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.
This was the final show heading into the Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view that will take place on Sunday, so WWE made sure to address all the feuds that will be featured at the event.
This week we were treated to a couple of great tag team matches, a couple of average matches and a couple more matches that you may as well skip on the DVR.
Let's get right into the action with the opening match featuring Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan.
This was a short match that ended in a disqualification when Bray Wyatt interfered, but the segment was effective to push the Bryan vs. Wyatt Family feud into TLC.
Rowan used his power to control Bryan for the majority of the match, but Bryan came back at the end and got a small measure of revenge.
Harper came in and tried to double-team Bryan with Rowan, but Bryan managed to avoid both men and slide out of the ring to deliver a running knee to the face of a sitting Bray Wyatt.
The crowd was hot for the finish, and it just goes to show you that not every match has to be a wrestling clinic. Sometimes something done just for the sake of a storyline is enough to make the fans happy.
Some notes from the match:
- The grade would have been higher had the match lasted just a bit longer.
- Kudos to the guy who made the Wyatts vs. Moonshiners sign.
- I am sure many people will disagree with this, but Daniel Bryan has to be one of the most "over" WWE Superstars in the past 20 years, maybe longer.
- Later in the evening, we saw Bray Wyatt deliver one of his trademark creepy promos to push the match on Sunday. Good stuff from a very talented performer.
I will never get tired of seeing these four men mix it up in the ring. These are four guys who have pure wrestling talent and amazing chemistry with each other.
The Real Americans picked up a great win after Cesaro ripped Cody right off the top rope into a massive uppercut to get the pin.
It sometimes seems surprising that WWE isn't more popular than it is when you have guys like this putting on incredible matches every single week.
They had a high level of energy throughout the match, all the spots looked great and the way the match ended was just plain awesome. I look forward to what these men will do at TLC with the other two teams. I just hope they end up making this into a ladder match for the tag belts so we can really see something fun.
Some notes from the match:
- I haven't been entertained by Zeb Colter much in recent weeks, but his promo about deporting Santa made me chuckle.
- The shocked look on Colter's face when Cesaro picked up the win was hilarious.
- Can you name any Superstar who has been better in their 40s than they were in their 30s other than Goldust? Because I can't.
- Swagger and Goldust legitimately smashed their heads into one another at one point. I am shocked both men were able to keep going like nothing happened.
It has been said before, and it will be said again. WWE has some of the best video editors in the business. Normally a video package wouldn't get its own slide, but this one deserves it.
The story told through the hype video for the main event at TLC was extremely well-made, and it really showed just how similar the careers of Orton and Cena have been.
Both men came into WWE around the same time. Both men have won Royal Rumbles, Money in the Bank, countless titles and the respect of anyone who understands what a wrestler on top of the mountain actually has to go through.
One of the more interesting things that I never realized was that both Cena and Orton eliminated Triple H to win the Royal Rumble. It might not be a big deal, but it's a fun fact.
The clips of past champions really helped to illustrate just how important WWE wants people to think this match is, and having WWE use the lineage of the NWA Championship as part of the World Championship made it seem that much more prestigious.
WWE did not put the video on YouTube, so instead you will get to watch Bad News Barrett give some more bad news.
This match was short and ended in a countout. It was done to sell the upcoming Intercontinental Championship match between Big E Langston and Damien Sandow, but it did little to entertain.
Sandow had good heel heat after he chose to get himself counted out in order to remain healthy for his title match on Sunday, but Henry being involved was a bit pointless as Sandow could have faced anyone and gotten the same response.
Some notes from the match:
- Mark Henry really needs to be a heel. Having him and Big Show as babyfaces at the same time means there are no heels who dwarf the babyfaces like only they can, and that is one thing you have to have in wrestling.
- It actually looked like Henry shoved Sandow into Langston at the end, but nobody seemed to acknowledge it.
- Langston has been taking fashion tips from Stevie Ray and Booker T judging from that snappy shirt he was wearing. In a funny coincidence, Booker T ended up doing the WWEShop.com plug right after this match.
This was another really short match, but unlike the Sandow vs. Henry match it actually had a lot of energy and the fans seemed into it, from what could be seen.
You never know how the crowd is really reacting on SmackDown since the magic of editing allows WWE to edit in reactions, but it's hard not to notice cheers in the background during and after the match.
The action inside the ring was nothing special, though. Brie ended up tapping out to AJ's Black Widow after AJ shoved her into Nikki to knock her out of the ring.
Tamina didn't have a lot to do in this segment, and Natalya being on commentary was just to remind us that she has a title match with AJ on Sunday. Overall, this was just filler.
You don't have to like John Cena to acknowledge the fact that he is one of the most consistent Superstars WWE has ever had. He never lets the crowd's reaction get to him. He just goes out there and does what he is supposed to, and that is admirable.
As a fan of Cena, it sometimes gets frustrating to see people boo him just because he is a little stale. He is actually better now than he was when he was blowing the roof off of every arena he entered with reactions that rivaled the biggest pops Hulk Hogan ever had.
A lot of people would have gotten flustered being booed as a babyface, but Cena just took it all in and delivered a great promo to hype his match with Randy Orton on Sunday.
Cena seemed to genuinely believe what he was saying, and that always makes his performance more enjoyable.
Some notes from the segment:
- I wonder how accurate Cena was when he said 99 percent of WWE Superstars will never hold the WWE or World title.
- The use of the word "homie" seemed a bit out of place, but everything else about this promo was solid.
- This is another video WWE did not upload, so instead you will get to see CM Punk's promo towards The Shield.
Is anyone else noticing a trend in WWE lately where the tag team matches are almost always outshining the singles matches on Raw and SmackDown?
This match was no exception. The Usos, Rollins and Reigns have had several tag and six-man tag matches, and they never disappoint the crowd. The Shield have been great since day one, but The Usos have really proven just how exciting they are inside the ring in recent months.
Dean Ambrose was great at the commentary table, and all four men in the ring were spotless in their performances. There isn't much else to say that you don't already know.
The end of the match came when Rollins teased delivering a GTS, only to serve up Jimmy Uso to Roman Reigns for a nasty Spear that got them the win.
The post-match promo from CM Punk brought everything together. This was one of the stronger segments we have seen all week, and it's because everyone contributed with his very best.
Some notes from the match:
- At one point Dean Ambrose was listing off impossible things which included JBL spontaneously combusting. JBL's deadpan delivery of "That would be terrible for commentary" was way funnier than it would have been coming from anyone else.
- The DDT Roman Reigns took looked insanely brutal.
- Seth Rollins has become just as great at selling other people's offense as Dolph Ziggler. He might even be better.
- Roman Reigns has officially taken the title of "Best Spear in Wrestling History."
- CM Punk holding up his fist with the word "DRUG" tattooed on his knuckles was weird without him holding up the other fist that says "FREE" on it.
This was yet another very short match. Big Show picked up the win after he Chokeslammed Ryback to pick up the win in about two minutes.
This was obviously a match made just to remind everyone that Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Ryback and Curtis Axel are in the tag title match on Sunday. More filler.
I don't mind that WWE threw Mysterio and Big Show into a team because it gives them something to do until WWE comes up with something better, but nobody really benefits unless it's believable that they will remain a team for the foreseeable future.
Some notes from the match:
- I never would have believed that Axel had his own shirt had I not seen it for myself. It seems odd for him to have a new shirt since he is not really being pushed that hard right now.
- Rey Mysterio looks like a little kid next to Big Show, but when he jumped up into Show's arms after the match it just looked even more ridiculous.
This match never actually happened because Miz came out and gave Kofi Kingston a Skull-Crushing Finale outside the ring.
Despite being robbed of a match, I am actually happy this happened as Kofi and Del Rio have faced off too many times with no real feud behind any of the matches.
No match means no grade, but this worked to remind us that Kofi and Miz are engaged in a feud, and that Alberto Del Rio has absolutely nothing to do right now.
Randy Orton came to the ring to apologize to Stephanie and Triple H for knocking Stephanie down on Monday, and Triple H came out so Orton could give the apology face-to-face.
Triple H made a veiled threat to Orton about firing him, but he said it wouldn't be best for business. Orton then asked about Cena standing next to The Authority at the end of Raw.
Orton asked Triple H flat-out whether he believed in him, and Triple H gave a vague answer about knowing where his allegiances are.
This was another segment to push the main event at TLC, and it did a decent job of capping off the go-home show heading into the PPV. It wasn't groundbreaking by any means, but it certainly leaves fans wondering who Triple H will side with during or after the unification match.
WWE managed to pack quite a bit into the final show before TLC. Some of it was great, some of it was good, some of it was boring, but all of it helped sell the PPV.
The match of the night has to be a tie between The Usos vs. The Shield and The Real Americans vs. The Rhodes Brothers. Both tag matches were exciting and kept up the pattern of great tag matches we have seen develop in the past few months.
The overall show was average, but there were plenty of bright spots to make it worth watching.
Since we are right around the corner from Tables, Ladders & Chairs, all of this week's predictions will be for the outcomes of the matches set to take place.
- Dolph Ziggler will defeat Fandango.
- CM Punk will defeat The Shield, somehow.
- The Wyatt Family will defeat Daniel Bryan.
- Cody Rhodes and Goldust will retain the tag titles.
- Natalya will defeat AJ Lee, but she might not win the title due to a DQ or countout finish.
- Big E Langston will defeat Damien Sandow.
- John Cena will defeat Randy Orton.
What did you enjoy the most from SmackDown, and what are your TLC predictions?
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.