WWE SmackDown returned last night (Jan. 4, 2013) from Richmond, Virginia, with a taped show on the SyFy channel featuring the first episode of the year -- one that really gets the build going for Royal Rumble. It was a solid effort from "The Blue Brand", giving us some hints about what is in store for the future.
If you missed the show, or just want to go back and read the live blog again, click here. But time for the reactions!
- The show opened with Randy Orton coming out and declaring that he would be entering the Royal Rumble. Sheamus was quick to follow, also declaring that he would be entering the Royal Rumble. The two would have a brief stare down before The Big Show waltzed out from behind the curtain, and proclaimed himself to be "the most dominating World Heavyweight Champion." Then Antonio Cesaro came out and called Show grotesquely obese. Finally, Booker T would make a standard faces vs. heel tag team match for the main event. It was about as stereotypical an open as SmackDown could have, but it actually was fun to watch. Orton and Sheamus hinted at a feud -- something that would continue later in the night -- and both Show and Cesaro killed it on the mic. Some might complain about booking a "Teddy Long's specialty" match, but honestly what options are available right now? Things can't advance forward until Monday's (Jan. 7) Raw, so it makes sense to throw everyone together.
- The main event match was solid overall, with all parties playing their parts well. The go-home featured Sheamus tagging himself in after Orton started to turn the tables against Cesaro. Sheamus would hit a White Noise on Cesaro and started to call for the Brogue Kick. Orton then slipped into the ring and hit the RKO, leaving Cesaro out cold. Sheamus reluctantly covered Cesaro for the pin, but he was visibly upset about not being able to land his finisher. All signs point to these two entering a feud in the near future. My best guess is one eliminates the other at Royal Rumble, and/or Elimination Chamber. From there it is pretty much a straight shot till WrestleMania 29. I think it would be perfect for both guys. They can both work a tweener mentality and have the entire angle be about beating the tar out of each other. No morality, no shenanigans. Just some great matches.
- Antonio is still foreign, and he's still awesome. It's great to see him working with WWE's biggest stars.
- Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston to retain the Intercontinental Championship in what was a damn good match. This is after Kofi pinned Wade on Wednesday's (Jan. 2) Main Event after the champion had faced three other opponents. At first it seemed like ass-backwards booking for Kofi to pick up the cheap win, only to lose in a title match. But it ended up playing out pretty well. A cheap win on Main Event doesn't hurt Wade in the slightest, and it gave fans the belief that Kofi could win on SmackDown. Kofi -- along with JBL and Josh Mathews -- built up this match as his last real shot. Kofi said that "his back was against the wall." Either Kofi is leaving WWE soon -- unlikely -- or he is going to go through a major character reboot. And I think one is desperately needed.
- That being said, it is very possible Wade and Kofi continue to trade wins going forward, or Kofi will simply drop to the bottom of the card. You never really know with these types of things.
- The Miz went over Heath Slater in a decent match that went on far too long. I have no clue what The Miz is doing, and I don't think WWE does either. But he is going to be in The Marine 3: Homefront -- set to be released around WrestleMania 29 -- so he needs to be a face until then.
- The Great Khali, Hornswaggle & Natalya defeated Primo, Epico, & Rosa Mendes in a 6-man Inter-Gender Tag Team Match. This trio is going to continue to be a thing moving forward. I cannot tell you why.
- Tamina Snuka defeated Layla. I want to assume that Tamina may be getting a push. However, I feel like this is the third time she was hyped up, and the first two she simply disappeared from television.
With this being the last show of the dreaded winter season, next week's SmackDown should hold a lot more in terms of storyline advancement. Even still, it was certainly a fun show overall. A few good matches and promos, an indication about what is in store for SmackDown's biggest stars, and nothing terrible that made me want to change the channel. Overall, it was a fun way to spend two hours on a Friday night.
How about you, Cagesiders? Did you enjoy the first SmackDown of 2013, or are you simply waiting until the "Road to WrestleMania" begins?