Coming off of a successful SmackDown last week which built to WrestleMania well, we now land on the darker, more lackadaisical spot on our coverage game board. The SmackDown before WrestleMania. No, this is not like an old SmackDown which either was on a brand split build or furthered build to SmackDown; this is going to be an episode with few matches and tons of same-day edit-ins from WrestleMania Axxess, the yearly fan event. It’s still no big deal, but an episode that makes reviewing easier, and less fun. With that being said, let’s get into the show.
It’s even more bizarre the time this day comes around every year, as the SmackDown matches are taped from RAW. Mauro Ranallo and Jerry Lawler join us on commentary this week.
Social Outcasts cut their typical prelude promo into their match, where Slater takes on AJ Styles this week. They tout themselves as the winners of the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, and explain that AJ is out numbered because he is the Phenomenal “One,” and the Outcasts are the Phenomenal Four. Terrible puns follow including a FOURNOMINAL joke which actually went over with Brooklyn better than expected.
AJ got an ENORMOUS pop upon his entrance, even more so than most people on RAW. These guys tore it up for such a short time being; about 5-6 minutes. Social Outcasts have set a trend of having very good matches that people would think would be squashes, but aren’t. Heath got the most offense in in this match than he has in a long time! Bumping Styles off the stairs, a huge leg lariat, sending him in and out of the ring, and kicking out of the Ushigoroshi; Slater looked as great as he does in 10-15 minute matches on C-shows. Adam Rose got pele kicked off the apron and Curtis Axel, who caught Rose, eventually got kneed in the face. After that, Styles kicked out of a roll-up and gave Slater a Flying Forearm for the victory. Spectacular short match that added in all possible elements.
We then cut to a live shot of AT&T Stadium. The set looks spectacular. Renee Young and Byron Saxton kicked off their live panel for the night talking the Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker feud and subsequent match at WrestleMania. First off though we got a long video package for it.
Jey Uso vs. D-Von Dudley and Dean Ambrose vs. Erick Rowan were both announced for tonight.
Something neat I found was when we returned from break, was that the Hell in a Cell was placed around the ring in which you could see from a distance.
Another video package airs for Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar aka lots of dead air tonight. By the looks of it, the WWE Network at 2 PM has Kalisto vs. Ryback for the United States Championship, and USA Network at 3 PM has the 10 divas tag as well as The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz matches. That’s weird considering they’ve changed multiple times, and to have the United States title open the ENTIRE show is bizarre. Mauro Ranallo will be on the call for all three matches.
We were shown the entire ending of RAW and recap of the Roman Reigns vs. Triple H feud. We also got cut-in shots of Axxess memorabilia and a video package for Snoop Dogg in the WWE Hall of Fame.
OK match, nothing special, but smart of WWE to promote one of the matches on their USA pre-show, on a show that’s airing on USA, for WrestleMania. This was literally a back forth back forth match. Momentum switched multiple times, with Jey coming out full steam ahead only to be worked over for a slight bit. He got back in control fairly quickly and gave a running hip attack to D-Von in the corner which made for an excellently timed near fall. Bubba got the crowd to root for D-Von, which made him a face in peril; which of course makes NO sense considering ultra-heel Dudleys WWE is going for and the finish that followed. Jimmy Uso took out Bubba who was going to interfere in a superplex spot and D-Von slipped out and delivered his “Ron Simmons tribute” spinebuster which is called the RDS for the pinfall.
A TREMENDOUS video package aired for the Divas Championship triple threat. It used the WWE Network search bar as a transition into a topic, searching for it then leading into footage.
A recap of the Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio match from RAW aired as well as the Coachman segment with New Day. Some more recap of Axxess activities, a preview of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, as well as, finally, Triple H vs. Roman Reigns main event analysis. An epic video package played for the main event, with “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold as background for Triple H clips and brawls, etc from the feud. Big time feel.
Erick Rowan got a firefly nameplate. How cute!
These two had a better match than expected, albeit still tedious and hesitant towards the finish to do anything fun. The Wyatts sent Rowan out at the beginning of the match to do the work all himself, which meant Rowan had to fend for himself as there will no interference in the match. With his claw holds, spinning heel kicks, pumphandle slams, as well as Urangani slams and so much versatile offense, Rowan kept the ‘heel big man’ shtick more tolerable and exciting than a 1986 top heel. Rowan even pulled out a top rope uppercut and Ambrose pulled out a superplex. A pumphandle slam was reversed into a Lunatic Lariat which was countered into aforementioned Uranagi slam. Ambrose kicked out, powered out of a spinning heel kick, and finally hit a Lunatic Lariat/Dirty Deeds combo for the win.
Of course this was ridiculous for 2 hours of TV time, but it was perfect for building up ‘Mania to the casual audience, with two decent-great matches, with the Jey/D-Von match being alright for what it was. The AT&T shots were epic, Renee and Byron had solid chemistry together, and a lot of the video packages were top notch. Although it was the dreaded recap show, it got its job done, and now it’s time for WrestleMania weekend fever to kick in. Until next time.