Those six letters can be devastating to the career of any professional wrestling superstar, especially during the build-up to the biggest show of the year.
In recent months, several of WWE's top stars have been sidelined with injuries of varying degrees. Christian, Rey Mysterio, Alberto del Rio, Sin Cara and Layla have all missed weeks -- if not months -- of action. Others like Mark Henry, Big Show and Ted DiBiase, who has been wrestling in a cast and brace, have been working despite injuries.
On Monday night's Raw, Randy Orton was added to that list, as he suffered a concussion during his match with Big Show. WWE made the news official on their website, but people immediately began debating whether the injury was legitimate or part of an angle.
With the push Orton had been receiving in recent weeks, leading to Sunday's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view and WrestleMania, the mere thought that WWE would write Orton off television with an injury angle is absurd. Orton was poised to be a top challenger for, if not the winner of, the World Heavyweight Championship match.
WWE announced earlier in the week that Orton would be removed from that bout. The news was disheartening, given the anticipation and uncertainty created by the build to the pay-per-view. Despite not being an ardent supporter of "The Viper," I was personally excited to see the issues between Orton and Daniel Bryan hit a fever pitch.
The situation became even more baffling Wednesday morning, when WWE revealed the outcome of tonight's Smackdown main event on its website. Not only was the winner announced, but the finish of the match was revealed, too.
Internet fans, again quick to jump to their keyboards and conspiracy theories, began questioning whether the article had been mistakenly published earlier than intended, but the article has remained active for several days before the show.
WWE officials obviously found themselves facing a predicament as one of the matches serving as a major selling point for Sunday's show had to be changed at the eleventh hour. Many fans had likely made the decision to attend the event or order the pay-per-view based on storylines involving Orton.
The intrigue of Orton's absence, however, could have been used to build more momentum and anticipation for tonight's Smackdown. Yes, dozens of websites would still have reported spoilers, easily accessible for the fans who sought them out, but WWE could have simply said Orton's replacement would be determined on the show.
Revealing spoilers for the go-home show to a pay-per-view seems like a questionable decision at best. If ratings for the final segment of the show dropped off, at least WWE will have no one to blame but itself.
- Santino Marella won a "Wild Card Battle Royale" to be named as Orton's replacement. The match itself may as well have been called a "Midcard Battle Royale," as that would have been more fitting. The inclusion of NXT competitors was a bit baffling, too, because they're supposed to be competing for the right to become a WWE superstar and are technically not on the main roster yet. The decision to have Marella win has been polarizing for fans since the news came out earlier this week. Some feel adding a midcard comedy act to the World Heavyweight Championship match demeans its credibility and that of the title the superstars are competing for. Others believe Marella won't make it to the Chamber being attacked by someone else looking to insert themselves into the match. Ring Posts colleague Arda Ocal raised an interesting point that changed my perspective: If the spot is going to someone fans know isn't winning anyway, why not give it to someone they love who will add some fun to the match? The crowd popped for Marella's victory, so maybe this is, in fact, what the people want to see.
- World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan cut a promo expressing no remorse for what happened to Orton. He demanded Lillian Garcia announce him as the winner of his match with Orton by forfeit. But Teddy Long would have nothing of it, as he forced Bryan into a match with Sheamus. The two made the most of the time they were given, putting on a good match ending with Bryan spitting in Sheamus' face, coercing "The Great White" into shoving the referee and getting disqualified. With Orton removed from the equation, a full-blown Bryan vs. Sheamus match seems to be the most ideal match-up for WrestleMania.
- Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett were once again on the losing end of an Elimination Chamber preview tag team match, this time falling to Big Show and Khali in a relatively short and basic match. After it was over, Big Show knocked his fellow giant out. He then proceeded to destroy Teddy Long's office, punching out Mark Henry in the process. People have been debating whether this is a full-fledged heel turn or simply animosity between opponents for Sunday's pay-per-view. If Big Show was going to turn on Khali, it would have been nice for him to do it during the match, allowing Rhodes and Barrett to pick up a win and gain even an ounce of momentum heading into the World Heavyweight Championship contest at Elimination Chamber.
- Primo and Epico and the Usos are both great tag teams with a lot in common. They're all young stars, they all have family lineage in the business and they actually look, act and wrestle like tag teams. They worked a good match on Smackdown, but the crowd didn't seem invested at all. That's a travesty of sorts, as these two teams could go a long way in revitalizing a tag team division, if WWE ever decided to make that a priority again.
- Ted DiBiase and Hunico both showed fire in their match, but it's time for them to find new opponents. It wouldn't be so bad if they continued this feud but wrestled other opponents as well. The problem is that every match DiBiase has had for the past two months seems to have been against Hunico. Being that Hunico won this bout, with assistance from Camacho, however, this isn't over quite yet. It wouldn't be surprising to see these two receive an undercard spot on Sunday's pay-per-view, which only has four announced matches at this point.
- Booking Ezekiel Jackson to look dominant in the battle royale minutes after losing to Jinder Mahal was baffling. Unlike many, I see potential in Mahal and believe that with the right build and experience, he has potential to be a star. I would prefer to see him in matches like the one he had tonight with Jackson than jobbing to Khali.
- Tamina Snuka (it's nice to see WWE acknowledging the last name) and Alicia Fox beat Natalya and Divas Champion Beth Phoenix in a tag match. Natalya lost the match for her team - through uncontrollable flatulence, nonetheless - furthering the likelihood of a split for the Divas of Doom. No one in the match looked bad, and Tamina looked strong heading into her title match on Sunday, so for a TV divas match, this should be considered a win.
- The backstage scene with Teddy Long telling Randy Orton he was being kept off Smackdown and Elimination Chamber would be a good subtle hint at an Orton heel turn, but the top of the card on Smackdown is severely lacking babyfaces at the moment, so turning Orton would probably be a bad move at the moment.
Big Show and Great Khali d. Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes
Hunico d. Ted DiBiase
Epico and Primo d. The Usos
Daniel Bryan d. Sheamus by disqualification
Jinder Mahal d. Ezekiel Jackson
Tamina and Alicia Fox d. Beth Phoenix and Natalya
Santino Marella won a battle royale to earn a spot in the World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber
WWE managed to pack a lot into tonight's episode of Smackdown. The result was a solid episode that drove home Elimination Chamber. Seeing the Colons back on television was a definite positive. Hopefully they will have a surprise match added to the pay-per-view. Some people will always complain, but overall, this was a decent enough episode of Smackdown, especially given the Orton situation.
Comment of the Night
"Rhodes and Barrett are getting the famous 'King Sheamus' push...off of a cliff." - Drew Robbins, @NGPDrew
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