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KELLER'S TAKE
KELLER'S WWE SMACKDOWN BLOG 1/27: Final Royal Rumble hype barely touches on the Rumble match, but does hype Bryan vs. Show vs. Henry

Jan 27, 2012 - 9:57:49 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

KELLER'S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 27, 2012
AIRED ON SYFY NETWORK


-Daniel Bryan makes for a good heel. Big Show made himself very vulnerable and Bryan just walked out and stomped him further into the ground verbally, including taking away from him that A.J. forgave him by noting she was heavily drugged and doesn't remember it. The thing is, I'm not sure what Bryan's motivation is for antagonizing Show, since he said he was ready to end his career.

-Quotebook - Bryan to Show: "Go back up the beanstalk to wherever you came from."

-When Mark Henry came out and started tearing into Bryan, it felt like his babyface turn was taking another step forward, but then he said he didn't care about some "95 pound girl in a training bra." You can see, though, that Henry - with the swagger he has now from being a veteran pushed to the peak level of his career in the last six months or so - will make for a great babyface act once they get there.

-Quotebook - Henry to Bryan: "I'm going to tear your skin off on general principle."

-When Long announced Show vs. Henry as the TV main event, Bryan's slinking out of the ring with a sly, relieved smile on his face was spot-on.

-Justin Gabriel's (trampoline-free) flip through the ropes into the ring is the best ring entrance in wrestling - not the overall production from the stage to the ring, but the actual entrance from the floor at ringside into the ring. Some Velvet Sky fans might disagree, I'm sure.

-After watching Raw and seeing very little talk about possible 30-man Rumble winners, it was refreshing to hear Michael Cole make his case for Cody Rhodes being a dark horse candidate to win it. Cody's promo about facing Justin Gabriel and throwing in that he's a future WrestleMania headliner was also a good touch. It makes a more credible situation if looks like Cody is in a position to win it in the end.

-I also liked Cole talking about a first round draft pick on the San Francisco 49ers who was slow to produce but had a breakout year, when defending Drew McIntyre's upside despite his losing streak. Sports analogies were something frowned upon for years in WWE, and Jim Ross was mocked behind the scenes for introducing them too often in the "sports entertainment" world, but they work and add relatable context to a sports-like storyline like Drew's losing streak. I also liked the historical context of Sheamus and Drew entering WWE at the same time - December 2009 - but having very different levels of success so far. That kind of acknowledgment of real history adds layers to wrestlers' stories that are told over time.

-Once Drew lost, it was also good that the announcers noted that that Sheamus is one of the hottest wrestlers in WWE, so there is no shame in losing to him. I was less crazy about Booker T saying he would cut Drew a long time ago. It seemed a little hasty and callous of Booker to take such a strong stand. If he had said it was based Drew's arrogance and how he has no sympathy for him as a result, that is fine, but to say he wanted to cut him just because of his losing streak seemed a little extreme.

-Santino & Yoshi Tatsu make a good comedy tag team. Yoshi is good enough in the ring to give them some credibility in matches. I'd watch Eric Young & ODB vs. Santino & Tatsu. Their match against the tag champs was literally forgettable. I can barely remember it five minutes after it happened. Were there really two tag team champions at one time in WWE? It's hard to imagine a time when they had four actual tag teams (two champs and two top contending teams) at the same time between both brands.

-Bryan's conniving attempt to manipulate Henry into injuring Big Show was well done. Henry's reaction to Bryan's patting him on the shoulder in a sign of solidarity was really funny. Henry does all of those little things so well.

-The intensity and aggressive pacing of the opening minutes of the Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett grudge/revenge match is what James Storm vs. Kurt Angle should have been last month on PPV. The backstory with both wasn't that much different, yet Storm and Angle just wrestled amateur style at the start, totally disconnected from the undercurrent of emotions that were expected to boil over once Storm got his hands on Angle.

-Four of the dumbest wrestlers in history were those who got in Orton's face after Barrett was helped to the back. After Orton RKO'd Trent Barreta (or was it Tyler Reks?), Curt Hawkins got in his face and protested, thus obviously got an RKO. That should have been the cue for the other three in the ring to run, but they stood there and got in Orton's face - one at a time, of course. It was good basic booking to give the worked up babyface a chance to take out five wrestlers in a short time with his finisher, but from the perspective of the wrestlers who took the RKOs, they couldn't have come across as more reckless with their well-being.

-The video package hyping the C.M. Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler failed to include any update on the warning John Laurinaitis got about his job being in jeopardy if he shows favoritism to Ziggler on Sunday. Isn't that a big selling point to the show worth telling the Smackdown-only viewers about and reinforcing with Raw viewers who also watch Smackdown? That twist at the end gave Punk fans a ray of hope that the odds aren't so stacked against him that his fans are just tuning in for inevitable disappointment on Sunday.

-Mick Foley returning to the Rumble should a big enough deal to be worth spotlighting on Smackdown since it got undersold on Raw. I get the feeling his mid-match cameo won't amount to much, but in terms of selling PPVs, it'd be beneficial to WWE to give Foley fans a sense that he has a chance to be a significant factor in the match. Otherwise it's just pointless to have him return.

-Bryan's avoidance of saying that he loves A.J. while bragging about how much she loves him is very heelish and also very funny. At least Kaitlyn is onto him. Or at least she seems to be.

-During the Ted DiBiase vs. Hunico match. Long brought politics into the commentary. He said he was "going to go all Gingrich on DiBiase" pointing out that as a son of a millionaire, he should show his tax returns to prove he really is a man of the people. It's a timely, clever comment, but I'm surprised he felt comfortable saying it because U.S. Senate Candidate Linda McMahon endorsed Romney, and the whole tax return thing was a hot issue this week working against Romney. Pretty funny that Booker T had no idea what Cole was talking about, and Cole gave him crap for being completely unplugged from the real world.

-In case you missed it, Natalya, regarding Tamina, told Aksana backstage: "I will beat that whack job and I will beat you, too." Aksana in response: "What I do with Teddy in private is my business."

-So are we supposed to believe Teddy Long or Natalya farted?

-If I'm having a bad day, I think I can cheer up just watching a replay of last week's dance-off with Vickie Guerrero, Brodus Clay, and William Regal. Even the highlight clips from last week cracked me up again.

-The Best Move of the Year so far for WWE was the choice to edit out John Cena's ridiculous face at the end of the replay of the big angle with Kane and Zach Ryder and Eve on Raw on Monday. As I watched, I cringed as I anticipated seeing that stupid facial expression again, and I was almost 100 percent sure WWE would be too prideful and stubborn to edit it out, but they surprised me. Unlike so many other lousy, corny Cena moments over the years (or Triple H's awkward "love you, pops" moment with father-in-law Vince McMahon back in August), someone did the right thing. Just as Cena was about to turn to the camera and make that face, they cut away. Seriously, congratulations to the decision-makers for admitting a mistake and not being too proud to acknowledge the criticism of it was valid. It showed more maturity than Cena did back when GLADD came down on him for ridiculing the concept of being gay when he's a role model for kids and the next week he snuck in one last gay joke before moving on.

-Daniel Bryan is an entertaining heel, and I think people are going to pay to see him get beat up by Show and Henry on Sunday, and they'll probably be frustrated when he stumbled out of the cage and falls to the floor to retain the World Title, and then they'll pay again to see him face Randy Orton at WrestleMania (assuming that is booked), but then what? I'm not sure where Bryan goes after that because they've portrayed him as such a fluke joke of a champion. I'm curious how they keep him relevant and near the top of the card, assuming that's even the goal. He's very good at whatever he does, though, wherever he lands as a character and on the card.

-Just like Raw. when Smackdown was over I was given almost no reason to anticipate the Royal Rumble. WWE didn't stress at all that the winner goes on to WrestleMania against a champion of his choosing (other than comment in passing about Cody). They have taken the top annual concept match and buried it underneath the World Title and WWE Title matches in terms of the attention it's gotten on TV. It's fascinating to see and I'm curious what the rationale really is, assuming it was done consciously. I mean, other than that well-done video package from Raw being replayed on Smackdown, they didn't do anything significant to push the idea that big names are entering to win one of the top matches that could change the course of their career.

===

Wade Keller launched Pro Wrestling Torch as a print newsletter in 1987. The newsletter is still published every week. It's distributed to thousands of wrestling fans internationally via postal mail and digital PDF's online at the VIP website. He has interviewed some of pro wrestling's biggest power brokers over the years in their longest insider interviews ever done, including Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Goldberg, Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, Vince Russo, Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Jerry Lawler, and many many others. He writes every week for the PWTorch Newsletter and also blogs on PWTorch.com. He is also the supervising editor of MMATorch, records the Keller Hotline every day for VIP members reviewing and analyzing the news of the day, and hosts the PWTorch Livecast twice a week. Contact Keller: kellerwade@gmail.com.


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