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The following was originally published on PWTorch.com 15 years ago this week…
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 25, 2008
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
-A video introduction hyped Smackdown going HD.
-With surprisingly little fanfare, Smackdown opened in hi-def without a new opening video. The Smackdown theme played briefly as the camera panned the crowd and the same entrance set used by Raw and ECW, but with the Smackdown colors. Michael Cole and Coach introduced the program.
1 — REY MYSTERIO vs. ZACH RYDER & CURT HAWKINS
Smackdown has a new ring apron with the logo on it. The aisle in the stands being off-center still feels odd as everything used to be so symmetrical. It’s not bad, just different in a subtle way. “It isn’t always easy taking on two guys at the same time,” said Coach, with the first of his utterly empty, stupid doses of analysis mixed with the obvious being stated as if full of insight. Cole even stepped in and said, “It’s never easy.” They showed Edge watching backstage on a plasma. He overacted, rubbing his beard and nodding and twitching nervously like a villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon. Rey dove over the top rope onto Hawkins at ringside after Hawkins’ attempt at interference failed. He springbaorded back into the ring and landed on Ryder. Hawkins re-entered the ring with a chair. The ref DQ’d them. Rey dropkicked the chair into Hawkins’ face.
WINNER: Rey via DQ in 5:00.
STAR RATING: 3/4*
-The new graphics package for Smackdown when promoting upcoming matches is top notch.
-Jesse stood in front of two pictures of Festus’s extreme facial expressions. He said they are trying to get Festus help because it’s too extreme and they’re trying to fix him.
2 — JIMMY WANG YANG (w/Shannon Moore) vs. DOMINO (w/Cherry, Deuce)
Cole said Wang is learning to breakdance from a member of his family. Coach said: “When you look at Jimmy Wang Yang, when you look at one name who could have a huge 2008, it could be Jimmy Wang Yang.” That may be a new low for Coach on commentary. Where does he come up with that? Is someone feeding him lines to just make him look like an idiot who was dropped from the sky with no WWE knowledge and told to “fake it as best he can”? Coach said it’s not easy to go back and forth from singles to tag team to singles wrestling, but both guys are doing a good job. How can he tell? I mean, they’re fighting an even match, so they both could be doing poorly, not well, and thus neutralizing each other. What is it possibly about what they’re doing that is a sign they’re adjusting well to singles action? That they’re both not reaching for a partner in the corner that isn’t there? Deuce interfered as Cherry distracted the ref, but Yang still kicked out. Moore gave Deuce a huracanrana off the ring apron onto the floor. Coach said that made things all even. How? Because Moore knocked out Deuce, it meant things were uneven, because Moore as fresh and Deuce was KO’d. If anything, things were even before that with both partners fresh at ringside. Wang then finished Domino with a moonsault press off the top rope.
WINNER: Wang Yang in 5:00.
STAR RATING: 1/2*
-Backstage Jamie Noble and Chuck Palumbo argued with each other. They said they were only teaming to make Michelle McCool happy. As soon as they heard her coming, they stopped arguing and pretended, tensely, to get along.
-The extended video feature aired on Jeff Hardy to hype his title shot at the Rumble. It’s unusual for WWE to spend that much time on a Raw-brand talent and match when hyping a PPV.
3 — CHUCK PALUMBO & MICHELLE MCCOOL & JAMIE NOBLE vs. JOHN MORRISON & THE MIZ & LAYLA
Palumbo tagged himself in by slapping Noble’s back and Noble dove onto Miz. Palumbo yanked Noble off of Miz. Noble yelled at Palumbo, who told Noble he was helping him. Noble said he had him. As they argued, McCool slapped Layla, then Palumbo shoved Noble backward into McCool, who flew off the ring apron to the floor. Noble jumped to the floor to check on her. He called for help from medics. Palumbo stepped behind him and punched him, then rammed him back-first into the ringpost followed by a hard clothesline and his finisher. Then he mounted him and punched him repeatedly until the ref intervened. Palumbo awkwardly threw the ref into the ringside steps. The ref clutched his elbow in pain. Palumbo went back to pounding on Noble repeatedly. The crowd chanted, “You suck! You suck!” Palumbo gave Noble a running kick to the ribs. McCool told him to stop. He, in a fit of uncontrolled rage, tossed her hard to the ground. He reacted with a mix of remorse and an expression that she deserved it. He then kicked Noble again right into the camera. The crowd continued the “You suck!” chants.
WINNER: No contest in 3:00.
STAR RATING: The match was just getting started, so no rating, but the angle was really well done. It was intense and felt significant, with Palumbo really snapping and going completely heel in how he acted while Noble and McCool, who have grown to be an endearing pair, came across totally sympathetically. Cole and Coach didn’t talk throughout the whole sequence until McCool was stretched after Palumbo returned to the back.
-An angry and determined MVP promised to end Ric Flair’s career. He said Flair should be honored that his career will be ended by Mr. 305 Montel Vontavious Porter. He said since he is the future of this business, how about they look at the future headlines. He showed a video image of a newspaper headline that read: “MVP better than Flair.” The they went to a funny image of a smiling Ric Flair dressed as a golfer. MVP said that’s his future. He said when he’s winning future World Titles, Flair will be scootering around and becoming a champion shuffleboard player. An image was shown of Flair in his full sequined robe standing by a shuffleboard game. The next image was MVP standing at the Hall of Fame ceremony. He the went to an image of Flair in a retirement home with a walker and a nurse tending to him. Flair’s music played and he walked out, looking youthful and energetic in high-def. It was supposed to be the opposite, wasn’t it. Flair smiled and said MVP’s little skit was funny and entertaining. He said if he has to retire, MSG is a grand place to do it, “but the problem is this golf ball chippin’, shuffle board playin’, nursing home patient is not ready to go home and I’m going to beat you. I repeat, I’m going to beat you at the Royal Rumble. Whooo!” MVP stared back at him and shook his head no, looking thrown off that Flair took his promo in such good humor.
4 — FINLAY (w/Hornswoggle) vs. THE GREAT KHALI (w/Runjin Singh)
Cole talked about the latest WWE Magazine which features odds for the Royal Rumble. Cole said Finlay is 30-1 odds to win the Rumble. Hornswoggle is 100-1 odds to win. He said if they work together, their odds will get better. By that odds breakdown, Hornswoggle has by definition roughly a one-third chance of winning compared to the average entrant. From a storyline and realism standpoint, it would have been more fun to rate his arbitrary odds at 10,000 to 1 or even 100,000 to 1. Khali dominated early. He caught Finlay coming off the top rope with a chokeslam.
Khali took the beating of Finlay to ringside. Hornswoggle yelled at Khali from the ring apron. Khali lifted him for a slam through the announce table, but Finlay made the save and pounded Khali with his shillelagh with an aggressive flurry. Khali came up bleeding. He is the first WE wrestler to bleed in hi-def, for trivia buffs. Finlay grabbed a chair and bashed the bloodied Khali with it. Finlay’s music played and he and Hornswoggle returned to the back. Coach said Finlay didn’t care about winning, but then Finlay’s music played as if he won. Cole said “the great protector has done it again.”
WINNER: No announcement made, but Finlay’s music played, so did he win?
STAR RATING: *1/4 – Nice example of Finlay standing up for his little friend. The lack of clarity on the finish to the match was odd.
-Vince thanked Finlay backstage for protecting his son. Finlay asked what he expected. Vince said he had his doubts. Finlay said he also beat Khali. Vince said true, but he also made him made going into the Rumble. Vince asked for a private word with his son. Hornswoggle looked Finlay’s way. Vince pointed at his eyes and said to look at him. Vince then gave Hornswoggle a pep talk. He told him the Rumble is every man for himself. He said he can’t trust anyone, even Finlay. Hornswoggle looked confused. Vince told him his last name is not Finlay, it’s McMahon, “and don’t you ever forget that.”
-Batista stepped out in a leather jacket and a black shirt underneath, keeping up his image as WWE’s best dressed superstar. Coach said Batista is his pick to win the Rumble. Batista, with a big smile, yelled “Yeah! Can you tell I’m fired up? WWE in HD, two days to the Royal Rumble – you can bet your ass I’m fired up.” He said he wishes Rey luck and he deserves to be champion, but lives and eats and breaths to be champion himself. “It’s part of my identity.” He said he’s putting every competitor in WWE on notice. He said he won his first WWE Championship via the 2005 Royal Rumble. He said history will repeat itself this year. He dropped the mic and posed for the crowd.
-They replayed McCool being knocked out and Palumbo snapping. Then they went to footage of McCool being stretchered into an ambulance as Noble vowed to get Palumbo back for what he did.
6 — BIG DADDY V vs. UNDERTAKER
Undertaker’s ring intro is cool in hi-def. Cole said Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin are the only WWE Superstars to win two Rumbles in a row. He said Taker is going to try to add his name to that list. Cole talked up Taker’s ability to adjust to his various opponents over the years in Darwin-theory style. Daddy V took early control and splashed Taker in the corner at 1:00. Taker fell in a heap to the mat. Daddy V methodically beat him down. Taker came back with a sudden DDT for a two count. Coach called Taker a complete fighter. Daddy V came back and knocked Taker to the floor, then threw him into the ringside steps. Taker came right back and threw Daddy V face-first into the steps. Cole said someone is going to have to find a way to knock Daddy V over the top rope, not through the ropes, to eliminate him. Taker took Daddy V to the mat with a series of offense including a big boot for a two count at 4:00. Taker followed up with a big chokeslam for a near fall. Taker looked surprised. Taker walked the top rope and came down with a forearm. Daddy V turned Taker hard to the mat with a sideslam. Taker, though, surprised Daddy with a triangle choke. Daddy V fought out of it right away. A minute later Taker applied a variation of the triangle choke that forced a quick tapout by Daddy V. Taker didn’t release it right away, though, and Daddy passed out briefly and then bled from his mouth. Cole said it’s a submission maneuver they’ve never seen before. After the match, Mark Henry came out to check on Daddy V. Henry shouted to Taker that he went too far. Henry helped Daddy V to the back.
WINNER: Undertaker in 7:00 via tapout.
STAR RATING: *3/4
-The video segment aired on Randy Orton that also aired on Raw.
-They showed the front of the arena at the University of Virginia.
-The excellent Royal Rumble video aired running down the 20 years of history of the Rumble with various statistics and clips of vintage finishes.
-Cole and Coach previewed the entire Royal Rumble line-up. Coach managed officially with this segment to make it a full hour without saying anything outrageously stupid.
-A ring intro took place for C.M. Punk. Rey Mysterio accompanied him to ringside. Cole noted that Punk lost the ECW Title on Tuesday night to Chavo Guerrero. They announced Punk would face Edge next. They didn’t hype this all show. Strange. Taker vs. Daddy V got the main event hype.
7 — EDGE (w/Zach Ryder, Curt Hawkins) vs. C.M. PUNK (w/Rey Mysterio)
Rey joined Cole and Coach on commentary. Punk took it to Edge at the bell, including a roundhouse to the back. Rey said it’s tough to watch Vickie and Edge’s relationship. Rey complimented Punk’s kicks. Edge came back with a boot to the face. Punk press slammed Edge to the mat at 4:00. Edge immediately ducked a charging Punk, sending Punk to the floor as they cut to a break.
Punk caught Edge with a spin wheel kick as Edge flew at him from the middle rope. Both were down and the ref began a count. Punk dove at Edge with a springboard off the top rope, but Edge turned it into a powerslam for a two count. Punk went to the top rope for a springboard, but he slipped and fell. Edge went for an immediate cover, scoring a two count. Zach and Curt were nearby at ringside, but didn’t appear to be to blame for the slip. Punk came right back with a G2S attempt, but Edge countered immediately with a neckbreaker. Rey said he’s slipped on the top rope many times due to fatigue or his knee brace. Edge went fo a spear, but Punk met him with a knee, then kicked him twice behind the head and schoolboyed him for a near fall. Edge went to the top rope, but Punk kicked him off balance. He lifted Edge onto his shoulders while standing on the second rope. Edge slipped out, but Punk kicked him and dove at him. Edge ducked and then speared him out of mid-air for the three count.
WINNER: Edge in 11:00
STAR RATING: **1/2 — Good match. Nothing spectacular, but pretty much what it should have been for this spot in a TV main event. That’s a career-moment for Punk headlining one of WWE’s two major shows, but too bad it was treated as an afterthought rather than a big deal to see the recent ECW World Champ stepping up against current World Champ Edge on TV. They really downplayed the magnitude of the opportunity for Punk at this stage of his WWE career.