviously makes me a Bears fan, but even I don't like to see people getting injured, so seeing Aaron Rodgers bust his collarbone was not something I enjoyed.
- I have noticed a trend lately. SmackDown always seemed to be bookended by its best matches. The first and last match have consistently been the best two matches on every episode for several weeks in a row. This week might not have ended with the match of the night, but the main event did deliver a quality performance.
The Usos and R-Truth vs. 3MB
This match was just pure fun from start to finish. There was no feud involved, no title shots on the line and no real reason for it to happen other than giving six Superstars their own segment to excite the crowd.
WWE's tag team division has been one of the brighter spots in WWE recently, and The Usos have been a big part of that. Their entrance alone makes them one of the most likeable tag teams in the company, and their in-ring skills make them very fun to watch.
R-Truth was in his hometown, and WWE gave him the chance to look like a million bucks to his hometown crowd. He seemed really invigorated from the moment he came out during his entrance.
The match was average length at about six minutes, but they made the most of their time and did not mess around with any prolonged headlocks or waistlocks.
The Usos and Truth picked up the win after Truth hit his finisher on Jinder Mahal to pick up the pin. The three winners had a little dance party to celebrate their victory, with Truth looking like a man who was really enjoying himself as he entertained the North Carolina crowd.
Some notes from the match:
- I still hold the opinion that Truth's suplex into a stunner should be his finisher.
- WWE showing The Usos both clearing the top rope to land on 3MB outside the ring in slow motion after the match was pretty cool looking.
- I kind of want 3MB to win the tag titles just so they can bring back Freebird-rules and rotate the titles between them for defenses.
- Michael Hayes would have been a great manager for 3MB had WWE planned on pushing them.
Tamina and AJ vs. The Funkadactyls
The WWE Divas have been noticeably better in recent weeks. They have stepped up their physicality, and some of the Divas have made big strides in their ring work.
Cameron has made some improvements in the ring, but she still looks a little sloppy in some spots. Naomi has shown herself to be a very solid performer, but she didn't have as much time in the ring as Cameron in this match.
AJ was as good as she always is, and Tamina looked like the kind of monster WWE has needed her to be for a long time.
A couple of hard-looking spots stand out in this match, especially Naomi's enzuigiri kick and forearm to the face of AJ and Tamina's powerbomb to Cameron and big boot to Naomi.
All four women contributed to a good outing, and hopefully the trend continues of solid Divas matches. AJ picked up the win with The Black Widow on Cameron.
Some notes from the match:
- The look on AJ's face after the forearm from Naomi was priceless.
- I love that AJ regularly uses the guillotine choke. It is an underutilized submission in WWE.
- I am sure WWE's male-dominated audience did not mind seeing Cameron tap out the way she did. You have to watch the match to know what I am talking about.
Khali vs. Alberto Del Rio
We have seen this match many times in the past, and it always ends the same way with Khali tapping to the cross armbreaker.
Del Rio carried the short match by making himself look very strong against a much larger opponent, but even his technical ability couldn't keep this match from being the one low point on the show.
Khali has some value as a giant monster, but WWE needs to make him look way more dominant to get its money's worth. He doesn't have to be able to move around the ring like Big Show can. He is big enough to where one huge shot from him should convincingly take out his opponent.
I am not saying he should be world champion again, but he should at least be harder to put down.
Some notes from the match:
- It was weird not seeing Santino, Natalya or Hornswoggle with Khali.
- I kind of miss Runjin Singh. I know he still works for the company. WWE should bring him back to add some more entertainment value to Khali's character.
Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper
This match got me right back into this show. Daniel Bryan and Luke Harper had a very physical match before Erick Rowan caused a disqualification when he saved Harper from the Yes Lock.
Bray Wyatt was very animated in his rocking chair. He looked genuinely interested in what was happening in front of him, and he stayed in character from start to finish.
Harper is almost as creepy as Wyatt is, and he barely ever says anything. Just his look and his slow and repetitive "Yeah, yeah, yeah" make him a little frightening.
Bryan never looks like the underdog, and one of the moves that always makes him look really dangerous is the one where he wraps up his opponent's legs and then just starts dropping hard elbow shots into their face at a very fast speed.
It's one my favorite spots in his arsenal, and using it on Harper made him look like it did not matter how big his opponent was.
But that wasn't even the best part. The best part came after the match when CM Punk came out and saved Bryan from a beatdown by all three men.
The two heroes stood tall and faced their tormentor as he laughed from the apron before making his exit. This was a great way to end the segment. Wyatt looked really demented, and the duo of Punk and Bryan is a surefire hit with the fans.
Some notes from the match:
- Harper grabbing Bryan during a kick and dropping him with a powerbomb was a really hard-looking hit.
- Bryan also took a really stiff Irish whip into the barricade. It was even hard enough to knock a piece of the wall off.
- Forget Duck Dynasty. These men have the best four beards in entertainment.
This week, I decided to change things up a bit and put all the non-wrestling segments from the show on one slide before the main event slide.
John Cena and Alberto Del Rio
The world champion and former champion had a segment where both men ended up in separate matches later in the show after it was over.
Cena did not seem to have the thuggish Swagger we have seen from him the past couple of weeks, which was sad since it was really starting to make him entertaining again.
But this segment did work to some degree. Cena was charismatic as usual, and the way Michael Cole looked really serious when he was taking down notes about the edible arrangement Cena wanted to send Del Rio was understated, yet hilarious.
This was an average back-and-forth segment. Nothing surprising happened, but it did keep the feud going—and that is what matters.
The Bellas Plugging WWEShop.com
I don't plan on grading this, but I bring it up because I think WWE has officially jumped the shark.
John Cena moccasins? Really?
I get that WWE wants to capitalize on the fact that some superfans will buy just about anything, but this is just plain ridiculous.
Although, it's still not as bad as WWE Pizza Prints. Why does anyone want to see a small circular picture of some WWE Superstars on a pizza? Pizza is beautiful just the way it is.
On a final note, I find it funny that WWE has a product called a Bleacher Creature, and that is what we sometimes call Bleacher Report readers.
Michael Cole's Interview with Triple H
Triple H did his weekly WWE.com interview with most of the focus being on the addition of Kane as the director of operations.
Trips said he trusts Kane and that the big man is much more than just a monster in a red outfit. He wouldn't provide specifics about what Kane's role will include, though.
Having Triple H as a very visible authority figure in WWE is a smart move. He is one of the best talkers in WWE today, and these weekly interviews are a good way to keep him in front of the camera.
The only thing about this segment that bugged me was Michael Cole's soul patch.
John Cena vs. Ryback
I might be alone in this, but I think this might have been Ryback's best match to date. His offense and selling looked clean, and he used some moves we haven't seen from him before.
John Cena vs. Ryback is by no means a fresh match, but it's been a while since they feuded, so it did't feel repetitive.
Cena also looked good in this match, also showing off some moves he is not known for, including a move where he switched a full nelson slam into a neckbreaker.
Cena picked up a predictable but entertaining win with an AA.
Some notes from the match:
- John Cena looked so dazed after the Meathook that I half expected to see little cartoon stars start circling his head like in every episode of Looney Tunes ever produced where someone gets hit in the head.
- Not only did Ryback use the Jackhammer and the Spear, but Cole and JBL actually talked about the similarities between Goldberg and Ryback. I wonder if they have already made a deal with Goldberg for a match against Ryback, and they're just keeping it quiet.
- Cole talked about how Cena is now a 14-time champion. He has at least a good 5-10 years left in him, so at this point it almost seems like a guarantee that he will break Ric Flair's record.
- To be fair, Ric Flair is more than a 16-time world champion, but WWE only acknowledges certain World Championships as official.
- And while we're on the subject of Ric Flair and John Cena, I just want to point out that nobody personifies "The Five Moves of Doom" better than Ric Flair, so people should lay off of Cena for that.
- The "Let's go Cena" chants were much louder than the "Cena sucks" chants during this match. I really think more people are starting to cheer for him again. Booing him used to be the cool thing to do, but after a while, it's hard not to realize that Cena is actually pretty awesome at what he does.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
All but one of the matches were entertaining, and all the other segments helped tie the show together.
WWE opted not to focus on every single storyline in WWE this week, which gave the storylines they did address more focus.
This was a very good episode of SmackDown.
- Kane's new role as a heel working for Triple H will eventually be used to turn The Wyatt Family babyface.
- The Bellas will be feuding with each other within six months.
- Daniel Bryan and CM Punk will defeat The Wyatt Family at Survivor Series.
- The Divas division will matter again.
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.