WWE returned to the SyFy network for SmackDown last night (Feb. 26, 2015) from Atlanta, Georgia with a show that featured all the continued fallout from the Fastlane pay-per-view this past Sunday night but also some meaningful build for the Intercontinental championship and its direction headed into WrestleMania 31 next month.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
The road to relevancy
Brock Lesnar has been WWE world heavyweight champion dating back to SummerSlam last year. He is a part-timer who has worked just two matches and around 15 television dates since then. In six months time, at no point did WWE attempt to simply elevate its secondary title, the Intercontinental championship.
It seems Daniel Bryan is making good on his promise to become the leader of SmackDown and his first act outside the WWE world heavyweight title picture is to turn his focus to the Intercontinental strap. His mere decision to do so adds an air of importance to it.
You could argue that belt was at its best when Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were battling over it. So how about Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose in 2015? Sure enough, we're getting a ladder match for the title at WrestleMania 31 next month.
What better way to kick off a strong reign? Or even a good back-and-forth battle over it? Ambrose has already done most of the leg work with consecutive promos following Fastlane and Monday Night Raw this past week revealing he'll fight with his life for that belt.
Now put Bryan in the mix alongside the likes of Dolph Ziggler, a storied champion in his own right, Bad News Barrett, the current, sad, title holder who can't keep his hands on his property, and R-Truth, a dude who doesn't belong, not really, but is good for a few laughs, and we've got ourselves an honest to goodness title picture.
Hell, that's better than the WWE world title scene, is it not? You've got Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and then ... I guess Seth Rollins because he has the Money in the Bank briefcase? Outside of that, nothing.
Here, they spent an entire show teasing involvement, giving the story meaning, and playing Barrett and Truth for laughs. This had it all, and it was fun, and it's building to what could be the show stealing match at this year's WrestleMania.
Well done, WWE.
Naomi vs. Natalya: Couldn't help but think these two were doing their best with the time they were given and you know what? Good. If they're motivated, it's only going to get better. That said, Natalya made clear she's cool with faking an injury to get the edge in a match, so her turn to the darkside appears complete. That's cause for celebration.
Jack Swagger is still trying, bless his heart: Swagger's dogged determination to take Rusev out might be my favorite thing at this point. Every single time Rusev has a break from whatever program he may be in at any given moment, Swagger comes rushing in to battle him and he ALWAYS loses. But he never stops trying. He is the far lesser version of John Cena: He never gives up but he always loses.
Saxton & Reigns, Reigns & Saxton: Both Byron Saxton and Roman Reigns have redeemable qualities, clear cut strengths in professional wrestling. Sit down interviews are not one of them. Let's not do this again.
Curtis Axel vs. Fandango: Even when they get it right, Axel gets it wrong. WWE has actually come up with great creative for a struggling character that should do wonders in helping him get over despite himself and yet Axel finds a way to screw it up. They actually went with the grand idea to put a running clock up on the Titantron showing how long Axel has been in the Royal Rumble match. So what does Axel do? He misreads the gigantic clock the very first time he makes any reference to it. He is the 2008 Detroit Lions. Even when it looks like he might pull it off, he finds a way to fumble it away.
A-Lister: These Miz-Damien Mizdow segments don't work all that well without the crowd interaction, do they?
Adam Rose vs. Goldust: This was your classic "there's zero reason for this match to be happening except we need to do something to advance a story for one of the guys within it" matches. And they didn't even really advance the story. It's become passe to dress up as a Rosebud to launch a sneak attack. Why are the Rosebuds so willing to accept newcomers they don't recognize? At what point does someone turn on Rose for harboring these heels?
You're found: Now that we know Undertaker is the guy Bray Wyatt is talking about, are we really going to subsist on these backstage promos with props all the way up until WrestleMania 31? It's time WWE introduce some of that old supernatural power "The Deadman" has summoned from time to time. Let's get hokey with this feud.
Team Ziggler vs. Team Rollins: When each team was making its way to the ring I was overcome with smarky feelings of disdain for such lazy creative. Then, they wrestled. And it was fun, mostly. The work wasn't the best, but at some point I stopped caring so much about the lack of a story and just let myself get swept up in the match itself. These six-man tags are way too fun when they break down into chaos, and the live audience was clearly having a really great time during this main event. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what WWE really does. They travel the globe to put on shows to deliver matches like this to make fans at the arena happy. Mission accomplished.
This wasn't too bad at all.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?