Every week here on Bleacher Report, I 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. I also provide some predictions on the direction of storylines.
This week's show saw the returns of both Christian and Sheamus to SmackDown and more developments heading into the Elimination Chamber.
The two final entrants in the Chamber match were chosen, and a six-man match between The Shield and The Wyatt Family was made, but the most surprising thing might have been the breakup of Titus O'Neil and Darren Young.
The show had a few good matches, but most of them were quick and uneventful. Dolph Ziggler and Antonio Cesaro probably tied the six-man main event for match of the night.
Let's get right into the show with the opening segment featuring Triple H and The Shield.
The Shield opened the show with a promo that focused on the Royal Rumble. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose almost got into it at one point, but Seth Rollins got between them and made them focus on The Wyatt Family.
They laid out a challenge to the Wyatts, and Vickie Guerrero was all ready to make the match until Triple H came out and put a stop to it.
He told them to back off, and Reigns got in his face and told him they weren't asking for permission. Triple H decided to give in, but he scheduled the match for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
This was a good segment. It told the story it was supposed to tell very clearly, and everyone contributed in their own way.
Roman Reigns had a little chant from the crowd at one point, but it was Ambrose who stuck out as the most memorable for his performance.
Some notes from the segment:
- It's funny how people used to talk about Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as the most likely breakout stars when they first showed up on the scene, and nowadays all anyone can talk about is Roman Reigns.
- Watching Reigns' progression as a performer over the past year has been awesome. He has improved more quickly in just about every way than anyone else in recent memory.
- Ambrose and Reigns' increasing friction is making things interesting. Seeing who Rollins sides with when they eventually reach a boiling point is what will really be interesting, though.
When you see a match on the program featuring Antonio Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler, you expect it to be good. What you don't expect is an exchange of 11 near-falls in the first 45 seconds of the match.
This wasn't the barn-burner I expected it to be, but it was a good match for going two segments.
Cesaro picked up the win decisively with a Cesaro Swing followed by a Neutralizer. There was no quick roll up out of nowhere or a distraction from Zeb. Cesaro went over Ziggler totally clean, and that is sometimes a nice change to see for a heel.
This means he is supposed to look like a serious contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship when the PPV rolls around. I wouldn't be shocked if we saw him pick up a few more wins to bolster his credibility between now and the PPV.
He has always been an underutilized talent, but WWE is making him look good for the time being, which is a good start in the right direction.
Some notes from the match:
- I was hoping for a big uppercut spot to end the match. You just know Ziggler would sell the hell out of that move, but seeing as he is just off a concussion, I am not shocked that he didn't take a risky spot involving his head.
- Zeb should have been on commentary since he didn't really get involved in the match. He can be entertaining at a table with JBL.
- The Cesaro Swing should have lasted a lot longer.
This was another clean, decisive win for a heel, but it wasn't as good as the previous match. It was decent for what it was, but that isn't saying a lot.
Woods and Fandango only had one segment to work with, but they did a decent job of putting together a solid match. Woods got in one big move when he flung himself over the top rope onto Fandango, but Fandango's new finisher stuck out.
He had Woods on the top turnbuckle and then brought him down with a sit-out forward suplex or something like that. It's a hard move to pin a name on.
Some notes from the match:
- I wonder if JBL knew Woods used to be known as Consequences Creed when he made the Apollo Creed joke.
- Summer Rae always seems so invested in what is happening in the ring. It makes her character stand out in the background in a good way.
- I don't get what WWE is doing with Emma, but seeing her get a little chant from the crowd was cool. Maybe she will end up feuding with Summer Rae for breaking her sign.
This was essentially a squash match. Darren Young took a beating from bell to bell and gave up the pin to Curtis Axel. Titus O'Neil was never the legal man at all.
A third clean win in a row for the heels is something that should be pointed out, but this was obviously not done to make Rybaxel look strong. It was done to facilitate the breakup of Young and O'Neil.
Young was bleeding from the mouth when the match was over, but that didn't stop O'Neil from putting a beatdown on him both verbally and physically.
He declared his intention to be a future champion, and he made it even more clear that PTP was a thing of the past. The way he whipped Young into the barricade twice while never once letting go of Young's head was especially brutal.
The way the breakup occurred was done well, but it's too bad they never got a chance to have a run with the tag titles while they were together. They would have been entertaining champions.
Some notes from the match:
- The grade here is based more on the segment after the match than the match itself.
- I always knew O'Neil would be the breakout star when PTP eventually broke up, but I hoped he would stay a babyface for a little while.
- It will be interesting to see how WWE treats these two as singles wrestlers. Young is good technically, but we haven't seen him in long singles matches to test him. O'Neil is obviously a talented powerhouse, but the real determining factor will be how they perform on the mic as solo acts.
Christian and Jack Swagger had a match to fill the final slot in the Elimination Chamber match, and Christian picked up the win to earn his spot with a Frog Splash.
This wasn't exactly a huge return for the former world champion, but seeing him and Sheamus return to SmackDown on the same night after months of absence was cool.
The match was good. Both guys hit their usual spots, and the pace was quick to keep it from becoming too boring. They only had one segment, but it seemed like they used every second to their advantage.
Christian gave a backstage interview with Renee Young that established his motives. He hasn't lost a step in his time off, which is good to see after an extended absence.
Some notes from the match:
- The promo video before the match for Alexander Rusev had a real Rocky IV vibe to it. I just hope he doesn't turn into the next Vladimir Kozlov, where he starts out strong and then turns into a joke.
- I am still pissed about how poorly Kozlov was used, and I wanted to see the sitcom they were going to make with him and Santino Marella.
- That's not a joke, by the way. There really was a story about a Santino sitcom that never happened. I hope whoever pulled the plug on this got fired.
- I loved the spot where Swagger just threw Christian over the turnbuckle to the floor. It looked so dangerous.
- Christian should keep using the Frog Splash. The Killswitch has always been a weird-looking finisher.
- Swagger and Christian have kind of a long history as rivals, and nobody talked about it at all during the match. Those oversights are disappointing sometimes.
This was a really quick match that had very little importance to any current storyline or feud. Kofi got the win with the SOS, and JBL was sure to note that Damien Sandow was in a slump these days.
Kofi needs something to freshen up his character. New music or a new finisher might not be enough. A manager or maybe even a heel turn might be what it takes for him to be taken seriously.
This match did not get nearly enough time, and it probably should have been Billy Gunn in the ring instead of Road Dogg.
Road Dogg is still awesome, but Billy Gunn has a more exciting style that would have meshed well with Rhodes.
There were some bright spots in this match, but it didn't last long enough to wow anyone. Cody picked up a quick win with the Disaster Kick, and then Goldust and Cody sent the New Age Outlaws running when they tried a post-match attack.
Before the match started, we saw The Wyatt Family respond to The Shield from the Titantron, and the promo had a lot to like about it.
Wyatt was as good as he always is at talking circles around nothing, but the fact that Harper and Rowan got a chance to say a little something added a new element to the way it came across.
Harper got to say a few sentences, but it was Rowan looking into the camera with his mask on and saying "Run" that really capped off the creepy factor.
The match was as good as you would expect it to be with the six men involved. Little time was wasted with headlocks and groundwork.
Roman Reigns Speared Rey Mysterio to pick up the victory after a great exchange that involved all six men.
Daniel Bryan got his normal amount of support from the crowd, but he proved why he deserved it with the back-to-back suicide dives to Reigns and Ambrose.
Some notes from the match:
- Reigns has been picking up the majority of The Shield's victories lately, and that would indicate a push for the young prospect in the near future.
- I would not be shocked if he broke away from the group at the Elimination Chamber PPV.
- Mysterio took that Spear like a champ.
This was an average episode of SmackDown in a lot of ways, but there were a lot of positive things to take away from the show this week.
Antonio Cesaro is in the Elimination Chamber with the returning Christian and Sheamus, and we have a new six-man match between The Wyatt Family and The Shield.
There was no attention paid to the Divas division outside of The Funkadactyls and Summer Rae being outside the ring for Woods and Fandango's match. People will be split on if this was a good or bad thing.
- Daniel Bryan will be one of the final two men in the Elimination Chamber.
- The Wyatt Family will defeat The Shield in their tag match at the PPV.
- Titus O'Neil will win any eventual match he has with Darren Young.
- Rey Mysterio will continue to be irrelevant.
- There will be a lot of CM Punk chants on Raw.
What was your favorite part of SmackDown, and what are your Elimination Chamber predictions?
Thanks for reading and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.