The Good, the Great and the Awesome from SmackDown 2/14/14
With nine days until Elimination Chamber on pay-per-view, WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton was tasked with taking on the fourth of the Superstars poised to challenge him inside the steel structure as he met (not so Antonio) Cesaro in this week's SmackDown main event.
Elsewhere on the broadcast, The Shield geared up for their war against The Wyatt Family on February 23 by taking on Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and Christian in six-man tag team action. The match, on paper, could headline any show for WWE and deliver a great match for fans in attendance, as well as those watching at home.
Did it deliver?
A new No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship, currently held by Big E Langston, would be determined as Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger vied for the opportunity.
Would one of the former world champions leave with the title shot, or would Kingston score the big win?
There was only one way to find out and that was by checking out this week's SmackDown.
With the show in the books, here is a look back at the good, the great and the awesome from this week's show.
Darren Young vs. Damien Sandow
Yes, the match was incredibly short, but it serves as the emphasis for the latest chapter in the feud between the Prime Time Players.
Young scored a big win over former Money in the Bank winner Sandow before embarrassing Titus O'Neil by thwarting his sneak attack and ripping his pants off of him.
The feud has been relegated to SmackDown, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been allowed the opportunity to unfold at a leisurely pace rather than being hot-shotted or forgotten all together.
The Miz vs. Fandango
This week's match between The Miz and Fandango furthered the recent feud between Santino Marella and WWE's resident ballroom dancer, while continuing to ease former NXT Diva Emma into the show.
There was nothing inherently wrong with any of the wrestling going on between the ropes, but the real action took place outside the squared circle as Emma and Summer Rae brawled at ringside and Marella delivered the Cobra to Fandango, setting him up for the Skull Crushing Finale.
Miz won the match, which he has not done with any sort of regularity in recent months, while the blossoming feud between the two mixed teams continues.
Santino, Emma, Fandango and Summer had one of the best comedy tag bouts in WWE history when they met down in NXT a few months back. If they can replicate that match on television or pay-per-view, then it will more than make the goofy build worth it.
The Usos, Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The New Age Outlaws, Ryback and Curtis Axel
The beginning exchanges were energetic and the finish, as is the case with most of the babyfaces' matches, was hot. Yet, the middle portion was bogged down significantly by a heel team featuring performers who simply are not dynamic enough to really keep viewers interested during heat segments.
The Usos really stood out as they continue to back up the hype surrounding their work over the past six months. They are arguably the best team in WWE, with their partners on this night being their toughest competition.
The pinfall win for the Usos gives them a ton of momentum heading into their eventual title match.
Michael Cole hinted that, if Rhodes and Goldust wish to regain their titles, they may one day have to take on the Usos to do so.
Let's hope that one day is coming soon.
Alexander Rusev Vignettes
The little hype videos for the impending television debut of Alexander Rusev have been outstanding. His handler, Lana, has done a great job of hyping him up while the cold nature of Rusev's words put him over as a Superstar with little concern about anything other than dishing out pain.
Cesaro vs. Randy Orton
For all of the heat he gets, Randy Orton has shown a willingness to put young, up-and-coming talent over throughout his career. Men like Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett have benefited from feuding with Orton because they scored wins over him that other stars in The Viper's position simply were not willing to give them.
Orton continued that tradition by putting over Cesaro in the main event of this week's SmackDown.
Cesaro caught Orton off-guard early in the match and had the WWE champion reeling early. But like the veteran he is, Orton overcame the early onslaught and took control of the match.
The trading of uppercuts by the Superstars was fun to watch as a fan but could not have been fun to be on the receiving end of.
The Cesaro Swing was incredibly over with the audience, and to his credit, Orton did a tremendous job putting the move over, his facial expressions really telling the story of the effectiveness of the move.
The finishing sequence, which saw Cesaro deliver the sunset flip powerbomb out of the corner, followed by a running uppercut and, finally, the Neutralizer, was outstanding.
Not the best match on the card, and not even as good as Orton-Cena from Raw, but a really hard-fought wrestling match that saw Orton do a ton of great little things while delivering his best performance in weeks.
Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and Christian vs. The Shield
Anytime six individuals with the talent of Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and The Shield are involved in the same match, said match is almost always guaranteed to be a show-stealing one. That was the case Friday night as they kicked off the broadcast and delivered on the expectations a fan would naturally have leading into the bout.
Sheamus serving as the face-in-peril, as well as the hot tag to Christian, was unexpected and helped bring a bit of uniqueness to the match rather than the expected Bryan onslaught late.
The miscommunication between Sheamus and Christian could serve as the emphasis for a rivalry between the two in the coming weeks.
The Shield's victory was exactly what Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins needed heading into the Elimination Chamber show. The only surprise was that there was no post-match promo from Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family.
Number one contender's match
Jack Swagger's win over Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio and Mark Henry to become the No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship was awesome for a number of reasons.
One, it restored some legitimacy to Swagger following a losing streak. A year ago at this time, he was in the middle of his second big main event push. After it petered out, his momentum stalled, and throughout his team with Cesaro, he has always been looked at as the weak link.
Two, it brought attention to the criminally undervalued intercontinental title, held by Big E. The title was once the measuring stick for young stars hoping to move up the card. It was also the worker's title as the best wrestlers on the roster held the championship,
Three, it let four completely different workers deliver a fun, exciting and awesome match that felt completely fresh and was interesting.
Swagger's win gives him a shot at Big E's title come February 23 and restores prestige to the Intercontinental Championship.
A very effective match.