The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown 1/31/14
It has been a fairly rough week for wrestling fans.
Daniel Bryan was left out of the Royal Rumble, a match that felt significantly less special than previous years' offerings. Just 24 hours later, CM Punk walked out of World Wrestling Entertainment with frustration over creative and the mounting of injuries playing a key role in his decision.
Batista won the Royal Rumble despite a very vocal crowd in Pittsburgh detesting the idea of The Animal challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, while John Cena and Randy Orton fought...again.
With that said, this writer's inner smart mark danced without shame during Friday's SmackDown, thanks to a tremendous main event, the addition of two outstanding wrestlers to the Elimination Chamber match on February 23 and a major announcement regarding a match fans have eagerly anticipated for months.
Throw in the split of a talented tag team and the revelation of one of this Monday's big Raw matches, and you have an episode of SmackDown that actually accomplished quite a bit as opposed to being a filler show.
What was good, great and awesome about this week's show?
Find out after the jump.
Christian vs. Jack Swagger
Captain Charisma made his return to the ring this week on SmackDown, and he did so in an Elimination Chamber qualifier against former ECW rival Jack Swagger.
The two have experienced great in-ring chemistry in the past, and while Friday's match was nowhere near the level of some of their better matches, it was a competitive six-minute match that advanced Christian into the Chamber match and further planted the seeds for the split between Swagger and manager Zeb Colter.
Christian taking a spot in the Chamber after being gone for so long is surprising, but Michael Cole did a great job of putting over the fact that he has never competed inside the structure during his phenomenal career. If the company resists any booking changes, it will allow the former World Heavyweight champion to cross that off his proverbial "to do" list.
Prime Time No More
After suffering a quick loss to Ryback and Curtis Axel, Titus O'Neil watched with an apathetic look on his face as partner Darren Young, bleeding from the mouth, struggled to his feet. Disgusted over the loss, O'Neil began walking away before responding to Young's statements about them being friends and "like brothers."
O'Neil said he was not a loser and proceeded to flatten his partner before leaving the squared circle on his own.
The split brings to an end one of the more entertaining teams in WWE. The Prime Time Players were one of the tandems that never really got a shot to shine on a big stage thanks to the spotlight being put on teams elsewhere on the card.
Young has proved to be a dynamic babyface, and O'Neil is one of the more charismatic big men in recent WWE history. While it is disappointing that the Players' run has come to an end before they could experience tag team gold, both Superstars have the potential to make an impact elsewhere on the card as singles competitors.
Kudos to O'Neil, in particular, who was outstanding Friday night and really showed flashes as a talker.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Antonio Cesaro
Generally speaking, any time two of the more talented in-ring workers in all of WWE are put in the ring and given even a little time to deliver a solid match, they typically do.
That was the case Friday as Ziggler and Cesaro competed for the right to enter the WWE title Elimination Chamber match on February 23.
It was a very competitive match with a few near-falls late that kept fans entertained, but in the end, Cesaro seized the moment and captured the win over the former World Heavyweight champion.
It was a huge win for the Swiss-born Superstar, who will now advance to the biggest match of his career. There has been much hype surrounding the former U.S. champion, and now, he has an opportunity to compete against some of the biggest stars in the industry for the biggest prize in the sport.
Ziggler's loss is the latest in a long line of them, which is majorly disappointing for one of the best wrestlers WWE has to offer.
But the Show Off and his fans are becoming all too familiar with the feeling of disappointment.
To be a member of WWE creative and have The Shield at your disposal must make crafting a television main event fairly simple. After all, you can literally put any three Superstars together to take on Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins and deliver a near-four-star match on a weekly basis.
That was once again the case this week as The Shield took on Rey Mysterio, Daniel Bryan and Sheamus in the show-closing match.
The action was fast-paced and chaotic, as has become the norm, and drama reigned supreme late as all six Superstars worked to get their stuff in.
Reigns' spear to Mysterio for the victory did nothing to hurt Sheamus, who recently returned, or Bryan, who is the hottest star in the sport. It also puts heat on the Hounds of Justice as they prepare for a huge match at Elimination Chamber, which we will get to in a moment.
A really good main event to cap off an outstanding episode of SmackDown.
Take All of My Money Right Now, WWE!
The opening segment of this week's show featured The Shield calling out the Wyatt Family and issuing a challenge for a match between the two trios. Triple H made his way to the ring and tried to talk the Hounds of Justice down, ordering them to stand down and "let it go."
Roman Reigns stepped forward, informed the COO of WWE that they were not asking for his approval. Ever the businessman, The Game made the match official for Elimination Chamber, to the delight of the fans watching inside the arena and the millions watching at home.
Later in the evening, prior to the night's main event, The Wyatt Family interrupted The Shield's entrance with a promo that was nothing short of outstanding.
Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper hit fans square in the face with a few money lines that really sold the match to anyone not already prepared to go out of their way to see it. Do not believe me? Check out the video above.
Even Erick Rowan's "run" line really put over the conflict that awaits the two teams.
For months, fans have dreamed of a match between The Shield and The Wyatt Family, and now, that dream becomes reality.
And if the first promo of the war is any indication, it should be spectacular.