"Then. Now. Forever." The WWE video leads us into the show.
A video highlights The Rock's return to his show for the first time in ten years. It also shows The Big Show's dominant reign as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and his rivalry with Alberto Del Rio.
Lilian Garcia asks the crowd to welcome the General Manager of Smackdown, Booker T. Booker T makes his way to the ring to a nice ovation. Josh Mathews and John "Bradshaw" Layfield talk about the rumors that have been floating around about Booker T having a major announcement about the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Booker gets in the ring, and he welcomes the crowd to Smackdown. He says we're going to kick the show off with a bang. Monday Night Raw was epic, but anything they can do Smackdown can do better. As the General Manager, he won't take a backseat to anyone. Raw gave the WWE Universe Dolph Ziggler versus John Cena. Tonight, he'll give them the WWE United States Champion versus Randy Orton.
Raw also delivered "The Great One," but he's going to do one better. After ten years, The Rock will be inside the Smackdown ring. To top it off, instead of having a non-title match, it will be on the line. The Big Show will defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio in a Last Man Standing Match. Booker T says that he delivered on his promise to kick the year off big.
The Big Show angrily makes his way to the ring. Big Show screams about what a horrible decision Booker T just made. Big Show goes outside and takes a microphone. Big Show says Booker T isn't fooling him. This is a personal vendetta against him. Is Booker bitter because he's still in the game and the champion while he's pushing paper? What's wrong with him as the champion? He sees what Booker is trying to do. He wants the people of Miami to embrace Alberto Del Rio because of the high population of Latino people there. Booker is probably hoping that when he competes against the Latino that the people will get behind him. Alberto Del Rio is not in his league. There are no Latino heroes. He is the World Heavyweight Champion. There is no Irish hero, Latino hero, or Viper hero that will stop him.
Big Show gets in the ring and stands over Booker. Big Show says Booker wants to give these weak, inferior people a hero, but that's a bad idea. He's strongly advising Booker to make a good decision right now. He needs to change his mind. Big Show grabs him by the throat, and Alberto Del Rio runs down to the ring. Del Rio kicks him in the knee a few times and dropkicks him into the corner. Del Rio then catches him with a step-up enzuigiri before knocking him out of the ring. Big Show screams that he'll destroy him as the crowd chants "Del Rio." Del Rio then leaves the ring.
They show a career highlight of The Rock on Smackdown. They show The Rock's open challenge on the September 13, 2001 Smackdown, two days after the horrible events of the 11th. Shawn Stasiak challenged for the WCW Title, and The Rock handily defeated him in mere seconds.
We'll take a look at the "pipe bomb" CM Punk dropped on The Rock this past Monday. We'll also see Antonio Cesaro take on Randy Orton for the first time ever, next.
Randy Orton vs. Antonio Cesaro
This will be a non-title match. They show a pre-taped promo with Cesaro. He said that unlike typical Americans who just wait for a handout, he takes advantage of the opportunities this country has given him. He's officially entering the Royal Rumble match, and he will win it. To all the Americans with the lack of drive, ability, and respect, like Randy Orton and his Rumble opponents, he thanks them, and he will proudly wave the flag. Cesaro sarcastically ends with "USA."
They lock up, and Cesaro goes to work on the arm. Cesaro gets a hammerlock applied, but Orton turns it to a side headlock. Cesaro whips him off, but Orton shoulder blocks him down. Cesaro comes back with some uppercuts, and Orton responds with a kick to the midsection before throwing him out of the ring. Orton then clotheslines him down at ringside. Orton gets in the ring as we go to commercial.
We come back from the break to see Orton trapped in a chin lock. During the commercial, Cesaro knocked Orton off the apron and into the barricade. Orton fights out and uppercuts him. Orton charges, and Cesaro clotheslines him down for a near fall. Cesaro then dead lifts him and gives him a gut-wrench suplex for a near fall. Cesaro puts him in the corner and punches away. Cesaro hits a snapmare and applies another chin lock. Orton fights up again, but Cesaro cuts him off. Cesaro sends him to the corner and charges, but Orton surprises him with a rollup for a near fall. Cesaro quickly comes back with a sit-out body slam for a near fall.
Cesaro kicks and slaps him. Cesaro whips him hard to the corner, but Orton explodes with a clothesline. Orton hits a second before ducking one and hitting a picture perfect powerslam. Orton kicks him in the face, hits the ropes, and Cesaro catches him with a flapjack into an uppercut for a near fall!
Orton reverses a whip to the corner, but Cesaro gets a knee up. Orton comes back with his patented reverse backbreaker. Orton then catches him with a hanging DDT. Orton drops to the mat and stalks him for an RKO. All of a sudden, The Shield hits the ring and viciously attacks Orton! They kick him down in the corner. Roman Reigns screams as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins lift Orton up. They then connect with a triple powerbomb! The Shield stands over a broken Randy Orton.
Winner by Disqualification: Randy Orton
Match Rating: * 1/2
Tonight, we'll see Big Show defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio in a Last Man Standing match.
3MB is backstage with Matt Striker. Striker mentions that they will be in the Royal Rumble. Jinder Mahal says they are going to rock. Heath Slater said there are thirty men in the match and there are three of them. His mom says they have a 10% chance of winning the Royal Rumble match and headlining WrestleMania. Drew McIntyre says they have a certain Irish tenor to tend to. Mahal says what Sheamus did on Raw was out of tune. Slater says they'll beat him like an Irish drum.
JBL says 3MB has no chance to win the Royal Rumble. They then run down the Royal Rumble card so far.
CM Punk and Paul Heyman are shown in SunLife Stadium in a pre-taped promo. Punk asks if the place looks familiar to The Rock. It was the home of WrestleMania 28, where The Rock had his last match last year. It is also the home of the University of Miami football team. Everyone is probably expecting him to spew venom at The Rock considering what happened between them on Monday, but he's actually a fan of him, particularly his college football career. Punk then holds up The Rock's college football jersey and puts it on. Punk says he's a huge college football aficionado, so he wanted to come to the place where The Rock played college football, though he played in the Orange Bowl, which was torn down. Heyman says it had the Smackdown laid down on it.
Punk says it's ironic that the place where The Rock had glory his college football days is gone because the place where he had his glory days in sports entertainment is gone as well. This isn't the WWE that he knew and loved and dominated. This is his house. We live in the CM Punk era. The Rock has no future here as long as he's his opponent. He doesn't want to ruin The Rock's day. He likes a feel-good moment as much as the next guy, except he likes to snatch them out of the air and destroy them. He wants Rock to remember that at the Royal Rumble. He knows WWE is heralding his return to Miami and "his show" for the first time in ten years. Punk knows that he'll stand in "the People's ring" and say his "Finally" line. Punk tells him to understand while he can come back to Miami, he can never go home.
Dolph Ziggler's music hits. He makes his way to the ring with AJ Lee and Big E. Langston. Ziggler and AJ will be in mixed tag team action, next.
Matt Striker finds Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez backstage. Striker asks for a reaction on what happened earlier in the ring as well as his title match tonight. Del Rio says Big Show is the most insecure person in the world. First he bullies Ricardo Rodriguez, and then he runs down his Latino people. Del Rio says he'll show Big Show what "la familia" means. The last man standing tonight will be a Latino. It will be Alberto Del Rio, and he'll be the next World Heavyweight Champion.
Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee vs. The Great Khali and Natalya
The Great Khali will start against Ziggler. Ziggler gets on the offense early, but Khali simply pushes him away and clotheslines him down. Khali puts him in the corner and viciously chops the chest. Khali repeats the move, and Ziggler writhes around in pain on the mat. Ziggler avoids a Brain Chop, and he quickly tags in AJ, which necessitates Khali leaving the ring to put in Natalya.
AJ skips around Khali before jumping on his back. Natalya rips her off and bounces her head off the mat a few times. Natalya hits her discus clothesline before attempting a Sharpshooter. AJ blocks it and bites her leg before retreating to the corner. Natalya attacks her there before the referee backs her away. AJ bites the ear when Natalya approaches her again. AJ then hit Sliced Bread #2 for the win.
Winners by Pinfall: Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee
Match Rating: 1/2 *
Big E. Langston gets in the ring, and he clotheslines Khali down. Ziggler then follows up with a leg drop bulldog. Hornswoggle gets in the ring, and Langston catches him. Hornswoggle begs him off, but then Langston drops him with The Big Ending.
They go back to CM Punk and Paul Heyman at SunLife Stadium. On Raw, The Rock told him, "Time's up," a cute little to him being the WWE Champ. He said it so definitively that he believes Rock convinced himself that he could beat Punk like he's some superhero. He'll save the people. Punk says the people don't deserve to be saved. They can rot in hell. That's what they deserve. He's the Best in the World, and he's better than The Rock.
Paul Heyman wonders if that bothers The Rock. He understands that The Rock believes he's just as talented as Punk, but he's not. Punk is better than everyone. He's the Best in the World. He understands that his vision and the people's vision is that he's a conquering hero. Rock believes he'll ride into town, beat the bad guy, and roll into WrestleMania with the WWE Title. Punk has made a career of stomping out people's dreams. He does not share the people's vision. In the era of CM Punk, "It doesn't matter what your vision is!" Punk takes off The Rock's Miami jersey and throws it on the ground.
The Rock returns to Smackdown for the first time in ten years, next.
They show some highlights of the Rock and Sock Connection from 1999. That was some great stuff.
The Rock's music hits, and he comes out to a massive reception. The Miami crowd is red hot for him as he makes his return to a Smackdown arena for the first time in ten long years. The Rock arches The People's Eyebrow before slowly making his way to the ring, basking in the glow of the crowd's reaction. The Rock flashes the hand signal of the University of Miami.
The crowd chants "Rocky." The Rock opens up with, "Finally, The Rock has come back... home!" Rock says this is a very special show and night. Here tonight is The Rock's boy, Miami's own Flo Rida. Not only is The Rock back, but also he's back on a very special show that was named after him - Smackdown. Rock says it's exciting to be back in his hometown in front of family and friends. He wanted to continue what he just did on Monday - Rock Bottom and People's Elbow in the middle of the ring. You can imagine how disappointed he was to find out CM Punk didn't show up. If CM Punk wants to run Miami and the U down, it's right here where it all started for him. On the campus of the University of Miami, Green Tree Practice Field, where he and his teammates, such as Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis, put it down everyday learning about commitment and sacrifice. Everything he's done in life all started right here in Miami.
Home for The Rock isn't just being in Miami or on Smackdown. It's coming home to the Royal Rumble where he'll kick his cookiepuss ass and become the WWE Champion. Since CM Punk didn't want to come and have fun, he'll have some fun on his own. The Rock asks if Miami wants to have fun.
Damien Sandow's music hits, and he comes out to the ring to a chorus of boos along with Cody Rhodes. Sandow wants to beg the crowd's indulgence for a moment. He says his name and that he is the intellectual savior of the unwashed masses. This is his tag team partner and best friend, the essence of mustachioed magnificence, Cody Rhodes. They are out here to not only help him, but to correct him. Rhodes says The Rock is not to become champion. They are. They beat Team Hell No this past Monday and will become Tag Team Champions. They don't think The Rock deserves this time. They do. Rhodes suggests The Rock leave the ring before he doesn't have any choice.
The Rock wants to get something straight. They saunter down to the ring, get in this ring, in the people's ring on the people's show Smackdown, dressed like they are, dead caterpillar on Rhodes' lip (Sandow says that isn't funny), that takes a lot of guts. The Rock says, "Sweet tap dancing Jesus, what is on your face?" Rhodes says he's an adult. If he wants to grow a mustache, he'll grow a mustache!
Sandow says he'll place a wager. Recently, he has embarked on a futile quest to find an apprentice. He's been asking members of the audience to answer three questions correctly, and he can't find anyone who can do so. Since The Rock is "The People's Champ," let's see if he can do what they couldn't. If he answers three questions, then he gets to stay. If not, he leaves. The Rock says, "Just bring it!"
Rhodes doesn't think he can answer the questions since he went to Miami. Sandow congratulates him on being able to read. Sandow asks for silence before asking the first question: Who was the nineteenth president of the United States? The Rock says he's going to utter an answer that has never been said on Smackdown: "Rutherford B. Hayes, bitch!" Sandow says that's not what the "B" stands for, but he's correct. The Rock says he knows his nineteenth century. Just like Sandow's nineteenth century beard and buggy eyes, he looks like what would happen if Abraham Lincoln got busy with a gremlin!
Rhodes asks which film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1993. It wasn't "The Tooth Fairy." It was "Schindler's List." Rhodes should know something about lists, since he spends the majority of his day on Craigslist. Rock says Lilian Garcia is scared, but she can put the pepper spray away. If Rhodes advances on her, he'll slap the caterpillar into the eighth row.
Sandow asks for silence. The final question is... but The Rock interrupts. The Rock wants to ask the final question. Since they were nice enough to interrupt The Rock in his hometown, if he gets it right, he'll get a nice prize from him and Miami. The Rock asks what happens when you combine a geological aggregate of minerals with its lowest form? Sandow answers, "Rock Bottom." The Rock says, "Exactly" before giving him a Rock Bottom! Cody Rhodes backs away to the corner. Rhodes then gets pumped up, takes off his robe, and charges into a spinebuster! The Rock gives the symbol for the University of Miami before hitting the People's Elbow! "If you smell what The Rock is cookin'!" The Rock then poses for the crowd.
Later tonight, we'll see Alberto Del Rio challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match.
3MB vs. Sheamus
Heath Slater will start for his team. Sheamus advances on him, and Slater immediately bails from the ring. All three talk it over outside. They start walking away, but then they charge. Slater gets in, but Mahal and McIntyre stop short. Sheamus murders Slater with a Brogue Kick for the win.
Winner by Pinfall: Sheamus
Match Rating: * 1/4
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No will be in action, next.
The Prime Time Players vs. Team Hell No
Daniel Bryan will start against Darren Young. Young kicks and punches him in the corner. Bryan catches him with a back elbow, but Young tweaks the injured knee from Raw. Titus O'Neil is tagged in, and he kicks at the knee. O'Neil hits an inverted body slam and sends him to the corner. O'Neil charges into Bryan's boots, and Kane is tagged in.
Kane punches Young down, who was also tagged in. O'Neil is knocked off the apron, and Kane clotheslines Young in the corner before hitting a sidewalk slam for a near fall. Young catches him with a hotshot off the top rope, but he jumps into a punch. Kane tries for a double Chokeslam on them, but they kick him. They whip him to the corner, but he bails, and Bryan surprises them with a double flying knee. Kane Chokeslams Young for the win.
Winners by Pinfall: Team Hell No
Match Rating: 1/2 *
Coming up next, The Big Show will defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio in a Last Man Standing match.
Eve Torres will defend her WWE Diva's Championship against Kaitlyn on the twentieth anniversary of Raw this Monday.
Lilian Garcia explains the rules for the Last Man Standing match. Big Show makes his way to the ring. The main event is next.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship - Last Man Standing Match
Big Show (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
They do the title match introductions with Ricardo Rodriguez introducing Alberto Del Rio (of course), and Lilian Garcia introducing the champion Big Show.
The bell rings, and Del Rio immediately pounces on Big Show with punches and kicks. Big Show quickly head-butts him down and chops the chest. Del Rio punches back, but Big Show clubs him down. Big Show hits a huge body slam, and the referee begins counting. Del Rio is up at four. Del Rio hits a sidekick and punches, but Big Show quickly floors him with a strike. Big Show chops the chest again before getting out of the ring and grabbing a table from underneath. Big Show sets it up at ringside and rips Del Rio out of the ring. He punches Del Rio down before picking him up and viciously body slamming him through the table at ringside! The referee begins the count, and Del Rio is up at six.
Big Show head-butts him down and grabs a steel chair. Big Show throws him into the ring and slowly follows. Big Show lifts the chair, and Del Rio kicks him in the ribs. Del Rio swings the chair and cracks it off Big Show's back. Del Rio drives the top into his ribs before slamming it across his back again. Del Rio repeats that, and Big Show goes down to a knee. Del Rio goes for the Cross Arm Breaker, but Big Show simply picks him up. Big Show goes to throw him out of the ring, but Del Rio hangs on, applying the Cross Arm Breaker while hanging over the ropes. Big Show screams in pain before slamming him on the apron. Del Rio beats the count at seven as we go to commercial.
We come back from the break to see Del Rio kicking Big Show in the arm at ringside. Del Rio sends him shoulder first into the ring post, but Big Show quickly kicks him in the ribs. Big Show throws him into the ring and grabs another table. Big Show slides it into the ring and goes to set it up in the corner, but Del Rio attacks from behind. It falls into the corner as Del Rio punches at him. Del Rio dropkicks him, and Big Show falls through the table! Big Show answers the count at seven.
Del Rio jumps on the back with a sleeper hold. Big Show begins to fall asleep, but he eventually finds some strength to rip him off his back. Del Rio immediately responds with a superkick and some punches. Del Rio hits the ropes and tries for a clothesline, but Big Show is simply staggered. Del Rio tries again but to no avail. Del Rio tries a third time, but he's thrown into the corner. Big Show runs into the boots, and Del Rio jumps off the second rope into a Chokeslam! The referee begins counting, but Del Rio answers the count at eight. Big Show head-butts him, and he falls out of the ring.
Big Show follows him outside, and he smiles as Del Rio struggles to get to his feet. Del Rio gets up, and Big Show spears him through the barricade near the timekeeper! The referee counts again, and Del Rio answers the count at nine! Big Show can't believe it. Big Show puts him in the ring and gets in as well. Big Show balls his fist up and hits the Knock Out Punch! The referee counts, but Del Rio slowly rolls out of the ring and uses the apron to prop him up on his feet. He's literally out on his feet to break the count. Big Show looks at this in disbelief. It was a nine and a half count.
Ricardo Rodriguez checks on Del Rio at ringside. Big Show grabs the top of the steel steps. Big Show charges, but Del Rio moves! Big Show hits the ring post with the steel steps face first! Del Rio throws the steps at the Big Show and staggers him. Del Rio repeats it, and he's staggered again. Del Rio does it one last time, and Big Show collapses behind the commentary table! Del Rio struggles to overturn the table on top of Big Show! Del Rio is also down as the referee begins to count. Del Rio pulls himself up, and Big Show is counted down! Alberto Del Rio wins the championship!
Winner and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Alberto Del Rio
Match Rating: *** 1/4
Ricardo Rodriguez wildly screams that Alberto Del Rio is the new World Heavyweight Champion, and Del Rio celebrates with the title. Del Rio and Rodriguez embrace in the ring as the crowd cheers on. Del Rio gets in the crowd and celebrates with them as the show ends.
Quick Match Results
Randy Orton def. Antonio Cesaro via DQ (non-title)
Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee def. The Great Khali and Natalya
Sheamus def. 3MB
Team Hell No def. The Prime Time Players (non-title)
Alberto Del Rio def. Big Show in a Last Man Standing match to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion
Bump of the Night: Big Show body slamming Del Rio through a table at ringside
Match of the Night: Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio *** 1/4
I wasn't blown away by tonight's opening segment with Booker T and Big Show. I think Big Show has had a great run as the champion, cutting above average promos with some good intensity. The writing has been there for him throughout the run. It's so strange that it stopped right at the end of it. I just don't feel like it really fit into what Big Show has been doing to rip on a culture for the cheapest heat you can get. It didn't even really work. It wasn't exactly a floor shaking reaction Del Rio got when he ran out for the save. I'm not even sure they were chanting his name now. It was probably WWE's production magic going to work. It was a very underwhelming segment to officially kick of Smackdown's year.
That was a very good first showing for Randy Orton and Antonio Cesaro. Cesaro continues to impress me. He truly looks like he belongs in matches with the WWE's high caliber talent. He also contains scary strength. That dead lift that he does into the suplex is one of the most impressive moves I see in WWE today. You can't even fathom the strength it takes to do what he does night in and night out. The Shield attack was fine to save face for both guys. That looks like that will be Orton's storyline heading into the Royal Rumble after they planted the seeds for an eventual Orton vs. Sheamus match last week.
I really enjoyed CM Punk's promo from SunLife Stadium tonight. It was compelling stuff as Punk compared The Rock to a has-been who won't succeed in a vastly different world from the one The Rock dominated. It was good material, and he delivered it well. He accomplished more in those four or five minutes than on Raw, in my opinion. At least he didn't get cutoff by The Rock with scrotum rhymes and the like.
The mixed tag match was what it was. It was just a chance for Ziggler and AJ to get some momentum back on their side after losing to John Cena this past Monday. It also reiterates the point that AJ is (earmuffs, AJ) nuts. I think I heard Dave Stephens crying from somewhere in South Jersey as Hornswoggle got hit with The Big Ending.
Wow, that segment with The Rock was just a lot of fun. I really enjoyed recapping that one. The Rock was just there to have a good time with his hometown crowd, and they ate everything up. Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes were perfect in this. They played their roles perfectly. I think that Rutherford B. Hayes line may be the only time I ever type that out in my life. Rhodes' mustache is tailor made for The Rock's verbal barbs, and he connected on each one. Hilarious and fun segment.
Sheamus against 3MB showcased how dominating he can be. Yeah, that's about all I've got for that one.
Team Hell No also got some steam back after losing to Team Rhodes Scholar this past Monday. Not much else can be said about this as well. It was decent for the short amount of time it was given.
That was a great main event and very rare World Title change on Smackdown. As lame as the buildup was, this match delivered. Del Rio looked great in this one, overcoming everything the Big Show threw at him. Both men went all out with the risks they took, and it was fun to watch. I still wonder why they announced the title change. I think The Rock being on the show was enough to get viewers to watch, but they didn't think so. Big Show had a good reign as champion. It's strange that it came to an end tonight, but at least the match was good. Now the questions move to if Del Rio is just holding the title for Dolph Ziggler. Time will tell. All in all, this was a great ending to a very fun Smackdown. A great way to officially kick Smackdown off for 2013 since I don't even think they count last week's show as the kickoff for the year.
Final Rating: ****
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