We inch closer to TLC, and a lot has happened in the last few weeks. We've had the introduction of The Shield, Bryan and Kane learning to work cohesively, Punk surpassing every title reign of the modern era, and the big buzz of Punk having a surgery that's taking him out of the TLC main event. Changes have been made, and while this is a distracting and concerning topic, let us not forget that Smackdown is important...sort of. Ok, you don't have to agree, but Sheamus and Big Show have been working their asses off to make you care, so the least you could do is give 'em a glance. You might like what you see.
To kick things off, Booker's setting up what seems to be...a contract signing for the World Heavyweight Championship match at TLC. Joy. We all know that contract signings are a cliche staple of WWE, but so far, Show and Sheamus have tried their best to make this angle more than just a cliche, so I will not shoot it down before I see what happens. For starters, it turns out to be a "No Contact-clause before the fight" contract, making this already more than your everyday contract signing. If Sheamus breaks the rule, he loses his match, but if Show tries to do it to get out of the match, he'll be stripped of the belt.
Big Show's promo is full of impact. That is, it would have been had Show not been stuttering over his words so much. It's a folly that only comes out to hinder him once in a while, but it definitely hurt the segment. Sheamus conversely speaks a strong promo at the end...though he also stumbles over one of his words. The segment was still successful, though. Plus, Show cleverly attacks Sheamus just before signing the contract, which got more than a few laughs out of me. By the way, Booker making reference to his "Super Market Brawl" with Stone Cold Steve Austin fills me with nostalgia.
Big Show v Daniel Bryan(C+): I love reliving this feud. There are multiple reasons for this, but the one that is most significant for me is it reminds me of the beginning of Bryan's rise. Most interesting in this situation is seeing how Bryan and Show wrestle now that their roles have been reversed. While Bryan makes an excellent fighting coward, he also excels at being a scrappy underdog who will tear you apart if you let him get an opening. Exciting start to the show with an engaging match, but even though Bryan lost to Big Show, his suffering continues when The Shield materializes. Kane comes for help, but the only assistance he gives is in making The Shield look like a viable force as he's thrown through a table, Ryback style.
Sandow's Search: Sandow is not pleased with the results of his quest to enlighten the masses, so he has decided to take members from the crowd to find an intellectual apprentice(good luck with that). If you did not read the RAW Review or have just not been watching wrestling recently, he has been doing this since last week's Smackdown. It's a humorously formulaic segment, as he always asks two mind-numbingly simple questions and one obscure question that even some scholarly people could not answer without knowledge of the subject. He does it with more consistency than this guy, too:
Of course, the segment has to become more significant at some point. So, Miz takes more of Sandow's time before he can leave the ring only to berate his choice of attire and mock his catch phrase, for the first time leaving Sandow speechless. Perhaps the gears beginning to turn for a Miz and Sandow rivalry? Either way, it was a concise promo from Miz, but it made up for his rough work on Monday. He's still got the juice.
Brodus Clay & The Usos(Jimmy & Jey) v 3MB(Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre, & Jinder Mahal)(C): FINALLY we get to see 3 Man Band all in a match together, which also means we finally get to see Drew wrestle with the gang(or band, rather). I'm digging their new entrance theme, and it's Heath Slater's best since his first theme when he left The Corre. Speaking of this being 3MB's first effort as a team with Drew included, not only do they prove that as a trio they work like a well-oiled machine, but McIntyre scoops up the victory. Brodus and The Usos are just kind of...there.
Barret Speaks: They finally acknowledge Barrett and Orton's recent history as something that has not been forgotten by Wade, and with only 30 seconds, he has the best words of the night, continually cementing his future in the company as a top star with his seemingly effortless expertise.
Randy Orton v Wade Barrett(C+): It's the same old song and dance, but it feels so new every time. The rivalry between Wade Barrett and Randy Orton seems to get better with age, and while a dry match might be stirred into the mix every now and then, these two can not disappoint. This affair is brief, but potent. However, with Orton winning, it makes me wonder if they actually plan to have Barrett dethrone Kofi from his Intercontinental throne.
The Great Khali & Hornswoggle v Primo & Epico(CRAP): This is just sad. Primo and Epico deserve so much more than this. Whatever WWE is trying to accomplish with Khali and Hornswoggle(and not to mention poor Natalya), it's failing horribly...unless they were trying to accomplish failure, in which case they are swimmingly succeeding.
Antonio Cesaro > The Common Man: One of Antonio's better promos in the 'E where even with his thick accent, he enunciates his opinion with the right tone and emphasis, instead of having to cross through the accent AND seeming like he doesn't know how he should project his words. I loved how he incorporated "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes into it with such class. On top of that, Truth shocks me by getting his own words own and giving an INCREDIBLE promo. It didn't feel contrived, he wasn't just making a bunch of loony jokes, and most importantly, he defended America without coming off as typical American propaganda: he just pointed out that many people in America work hard to make ends meet, and that no matter what you think of their looks or intelligence, you have to respect that.
It is a bit of a "dose of Truth," as Ronnie puts it, and it makes the segment hit home by the time they start going back and forth and scuffling. The storyline between these two has been mostly weak and irrelevant, but with this one segment, they sold me on the PPV match. I only hope both guys are firing on all cylinders at TLC so we can see an amazing bout.
Alberto Del Rio v Sheamus(C): On the other side of the Barrett/Orton series of matches is Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, which I can not say anything that I did in the paragraph about Barrett and Orton's match-up for this one. I have no excitement for it because these two dragged their war into the ground. It was hardly a fight anyone wanted to see...so why did we get it 3 times on PPV coupled with A WHOLE SUMMER of these two constantly being involved in segments together? It was disheartening, just like seeing this match is, though ADR pulls off a rarely seen moonsault(to m knowledge, he has yet to pull this off in WWE). Look, it's not like these guys do not have good matches together...they're just uninspired. With no inspiration, there is only so much juice a pairing of wrestlers can have, and this orange has been squeezed of nearly all its content.
The match ends, I am shown that they can still have a fun match, and then we get to move on to the current, as Big Show tries to provoke Sheamus to hurt him. Sheamus does...by tossing Ricardo Rodriguez into his groin. Now THAT is babyface creativity.
An odd show that felt more light on the matches than it actually was, but I was not left unsatisfied. There were great developments tonight, and I expect that trend to continue into 2013.