By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Usos def. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns by Disqualification
Dean Ambrose's pre-match promo as well as his commentary proved why he is an excellent talker and will be just fine on his own when The Shield eventually breaks up. Speaking of such, that is all Ambrose talked about on commentary during the match and in the opening segment, leading to even more speculation that their break-up is imminent. We have seen the match multiple times in the past, but it was still fun for what it was. The disqualification finish and CM Punk's subsequent save set up the six-man tag team match for later in the night.
R-Truth def. Fandango
Didn't we get this same exact match at Tribute to the Troops last week? What was the point in holding a rematch if the ending result was the same? I had hope for Fandango after he put forth a strong effort against Big E Langston on this week's Raw, but this loss to Truth did him no favors. Worse yet, Xavier Woods continues to be wasted by being utilized like a dancing fool and being paired with The Funkadactyls. WWE just loves to punish former TNA wrestlers, don't they?
WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
The Rhodes brothers kept their strong streak of great matches alive going into the new year with their latest encounter with Harper and Rowan. The Wyatt Family dominated most of the match and the Rhodes brothers sold well for their impressive offense. Bray Wyatt not being at ringside allowed Harper and Rowan to lose cleanly but be protected in defeat by losing via a roll-up. I would fine with The Wyatt Family taking the titles off Cody and Goldust at some point, but now would have been too soon.
Nikki Bella def. Aksana
I was surprised to see both Divas actually get a televised entrance, but not surprised that the match was terrible. Neither Nikki nor Aksana is good in the ring, so putting them against each other was the recipe for disaster from the start. The only reason it even happened was due to Aksana pinning Nikki in the tag team match on Raw, so it appears Aksana's "push" won't be happening after all. Anyone else find it hilarious that the Bella twin with the boob job is calling her finisher The Rack Attack? She had to knew that one was coming.
Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston def. Curtis Axel (Non-title)
It was good that these two had a backstage segment together earlier in the evening, as this match would have been meaningless otherwise. Say what you will about his stale character, but Axel is a very good in-ring competitors and had a nice match with Langston. Langston going over was pretty predictable, but it helped further his recent strong momentum.
CM Punk and The Usos def. The Shield
We have seen almost every combination of Punk against The Shield in the last two matches, but their matches together never get any less entertaining. The same can be said about The Usos, who continue to deliver in all of their matches against the trio. It was a solid contest with the final few minutes being very well done. My tension was teased between Reigns and Ambrose and the faces were able to pick up a big win. For anyone bored of Punk's feud with The Shield, it is simply a filler feud before the Royal Rumble later this month. On a side note, the post-match vignette shown of Bray Wyatt was actually more memorable than anything we saw in this match.
The show had its dull moments (the Divas match and Truth vs. Fandango), but it kept a consistent pace and was thoroughly enjoyable as a whole. The two tag teams matches were great and made the episode worth watching. If there is anything you should go out of your way to see, definitely check out the Bray Wyatt promo that aired at the end. All in all, it was an enjoyable first edition of SmackDown in 2014 and I hope this is a sign of things to come for the blue brand in the new year.