Smackdown recap: Interest grows ahead of WrestleMania

There's no doubt the Internet has changed the way viewers, promoters and competitors view the day-to-day events of professional wrestling programming.

Whether the immediate availabity of information online has improved or harmed the product is beauty in the eye of the holder.


The ways feuds and stories develop has been drastically altered, as the personas of wrestling now must wage their battles 24/7 instead of simply a few hours each week on TV.

Look at the ongoing war of wars between John Cena and The Rock. Even with Rocky absent from television, the tension between the two continues to build on Twitter. Even 15 years ago, such a concept would have been ridiculed by the top brass of any company.

There's also the obvious downside. Open access on the Internet allows for fans to see results of certain shows before they air and to read all the inside "news" and rumors that are floating around.

Often times, these reports - which are more than often not even complete paragraphs - are riddled with unfounded speculation and what likely amounts to little more than wishful thinking on behalf of the writer.

When these foretold events and occurrences fail to materialize, the writers run to the "plans changed" excuse. These events can be seen today in the unfulfilled claims of an in-ring appearance by NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal wrestling against the Big Show at WrestleMania.

On Friday's edition of Smackdown, a title match between the giant superstar and Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes was officially announced for the "show of shows."

Some critics are looking at this match through the lens of "We get this instead of Shaq," which has brought out some negativity toward the bout, which lacks the mainstream appeal of a celebrity bout.

For what it's worth, WWE has done a masterful job incorporating those details into the feud, by having Rhodes mock Big Show for his past matches against celebrity performers.

The Internet has warped fans' perceptions of professional wrestling, and the business has traveled so far down the path now that there's no turning back.

Now, it's up to professional wrestling companies - from small independent promotions to an industry monolith like WWE - to decide how to embrace the Internet and use it to further develop the product.

Or just do like Ring of Honor, and poke a little fun at the situation. In response to Internet reports that Mark and Jay Briscoe and Adam Cole had been prevented from leaving the company to move up to WWE, ROH posted the following picture earlier Friday:

Quick Hits

  • Sheamus opened the show with a strong promo about his past as a bully and a villain in WWE, saying Daniel Bryan is falling into the same trap he did two years ago. Someone had to show Sheamus the way, and he now plans to pay it forward, when he humbles Bryan at WrestleMania. I, like many others, have criticized Sheamus' past promos that made himself seem like a do-gooder, so I really appreciated WWE recognizing his past and making it part of the storyline. I really think that Sheamus-Bryan could be a sleeper hit at WrestleMania.

Sheamus followed up his promo by defeating another former world champion in Dolph Ziggler. The two got the show off to a good start with a back-and-forth match that was enjoyable and entertaining to watch. Hopefully Ziggler's ship hasn't sailed in WWE and he will receive a renewed push in the post-WrestleMania period, as he has potential to have a legitimate title reign. As for Sheamus, I wouldn't mind seeing him continue to defeat former world champs on a weekly basis until his collision with Bryan, which I hope the former Ring of Honor World Champion wins.

  • Speaking of those who deserve a chance to shine, Rhodes continues to carry himself well on the microphone, both in his promo and on commentary during the match between Big Show and Mark Henry. These two seem to have a never-ending rivalry, and their matches are beginning to drag on as the feud continues. Big Show scored a definitive win as he moves toward his shot at Rhodes' Intercontinental Championship.
  • The main event of the show saw Daniel Bryan defeat Randy Orton by countout in Orton's comeback match from a concussion. The two were putting on a good match when Kane emerged, distracting Orton to allow Bryan the countout victory. I absolutely love the fact Bryan's matches are being given more time than usual for WWE matches, and he continues to perform well with a variety of opponents. I'm beginning to wonder if we has more of a chance to win at WrestleMania than people are giving him.
  • As for Orton and Kane, they brawled after the match with Kane coming out on top, welcoming Orton back to action. This could be yet another WrestleMania match coming into form. After the assault, Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis, who will reign over Smackdown next week, booked Kane vs. Aksana. This could be interesting...
  • A heel Eve scored a big win over Natalya, who seems to be making a babyface transition and embracing her flatulence gimmick. The action wasn't bad while it lasted, but it was kept really short. It would also be nice to see a diva win with a finishing move rather than a roll-up every once in a while. Hopefully Eve gets more opportunities to show off her real-life Brazilian ju jitsu training. She's actually a talented performer, so hopefully this new character will give her the chance she needs to shine.
  • Santino Marella defeated Heath Slater in a match that saw Slater land a surprising amount of offense. The match honestly wasn't bad for an undercard match on television. People question why Heath Slater is still employed, but it's for instances like this. Not everyone on the roster can be a world champion; some guys are there to look decent jobbing.
  • Justin Gabriel defeated Drew McIntyre in a match with the stipulation that McIntyre would be fired if he lost. This angle has been completely overplayed on Smackdown, and it seems poised to continue. More on that in a bit. I still see a lot of potential in Gabriel and wish WWE would push him. He seemed poised for a little feud with Rhodes, but that went nowhere. Now he's a bit player in the McIntyre saga. This match wasn't really anything special; I believe both men are capable of much more.
  • What is really the point in having Laurinaitis and Smackdown GM Teddy Long change shows for a week? If the brand split still meant anything, it would be a decent gimmick, but right now, it leaves much to be desired. Long announced he's bring The Great Khali - a Smackdown superstar - to face David Otunga. Laurinaitis, meanwhile, has teased his support for the now-fired McIntryre on Twitter, seemingly leading to a reinstatement angle. If nothing else, this feud helps keep the midcard busy. It would just be more useful if the GMs had to book shows using the talent of the opposite brand to try and show-up their counterpart.

Match Rundown


Sheamus d. Dolph Ziggler

Santino Marella d. Heath Slater

Eve d. Natalya

Big Show d. Mark Henry

Justin Gabriel d. Drew McIntyre

Daniel Bryan d. Randy Orton by countout

My Take

There was a lot of action packed into tonight's Smackdown, and most of it was good. The episode wasn't a home run, but it wasn't a waste of time either. There is still a lot of time to kill before WrestleMania, and shows like this help advance the stories for that show while maintaining momentum for other programs. While it may have been like a place-holder, the show could still be considered a success.

Comment of the Night

"Has Funkasaurus gone the way of the dodo, the 8-track and MySpace?" - Kevin Hunsperger, @kevinhunsperger

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