“Oh heck yeah!”, I encourage myself to flip the TV on and turn the pre-recorded SmackDown episode for this week on at 1 in the morning. My motivation? A new look, hopefully new revamp, as well as Mauro Ranello; the newest and most important addition to the SmackDown brand headed into the rest of the new year. I especially have a connection to the man, as his roots stem from the same ground I walk upon as I live my life in beautiful British Columbia. However, it’s not just the hometown kid aspect I adore. The man has a glorious and undisputed “king of announcing” type of voice, as he’s recognizable no matter where you hear him, whether it be Showtime, previous endevours, or more recently NJPW on AXS TV. With that being said, I can only keep my head up, as well as keep it up so high until I see what this brand is looking like weeks after this debut. I look forward to reviewing all things SmackDown with Mauro Ranello being transmitted to my ears to go hand-in-hand with the action. Let’s get to the matches. It’s SmackDown’s 2016 debut, as well as its official debut on USA Network. Also, (duh)…it’s Mauro’s! The promising episode starts now.
We’ve got ourselves a new SmackDown intro with is good to see. Pyro at least for this episode too. Laredo, Texas is the destination tonight. Byron Saxton, Jerry Lawler, as well as Mauro Ranello who’s the “voice of SmackDown” take the booth.
It’s only fitting that the biggest name in WWE kicks off the big debut show, as Cena makes his way to the ring to kickoff tonight. However, it’s in an awkward pre-taped moment because he announced yesterday that he will be needing important shoulder surgery.
Rather upside down start to 2016 as tomorrow I will head to Birmingham for shoulder surgery. Life's full of set backs but #nevergiveup
— John Cena (@JohnCena) January 7, 2016
Cena does hype duty and puts over the IC (Ambrose/Owens) and Divas title (Charlotte/Becky) matches tonight, but notes that there’s the U.S.A. Champion lacking from the show. It’s a new year and a new network. Cena says just for once we try a fresh start. With that being said, John Cena himself gives the champion Alberto Del Rio a ring introduction.
There’s semi-heavy Del Rio chants from the Latino Laredo audience, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Del Rio isn’t going to be tricked twice, as he isn’t going to be fooled by any other gringo either. Cena doesn’t deserve another opportunity. Del Rio has to give Cena credit, but there’s no way that that said tactic is going to work again tonight. Cena pimps up the “FIRED UP” reaction from the crowd for Del Rio. He tries to ask the crowd if they’re ready for a U.S. title match right here and right now. Del Rio mocks Cena in Spanish and translates it to “shut up.” There’s nothing John can do, apparently. If Del Rio doesn’t want to put his title on the line, why doesn’t he just leave? But there’s a swerve. Del Rio will fight anyone, right now, just not Cena. Since Cena is out of the picture, he’s got just the guy to challenge Del Rio tonight. It’s Kalisto. They play up the big vs. small dynamic, as Kalisto snatches the mic from Del Rio to talk trash back in Spanish and English.
Mother of God. This is a repeat matchup of my Worst Worked Match of 2015. This is destined to be awful, but could swing in a better direction. What also doesn’t make sense is that this SHOULD be a title match because of the circumstances setting it up. There’s really…no point (?) to this actually happening except to cater to the Texas crowd. Okay. Quite not a DUD, but still nothing crazy happening sans the finish. We had a few bright spots, such as Mauro unbelievably blending in with the joystick control of the commentary; choosing when the accolades combine with play-by-play; hence this match being put over slightly more because of Mauro. Del Rio provided some good vicious offense such as clotheslines in the corner and simple ragdoll vs. small man stuff, but other than that Kalisto did nothing memorable except get the roll-up win on ADR, after the cocky ADR was distracted trying to taunt/one-up Cena who was on the outside for all of the match. I’ve never really liked this dynamic of booking when it pertains to making the face overcome the heel in more ways than one, but I guess it puts over Kalisto a little more. Not by a major margin.
Becky Lynch is with JoJo. Becky doesn’t need an explanation, but vindication for both friends stabbing her in the back (P & C in the three letter name). Tonight, when Becky takes the Divas title from Charlotte; it’ll be anything but friendly.
The Royal Rumble edition of MizTV (that was essentially shown on RAW unless if this version is un-jobber-fied) is up now. On Monday night, Vince McMahon announced that the Rumble will be for Reigns’ WWE title. The New Day interrupt MizTV. Thank the lordy! New Day need to talk about the horrible, disgusting, despicable things that Jericho said to them on RAW. The banter is ongoing vs. yer da Jericho. 2016 vs. 1999 comparisons are made. For some ungodly reason, Ziggler decides to come out next. Goldust interrupts Ziggler before he got fire off all his shots at Miz. Goldust says that only 1 superstar can win the Royal Rumble, and he will be glad to give everybody a set of ‘Golden Globes.’ Neville out next. (I hate covering these.) Neville has a promise for Miz. Miz can borrow whatever he wants from Neville, as long as he can cancel MizTV and never ever talk…ever again. Miz goes on to say that whenever his hand goes up, everyone’s mouths go shut. The New Day agree with the other heel of course. R-Truth out. R-Truth is late to the U.S. Open Challenge tonight, as another “my bad, y’all be good” bit is delivered. R-Truth amazingly asks if the Royal Rumble has an entrant fee.
New Day pop huge for that. Truth won’t buy a clue, but he will buy this~! (hitting Miz in the face with a mic). Goldust steals some popcorn from Xavier, and Neville knocks him off the directors chair as Goldust dumps the popcorn over him. I was wondering why it cut to commercial, but I should have expected this…
Nothing insulting, yet nothing much of note. Neville was the star of the match, working to his advantage with all his athleticism in which the crowd ate out of his palm, which resulted in him getting name chants (which I have not heard, like ever) as he was getting worked over by New Day. Mauro continued to do an excellent job here, avoiding most of the off-topic commentary done by mostly Jerry and some Byron; sticking to calling everything like it is with a little bit of added in facts/notes. After a breezy sequence of a roll-up pop-up Fameasser counter, as well as a near sprint idea where people were hitting moves on each other (faces hitting their trademarks on New Day); Neville dove onto all three members of New Day, as Miz was stuck alone in the ring with Goldust, Ziggler and Truth. A little comedy was done to keep Miz in and the other two held him up for the Ziggler superkick finish.
Post match Ziggler superkicked Truth and threw Goldust over the top rope. Imagine trying to make this guy a legitimate threat over what happened to him last year anyways.
Charlotte & Ric are backstage strolling on by. JoJo joins them for a pre-match interview. Becky is just like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc; as Ric is about to explain, Charlotte does. She leeches off of Charlotte. How Charlotte acts is how a champion acts. Early contender for worst promo of 2016.
Arguably the best main roster Charlotte match thus far. This match culminated the mini-rivalry that’s likely to become an ongoing match-by-match aspect of the divas division on WWE programming anyways. Charlotte’s lankiness worked with her rather than against her during the match, as Becky looked to take it mat-based or sneak out quick ones via roll-up, and Charlotte in selling, as well as her offense — finally felt like a big deal for once; asserting herself as a queen bee like girl, not just saying such and being awkward in-ring. The match felt a notch above typical divas TV encounters, with a flow that’s preferable to the other variety of divas matches we’ve been getting. Everything made sense, and moves were hit from both parties that made more sense in the grudge match environment such as Charlotte hitting multiple exploders on Becky to get into her head. The use of Ric wasn’t needed but ended up being a nice touch come the finish as I didn’t mind it then. Becky tried long and hard to sneak out a win, or simply try to tap out Charlotte, but it simply couldn’t be done. Between Ric and Charlotte’s poise/strength in comparison to other matches; Becky lost an ongoing war as well as her potential title win. After roll-ups and roll-ups plus other athletic daredevil-ish counters to defy Charlotte’s dominance, Becky finally got the Disarmer on. However, near the ropes the girls went, and Ric put Charlotte’s foot on the ropes, but Charlotte tapped out creating the unique illusion they were striving for. Charlotte then rolled-up Becky (beating her at her own game and strategy) with her feet on the ropes for leverage to retain. Excellent work by both girls, and the theory that Becky > Sasha on the main roster continues to become crystal clear. It was brilliant to see the crowd get behind Becky at times, including whilst she was placed in holds. That is surging my fired up-ness about this theory more too.
Big Kev is intercepted by Renee Young backstage. She asks for a minute of his time and he literally takes a look at her watch as well as setting the timer to a minute upon answering the question. All I can say is…GOAT. Kevin is fine after Monday’s attack (where Ambrose put him through a table). Cockroaches can survive pretty much anything, but Kev has had to kill quite a few of them in his career. Cockroaches can’t survive Kev, and neither can Dean Ambrose. He’s taking back his title tonight. The man kept tabs on the clock and checked out in [under a minute] because he can.
Renee is then with Dean. Kevin Owens said that he’d drive Ambrose to an actual asylum to get the championship, he’s put Dean through tables, hit him with weapons, and taken him to places he didn’t think he’d have been before. The strap is well adjusted, Kevin Owens says he’s a prizefigher, and tonight he fights for that very title. It’s Fight Owens Fight in Ambrose’s own words.
Ambrose/Owens matches basically suck. This one took it to a whole new level. Not much style or substance with this one. I never understand the flow of these two’s encounters, as this match was all movez and not a lot of much else. They had counters (the typical ones albeit) to their moves, Kevin has Ambrose in a chin-lock for the sake of a chin-lock and not to actually turn it into something, etc. What brought this down to the dumps was the last minutes of the match; case in point being that since the match was short and was put through segments, the finish HAD to deliver and matter yet did the complete opposite. An awkward dive was hit on Owens to the outside. The two brawled around and a spot was blown where Ambrose was to dump Owens over the railing, except the two just splattered against each other and the railing itself…looking like goofs in the process. Then the ref held the 10 count for what had to be 10+ seconds after 9 seconds of other ‘brawling’ on the outside between the two. The countout finally happened. You’re damn right I’m calling something down the middle. Just like the opener, hell, maybe even less than the opener, this still was OK to the point where it wasn’t a DUD — but boy was it ever a disaster in its own right. This got nothing right and was an embarrassment of a main event for SmackDown’s USA Network debut. Ambrose has the worst moveset in wrestling and Kev continues to make me think he simply isn’t a good WWE TV type of wrestler.
The two brawl all over the place after the bell sounds, as Owens ends up being thrown into the WWE sign and Ambrose does his little “let me fall on you” dive to the lowered-platform. Refs are then deployed out as the brawl continues with Ambrose on the advantage until Kev fought back with a damn laptop over the back. Also a briefcase was chucked on Dean~! Kevin went for a powerbomb on a cargo box but Ambrose reversed with an extremely hard impact caused by a back body drop. Back and forth standing offense until Ambrose nudges Owens off the box with an elbow drop through a table below. If this happened instead of the match, I’d be so much more happier, but the value of this rivalry still is in the dumps as of right now. The brawl helped the cause at least, making it more intense, with Mauro overseeing everything; trying everything in his power to put over the guys, title, and feud. Very good way to end the show.
SmackDown’s 2016/USA Network debut was a lackluster one, highlighted by Mauro Ranello’s spectacular debut performance as well as a great Divas Championship match. The rest is in the bad to average books, as SmackDown attempts to emerge with a better reputation come deeper into 2016 with iconic Mauro at the forefront; which is a start of its own. That’s what’s right. We’ve hit one checkpoint, and look to hopefully hit more as the show has only just gotten started this year. 51 weeks of SmackDown to go. Mamma Mia!