The penultimate SmackDown leading up to Elimination Chamber emanates from Ontario, CA and opens with Michael Cole announcing a main event between WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton and one of his five opponents at the pay-per-view, as he runs the gamut of them leading up to the Elimination Chamber match in nine days, Antonio Cesaro.
As the graphic for that fades we are greeted with Daniel Bryan making his way down the aisle as Cole reminds fans of Triple H giving him the night off at Raw. Bryan is teaming up with two of the other combatants in the upcoming Elimination Chamber match in Sheamus and Christian as they take on The Shield. It’s becoming more and more obvious that Roman Reigns is the focus of the group, and the commentary team is really trying to make a point of the seeming dissension in the ranks of The Shield in the early going. The crowd didn’t seem very into the match until Daniel Bryan came in to close out the first segment of the show. Returning from the break Daniel Bryan is able to tag in Sheamus who is then on the receiving end of a highlight reel kick onto the apron from Roman Reigns. JBL and Cole are really stressing the cohesion of The Shield and their possible downfall, questioning whether they are even the best team in WWE anymore as they head into their match with the Wyatt Family a week from Sunday.
The match never really seemed to take off or get the crowd involved until the end of the match when, after several Superstars flew through the ropes to the outside and Sheamus inadvertently Brouge Kicked Christian before receiving a Spear from Roman Reigns, leaving Christian to get pinned by Ambrose for the victory for The Shield. Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns were dominant for a majority of the match and look strong heading into Elimination Chamber, as did Sheamus, Christian and especially Daniel Bryan heading into the championship match against Orton.
Vickie Guerrero is on the screen having a conversation with someone in a poorly hidden plug of the WWE Network (coming February 24, in case you haven’t heard), before Zeb Colter interrupts the General Manager asking her to be his Valentine. It is Valentine’s Day after all. Guerrero thinks Colter is up to something. He is. Antonio Cesaro is in a title match at Elimination Chamber and he wants Jack Swagger in one as well. Guerrero questions Swagger’s worthiness reminding the manager of The Real Americans that Jack is on a losing streak, to which Colter quickly counters with an offer to prove Swagger’s worthiness. Guerrero promises a title opportunity against Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston if Swagger can beat Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston and Mark Henry in a fatal four way to determine the number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship.
RybAxel. The name of the team of Curtis Axel and Ryback is RybAxel. The smart thing to do here is to go the Bambi Route and just not say anything at all. Call them what you will, Cole tells viewers the formidable tag team is in an 8-man tag team match tonight also involving the Usos, The Brotherhood and the New Age Outlaws.
For the fans that missed it Monday night and have not heard the news otherwise, Lita was again announced as the third inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Also is the announcement that the entire Hall of Fame Ceremony will be shown on the WWE Network.
Next is the four-way match for the number one contender to Big E’s Intercontinental Championship, and the Intercontinental Champion is joining JBL and Cole on commentary. E has been on guest commentary almost as often as he’s been in the ring, lately. WWE is trying very hard to get fans to like E, but he still seems to be lacking any charisma. Mysterio and Kofi get the crowd going with a nice sequence where the two exhibited their world class athleticism. Mark Henry teasing a dive off or over the top rope was a great moment in the match. Mysterio looked as fluid as he has in quite some time and looked to be shaking the rust off. The match was fairly quick paced and had some great moments, including a double-German Suplex from Swagger on Mysterio and Kingston. Swagger would win the match after reversing the Trouble in Paradise into a Patriot Lock. Great performance from all four men and woke the crowd up.
After a Raw Rebound which reminded fans of how Billy Gunn was a victim of his own shenanigans, the crowd and viewing audience are treated to Bad News Barrett, whose podium seems a bit closer to the ground than normal, with good reason as it now rises from the ground to lift him to his height. Barrett then breaks the bad news to the crowd about Valentine’s Day. Still not quite sure where WWE is going with this and losing interest with it with each passing week.
The Brotherhood (Cody Rhodes and Goldust) teams up with The Usos to take on Ryback and Curtis Axel and the New Age Outlaws. The tag team division has definitely been in a bit of a renaissance lately and even with this being 4-on-4, this match showed why the division has been on an upswing as there was good pacing and a fair amount of action throughout, meanwhile the focus of the commentary crew is Billy Gunn’s time as Rockabilly as the show went to commercial with Ryback on the offensive. Coming back from commercial we are reminded again that Billy Gunn had a “stomach bug” thanks to Betty White who with the way she keeps getting mentioned may be in line for a shot against AJ Lee in nine days. The match once again picked up steam as The Rhodes Bros. and Uso twins regained the advantage and upped the tempo with fast-paced, high risk offense ending with the Usos getting the pin on Road Dogg while diving over the turnbuckle to take out the other firemen in the match. Thus far, this is the match of the night.
Coming back from commercial is an Ivan Drago-esque vignette for Alexander Rusev.
Damien Sandow is in action against Darren Young. Titus O’Neill is on guest commentary for the match. Viewers are refreshed on what has transpired the last two weeks between the former Prime Time Players before the bell rings. O’Neill is doing much better on guest commentary than Big E did earlier and is actually advancing his feud with Young as Young quickly picked up the win only to be attacked from behind by Titus O’Neill. The match with Sandow was clearly an afterthought here as the O’Neill/Young rivalry picks up steam. Good segment here between the former tag team.
Fandango hits the ring next to challenge The Miz after two weeks of The Miz interrupting broadcasts asking why he wasn’t on the card that night. Oddly enough in the middle of the bout an Undertaker chant broke out, fans clamoring for an appearance from The Deadman. The chant was over almost as quickly as it started. Santino Marella and Emma then interrupted the match with a brawl ensuing between Summer Rae and Emma leading to Santino hitting Fandango with The Cobra setting him up for a Skull Crushing Finale from The Miz for the win. A nice effort in the ring from both The Miz and Fandango, and a good job adding a “Mean Girls” dimension to Summer Rae here, or confirming what fans probably always thought was there to begin with.
WWE also took a moment to honor Hall of Famer Bob Brazil. Brazil is truly one of the all-time greats and enjoyed a career that spanned four decades including championships nearly everywhere he went in his globe-trotting career including a tag team championship in Florida with Dusty Rhodes.
Main event time as Randy Orton continues to face off against his upcoming Elimination Chamber opponents. Tonight it is Cesaro, who according to Triple H could be the most dangerous competitor in the upcoming match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, saying he is good enough to leave Elimination Chamber with the title.
Randy Orton and Cesaro took off from the bell starting hot and did not let up in the opening segment of the match. Going tit for tat with each other before spilling to the outside where Orton began to assert the advantage. The match came back with Orton taking over the match throwing Cesaro on the security wall and the announce table before throwing him back in the ring. Cesaro was able to get the crowd behind him and proved to be a great underdog in the match to the cocky, established champion. Cesaro started a great comeback countering Orton’s DDT with an Airplane Swing for nearly 20 seconds. Orton quickly gained control again though hitting him with a power slam and a DDT slowing the match back down. Cesaro nearly stole the victory with two quick uppercuts but could not seal the win. However from there he was able to reverse an Orton superplex attempt into a sunset flip power bomb followed by The Neutralizer for the victory. The match clearly established Cesaro as a threat in the Elimination Chamber match and as someone to look for in the main event picture in the WWE in the very near future. Great way to close out the show.
Overall the show was a solid build up to Elimination Chamber and did a solid job of establishing The Usos, The Shield and all of Randy Orton’s opponents heading into Elimination Chamber (as Cena holds a victory over Orton from the previous Raw) and stacking the odds against the tag champion Outlaws and WWE kingpin heading into the pay-per-view.