By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Daniel Bryan def. Erik Rowan by Disqualification
Bryan and Rowan worked a good match while it lasted, but it was cut short before it could reach the next gear. Rowan continues to improve in the ring and once again held his own against Bryan in the brief bout. I was fine with the non-finish if only because Rowan shouldn't have taken another pinfall loss to Bryan. Bryan delivering a knee to Bray Wyatt on the outside was a very cool sight and was smart booking, as it gives Bryan momentum going into Sunday assuming he loses the Handicap match.
The Real Americans def. WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust (Non-title)
As expected, these two teams had another solid match that featured plenty of entertaining action. The Rhodes brothers have been on fire the last month and The Real Americans have been great as well. Normally I am down on the idea of champions constantly losing non-title matches, but this was an exception seeing how it earned The Real Americans a shot at the tag titles at TLC.
Mark Henry def. Damien Sandow by Count-out
Since Sandow will be contending for the Intercontinental Champion in two days at TLC, was it really necessary for him to have a match against Henry on this show? The match was no more than a minute long before it ended in a count-out. At least Sandow didn't get pinned by Henry, which would have been even worse. The forming of a tag team between Henry and Big E Langston continues to be teased and I hope it eventually leads to something down the line, preferably a rivalry between the two with Henry going heel.
Divas Champion AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka def. The Bella Twins
It was an exceptional match for what it was, but it was mainly focused on AJ building momentum towards her title defense on Sunday. It was a typical Divas match that wasn't given enough time to shine, but at least it was well wrestled for the most part. Natalya was decent on commentary, but it was nice of her to mention that she hasn't held the Divas title in three years, making her upcoming shot at the strap feel that much more important.
World Heavyweight Champion John Cena Addressed WWE Champion Randy Orton
While it wasn't as excellent as his promo on Monday's Raw, Cena still cut a solid promo here and did a nice job of making the unification match feel important. I couldn't have cared less about the bout before this week, but kudos to WWE for actually making it mean something in the last few days. The live crowd wasn't all that receptive to Cena's promo, but it was certainly effective in hyping the unification match.
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns def. The Usos
The Shield and The Usos have always worked so well together and their latest encounter was no exception. Dean The match was very fun and The Usos looked strong in defeat. Ambrose was awesome on commentary and pretty much avoided all questions having to due with the pending breakup of The Shield, but I still feel it will play a major factor in the Handicap match on Sunday against CM Punk. Speaking of such, Punk cut a simple yet effective promo after the match that should have fans looking forward to him exacting his revenge on the rogue trio.
Big Show def. Ryback
After having a pleasantly surprising matchup a few weeks ago on Raw, this rematch between Show and Ryback was a complete disappointment. It should have meant more given the fact that it was only their second in-ring meeting ever, and Ryback looked weak by losing so decisively and quickly. Any heat that Rybaxel (yes, that is the tag team name of Ryback and Curtis Axel apparently) gained with their wins last week was annihilated on this show. Does anyone know why Show and Rey Mysterio are tagging in first place and why they are in contention for the tag titles?
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kof Kingston Went to a No Contest
Similar to what I said last week, I am glad we didn't end up getting yet another match between Del Rio and Kingston. They have faced each other too many times to the point where a win wouldn't mean anything for either of them. I enjoyed The Miz's attack on Kingston, as it came off as vicious and signaled that Miz might develop a new edgy persona now that he is heel. His feud with Kingston lately has been hit or miss most nights, but I guess it is safe to say that Miz is now a full-fledged heel.
WWE Champion Randy Orton Apologized to Triple H
The whole idea of Orton apologizing to HHH after what happened at the conclusion of this week's Raw was asinine, but at least the segment didn't drag on too long and didn't overstay its welcome. Both Orton and HHH played their roles well and did a superb job of building intrigue going into Sunday's pay-per-view. I didn't have any interest in this unification match prior to a few days ago, so it is nice to see WWE adding a few extra layers to this monumental match in an attempt to convince viewers to buy the event to see what will happen.
With this being the go-home show before TLC, I didn't expect anything out of the ordinary, so I didn't come into the show with high expectations. The in-ring quality could have been slightly better, but there were a few matches that I was entertained by and helped the two hours go by quicker. Not only that, but there was plenty of hype for most of the matches on the card of the upcoming event, so this episode of SmackDown was certainly successful in that regard.
Don't forget to vote in the WWE/TNA 2013 Year in Review Awards! Polls close December 17th!