Friday, January 27, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 1/27/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
January 27th, 2012
Tucson Arena, Tucson, Arizona
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Before we launch into tonight's report I'd just like to thank Michael Uphoff for covering the SmackDown report for me last week as I wound up spending much of the day in the hospital visiting a close friend who was in a bad car accident last week. I don't often ask these sorts of things but if you're the praying type, send a few towards Chris Isherwood's way over at Rhode Island Hospital. Thanks, and now, onto our regularly scheduled SmackDown coverage.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open tonight's show with a quick video package reminding us of AJ Lee's accidental injury two weeks ago from the Big Show before the giant himself makes his way out to the ring to apologize publicly to AJ and the fans. Show is a bit choked up and says he's having a bit of trouble forgiving himself though, as he's struggled with not knowing his own strength his entire life. Show gets even more choked up and says that he's not sure if he can even go on with his career to the fan's shock. Before Show can get any further though, he's interrupted by Daniel Bryan's music, garnering the World Champion some serious heel heat.

Bryan is still pissed about AJ's injury, not accepting his apology. He informs Show that AJ was medicated when Show apologized and that she doesn't even remember it. Bryan talks about how the WWE should be a place for athletes, and not genetic freaks. Bryan stops Show before he can bring up the infamous Andre the Giant and tells him that he's no Andre. Well that much is true. Bryan accuses Show of making empty apologies and then demands that he do the honorable thing and immediately retire. He gets in Show's face and slaps him several times until the giant explodes on him, choking him in the corner and calling him an arrogant little ass before tossing him aside like a wet paper bag.

Suddenly Mark Henry's music hits and the World's Strongest Man makes his way down to the ring to join the fracas. Henry grabs a mic and says that he doesn't care about Show's hurt feelings, Bryan's Napoleon complex, or the injured AJ. Before Henry can get into their faces further though, Teddy Long's music hits and the GM makes his way out to the stage to book yet another match between Big Show and Mark Henry for our main event tonight. Goody, because watching these two wrestle half a dozen times over the last month wasn't NEARLY enough obviously.

Cody Rhodes (19-17) vs. Justin Gabriel (11-17)
This is a non-title match, as a pre-recorded promo from Cody informs us. Gabriel is hot out of the box with a big spin-kick, but Cody responds quickly with the Alabama Slam. Gabriel hits a monkey flip and then lays in some more rapid-fire kicks. Cody bails out of the ring for a breather, but Gabriel follows him out with a corkscrew pescado. He springboards back into the ring on Cody, but Cody rolls through for a near fall. Gabriel hits an STO and then lands on his feet after a moonsault attempt only to walk right into the Beautiful Disaster knee-strike from Cody, who follows with the Cross-Rhodes for the pin at 2:11. For a second I actually thought we might see the opening match get more than three minutes. Solid stuff while it lasted, but too short to mean anything. *1/2

Backstage Santino Marella and Yoshi Tatsu introduce themselves to Teddy Long as a new tag-team (though they can't decide if they should be called "Sant-oshi" or "Yoshi-tino") when Drew McIntyre interrupts. Teddy tells him he's skating on thin ice for the dozenth time and then books him into a match with Sheamus up next.

Sheamus (20-12-1) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-12)
This does not bode well for Drew. Cole tries to compare Drew to Alex Smith of the 49ers. I'm not touching that one with a ten foot pole. Drew is fiery to start with some dropkicks and forearms. He hits a nice bridging Northern Lights suplex on the Irishman for a two count and then follows with a snap suplex. It's not long before Sheamus is making his comeback though, hitting a powerslam and then finishing Drew off with the Brogue Kick at 2:52. Another short but solid little match, but it's not like anyone actually believed Sheamus might lose for even a second. Hopefully they don't drag this Drew losing streak angle out too much longer and just get to the pay-off already. *1/4

Epico/Primo vs. Santino Marella/Yoshi Tatsu
Yoshi mimics Santino's odd walking style down to the ring in a funny moment as this new tag team is set to take on the recently crowned WWE Tag Team champions in a non-title match. Santino and Yoshi have a bow-off briefly before Santino locks up with Primo and quickly makes a fool of him with some basic amateur holds. He applies a wristlock and tags Yoshi in, who double-stomps Primo's arm. Yoshi lays in some stiff chops and Epico gets a blind tag in. Santino tags back in and hits the hip-toss/diving headbutt combo, but Primo breaks up the pin. He lariats Yoshi out of the ring but turns around right into the Cobra. Epico sneaks up behind Santino and delivers the Backstabber to pick up the win though at 2:18. Another quick and somewhat pointless match, but Yoshi and Santino are an amusing new tag team and anything that gives Yoshi an excuse to be on SmackDown is okay with me. *

Backstage Daniel Bryan approaches Mark Henry to try and convince him to take the Big Show out so that this Sunday's steel cage match will be down to just Bryan and Henry.

Wade Barrett makes his way out to the ring next to talk about Randy Orton's big return tonight. He claims that Orton is a broken man and runs him down a bit before Orton's music hits and the Viper makes his way down to the ring to brawl with Barrett for a bit. Orton looks good despite his apparent injury. A group of officials and midcard wrestlers from the back come out to break up the fight and wind up paying for it with multiple RKOs. That looked so goofy and contrived with every single wrestler basically lining up to receive an RKO willingly. Just another segment to further the Orton/Barrett feud without having Orton actually wrestle.

Hunico (4-2) vs. Ted DiBiase (10-12)
Hunico is rolling with Comacho again. DiBiase's left wrist is heavily taped as he apparently suffered a cracked bone and some torn cartilage at a house show last week. Hunico goes right for the wrist obviously, tearing away at it with a nasty armbar. DiBiase tries to go for Dream Street but he can't do it because of the injury. Hunico finishes him off with an Olympic Slam seconds later at 0:49. After the match Hunico and Comacho continue the beat-down on DiBiase, so don't be surprised if he's off TV a few weeks. More of an injury angle than a match. 1/4*

Backstage Natalya confronts Teddy Long alongside Aksana, demanding a match against Tamina. Natalya and Aksana start getting into each-other's faces so Teddy books them in a match later tonight. Before the segment is over a loud fart is heard and all three make awkward faces before running off. Santino walks into the empty room and nearly collapses at the stench. No, I'm not making any of this up, that all actually just happened. That was beyond random and stupid.

THE FUNKASAURUS Brodus Clay (1-4) vs. Alex Riley (0-0)
Somebody call my mama! Not even Alex Riley can resist the goofy charm of the Funkasaurus and he dances along with Brodus and the Funkettes. Oh my God I love this gimmick. Both men decide to have a bit of a dance-off to start but it's not long before Clay hits a pumphandle slam and then finishes with the big splash (which is being called the "What the Funk") at 0:36. Another amusing squash match for the Funkasaurus. 1/4*

We get an extended rewind to the Kane/Zack Ryder match and angle from RAW this past week, basically just replaying the entire match and ambulance angle in it's entirety. So we can't cut fluff like this out to give some of the matches more than 2 minutes apiece guys, really?

Aksana (0-0) vs. Natalya (6-11)
This is Aksana's debut match on Smackdown I believe. Continuing this insane losing streak angle with Natalya, she winds up being immediately rolled up literally at the bell to give Aksana the win at a whopping 0:05 seconds. I don't know who Natalya pissed off backstage, but her being jobbed out to every shitty FCW diva in five seconds each week has pretty much destroyed her entire character and any credibility it once had. She puts Aksana into the sharpshooter after the match to try and salvage some heat, but Tamina comes out to make the save and hit the Superfly Splash on her again. DUD

Big Show (14-6) vs. Mark Henry (12-8)
Daniel Bryan comes out to ringside to watch as well. Henry gets quickly tossed out of the ring at the bell and Show follows him out to lay in some big punches to the gut. Back in the ring Show headbutts Henry out of the ring again and we take a commercial break. When we return, the match is apparently already over and the Big Show has won by count-out? Match went about 1:15 (shown) before we returned to hear Lillian announcing Show as the winner. Well, atleast we didn't have to sit through another one of their actual matches. DUD

After the match Bryan hits the ring and attacks Show from behind with a steel chair. He locks Show into the LeBell Lock inside the ring briefly until Show breaks it up and choke-slams him. He sets up for the WMD punch but Bryan escapes and takes off as head off the air.

Bottom Line: This felt like a literal carbon copy of the last few week's shows. A few squashes, a couple two minute matches, and a shitty main event involving some combination of the Big Show, Mark Henry, and Daniel Bryan. I can appreciate the angle they're building with all three, but it doesn't make these shows any more watchable. Total wrestling time tonight? 10 minutes and 6 seconds. That's pathetic for a two hour show, especially one that's been known through-out the years as the best "wrestling show" of the week. I don't mean to sound overly negative, but this was another bad, bad show and a rather easy and enthusiastic Thumbs Down.

Score: 2.0/10

Friday, January 13, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 1/13/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
January 13th, 2012
Laredo Energy Arena, Laredo, Texas
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome back to another edition of 411's SmackDown report. We're only a few weeks away from the Royal Rumble so we can expect lots of hype and build for that on tonight's show, emanating from Texas. The main event tonight is a rematch between Daniel Bryan and Big Show for the World Heavyweight title, this time in a No DQ, no count-out match. On with the show, which is sponsored tonight by Joey B's diner and their special "Jason is Dead 2 for 1 Burger Sale"!

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Booker T, and Josh Matthews

We open the show with the World champ Daniel Bryan coming out to the ring to a decent amount of heat. He grabs a mic and says that he lives for defending the World title before gloating about his "successful title defense" against the Big Show last week. Bryan takes a pot-shot at Show for his short title reign, saying he deserved that rematch for such a shoddy title reign. Bryan claims to be sickened by the DQ finish to last week's match and a big "You suck!" chant starts up. Bryan manages to sneak a Paul Heyman reference into the promo before hyping the crowd up for his no DQ match later tonight with Show. Bryan starts to run down Mark Henry for getting involved in last week's match when the World's Strongest Man's music hits and Sexual Chocolate himself strolls on down to the ring. Henry blames Bryan for last week's incident and says he's been banned from ringside for the title match tonight. Henry will be facing the winner of tonight's match on next week's show for the title however. Bryan seems okay with that and Henry takes off to wrap up our opening segment. There were small hints at the fun, egotistical heel that Bryan can be in this promo but it's like they're still holding him back just a tiny bit from going fully heel, still having him try to play the role of champion who takes on all challengers. The crowd really had no clue who to cheer for by the end of this segment, but it sets up a few intriguing potential scenarios.

Justin Gabriel (10-16) vs. Heath Slater (4-26)
I'm probably one of the few people happy to see this seemingly never-ending feud continuing, these guys work really well together. The usual quick armdrag and rope-running sequences to start us off from these two before Gabriel hits a flying headscissors and then jumps right into an inverted atomic drop from Slater. Neckbreaker from Slater gets him a two count and he follows up with a chinlock. A spinebuster gets Heath another two count when suddenly Hornswoggle's music hits and the little guy pops into the ring briefly to distract Slater long enough for Gabriel to knock him down and hit him with the 450 splash for the win at 2:48. Well that was way too short to amount to anything worthwhile, and not that I'm Heath Slater's number one fan or anything but having Hornswoggle get the best of him two weeks in a row probably isn't going to help him in any conceivable way down the line. *1/4

Backstage AJ Lee is with the champ Daniel Bryan, and she drops the "I love you" bomb on him. If this doesn't lead to Bryan dumping her and crushing her heart in the most mean-spirited heel fashion I'm going to be sorely disappointed, because otherwise this angle just further muddles up Bryan identity as a heel/face. Not that I'm complaining about any TV time AJ gets.

Cody Rhodes comes out to the rampway with a mic to greet the Texas crowd with an "Hola". He goes right for the semi-racist heel shtick with INS references and feels the urge to remind us all that he's been the Intercontinental champion for cinco months. Cody claims to have outshined legends like Pedro Morales, Tito Santana, and Booker T among others (he also throws his brother Dustin in there). Cody says he's going to "pull an Ultimate Warrior". He's going to become a coked out juiced up psychopath? Oh, no, he's going to win the World title while still holding onto the IC title, that makes more sense. Cody let's out a few "Ariba!"'s before we head into our next match.

Cody Rhodes (17-17) vs. Ezekiel Jackson (14-12)
Zeke tries to over-power Cody to start but eats a DDT for an early pin attempt. Zeke counters everything Cody throws at him and lays clubbing forearms into him in the corner. Rhodes looks for the Beautiful Disaster knee strike but misses it. Never fear, he hits it anyways two seconds later and then follows with the Cross Rhodes to put Zeke away like a jobber at 2:15. Another far too short match. At this point they should just send Zeke back to Florida or cut him from the roster because the dude brings nothing to the table. 1/2*

We get another video package for Edge being announced as the first entrant into the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame class. I was a bit shocked they put him in so quickly, but it certainly makes sense and you can't say the guy doesn't deserve it.

Backstage Santino Marella wants to run a few new match ideas by Teddy Long. First up, some sort of twisted Russian doll cage-within-a-cage-within-a-cage match. Next, Santino wants to reverse the ruling made by former WWF President Jack Tunney all those years ago that banned reptiles from ringside after Jake Roberts' snake bit the Macho Man. Teddy ain't into reptiles though playa. David Otunga interrupts them to inform Teddy that he's been sent by John Laurinaitis to help him come up with the Smackdown entrants for the Royal Rumble, so Teddy books him into a match with Santino. Santino and Otunga take off and Drew McIntyre walks in, but before he can say anything Teddy tells him to go to the ring because his match is up next.

Ted DiBiase (8-12) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-10)
Hunico rides down to the ring on the back of his homey's low rider to watch the match and join the commentary table. Drew immediately looks for the win with a boot and a cover, but he only gets a two count. Drew gets sent to the floor and Ted comes flying out after him with a tope suicida right in-front of the announcer's table. Hunico and Comacho mumble a bit in Spanish and then challenge DiBiase to try and throw one of his tailgate parties in Hunico's barrio. Back in the ring Drew kicks the second rope into Ted's throat and then grabs a loose armbar. Ted hits a lariat and goes to the top rope, but Drew catches him with a lariat of his own on his way down while Hunico tries to convince Booker to pawn one of his gold rings. Ted finishes up with the Dream Street slam and pins Drew at 3:45. So Drew should probably be fired now, right? This was a nothing match, the cameras were more interested in Hunico at the commentary table than the match itself. *

Sheamus (19-11-1) vs. Jinder Mahal (5-6)
Mahal claims that he's the most dangerous when he's the least expected, so he's glad that nobody thinks he's going to win the Rumble. That's looking at the glass half-full Jinder. Sheamus starts off brawling with Mahal and looks for the Celtic Cross powerbomb early, but Jinder bails out of the ring to avoid it. Sheamus brings him back in with a sling-shot shoulderblock for a near fall. Jinder manages to sneak some knee-strikes in and hit a neck breaker for a near fall of his own before slapping on a chinlock. Sheamus breaks it up with the clubbing forearms and then finishes Jinder off with the Brogue Kick at 3:56. Oh look, Sheamus squashing Jinder Mahal again. This was about as exciting as it sounds. Sheamus looks strong going into the Rumble though. 3/4*

Backstage AJ wants to talk to the Big Show about his match with Bryan tonight. She says that she knows Bryan is a good guy deep down and she doesn't want him to get hurt tonight when Daniel walks up to confront them. He accuses Show of trying to steal his girl and then tells him to walk off. Show tells him he's changed since becoming champion, but he won't have that problem after tonight when he takes it from him. Show walks off and Bryan asks AJ if Show was giving her a any trouble, calling himself her "knight in shining armor" before taking the creepiness level all the way up to a 10 by asking AJ just how much she loves him before walking off with her to go some place quiet. This feels like the start to an after-school special about date rape.

Santino Marella (3-3) vs. David Otunga (2-2)

Otunga doesn't seem amused by Santino's goofy aloofness and makes him pay for it with some nasty elbows off the ropes. Santino comes back with some punches and a hip-toss, followed by a diving headbutt. That sets up The Cobra, but Otunga grabs Santino and slams him in a sort of Samoan Drop for the pin at 2:01. Typical Santino match, quick and minorly amusing. 1/4*

Funkasaurus Rex AKA Brodus Clay (0-4) vs. Tyson Kidd (0-9)
Somebody call my mama! No reaction whatsoever to Clay's entrance, which makes it that much funnier. You can tell Clay is having the time of his life doing a combination of Flash Funk and Dusty Rhodes. Clay literally just splashes Kidd off the ropes within five seconds and wins the match at a whopping 0:14 seconds. I can't rate this anything other than FUNKY.

Backstage Teddy Long is busy getting down and singing "Somebody Call My Mama" until Aksana interrupts with the cheesy saxophones of doom for some more painful and creepy flirting. Teddy you are such a man-whore.

Tamina (5-5) vs. Natalya (6-10)
For a second I literally thought they were just re-playing the match these two had last week, but alas, it was in fact a different match. Nattie is pissed to start and delivers a sick suplex for a near fall. Tamina leap-frogs Nattie and gives her a Samoan Drop in response. That sets up the Superfly Splash giving Tamina the win at 0:58. This was a carbon copy of last week's match. and shockingly enough it wasn't any more entertaining the second go-round. 1/4*

Wade Barrett comes out next looking rather dapper with a single rose in the front-pocket of his overcoat. He claims to not be impressed by the performance by Sheamus earlier in the evening against Jinder Mahal. Barrett promises to win the Royal Rumble and then announces that he's going to wrestle Sheamus on next week's show in Las Vegas before exiting with a "God Save the Queen!".

World Heavyweight Title No DQ/No Count-Out Match
Daniel Bryan
© (13-15-1) vs. Big Show (14-6)
AJ comes to ringside to cheer Bryan on tonight. Daniel tries to shake Show's hand at the bell, but Show just picks him up and press slams him instead. Total domination this week once again by Show as he tosses Bryan around like a rag-doll, shaking off his kicks with ease. Show spears Bryan in mid-air coming off the top rope and Bryan bails out of the ring to catch his breath again while we take a commercial break. When we return Show is tosses Bryan on top of the commentary table. Bryan grabs a steel chair from near-by and starts waffling Show with it over and over again, showing a renewed mean streak. Show just tosses the chair aside though as Bryan retreats back to the ring. Bryan cuts Show off on his way into the ring with a few kicks but Show over-powers him yet again. Bryan gets a few more kicks in and then DDTs Show onto the steel chair, but the giant kicks out at two anyways! Bryan grabs the chair to try and mount some more offense, but Show knocks it out of his hands with a big right fist. Show strips the commentary table at ringside but Bryan hits him low before he can choke-slam him through it. Bryan follows up with a few more chair-shots, but gets caught running off the apron with another huge right hand from Show. Didn't steel chairs knock Show out enough for Bryan to pin him at the TLC PPV? And now they have no effect whatsoever on him? Show winds up chasing Bryan around the ring and accidentally knocking down AJ, who seems pretty much dead. Show checks on her first and actually appears to start crying before Bryan comes over to check on her along with an EMT. Well, it looks like we've got ourselves the old Sports Entertainment finish at around the 7:00 (shown) mark. This was going along okay until the booking kicked in, but the finish does allow Bryan to keep the title without Show having to lose. So I guess this furthers their feud along, and I'm guessing they'll throw Mark Henry into the mix for a three-way at the Rumble. The crowd doesn't buy any of this though and is chanting "She's okay!" loudly while AJ is being stretchered out next to a sobbing Big Show. There are so many things wrong with this image, I don't know where to start. Match was decent, in the **-ish star range before the finish, but without one I can't properly rate it. [N/R]

We go off the air with Bryan screaming at Show up the rampway while AJ is being stretchered out, asking him how he could be so wreckless. He shoves his finger in Show's chest and calls him a bastard, and we fade to black with Show's snot and tear covered lips quivering. Scary sight to go off on.

Bottom Line: Man, I don't know what has happened to this show. There was a point in time where I looked forward to Smackdown every week for atleast one if not two lengthy, competitive matches. Now we're lucky if even the main event breaks into the 10 minute mark. Nothing but short throwaway matches all night long and the main event was more about the angle than the title or wrestling. If you're interested in seeing where this Bryan/Show angle is headed you'll probably enjoy portions of this show, but otherwise, this was a flat out stinker this week. Thumbs Down.

Score: 3.5/10

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TNA Genesis 2012

TNA Genesis 2012
January 8th, 2012
Impact Wrestling Zone, Orlando, Florida
Attendance: 800-1400 +/-

Well I was all set to do the 411 report for this show but because of a dead router, I wound up with no internet access during the actual event. So here we are the next day, new router and a new attitude about TNA going into this new year of 2012. I was once a diehard fan of the promotion, singing their praises as recently as the fall of the 2009 when a string of excellent PPVs centered around feuds involving the likes of AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and Desmond Wolfe (Nigel McGuinness) gave me hope that this company could actually be a viable alternative to the WWE. Enter Hogan and Bischoff, and things went to hell in a handbasket rather quickly. Well, it seems like Hogan and Bischoff have finally realized that they needed a lot less camera time and things are looking up as we start this new year, we have a young and talented homegrown World champion in Bobby Roode, a solid core of new young talent in the X-Division with the likes of Zema Ion, Tony Nese, and Jesse Sorensen alongside respected vets like Austin Aries and Kid Kash, and even the Knockouts seem to be newly refocused since the return of Gail Kim to the company. I'm willing to give TNA a clean slate for the new year because of all of these things, now, let's just hope they don't manage to fuck that up. End of rant, on with the show!

Your hosts are Mike Tenay and Taz

We open the show with footage of Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy separately arriving to the Impact Zone arena earlier in the day before going to the usual cold open with Taz and Tenay to run down the card.

TNA X-Division Title Four Corner Elimination Match
Austin Aries
© vs. Zema Ion vs. Kid Kash vs. Jesse Sorensen
Rapper Rick Ross (EVERY DAY I'M HUSTLIN') of all people is in the front row for tonight's show and leaves Zema hanging when he offers a high five. Safe to say this is not how I expected the show to start. Aries exits the ring at the bell to let his three challengers do battle first. They trade quick pin attempts and Zema and Jesse square off as Kash is tossed out of the ring. Big hurricanrana from Jesse followed by a bridging northern lights suplex for a quick two count. Aries decides to sneak back in with at tope on Jesse, followed by quebrada, but Zema and the others take turns rolling Aries up instead. Aries is tossed out and Kash follows with a pescado. Zema goes to the top with Kash and Jesse sneaks up behind them to help out with a nifty Tower of Doom powerbomb/inverted suplex combo spot. Aries goes to the top but Zema tosses him off onto Kash on the floor and then wipes the both of them out with a spinning corkscrew moonsault! Ion is flashy in all the right ways. Sorensen follows him with a big springboard somersault senton that wipes everyone out again and the crowd is loving the action so far. All four men return to the ring where Kash looks to superplex Zema but is interrupted by Jesse tossing Aries into Kash. Zema comes off the top with a 450 splash and that eliminates Kash at 6:05. Aries hits a 450 splash of his own onto Jesse, but Sorensen kicks out and inspires a big "Jesse!" chant from the crowd. Wow, had no idea Sorensen was actually over. Aries hits Ion with an STO takedown but turns around into a flying cross-body from Sorensen for a close two count. He follows with a suplex/ace cutter combo. but Zema breaks the pin up, so Jesse rolls Ion up and is able to eliminate him at 8:03. Zema bitches at the ref a bit while Sorensen hits a sweet floatover swinging DDT on Aries that only nets him another close two count. Aries runs face-first into a sick boot from Sorensen, who goes to the top rope only to have Ion trip him up from the outside. Aries follows with a dropkick and then delivers a sick brainbuster from the second rope to eliminate Jesse and retain the title at 10:49 total. Excellent little X-Division match to open up the PPV the right way, this felt like a step above the usual Impact stuff these guys do which is usually pretty good in itself. Some creative spots and a good finish made this a great opener. ***1/4

Backstage Jeremy Borash is with D-Von's kids (I still can't remember their names) who are now dressed up and acting like the Pope. What the fuck am I watching right now? Pope enters to call Jeremy "BJ" as well as wax philosophic on the new year and toss out generic threats to D-Von. This whole angle kind of reminds me of the plot of the movie South Central, only with less murder and PCP.

Pope D'Angelo Dinero vs. Devon
Devon is all fired up to start of course which might be thrilling if he were ten years younger or more than average in the ring. Elbow and a clothesline sends Pope out of the ring where Devon slams him into the steps and then tosses him back in. Lou Thesz press and a diving headbutt from Devon, and he actually goes to the top rope, but Pope sends the ref into the top rope to trip him up. Pope dropkicks Devon in mid-air on top of the top rope, which is actually kind of cool and briefly makes me remember the hot talent Pope used to be. Something about Mike Tenay talking about pimping is just funny. Pope delivers a double-axe handle off the apron onto Devon right in front of Rick Ross and then tosses the vet back into the ring and applies a chinlock. Dueling chants start up despite this match being pretty much dogshit. Pope delivers a lazy DDT and then tells Devon's kids to enter the ring. He tells them to beat on his dad (which they did on Impact already), but now suddenly they have a change of heart. Why? When they don't beat down their father, Pope attacks the both of them and tosses them out of the ring. Of course this all gives Devon enough time to start his comeback FOR THE CHILDREN! Powerslam and a flying shoulder-block won't put Pope down and he responds with a nasty neckbreaker from the second rope. Pope goes for the DDE, but Devon catches him with an inverted DDT slam for the clean win at 10:18. Devon and the kids hug it out afterwards to complete the heart-wrenching story that no one gives a shit about. I'm sure some comedian will tell me this match had a great "story" to it and in a respect it did, but the actual wrestling action involved Devon Dudley going clean over a guy half his age with twice his talent. If we never see Devon's kids on TV again it will be too soon. *3/4

Backstage Jeremy Borash hypes the main event involving Jeff Hardy when Velvet Sky interrupts to confront Sting during his allotted interview time here about the open Knockouts authority figure role. She whispers something into Sting's ear about a way to prevent Madison Rayne from interfering in the Mickie/Gail match later and then takes off so Sting can talk up Jeff Hardy to Borash. I really hope Jeff has actually gotten clean, otherwise this is all really hollow and second-rate stuff.

Gunner vs. Rob Van Dam

Gunner is with the man Ric Flair himself! I'm not about to propose Ric get back in the ring or anything but couldn't we make better use of him than as the valet for Gunner McBlanderson? RVD seems to be on auto-pilot even more than usual the last few months, just miring away in the midcard doing nothing. I wouldn't be shocked if he was headed back to the WWE in the next year. Gunner starts off with spears in the corner but Rob responds with some signature footwork and a near fall cradle attempt. RVD tries a crucifix but Gunner rolls through so he dropkicks him. Gunner hits a clothesline in the corner and follows up with a sidewalk slam for a two count. Rob exits the ring and Gunner follows him out, delivering a scoop slam on the floor. Gunner exposes some of the concrete floor underneath the ring mats but RVD has recovered by now and hits a dropkick. Gunner tries a superplex back in the ring but Rob slams him down and hits a springboard thrust kick followed by the Rolling Thunder. Gunner exits the ring again and RVD slingshots after him, but Flair moves him out of the way. Flair argues with the ref while Gunner DDTs Rob on the concrete. Rob is out and Gunner pins him easily back in the ring at 6:50. This was about as "meh" and average as it gets. Not bad or anything, but just not interesting at all. After the match RVD is stretchered out while Gunner walks away slapping himself in the face and chanting "DIE!" at the camera on his way out. That was unintentionally hilarious. **

Backstage Jeff Hardy tells his "creatures of the night" to "mount up" for his title win tonight.

TNA Knockouts Title Match
Gail Kim
© vs. Mickie James
These two actually had a great match on Impact a week or two ago so this could be good for once. "Velvet's Touch" is a cage at ringside with some purple and pink bars, apparently to hold Madison Rayne inside during the match. Velvet comes down to ringside to force her in so we can still get our T&A while having an actual "wrestling match". Gail chokes Mickie in the corner at the bell and takes her down with a running knee. Mickie fires back with a snapmare and a dropkick for a two count. You know what this match needs? Madison Rayne shrilly screams. Oh wait, we've got that covered. Gail lays in some weak kicks and knee shots and it seems like the girls are wrestling at half-speed here. Mickie catches Gail coming off the ropes with a kick but Gail grabs her into a dragon sleeper. Mickie counters with a flapjack and kips up, but Gail puts her into the Octopus submission back on her feet briefly until Mickie just slams Gail down for a near fall. Mickie tosses Gail out of the ring where she pushes Velvet. Mickie delivers a half-asses hurricanrana on the floor then hits a top rope Lou Thesz press for another two count. Madison tosses a pair of brass knucks down to Gail from the cage above the ring but the ref intercepts it and gives it to Christy Hemme at ringside. But apparently Madison saw this coming and throws down a second pair of knucks, but Mickie catches them this time and nails Gail with it for the dumb DQ finish at 6:19. This wasn't even on the same planet as the solid match they had on Impact, no this was just sloppy and stupid to be honest. *1/2

Backstage Bully Ray cuts a typically amusing pre-match promo with Jeremy Borash about his upcoming Monster's Ball match with Abyss.

Monster's Ball Match
Abyss vs. Bully Ray

If Abyss loses here he has to re-join Immortal, which apparently still exists despite not being mentioned or involved in any of the angles for the last month or so. This is going to be a violent, hardcore brawl. There are tables and barbed wire boards surrounding the ring for goodness sake. Ray does a lot of stalling to start before grabbing a steel chair. Abyss grabs a chair of his own and they do a bit of dueling, which Ray momentarily wins. Abyss gives Ray a choke-slam and he just no-sells it, getting right back up and booting Abyss in the face. Ray produces a steel chain from his pants (what you don't carry steel bike chains in your pants?) but Abyss just waffles him with the chair. Abyss tosses a plethora of weapons into the ring but eats a lariat and some chain shots from Ray when he returns. Ray grabs a kendo stick but Abyss goes for...Janice! Yes, his combination 2 x 4 full of nails/love partner is back and Ray wants nothing to do with the lady, taking off up the ramp to just desert the match. Abyss follows him up the ramp and leads him back to the ringside area, where Ray grabs some nearby aluminum pans to slam over Abyss' back. Ray irish whips him shoulder-first into one of the set-up barbed wire boards and Ray just slams the board onto Abyss a second time for good measure. Abyss counters with a shot into the steel steps, but Abyss is cut up in nasty fashion on his arm and shoulder. Abyss grabs two small sacks from under the ring and then delivers the devastating cheese grater-to-scrotum hold. Very scientific stuff here. And he grates the balls! Can't believe I just wrote that. Abyss dumps one of the sacks out, which is full of thumbtacks. Ray cuts off a possible slam onto the tacks and then proceeds to go for a table underneath the ring while simultaneously doing an awkward jig, holding his crotch and shouting "Oh my balls! Motherfucker got my balls!". This has suddenly become hilarious. Ray sets up a table in the ring and of course is then promptly choke-slammed right through it for a two count. Abyss tosses two of the barbed wire boards into the ring and sets up the bigger, table-sized one in the corner only to turn around and receive a ura-nage right onto the smaller barbed wire board! Ray tosses the other board on top of Abyss and then sandwiches him bewtween the two with a back senton splash from the second rope! That was cringe-worthy. Ray goes to use Janice on Abyss, but he walks right into a choke-slam onto the tacks! Somehow Ray kicks out and the crowd starts up a big "This is awesome" chant. Ray grabs a kendo stick and just canes the hell out of Abyss in the ropes like his name was Tommy Dreamer. Ray gloats too much though and gives Abyss enough time to recover and deliver the Black Hole Slam to Ray onto another barbed wire board for the three count and the win at 15:28. This was an over-the-top modern hardcore match, with all of the positive and negatives that come with that formula. Lots of sickening hardcore spots with the wire and a fun change of pace from anything else we're bound to see tonight. Stuff like this is important for TNA to continue doing because lord knows you won't see anything like this in the WWE these days because of the PG era. That's offering an actual alternative to the big dog, something the other company can't give you, and that's what makes a good "number two" company in my eyes. ***1/4

Matt Morgan and Crimson join Jeremy Borash backstage to cut a cringe-worthy promo on their opponents Samoa Joe and Magnus tonight. Get these guys any kind of unique characterization whatsoever, stat.

TNA Tag Team Title Match
Matt Morgan/Crimson
© vs. Samoa Joe/Magnus
Joe and Magnus earned this title shot from winning the random deuces wild mini-tournament TNA held on Impact over the last month. Morgan no sells most of Joe's offense to start. Oh, fun. Crimson and Magnus tag in so Crimson can work in one of the moves he can actually deliver competently. Crimson suplexes Magnus for a two count and Joe tags back in to deliver a ura-nage in the corner. The heels (Joe and Magnus) try the isolation game with Crimson in their corner, trading quick tags and over-powering the fiery ginger. To emphasize how little even TNA cares about this match, we get a split-screen of Bully Ray attacking Abyss somewhere in the backstage area. Yeah, this seems like the designated "go get snacks at the concession stand" match. In a gut-bustingly hilarious moment the crowd starts dueling chants of "We want Morgan!" and "No we don't!" Oh man, take a hint TNA. Taz informs us that Bully Ray is trending on Twitter. Riveting. Morgan tags in for his lame babyface comeback sequence, cleaning house on Magnus and Joe. A suplex-sideslam combo from Morgan is broken up by Joe and the heels manage to hit a few double-team strikes on Morgan. Crimson drags Magnus off and Joe comes flying out after him with a tope suicida onto Crimson. Magnus avoids a chokeslam attempt but a double-team chokeslam from both of the faces is enough to put him away at 9:25. So utterly boring and bland was this match that even the Impact Zone didn't care. And they'll cheer anything. *1/2

Backstage James Storm seems offended by Jeremy Borash's interview process and decides to give JB a make-over with his cowboy hat, shades, and a bottle of beer. Borash actually looks older than fourteen for once!

Kurt Angle vs. James Storm
Some chef from the Food Network is in the front row, which isn't nearly as cool as Rick Ross. Angle is wary to lock up at first and Storm hip-tosses him when he does, looking for the superkick early only for Angle to slide out and avoid it. Back inside Storm delivers a swinging neckbreaker and again looks for the Last Call superkick, but again Angle avoids. Storm takes out Angle with a half-hearted pescado and lands on his feet. Back in the ring he counts off ten punches to Kurt in the corner and spouts off his catch phrase, but that just gives Angle enough time to recover and deliver an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Angle follows up with some forearm shots and a snap suplex before slapping a chinlock onto Storm that he grinds on for several minutes until Storm fires off a Russian leg-sweep and starts his comeback, taking down Angle with several forearms and lariats. He delivers a big lung-blower to Kurt for a two count. Back on their feet Angle counters Storm into a trio of rolling German suplexes. Angle hits the top-rope moonsault (and it actually lands for once!) but Storm kicks out at two. Storm counters an ankle lock attempt and delivers a DDT, but Angle kicks out this time. Angle avoids another superkick attempt and tries unsuccessfully for the Angle slam, so Storm kicks Angle in the back of the head but winds up taking the Angle slam anyways on his way back into the ring for another near fall. Big ace crusher from Storm won't put Angle away, and neither will the top rope elbow drop. Storm looks to finish Angle off with the superkick, but Angle grabs Earl Hebner and uses him as a human shield. This provides the distraction so Angle can kick Storm low and then finish him off with a lazy and completely anti-climactic running boot at 13:42. This was a weird match, it took awhile to get going but it was getting into a nice groove in the last few minutes only for an incredibly lame finish to end it and make Storm look pretty bad in the process. That boot from Angle was just sad, it's like he meant to do a superkick but he couldn't be bothered to fully extend his leg so he just did a lazy running boot. Some good stuff in this one but it took too long to get going and the finish sucked. **3/4

Bobby Roode cuts a pretty solid heel promo before the main event backstage with Jeremy Borash, taking shots at the "creatures of the night" and referring to Jeff as an embarrassment to the company.

TNA World Heavyweight Title Match
Robert Roode
© vs. Jeff Hardy
Jeff's new shirt gives me weird Brady Bunch vibes. Usual feeling out process to start with both men locking up and trading basic holds. Roode gets tossed to the floor and Jeff takes him out with a running clothesline off the apron. Jeff tosses Bobby into the steel steps, then sets it up as a launching pad to hit a flying dropkick on Roode against the steel guard-rail. Back in the ring Jeff gets hung up in the tree of woe and Bobby takes the boots to him. Roode follows up with a suplex and a diving knee from the second rope for a two count. Jeff gets tossed nastily to the floor but is rolled right back by Roode, who applies a chinlock. Roode transitions from the chinlock into a crossface submission, but Hardy won't quit. Roode goes to the top rope but takes too long mocking Jeff and is met with a boot to the face on his way down. Hardy starts his usual comeback stuff, hitting a Russian leg-sweep and a leg-drop into a cradle. He follows with a jawbreaker but Roode counters with a spine-buster. Jeff mounts some more minor offense and then looks for the Swanton Bomb, but Roode exits the ring and grabs his title, ready to walk out on the match. Jeff grabs him halfway up the ramp though and tosses him back inside. Roode catches him with a kick on his way back into the ring and follows with a Fisherman's suplex, but Hardy kicks out and manages to hit the Twist of Fate back on his feet! Whisper in the Wind gets him a close near fall. He tries for another Twist of Fate but Bobby tries to walk out again and is again tossed back inside, with the title belt this time. Jeff tries for a Twist of Fate on the title belt, but the ref snatches the belt out of the way and Roode nearly steals it by rolling up Hardy with his feet on the ropes. The ref sees this though and stops the count. Roode punts the ref right in the crotch and that causes the incredibly lame DQ at 19:42. This match was already a bit slow and sluggish, but to add a bullshit DQ finish on top of it takes even more points away. These two are capable of so much more and even without the DQ, this just wasn't very good or interesting at all. Hardy looked blown up within two minutes and I'm never a fan of that finish on a PPV. **1/4

After the match Jeff hits Roode with the Swanton Bomb and celebrates with the title before tossing it onto Roode's prone body. We go off the air with a shot of Jeff on the rampway.

Bottom Line: Well, 2012 starts off for TNA like most years have---a bit of good wrestling thrown in with some head-scratching booking decisions and a few lame performances from guys you really expect more out of in the ring. There was certainly some good stuff here, mainly the X-Division and Monster's Ball matches, but everything else was the usual mediocre, bland, and forgettable stuff. I really wanted to give this show a Thumbs Up and while it wasn't a particularly bad show there also really isn't enough here to warrant the $35 PPV price, so I'm going to go with a very subtle Thumbs Down. There's definitely some stuff worth checking out, but overall as a show, I can't fully recommend it.

Score: 5.5/10

Friday, January 6, 2012

WWE Friday Night SmackDown! 1/6/12

WWE Friday Night SmackDown!
January 6th, 2012
Verizon Arena, Little Rock, Arkansas
Attendance: Unknown at this time

Welcome everybody to the first episode of WWE SmackDown for the year 2012! 2011 saw a lot of change for the blue brand of the WWE with longtime mainstays like Edge retiring and the rise of young stars like Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett to new heights. We've got a big World Heavyweight title match booked for the main event of tonight's show, with the underdog champion Daniel Bryan taking on the former champ, the giant Big Show. While the odds don't look good on paper, I just don't think they'd pull the strap off Bryan so quickly. Then again, this is the WWE so literally anything could wind up happening. Enough preambling, let's start the show!

Your hosts are Michael Cole and Josh Matthews

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Cody Rhodes
© (16-17) vs. Booker T (1-0)
Lillian Garcia is our ring announcer tonight and she looks just as good as she did ten years ago. Book and Cody each have one pin on the other so this would be the rubber match. Booker starts strong with big elbows and a tight wristlock, but Cody responds with boots in the corner and a wristlock of his own. Back body drop from Booker followed by his signature high kick has Booker feeling confident. He tosses Cody over the top rope, but Cody skins the cat back in only to have Booker clothesline him off again. Outside Cody jumps Booker from behind and nails him with a stiff running boot as we take a commercial break. When we return Booker is attempting a backslide on Cody back in the ring for a two count. He nails Cody with another big spin kick but again only gets two for it. Cody suddenly takes a page out of Kurt Angle's book with a beautiful soaring moonsault onto Book, but T gets his shoulder up at two. Booker fires back with a big sidewalk slam, followed by a stiff spinebuster, but neither move can get him the three. Book looks for the scissors kick, but Rhodes ducks it so Book looks for the Book-End and Cody escapes that as well. Cody tries for the leaping Beautiful Disaster knee-strike, but Booker ducks the knee, boots Cody in the gut and connects with the scissors kick! Cody kicks out at two though and Booker can't believe it. Book looks for a second scissors kick but Cody evades, ducks a spin-kick, and then nails Booker off the ropes with the Beautiful Disaster knee-strike to retain the IC title at 8:39 (shown). This was about on par with their previous two matches, not quite as good as their last one, but still solid stuff for the short time shown. Booker shows he can still go (which was definitely in doubt after that horrendous TNA run) and Cody gets a clean pin on a future Hall of Famer. Everybody wins. **1/2

After the commercial break we cut to backstage where Cody Rhodes is walking tall with his title around his shoulder when he's approached by his older brother Dustin (better known as Goldust). He congratulates Cody on a win over a veteran but Cody has nothing nice to say as usual. He warns Dustin not to think about another run, calling him a joke before walking off. I smell a brother vs. brother match in our future.

Elsewhere backstage Zack Ryder is talking to Teddy Long about his role as Assistant GM on Smackdown. He says that now that he's the US champion, it's time for him to move on, but he's got a suitable replacement in mind. Enter Drew McIntyre to Teddy's chagrin, but no, that's not Zack's replacement...Santino Marella is! Santino offers to sync Teddy's iPod and then reminds Teddy about the stipulation that if Drew lost his match last week he'd be Teddy books a match between Drew and Santino for later tonight. If Santino wins, he becomes Teddy's assistant, and if Drew wins Teddy will consider not firing him. Drew and Santino take off as the cheesy saxophone music cues up and Aksana enters to make dinner plans with Teddy. I hate that saxophone so very much.

After a Royal Rumble flashback to 2008 we cut backstage to where AJ Lee and Alicia Fox are talking. AJ gushes about Daniel Bryan some more and then expresses concern about his match tonight against the Big Show. Alicia says that she hopes Daniel's ego can take a loss tonight just in time for Daniel to walk up and interrupt. He reminds her of his pin over Big Show and when Alicia walks off Daniel asks her why she's even friends with Alicia. Daniel asks AJ if she doubts him as well but he calms down a bit and tells her they're going to celebrate tonight once he retains his title. He kisses her forehead and then takes off. That was...sort of adorable. More subtle hints at a possible heel turn for Bryan as well.

Over the Top Rope Challenge Match
Heath Slater (4-25) vs. Hornswoggle (1-0)

Well it's almost Rumble time, so that means we get one of these always lame "over the top rope challenge" matches. Hornswoggle is able to take advantage of Slater with the old "Hey, look over there!" trick and he actually gets some offense in with a few boots. Slater tosses 'Swoggle across the ring and then chokes him over the bottom rope with his boot. Horny tries a cross-body but Heath catches him and tries to eliminate him. Swoggle hangs on though and pulls Slater over the top rope by his hair and Slater falls to the floor to actually give Swoggle the win at 1:34. After the match Slater beats up on 'Swoggle until Justin Gabriel hits the ring to make the save and hit him with the 450 Splash. Man, Slater can't buy a win these days huh? This continues the on-again/off-again Slater/Gabriel feud I guess though, so it wasn't completely pointless, just crap. DUD

Hunico (3-1) vs. Ted DiBiase (8-11)
Hunico is riding out on the back of a low-rider bike again with his new buddy Comacho. They seem offended by their lack of invite to one of DiBiase's tail-gate parties. Both men trade quick arm-drags at the bell. Hunico tries for a headscissors but gets slammed down by Ted face-first. Hunico tosses Ted into the corner and then goes to work on his left arm with a modified Fujiwara armbar. Ted fights back with a dropkick and an inverted atomic drop followed by a nasty lariat for a two count. Back on the mat Hunico ties up Ted's arms with his own legs while stretching his legs in a clover-leaf position and applies an incredibly unique submission/pin attempt combo that manages to actually give him the win at 3:04. Not much of a match, just an opportunity to get over a new finisher for Hunico. While it looked painful it also looked incredibly awkward to apply though. *1/4

Wade Barrett makes his way out to the ring after the next commercial break to address his match with Randy Orton last week and the injury to the Viper that has (legit) put him out of action for now. Wade says just about what you'd expect. "Randy Orton will never be the same", "the Barrett Barrage", blah blah blah, usual Barrett stuff here. He promises to win the Royal Rumble this year when he's immediately interrupted by Sheamus. The Celtic Warrior enters the ring with a mic and says just about what you'd expect from a Sheamus promo---tell a cutesy Irish limerick, then get serious and lay down the threats. Throw in the word "arse" somewhere in there and we're about done here. Jinder Mahal interrupts both men next because of his recent problems with Sheamus. He doesn't say a word, just slaps Sheamus in the face and then gets jumped for it. Wade hits the ring though and helps out Jinder, and it works for a bit too until Sheamus winds up beating the hell out of both men at the same time. He goes for the Celtic Cross on Wade, but Jinder breaks it up and he turns around right into the Winds of Change (swinging sidewalk slam) from Barrett. Afterwards Jinder applies the camel clutch for good measure.

Santino Marella (3-3) vs. Drew McIntyre (5-10)
Even Cole is on Drew's case tonight, so I guess he's still in Vince's doghouse. Drew is dominant to start with a sick snap suplex for a two count. Santino counters out of the Future Shock DDT attempt but eats a big lariat anyways from Drew. Both men jockey on the top rope for position and Santino drops Drew face-first on the steel post. He nails Drew with The Cobra, and that's all she wrote at 2:30. So, Santino is Smackdown's new Assistant GM. No complaints here, it's a good use of Santino's comedy. Drew's tail-spin continues though, this guy went from "future world champion" to "future TNA employee" real quick, didn't he? *

Backstage Drew begs with Teddy, and Teddy says tonight was Strike Two for him. If he fails next week, that will be Strike Three and Drew may just be done.

Primo/Epico vs. Air Boom (Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne)
Rosa Mendes is with Primo and Epico, and man, she sure does like shaking. No complaints here. This is a non-title match, so the finish seems obvious. Evan starts off with Epico but it's not long before Kofi is tagged in and Air Boom start pulling out the high-flying double-team moves. Not to be out-done, Primo and Epico trade quick tags and double-team Kofi in their corner as well. Kofi starts the comeback and gets the warm-ish tag to Evan, who cleans house with some of his signature spin-kicks. He nails Primo with a pair of shotgun knees off the top rope, but Epico breaks up the pin. Rosa blocks a possible cross-body from Kofi, which allows Epico to drag Kofi out. Bourne looks for the Air Bourne in the ring, but Epico drags Primo out of the way at the last minute and Primo rolls up Evan for the win at 3:49. These four work well together, but they're never given more than five minutes at a time and it's frustrating from a fan's point of view. I do appreciate the push of a new legit tag team though. *1/2

Backstage Big Show is being interviewed by Matt Striker when Daniel Bryan interrupts. He agrees with Show about him being a good wrestler, but he had to work for that unlike the Big Show who was born physically gifted. Show tells Bryan not to make him hurt him tonight and puts his hand on Daniel's shoulder only for Bryan to respond in his best Charlton Heston impression "Get your DAMN hand off of my shoulder!". Show asks him if he thinks he's a tough guy now and then walks off. Tensions continue to boil between these two and Bryan is showing a new mean streak. I like it.

Tamina (4-5) vs. Natalya (6-9)
We get some nice little highlights packages of Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Snuka's careers to put a bit of history behind this match-up of two second-generation stars (or are they third-generation?). Nattie is feisty to start but both women collide in mid-air with cross-body attempts. Tamina hits a big Samoan drop and then follows with the Superfly Splash for the quick pin at 1:44. I have no clue where this whole "have Natalya lose in quick and embarrassing fashion every week" angle is going and I suspect they don't either, and frankly, I just don't care. 1/4*

World Heavyweight Title Match
Daniel Bryan
© (12-15-1) vs. Big Show (14-5)
Mark Henry makes his way out to the commentary table for our main event here tonight. Bryan actually gets some decent heat during the pre-match introductions. Typical start to a big/little man match with Daniel scurrying about trying to avoid Show only to have Show over-power him with his big ham-hocks (that's a fist in JR-speak). Show tosses Bryan out of the ring with ease as we take a commercial break. When we return Bryan is laying in stiff kicks to Show's legs in the ring. He leaves the ring to catch his breath and when Show comes out to follow him he returns to the ring and attempts a slingshot cross-body out of the ring, but Show catches him. Bryan shoves Show into the steel steps and then nails him with a big jumping running knee from the apron and Show is nearly counted out, but he makes it back in the ring at the last second. Bryan lays in another flurry of kicks and gets a two count on the giant before he's shoved off again with ease. Bryan is knocked out of the ring, but he hangs Show up on the top rope on his way back in. He's caught off the top rope with a big fist from Show, who evades a few more strike attempts and hits a huge spear on Bryan, who somehow kicks out at two. Show looks for the chokeslam, but Bryan catches Show in a tight guillotine choke and then transitions right into the LeBell Lock! Bryan is bleeding from the mouth and cranking away on the hold, but Show breaks it up. He looks for the WMD fist and Bryan rolls out of the ring. Seeing this isn't getting him anywhere, Bryan gets in Henry's face at ringside and prompts Henry to shove him down for the lame DQ at 6:15 (shown). This was about what you'd expect from a match between these two and while Bryan hardly looked like he was on Show's level, he did manage to hold onto the World title in a sneaky, heelish fashion that's sure to get him more heat with the fans. If he's not a heel already, after this, Bryan sure as hell will be very soon. *3/4

After the match Bryan celebrates with the title belt like he just won the main event of Wrestlemania, running around shouting "Yes! Yes!" in true heel fashion. We go off the air with the commentators pondering if Bryan got himself DQed intentionally. Ya think?

Bottom Line: Pretty decent show tonight and not a bad way to kick off the year 2012. The concerns most of us had about Bryan's build to World champion are pretty much dead and moot at this point since it appears that Bryan will be a heel by the end of the month at the latest if he isn't already, and the main event did a great job in garnering him some more heat. Booker and Cody had another solid if unspectacular match to kick us off while the rest of the show was the usual mish-mash of brief matches and mid-card angle advancement. Nothing here really worth going out of your way to check out, but a decent enough show to start the year off. We'll go with a very mild Thumbs Up tonight.

Score: 5.5/10