Angelic Heel Here…
With the Royal Rumble just 3 days away (which can be seen on the WWE Network for $9.99), the WWE rolled into Austin, TX for the last SMACKDOWN before the big event. The atmosphere was electric just days after the WWE Universe was visited by the Vigilante, Sting. Once again, his actions had consequences that would need to be addressed. This installment of Smackdown saw 4 Superstars blessed by the Authority, with the opportunity to qualify for the Royal Rumble match. Who made it? Who failed failed to qualify? Let’s find out!
Daniel Bryan Welcomes Back Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, & Erick Rowan
Daniel Bryan kicked off the evenings action by making his way down to the ring. He stated that he could talk about a whole slew of things ranging from his match with Kane, to his issues with the Authority, and beyond (Goats should not be allowed to talk on microphones… Just Sayin..) but that he would rather talk about the 3 men who got their jobs back on Monday night thanks to Sting sticking his nose where it didn’t belong (AGAIN!!) Bryan then introduces Ryback, Erick Rowan, and Dolph Ziggler. The 3 new hires make their way down to the ring to thunderous cheers from the WWE Universe.
The troll showing he isn’t as much of a spot light whore as John Cena, let each man have a chance to say a few words to the WWE Universe. Ryback mentioned how he could have felt sorry for himself or given up, but that no one could take away his passion and his dream, much less the Authority. Erick Rowan told us that being gone was sort of a blessing. That being gone had given him time to think and now he knew who he really was. When Dolph Ziggler got his chance to speak, first thing he did was take pot shots at the people who so graciously kept their word, and hired him back. He also stated that a few of his accomplishments and how close he had been to greatness but then tried to pin it on the Authority that he had nearly lost it all, (he knew the stakes in throwing in his lot with John Cena, he needs to take some responsibility for his choices.) The Show Off would then continue by saying he would rather continue to fight for what he believed in than sit at home on the couch and complain on a podcast (oooo burn!), that being in the squared circle is what he loved and that he was just getting going!
Having heard enough of the nonsense being spouted to the WWE Universe, our heroic members of the Authority arrived on the ramp. The future Champion, Seth Rollins, Director of Operations Kane exchanged words with the disloyal few in the ring. It was apparent that Ziggler was ready to fight as he kept throwing out challenges to the savior of the WWE. But Seth, of course, had bigger fish to fry in his preparations for his World Heavy Weight Championship match, and declined to accept the Show Off’s offer to fight. But as not to disappoint the eager newly rehired superstar, Kane set up the match of Dolph Ziggler vs Bad News Barrett, the man who fairly won the Intercontinental Title from Dolph. In order to qualify for the Royal Rumble, Ziggler would have to win his match against the champion. The Corporate Demon also made the matches of Ryback vs Rusev and Erick Rowan vs Luke Harper, he stated that if Ryback or Rowan wanted to compete in the 30 man match, they would have to win their matches as well.
Dolph Ziggler vs Bad News Barrett
Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Winner: Dolph Ziggler via pinfall
This match was a huge back and forth battle between two men who were determined to be the best. BNB focused his attacks mainly on Ziggler’s left shoulder. The action would spill out around the ring with each man delivering a variety of punishments to his opponent. The Show Off used his speed and agility to rally and ultimately swing the offensive momentum in his favor. Ziggler countered the Bull Hammer Elbow with one of his gorgeous drop kicks (best on the roster) and picked up the win over the IC Champion after he hit the Zig Zag, earning his spot in the Royal Rumble Match.
This was such a fun match. Wade and Dolph have great chemistry in the ring and while their styles are different, they meld beautifully in a match that refused to let you pay attention to anything else. But I now have a question, with Barrett losing to Dean on Monday, and Dolph on Smackdown, does that mean that both men get a shot at the Intercontinental Champion? Both of them pinned Bad News. Others have mentioned that Dolph should get a title shot anyway, something about a rematch clause. Sure, I could see that, be he was fired and forfeits such a clause. He is a NEW HIRE. But he still pinned the champion and that would earn him a shot at the title. So with two people who have pinned the champion, I see only one option, Triple Threat match for the belt, Bad News Barrett vs Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler. Can’t tell me that doesn’t excite you just a little bit.
Rusev vs Ryback
Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Winner: Ryback via count out
In a match that would reignite their explosive rivalry, Ryback locked horns with the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev. The two power houses slugged it out and ruthlessly went after one another. There were no punches pulled as the two viciously traded blows that would have the rest of us seeing stars. Rusev would begin to take control of the Big Guy as he focused his attentions on his surgically repaired leg. But seemingly out of no where, Ryback was able to lift Rusev up and used the ring ropes to bounce his opponent with more force on to the mat creating the necessary separation that would swing things back in his favor. The offensive onslaught forced Rusev to regroup outside the ring, but he was relentlessly followed by Ryback who continued his brutal beat down of the hero of the Russian Federation. The ref continued to count to ten and Ryback realized his Royal Rumble match was in jeopardy, flew back into the ring at 9 leaving Rusev to be counted out. As the Big Guy celebrated the victory, Rusev would assault him in an attempt to assuage his bruised ego. But Ryback turned the tables on him and fought his way back and delivered the Meat Hook Clothesline. As he went to deliver Shell Shock, Rusev wriggled off the Big Guys shoulders and out of the ring to safety.
I was pleasantly surprised by this match. I expected it to be a snooze-fest and what I got was one of the more physically entertaining matches that I have seen in a long while. Ryback has improved by leaps and bounds, both on thee microphone and in the ring. He doesn’t seem so much like a bumbling clumsy brute, but more of a guy who is a legit threat to Rusev’s never been pinned or submitted record. I love how Ryback powered his way out of the Accolade. We’ve seen other people do it before but this was something of beauty and possibly foreshadowed things to come between the two in the future. Rusev, was impressive as always. I like to see him in matches that actually make him work for the win, versus squash matches. Both men looked extremely strong going into the Royal Rumble. It’s going to be exciting to see where these two go in their rivalry. Could we see Ryback as a United States Champion soon? Anything is possible.
Brie Bella vs Naomi
Winner: Brie Bella via pinfall
Naomi started out with a strong offense of take downs and a drop kick, but it was not enough to keep Brie reeling for long. The Bella twin took control of the match delivering a vicious offense of her own that kept her opponent on the defensive. Brie was able to hit the Bella Buster on Mrs. Uso to pick up the clean victory.
I think the blue lights of Smackdown instantly make the divas better in the ring. This is the 3rd week in a row that a decent Divas match took place that was almost up to par of what the NXT Women’s division delivers every week. Brie Bella was impressive (I can’t believe I said that about a Bella, I feel so dirty) and I give credit where it is due. She looked extremely strong heading into the Royal Rumble match where she teams with her sister against Natalya and Paige.
Erick Rowan vs Luke Harper
Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Winner: Luke Harper via pinfall
The two former Wyatt family members again battled viciously ass Erick Rowan attempted to qualify for the Royal Rumble. With the way these two fought, new comers to the WWE Universe would never have been able to tell that they used to be team mates. Huge tackles, hard hitting elbows, powerslams, the match resembled a what one would think of if two locomotives morphed into two big men and crashed into one another. Rowan owned the match, but the tides turned when he was unable to connect a splash from the top rope to Luke Harper. The former IC champion would then take his former brother to the woodshed delivering a super kick and a devastating clothesline too pick up the 1, 2, 3 and deny Erick Rowan a chance to bee in the Royal Rumble match on Sunday.
Two more big men that never disappoint when they are in the ring. They don’t bore me like most big men (Mark Henry, the Big Show to name a couple). They pulled out moves and showed impressive agility and speed for guys as large as them. They remind me of what Kane was like in his prime. Except well… these guys are still better at pulling off moves that they shouldn’t be able to being BIG guys. While these two have wrestled before, it wasn’t a dull match that we all felt like we’d seen before. They kept it fresh and innovative and each man was able to show case his skills and abilities. I mean, who knew Harper could pull off a head scissors take down?? I didn’t! But I shall be expecting it from now on from the deranged swamp rat.
Daniel Bryan vs Kane
Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
Winner: Daniel Bryan via pinfall
Gotta hand it to the farm animal. He is not easily intimidated. Daniel Bryan’s Royal Rumble spot was on the line as he took on former tag team partner, Kane in a no disqualification match with J & J Security at ring side (graciously loaned to the Director of Operations by the undisputed future of the WWE, Seth Rollins). As hard as it is to believe, the match was pretty even but Joey and Jamie made there presence known early as the took full advantage of the no DQ stipulation. This allowed Kane to take full control and begin to teach the garden gnome (hehehe thanx Seth for giving me that one,) a physical lesson on the outside of the ring. Bryan would use his super troll powers to avoid the Corporate Demon’s kendo stick assault and then punish Kane with the weapon that he brought into the match. After a flurry of combined kicks and home run swings, Kane kicked out at two avoiding the embarrassment of losing to a B+ player. Kane regained control of the battle when Bryan failed in his attempt at a high risk maneuver off the top rope.
Daniel Bryan’s neck seemed to have a bull’s eye on it as the majority of Kane’s offensive maneuvers centered on punishing the injured body part. A steel chair would also come to play and used against the leader of the Yes Movement. But he refused to stay give up his spot in the Royal Rumble as he continued to fight the inevitable. Kane and Bryan continued their back and forth battle and eventually the Director of Operations delivered a chokeslam that looked as if it would keep the former World Heavy Weight Champion down. Somehow, the Bearded wonder kicked out and rallied back as he took out J & J Security and hit his trade mark Running Knee on Kane to pick up the victory and secure his spot in the Royal Rumble.
As Bryan attempted to make his escape up the ramp, the Big Show attacked him from behind. He rolled Bryan back into the ring to let the valiant Authority members teach the farm animal a lesson he would not forget. But apparently the newest members of PETA, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, and Ryback, flew to the aid of the flying goat and began to unjustly attack the members of the Authority. Luckily, other Superstars who know what’s best for business flew to the aid of the Authority and evened up the odds. This unleashed a flood gate as superstar after superstar entered the ring in what became a preview of the Royal Rumble. In the end it was, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Ryback in the ring staring down the Authority and each other. They may have been allies in that moment, but come Sunday, it’ll be every man for himself.