By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Shield def. Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and Christian
Bryan, Sheamus and Christian are a trio comprised of three great wrestlers that meshed well with The Shield. It was a very solid match with the expected exciting finish. Sheamus accidentally hitting Christian with the Brogue Kick was a nice touch that helped hype the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and create tension between the two. It was also another nice win for The Shield, who are riding a wave of momentum going into their match with The Wyatt Family at the pending pay-per-view.
Jack Swagger def. Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio and Mark Henry in a Fatal-4 Way No. 1 Contender's Match for the Intercontinental Championship
The midcard has been basically nonexistent for quite some time now, but it was nice to see the Intercontinental Championship receive some love (no pun intended) on this show. It was somewhat obvious that Swagger was emerging victorious based on how it was set up and the fact he was the only heel, but there were several points during the bout where I was doubting myself. Sure, there was some slow parts, but everyone put forth a great effort and delivered a fun finishing sequence that gave Swagger a good win.
The Usos, Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Curtis Axel, Ryback and WWE Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws
I still firmly believe that The New Age Outlaws can still go in the ring, even though their recent matches with Cody and Goldust haven't been all that great. However, this was a enjoyable eight-man tag team match where the multi-man format hid their weaknesses and made everyone else look good as well. It was given a substantial amount of time and had a ended on a high note (literally). Seeing The Usos pick up the victory for their team was logical as I am sure they will be contending for the tag titles in some form or fashion at Elimination Chamber.
Darren Young def. Damien Sandow
Remember when Sandow was Mr. Money in the Bank and fought John Cena in a competitive match for the World Heavyweight Championship? Me either. On the plus side, it is encouraging to see Young getting somewhat pushed and not completely forgotten about. The match was a mere minute long and pretty much meaningless, but it was obvious that the focus was on the feud between Young and Titus O'Neil, who was decent on commentary.
The Miz def. Fandango
So, I guess Miz is a heel on Raw and a face on every other show. That makes total sense (is there a font for sarcasm?). The match was fine for what it was, but ultimately forgettable. It was all about Santino Marella, Emma and Summer Rae at ringside, a feud that virtually no one cares about. As I have said before, I am ecstatic that Emma is on WWE TV, but the fact she is being paired with Santino is disappointing given her talent as a women's wrestler.
Cesaro def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton (Non-title)
Based on their previous encounters, I knew this had the potential to be a great match, but I was worried that the live crowd wouldn't be receptive due to both competitors being heels. I was very glad to have been wrong, as they took a liking to Cesaro down the stretch and reacted to all of his exciting offense. The two have awesome chemistry and I surely hope this isn't the last time we see them in the ring together (outside of Elimination Chamber). I thought it was going to be a case of Cesaro looking strong in defeat, but WWE went all the way in giving him the clean victory over Orton, which came as a very pleasant surprise. This was a huge win for Cesaro and it is awesome to see him receiving such a strong push. It is only a matter of time before he turns, as he has breakout babyface written all over him. As for Orton, he is being booked to be a vulnerable champion, which means that he will more than likely come out of the Chamber with his title intact.
There have been some fairly enjoyable episodes of SmackDown since the start of the year, but none better than this one. It was very in-ring heavy and almost all of the matches were extremely entertaining. Not only that, but each of them served a purpose and even built toward the upcoming Elimination Chamber event. It might be too little too late in making that pay-per-view feel worth watching, but even still, this was an excellent episode that I strongly recommend checking out if you didn't happen to tune in as it aired live. Have a happy Valentine's Day, folks!