That’s a difficult question, and there is more than one answer. Last night’s episode has to be one of the best editions of Smackdown in rather a long time. It had all the important factors needed, and it was a really enthralling show. Let’s take a look at what happened.
The show opened up with a spine-chillingly epic segment. Triple H was at his complete best interrupting Miz TV and putting guests Big Show, Ziggler and host Miz under intense scrutiny. He booked the latter two in depressingly unfair contests as punishment for their speaking out against the regime, and ordered the giant to sit at ringside for the entirety of the show and “do nothing”
Randy Orton came down for his impromptu match against The Miz. The two of them put on a really good show, but before long The Shield made their presence known. Daniel Bryan came down to make the save with a steel chair, while Show just sat on his. The entire arena erupted with “Yes” chants. It genuinely felt like I was watching an Attitude Era show. The company are building this guy perfectly, and this was one of the most special openings to a Smackdown in a long, long time. I was really impressed. The Miz played a role in an important storyline, and almost got over on Orton. Bryan continued to galvanise the crowd. Orton, The Shield and most importantly Triple H continued to build themselves up as despicable heels. A flawless opening.
Sandow jobbed to Van Dam. I wouldn’t usually think this is a good idea, but I guess RVD needs a little nudge before he challenges for the title, and the loss shouldn’t hurt the Money in the Bank holder too much. Del Rio came out in a very cool suit, rocking the legendary scarf. It’s a shame his promo bores me so much.
Dolph fought valiantly in his three-on-one handicap match against The Shield – a punishment he was handed by Triple H at the start of the night. Unfortunately for him though he eventually had to succumb to the spear from the monster Reigns. The Shield then beat down Ziggler after the match, and taunted Big Show to get involved. Show’s performance was amazing. He looked like he was going to cry. JBL was on top form as the dastardly heel commentator, and likewise for Cole in the face role. The whole psychology and delivery of the story here was mastered perfectly. I can’t wait until Punk is added into the mix for this angle, because it’s just screaming out for him. However, without him, it’s still insanely hot right now.
Axel and Heyman came out to cut an in-ring promo. Axel is starting to sound really good. There was some nice progress here. The amazing Heyman was up to his usual standards, calling himself a God and probably single-handedly selling a few thousand pay-per-view buys with his uncanny ability to hype up a match.
The Wyatt’s quickly and compellingly took out Tonnes of Funk, before Bray delivered what is now being called ‘Sister Abigail’ to Tensai (I think – does it really matter which one?) – The entrance is still awesome, the two guys were dominant and performed well, and they went over showcasing themselves as bad boys. Success!
Then The Vault would have treated me to a match between “The Mountie” (laugh out loud) and Bret Hart, but I skipped it.
There was another vignette for Los Matadores, the new repackaged version of Primo and Epico. I think it will be good to see them back, and they will make a welcome addition to a sometimes lazily booked and heavily under-pushed division. But, do I think the new gimmick will catch on long term? No.
Then it was time for the main event between Daniel Bryan and Ryback. Vickie booked this earlier to punish Bryan for “bullying” The Shield and Randy Orton at the start of the show. The giant was still sat at ringside and he got to see a very decent match. The two road buddies often work well together, in my opinion. The big bully dominated for large periods, but was taken aback by Bryan’s response, his heart and his trademark striking flurries. The two of them worked excellent size psychology and told a good story in there.
Randy Orton came down to ringside to offer a distraction, allowing Ryback to hit a very powerful spine-buster and a doozy of a meat-hook clothesline. Bryan kicked out at two. The little one with the beard managed to get back on top and tie the big man down with the Lobell Lock. Orton jumped into the ring, causing the referee to ring the bell and award Bryan the match by disqualification. Bryan then put his finishing submission hold on Orton, before The Shield came down to get involved.
The four of them began to beat on him, before Big Show finally responded. He climbed onto the apron and into the ring, but couldn’t find the guts to strike them. Triple H came out and ordered the big man to leave the ring, and the arena. He must have been going to the Mark Henry School of Acting while he was on the shelf, because he delivered a compelling performance all night, for someone who didn’t even wrestle a match. He looked like he was going to burst into tears as the COO marched him up the ramp and through the curtain. The big guy dragged it out and sold it perfectly.
Then Triple H gave the now “vintage” nod, signalling The Shield and Orton to deliver the mother of all beat-downs. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t real, that’s how well done this was. It was relentless and brutal. Orton ordered the hounds of justice to keep picking Bryan up, so he could strike him back down. He then branded him NWO still, with the black spray paint can, spraying “No” onto his chest. Sidenote: How do you wash spray paint off of a nipple? The Viper is so adept at telling stories with his face, and this talent was on full display here. He interacted with the crowd like only the best heels can. The Shield performed their end of the deal very well, as easy as it may have been. On the whole, this was a truly amazing ending to a very, very good episode of Friday Night Smackdown.
This show seemed to fly by, and that’s not always the case. It wasn’t a stacked card, but they spent the right amount of time on the most important things. It was the best episode of Smackdown I’ve seen in a long while. Daniel Bryan was the star as usual, and they are building him up like it’s 1998 and he’s Stone Cold Steve Austin. The show had a blockbuster opening, and an even better ending. The only way this could have been bettered would have been if Punk were on the show, but that would have been unnecessary. It was almost flawless. Go watch it!