Complete Report Card and Predictions Following WWE SmackDown for January 3
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 is the first televised WWE event of 2014. WWE had exactly one chance to start off the year on the right foot, and it did pretty well.
The show opened with a promo from The Shield followed by a tag match featuring Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns taking on The Usos.
Then the main event featured CM Punk and The Usos teaming up to take on The Shield. Both matches were really good, but they might have competition for "Match of the Night" from The Wyatt Family and The Brotherhood.
Let's get right into the opening match with Rollins and Reigns taking on Jimmy and Jey Uso.
The Usos vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns
So not only did WWE give these guys nearly two whole segments to wrestle, but it ended up making it possible to see The Usos and The Shield in another match later on with Punk on The Usos team.
The first match of 2014 was great. WWE is starting things on the right foot by putting two very talented tag teams in a match together.
I don't even care that they've wrestled each other a million times already because I never get tired of seeing them put on totally different matches each time they face off.
Remember when we always used to complain about the same people facing each other every show? I could watch The Usos and The Shield face off every week, and lately it seems like we have been.
The match wasn't a jaw-dropper, but it was certainly a great way to kick off the year.
- I included the (-) because of the DQ finish. It gave us the chance to see them fight twice in the same show, but at what cost? The Shield have way too many DQ finishes to their matches.
- Vickie came out and pulled a "Teddy Long No. 2."
- In case you don't know the official list of "Teddy Longs" here it is.
- Teddy Long No. 1.—Turning a four-man brawl or a singles match with two other people interfering into a tag team match.
- Teddy Long No. 2.—Turning a six-man brawl or a tag team match with two other people interfering into a six-man tag match.
- Teddy Long No. 3.—Restarting a Fatal 4-Way match as a tag match.
- Teddy Long No. 4.—Making any situation into an eight-man or more tag match.
Fandango vs. R-Truth
This was a pretty run-of-the-mill match, but the ending left a strange impression. What was basically said here was that Fandango is a heel for using Summer Rae as a distraction, but when R-Truth and Xavier Woods do the same thing with Cameron and Naomi, it's OK.
The match was pretty short, and it makes it seem like we might see Fandango enter into a feud with Woods and Truth, possibly even teaming with Brodus Clay at some point to take them on.
It might be that the speculation of WWE not defining heels and babyfaces is true, or it could just be that this feud just doesn't click.
Some notes from the match:
- I enjoyed a lot of Woods' banter with JBL on commentary.
- Remember when Ron Killings was a main event player in TNA?
- Remember when Consequences Creed seemed like one of TNA's shining stars?
- Good times.
The Brotherhood vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan (Tag Title Match)
This is another feud that I could watch week after week. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Goldust and Cody Rhodes have never had a bad bout.
They are usually given a significant amount of time to allow all four men to show off their best stuff, and they always end up being a candidate for "Match of the Night."
Bray Wyatt was not at ringside for the match, which really allowed the focus to stay on the wrestling and not on his reactions outside the ring.
Goldust picked up the win for his team when he made a blind tag to Rhodes and rolled up Rowan from behind for the pin.
Some notes from the match:
- JBL and Cole talked about Cody Rhodes doing a moonsault off the top of a steel cage at a recent Madison Square Garden show. If that move had been performed wrong, it could have killed Cody. Taking that kind of risk really shows how far Rhodes is willing to go to become the best.
- Spot-monkeys do that kind of stuff all the time, but Rhodes is not a spot-monkey; he is a technical wrestle who can also do the high-flying stuff.
- Christopher Daniels might have some competition for Best Moonsault Ever.
- It's a little surprising that WWE would let Harper keep using the sit-out powerbomb when that will most likely be Batista's finisher again.
Aksana vs. Nikki Bella
This match was better than expected. Nikki Bella has shown some improvement in the ring since returning from injury, and Aksana actually looked halfway competent.
Having a singles match was a nice change of pace from the multi-Diva tag matches we have been seeing lately. And even though it didn't last too long, it lasted long enough to be passable.
Some notes from the match:
- Exchange of the night.
- Michael Cole: "You're comparing Aksana to Hannibal Lecter!"
- JBL: "I admit, it's not the best comparison. There aren't a lot of famous people from Lithuania."
- Cole: "Hannibal Lecter ate people!"
- JBL: "That's a valid point, Michael."
- JBL's New Year's resolution went from climbing seven mountains to being on Total Divas.
- Nikki's use of the Torture Rack would be cooler as a submission instead of a drop.
Big E Langston vs. Curtis Axel
This match looks good on paper, but it ended up being a very textbook encounter. These two have had much better matches in the past, and it didn't even seem like they used the time they did have to do anything special.
The heel controlled most of the match until the babyface sprang back to life and hit his finisher to get the win. This wasn't even a title match, and due to the short time, we basically saw Curtis Axel lose a squash match to Big E Langston.
Everything came off fine, but this bout just didn't have anything to make it memorable.
The match took place after Langston was shown talking to Renee Young about Brock Lesnar and Curtis Axel walking up to mock him. WWE had to have known that filming this before the actual return would cause the big return of Lesnar to be spoiled.
Bad News Barrett
I don't know why the visual of Wade Barrett's podium rising up next to the stage is so funny to me, but it is.
Barrett and the WWE writers really haven't hit that perfect promo to define the character, but it's slowly getting better with each week.
This promo was obviously going to be about New Year's resolutions, with his bad news being that nobody would stick to their resolutions.
Not a great segment, but by no means was it terrible.
The Shield vs. Jimmy and Jey Uso and CM Punk
The first tag match was good, but adding Dean Ambrose and Punk to the mix made things a little more fun for the main event.
Punk picked up the win with a GTS to Ambrose after all six men participated in a nice exchange to end the match.
CM Punk's feud with The Shield seems to be going strong, and judging from the looks of things we may see some kind of match featuring them and The Usos at the Royal Rumble.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
The first televised WWE event of 2013 had three really good matches and three so-so matches.
Once again it was the tag team matches that stole the show from the singles matches, and that is not something that would have been thought possible two to three years ago.
The tag team division used to be a joke, but now it has a large number of very talented teams to have different combinations of matches.
Goldust and Cody Rhodes vs. The Wyatts and both matches featuring The Usos and The Shield were highly entertaining, and the fact that we got two matches out of The Shield and The Usos started and ended the show in a great way.
We didn't have John Cena or Randy Orton, which meant the WWE World Heavyweight Championship feud was addressed through video packages, but it gave the other divisions a chance to shine.
- AJ Lee will become the longest-reigning Divas champion.
- AJ will also lose the title at the Royal Rumble, just a week or two after passing Maryse's record of 216 days.
- Dean Ambrose will lose the U.S. title soon. (I say this all the time, so it has to be right eventually.)
- Daniel Bryan will still be cheered by a lot of people, despite joining The Wyatt Family.
- Hulk Hogan will return and be as over with the crowd as anyone else.
What did you think of the first SmackDown of 2014?
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.