WWE ran a live episode of SmackDown last night from Hartford, Connecticut that was supposed to act as a make good for the fact that Raw at the same venue was cancelled earlier in the week to a snowstorm. It didn't feel like a make good. In fact, it felt like your usual episode of SmackDown.
Here's what we were treated to:
CONTROVERSY: I want kayfabe back, at least during the weekly WWE television shows. Technically speaking, Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble was controversial because it divided the fan base at the arena the night it happened in Philadelphia but I don't need them to run a storyline with Triple H acknowledging as much and making like they have to deal with it in character. They really don't. There wasn't anything controversial about how he won. He just won the match and a bunch of people decided they don't like that. That's not a plot point for the story they're telling. Use it for the story they're going to tell, fine, but don't let it become the overriding theme. If changes are going to be made because of it, that's also fine but come up with a kayfabe explanation that services the story. No more of this floating in and out like the Reigns interview on Raw contrasted to the Bryan interview. It isn't doing anyone any favors. Pull the curtain back when you're doing a tell all documentary, not when you're writing your entertainment show.
Roman Reigns vs. Big Show: There are only so many ways for a match like this to go and none of them = good, so kudos for not stinking the joint out, I guess. Maybe don't do the apron kick right after getting your leg worked over for a few minutes, though. Oh and the fans cheered Reigns winning, so there's hope yet that he won't have to turn heel and/or the entire audience won't turn on him.
Seth Rollins' open challenge: I love the heel Rollins has become. "I told you! I came within one second of winning the title!" That's everyone in every title match ever, basically. If you're in a title match and get a two count, you were one second away from winning the strap. This dude acting like he's Billy Badass for it is what makes him so damn special. Then he issues an open challenge, uses J&J Security to cheat attack Ryback, does the same to Erick Rowan, and finally runs away when there are too many babyfaces to cheat against. It's so nice to have an actual heel character who plays it for all its worth these days. That said...
Dum dums: Ryback, Erick Rowan, and Dolph Ziggler failed to overcome Rollins, Jamie Noble, and Joey Mercury. The "babyfaces are dumb and/or incompetent" booking strikes again.
Jey Uso vs. Tyson Kidd: They didn't get enough time for anything meaningful but there's obvious potential here. It also means The Usos are finally moving away from The Miz and Damien Mizdow and that's reason to celebrate.
John Cena is awful: It took all of one segment for WWE to make clear that this Cena vs. Rusev feud is going to be truly terrible. Rusev talked for himself this time, saying he shouldn't have to face John Cena because he is a loser -- true, seeing as he couldn't win the WWE title from Lesnar -- and he is a thing of the past. He has no titles. That's sound logic. What does Cena respond with? "You need a lesson in respect." Okay, that's fine so far. "I'm not a loser, I was US champion before you had pubes and she had boobs." Yep, here we go with this bullshit. "All that means is Ho-sie O'Donnell goes back to Tinder and John Cena and Rusev fight right here, right now." We should have known, right? The most negative thing he said about Rusev was that he needed a lesson in respect. He called Lana a ho and insinuated she's a slut, and he's the guy pushed as the babyface who is almost surely going to win this feud. I can't wait for John Cena to go away for good, or for WWE to get a clue and stop writing this bullshit for the babyfaces. For what it's worth, they edited out both of those lines from the YouTube video of the segment they uploaded so someone knows better. Next time edit it out of the script before it makes air. And before anyone rushes to the comments to tell me I whine for edgier content and then complain when they do things like this let me make clear that I'm all for one character on a show calling another character a ho, but not when it's the good guy and it's endorsed. That should be coming from the heel, the action condemned, and ultimately result in defeat for the asshole who said it.
Twin bullying: Here's a fine example of exactly what I was just talking about. Paige is getting a title shot against Nikki Bella, the heel, so her and her sister Brie show up to make fun of the fact that Paige has pale skin and she's ugly. This is, of course, a load of bullshit and it's designed to make you feel sympathy for Paige for having to put up with it and make her righteous when she attacks back against it, which is what happened. And it felt good. Now I really want Paige to win.
The Ascension vs. Gold & Stardust: This felt like more of a vehicle for yet another teased split between the Dusty boys but also made clear that the Fall of Man is the worst finish any tag team has ever worked in a WWE ring. I'll hear arguments to the contrary.
The yolk's on you: There was some cross promotion for a guy doing magic tricks, but I have no idea who he was. R-Truth was the star as a background character who told The Miz "the yolk's on you" when Miz had an egg smashed in his face. That pretty much says it all about this segment.
Living or dead: Finally, a Bray Wyatt promo has some meaning and it's clear we're headed for a smoke and mirrors Undertaker vs. Wyatt match at WrestleMania. I hope they go full blown 1994 with it.
Casket match: Count me as one of the folks who could go the rest of his life without seeing another Kane match but what he put together with Daniel Bryan here was entertaining enough, for two reasons. 1) I legitimately wasn't sure who was going to win, feeling as though any outcome was entirely possible. That's a lesson for future Rumble matches, WWE. 2) They actually bothered to tie up a loose end in a meaningful way. I can't count how many times I've wished WWE would bother to go back and write a final chapter to a story they started and never bothered to finish, and that's what this was. They wrapped up the long standing Bryan-Kane feud with a match designed to do just that. No, they didn't tear the house down, but they didn't stink the joint out, the fans got to "YES" with their boy D-Bry, and we can finally turn the page to a new chapter for both characters. Well done.
As stated, this just felt like a typical episode of what we can expect from WWE on Thursday nights.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?