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Opening Segment – MISS: I had mixed feelings about the start of Smackdown. I’m not a fan of this Daniel Bryan character. It is too similar to the character that failed for Juice Robinson when he was C.J. Parker in NXT. The idea is that he’s a heel for wanting people to protect the planet. Yeah, he’s a jerk about it, but it still doesn’t work for me. The real issue is that a character that didn’t work for a low card NXT wrestler shouldn’t be this similar to the character played by the WWE Champion. This feels small for a WWE Champion. I did enjoy Bryan’s ranting among the fans in the back. That was a different way to start the show and something new for him. But, it isn’t believable that WWE security would allow him to assault fans. And I don’t care who it is, if you get soda thrown on you like that, wouldn’t you do something about it? Once he got to the ring side area, the surprise attack by R-Truth got it back on track. The match that followed was fine, but not good.
Joe & Almas vs. Ali & Mysterio – HIT: This was a good tag match with random pairings as Samoa Joe teamed with Andre Cien Almas to take on Mustafa Ali and Rey Mysterio. WWE doesn’t need a lot of singles feuds going right now as the Royal Rumble is coming up. So having some more random matches like this works as they don’t have build towards those singles PPV matches at this time. The action was very good which is not surprising given the talent involved. It was good to see Almas getting the win as he needs more credibility on the main roster. I do hope that Ali doesn’t get lost in the shuffle after his strong Smackdown debut a few weeks back.
Main Event Promos – HIT: These short promos from Carmella, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair talking about their main event triple threat match to determine a #1 contender for Asuka’s Women’s Title at the Royal Rumble were all good. The performances were strong. They were all short and to the point, allowing each woman a chance to show her personality and make a good statement as to why she would win the match. These types of promos should be used more often.
Miz & Shane – MISS: The pairing of The Miz and Shane McMahon continues to be one of the real low points of Smackdown. Cute little scenes with them in the back talking about their team, their outfits and their goals haven’t worked for me. It doesn’t make me want to cheer for them. They come across as heels because they are so annoying. For me, the Bar were turned babyface when Sheamus kicked Miz in the face. But, that’s not the reaction that WWE wanted from me. The idea that they are getting the Tag Team Title opportunity at the PPV instead of one of the teams that we saw recently getting opportunities like Gallows & Anderson as a supposed part of this “fresh new start” goes to show that it really hasn’t been a fresh new start.
Rusev – Nakamura – HIT: This was a marginal Hit. Rusev being more serious is a good thing. His performance was strong. Lana still being out with an injury a week after she landed on her back with a man on top of her wasn’t believable. That wasn’t that bad of a bump considering she’s taken far worse in actual matches. And Shinsuke Nakamura is right. It wasn’t his fault that Lana jumped on top of him and that Rusev then kicked him to force him to fall on her. The heel in this situation is making sense, which is more of the backwards booking that we’ve seen too much of in WWE lately. But, Nakamura’s performance was also strong and the way he baited Rusev to the back and then attacked him was really good.
The Usos vs. The Bar – HIT: Another marginal Hit. The Usos and The Bar will have good matches against each other all the time. We’ve seen so many of them in the past that it isn’t surprising that they would have a match like this that features good back and forth action for 17 minutes. But, it is hard to get excited about it because we have seen it so many times before. I am glad that The Bar won so that we won’t see it again, at least not yet. But, I would have rather seen a stronger win for the Bar instead of only winning when Mandy Rose came out to distract Jimmy Uso. The Tag Team Titles should not take a backseat to a lower card jealousy angle from another division. So, that ending took away from the otherwise very good quality of the match.
Carmela vs. Flair vs. Lynch – HIT: This was a good main event for Lynch to win and become the #1 contender to face Asuka at the Royal Rumble. Carmella was pretty good here, but had some bad moments. One of her kicks to Charlotte’s back looked like it barely scrapped her. After Charlotte or Becky would hit a big move on the other, Carmella would kick her in the face. It happened multiple times to tease her “stealing” a win. I wish she had more than just that one kick to use in those situations. It got redundant. But overall, the match was strong. It was well booked and mostly well executed. It was fun to watch. I wasn’t sure who was going to win, so the ending wasn’t predictable to me. Becky vs. Asuka should be great. But, I’m not sure how they will get to Becky vs. Rousey at WrestleMania if she isn’t in the Rumble match.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.