The Blue Brand of the WWE closed out its year as Smackdown Live! aired on the USA Network. Promising title matches, the WWE wanted Smackdown to go out on a high note. Did it deliver?
The show started off with the return of John Cena. Coming off a lengthy break that saw him season two of his reality show American Grit on Fox as well as guest hosting Saturday Night Live, only the third wrestler to do so after Hulk Hogan and The Rock, he arrived to announce that he would be facing the WWE Champion in a title match at the Royal Rumble.
This has annoyed me about the WWE for a while now. Yes, this is a scripted show. But this scripted show is about a fictional sports league. In a real sporting organization, such as UFC, you don’t have someone show up and suddenly declare they’re the number one competitor for the title and will face off against the champion at the next pay per view. Since there are five weeks until the Royal Rumble, why not take a week or two showing Cena earning his spot in that match? Having him come out and say he was taking that spot pretty much gave away the finish for the championship match at the end of the show too which was sad because the three competitors involved put on a hell of a show.
I think some fans have a problem with Cena for reasons such as how he opened this show. No one can doubt Cena’s ability in the ring. The way he can manipulate crowds on the mic is second to none, especially since a decent majority of those crowds don’t exactly give him the warmest reception. He can certainly go in the ring. He’s put on some clinics with the likes of Edge, CM Punk, and AJ Styles, but the way the company makes him so dominant is a turn off simply because the outcome of most of his feuds is pretty anticlimactic. It happened to Hulk Hogan in the early 90’s. When he kept winning and winning and no bad guy was made to look like a credible threat, the audience grew bored. I don’t want to be bored. Yet inserting himself in the title picture is boring. It doesn’t give the audience a reason to cheer for him. In fact, it does the opposite.
A Fatal Four Way Elimination Tag Team Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships occurred. American Alpha faced off against The Uso’s, Heath Slater and Rhyno, and The Wyatt Family. In a surprise, American Alpha pulls off the upset win to become the new Smackdown Tag Team Champions. It was nice to see them finally do something with American Alpha. They were a great team in NXT that seemed to get lost in the shuffle when they were brought to the main roster. This also allowed the internal strife hinted at between Randy Orton and Luke Harper to take center stage. I really don’t get why Randy joined The Wyatt Family. He just didn’t belong with that faction. They’ll probably explain it away as Randy playing the ultimate head game with Bray Wyatt by trying to mess with the minds of his friends but that’s just boring.
The Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship saw champion AJ Styles face off against Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin. While the John Cena announcement at the beginning of the show pretty much sealed the deal in terms of my opinion on who would win the match, I never gave Dolph or Baron any real chance of winning. Dolph is beyond damaged at this point in terms of credibility. There is no doubt he’s talented in the ring but as a good guy, you can’t take him seriously. He always comes up short. Baron Corbin is just too new to the scene to be taken seriously. It wasn’t too long ago that he was feuding with perennial jobber Kalisto and now we’re supposed to take him seriously in a championship match? They’re probably setting up a feud for Dolph and Baron which would not be a bad thing for Baron Corbin. He needs some seasoning if we’re going to take him seriously.
Overall, while this wasn’t a classic episode of Smackdown, it could have been much worse. The triple threat match alone will be worth a rewatch when it hits the WWE Network in a month. I’m questioning what they have planned for John Cena but I’m also willing to let this play out. They could make some magic here. Or they could make another dud. We shall see.